I had expected to find a few - and I knew of a handful of sightings before I began - but I was absolutely shocked at the sheer number of sightings. Bigfoot type creatures outnumber all others by a large margin, but South Central PA has also had reports of dogman / werewolf creatures, mothman type entities, gargoyles, rakes, albatwitches, and more. Knowing it's likely most people never report their sightings - and others report them to police or game wardens and the public never hears about them - I'm absolutely sure there are hundreds of more sightings I know nothing about.
I was most excited and perplexed by the bigfoot sightings. Having read Stan Gordon's trio of books, Really Mysterious Pennsylvania, Astonishing Encounters, and Silent Invasion, I knew Pennsylvania in general - and in particular the western part of the state - had a history of bigfoot sightings. However, I just didn't think South Central PA had the vast uninhabited wilderness which would be required to attract these creatures.
That is to say IF these creatures are simply apes in the woods - and I don't use the term "ape" insultingly. Humans too are apes, after all. If they are an ape or a hominid, it's possible they are nomadic or migratory - they make their way in and out of areas stealthily. They might even prefer to stick somewhat close to farmlands (free food) and it is documented that many sightings occur along creeks and rivers - of which there is plenty in South Central PA. If these creatures are something OTHER than natural creatures, and I am not saying they are, but if they are, then we have no way of guessing the when, where, or why of their appearances.
Here we have a problem that comes up in bigfoot research. There seems to be two camps, both stubbornly sure the other group is wrong. The ape-in-the-woods crowd will not entertain any notion of bigfoot creatures being anything other than an undiscovered animal. Never mind that strange lights (you can call them UFOs if you want) are reported near or in conjunction with bigfoot sightings again and again. Never mind that some bigfoot trackways seem to just end in the middle of a field. There is some truly weird stuff that accompanies bigfoot. Not always...but enough of the time.
The other camp is the "woo" camp - and these folks are just as sure that bigfoot have magical powers. They think they can open "portals" and "mindspeak" and "zap" people. They also tend to be the folks that assert bigfoot creatures are some kind of benevolent forest guardians. Bigfoot sure seem to break a lot of trees and brutally kill a lot of wildlife for being some kind gentle of forest caretaker.
I understand the rejection of the "woo" crowd. It's hard enough to get people to take this stuff seriously - when you add in magic or superpowers it makes things so much harder. But the uncomfortable fact is most everything we know is based on witness accounts. If we believe one witness saw an 8-foot tall ape-man one day, how can we say another witness who saw strange lights in the sky at the same time just down the road is wrong or irrelevant? These events may not be connected - it might just be a crazy coincidence - but until we know if there is or isn't a connection it seems irresponsible to ignore them because they are inconvenient to our preconceived notions of what these creatures are or are not.
I didn't want to try to connect bigfoot and UFOs in Beyond the Seventh Gate - it's just not a bridge I wanted to cross in my first book - but when I started looking at the separate UFO and bigfoot sightings data - especially in York County - I started finding a lot of overlap. Again and again - where I found bigfoot sightings, I also found UFO reports. Not always, but often enough to make me feel like I would be remiss if I didn't note the crossover.
For my part, I lean toward the "ape-in-the-woods" camp, but I also can't help but think there's something else going on as well. As with so much regarding these creatures I think we just don't KNOW yet. I don't think bigfoot have magic powers - but they may have natural adaptions that we don't understand at all. They may be so quick and so good at hiding that we THINK they are disappearing. They may be so adept at tracking that they can retrace their steps and make it seem like their tracks stop. But those strange lights are really pesky.
Except for shorthand and ease of conversation, I try not to use the term "UFO" in conjunction with bigfoot. I will say "strange lights" or "orbs" or "earth lights." When I do use the term I mean it simply as an unidentified flying object - literally unidentified. Not a spaceship. UFO = spaceship = aliens to the vast majority of people and you will immediately get the annoying but completely understandable question: "So, you think bigfoot is an alien?" No. I don't even think "aliens" are aliens if I had to guess (it's all speculation, isn't it?). I'm not sure UFOs are even crafts.
Legends and folklore about erd lichtes (earth lights), will-o-the-wisps, and orbs in Pennsylvania abound. A friend just told me recently that her grandfather told tales about the will-of-the-wisps and to never follow them because they would lead you away to your doom. When Europeans came to Pennsylvania, the Naticoke told them the lights would follow you and bring you misfortune. What if it's all somehow related?
The bottom line is no one knows at this point. It may be best, in the most practical sense, to err on the side of the "ape-in-the-woods" folks. However, I'm most interested in folks like Ron Moorehead and Dr. Paul G. Johnson - both of them are talking / writing about "quantum bigfoot" - exploring the possibility that something truly strange may be happening in conjunction with bigfoot sightings - and though it seems supernatural, quantum weirdness can be explained.
For now, we continue to search and document. If you have seen anything strange in South Central PA, please let us know.