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Friday, January 21, 2022

The Myakka Skunk Ape

In December 2000, the Sarasota County Sheriff's Department received an anonymous letter from a woman that enclosed two photographs.

The letter expressed her concerns over the apparent Orangutan [so declared by her husband] that was raiding the apples from her porch on a nightly basis. Not knowing yet just what was taking her apples, and when she realized it was back, she stepped out into the yard with her camera. She was shooting blindly in the dark, not being able to see exactly where the animal was hiding in the palmettos.

The quick one-two strike of the camera flashes startled the creature and it stood up. As everything went dark again, she could hear it walking off on two feet. Suddenly realizing just how close she was to where the animal had been and just how large it was, she quickly got back inside the house.

As you read her letter, pictured below, you will see she never tried to make a public statement, she [even to this day] did not give her name, and never referred to the intruder as a "skunk ape", bigfoot, sasquatch, or any other name assigned to this being.

The police appeared to at first treat her letter and photographs as some sort of amusing story to be shared around. The items were passed around freely; no official file or report made. It seemed to be just a joke to them. Then a member of the animal control division decided to tell David Barkasy, a friend, about the photographs. He was told that the local authorities were discussing the local orangutan problem and that they had been sent some interesting photos. On January 3, 2001 Barkasy was given more details about the photos and they sent him a black and white photo.

Barkasy in turn called Loren Coleman and a person who ran a bigfoot internet service. He wanted help in investigating and others' opinions. He needed to eliminate any possible hoaxing and to be sure that anthropological, zoological, and photographic analyses would be used during the investigation.

By January 11, 2001, Barkasy was able to borrow the second photograph. He made copies of it and returned it to the police the next day. His seeing and being allowed to make copies of these items was unofficial, as there still was no official file or case number. In fact, he had discovered that the sheriff's office was ready to discard the letter and photos as not being needed or important.

It was during this time that a person he had contacted about the photographs began to make demands on the Sheriff's Department. They insisted that they be provided with copies of the photos through the "Open Records Law". This person was aware of Barkasy's interest in and investigation of the event. They also knew that he was trying not to create problems by borrowing the pieces of evidence one item at a time.

This "friend's" actions obviously ruffled a few cop feathers, for after this incident, the photos and letter suddenly received a case number [case 01-4986]. From then on, any document or photo that Barkasy wished to see or to take to have copied, he was accompanied by a sheriff's deputy. Once the official report was created, the filing officer made the following notation : "I received an unusual letter addressed to the animal services of the sheriff's office. The letter told of an encounter with a monkey or ape and contained two photos. The letter was anonymous."

Copies of the photos were sent to the email list moderator but were made on regular copy paper [most likely on the department copier]. Barkasy's copies were made by him on high-quality paper. This gave his copies more definition of details. When the photos were studied, forehead lines, the yellow canines, the fingernails and details of the hair were noticeable.

Due to the rough handling and the way the police file was eventually set up, the photos themselves  suffered some damage. There are staple holes, scratch marks and other wear and tear. Some of these marks have led some researchers to mistakenly identify them as evidence of a hoax. For instance, the staple holes at the top of one of the photos were misidentified as stars in the sky. The person who noticed them declared them stars from southern hemisphere and therefore the photos were not taken in Florida. This argument died down after it was shown they were only staple holes. Others have also claimed to see UFOs and running lights where the scratches and holes are.

Coleman and Barkasy tried hard to track down the woman who sent in the photos. Barkasy finally discovered that the photos had been printed in December 2000 at a Eckerd Photo Lab that was at the intersection of Fruitville and Tuttle Roads.Some researchers claim to know the general address of where this encounter allegedly took place. There are those who say the location is in the middle of a low income, run down neighborhood, with no palmettos in sight. Others say that the property is indeed in a relatively populated area, but that it backs up onto the swamps and that there could indeed be palmettos in the back yards.

Other evidence includes other encounters that were reported in the area that the officers shared with Barkasy.

Loren Coleman went on to write a book "Bigfoot! the true story of apes in America". He covers the Myakka Skunk photos. David Barkasy and Loren Coleman are said to have a copyright on the photos. Although this is debated on how they could have done this because they did not take the photos themselves, Barkasy does have a copyright on his book and the contents. The photographer has never come forward and claimed the photos, the publicity, or any rights. As for who owns them legally, well that's for lawyers and the courts to argue and decide, if the question of ownership comes into play.

Loren Coleman decided that the photos did not show a costume; they were not faked; and they did not show an escaped zoo animal. David Barkasy could find no evidence of feral apes in the area and found no reports of lost pets or statements of recovery of them.

Some researchers disagreed with Coleman and asserted that the photo could only be of a person in a costume. A person came forward and claimed that the photo showed someone dressed in a traditional Asian costume. They provided no photo of the costume. Others jumped and started to research costumes, both domestic and foreign. There were no costumes found in 2000 that exactly matched the photos. One can not deny that someone could have commissioned a costume [expensive project and one from which no apparent money made], or that someone could have taken a cheaper costume and altered it.

Others have made fun of an "old lady" who goes out into the dark after an animal armed with only a camera. First off, don't tell me people don't do this sort of thing. If you have never heard a noise in your basement or attic and never gone with only a flashlight, if that, to find out what caused it, then you are abnormal. People charge into potentially dangerous situations all the time. Further, it was her own backyard. She heard something on the porch messing with the apples. She probably thought it was something like a raccoon, or deer and thought to get a photo of it. She admits when she realized how large and how close the creature was, she fled back indoors.

Others say Barkasy was interested in the stories of the skunk ape and had asked questions about them. Because he was doing this as recently as two weeks before the photos were taken, he is a hoaxer and set the entire thing up. And his friend in animal control was probably in on it with him. Barkasy has never denied his interest in the stories about the skunk ape.

detail of fingers and nails as enhanced for
Barkasy and Coleman

Attempts to call it photoshopped have stopped short of being proven. Others have declared the photos are of something alive. They are not photoshopped and are not of a cutout one dimensional figure. It did not seem to resemble any diorama or statue known at the time.

Many find it hard to accept as real because the letter was typed [on a computer as looks too 'regular' or 'good' to have been a typewriter], the writer remained anonymous, the witness did not call the police after the encounter, and that it was 'innocently' called an orangutan.

Some people type because their handwriting is totally illegible. Many witnesses to many events remain anonymous to avoid notoriety or hassles or having to tell their story over and  over and over again.  Police are not called because the witness is not quite certain what had just happened and are afraid of being called crazy.  And needing some sort of way to identify it the husband chose something he could believe in - an orangutan.

Bob Gymlin  did a nice discussion of the photos. [see video below].

Real or hoax? You decide.

[Photos courtesy of David Barkasy and Loren Coleman
sources include: "Bigfoot! the true story of apes in America" by Loren Coleman

"The Bigfoot Book : the encyclopedia of sasquatch, yeti, and cryptid primates" by Nick Redfern


"The Myakka Skunk Ape Photographs" by Loren Coleman / Llewellyn Journal / llewellyn.com/journal
"The Myakka 'skunk ape' photographs" by Loren Coleman / Cryptozoologist / lorencoleman.com/Myakka.html]

[Please Note: Sadly Nancy passed away at the first of January, 2022. We will continue to honor her and her research by sharing her work. RIP Nancy. -Thomas]


"I'll spark the thought; what you do with it is up to you."
 "Those that know, need no further proof. Those that don't, should not demand it from others, but seek it for themselves."

This Post By TCC Team Member Nancy Marietta. Nancy has had a lifelong interest in the paranormal and cryptids. Nancy is also a published author and her book, The Price of war, has been met with great reviews.

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