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A side view of the skull, found in a boggy area of the Vergas Trails several years ago.
Brian Wierima/DL-Online
A side view of the skull, found in a boggy area of the Vergas Trails several years ago. Brian Wierima/DL-Online

The Hairy Man of the Vergas Trails - fact or fiction?

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entertainment Perham, 56573

Perham Minnesota 222 2nd Avenue SE 56573

For the last five decades, the legend of the Hairy Man of the Vergas Trails has intrigued many who have decided to venture out into secluded areas with names such as the Lost Highway and Lake Seven.

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Although there are endless numbers of haunted stories of the Vergas Trails -- such as glowing headstones, ghosts of little kids leaving their prints on cars, and of cults chasing people -- the one that stands on top of them all is the Hairy Man.

But now, the Hairy Man of the Vergas Trails has caught the attention of some famous outsiders.

The Hairy Man has gone Hollywood.

The cast and crew of the new SyFy series Haunted Highway made their way to the small community of Vergas to try their luck at uncovering what is behind all the Hairy Man claims.

Haunted Highway investigators Jael de Pardo and Devin Marble conducted street interviews in Vergas for a day, then went out into the wilderness of the Klondike area southwest of Vergas to conduct their own overnight investigation of the Hairy Man.

The Hairy Man episode is set to be shown on the Haunted Highway's debut event Tuesday, July 3, starting at 9 p.m. on the SyFy Channel.

In its news release, SyFy states, "In the premiere episode 'Bear Lake Beast/Vergas Hairy Man,' Jack Osbourne and Dana Workman venture to Bear Lake, Utah, in search of the elusive Bear Lake Beast.

Meanwhile in Vergas, Minnesota, Jael and Devin (Syfy's Fact or Faked: Paranormal Files) trek through the dense forests on the trail of a creature known to locals as the Hairy Man.

An aggressive eight-foot humanoid, the Hairy Man has been spotted frequently and is thought to be the unknown malevolent cause of many animal attacks.

However, when Jael and Devin reach the last known location of the beast, they find some compelling evidence that this giant may not be a legend after all."

So what exactly has fueled the legend of the Hairy Man?

To get that answer, one has to go through as many twists and turns as the trails themselves. It's easy to get lost as one story turns to another, but one thing is certain, the Hairy Man has captured the imagination of local people.

And soon, it will be there for the entire nation to wonder about, as well.

ORIGINS UNKNOWN

There are numerous eyewitness accounts of what has become known as the Hairy Man of Vergas Trails. This newspaper has been in contact with about a dozen people from around the area who reported run-ins with the Hairy Man.

Consistencies from each account include a humanoid-like figure, ranging from over seven to eight feet tall. Shaggy, long-haired characteristics are reported in each account, while a musky odor accompanies run-ins with the beast.

In more than a couple of instances, the Hairy Man is reported to be barefoot, which sticks out, especially during the frigid months of winter.

What is not known is when the first reported sighting of the Hairy Man occurred, or for that matter, when the legend began.

The earliest talk of the Hairy Man can be traced back to the late 1960s, but no one has an answer to why it started.

"I heard of the Hairy Man legend when I was a kid growing up on the Vergas Trails," said Patty Heath-Gordon. "The stories just grew and grew as time evolved."

The minimum maintenance roads and dirt trails of the hilly, deeply wooded Vergas trails have long been a destination for young explorers.

The Hairy Man legend started to pick up momentum in the 1970s, when sightings of the Hairy Man became numerous.

One of those is lifelong resident Cheryl Hanson, who had her run-in with the beast in 1972, while snowmobiling with her cousin, Jolyn Hanson.

The 12-year-old Hanson and her cousin were snowmobiling on the Vergas Trails just off what is known as the Lost Highway, off County Road 130.

There, the Hanson duo circled an old desolate cabin with their sleds, when their enjoyment on that winter afternoon was suddenly interrupted.

"We were snowmobiling around and around this old cabin we found, and all of a sudden, a beast-like creature popped out of the cabin holding a huge stick," Cheryl Hanson said. "It had very broad shoulders and I was trying to rationalize what it was, but what really stood out to me, is it was barefoot in the snow.

"We took off fast and went back to tell the adults."

Even though the adults were not convinced of Hanson's ordeal, it became a lifelong memory for the Vergas resident.

"I know what I saw that day," and it wasn't human, she added.

Ironically, Hanson owns the land where she saw the Hairy Man and even has a cabin right near where the creature sprang out .

"I still to this day, can't drive out there at night alone," Hanson said. "The family still has campfires out there, but none of us wander out in the woods alone."

Another well-known eyewitness account came from another lifelong Vergas resident, Ken Zitzow, who has since passed away.

It was said that Zitzow, who was a regular visitor on the Vergas Trails, came back one night after traveling on them and he was pretty shaken up.

His car had large dents in the hood, which he said were made by a big, hairy creature, who jumped on the front of his vehicle and started smashing his fists down on it.

Since the 1980s, the sightings have dissipated.

But even today, there is a creepy feeling felt by some Vergas residents who wonder if there are eyes watching them from the deep woods of the Vergas Trails.

CREEPY ARTIFACT COULD BE LINKED TO HAIRY MAN

With the world full of skeptics of the existence of a Big Foot or a Hairy Man, the search for concrete evidence has gone on for decades around the world.

Until now, the Hairy Man legend has mostly been supported by eyewitness accounts -- but now there appears to be some concrete evidence.

Kim Doyle, the owner of Vergas 66 Gas Station, had quite a visit with one of the longtime residents of the town, who brought in a shocking artifact.

What she saw lying right in front of her that day was a huminoid skull of unknown origin, one that definitely doesn't have the characteristics of either human or primate.

"The owner of the skull (a quiet, respectable man who wants to remain anonymous) said one of the oldest families in Vergas found it south of town," Doyle said. The current owner has had the skull for five or six years, and said the family that gave it to him owned it for a number of years before that.

It was found in the area known as the Klondike, or the "old" Vergas Trails, where most of the Hairy Man sightings occurred.

"They thought it could be one of the offspring of the Hairy Man," she said.

"But whatever it is, it sure doesn't look human," she added. "I certainly didn't know what it was."

The skull has humanoid features, including its eye sockets, teeth and even three to four vertebrae which are still intact.

But there are plenty of features that don't match human features, or primate, for that matter.

There is vegetation stuck to the back of the skull, which may indicate it was unearthed in a swampy area after quite some time.

The skull has never been tested by its owners and very few people even know it exists, so the discovery of something which looks as strange as it does, in the same area as Hairy Man sightings, makes it more intriguing.

But with each legend come hoaxes, which can be as creative and well done as special effects on the set of a Hollywood production.

Ken Gerhard, who is a nationally-renowned cryptozoologist, said there are several features which are either missing or in the wrong place to be an anthropoid.

Gerhard, who doesn't claim to be an anthropologist or an expert on defining skull features, has good experience in researching Homo Sapien and primate artifacts, which is needed in the cryptozoology field

"What I noticed right off the bat, was the unnatural features the skull had or at least 10-12 noticeable characteristics which were missing for a Hominid (defined as being part of the human family)," Gerhard said. "The face of the skull does resemble human, but there isn't a cavity large enough to hold a large brain.

"The eye sockets do seem smaller, compared to a hominid and there isn't a nasal cavity bone."

But Gerhard added he couldn't conclusively determine if the skull is real or a well-produced fake.

"I'm just going by photos, which is difficult to make a solid determination," Gerhard said. "During my time in this field, I have seen ingenious manufactured productions.

"But one thing I do know for sure, it does look bizarre and weird."

NOT A CREATURE, BUT JUST A HERMIT?

Another figure that makes a regular appearance in the legend of the Hairy Man is a well-known hermit, who lived in the Vergas Trails area for decades.

There are stories of this hermit being aggressive with people he thought were trespassers on his family's land, while his appearance was that of an unkempt man, with long and straggly hair.

"The story is this hermit was exiled from his family as a kid and he ended up living in the wilderness for much of his life," said Vergas resident Rob Arnett. "His parents owned a big portion of the land all around the Lost Highway, and through time, they sold it off.

"But he still thought of the land as his family's and got pretty aggressive with people."

The story continues on that he lived on an old farmstead located in the Vergas Trails and underneath the porch of the old house.

"He was literally living off the land, never had a shower and was always wearing furs," Arnett said.

Arnett himself had a run-in with something powerful on the trails that nearly shoved his heavy 1973 Chevy Malibu into a ditch. "I don't know what it was," he said, "but it wasn't a hermit."

Another hybrid hermit and Hairy Man legend, had the beast living in old man Bunley's shack, which is located on the Vergas Trails.

Bunley was an old farmer who lived in a shack that was partially built into a hill. After his death in the 1940s or 1950s, his shack burned down.

But Vergas Trails adventurers would go camping out near the old cabin, because it was said the Hairy Man lived in the remnants of it.

"Old Man Bunley's cabin is down an old, creepy road and that's where the Hairy Man was supposed to have lived," said Heath-Gordon. "I never saw him or know anyone who has, but the legend just grew."

The site is eight or nine miles from the cabin where the young Hanson snowmobilers saw the Hairy Man.

With all the eyewitness accounts -- perhaps a dozen people came forward during the production of the SyFy investigation -- along with the possible skull, and stories of who or what the Hairy Man is, the spirit of the legend remains strong.

So strong, that even now some dare not venture alone out on the dark, narrow passages of what is called the Vergas Trails.

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