Hoaxster Chayse Pirello, 17, dressed in his gorilla suit, demonstrates the Bigfoot walk he used on Stevens County drivers. Pirello and his friends were causing a rash of Bigfoot sightings until the long arm of the law put a stop to all the fun. (Colin Mulvany/The Spokesman-Review)
Doug Clark , The Spokesman-Review
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August 5, 2004 -- Chayse Pirello has the attributes found in every successful person: vision, leadership and, of course, commitment.
One day we'll probably see Pirello guiding a company or maybe even running the nation. For now, however, the 16-year-old will be known for leading the Loon Lake Monkey Boys.
Pirello was the engine driving a group effort to use a shaggy gorilla suit to convince drivers that the legendary Bigfoot was alive and well in Stevens County.
"This thing's been through a lot of bushes," notes Pirello, moments before donning his costume and performing a "Sasquatch Walk" in his buddy Ryan Quaintance's back yard.
Arms swinging. Head turned. Pirello perfectly mimics that quirky, lumbering movement known the world over thanks to the dubious Bigfoot film shot by Roger Patterson back in the 1960s.
A bit of background is in order.
In Tuesday's column I told the story of how a Stevens County sheriff's deputy nabbed a young Bigfoot impersonator and two of his companions one dark night in June. Officer Iain Ashley had been hearing reports since Easter that an apelike creature was prowling Highway 395 near Loon Lake.
The deputy got lucky driving home. Rounding a corner he saw the beast galumphing along the shoulder of the road. In a few minutes the hairy highway hijinks were over.
No laws were broken. It was all harmless good fun. But Ashley wouldn't release any names because the lads involved were juveniles. So I put out a plea asking the boys to come forward and give their side of the monkey business.
Quaintance, 17, responded with an e-mail. Tuesday evening found me in Spokane Valley, talking Bigfoot with these hilarious kids.
As radio geezer Paul Harvey would say, "Here's the rest of the story."
It began early this year, when Pirello obtained a gorilla suit from a friend who obviously didn't appreciate what he had.
To Pirello, that fake fur represented vast humor potential.
Picking on Stevens County was only part of the ape suit evolution.
Pirello tried it out on friends. He even wore it into the bar/restaurant his grandmother owns. "Some people chased me through the restaurant," he says. "I knocked over a candy machine. It was crazy."
Pirello and Quaintance teamed up for a more elaborate stunt. Quaintance drove a couple of girls to a wooded area and pretended to have a flat tire. Quaintance getting out of the car was Ape Man's cue to leap out of the woods. "One of them was yelling â€˜Call 911!' " says Quaintance of his victims.
Bigfoot's first assault on Stevens County began the night before Easter and lasted until dawn. The Loon Lake area was picked because one of the jokers, 17-year-old Brad Burger, has a family cabin there.
The plan was simple yet effective. Spotters in the woods would holler when a car was coming. Bigfoot would then do the walk, which in the glare of headlights probably looked a helluva lot like whatever Patterson filmed. Once seen, Bigfoot would run up a hill and disappear into the wilds.
The basic idea, say the boys, was to breathe new life into the Bigfoot saga.
Dozens of drivers stopped. Some tried to take flash photographs. One motorcycle rider started screaming.
Fortunately nobody went for a gun. That's the risk with this prank, getting blasted by a yokel looking to make the Weekly World News.
Bigfoot made several appearances near Loon Lake. Pirello says he and five of his buddies all took a turn in the gorilla suit.
On the final performance, Pirello says he spent two hours in costume before handing it over to a friend who was caught by Officer Ashley within two minutes. That 15-year-old boy is on vacation. I haven't spoken with him so I won't reveal his identity.
Pirello, Burger and Quaintance, however, all agree that playing Bigfoot in the boondocks was terrific while it lasted.
And Quaintance is glad about one thing. That they didn't run into the real Bigfoot.
Asked what he'd do if that happened, Quaintance didn't hesitate: "I'd want to get out of there. Especially if it was mating season." http://www.spokesmanreview.com/local/story.asp?ID=19305
Earlier articleCop recalls his bagging of Bigfoot
by Doug Clark, The Spokesman-Review
-- August 3, 2004
Deputy learned critter human after all, Doug Clark says.
Iain Ashley has been in law enforcement just four years. But already, the 24-year-old Stevens County sheriff's deputy owns a claim to fame that will probably stick to him for the rest of his career. He's the cop who caught Bigfoot.
Ashley, alas, won't get the book and movie deals one might expect from such an apprehension.
Maybe if it "had been something a little more paranormal," says the officer. "But I don't think Hollywood cares about a guy catching a kid in a monkey suit."
For purposes of sheer hilarity, however, Ashley's encounter with the unknown one night in June is priceless.
The lawman's shaggy suspect turned out to be a 15-year-old prankster who, with help from several buddies, was trying to further the Bigfoot myth by prowling the shoulder of Highway 395 near Loon Lake during the dead of night.
Who says kids don't have enough to do?
"It was the real deal gorilla suit," says Ashley, "with fake fur, gorilla gloves and everything. I think they told me they'd gotten it from a cousin."
The lads had apparently pulled this stunt a number of times throughout spring and early summer. Their hard work paid off, evoking a number of reports from mystified witnesses.
Ashley took one such report during the wee hours on Easter. He was filling his patrol car at a Loon Lake gas station when the driver of another car ran up and announced: "A gorilla just tried to jump on the hood of my car."
You don't hear something like that every day – even in Stevens County.
"I've had calls where people see things in the sky," says Ashley, adding that one UFO he investigated turned out to be the light on top of a rock crusher.
Ashley jumped into his cruiser. He roared off to the site of the alleged gorilla sighting. He thought he spotted movement in the brush about 300 yards away, but nothing worthy of an "X-Files" episode.
In the ensuing weeks, buzz about Bigfoot continued. Ashley was curious, but he never dreamed he'd crack the case.
That happened about 2 a.m. one morning as Ashley headed home. He turned a little corner near Granite Point. There in his headlights was a sight he will not soon forget: Bigfoot, swinging his arms and shambling along the other side of the highway.
Ashley made a U-turn. He switched on his light bar and chirped his siren.
"All of sudden Bigfoot started running away," says Ashley.
The deputy followed, soon realizing that this Sasquatch was not quite in the "Harry and the Hendersons" league. Bigfoot "started running up this hill and not doing very well. That kind of gave it away."
Ashley, closing in, hollered for whatever it was to stop. It did. A few moments later, the Loon Lake Ape Boy was unmasked.
Two of the lad's accomplices eventually stumbled sheepishly from the woods. They confessed to being Bigfoot's traffic spotters. They even had a campsite. Another young man was not so brave. He "took off running towards Pend Oreille County," says Ashley. "I don't know where he stopped."
Ashley asked why. "We just thought it would be funny," answered one.
Good point. Even so, they should have known better.
Stevens County has more armed yahoos than Iraq. And every one of them would sell his remaining teeth to be the dude who bagged Bigfoot.
There was no real crime committed. Until Congress passes the Bigfoot Identity Theft bill, our hands are tied. So Ashley called for a state trooper who took the boys back home to Spokane Valley.
Because they are juveniles, Ashley would not release their names. Hopefully they will read this and give me a call. The public has a right to hear Bigfoot's side of the story.
It's not like they have anything to be ashamed about. In fact, Ashley says the bogus Bigfoot asked him for a critique of his performance. "You were very convincing," Ashley told him. "Other than the fact that you're 5-foot-8 and don't run very fast."