Claudia Ackley on “Me and Paranormal You” with Ryan Singer
I’ve long been struck by the many similarities Bigfoot sightings have to other paranormal occurrences, for example poltergeist infestations. Recently I was listening to the “Me and Paranormal You” podcast and heard Ryan Singer interview Claudia Ackley about her interest in Bigfoot research and her own multiple Bigfoot sightings. Ackley is of the strong conviction that Bigfeet are physical primates living in the woods, to such an extent that she is undertaking a lawsuit against the state of California to try to force the state to acknowledge Bigfoot’s existence as well as the danger Bigfeet pose to the park going public.
However, again and again in the course of this interview Ackley describes observations or states of mind commonly found in and around poltergeist infestations, UFO sightings, or alien encounters. Her story as she tells it also reflects larger themes commonly found surrounding Near Death Experiences, interactions with saucer occupants, or mystical experiences. We can even find echoes of George P. Hansen’s Trickster.
For purposes of this piece I thought it would be interesting to simply listen to Ackley’s own words as she describes her story and her encounters with these strange beasts and notice where her remarks differ from the popular theory of Bigfeet as “physical primate in the woods”. I have never heard of Ackley prior to listening to this interview. I have not read up on her research or taken a look at the videos of her sightings. I come to no conclusions about the nature of Ackley’s experiences. I only want to highlight the many elements of her testimony which overlap a variety of paranormal ‘categories’ which aren’t Bigfoot. At the end of this article i’ve included a time stamped list of the quotes upon which I’ve drawn in this article but I encourage people to listen to the entire interview.
Ackley’s ‘extranormal’ remarks seem to fall generally into four groups – incidents and observations found in poltergeist infestations; observations and states of mind associated with encountering saucers and their occupants; life/personality changes found after near death experiences, encounters with anomalous lights, and, again, encounters with numinous beings (faeries, ‘aliens’, angels, etc.); traditionally liminal people and life circumstances as detailed in George P. Hansen’s Trickster hypothesis.
During a 7 day camping trip undertaken to try and learn more about Bigfoot, Ackley and her fellow researchers observe a variety of phenomena. The phenomena start with sounds (growls and screams), continue with stones thrown by an unseen agency and the leader’s dog staring at an invisible presence. Finally the group sees and records a hairy hominid and later finds two humanoid footprints (15:00). Poltergeist infestations tend to follow a similar pattern of escalation of phenomena – from sounds through rock throwing/manipulation of small objects to full body apparitions.
Poltergeist infestations have also resulted in large footprints and ‘arts and craft’ type creations using materials found in the home (for example pin hole writing on paper) which to my mind recall the ‘stick structures’ observed by Bigfoot researchers (18:00).
Many poltergeists tend to crystallize around a ‘focus’ who is present for phenomena. The focus may be followed by poltergeist phenomena to different locations, in the same way that Ackley sees Bigfoot and detects other Bigfoot phenomena in a number of different settings over the years. In the last sighting, Ackley is accompanied by her two daughters. The elder daughter, who Snapchats the creature, at age 14 is pubescent as are the classic poltergeist focii (as well as Charles Fort’s gum-chewing poltergeist girls in “Wild Talents”) (27:00).
Saucer and Occupant Encounters
Ackley explicitly describes the faces and eyes of the entities she encounters in two different events as alienish, with big black almond shaped eyes. This reflects the classic ‘grey’ of popular culture and, in fact, at one point Ackley says that the creature she saw has grey or grey/navy colored skin (16:45, 40:30).
Ackley also experiences alteration of consciousness – two separate times recounting two different encounters she describes herself as ‘in a trance’ while in the presence of these beasts (5:40, 32:00). One can also observe Jenny Randles’ ‘OZ effect’ (unusual quiet around the time and place of a UFO sighting or encounter) as Ackley wonders at how two Bigfeet her daughter saw running next to her in leaf litter were able to do so without making any sound (42:07).
Additionally, many alien abductees report intense states of fear. Some describe the emotion as feeling almost artificially induced, even though any reasonable person would be frightened in such circumstances. Prior to one hike, Ackley describes being very frightened of dangers in the woods to the extent that she schools her daughters on various emergency contingencies and gives the car keys to her older daughter. Yet this fear doesn’t prevent her from going hiking with her daughters and on this hike they indeed encounter Bigfeet (27:00). During the encounter her younger daughter becomes so terrified that she urinates (39:00).
Many saucer witnesses also have repeat encounters, and many witnesses have reported success in ‘calling’ saucers. Though Ackley specifically says she did not go on the group camping trip in order to ‘see Bigfoot’, saying she was only there to learn more about them, I feel the role of intention in this encounter shouldn’t be discounted out of hand. (14:10)
After Ackley decides to pursue her lawsuit against the state of California, she has a couple of incidents of harassment by mysterious people in vehicles with government plates echoing the Men In Black incidents notorious in saucer lore. (59:30)
Finally, and puzzlingly, a five foot tall hominid leaves footprints which are 4” deep (17:40). This recalls instances of saucer landings where incredible weight would have been required to create the indentations observed.
Life Transforming Aftereffects
Near death experiences, mystical visions, encounters with flying saucers and their occupants, and other mystical experiences have in common a set of particular aftereffects. These include changes in diet and exercise, an interest in meditation, yoga, or the martial arts; changes in spiritual philosophical and religious beliefs; change of life focus which often manifests as a mission to communicate; obsession with the precipitating experience; divorce; and more.
After her Bigfoot sightings began Ms. Ackley says she:
Lost 130 pounds
Began studying Tae Kwan Do
Changed her diet for the better
Divorced her husband
Developed self confidence
Developed a sense of mission and decided to sue the state of California to force them to acknowledge Bigfoot existence and associated dangers to the park-going public.
Ackley is very upfront about the profound changes her encounters have wrought in her self and in the way she chooses to live her life. In fact this very interview comes out of her desire to communicate to the world the existence of Bigfeet and to have this existence acknowledged legally. (18:20)
Liminality and George P. Hansen’s Trickster Hypothesis
Hansen’s Trickster hypothesis states that paranormal events cluster around liminal states and people. Three very obvious liminal states are birth, death, and puberty.
Ackley works in the medical field with hospice patients – people who are actively dying (30:15). Ms. Ackley’s most spectacular sighting occurred in the presence of and was recorded by her 14 year old pubescent daughter (as I pointed out in the poltergeist section above) (27:00). Todd Standish, a Bigfoot researching colleague of Ms. Ackley, believes so strongly in Ms. Ackley’s legal fight to have Bigfoot acknowledged that he travelled to another country while his wife was pregnant in order to work with Ms. Ackley on the case (54:00).
My hope is that this exercise will encourage researchers to read widely among accounts of a variety of paranormal and mystical experiences, even if their interests lie strongly in a particular type of experience. I also hope that people will work to listen to the whole of people’s accounts, including the bits that ‘don’t fit’ or which do not lend themselves to easy categorization in familiar classifications. Tellingly, Ms. Ackley herself seems to be genuinely perplexed by certain aspects of her experiences. I wonder if she would be interested to know that her experiences, observations and life situation echo what other people have been reporting all over the world for years – just not always in association with Bigfoot.
Link to the interview:
George P. Hansen’s “The Trickster and the Paranormal”
Time Stamped Notes:
5:40 “You’re like in a complete trance when you’re seeing them”
10:00 growling outside tent while camping at night, saw bipedal creature leaving campsite
18:20 Bigfoot Sighting leads to personal transformation including:
Lost 130 pounds
Began studying Tae Kwan Do
Changed diet for the better
Developed self confidence
Developed sense of mission, decided to sue state of CA to force them to acknowledge Bigfoot existence and associated dangers to the park-going public
14:10 First outing to try to observe Bigfoot, goes camping for 7 days with other BG researchers “I want my own evidence”
15:00 Rocks thrown at group by unseen force/entity. Heard screams “It sounded like a woman was being raped in the woods”
15:20 Dog looking at unseen “presence”
16:20 Group has the sense of being watched and then observes 5’ tall BF
16:45 ”his face looked alien-ish, enormous black eyes, almond shaped” “I’ve been detected”
17:40 “on the camera he looks translucent like the predator” but CA doesn’t understand this as the group leader was filming straight at the BF” and he didn’t look translucent in person. The group found footprints which were 4” deep so CA says “he was a big boy” though when they did a reenactment the group determined the BF was only 5’ tall
18:00 “structures everywhere”
27:00 CA expresses how fearful she is of large creatures in the woods – BF, bears, mountain lions -to the point that she schools her daughters (8 and 14 years old at the time) on various contingencies for escaping possible peril…yet she takes her girls out hiking nevertheless. During this outing they photograph one BF and the younger daughter sees two more running beside her as they flee.
30:15 CA mentions that she works with hospice patients
32:00 Wood knocks can be heard on the snapchat video her 14 daughter made but CA says”I didn’t even hear it i was in such a trance looking at the creature” CA also thinks she “needs to videotape” what she is seeing but is too terrified
37:30 CA’s 8 year old daughter saw two BF running next to her as they fled, even though the BF were running off of the path in leaf litter they did so soundlessly “so stealthy”
39:00 at the time of this sighting BF researcher Ed Wood was staying at CA’s house; CA’s 8 year old daughter was so terrified during this encounter that she “peed her pants”
40:30 the BF seen during this encounter described as “very grey in the skin” “grey skin, navy skin” “black solid eyes, almond shaped”. Again, the researchers returned to the scene to do a reconstruction and look for any sign. They determined the BF was 30’ up in a tree but saw “no claw marks” that a bear would have left making such a climb. They also found two footprints.
42:07 again regarding the silently running BFs CA ponders “If they want to be quiet…I don’t understand that because there’s a lot of dead leaves…I don’t know how they do it…how?”
50:30 “people disappearing in these woods all the time”
52:00 contacts Todd Standing about lawsuit
54:00 Todd Standing comes to help CA with the lawsuit even though his wife is pregnant (liminal)
56:30 CA learns of a mysterious ‘angel’ attorney who wants to help her to move forward with her lawsuit, but CA first must pass a test of faith by relinquishing her first lawsuit without prejudice before the ‘angel’ attorney will even speak with her
59:30 after filing the lawsuit CA experiences following and harassment from mysterious people in vehicles with government license plates