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Understanding Monsters:
Small Town Monsters presents "The Minerva Monster"

The 3rd entry for Circus Living's special travel feature 'Chasing Monsters'

"Nearly every community has its own monster". Seth Breedlove, director of the Minerva Monster documentary, makes a compelling observation. What underlies our fascination for the unknown, the unexplained, and the existence of creatures yet to be discovered? Bigfoot is so popular that a yearly conference is held surrounding this legendary cryptid. It is well known among the individuals and groups who endeavour to learn and study more about Bigfoot encounters that various towns have their own sightings and their own stories surrounding this ape-like creature.

A small town in Ohio, Minerva, in particular is the subject of Seth Breedlove's upcoming documentary on Minerva's own Bigfoot - Minerva Monster - which will be premiering at this year's Bigfoot Conference held at Salt Fork State Park, Ohio on May 16, 2015. Despite what the title of the film may suggest, Seth Breedlove's film extends far beyond the monster and the circumstances surrounding its sightings and the witnesses who encountered it.  I had the opportunity to ask Seth some questions regarding his upcoming film and his own travel experiences when it comes to 'Chasing Monsters'.

Why the Minerva Monster? How did the idea for this documentary come about?

I grew up in a town not far from Minerva, and actually spent a fair amount of time in and around it as a kid. At some point during the early aughts I began to have an interest in "unsolved mysteries" or the unexplained. One of the first "Bigfoot" stories I read about was the Minerva Monster. I remember being utterly fascinated by it because it was so close to me.

Last year while doing research for a book I intended to write about small town "monster" sightings I revisited this particular case. To make a long story short, I bumped into Alan Megargle and Jesse Morgan (my producers) at a Bigfoot festival, we ended up becoming pals and I pitched them the idea of making this movie. The rest is (almost) history.

Photo Credit: Small Town Monsters

Can you tell me a bit more about Small Town Monsters? What inspired you to start it?

Small Town Monsters is simply the name we've given to what we hope will become a series of films that document various strange sightings from around the country. We wanted to actually focus on the town itself as much as the monster and really explore how this type of event can affect the local community. So for instance (spoiler warning) the opening of Minerva Monster will sort of be a little history of the town itself. We want viewers to be able to explore that community and feel like they're a part of it. Whether or not the residents realize it or are even aware of it, these sightings and "flaps" do impact the history and folklore of the community and inform what it becomes.

I was inspired to start focusing on these small sightings mostly due to my realization that nearly every community has their own "monster". I want people to start going out and trying to discover that piece of history in their own town and maybe that will help inspire people to explore and educate themselves a little on what makes their city special.
Are you allowed to tell me what is coming up next for Small Town Monsters?

I'd be lying if I said we aren't already actively discussing what is next for us. We're bandying about a lot of ideas. Obviously, nearly every small town has a "Bigfoot type" creature but we definitely want to get beyond that at some point. Some names we've tossed around are Champ (lake monster) Momo (the Missouri Monster) and the Loveland Frogman (a Frog... who was a man? Or something?) from right here in Ohio. No final decisions have been made but we've talked about trying to make one of these movies each year.
Have you ever travelled to catch a sign of any known monsters/cryptids?

I've done some "Bigfooting" with friends and I'm a voracious hiker. I love being out in the woods, and certainly part of that stems from never knowing what is just behind that tree in front of you. Near where I live there is a town called River Styx which had their own monster (The River Styx Monster, appropriately) and I've done some research/investigating over in that area. I've had two odd occurrences in the forest there, neither of them an actual sighting. One was just last week. Nothing concrete or completely unexplained, mostly just odd noises and possible wood knocks. 

We did get to spend some time in the woods in Minerva, on the property where the Minerva Monster was seen the most back in 1978. One night, we were doing some b-roll shooting and got to go into the woods with thermal imagers and our night vision camera and look around. While we didn't see anything unusual it was a thrill just to be up there where there is this long history of unusual events.

Photo Credit: Small Town Monsters
Any challenges or obstacles you have had to overcome in making this documentary?

It's astonishing how difficult it is to make a movie. It really is.  However, I'm incredibly blessed to have the crew I'm working with. Alan and Jesse really stepped up when we started filming and they came ready to rock our first day of shooting. They had all the equipment needed for such an intricate and varied shoot. We're also lucky to have Brandon Dalo, a local musician helping put together an original film score and we have Nathan Newcomer helping with PR. Basically, at this point the greatest challenge has proved to be merely piecing together the insane amount of information relating to this case. Initially, we also had a hard time getting some of the original sighting witnesses to come forward but eventually a lot of hard work paid off in that respect.

Can you tell me more about the process you took when filming this documentary?

Well, I began researching the Minerva flap back in 2013. I was snowed in one day and I'd been doing some reading on it and just decided to try and reach out to some people who'd been involved in it. From there I just started interviewing witnesses and ancillary people involved in the case via phone call. 

When Alan and Jesse got involved everything changed. We divied up our weekend filming into getting b-roll shots, locating historical documents such as photos or newspapers (the Minerva Historical society was incredible in assisting with this) and filming interviews. Often, Alan and I would be conducting an interview while Jesse and Nathan would be off trying to secure other subjects. Our last day of filming in Minerva we set up at the historical society and while Alan and I interviewed subjects Jesse and Brandon were pouring through decades worth of photographs of the town in the attic. Probably our craziest day of filming was when Alan and I chartered a plane to take us over Minerva for aerial shots. The wind was awful and we ended up being blown all over the place, and the whole ride ended in a forced landing off the runway in a field. 

Alan and Jesse
I take it you will be attending the Bigfoot conference in Ohio this year where they will be showing the Minerva Monster? Have you been to previous conferences?

We are definitely attending the conference. I host a podcast with my friend, Mark Matzke called SasWhat and we're actually one of the event sponsors. The movie will premier Saturday evening. I got to attend the conference last year with my dad and had a great time. It's a really neat mix of people of all ages and everyone is there to learn about this fascinating subject. I honestly think it's one of the best gatherings of this sort in the country. 
Which monster/cryptid would you say you find most fascinating - you favourite (for the lack of a better word)?

I think Bigfoot is my favorite cryptid. I think that stems from the fact that it could very well exist. I look at all the eyewitness sightings, this vast, expansive history of reports that go back centuries and the footprint and audio evidence and to me, that makes this creature a possibility. I do love lake monsters though. I think I was actually far more interested in the existence of underwater "monsters" way before any of the others.

Seth Breedlove
The significance surrounding the Minerva Monster's reported existence in the small town of Minerva far surpasses whether the witnesses' accounts are true. As Seth notes, nearly every community has its own monster and its perceived existence helps shape the history and character of that town. Just as the Krampus and Napy say something about Austria's and Cyprus' histories and cultures respectively, the Minerva Monster lends a cultural insight to understanding the town of Minerva and its locals. As travellers, we are told time and time again to embrace and understand the culture of the people and place we are visiting. Thus, to ignore its legends, folklore, and its 'monsters' would be ignoring a significant cultural aspect which forms that particular place. Whether or not we believe does not matter in our travels. We simply need to understand how the monster's 'existence' has come to signify the place we are frequenting.

Help fund Minerva Monster (Kickstarter Campaign)
Small Town Monsters page on facebook
SasWhat: A Podcast about Bigfoot
Seth Breedlove on Twitter
Ohio Bigfoot Conference 2015

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