BLOOMINGTON — Terry Fisk was 6 years old when he first realized his imagination and sense of curiosity appeared to be slightly different than other kids his age.
Fisk grew up in northern Wisconsin, and while roaming the woods one day, spotted a black panther.
“Nobody believed me because I was 6,” he said. “Over the years, that memory intrigued me and then, I started seeing reports and newspaper articles where people found evidence of black panthers in Wisconsin.”
That led to an interest in mysterious creatures such as Bigfoot, he said, and eventually, he became a cryptozoologist, an expert with the goal of identifying and describing beings from folklore and the fossil record.
Fisk discussed his experiences Sunday during a special presentation of “Mysterious Monsters of Illinois,” at the Bloomington Public Library.
“One of my favorite topics is discussion on creatures who are out of place,” he said. “Like a lion or a kangaroo, that normally wouldn’t be in the wild in an area like Central Illinois, but people have seen them. We’re talking about animals who are out of place and are here, with no understanding of how they got here.”
About two dozen people attended Sunday’s program.
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“I came here with my cousin, but am kind of interested in some of the topics Terry talks about,” said Bloomington resident William Gustavson. “The stories about Bigfoot are very interesting.”
Fisk said he has gone on several searches for the mythical Bigfoot, but has yet to find the elusive creature. Fisk, as an investigator for “Unexplained Research,” often gets calls from potential witnesses.
“We usually get there in the days, if not, hours, after the sighting and it’s amazing to hear the stories and conduct a search,” he said. “When you find claw marks on the back of a house or footprints in someone’s yard, that is what makes the search so fascinating.”
Others, such as Misty Reginold of Normal, said she enjoys Fisk’s visits because of his knowledge of specific monsters, such as the Kickapoo Creek Monster that was said to live in the Kickapoo Creek or the Farmer City Monster which was said to have been seen in several parts of DeWitt County or near Heyworth.
“It can make the hair stand up on the back of your head sometimes,” she said. “And there are so few people who know about these things. It’s nice to be able to hear from someone who has done some research.”
Fisk said talking with visitors is one of the more enjoyable aspects of his job.
“You never know who is going to come through the door or what story they might have,” he said. “That’s why these talks are so fascinating. People can learn about something they have an interest in or they have heard about, but it gives me more ideas on research topics as well.”
Fisk lectures as programs and conventions across the country, and has co-authored seven books including “The Illinois Road Guide to Haunted Locations.”
Follow Kevin Barlow on Twitter: @pg_barlow.