Friday, October 19, 2012 at 5 a.m.
My brain exploded with excitement earlier this week. The catalyst: A help-wanted ad on Craigslist from a nonprofit in Pensacola for a Bigfoot researcher.
The necessary qualifications were stringent, and the job duties exhaustive. Not only was the chosen researcher expected to develop an "actionable tracking program in designated geographic area," but he or she would also have to travel to remote areas of Escambia and was expected to have a four-wheel drive vehicle, as well a deep understanding of cryptozoology.
Before I could make it to the end of the ad, I was already conjuring vivid fantasies of slogging through the Florida panhandle with a bunch of Bigfoot-believing weirdos.
I called Alex in human resources, per the ad's instructions. Alex was terse when I explained that I was a journalist. He said he only ran HR aspects and that I should direct my curiosity to Tyler, the guy who oversees the day-to-day operations.
Tyler had a bit of a panhandle drawl and paused for a second after I explained the situation. "Uhh, sorry man. That's a prank I put up there to get back at my friend," he said. Tyler promptly explained that he didn't want to cause any trouble by lying to an esteemed journalists who trolls Craigslist in pursuit of weirdness.
My Bigfoot daydreams had been ruthlessly shat upon. But as far as pranks go, Tyler nailed it. And I wasn't the only one who fell for it.
"I probably got 75 resumes emailed to me," Tyler says. "After I got the first 20, it was annoying."
The phrasing of the ad -- cryptozoological, bipedal primitive apes -- the job duties, the explanation that this was a "grant funded position" expected to last six months all lent a sense of credibility.
Now there are some inaccuracies that should have tipped me off that this was bogus. Mainly, anyone who knows anything understands that Florida doesn't have a Bigfoot. No, the Sunshine State has Skunk Ape.
Tyler, who's studying networking at George Stone Technical Center, is fond of punking his friends with bogus craigslist ads. Sometimes he'll post to the m4m casual encounters, asking people to text pictures to a cell phone number that belongs to a friend. On another occasion, Tyler said Roy Jones Jr. was in town and offering $50 to any stranger willing to withstand a punch. Again, his friend's phone rang off the hook.
Then there are all the other posts that "probably aren't good to share with a newspaper," Tyler says.
As for whether Bigfoot or Skunk Ape or Sasquatch exists, Tyler doesn't completely rule out the possibility.
"I don't know," he says while laughing. "Like 20 percent of the wild or forests haven't been explored by people or something. I wouldn't be surprised."