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Thomas Shay took more than a casual interest in Julie Ball Hambrick’s story about her hunt for Bigfoot in last week’s issue of The Trimble Banner. The 49-year-old Trimble resident is himself an investigator affiliated with the Kentucky Bigfoot Research Organization and has been researching unexplained, elusive creatures since 1987.
“I’m not saying this thing is real,” Shay said during a visit at The Trimble Banner office Friday. “I’m not trying to force it on anybody. I have seen it. I just report what I see and what everybody else sees around here.”
Shay’s fascination with the creatures began back in the 1980s when he was home on leave from military service. It was a September evening when he started off from Milton on Hwy. 36 to visit a girlfriend in Carrollton. There were no other motorists within sight on the roadway.
“I was driving up there and I seen this dark figure standing on the side of the road,” he recalled. “It was getting dark enough that you had to have your headlights on. I’m getting closer and closer and I notice this thing was hairy and it stood about seven or eight feet tall.”
Shay slowed the vehicle as he approached and passed the creature. He kept an eye on it in his passenger side rear view mirror. At the rock quarry he found the next available place to turn the car around and headed back toward where he had seen the “beast.”
“At the time I was so shocked I didn’t know what I was seeing. I couldn’t comprehend it,” he said.
The creature by then had crossed the road in the direction of the Ohio River. Shay pulled off the side of the road and as he was in the habit of carrying a flashlight in the car, pulled out the light and got out of the vehicle.
“I was searching around in a field over there on the other side of Hwy 36 and all of a sudden I see it,” he said. “I’m maybe 100 yards or 500 feet away from it and it turned around looked at me and it barked or growled. It’s a sound that you’d have to be there to hear. I stood there with my jaws wide open. I was still trying to comprehend what I’m looking at.”
The creature turned around and walked on across the field and went down over the riverbank. Shay went back to his car and returned to his parents’ house.
“I wasn’t about to go to Carrollton I was so shook up,” he said.
After he finished his tour in the military Shay started researching stories of unexplained creatures in Trimble and surrounding counties. He dug out old newspaper accounts of the “Thing” that created a panic in Trimble County during the summer of 1962.
“There were also several stories about a Carroll County monster at that time,” he said. “There were stories in the 1940s in this area and stories that people were handing down through time, stories of a big hairy thing trying to get in a house or chasing people out of the woods. So I started out looking into this thing as a hobby. The more I got into it the more I wanted to find out.”
Through the years he has discovered large tracks of unidentified creatures and found strange structures created with trees deep in the woods. Others who have learned of his research have called him at various times of the day and night to tell of their encounters with creatures they couldn’t explain.
“There was a young lady who was babysitting her nieces on Carlisle Road on the Little Kentucky River,” he said. “She said there was a ‘monkey man’ in her driveway. It was about 2:30 in the morning. I got dressed and went over there but I didn’t see nothing. But this woman was hysterical.”
In 2012, an older lady was driving south on U.S. 421 “right before you get to the crossroads where the dips are and saw something running across the road,” he said. “To this day she still doesn’t comprehend what she saw. This was about 7:30 in the morning. It just darted across 421 there from one field to the other field. She said it had the body of a man. She said, ‘I saw a hairy man run across the road.’ I asked her if it was on all fours. She said the arms dragged the road when it ran across.”
Due to harassment and ridicule most people will not come forward and report their encounter, Shay says. With man’s encroachment on nature, excessive logging, strip mining, and subdivision development where forests used to grow, encounters are more frequent. He says about 25 people in Trimble County have been in touch with him in the past year about strange incidents in which they have either seen or heard something they can’t explain.
“I’ve had reports that it’s reddish-brown,” he said. “Sometimes it’s black. There was one report that it was filthy white or gray. The gray was seen down around Joyce Mill off 625 where the tornado hit. The reddish one was seen around Nubbin Ridge and around Milton/Bedford Pike.”
Hwy 625, Nubbin Ridge, Carlisle Road and the old Milton/Bedford Pike are hot spots for either sightings of the creature or finding tracks, according to Shay.
Recently, a caller from Nubbin Ridge invited him over to investigate another strange occurrence. Although the caller didn’t actually see the creature, he said its shadow fully covered his picture window while his dogs “went crazy” barking and whimpering. After some searching of the property Shay and the homeowner found the remains of one of his dogs that had been skinned. “Something grabbed it from the back, from behind and pulled the hair completely off the lower part of its body like you skin a rabbit,” Shay said.
“If you’re down along the Kentucky River, if you’re out there long enough you’re going to find something,” he said. “If you’re going to find where these things have been you have to go out in the daytime and find a trail or find where something big has gone through. If you not familiar with what you’re looking at you’ll pass over it.”
During his visit to The Banner office Shay displayed castings he has made of alleged footprints he has discovered. The smallest print was approximately 14 inches long by five inches in width. The largest, at 18 inches in length by five-and-a-half inches wide, dwarfed both Shay’s and this writer’s feet even with our shoes on. He has found a series of prints and in measuring the stride at 54 inches, he calculated the size of the creature at seven to seven-and-a-half feet tall.
On his Website, www.bigfootlore.blogspot.com, Shay shares a number of other stories of sightings, and investigating ventures he has made. Most recently he posted his theories as to why there have been so many sightings recently in Trimble County, and whether more than one of these unexplained creatures exist.