Jim Fisk photo
By Kelly Davis,
Beachcomer, Vashon Island, WA
On the evening of July 15, 1989, Elmer "Skip" Frombach, Jr.s wife and his friend Kevin Johnson thought he was acting rather strange. His face was unusually pale and he seemed a little distracted. They really knew something was wrong when he collapsed in the kitchen.
When he recovered, Frombach began telling them of an experience so frightful and unreal that until then he'd been unable to accept it himself.
Earlier that day, the former Vashon resident had been on a day hike on the western slopes of the north Cascades near the Canadian border with his parents, Islanders Elmer and Beatrice Frombach, and his niece, son and son's friend.
Though in prime Bigfoot territory, nary a thought of the legendary beast was on Frombach's mind - he did not believe Bigfoot existed.
The group's destination was riddled with old mine shafts which Frombach, his father and niece decided to examine closer. A part-time prospector Frombach remained behind to set up a mining claim.
What he says happened next started out scary, then turned terrifying.
He was walking on a footpath when he heard what sounded like two rocks being bashed together on a slope high above his head. He thought his camp mates were playing a joke on him, so he called out for them to stop, then heard a crash.
Looking up the slope, he saw a hairy mass tumbling toward him. Frombach tracked its descent for several seconds, preparing for an encounter with an angry, confused bear. It landed in a brush-tangled heap 30 feet away, emitting a grunt As Frombach watched, the creature stirred, moaned and slowly stood up. Immediately, the prospector knew he was not in the presence of a bear.
Whatever it was, Frombach said, it stood up straight and walked on its hind feet. It had three-inch-thick hair all over its body except on its face, which was bald, and the top of its head, where Frombach estimates it grew to a foot and a half. Whiskers grew from the bridge of the ridged nose, and its deep-set eyes were surrounded by ruddy brown patches. Frombach estimates the creature was eight or nine feet tall and strode like a giant man rather than a slouching gorilla.
And it was staring intently at him. "Its stare was not of aggression but of extreme confidence," said Frombach.
A stare that said it knew it was the biggest thing on the mountain.
Frombach fired his pistol into the air, but the creature ignored the blast, turned around and walked calmly down the trail out of sight. Frombach followed it to get his supplies. When he came around the corner, it was crouched down digging in the ground. The creature took up a basketball sized boulder and pounded it on the ground three times when it saw him.
When Frombach backed away, the creature leaped into the brush to cut him off. Even in his fear Frombach almost laughed. "It looked like a Tasmanian Devil cartoon when it came through the bushes," he said.
Though he didn't actually see it following him as he ran through the trees, Frombach said he could hear the creature's footsteps. "It could have caught me if it wanted to," he said. "I think it just wanted to scare me off."
If so, it was successful. Frombach reached the car and rushed his family back home to Seattle. "I told them a bear was after me," he said. He figured they wouldn't believe him if he told that he really thought. He had trouble believing it himself.
Frombach's story eventually reached Peter Byrne of the Bigfoot Research Project. The project is a sophisticated operation using detailed accounts of sightings to systematically search for the elusive creature with infrared-equipped helicopters.
The NBC television show Unsolved Mysteries recreated Frombach's experience and interviewed him and Byrne in a Bigfoot segment that aired May 25.
The Bigfoot Research Project has tagged the location of the incident an "active site" because new footprints have appeared since Frombachs scare, he said. Footprints that measure 20 inches by 7.5 inches, just like the ones he says were made by the creature that chased him.
Frombach continues to keep the location of the incident secret from all but the Bigfoot project -- to keep the site from being overrun with glory seekers, he said. He hopes the project will find the creature, but keep quiet until scientists have fully documented its behavior and devised a means or protecting it.
And he hopes to be taken seriously. He is working on a book of his experience to convince others of what he told his TV interviewers "What I saw there was a living creature and not a figment of my imagination."