Friday, December 4, 2009

What Lurks in Building 13? The Skunk Ape

Written by Nickolas Cook

Growing up in Florida, I heard stories about strange apemen who lived in the deepest parts of the wetlands (that was, of course, before greedy fuckers from the North bought all the wetlands they could get their sticky little fingers on so they could illegally fill them in and build cardboard cutout suburbs throughout the Sunshine state, for more Northerners to come plop down their aging asses to complain about how dumb we Southerners are until they finally die off). It was taken as matter of fact that these smelly hairy creatures were mostly harmless, unless driven to extremes by hunger or fear. There are incidents in my childhood that I can look back on now and I still cannot come up with any rational explanation for the things I saw and heard back then. There was something not human that lived in the woods surrounding our home, something that left footprints that were definitely not human and did not appear to be left by any creature with which we were familiar.
We called this creature Kittywampus. According to family legend, the Kittywampus was part demon, part animal, and had been called forth by the Seminoles to fight against the French and Spanish despoilers of their sacred homelands.
Of course, that made for a great story, but as I grew older, I often wondered why so many Floridians had such similar stories of hairy ape-like creatures living in the woods and swamps, tales of monsters that riffled through garbage for food, whose howls resounded through the moss covered pines and oaks of the deepest parts of the forest.
The blanket term now used to describe this creature is Skunk Ape. And there’s a good reason for the name. I remember many times as a child being suddenly aware of how quiet the woods had become, and feeling as if something was watching me from the shadows of the trees…and then the smell would hit me. A combination of sulfur, rotting garbage and dank fur. It’s one thing to imagine that a sudden and uncharacteristic silence means something, or that something is watching you, but a smell so odious is pretty tough to rationalize as normal.
Listen, as a kid, I knew what panthers and bears smelled like in the wild- we were in the middle of some pretty primeval wilderness until the developers came along- so I knew even then that this stink was something abnormal.
So this legend of the Skunk Ape has been bandied back and forth for hundreds of years by the original natives, white settlers, and then the people, like me and my family, who called the woods home.
But it wasn’t until recently that some pretty convincing evidence has come to light that might make unbelievers reconsider their opinions.
In 2000, two photos (known as the Myakka Skunk Ape photos) alleging the existence of the Skunk Ape were handed over to the Sarasota Sheriff’s Department. The accompanying letter claims that the photos had been taken in the unnamed woman’s backyard. During subsequent weeks, she called the Sheriff’s department several times to report the ape had come back, but in each case, by the time the deputies arrived, the ape was gone.

It’s been theorized that this is an escaped Orangutan, which is possible; but while there are some similarities between the two primates, to me, this looks like something much bulkier than a normal Orangutan, and the hair looks much longer and shaggier than one might see on a normal Orangutan.
There have been many sightings reported over the last decade, but most have not had any documented proof to back them up. But an interesting piece of evidence surfaced in 2001, a little seen video, captured by foremost Skunk Ape researcher David Shealy (if you’ve seen any recent Bigfoot reality shows on Discovery or History Channels, you’ve probably seen him before).

This would be almost proof positive, if not for Shealy’s monetary agenda to gather funds to hunt down the Skunk Ape on a professional basis. Shealy also contends that the Florida Park Service is secretly blocking his attempts to prove the existence of this elusive creature. So when you throw in his conspiracy theory, and his urgent need for money to make a living hunting down the Skunk Ape, it does, unfortunately, make his claims, and the video proof, suspect.
But, despite all this, I believe in the Skunk Ape because of what I (and other members of my family) experienced as a child. I know what I know. I can’t make a believer out of anyone who refuses to believe, so I won’t try.
Just remember, though…if you find yourself driving along the wetlands in Florida, keep an eye on the marsh grass beside the road, because you just might find yourself face to face with our long lost primate ancestor. And if you smell rotting garbage and sulfur, it might be a good idea to hit the gas and get the hell out of there.
If you’re interested in the ongoing research of this fascinating, and possibly real, creature of the Florida backwoods and swamps, visit to keep up on Skunk Ape lore and sightings.

--Nickolas Cook