Investigative journalist David Holthouse in Hulu’s Sasquatch (Courtesy of Hulu)

Cryptozoology, or the study of mythical creatures, is not just about looking for Nessie in the waves or scanning the skies for a Thunderbird. It also asks why one person sees a shadow in a wood as moving trees, and another sees Bigfoot. As Charles Fort, founding father of the study of anomalous phenomena, wrote, “Accept anything. Then explain it your way.”

So it is with the new three-part series Sasquatch, which premieres at SXSW before launching on Hulu on April 20. In fact, director Joshua Rofé was looking for a story about Bigfoot when he came across a bloody cold case. Back in 2017, he was having dinner with a friend, Zach Cregger, “and his parting words to me were, ‘Oh, and by the way, you should check out this podcast I’m listening to. You’re either going to love it or think I’m crazy for loving it. It’s called Sasquatch Chronicles.” Rofé immediately put him in the crazy camp. “I’m not a monster movie, creature feature-type person, but at his behest I listened to an episode.” He was immediately hooked and binged 11 episodes in four days. “It’s people just calling in, telling the stories of their encounters. Whether I believed the details of the encounters was irrelevant to me, because what I was struck by, and immediately became obsessed by, was that there was a through line of visceral fear from all the people who called in.”

At the time, Rofé was working on another documentary series, Lorena, about the media circus surrounding the 1993 trial of Lorena Bobbit, and he’d got to know noted gonzo investigative journalist David Holthouse. Rofé described him as “esteemed … He’s done a lot, and he’s great with subcultures.” The filmmaker recalled texting the reporter in early 2018: “‘This is going to be the craziest text I send you for the next five years, but I wonder if there’s a murder-mystery that’s out there that’s wrapped up in a sasquatch story?’ He wrote me back, and he said, ‘I’ve got one, and I’ll call you in five.'”

What Holthouse told him sounded like campfire talk that probably would have been written off – if it hadn’t come from Holthouse. In 1993, the reporter was close to burning out “trying to be the next Hunter S. Thompson,” said Rofé. He’d been working in Alaska, and one of his deep-dive stories was getting a little hairy, so he decided to split and head south to stay with a friend running a (prelegalization) cannabis farm in California. “David gets up there, and you can cut through the tension with a knife. People are on edge, people are setting up booby traps, and clearly something that is very wrong, and there is chatter about violent sasquatches.” That’s when he heard eyewitnesses claim they saw a Bigfoot murder three men. “When David told me that story, I was obsessed immediately.”

That obsession became Sasquatch, and the research took them into the seemingly bucolic forests that hadn’t changed much since 1993 and hadn’t softened with legalization. It was still drugs, guns, money, paranoia – and the threat of something in the woods. “It was scary up there. You definitely feel like you shouldn’t overstay your welcome.”

Sasquatch

Episodic Premieres

World Premiere

Available from 10am, March 16

5,000-seat capacity

Weed, Murder & Bigfoot: A Conversation With the Team Behind Hulu’s Sasquatch, March 16, 9pm

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