Searching for Bigfoot in Iowa

A group of Iowa-based Bigfoot hunters are seeking evidence of Bigfoot in the Hawkeye State, and are displaying their findings in a documentary “Squatch Iowa.”


Madeline Liegois, Arts Reporter

It was a cool spring evening in Waterloo, Iowa, 2009 when brothers Seth and Jesse Alne ventured into a small patch of woods. Cameras and flashlights drawn, the pair walked side by side down a dirt trail.

The object of their search? Bigfoot.

Dark shadows and eerie sounds lurked behind trees; every snap of a twig echoed as they crunched beneath the feet of the unknown. The Alne brothers split down a trail to avoid trekking through a flooded area when Jesse saw a large hairy creature approaching. It was huge, with red eyes that were glowing in the night. The creature pushed over a massive tree and glared at him with intent.

At this point, Jesse yelled out to Seth, saying that he believed he was seeing a Bigfoot. The pair then began to pursue the creature as it ran away, barreling through trees and shrubs. Jesse and Seth pursued as long as possible but were quickly outrun and left in disbelief of what had just occurred.

Eventually, the pair made their way out of the woods and recollected themselves. To this day, they are still unsure of what they saw, but it was enough evidence for the pair to find out more.

The Alne brothers founded the Calhoun County Paranormal Investigators, a group that started as a group of Iowa-based ghost hunters in 2005. While the organization still dabbles in ghost research, they began focusing on researching Bigfoot after hearing about stories of the cryptid in Iowa.

Bigfoot, a large ape-like creature said to live in the Pacific Northwest region of North America, is one of the world’s most notable cryptids. To some, Bigfoot is one single creature, but according to the Calhoun County Paranormal Investigators, there are multiple living around the country.

“[Our search] ended up leading to this one night that we got lost in the woods,” Seth Alne said. “And it led to a pretty insane run-in especially for Jesse — it was his first sighting. And it all just kind of pushed us over the edge. And that was back in 2009 that we really started diving after Bigfoot.”

The group’s research on ghosts was done through similar documentation as their Bigfoot research. Through audio and visual recordings, the group sought after evidence of paranormal activity within Iowa. On the group’s YouTube channel, many videos have been uploaded documenting the ghost hunting process including a documentary titled Haunted Iowa with 367,787 views.

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“Back in 2010, we had set out on a mission to show everybody that ‘Hey, Iowa is haunted,’” Seth Alne said. “Because no one was coming here, no one was looking for ghosts and stuff like that. So, this time around, we’re like, ‘Hey, we love Iowa,’ like I was like, ‘Nothing’s better to us than Iowa. And we want to show people that there’s Bigfoot here, too.’”

Jesse Alne added that not only is the group trying to expand the public’s view of Bigfoot’s existence, but also attempting to create a safe haven for others who have had similar unexplained experiences to speak out about their encounters.

Seth Alne said that the investigators aim to validate others’ experiences with Bigfoot sightings through extensive research and documentation. Equipped with cameras, voice recorders, and a gun — just in case — the group travels across the state to research Bigfoot in the form of  “hunts.”

During hunts, the group tries to capture audio and video of the slightest indication of Bigfoot activity. They attempt to attract the creature toward them through “Bigfoot calls,” a sound made by producing long, ape-like howls into the night.

The group’s extensive research has been turned into a documentary entitled “Squatch Iowa,” which debuted on YouTube in late October. Currently with 6,000 views, “Squatch Iowa” follows the group’s many Bigfoot hunts, including a large-scale hunt at Yellow River State Forest, analysis of their findings, and stories of firsthand experiences from fellow Iowans and hunters. Their findings range from audio and video evidence to unexplained animal tracks.

“Squatch Iowa” toys with the theory that the Bigfoot may not be a fully flesh-and-blood creature, but possibly a spiritual or extraterrestrial being.

There are several theories of exactly what kind of creature Bigfoot may be. One theory Seth Alne has is that Bigfoot may be an evolution of the Nephilim: creatures mentioned in the Old Testament of the Bible that formed as the offspring of angels and humans.

Both Alne brothers also believe the creature could be a descendant of the Gigantopithecus, an extinct species of giant ape found in Southeast Asia.  Iowa native and original member of the group, Dan Gehrt, said anything is possible.

“I don’t think anything’s out of the realm of possibility, especially with Bigfoot, because nobody really knows anything about him,” Gehrt said. “The idea of Bigfoot being spiritual is not entirely out of the question, but also there is no definitive research on the topic.”

Gehrt also acts as the group’s skeptic, challenging their ideas with scientific reasoning.

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“Yeah, I’m still skeptical to this day,” he said. “But the reason I’m researching it with these guys is that there’s hundreds of thousands of cases of people in the woods seeing something and, you know, they say it’s not a bear, they’re not a deer or anything like that. […] even one percent of those cases are 99 percent could be hoaxes, or they could see something like a deer or something like that, but there’s still a one percent chance that they saw something.”

The group has experienced some backlash through social media due to their research. The group’s biggest critique comes from the hunting community; some people believe that they should be hunting Bigfoot how one would hunt deer. Since Bigfoot behaves in a different way than deer, the group said that Bigfoot cannot be hunted like deer.

 While group members know many may think these ideas are far-fetched, Jesse Alne said they are striving to find answers about the mysterious with reason and logic.

“Our biggest thing is we’ll never tell you, ‘This is what Bigfoot is. And this is how he is and this is what he does.’ We just tell you our experiences,” Jesse Alne said.