A museum in the North Georgia Mountains explores the reality of Bigfoot through evidence, artifacts and factual accounts.
by Kathleen Walls
Since the beginning of recorded history, there have been sightings of a large, apelike creature. The names differ—Yetti, Sasquatch, Bigfoot—but the legends have always existed. While they have been sighted all over the country and the world, sightings in the mountains of North Georgia are almost commonplace. One researcher in northeast Georgia has founded a museum and lab to investigate the creatures. Expedition Bigfoot opened in Cherry Log in Gilmer County in February of 2016.
You may walk into Expedition Bigfoot expecting another tourist attraction, but you will leave pondering the very real evidence presented. Is Bigfoot real or not? This museum is not designed to be a house of horrors. It is a real-life investigative research hub that displays evidence and has a lab attached for discerning the truth of claims and evidence. Asked what inspired him to open a Bigfoot museum, Owner David Bakara says, “My strong interest in the subject since I saw the 1973 movie ‘The Legend of Boggy Creek’ and our love of vintage roadside attractions.”
The fact that Bakara has actually seen a living Bigfoot naturally was a motive as well. About the sighting that included his wife, he says, “It was in Alva Florida [near Fort Myers] on an investigation in 2011. There were two of them at about 80 feet away. We observed them through a thermal imager for about 10 minutes until they made their way back into the swamp.” He remembers that his wife Melinda “came on board as an investigator, with me, in 2011. She was openly skeptical until the sighting in Alva, that same year.”
The Bakaras’ investigative vehicle, The BRAT (Bigfoot Research and Tech), an ATV set up for researching Bigfoot, is on display in the museum.
“The Legend of Boggy Creek” that Bakara refers to tells of apelike creatures based on sightings in 1971 in Fouke, Arkansas. The creature that came to be called the Fouke Monster was seen peering in the window of a local resident.
Bakara has accumulated one of the largest collections of artifacts in the world. He has items like hair samples, footprints, handprints, butt prints and even a feces sample from Bigfoot. At Expedition Bigfoot, there are educational videos about factual sightings, and you can read factual newspaper accounts. Sets of headphones play recorded Bigfoot “conversations.”
One well-done exhibit in the museum is a recreation of the Ape Canyon Attack that occurred near Mount St. Helen in Washington on July 16, 1924. Fred Beck and three other miners were attacked by a group of what they referred to as “apemen.” The miners claimed they shot and might have killed one of the creatures, who then attacked their cabin with rocks and tried to break in. The reason it’s Bakara’s favorite exhibit is that it “demonstrates these creatures’ ability to defend themselves against aggression, yet restrain themselves from harming humans,” he says. “If desired, they could have easily torn down that cabin.”
The evidence in favor of Bigfoot being real is strong. Just in the North Georgia Mountains, there have been numerous sightings noted in placards of states with different color pins to record them. Those sightings that were clearly seen in good light and directly are marked in green. Less positive ones are marked in yellow. In Georgia, the largest numbers of “clearly viewed sightings” were in Gilmer, Dawson, Lumpkin and White counties, all mountainous county. There are some in middle and southern Georgia but much fewer.
Surprisingly, the Florida map shows more reported sightings in north and central Florida than south Florida.
The museum has many casts of Bigfoot footprints and exhibits explaining how to tell the difference between natural dermal ridges found in animal or human skin and ridges that might be made by the person making the cast. One exhibit details a cast made by Deputy James P. Akin of the Pike County Sheriff’s Office near Elkins Creek in Pike County, Georgia, in 1997. The cast was 17.5 inches long and 8.5 inches wide. Scientists in Idaho studied the print and sent it to J.H. Chilcutt, the latent fingerprint examiner at the Conroe Texas Police Department. He stated it was “definitely the ridges of a non-human primate.” The cast and report are on display so you can decide for yourself.
One small section of the museum is Bakara’s working lab. Here, he analyzes stories of sightings, actual samples and casts. You can walk through and look at the ongoing work, just not touch.
In 2017, a local woman observed one outside of her bedroom window for 20 minutes. In her description, ‘It was five feet tall, covered in the long red hair, and resembled a ‘caveman’.”
In 2009, a retired nurse and her mother saw one outside of their home in Mineral Bluff, Georgia. They described it as eight feet tall and white in color.“
And in May 2019, a Blairsville man saw one walking across Highway 515 at dusk near Cherry Log Georgia. These are just a few of, close to 100 local sightings.”
I spoke with one local resident, Susan Littlejohn, owner of Build an Ark Animal Rescue. (It’s well worth a visit while you are in Gilmer County to interact with less-frightening wild creatures like goats, sheep, horses and other rescue animals.) She was at Amicalola Falls in neighboring Dawson County when she saw the creature. She describes it this way: “It was large and hairy. This was definitely not someone in costume as it was too big and the curve of the spine was not human. It was an experience I will never forget.”
Believer or non-believer, this museum will entertain, educate and at least make you wonder what’s really out there in the mountains.
Expedition Bigfoot is open daily from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. and is self-guided with $8 admission. They also have a free mini-museum and gift shop in downtown Blue Ridge.