Skunk Ape: Is There A Big Foot in Florida? Mystical Theories & More
The first time I heard of the skunk ape, I laughed. I had the image of a large ape with the black and white coloring of a skunk running through my head. But as I lived longer in the state of Florida, I realized this regional cryptid is more than just a figment of people’s imaginations. The folklore dates back centuries. To a time when indigenous peoples lived and flourished in the swamps of the Sunshine State. And a time when they knew the skunk ape was not a creature to be messed with. Let’s meet the Floridian Big Foot, hear his lore and about eyewitness sightings. And then we’ll decide whether he’s real or not.
What IS the Skunk Ape?
If you were to google Skunk Ape, you’d immediately be struck with action news articles poking fun at the idea. Or tourist traps advertising their local tours and cheesy wares. And in these results lie the problem – mockery and charlatans making a bad name of an ancient being and concept. He is a cousin to the Pacific Northwest’s Sasquatch. So, of course, the legends are similar but also have their variation.
What Does the Skunk Ape Look Like?
Similar to the Big Foot, the Skunk Ape is a tall, hairy creature that resembles a hybrid of a gorilla and human being. When you picture Big Foot in your mind, simply apply the term Skunk Ape to the image and slap him into the middle of the Floridian swamplands. A large ape-man that stands on two legs, is taller than the average man, but with one major difference. The smell. Apparently, those who have seen the illusive cryptid have smelled him coming. The foul, musky odor emitted by this creature nearly always warns of his impending appearance. Now let’s take a look at the skunk ape’s true origins.
Does the Skunk Ape Have Mystical Origins? Is He Part of the Genius Loci?
Maybe you read this section’s title and thinking I’m nuts. And that’s okay. But over the next few paragraphs, maybe I’ll convince you that Big Foot, Yeti and the Skunk Ape may all have mystical origins. Origins that date back thousands of years. And it could even be that these creatures aren’t physical creatures at all…but spiritual in their very nature. The skunk ape has mostly been sighted in Central Florida, in the Everglades. The sightings date back a few centuries, at least, to a time when the Seminole Nation resided in the area. They have legends of a creature they called the Esti Capcaki, or “Tall Man”, with Esti Capcaki essentially meaning a cannibalistic giant.
As I’m reading over these legends and sightings, a thought occurs to me – what if the skunk ape, just like the Yeti of the Himalayas, is actually a guardian of the land? Or what we call a genius loci or elemental? The genius loci is literally the spirit of the land, sometimes made manifest in physical forms, like that of wildlife, landscape features like rivers, tree groves, etc. Sometimes the genius loci feels territorial, particularly when humans encroach on long-preserved and sacred wild places. Could this be the reason why the skunk ape, as well as Big Foot, only appear at certain times? In the wildest of places and to only a few unsuspecting individuals? And why these creatures never truly leave behind evidence such as true footprints, bones, DNA of any kind?
Listen to our podcast on the Genius Loci:
Big Foot’s Origin Tales & the Wild Man Link
Just as the Seminoles have a name for the hairy ape-creature, so too do the indigenous peoples of the Pacific Northwest. His name is Sasquatch. Better known in pop culture as Big Foot. First, I’d like to ask that you come into this section with an open mind. I believe the problem with the concept of Big Foot and actual belief is due to the many charlatans over the years. You know those guys that make a fake mold of a “Big Foot” footprint and then claim it’s real life evidence? They make a bad name for those individuals who had actual experiences with Big Foot. As well as for the local indigenous tribes of the Pacific Northwest who have spoken of this creature for centuries.
We find the origins of Big Foot in the Halq’emeylem language spoken by the First Nations peoples of British Columbia, Canada. Their word for Big Foot is Sasq’ets, from which we’ve derived the English version of the word Sasquatch. Which essentially translates to “Wild Man” or “Hairy Man”. Yet again, another obvious link to the Wild Men of the Woods and to the Yeti (whose other name is Migoi, meaning Wild Man). Big Foot’s sightings are documented as far back as the 1860s in the Pacific Northwest. During this time, the Big Foot sightings encouraged the indigenous nations in the area to talk openly about their “Wild Indians of the Woods” legends. Further sightings occurred in the early 1900s through the twentieth century
“Believe in yourself, even when no one else will.” ~ Sasquatch
The Wild Men of the Woods (Woodwose) & Green Man
The first time I stumbled upon the Woodwose in my folkloric research, I was fascinated. Immediately, I linked the Celtic Green Man with the Wild Men of the Woods (aka Woodwose) of Germanic lore. These were men that mothers warned their children about in the old days. Don’t go too deep into the forest, else the Woodwose will come take you away. Who were these Wild Men of the Woods? Legend has it they were once men who turned their back on society, ran off into the wilderness, and took up a life of magic and heathenry. The trees, plants, and wildlife around them absorbed them, so to speak. And these men began growing hair all over their bodies. To which plants and greenery of all kinds would attach itself to.
Recently, Allorah Rayne and Kitty Fields released another podcast – but this one? All about the Celtic folkloric figure known as the Green Man. Interestingly, Kitty made some associations between the Wild Men of the Woods and the Green Man. If the Wild Men were known to have hair that covered their bodies, that was ALSO frequently mangled with vines and brush…couldn’t they have potentially been Green Men in their own rite? And, as the Green Man is the guardian of the forest in Celtic lore, couldn’t the Wild Men also be guardians. As well as Sasquatch, the Yeti and the Skunk Ape?
Skunk Ape Sightings
Okay. Enough about the origins of the Skunk Ape and his cousins. What about the skunk ape sightings? How far back to they go? Are people still seeing or smelling the beast in modern times? We seek to answer these questions and more…
The First Skunk Ape Sightings
There are hints to the first skunk ape sighting occurring in the late 1800s in the Everglades. A timeline that matches closely with the first Big Foot sighting in the Pac Northwest. Interestingly, the further you research this creature, the more you’ll realize there are actually 2 types in Florida. The skunk ape, obviously, but also the swamp ape. The difference is in the aggressiveness – apparently the swamp ape will attack people. While the skunk ape seems to stay at a safe distance and tries to avoid people.
A pastor and his congregation moved into an abandoned hotel in Kerr City in the early 1900s. Then promptly moved out, or ran away, when they encountered “hairy earth spirits”. The pastor and his congregation believed these beings were demonic in nature and wanted no part of an abandoned town that housed the devil and his minions. Interestingly, the indigenous in this area believed there were forest guardians, men-like beasts covered in hair.
Reportedly, in the late 1950s, a boy scout troop was camping in the Northern part of the Everglades when their campsite was ravaged by a smelly creature. They called the Silver Spring Ranger Station and claimed their belongings had been ransacked by a “smelly, ape-man”.
The Park Rangers were almost about to dismiss the call as a prank, but instead went to investigate. Then they discovered prints in the mud around the campsite that suggested there was an animal attack, AND the prints were not consistent with bear or panther as the more likely suspects. This story went viral, so to speak, and everyone in the U.S. became enthralled with the story of Bigfoot in Florida. This attack, and other similar skunk ape sightings in this area, seems to delineate between the aggressive “swamp ape” in the North versus the more aloof, shy skunk ape in the South.
Recent Sightings…or “Smellings”
Dave Shealy, a skunk ape hunter, claims his sightings began when he was just a boy. He says the skunk ape showed up on a hunting trip he was taking with his brother. They were out hunting, when his brother told him there was a large, hairy man, like an ape, in the distance. Then lifted him up so he could see the creature over the tall grass. Ever since this experience, Shealy became obsessed. He claims he has captured photographic, video footage, and footprints of the famous skunk ape. And he’s opened a tourist trap to “prove” it in which he offers tours of the Everglades, souvenirs, and more.
Modern reports of the skunk ape are all similar – folks are walking through the woods or swampland and catch a glimpse of something large, hairy and man-like in the distance. Others claim to have been attacked by something that smells like rotting cabbage. One thing is for sure – if there is a “skunk ape” or swamp ape, there seems to be more than one as sightings have been seen all over this area of Florida. One woman even claims to have seen this beast in her own backyard. She said she could smell him first!
OR Is the Skunk Ape An Animal?
According to Brenda Rosen in the Mythical Creatures Bible, there have been more than 3,000 sightings of Bigfoot since the 1970s, particularly in Florida and the Pacific Northwest. Rosen goes on to say that many scientists dismiss the sightings as hoaxes or mistaken identity. But also that “supporters of cryptozoology point out that reports of the existence of many unfamiliar animals, including the duck billed platypus, mountain gorilla, and Komodo dragon, were originally considered to be hoaxes but were later proven to exist.”
We can sit here and speculate whether the skunk and swamp apes actually exist. But I think it’s likely these people have seen something. Whether this beast is part of the evolutionary chain that’s somehow avoided us for centuries, or perhaps the skunk ape is a guardian spirit of the forest. Or whether it’s simply an unidentified species that hasn’t been proven yet. We may never know the truth. But if we consider all of the animals that are discovered every year in various parts of the world, we may just be convinced the skunk ape is part of the natural world. Instead of the supernatural.