When Laura Krantz, a Denver-based journalist, used to hear the word ”Bigfoot” — as in the elusive, hairy creature that stalks forests and quite a few imaginations — she would immediately associate the term with tabloids.
“Especially in the ’80s and ’90s, you’d see headlines like, ‘I Had Bigfoot’s Baby,’ in publications like the Weekly World News,” Krantz recalls. “The other thing I associated Bigfoot with was Harry and the Hendersons.”
Yet even though she spent most of her life rolling her eyes at the idea of Sasquatch, for the past year and a half, Krantz has given the legendary creature the same kind of investigative treatment that she had employed as an editor and producer at National Public Radio for nearly a decade. The result is Wild Thing, a nine-episode podcast that explores all things Bigfoot, from the science supporting (and refuting) the existence of the gigantic biped to the folklore and greater cultural fascination surrounding it.
The podcast is already proving to be a hit. Since the debut episode was released on October 2, Wild Thing has attracted lots of believers — in the show, at least — and has passed the 150,000 download mark. It continues to climb the charts, seeming to have hit upon deeper interests in myth and human ancestry. Listeners of Wild Thing will find that Krantz treats Bigfoot with the same kind of oscillating skepticism that Sarah Koenig employed in season one of Serial, except that instead of "Did Adnan do it?," it's "Could Bigfoot really exist?"
The episodes smartly tease clues to keep listeners hooked, including a future episode in which DNA analysis on possible “Bigfoot nests” discovered in a secluded area of the Pacific Northwest will be revealed.
Between the release of the third and fourth installments of the podcast, Westword caught up with the reporter near her home in north Denver to talk about her Bigfoot show and go deeper into the weeds…or, rather, the forest.
As the first episode of Wild Thing addresses, Krantz actually became hooked on the topic as the result of a family connection. In 2006, she happened upon an article in the Washington Post about a quirky anthropologist named Grover Krantz who, among other things, was known as the first serious Bigfoot academic. Grover had passed away in 2002, but Krantz wondered if she was related to him. After all, they shared a last name.
It turned out that Grover was, indeed, a cousin of Krantz’s grandfather. Beyond what the Post had mentioned — that Grover used to hunt for Bigfoot with a spotlight and rifle and had donated his bones and writings to the Smithsonian — Krantz learned from relatives that Grover was an outsized figure within the family, a guy who used to come to family picnics with calipers so he could measure people’s heads.
For years, Krantz filed away this information as a point of curiosity. But the topic of Bigfoot kept coming up and getting her attention, including on the popular television series Finding Bigfoot (which just concluded its ninth season).
Krantz started mulling the idea of doing a larger reporting project around Bigfoot and her personal connection to the subject via Grover. Then in 2015, when Krantz moved to Denver from Southern California, she found out that Grover’s fourth wife, Diane Horton, lived in Parker. Krantz went to visit her. “She told me more interesting stories about Grover, and by then enough stuff came up that I decided I need to do this [podcast]," Krantz remembers.
Just like her distant relative, Krantz was on the hunt for Sasquatch. The reporting for Wild Thing has taken her all around the United States, and Colorado listeners will find plenty of fun references to the Centennial State. As a highlight, Krantz tells Westword about a visit — explored in a future episode — to the Sasquatch Outpost in Bailey (the tiny town along Highway 285 that’s also famous for the Coney Island Hot Dog Stand). The Outpost includes a discovery museum with a map that has all of the alleged Bigfoot sightings (including evidence like footprints) throughout Colorado.
“Bigfoot has been sighted in every state except Hawaii," says Krantz. “It’s not just places like the Pacific Northwest; anywhere where there is enough forest cover and enough precipitation, supposedly Bigfoot can exist there."
Also in the Sasquatch Outpost in Bailey: A nine-foot tall stuffed model of Bigfoot partly hidden behind a tree. Many visitors miss it. “The owner, Jim, likes to tell people, “If you miss [the Bigfoot] in this tiny little room, you’ll miss it outside," Krantz says.
The elusiveness of Bigfoot is the driving mystery behind Wild Thing. And because there has never been a specimen captured — dead or alive — for scientific examination, many of the researchers Krantz interviews are hesitant to become too associated with the topic for fear of ridicule. Krantz, too, has felt that hesitation at times.
“I know that Bigfoot is a cultural joke, and to take it seriously in any capacity opens you up for being made fun of," she says. “I totally worried that I'll never do anything serious ever again because people won't hire me due to Bigfoot. But a lot of what has gone in the podcast is interesting science around evolution, DNA analysis, anthropology — there's a lot good science buried in this podcast. I sort of use Bigfoot as a hook to sucker you in to make you learn about stuff."
Most listeners, however, don’t seem to feel suckered in; in just a few weeks, the response to Wild Thing has been, well, wild. Krantz says she’s received enthusiastic letters and emails from around the country, and has even learned of more family members in the Pacific Northwest who contacted her after listening to Wild Thing.
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“It’s been amazing," she says. "I feel especially lucky because we put this out ourselves through our company, Foxtopus Ink, and we didn't have the support of a major platform,” Krantz says.
By “we,” she's referring to herself and her husband, Scott Carney, whose book on bio-hacking Westword also covered. Krantz jokes about how Foxtopus Ink is, at least for now, a lean operation; without a brick-and-mortar recording studio, she built a PVC pipe and blanket contraption in her bedroom for soundproofing. Carney “would sit on the bed and listen for planes overhead to make sure they don't get picked up by the microphone,” Krantz says. “Or he'd tell me if I slurred something or was not energetic enough in my read."
Krantz outsourced some help with mixing and music to connections from her radio days. The whole process, she says, "has been really time-consuming and a tremendous amount of work, but it's also been a lot of fun."