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Former teacher turns TV spotlight on Bigfoot

by: PHOTO COURTESY OF ANIMAL PLANET - Cast members from The Animal Planet's TV show 'Finding Bigfoot' set out on a mission. Pictured above are Ranae Holland, James 'Bobo' Fay, Matt Moneymaker and Cliff Barackman.Cliff Barackman is almost certainly the only man to go from teaching sixth grade at Cascade Heights Public Charter School in the North Clackamas School District, to having his own television show.

And that TV show is letting him live his dream of hanging out in the woods at night looking for the world’s most elusive creature: Bigfoot.

Barackman, a Portland resident, taught from 2009 to 2011 at the charter school, before he was given the opportunity to be a member of the four-person cast on Animal Planet’s “Finding Bigfoot.”

The producers of the show found him on the Internet by looking at his blog “North American Bigfoot.com.” They took some video footage of Barackman and then chose him as a cast member, along with Bigfoot Field Researchers Organization members Matt Moneymaker and James “Bobo” Fay and biologist Ranae Holland.

Their goal — scour the globe and find Bigfoot.

‘Finding Bigfoot

The pilot for the show was filmed in the spring 2010, and because the first season was such a success, Barackman realized he’d have to give up his teaching job and devote himself to “Finding Bigfoot” full-time.

The third season of the show is set to air on Sunday, Nov. 11, and he and his fellow cast members flew to Australia, looking for the Yowie, known as Australia’s Bigfoot, and to Indonesia, looking for the Orang Pendek, a “hairy hominoid,” sighted on all the islands in that country.

Those are going to be exciting episodes, he promised.

“Finding Bigfoot” is not scripted, but instead cast members find out about sightings, and they investigate those, and line up two or three witnesses.

“We show up and let things play out,” Barackman said, noting that some of the sightings are hoaxes, but some “have a compelling piece of evidence.”

They are on location for about a week, working eight to 16 hours a day.

“We film over 100 hours for 44 minutes,” he added.

Barackman is delighted at the success of show, noting that he is beginning to film the fourth season.

“Finding Bigfoot” ranks among Animal Planet’s top-three performing series in a specific age group and demographic, said Matt Windsor, the publicity assistant at the Discovery Channel, which owns Animal Planet. The second season averaged 1.3 million viewers, up 15 percent from season one, he added.

Why Bigfoot?

“I’ve been interested in Bigfoot since I was 4, and when I was in college I started to realize that the creature might be real and that really grabbed me,” he said, noting that he has always considered himself a “science nerd.”

Because he loved camping and did it as much as possible, he figured he could look for Bigfoot at the same time.

“Here,” he said, “is a “tangible, solvable mystery, right in our own backyard.”

Let’s get the big question out of the way first: Has Barackman ever actually seen Bigfoot?

“I believe I saw one in a thermal image at 2:30 a.m. in the Uwharrie National Forest, in North Carolina,” he said.

The creature ran away, before the cast members could get a visual sighting, but 45 minutes later “we got a vocalization,” he added.

Bigfoot sightings, it turns out, are fairly common. In fact, there have been “30,000 raw reports of sightings,” Barackman said, noting that footprints are “rare, with only 300 casts on record.”

There is some local history with the creature as well, he said, adding that “Clackamas County has the most Bigfoot reports in all the counties in Oregon.”

Just as summer was coming to an end, Barackman and a friend decided to go swimming in the Clackamas River, north of Timothy Lake, and they heard “wood knocks, really close,” that he and his friend decided could have come from a Bigfoot.

“We did not bring a thermal imager, but we did bring a recorder,” Barackman added.

Bigfoot creatures have been portrayed as monsters and have generally been given a bad reputation by the tabloid media that makes fun of them and depicts them in an inappropriate manner, Barackman said.

And yet, Bigfoot or Bigfoot-like creatures have persisted across cultures in mythology; they have been depicted on Native American totem poles, and newspaper accounts of “wild men” or “hairy men” have been reported since the 1830s.

All the reports are remarkable in their similarities of description, he added.

Barackman hopes the TV show continues for a few more years, and he knows his personal quest for Bigfoot will also go on.

He added, “I want to learn as much as I can about them and be an appropriate ambassador for them.”




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