Do skunk apes abound in the Panhandle?
If you want to see a skunk ape, you have to prepare for more than just a strenuous hike into some of the world’s most remote areas, says local cryptid hunter Connor Flynn.
Of course, you should still pack the essentials – bottles of water, tracking devices, a life straw, casting equipment, dowsing rods and an electromagnetic field detector. But Flynn, an Altha resident who has built a career around his exploration of the unknown, says the most important step in preparing for an encounter is to clear your mind.
“You definitely have to manifest whatever you want to happen, maybe the night before or weeks before, you know, if you’re really serious,” he said. “If you want to have an encounter, if you want to hear something, if you want to find a footprint, think about it, see it in your mind, even before you go.”
“You want to be pure, when you’re going into the forest, you want to have intention, you want to be something that fits in, and if you’re still contaminated with society, nothing’s gonna really approach you.”
According to Merriam Webster, a cryptid is an animal (such as Sasquatch or the Loch Ness Monster) that has been claimed to exist but never proven to exist.
Contrary to popular belief, cryptids don’t have to be supernatural, mythical or even all that strange—though many popular creatures acquire these characteristics.
Flynn has been hunting for creatures he says are unknown to modern science for more than a decade. Along the way, he has written five books, starred in two movies, produced a podcast, fostered a viral YouTube channel and earned millions of views on TikTok.
People have a natural curiosity about the world unknown to them, he said. But still, Flynn knows that most people are skeptical about his research.
“I understand why some people are skeptical, and sometimes I’m skeptical,” he said. “You have to be. You have to have that eye. You can’t just believe everything that you’re told.”
“I just encourage people to approach everything with an open mind,” he said. “You’ll meet more people and go on more adventures, and then you can be the judge.”
Bigfoot Anonymous, Flynn’s Youtube and TikTok brand, started somewhat organically.
“I’ve always enjoyed creating and always had YouTubes for music and stuff,” he said. “And one day, I just started filming my hikes and waterfall adventures and just strange ruins that we would come upon.”
Over the years, he began reading newspaper articles aloud, then collecting anonymous accounts of strange happenings. Eventually, Flynn said he found himself with a consistent brand and a large following.
The cryptid hunter said his content is not exclusively about locating bigfoots, or skunk apes as he says they are often called in Florida, but all types of mystical creatures, which he says abound in the Panhandle.
Flynn is originally from Ohio, where he said he had his first encounter with a cryptid – a dogman – during a sleepover in a friend’s basement.
And while it was family circumstances that first brought him to Florida, and not his search for cryptids, he said the move turned out to be a blessing in disguise.
“Now, I feel like I’ve been enlightened that this was meant to be my journey all along,” Flynn said. “I still remember coming off the exit and being like, ‘Whoa, I’m in the middle of nowhere.’ But now, I’m right down the road from Torreya State Park, where Finding Bigfoot filmed an episode.”
Florida has a large community of paranormal investigators and cryptid hunters.
It hosts many of the world’s largest bigfoot searcher conventions, including the Florida Bigfoot Conference, where Flynn was invited to speak.
It is the state with the third largest number of reported bigfoot sightings, according to the Bigfoot Field Research Organization, after Washington and California. But stories of cryptids in Florida extend far beyond the Skunk Ape, Flynn said.
In 2012, Carabelle city commissioners invited “monster hunters” to investigate reports of a large black-panther-like cat in the Tate’s Hell State Forest, according to a report from the Apalachicola Times.
In 1958, people found the carcass of a 40-pound fish-like creature they believed to be a cryptid near Powell Lake in Bay County.
Flynn discusses local stories of cryptids within the waters of the Gulf of Mexico in his newest book – The Panhandle Pirates – including “a kraken, strange skunk ape creatures, hidden treasure and Native American mounds.”
Flynn is also currently acting in a film titled “Phasmophobia,” based on the video game of the same name. He said if filming is completed by August, the film will be officially partnered with the game.