BATAVIA BIGFOOT: REAL, HOAX OR BOTH?

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The Daily News has published a story recounting the events that transpired on the warm Sunday morning of July 31st, 1960, when several Batavia boys walked into city police headquarters and told a strange story to the officers on duty; a story involving a huge, hairy, shrieking “man-beast.”

Their tale began just three days before — on Thursday night — when the youths were crossing the New York Central Bridge over Walnut Street. As they reached the apex of the bridge the kids claimed that they suddenly heard a horrifying shriek that emanated from below them. They later recounted this for reporters:

‘(It was) a loud, terrifying banshee-like scream resounded from the area of the (Tonawanda) creek below.”

The frightened adolescents — utilizing the kind of good judgment rarely seen in monster movies — immediately ran away, but their story did not end there. The kids, now more curious than cautious, decided to return to the creek the next night, this time with a large lantern in hand. The August 1st, 1960 edition of the Daily News reported the event:

”As the intrepid explorers descended to the area beneath the bridge a large, shadowy figure rushed out some distance ahead, headed for the safety of the murky waters.”

The figure was described as big, black and furry. This description will ring bells for anyone familiar with the history of HAIRY HOMINID sightings, in particular those that involve those creatures said to dwell in boggy, waterlogged regions such as the legendary Boggy Creek dweller known as the FOUKE MONSTER and Illinois’ own MURPHYSBORO MUD MONSTER.

The boys once again took their leave posthaste, but managed to scrounge up the courage to return again the next day when they told police they discovered 8-inch long footprints in the soft earth. They also claimed to have found a 4-foot by 4-foot area, which they assumed was where the ”beast” had bedded down for the night.

The police officers — no doubt skeptical of the boys’ story — nevertheless fulfilled their official obligations and dutifully went to investigate the scene. City officers and state troopers located the footprints, but couldn’t find any other sign of the ‘mystery beast. A photo of the print also made the local news.

Game Protector, Gerald Sporer, visited the Walnut Street bridge area to take a look at the alleged footprints soon after. Sporer told The Daily News that his own 200 pounds were not enough to make such a: ”deep depression in the moist earth under the bridge.”

This mystery might have become one of the first great eastern BIGFOOT stories were not for the actions of some still anonymous pranksters — who were no doubt looking to exacerbate the hype surrounding the first sighting — on the night following the first article that was published about the creature said to be lurking in Tonawanda creek.

On the morning of August 2nd, workers arriving at City Hall took note of a series of seventeen, small, white footprints leading up to the building’s entrance.

Batavia’s civic headquarters had had a visitor overnight, but it was not a miniature monster, but a prankster armed with a paint brush and a can of white paint. The alleged footprints had all clearly been painted on the sidewalk.

Local officials immediately –and righteously — labeled the City Hall footprints a fake, but they used this opportunity to also call into doubt the discovery that the boys had had just days before near Tonawanda Creek, unfairly labeling both events as a hoax. City Treasurer Frank A. Corti, made it clear that this sort of behavior would no longer be tolerated:

”They’ve gone a little too far this time.”

These officials — perhaps in an effort to prevent public panic — chose to intentionally ignore the fact that this second set of prints, besides obviously being painted, were considerably smaller than the ones found under the bridge, as well as the fact that animal expert Sporer had confirmed that whatever had made the Tonawanda tracks was noticeably heavier than that of an average human being.

Whatever it was that terrified those boys so long ago under the New York Central Bridge on Walnut Street is surely long gone, but one can’t help but to wonder if the phenomenon had not been so quickly discounted might we have answered the riddle of Bigfoot’s existence over 50 years ago?

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