Scott Fallon has a 12-foot-tall concrete statue of Bigfoot on his front porch — maybe not the lawn decor you’d expect to see driving through Alexandria. However, as the co-founder of the Alexandria Cryptozoology and Paranormal Society (ACAPS), Fallon is used to challenging the expected. In fact, he’s built a community around doing just that.
The story started in 2014. Fallon, Chad Umbach and Marc Black were all regulars at Bilbo Baggins, a pub in Old Town. They soon discovered they had things in common — the same interest in all things haunted, hidden and heavily disputed.
“It’s funny, once you start talking about a subject like Bigfoot or UFOs, someone overhears something. And then the next thing you know, you’re talking about everything,” Fallon said. “We built the friendship from there.”
The trio would go on to create ACAPS, a group for those fascinated by cryptozoology and the paranormal. And yes, there is a clear distinction between the two.
“When you’re talking paranormal you’re talking more about ghosts, poltergeists, entities, the spirit world. Cryptozoology is more about the study of hidden creatures,” Fallon said. “Bigfoot gets all the press, along with El Chupacabra and the Loch Ness Monster, but there’s other stuff beyond that as well.”
Throughout its five-year existence, ACAPS members have sponsored music events, spoken at cryptozoology conventions and gained more than 14,000 followers on their Facebook page. Many of those followers came via word-of-mouth, from within the online cryptozoology subculture. For example, after the ACAPS Facebook page followed Cliff Barackman, a notable Sasquatch researcher who appeared on the Animal Planet series Finding Bigfoot, the page gained 7,000 followers overnight. However, Fallon believes a good portion of ACAPS’ followers are Alexandria residents. “There’s a lot of history here,” Fallon said. “It spurs interest from the local community.”
ACAPS’ founders, who all reside in Alexandria (Fallon in Fairfax County, and Umbach and Black in Old Town), have embraced the haunted potential of Alexandria’s rich history. For example, they organized a private ghost tour for 25 ACAPS members; during the outing, Fallon claims the group caught a glimpse of some para-normal activity inside the Old Presbyterian Meeting House. The original meeting house was built on the site, at 321 S. Fairfax St., in 1775.
“We had three different people from three different locations taking a picture of something … we all got the exact same anomaly from three different angles,” Fallon said.
Some may be eager to dismiss such stories as unsubstantiated, the delusional results of pseudoscientific conspiracy theories. However, Fallon believes there is enough evidence to support the existence of certain cryptids. Take Bigfoot, for example.
“One of the things people say is, ‘How come he’s everywhere?’ Well, there’s more than one Bigfoot. When we’re talking about ‘Bigfoot,’ we’re talking about thousands in a pretty secluded area,” Fallon said. “It’s easy to laugh it off, but when people consider how many undiscovered species we’ve found on a regular basis, it’s really not that hard to believe.”
The ACAPS founders don’t believe every urban legend, however. This includes many of the links they post on their Facebook page, which is sort of a free-for-all, as long as the content relates to cryptozoology or the paranormal in some way (headlines range from “possible Bigfoot sightings reported in northeast Georgia” to “Marilyn Monroe ‘killed by CIA to stop her exposing TRUTH about Roswell aliens’”). Fallon also voiced some doubt about the para-normal reality TV genre.
“We are believers in a lot of stuff, but we’re also the world’s biggest skeptics of everything. Like on the ghost shows. If you go into a building expecting to see a ghost, you will see a ghost,” Fallon said.
Part of ACAPS’ philosophy, however, is to always keep an open mind. This especially extends to the frequent requests for the group’s help from individuals who believe they may be dealing with a paranormal occurrence.
“I think everything’s worth a serious conversation. I don’t think people would reach out if they weren’t genuinely concerned,” Fallon said.
It is perhaps this willingness to treat every potential problem with respect that has helped the group grow. Last Christmas, Fallon, Umbach and Black (who occasionally goes by moniker, “The Enigmatic Dr. Black”) threw a party to celebrate reaching a mile-stone of 10,000 Facebook followers. To their surprise, word about the party got out, and people came specifically to meet and ask questions of the group’s founders. Fallon, Umbach and Black even autographed ACAPS posters.
People know us around town now,” Fallon said. “If you walk around Old Town, you’ll probably see the ACAPS stickers posted somewhere. We’ve been in a parade here in Old Town.”
“Now people see us in bars and say, ‘Oh, you’re the Bigfoot guy,’ or ‘Oh, you’re the ghost guy,’ and come up and tell us stories. And you hear some pretty cool stories.”
The trio had a chance at gaining fame at a national level when they were interviewed by a California agency seeking to cast a new ghost-hunting show. However, they didn’t make the cut. Fallon joked that maybe they didn’t have the look. There are no hard feelings, though.
In Alexandria, they’ve gained notability and respect among those who share the belief that the truth – or at least a Bigfoot – is out there.