Benshoof: SyFy show in Vergas to investigate the Hairy Man
VERGAS, Minn. - This small, sleepy lakes country town about 60 miles east of Fargo-Moorhead could soon be getting some national attention - for an attraction that has eluded many and intrigued many more.
This week a crew from "Paranormal Highway," a TV show on the SyFy network, is investigating the legend and the mystery of the Hairy Man of Vergas, the closest thing our area has to a Bigfoot.
Attempts to contact the producers of Paranormal Highway were unsuccessful, but Sherri Hanson, assistant vice president at Vergas State Bank, who helped coordinate the show's visit, says staff was scheduled to hang out Wednesday at Skål Bar & Grill in Vergas to interview local residents.
Then, according to Hanson, the show's paranormal investigators were planning to film rural Vergas on Wednesday night and today in hopes of catching a glimpse of the elusive creature.
Details on when the Vergas episode might air were unavailable Wednesday.
Last year, I worked for the East Otter Tail Focus newspaper in Perham and lived not far from the Vergas Trails, the forested area the Hairy Man reportedly calls home.
And, like a good journalist who wanted to know more about the subject, I did some research on the legend.
What I found was a legend that doesn't seem to have been thoroughly investigated or even consistent.
One tale circulating claims the creature is actually a local man who murdered a group of teenagers one night and retreated into the woods to live. Over time his hair grew long and unkempt, and he naturally gained the name of the Hairy Man.
Another version - one more people tend to relate when asked about the Hairy Man - is that there's simply a Bigfoot-like creature living in the woods.
Internet posts report a number of sightings, and one person even said his brother (naturally, these things always seem to happen to someone else) was attacked by the Hairy Man and had the dent in his truck to prove it.
There's more to the area's paranormal lore, though, with most having to do with a cemetery in the Vergas Trails area.
Some reports I found say that at night the headstones glow and visitors can see candles burning, yet the flame never touches the wick.
And while some people might be skeptical of anything involving Bigfoot or glowing headstones, you can count Hanson, at least, among the believers.
In 1972, she and some friends were snowmobiling on the old Vergas Trails when they drove by what appeared to be an old abandoned house.
As they passed the house, something that Hanson remembers as "larger than a human, covered with hair," suddenly ran out and chased the group for a while before giving up.
Hanson remembers the incident well, and she remembers very clearly how she felt.
"We were pretty frightened," she says.
Like many paranormal legends, though, there are only stories like Hanson's to go by - no photos, no videos and very little proof.
With some luck, though, perhaps this week's visit by the "Paranormal Highway" investigators will help shed some light on this mysterious corner of Otter Tail County.
Readers can reach Forum reporter Sam Benshoof at (701) 241-5535.