Wandering shaman 'mistaken' for Bigfoot in North Carolina
A self-described shaman says a strange creature reportedly spotted in the hills of North Carolina last week was actually him dressed in animal skins.
The "Bigfoot" sighting happened last Friday in the Appalachian mountains, but the story took an even weirder twist with a mistaken identity claim.
Gawain MacGregor says it was him wandering through the forest on the night in question, 4 August.
But a local group claims the cryptid they saw could not have been him.
Bigfoot 911, a Facebook group of more than 5,700 members that investigates sightings of the mythical Bigfoot in McDowell County, western North Carolina, said photos displayed on Mr MacGregor's website look nothing like the thing they saw.
John Bruner, who runs the group, says the creature he and eight other members encountered last Friday night in Pisgah National Park stood at around 8ft (2.4m) tall, had a different facial appearance, and "moved with speed unmatched by any human".
However, Mr MacGregor said he was participating in a "sacrament" of "wearing of hair-covered animal skins and wandering in the forest".
The 36-year-old, who was on holiday from Minnesota, writes on his blog about his personal belief in Bigfoot, or "the divine nature of sasquatch", as he calls it.
He writes that by dressing in sewn animal skins, and by reciting a "sasquatch prayer", he has had several encounters with the beast.
"It feels like it brings me closer to nature," he told the BBC after returning from holiday.
After seeing the sighting reported on the news, he felt obliged as an "honest citizen" to come forward, he told the BBC.
"If someone caused you to have an experience that meant something to you, but wasn't genuine, wouldn't you want them to tell you?" he said.
Hundreds of sightings of Bigfoot, also known as sasquatch, have been reported in western North Carolina and the Appalachian mountains along the East Coast.
On Tuesday, police in neighbouring South Carolina advised citizens not to shoot at Bigfoot, since "you'll most likely be wounding a fun-loving and well-intentioned person, sweating in a gorilla costume".
It is not the only mythical creature to make headlines this week in the region.
Emergency officials in South Carolina said on Wednesday they do not know whether this month's US solar eclipse will make the so-called Lizardman become more active.
But the state emergency management division advised citizens to be vigilant for any sign of the swamp thing, which was first sighted in 1998.