Enoch: A Bigfoot Story - Autumn Williams

I have read a lot of books about things "paranormal" and generally recognize two types. One is the "scientific" book that considers all the facts about a phenomena and weighs them logically to reach a conclusion. The other is a recounting of a witness's involvement with the phenomena at a personal level. The second type can be very powerful if it comes off as believable. Enoch, by Autumn Williams, falls solidly into this second type.

Enoch is the story of one man's close involvement with the creature called, "bigfoot," or "sasquatch," or even "skunk ape." This involvement took place in the swamps of Florida over ten years and, as far as anyone knows, is still ongoing. The witness is a heavy equipment operator that Ms Williams calls, "Mike." She maintains his personal anonymity as well as the location of his encounters.

I have never read much of the bigfoot literature but I understand that stories of "long term" witnesses who "habituate" with the creatures are not unknown, though not as widely related as "road crossings" and film clips. This is the first such account I have ever read, and I found it credible and moving.

Ms Williams' interest in bigfoot began with her own sighting as a child. She was so impressed with the creature that she began a lifelong study of it (for as much as a thing not recognized by established science can be studied). This eventually led to her being the host of the cable TV program, Mysterious Encounters, which chronicled her leading a team of researchers across the country searching for the creature. The show was sensationalized and not serious. As Ms Williams says about it:

When the series finally began to air, I cringed, finding myself the poster-child for everything that was wrong with Bigfoot research.

But the series gave her a national platform and when it was over, she was able to devote herself to serious work, centering around the website she established (built around a database of bigfoot sightings in Oregon). Her notoriety is what prompted "Mike" to contact her about his involvement with a bigfoot he called, "Enoch." Mike was very reticent about telling his story out of wanting to protect this creature he had come to love as a close friend. Over the course of a year, Ms Williams gained Mike's trust through a series of phone calls and Internet exchanges that finally elicited Mike's story.

That story came from a time when Mike was seeking escape from personal problems in the solitude of the Florida swamp-lands. Like most men of that region, Mike was an avid hunter-fisherman and perfectly at home spending long stretches camping in the woods. During his extended time there he encountered a bigfoot creature (known locally as a "skunk ape") and deliberately tried to befriend it. He was eventually successful and so began a much extended time of interaction.

Mike's description of his habituation with Enoch sounds very much the process typically gone through with gorillas and chimpanzees, where the researcher basically hangs around the group, nonthreateningly, until he or she is accepted. Sharing food is also a big part of obtaining acceptance. In Mike's case, he also came to be accepted into a "group," but his interactions showed them to be much more than gorillas or chimps. Though Enoch was his primary contact, Mike interacted with numerous individuals, especially those that seemed to comprise Enoch's "family group."

The picture Mike presents of the sasquatch is that of a very intelligent and social primate. Like humans, they are omnivores--able to eat most anything, including raw flesh. Like early humans, they hunt and gather and even use tools much as chimpanzees do, though with more refinement. They will use a heavy stick as a club, and even hurl rocks and sticks to kill small game. They vocalize and seem to do so to communicate, though whether actual language is involved was hard for Mike to tell.

I have found that any study of sasquatch usually reaches a paranormal aspect sooner or later. As grounded in gritty reality as Mike's account is, even he seemed to find an extrasensory aspect to his involvement with the creatures. He found that he could pick up on emotion from them and that they seemed to use that as a means to communicate. For instance, there was a time when he had an altercation with Enoch and later, Enoch expresses his sorrow by reaching out to Mike with waves of sadness. It took a while for Mike to realize what was happening, but when he did, he understood the communication. He says:

I was feeling what he was feeling. It was almost like he was trying to let me know that he was afraid - afraid to show himself for fear of what might happen...Right after I got this understanding, I got a strong feeling that he was pleased and happy that I understood.

The fossil record tells us that at one time, there were a large number of hominids on the earth--human and not--and Mike's story indicates that one such race has survived along with us, mostly by being able to eat anything and by staying away from us. Are they as intelligent as humans? That's hard to say from such accounts. Were Neanderthals as intelligent as humans? It seems they were, but they expressed their intelligence differently, owing to a different brain structure. The case may be similar for the sasquatch.

Ms Williams came to accept Mike's story based on the strength of his character, as she came to know him, and on the consistency of his story--both within itself and with the knowledge of sasquatches she had accumulated over the years. In this process, she describes herself as evolving from a "researcher" to a "witness." This was the big epiphany for her in her understanding of what sasquatches are, and how to relate to them in trying to understand them. This cost her much credibility among bigfoot "researchers," but then, she came to realize that the researchers would only succeed in driving the supremely elusive bigfoot deeper into the woods.

I found Enoch to be a remarkable book. Like Ms Williams, I found the character and self-expressions of Mike to be true to the culture of the society he lives in, that I also grew up in. Also his anecdotes impress me as consistent with what I've read about the sasquatch that strikes me as believable.

I agree with Whitley Strieber that in regards to paranormal (or simply unknown) matters, it is best to maintain an attitude of "keeping the question open." Taking an unbendable stance in such matters, whether "scientific" or a pet theory, will only tend to prevent discovering the truth. To get the most from Mike's story, Ms Williams recommends that readers go beyond the existential question:

The question, “Does Bigfoot exist?” has been addressed time and time again. Let's move beyond that. For just a moment, let's assume that they do.

If you can do that, you may find the insight that can come from keeping the question open. And it may be an insight that will help you, if you one day find yourself in the deep woods, looking eye-to-eye at the reciprocal curiosity and fear of a truly untamed creature and distant cousin.