GloriaandBigfoot“People around here think Bigfoot got her.”

I pored through old microfilm in the crammed and dusty back room of The Mena (Arkansas) Star newspaper where Gloria McDonald had worked part time as a reporter. The general consensus in the area is that a Sasquatch snatched her when she vanished on a cold January morning in 2001, never to be heard from again.

Publisher and old friend Dan Case and I had worked most of the summer chasing Bigfoot, the legendary monster that is said to inhabit remote corners of the world. Perhaps a missing link to man’s ancestry—or a startling offshoot. We backpacked into the rugged mountains of northern California where Roger Patterson filmed the monster; visited the Bigfoot Museum in Willow Creek; talked with the world’s foremost authority on Bigfoot, Professor Jeff Meldrum at Idaho State University; and interviewed dozens of people who claim encounters with the hairy manlike creature.

Federal, state and local law enforcement concede they have no idea what happened to Gloria.

Queen Wilhelmina Lodge resembled a magnificent castle atop Arkansas’ second-tallest peak where it overlooks nearly two million acres of national forest. Not far away lies Fouke, Arkansas, home of the Boggy Creek Monster and the setting of the famous 1972 cult film classic The Legend of Boggy Creek.

It was an unusually cold winter with patches of ice still in the shade when Gloria, 68, her husband Dan, Dan’s son and his fiancée left on a hike to nearby “Lovers Leap” and its scenic overlook. Halfway there, Gloria opted to return to the warmth of the hotel lobby while the others continued. She waved before disappearing around a bend in the trail.

Thirty minutes later, Gloria’s family returned to the hotel for lunch. Gloria was nowhere about. Sheriff Mike Oglesby held a press conference the next evening.

“It’s hard to get lost in that short distance,” he said. “We searched with volunteers, called in the State Police, brought in a helicopter. . .”

Dan Thomas was a member of the sheriff’s search team. Tracking dogs rushed back whimpering and whining with their hackles lifted, too frightened of something out there in the shadows to go any further.

Search parties detected a foul odor—musky, something like that from a bear’s den.

Expert trackers looking for sign found—nothing. Not a footprint, a thread of clothing, a spot of blood, no disturbed humus or ruffled leaves. . .

“Aliens couldn’t have come down in a flying saucer and snatched her!” exclaimed a frustrated deputy.

On three separate occasions within two weeks of Gloria’s vanishing, five different people reported witnessing a large, fearful creature prowling the vicinity. . .

TO BE CONTINUED.

At the end of the cable clung Che Guevara skyhooked from the trees and whisked back into Uganda. . .” From Night Fighter by Navy Captain William H. Hamilton Jr. and Charles W. Sasser. In most bookstores on November 1, or pre-order now on-line.