This Small Southern Town Has a History with Bigfoot

And this weekend, they're throwing him a 300th birthday bash.

One of these guys could be Bigfoot in disguise. | Photo by G Douglas Adams Photography
One of these guys could be Bigfoot in disguise. | Photo by G Douglas Adams Photography

Are you prone to debating the existence of unexplained things? Do you like BBQ and snake-wrangling? Head to the small town of Natchez, Mississippi, where Bigfoot aficionados will converge for a three-day celebration (November 4-6) of the hairy hominid.

Organized by local radio hosts Bob McRanie (aka Gator Man) and Jimmie Allgood (aka JimBob), Bigfoot’s 300th Birthday Bash offers a mix of the paranormal with a dash of good ol’ Southern culture. Catch a lecture by Todd Standing, the director of the documentary Discovering Bigfoot; discuss the 1967 Patterson-Gimlin footage with researcher M.K. Davis; and get scientific with Dr. Jeffrey Meldrum, author of Sasquatch: Legend Meets Science, whose lab houses over 300 casts attributed to the Yeti.

Other Birthday Bash attendees include Hillbilly Red—a TikTok celebrity with an unwieldy beard and a penchant for shotgunning beers—and Ashley “Dead Eye” Jones, from the History Channel’s Swamp People. And the aforementioned snake wrangling? That comes courtesy of Jimmie D. Nichols of the “Snake Grabbing Rodeo.”

Catch live musical performances, enter the BBQ cookoff contest, partake in the Sasquatch Trot 5K, or just debate the existence of the hairy ape man with the like-minded. Bigfoot may be elusive, but you have found your people.

The woods-dwelling, oversized being we refer to as Bigfoot existed long before we figured out what to call him. The name originated about 60 years ago, when a journalist at California’s Humboldt Times received a letter from a construction worker who found giant, 16-inch footprints out on a job. He published the story with the headline “Giant Footprints Puzzle Residents,” joking that perhaps they had a relative of the Abominable Snowman living in town. In the article he referred to the beast by its only known characteristic: big feet.

Bigfoot’s alternate moniker, “Sasquatch,” comes from Sasq’ets, which means “wild man” in the Halkomelem language of the First Nations peoples of British Columbia. In addition to generations of campfire tales, he’s inspired several podcasts, and eleven seasons of an ultimately inconclusive reality show. He’s been spotted in Jefferson, Texas, where they have a whole festival dedicated to him. Humboldt County in Northern California calls itself “Bigfoot Country” and has a museum displaying, among other things, Bigfoot pictures and foot casts.

This is not Bigfoot. This is just a man in a Bigfoot costume. | Shad Selby/Shutterstock

Wisconsin claims sightings of their own, as does Idaho, Missouri, Ohio, North Carolina, and Washington. In fact, according to the scientific trackers of the Bigfoot Field Researchers Organization, he’s been spotted in every state but Hawaii. Which is a shame. He’d probably like it there.

But the first documented sighting—as far as we know—took place in Natchez, Mississippi, when in 1721 a Jesuit priest saw something unexplainable amongst the trees. “There came a big scream and a noise in the woods. A ruckus. A ruckus,” radio host McRanie told local news outlet WJTV.

The priest was staying with the indigenous Natchez tribe at the time, who were also terrified by the sounds they heard. “These are folks that live in the woods, so this was something clearly different, and they called it a monstrous beast,” said McRanie. It was startling indeed, but not so much that the priest didn’t write it down to record the sighting for future generations.

When you’re done celebrating the Sasquatch, there’s plenty more things to do in Natchez, nicknamed “The Little Easy.” The town was named for the indigenous tribe that once occupied the territory (Chief Hutke Fields of the Natchez Nation will also be at the Birthday Bash), and their ancestors built the Emerald Mound for ceremonial purposes; covering eight acres, it's one of the largest mounds in North America.

From 1820 to 1860, built by the labor of enslaved people, Natchez was one of the most economically prosperous towns in the US. Remnants of its wealth and history are preserved in its antebellum architecture. Today it is a blue pin in a red state, and along with home tours, you can visit the Natchez Museum of African American History and Culture.

Their cemetery is one of the oldest burial grounds in Mississippi. Every November it hosts an Angels in the Bluffs event, where residents' histories are told by costumed actors. This year it's November 11-13.

And as for Bigfoot, he’s apparently still around. Just ask local Robert Cloy. “Been there, seen it!” he tells WJTV. “And I saw some trees shaking… and I could see the silhouette of him holding trees like that. And then when he realized I saw him, he screamed at me again and that really scared me.” Maybe he’ll make a special appearance for his birthday.

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Vanita Salisbury is Thrillist's Senior Travel Writer. If she ever met Bigfoot she would ask him about his hopes and dreams.