By BFRO Investigator R. Monteith
“There’s a sucker born every minute” is a phrase most likely spoken by David Hanum, in criticism of both P.T. Barnum, the American showman of the mid 1800s, and his customers. The phrase is often credited to Barnum himself. It means “Many people are gullible, and we can expect this to continue.”
It is ironic that when investigating the recent Lettuce Lake video out of Tampa, P. T. Barnum’s history was found amongst the blogs of the participants. I believe the men involved intended in every aspect to hoax the public and get publicity for their “joke”. These men knew their hoax needed much more than a monkey suit and fake feet. They did their homework in regards to fooling the public, but neglected to cover their big hairy tracks.
Through the process of The Bigfoot Field Researchers Organization (BFRO) collecting proactive data, false data becomes apparent. When the “witness” contacted us, sending his video, we investigated and this is what we found.
The Florida BFRO posted an announcement on their website that they were taking reservations to join Finding Bigfoot on January 31st as they filmed a town hall meeting in Sarasota, FL. Their announcement was picked up by other blogs including Bigfoot Evidence which published it online Thursday, January 22nd. It was now public knowledge that Finding Bigfoot would be filming in the Tampa/Sarasota area on and around January 31st.
We received the following email:
From: No Reprieve [firstname.lastname@example.org]
Sent: Friday, January 23, 2015 1:21 PM
Id like to RSVP for the Sarasota town hall with some friends. Is it by
reservation only? What time and where is it exactly?
And responded back the same day:
Thank You for contacting the Florida BFRO.
To RSVP we need your name, your email address, and the names of those
attending with you. We will send more information regarding the time and
place next week.
We look forward to seeing you.
We never heard back from email@example.com. At the time we didn’t think much of it. (Later though, this email address became the smoking gun that helped us prove the Lettuce Lake video is a hoax, that Matt McKamey and his friends have a history of hoaxing, and that they are knowledgeable of bigfoot behavior. But more on that later…..)
Bigfoot Evidence and other bloggers published more stories about Finding Bigfoot filming in the Sarasota area. At that time, the news went viral in the bigfoot community.
The BFRO received this email:
From: Matt <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Date: Mon, Jan 26, 2015 at 7:08 PM
Subject: Tampa video
To: “email@example.com” <firstname.lastname@example.org>
I was canoeing some of the swamps around Lettuce Lake Park and saw what I thought was a bear. I told a park ranger about it and he said that bears don’t generally get into the swamp and that there were never many sightings in general. I showed her the video and she said she didn’t know what it was. I saw the Fox13 story about the bigfoot a few weeks ago that mayor Bob Buckhorn made a statement about and thought this might be related in some way. I never put much faith in the old skunk ape legends but when I looked closer I noticed that it had long, swinging arms and moved through very thick swamp with ease. Certainly can’t explain it myself. I didn’t get very close but I hope that this footage can be enlarged. You have my permission to use it and edit it however. Made you can shed some light on it. I can give you my phone number. Email said the file is too big so I put it in a Google Drive folder.
We watched the video and more or less thought it inconclusive. It was another blurry, dark video. Myself and another BFRO Investigator, Marian Gant live very close to Lettuce Lake park. We know the area the video claimed to have been filmed at. There have been reports near it and we’ve found prints. So we thought it possible a bigfoot would be there. Still, we didn’t like that the creature in the video wasn’t too concerned of their canoe close by or the noise of their paddles hitting the metal sides. Just two weeks prior, another hoaxer’s claims of a bigfoot in the Hillsborough River turned out to be a gorilla statue, so there was the possibility this video’s maker was a copycat. We thought maybe the sender’s name “Matt McKamey” with the initials “MM” was mocking the name of the BFRO’s founder Matt Moneymaker’s. We also took into consideration that people knew Finding Bigfoot was in town.
We discovered the video was posted all over the internet. Bigfoot Evidence had it, Phil Poling had analyzed it. A dozen Facebook groups were talking about it. We investigate all videos, photos, and reports sent to us before releasing them to the public. That EVERY bigfoot organization had seen or heard of this video within 24 hours of our receiving it meant that we weren’t the only ones it was emailed to. This was a huge RED FLAG.
Another red flag was that the email Bigfoot Evidence and Phil Poling received with the video told a different story of the incident:
“If it’s a person that they are either a moron or completely insane. They are walking, swimming and diving in an area where there are hundreds of 12 foot gators and water moccasins everywhere. I was there watching it for a while. Seemed to notice me and walked toward deeper water. It went underwater and vanished. Paddled up there and it was nowhere to be seen.
You can do whatever with the video. I’m not looking for anything.”
The story was not only changed, it didn’t depict what was in the video. In the video the figure didn’t swim or go underwater, it walked off into the swamp. In the video the witness wanted to get out of there and turned his boat away. He didn’t paddle up to where the figure was last seen. If he returned to the location, then why didn’t he mention it? Why didn’t he video it?
Another question we had was why was he out there in the first place? The weekend the video was supposedly taken was cold by local standards. On Saturday, January 24th, a weather front came through. It rained all day, and the winds were blowing more than 25mph. The video was obviously not taken this day. On Sunday, January 25, the Tampa area had a low of 46 and the temperature hovered in the low 60’s all day. Most Florida locals do not go canoeing in what we refer to as COLD weather. Visiting Canadians may, but people who live in Florida don’t. Suffice to say, this was yet another Red Flag.
It seemed odd that the new story was more alarmist. It said there are “…hundreds of 12 foot gators and water moccasins everywhere…” in the area. Why add this to the story? Unless he wanted to fabricate a reason why it couldn’t have been a person in a costume. A reason why a person wouldn’t be out there.
Why didn’t he include this part in the story he emailed to us? Maybe because we’d know better. We have been on this river many times. There are not hundreds of 12 foot gators and waters moccasins everywhere. The ones that are there never bother us. It was in the low 60’s that day. Gators and snakes would be sluggish and more interested in finding a sunny spot to warm up than going after someone sloshing around in the cold water.
A producer of Finding Bigfoot asked us to contact Matt McKamey. The producer acknowledged the video was most likely a hoax, but wanted the Finding Bigfoot team to determine it.
We emailed him and this was his reply:
I’m usually available to talk nights and weekends. If you don’t get me, try back.
We forwarded the number to the producer and his assistant called Matt. Instead of returning the call, we received this email:
From: Matt <email@example.com>
To: xxxxx <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Sent: Thu, Jan 29, 2015 7:04 pm
Subject: Re: From FL BFRO
Talked to a lady and she wanted me to drive like an hour and a half to Myakka. That’s just too far. If you’d like to meet up at my house or at Bigfoot Bar on the river up in Tampa that’d be cool.
If you just want to use my video, you’re welcome to and I don’t need anything in return. I’m not looking to make money or be famous.
Someone brought this up to me today, thought it might interest you. There was a monkey loose in a residential neighborhood here. The entire animal control and fish and wildlife couldn’t find it for three years.
When he complained that the hour drive was too far to go, we pretty much knew it had to be a hoax. I thought it odd he wanted to meet at a “Bigfoot Bar,” and thought the mention of the mystery monkey was a bit of misdirection.
The timeline above lists the events that led to our making the decision to investigate deeper into this hoax. We had in mind to find the location of where the video took place and recreate the video with a person. We thought a side-by-side comparison might show the quality of the video. It turned out we didn’t need to go to the river at all. We just needed to Google.
We started by googling the information we had so far on Matt McKamey: email, name, and phone number. This is when everything got very interesting.
We found he is a musician in a hard rock band with the record label No Reprieve Records. Turns out the email for the record label was our “smoking gun”: email@example.com. It was the same email address used on January 23rd in response to our post about Finding Bigfoot taking reservations to attend a town hall in Sarasota. When we replied asking for names, they never answered. This was three days before anyone received the video.
More googling provided the names of his band members Justin Alan Arnold, and Andy Stern. There are many websites where all three are listed or photographed together. They also list each other as friends on various social media sites.
We found this link which reveals Justin Alan Arnold is an artist that has been drawing bigfoot for years! He makes masks and other bigfoot “things.”
Then we hit pay dirt!
We found a story from the Tampa Bay Times on July 30, 2014. It shows a photo of a two-headed alligator sent in by a Justin Arnold. An Andy Stern also sent them a photo claiming he saw it, too.
The story was picked up by the Huffington Post.
In this photo, Justin is now a “local naturalist” claiming Florida Wildlife officials explained the two headed alligator as “an anomaly due to failed separation of monozygotic twins which is common in reptiles.” Notice that now he claims the two headed alligator was caught by local trappers and preserved.
The final nail in the coffin was found at this link. Remember the gorilla statue found in the Hillsborough River a few weeks before McKamey sent out his video? Turns out he wasn’t a copycat. He and his friends were responsible for that hoax, too.
The Orlando Sentinel also had a story about Justin and the Skunk Ape photo before the video:
Given all the evidence we listed above, it is our belief, that the picture and video of a bigfoot in the Hillsborough River are both hoaxes perpetuated by the same group of people – Matt McKamey, Justin (Alan) Arnold, and Alan Stern.
On Friday, August 9, 2013 on Justin’s Tumbler Blog he mentions Matt McKamey being one of his favorite people in the world, but also mentions how P.T. Barnum fooled the public with great fanfare, when the Fiji Mermaid was an obvious fake. I imagine this gave him some ideas on fooling the public.