Author Topic: Skunk ape fights back  (Read 1514 times)


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Skunk ape fights back
« on: January 10, 2005, 03:01:51 PM »
This isn't a chapter out of Campfire Stories, like Bigfoot, the Jersey Devil or the Abominable Snowman in which the unexplainable continues to somehow appear and reappear in various "sightings" around the globe. While most people poo-poo such claims, Nate Martin of Marco Island believes in one special creature of his own, the Ochopee skunk ape, located right here in Collier County.

Martin has spent the last six years of his life shooting, editing and producing his very own full-length feature film on the skunk ape.

"I guess I became interested in this about six years ago when I spent some time at a camp and festival ground owned by a guy named Dave Shealy out in Ochopee," Martin said. "He began telling me about his encounters and adventures with the skunk ape in the vicinity in and around Ochopee."

The setting is perfect for such a tale, as Ochopee makes up approximately one square mile on Route 41. It lies east of Everglades City and is nestled in the Big Cypress National Preserve. Neighboring areas include the Fakahatchee Strand State Preserve and the Miccosukee Indian Reservation. South from there is Everglades National Park. We're not talking beautiful downtown Burbank here.

As Martin puts it, "If you blink going through Ochopee, you'll probably miss it."

Martin calls his skunk ape project the Sasquatch of the South.

"It's smaller than a Bigfoot," Martin said, "but it appears like a Bigfoot kind of like an ape-man, only with big feet. Its defining characteristic is its distinctive smell. It's terrible. It smells like 100 skunks along with the dung of a goat."

"A lot of local people over there say the reason that he smells like that is because he lives in alligator holes underground, and the sulphur deposits along with methane gas contribute to his aroma," Martin said.

According to Martin, the skunk ape's coat of four-inch long brown hair absorbs the sulphur and gas smells.

The skunk ape legend is an ancient Seminole Indian belief which Dave Shealy has carried on. Shealy is a 40-year skunk ape tracker in and around Ochopee, gathering many witnesses' interviews. Together with Martin's filming and Shealy's actual skunk ape footage, The Ochopee Skunk Ape movie will debut in April at the Bombay Club on Marco Island.

"The star of the movie is obviously Dave Shealy, but the co-stars are all about 75 years old and are old full-time mullet fishermen, crabbers and locals who have claimed to have seen the skunk ape," Martin said. "It's a full-length, 90-minute documentary movie but with a twist. The twist is that it's exciting, adventurous yet comical as well."

The film, which Martin narrates, is basically Shealy's true-life story and his experiences with the skunk ape during that time.

"Basically, I just follow Dave through the swamp, filming what we see and encounter along the way," Martin said.

Adding to the suspense was a 15-second sighting of the skunk ape as it ran through Shealy's campground three weeks ago. A University of Minnesota faculty member captured the ape on film and gave Martin a still photograph of the incident.

As for Martin's venture into undertaking a feature film, he admitted to having no experience.

"Actually, I received training in music engineering," he said. "And on that note, I decided not only to write, produce and record the whole soundtrack, but I also engineered, mixed and mastered the whole thing myself. I pretty much wrote the movie, produced it, directed it and edited it."

Martin started filming the movie about a year ago while writing the script along the way. He filmed over 30 hours of tape that was left on the cutting room floor as he honed the finished product.

With a backer providing the needed funds for full-scale production, Martin hopes to have about 1,500 prints of the film ready for commercial distribution before April.

"My first guaranteed showing is going to be at the Bombay Club at 9 on April 13 and 14," Martin said. "Then I'd like to proceed to the various film festivals such as the World Film Festival in Naples, Sundance Film Festival, and Cannes, France, with it. I want to go all the way because I really think I have something of interest that people would like to see and learn more about."

Shealy has appeared on such national television programs as Inside Edition, Unsolved Mysteries, The Pulse with Diane Sawyer, and on the local news a number of times as well.

"I think this is a story and a film of great public interest," Martin said, "And I'd like more people to be aware of the skunk ape and just what it is."

Just remember to wear a clothespin on your nose if you happen to meet it up close.
The greatest trick the devil ever played was convincing the world that he did not exist. - Charles Baudelaire (French and monstrous poet).