"Swan Song of the Skunk Ape": Interview With Brad Abrahams

Waving Goodbye to Bigfoot: An Interview With Brad Abrahams, Director of “Swan Song of the Skunk Ape”

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Something stinks in Florida. It’s not the bad drivers and stale tofu, or even the mosquitoes the size of horse flies.

It’s big and hairy, elusive and mysterious, and according to some people couldn’t possibly exist.

Brad Abrahams, filmmaker behind Love and Saucers: The Far Out World of David Huggins has embarked on yet another strange path. This time, instead of looking to the skies, he’s scanning the Florida Everglades for the story of Bigfoot’s southern swampy cousin, the Skunk Ape.

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Ted riggs holds a cast of what he claims to be a Skunk Ape footprint.

Ted Riggs holds a cast of what he claims to be a Skunk Ape footprint.

Swan Song of the Skunk Ape follows a handful of researchers on their quest to find evidence of this foul-smelling, bipedal, mysterious creature. Though Skunk Ape was spoken of in lore of the Seminole tribe, modern interest was piqued in the 1950s after hunters encountered the creature. In the following decades, curious people began looking further into the tales, gathering evidence and searching for signs of its existence. Among them is Dave Shealy, creator of the Skunk Ape Research headquarters on his property near Big Cypress Nature Preserve.

Last week, I chatted with Brad about his newest film to get the full story and a taste of what’s to come. He was kind enough to take time out of his busy schedule to answer some pressing questions.

So what made you pursue a film dealing with the Skunk Ape?

The production company I’m represented by, Curator Pictures, is sponsoring an original film by each of it’s directors. Because of certain constraints, I was looking to do something locally. Luckily, one of the strangest phenomena I’d ever heard of happened to be just a few hours away. The Everglades, and the people that live nearby, are almost as compelling in their own rite.

In your exploration of the Skunk Ape story, what regions did you explore? Was your focus limited to a specific part of Florida?

We concentrated our efforts in the big Cypress area in and around Everglades City. We also conducted interviews in Miami and the Lakeland area, which has it’s own distinct Skunkape “scene”. It was mainly time, finances and resources that kept that narrowed our scope.

Are legendary bipedal creatures a topic new to you, or have you had a longer interest in weird phenomena?

This is my first cryptozoological film, but the interest has been lifelong. I’ve been reading Fortean Times and the works of William Corliss for many years. The idea of something unknown, as of yet discovered by man, seems universally attractive, it’s just stronger in some of us.

The ‘swan song’ of the title makes it sound like this particular legend is drawing to a close. Is that how you feel? Or was it purely for different reasons?

The title was a sort of allusion to the ever encroaching presence of development in that part of Florida, but also wilderness areas in general. The homes of strange beasts are rapidly disappearing. It’s also an era where it’s fashionable to believe our knowledge of the natural world is “complete”, so even the idea of something being unknown seems taboo.

Dave Shealy wanders through the Everglades in this still from 'Swan Song'.

Dave Shealy wanders through the Everglades in this still from ‘Swan Song’.

I know with David Huggins you kept a more neutral view, stating that you believe that he believes his experiences were real. Does the same hold true to your new doc? What do you consider your personal views on the subject? Do you consider yourself a skeptic, believer, or somewhere in between?
My personal views on the subject is complex. Some our interviewees have such a wealth of experience, speak with such conviction, and have zero to gain by fabricating a story. I have no reason not to believe what they saw or experienced. Granted, others do have a streak of charlatanism, so I greet them with much more skepticism. And I am aware that sometimes the need to believe can cloud our best judgment. Beyond the intrigue of the creatures, there are many interesting psychologies at play.
In your pursuit of the story and filming throughout the ‘Glades, were there any unusual experiences you encountered?

We did not experience anything unusual beyond an eerie vibe. The Glades are actually more beautiful and wondrous than I’d expected. But from the start I decided this wasn’t an expedition film, or a hunt for the creature, instead it’s a telling of it’s story.

As a fan of good documentaries, I do like having tangible DVD copies of films worth watching. Are there any plans for this and ‘Love and Saucers’ to be released in that format in the near future?

I do not have any immediate plans for releasing this or Love and Saucers on DVD. Perhaps if I do a third film in a similar vein it could be a trilogy of sorts. Matt Ralston, who produced Swan Song, is  interested in making a feature film with me on the world of cryptozoology.


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