By Charles Stanle
Small Newspaper Group
Dave Childress of Kempton hadn't heard of a "Bigfoot" siting in Essex, as is noted in the book "Weird Illinois," but he's familiar with plenty of others.
In fact, Seneca's own version of Bigfoot, called "the Du Pont monster," will be part of a film Childress is writing and directing along with Steve Zagata, a Chicago filmmaker.
The movie, the majority of which will be filmed in the spring, will have segments filmed in the Kankakee area, along with Seneca and Kempton, including Childress' own bar.
At Kankakee, there will be a scene at a cabin along the Kankakee River, and Bigfoot's lair is being filmed in the Bourbonnais area.
"I'm not going to tell you the whole plot, but the Bigfoot's not going to be the bad guy," said Childress, who owns Sgt. Pepper's Bar and Grill in Kempton, along with Adventures Unlimited Bookstore across the street, which has a lot of unusual nonfiction books, including several on Bigfoot.
In the movie, Childress explains, the Du Pont monster "turns out to be a good guy. There will be a bad guy. There's an element of the script like the Blair Witch Projectâ and there's a little bit of a King Kong aspect."
His hope is that the 90-minute movie -- which he calls a fictional comedy, with elements of non-fiction -- will someday be shown on the Sci-Fi Channel or at theaters in Illinois.
People wanting to appear in the movie also are being sought. "We would like locals. We have a couple of tall people to be the Du Pont monster, but we still have not cast the main players, one of which will be a young actress that will be the star. We realize that we need a cute girl in a tank top running around screaming with Bigfoot after her, so we're looking for that gal," said Childress.
Part of the movie will include documentary-style interviews with locals who have had Du Pont monster experiences -- something of which there's no shortage.
Stan Courtney of Pawnee, Ill., an investigator for the California-based Bigfoot Field Researchers Organization, has researched "Bigfoot" sightings in the Seneca area -- two in June of 2005, one in 1983 and one in 1979.
What is popularly called Bigfoot, Seneca locals have for decades been calling "The Du Pont Monster" because the sightings have been on Du Pont Road south of the Illinois River.
"These animals are everywhere where there's adequate habitat," Courtney said.
"There's nothing unusual or special other than that perhaps people in Seneca talk about it. There was a sighting last spring at Starved Rock State Park, but the guy is a businessman and he doesn't want a report written up."
Courtney estimates that only 10 percent of all Bigfoot sightings are researched.
Childress wasn't familiar with the "Bigfoot" sighting at Essex noted in Troy Tyler's "Weird Illinois: Your Travel Guide to Illinois' Local Legends and Best Kept Secrets," but he's not surprised by it.
"These animals tend to hang out in remoter, river areas," he said. "They're ultra shy."
Courtney adds that the Kankakee area's big deer population would offer Bigfoot "something to eat in winter.
"The sad thing is these animals are not monsters, and that's what's always played. The animal part and the fear part," he said.
Childress said he's a Bigfoot believer. "However, to tell the truth, the Du Pont Monster stories seemed a little bit far-fetched," he said.
But last year, he and his wife drove to Seneca and ended up doing their field research with the bartender and patrons of Jack and Lovey's tavern on Main Street.
"We were convinced that something was going on there. The stories they told were cautious, but credible. It all made sense. I mean, I went there a skeptic but left a believer."
Daily Journal reporter Janet Cremer contributed to this story.