Special Report: Squatching in the Northland
Passionate Researchers Head Deep Into the North Woods
On a quiet, sunny afternoon in a thick Minnesota forest, Abe Del Rio and Dan McLaughlin trudge through muddy soil and fallen branches.
They’re deep in the forest, but it’s a forest they’ve been through many times.
“I love it here, y’know? It’s beautiful here. It’s peaceful here,” Del Rio remarks.
These guys do indeed love the outdoors, but they’re not just hikers out for exercise.
No. They have much bigger goals.
They’re seeking the Sasquatch.
Yes. They’re serious.
“You’re dealing with something that can outrun you, out-swim you, out maneuver you, definitely,” Del Rio says. “It’s a good, clean, scary challenge.”
If you’re skeptical, or if you’re simply a non-believer, Del Rio and those like him have heard it all before.
He says the detractors used to get to him, but he’s been searching for Bigfoot for more than 15 years now.
“We have experienced things ourselves,” Del Rio says. “And we know there’s other people out there also experiencing things that are kind of reluctant to go forth with their experiences for fear of being ridiculed or made fun of.”
McLaughlin and Del Rio are both members of the Minnesota Bigfoot Research Team.
They met through the team, and continually go on the search for evidence together.
A St. Paul native, Del Rio’s obsession with Bigfoot started as a child, when he’d visit the zoo with his family.
“Every time we’d hit the primate house down there, I’d always be awe-struck and fascinated by the gorillas,” he says. “ To the point where I’d be scared.”
The search for Sasquatch is a way for Del Rio to face his fears.
For McLaughlin, the search for Bigfoot started with an even more vivid experience.
He remembers a time when he was 12 years old.
“We were sitting around a campfire in a remote location,” McLaughlin recalls. “I was pretty young, and the adults went inside, me and my friend were out playing in the yard with one of those glow in the dark Frisbees.”
He and his friend heard a sound; it was something that sounded alive, something angry.
“In that same area, whatever this was was making some type of moaning, like, ‘UHHH UHHH’ when we’d throw the thing back and forth,” McLaughlin continues. “Was I afraid? No. I just didn’t know what it was!”
From then, McLaughlin was more than just curious.
He was a believer.
For researchers like Abe and Dan, this is more than just a hobby. This is a passion that’s turned into an obsession.
Those people brave enough to search for the cryptic mysteries of the forest will spend hours looking for what they believe is an elusive creature, one that’s not so easily seen, and even more difficult to track.
When on a search for evidence, “squatchers” make use of a number of tools.
And it’s not uncommon for these guys to try to communicate.
“Wood knocks” or “tree knocks” are one common way to try to communicate.
“We use these ‘Squatch Stix’ and we hit these against a tree to produce a nice acoustical sound which travels, and we wait,” Del Rio explains.
When they hit the Squatch Stix on the side of a tree, the resounding echo can be heard in all directions.
They listen for a knock in return.
Usually they only hear silence, but not always.
Abe recalls one time, in this very forest, where they got a response.
“It was at the darker side of dusk, and I was hearing something and seeing something in the tall grass across the river,” Del Rio recalls. “I threw a couple rocks over. Nothing happened. Another team member threw a rock or two over, one comes sailing back by the tree we were doing wood knocking at.”
Del Rio will, on occasion, give a resounding primate roar, and also listen for a response.
He is also quick to point out that he and his fellow researchers are not hunting for Bigfoot; they’re looking for evidence, confirmation such a creature exists.
They’re trying to protect it.
“I personally think if you, if they wanted you to see them, you’d see the,” McLaughlin explains.
While leading us through the forest, the researchers aren’t always sure what they’re looking at, or what they’re looking for.
But they sometimes will find things that can only make their eyebrows rise in suspicion.
We found several structures that looked intentionally placed in a formation; Abe says it’s not proof of Bigfoot, but it makes him curious as to who or what put them there.
And in the mud, a curious footprint made us wish that a few weeks of rain hadn’t covered up what could possibly be from the foot of the mysterious creature they hope to find.
“There’s too much evidence,” McLaughlin says. “It’s not going away. It’s getting more.”
Abe Del Rio has spent nearly half his life dedicated to the search for Bigfoot.
It’s a passion that gives him a purpose, and a reason to spend hours and hours deep inside the forests of Minnesota.
The Minnesota Bigfoot Research Team can be found on their Facebook page, and they welcome reports of any type.