Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Greg Jordan

July 4, 2013

In search of Bigfoot, and a fictional murder suspect, at Berwind Lake

— — One benefit of reporting is the fact you never know what you’re going to be doing every day; in other words, the break in routine is your routine. I never knew last week I would actually be off to War in McDowell County and a faint possibility to fulfill the fantasy of seeing Bigfoot.

Sometimes the news business runs into a rut. It’s hard to report the news when there is nothing much to report at the moment. Fortunately, we had been invited to see a mock crime scene at Berwind Lake in McDowell County. I had some time and offered to go. Senior Editor Bill Archer gave me directions to War via Tazewell County, Va., and I was soon on my way.

I had never been to War, so it was an interesting trip. The winding roads kept my eyes open and, of course, I kept checking to make sure I was heading in the right direction. When I found the town of War, I learned it was a bustling place as far as rural towns deep in the Appalachian Mountains go. Signs directed me to Berwind Lake, and I soon found myself in a very nice park.

The students were in the Riverview High School’s Career and Technical Center’s law and public safety class, and their lesson of the day called for them to investigate a murder.

Instructor George Kennedy, a retired West Virginia State Trooper, was leading the class. Before you can investigate a crime, you have to have a crime scene. Kennedy and some volunteers set up a murder scene at a lakeside campground complete with murder weapon, blood evidence, witnesses and chances to find fingerprints. They also had to find the weapon — a high tech Airsoft gun used for police training — in the woods. The scenario featured a male subject who was shot in the back during a drunken fight.

Berwind Lake is surrounded by mountains and thick forests. When you looked up a slope, the woods seem to head to Heaven. I saw a heron sitting on a bridge and a beaver swimming across the lake, so I know the area has plenty of wildlife.

Tosha Mutter, the mother of student Aimee Mutter, told me bears are often spotted. Bears were no surprise, but then she said some people have reported seeing mountain lions and their tracks. Skeptics have attributed these sightings to large bobcats, but who knows? I’ve read about other reports across West Virginia, and when you think of the thousands upon thousands of wooded acres covering the state, the idea of mountain lions doesn’t seem impossible.

But then Ms. Mutter really surprised me. I remarked about West Virginia having at least a couple of Bigfoot sightings, and she said the crypto creature had been reported in McDowell County. The idea was truly news to me. I’ve hear stories of ghosts and UFOs buzzing around southern West Virginia, but I had never heard of Bigfoot sightings.

I’m on the proverbial fence when it comes to whether an unknown species of giant ape is really roaming North America. There have been thousands of sightings from credible witnesses, but many scientists say America’s forests couldn’t support an ape. However, I’ve read about Bigfoot hunting deer, and we certainly have enough of those in the state to keep a predator going.

Yes, you think we would have found proof such as some bones, or a really good video that isn’t out of focus. But then again, what if this ape is smart enough to hide its existence? Sure as you declare Bigfoot doesn’t exist, he’ll be come into the Daily Telegraph’s circulation department and apply for paper route.

Editor Samantha Perry had asked me to shoot a feature picture for the next day’s edition if I had the opportunity. After hearing about the Bigfoot sightings, I wondered what would happen if I came back with a picture like that. I found myself looking up into the woods and across the lake, wondering if I might see a very tall, hairy humanoid.

A sight like that would be a picture. Of course, I’ve read about Bigfoot throwing tree limbs and rocks the size of bowling balls at gawkers, so I would have to be quick. I kept my eyes on the road on the way back to Mercer County. War was a nice place, and some people at a clinic let me use their phone so I could call the newspaper and learn if there was anything I needed to do before returning. I passed a few places I would have stopped to check out if I had the time. Maybe I’ll return to Berwind Lake someday and do some exploring on my own.

I probably won’t see a very tall, hairy person walking across the road or walking through the woods, but I hope I’m quick with a camera if I do.

Greg Jordan is the Daily Telegraph’s senior reporter. Contact him at

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