Hear Me, Oh Sasquatch
How a demigod-worshipping plumber was mistaken for Bigfoot.
This past August, Sasquatch enthusiasts got a big surprise when a man named John Bruner claimed he saw Bigfoot in a North Carolina forest. He shared photographs and details of the creature on his Facebook group Bigfoot 911— “I turned on my headlamp and saw a large bipedal animal covered in hair,” he wrote — and the news spread like wildfire. By the next morning, media sites like Fox News and Daily Mail had reported on the sighting, and the search term “bigfootNC” was trending on Twitter.
But then, one day later, another surprise was revealed. What Bruner had seen wasn’t a Bigfoot after all. In fact, it was just a plumber from Minneapolis wearing a homemade raccoon fursuit.
Gawain MacGregor, 36, had been performing a “shamanic” ritual that Friday night in the woods when Bruner and his team caught sight of him. After seeing a picture of himself in the news, MacGregor called the cops to confess it was him, “just to set the record straight,” he later told the New York Post.
The police in Greenfield, S.C., later made a Facebook post warning the public not to shoot at Bigfoot if they catch sight of him. “Proof of Bigfoot still eludes us,” they wrote. “You'll most likely be wounding a fun-loving and well-intentioned person, sweating in a gorilla costume.”
Over the next few weeks, interest in the purported Bigfoot sighting died down, and most people forgot about the mysterious man in the forest in the strange outfit. But we didn’t.
OK Whatever still had a lot of questions for MacGregor that other publications had failed to ask. For instance, what kind of ritual had he been performing? How exactly did he constitute as a shaman? Had he ever seen a Sasquatch himself? And where the fuck did that fur suit come from?
We contacted MacGregor through Twitter and set up a phone call for the next day. He was working at a construction site when we got hold of him, installing pipes below a new house. “But I can take a break,” he said, his voice twangy with a slight Southern accent.
In fact, MacGregor had been looking forward to our chat because he wanted another chance to tell his side of the story. “The people who have interviewed me about the Sasquatch mix-up haven’t really gone back and looked at what I was talking about,” he said.
Over the next 40 minutes, we learned why. MacGregor is more than just “that guy who was mistaken for Bigfoot.” He’s an intricate man — a churchgoer, a father, a chef, a trailblazer, a hunter, and, most importantly, a believer.
So what were you doing out there in the woods?
Gawain MacGregor: I was on a road trip. There’s a bunch of states right there that meet up, so I was in South Carolina, North Carolina, Georgia, and Tennessee. A lot of the time I spent in Rock City, which is technically in Georgia, but it's right on the border of three states. And I also spent a bunch of time in Asheville, and up in McDowell county where they saw me, that's just northeast of Asheville.
Were you road tripping alone?
No, I was road tripping with my family.
Oh, so you were camping in the woods with your family?
My family was in Pisgah National Forest, and I left by myself and went out to a more less-crowded area. I couldn’t really do what I do in Pisgah. There’s too many people. It’d be disturbing to me and other people that are hiking or whatever there. So I just went in the woods, set up my camp, and did my thing. I go to a more remote location, so that's why I was surprised to see other people. I imagine they probably came in the woods around the same clearing I did, and we just bumped into each other at night. And that’s pretty much that. I saw them, they saw me. I turned and left, and they kind of stood there looking at me.
You were in the middle of your ritual when they saw you. Tell us more about that.
I mean, you can call it a ritual or whatever you want. I guess I call it a ritual. It’s just part of a larger thing. And there’s more to it than just wandering. It’s reenacting some scenes that took place in the stories that make up “The Epic of Gilgamesh,” which is, you know, the oldest story ever told. People who have interviewed me about the Sasquatch mix-up haven’t really gone back and looked at what I talked about.
In the story of Gilgamesh, the character Enkidu dies as a martyr to bring Gilgamesh’s humanity back in the balance, because he had succumbed to the sins associated with living in civilized society. Gilgamesh is a symbol for our sins and Enkidu is a martyr. Now, every religion has got their own martyr, but Enkidu is the first one ever. No one ever talks about that. And when he dies, to honor him, Gilgamesh sheds his worldly garments, makes a suit of animal skins, and goes wandering. So really my ritual is just a reenactment of a sacred drama in the epic of Gilgamesh. There’s more to it than just wandering. There's a whole process.
Tell us about it.
I make a circle of flowers around the camp to purify it. And that tradition, making a circle to purify your space, is something that in primitive culture is still well-known and very well-known in neo-paganism. So that goes back 5,000 years, before recorded history. So I do that.
And I also leave out an offering, the same offering they leave out. There were two kinds of stones that were sacred in Mesopotamia. You’ve got a carnelian stone and you've got lapis lazuli. So I have a slab of cornelian and a slab of lapis lazuli. And I leave honey on the carnelian stone and butter on the lapis lazuli. That’s just an offering.
Then I say a little prayer that I just made up myself, and I do my wandering.
What’s the prayer you recite?
I can read that for you if you want. It goes:
"Hear me, oh Sasquatch, children of Enkidu. In your great mercy, may you walk forever before me, guiding me through the forest and guarding me from every danger that may come."
So who are you leaving the offerings for? Sasquatch or Enkidu?
I’m leaving it for Enkidu. Enkidu, he is a creature of divine creation. He’s made from clay. If you read the Genesis account of the creation of Adam, it's almost the same, although I don’t think that Adam was adapted from Enkidu. Enkidu is the person that I’m showing appreciation for because of his martyrdom.
More broadly speaking though, the whole thing is kind of nature worship in a way. The reason I use shamanism to describe what I do is because really what shamans do is there’s a nature worship aspect typically to it and the person bridges the gap between this world and a supernatural world.
For me, when I put on the suit and do that, I’m not pretending to be a Sasquatch. I’m just, I guess, sharing some kind of spiritual identity with them.
How you ever met anyone else who worships Enkidu like you do?
No. I just made it up myself, and I’ve been doing it for six years, more or less.
Tell us about the fur suit you put on during your rituals.
I made it myself out of raccoon. You set out a raccoon trap, come back, and if you’ve got a raccoon in the trap, you blast it. There’s about 30 raccoon skins on my suit.
What do you do with the meat? Eat it?
Yeah, yeah, I eat raccoon meat. I turn it into hamburger. You can buy raccoons a lot of times in rural areas, like if you're at a swap meet or whatever. They’ll sell raccoons, and they usually skin it and then keep the hides and the feet on, because if you see a raccoon for sale at a swap meet or something, and it doesn’t have feet on it, it's because it’s a cat! Because cats look a lot like raccoons when you skin them. So you know you've got a good raccoon if it's got its feet on it still.
What does raccoon taste like?
Um, it tastes real greasy. Have you ever had a squirrel?
Well, it’s dark meat and it’s real greasy, kind of like a rabbit. But raccoons are greasier than rabbits. I would put them on the high end of greasy. You've got to make it into a hamburger. You know, you grind it up, then you put some breadcrumbs and seasoning in.
How long did you spend making the raccoon suit?
Probably, like, a year.
Is it hard to see out of it? There doesn’t seem to be large eyeholes or breathing holes, for that matter.
Yeah, it’s not super easy to see out of it. And it’s hot as hell too, so that’s why I go at night or in the winter. Sometimes I'll fall down or whatever, but not a lot. You get used to it.
How long does a ritual last?
I'd say probably like a half an hour. I got a buddy that does meditation and I think he does it for like 20 minutes, and that's about the same with me.
Were you raised religious?
Yeah, I was raised in a Presbyterian church, which I still attend. I did some Bible study and that’s how I got into all of this, through just reading the Old Testament.
When you go into the woods for your rituals, what do you tell your family?
They know what I do.
Could they join you or is it something you prefer to do alone?
I don’t want to involve them because kids get picked on and stuff, so I keep this pretty much to myself. I don’t want to give anyone any reason to bully my kids or pick on them. So I just do my own thing, and I’m not causing anyone trouble. I’m not proselytizing. I’m not going to anyone's church and kicking over the pew or anything. I’m just out doing my own thing.
And that thing is basically worshipping Sasquatch…
Sasquatch is a new term for Enkidu, and I think that whatever Enkidu was and whatever Sasquatch is, are the same things. If you read a description of Enkidu, he's described as covered in fur, three-quarters animal, one-quarter man, and larger than a normal man. If you're talking about Sasquatches, go read the description of Enkidu from 4,000 years ago and it’s the same exact thing.
Most people would have a humanist explanation for their belief in Sasquatch. They’d say there is an animal that we have not discovered in the woods. And I would say there’s something in the woods, but it’s not an animal. I would say that it’s something spiritual in nature. My name for it is “Spirit of the Forest” or “Spirit of Nature.”
Have you ever encountered a Sasquatch?
Yeah, yeah. I’ve seen Sasquatches many times. They just kind of appear to me. I’ve seen them at camps.
To put it in context, a lot of people will say a Sasquatch is just a bear standing up. But take a look at a bear standing on its hind legs, because I’ve seen a bear standing on its hind legs in the wild, too, and it looks nothing like what Sasquatches are reported to look like.
In the five years you’ve been doing your rituals, has your life changed in any way?
I wouldn’t say that this is like a pathway to a better life or something. I’m not saying that a rainbow is going to appear in front of you and you're going to follow it to a pot of gold or anything.
But for me, it brings me closer to nature. It’s a spiritual experience that gives me spiritual fulfillment.
And, because of it, I’ve experienced seeing Sasquatch many times, while some people look their whole lives and never see one. There’s very few, if any, good descriptions of angels in the Bible, but the word angel, if you look into it, means messenger. So I’ll tell people, If you're looking in the clouds for this white guy in a big robe with dove wings to fly down and land in front of you, you might be looking for a long time. Angels might be very different than that, and you might be looking in the wrong place.