Retrospective: Rome, Ohio Incidents

by Ron Schaffner

During the 13th Annual Bigfoot Conference, Don Keating asked me if I would consider doing an article for his newsletter. Several of his readers asked about the alleged incidents in Rome, Ohio (Ashtabula County) during the summer of 1981. Rapidly approaching the 20th anniversary of this case, I thought it would be of topical interest to review these happenings.



The series of events is much too intricate to include in one issue of this newsletter. Therefore, Don and I have decided that this article should be printed in three parts. I hope to tantalize the reader in this first edition with the claims set forth by the participants involved.

The key figure in this case is Dennis Pilichis. During the 1970’s and early 80’s, Dennis was a top Fortean figure with his mail order bookstore called Page Research Library. He self published a booklet entitled, “NIGHT SIEGE: THE NORTHERN OHIO UFO CREATURE INVASION. (Copyright 1981) It is within the pages of this publication that we find the chilling accounts of a family who battled ape like entities and other bizarre phenomena. This booklet is now out of print, but I do have it on computer disk. If the reader would like to read it, just send an email to ronschaffner@fuse.net. (File is in Acrobat Reader format – pdf.) I will use this publication along with my notes to outline the case.

Before I begin this investigative report, a bit of background information is probably warranted.

Our research team worked quite extensively with Pilichis for years. We were members of an Ohio collation, which consisted of various Fortean folk throughout the state. (Around 1979) We were also sharing information with Willard McIntyre who allegedly had a group called MARCEN (MARYLAND ANOMALY RESEARCH CENTER AND EVALUATION NETWORK). Relations begin to fail because of our disagreement with McIntyre's published alien body photos and Pilichis insisting that the Vinton County, Ohio Bigfoot case was genuine. (1)

McIntyre did keep up correspondence with us and even tossed around the idea of us going to Washington State in 1981. During these discussions, McIntyre would joke about Dennis' tendency to believe anything and that it would be fun to pull a hoax on him. At the same time, he was in touch with Dennis talking about us.

In 1981, it was decided that Willard, Earl Jones and myself would go to the Mt. St. Helens area of Washington and visit Mr. Ray Wallace. On his way to Cincinnati, McIntyre arrived at Pilichis' to witness the Rome incidents. When word got to us about alleged activity in Rome, we asked that the Washington trip be canceled, so we could be involved in investigating this activity. Pilichis stated that he did not want us there and that we should go ahead with our scheduled trip. It was during that cross-country trip that Willard told us he was related and a cousin of the witness in Rome. In fact, he made several calls from his mobile phone to the family in question.

If “NIGHT SIEGE” were true, these events would certainly be classified as unique encounters that border on the paranormal. In fact - as Pilichis speculated - it could have even been demonic. Nowhere in the annuals of Cryptozoology or Ufology has such a case emerged. There may be some similarities with the alleged encounters in Pennsylvania during the 1970's, but this scenario of an armed conflict is surely a first; somewhat reminiscent of the Kelly-Hopkinsville, Kentucky case. (2)

At first glance, NIGHT SIEGE presents a strange series of events that puts the reader in awe. Pilichis sets the stage by attempting to prove the witnesses’ credibility along with adding his interpretations to what he believes he witnessed. Throughout the booklet, he keeps reminding the reader that the events are real and that there was no evidence of misinterpretation of hoaxing. The reader is to assume that all aspects were checked and there are no other prosaic answers.

I have repeatedly stated that there is soft evidence to indicate that a hoax may have been perpetrated. However, I will state for the record that in our opinion, Dennis Pilichis DID NOT provoke any hoax - that he was probably a victim of a stage prepared by other individuals. I knew Dennis about 5 years prior to this and would conclude that he would never perpetrate a hoax, but he did have a very high degree of believability when it came to unusual phenomena. With some respect to Dennis, I have decided to keep the family's names confidential too. I will refer to the witnesses as Robert and his family.

I will post the author's story first and then produce some arguments on the questionable material presented. The reader should be made aware that even though an investigator sincerely believes their case to be authentic, often times they will completely neglect or disregard conflicting information.

I believe that the following series of incidents are a combination of wishful thinking, misinterpretation and outright hoax. I will proceed to document a synopsis of the events, so that the reader will have a basic knowledge of the background information. Any suspicious and questionable statements will be noted, which I will review in my later critique. It is of my opinion that any claims of this nature should be fully investigated from both points of view. The first hints of something extraordinary occurring in this part of Ohio came forth by means of the local press. I offer the following newspaper accounts:

The Valley News; Orwell, Ohio; July 1, 1981
STRANGE BEAST ROAMS IN ROME
ROME - A Rome family has reported a large mystery animal roaming around its home and terrorizing horses and other farm livestock.
The family on Johnson Road reported that it shot at the black animal described as between seven to nine feet tall Sunday. Sheriff deputies did not find any animal, but did find some large footprints near the home.
The animal reportedly showed up Wednesday. The family said loud growling and commotion in the yard awakened it. The family said every time they shined a light on the animal. It would return to the woods.
The animal came back Sunday, and the family chased it into a clearing, where several shots were fired. It is unknown if the animal was hit.
The family said since it came to the property, four ducks and some chickens have disappeared.
The Valley News; Orwell, Ohio; July 8, 1981
ROME'S STRANGE BEAST: IS IT FACT OR FANTASY?

ROME - Principal figures involved in the mystery of a strange beast or beasts that once again are being reported on Johnson Road here are refusing to comment or talk to the media.
The Valley News has learned at least three area residents spotted what they believe is a nine-foot tall animal, which walks on its hind legs Tuesday night in the same area where sheriff's deputies found large footprints a week ago.
Ducks and chickens continue to be found dead or missing in the same area.

Other residents on Johnson Road feel the "creature" might be a bear. One long-time resident of the area reported hearing grunting and growling sound from the woods this week. He remembers bears in the area many years ago and feels there might be one or two still living in the thick, rugged country near the Grand River by Johnson Road.

One Rome resident had reportedly made plaster casts of the creature's footprints.



Most area residents are passing off the sightings as nothing more than someone's vivid imagination. However, one person whom The Valley News contacted swore the creature is real and is not a bear.

The Valley News; Orwell, Ohio; Wednesday, July 15, 1981
ROME'S BIG FOOT: FACT, FAKE OR FANTASY?
Several Sightings:

ROME - Is there a Bigfoot type creature in this rural area of Ashtabula County?
Two people who have devoted their lives to studying such phenomena think so.
One is Dennis Pilichis of Roaming Shores. For 18 years, Pilichis has recorded, documented and written about UFOs, Bigfoot creatures and other perhaps-unexplained happenings.
He first found out about strange sightings now being described as "in the vicinity of Johnson Road" in an initial story two weeks ago in the Valley News. He sought out the family in question, which still prefers its name not be printed.
"I told him I was sincerely interested in getting foot prints," Pilichis said. "I got some plaster of Paris and we gout our first prints on July second. I didn't go out there until after I had seen the police reports."
The family first reported hearing "grunting screams" and later found four domestic ducks with their heads bitten off. Pilichis, who is affiliated with a nation-wide network, was intrigued.
As described in earlier stories, the creatures, which have been seen, bear no resemblance to bears. By comparison with trees and manmade structures, which the creatures have stood next to, are believed to be nine feet tall. Most often, a six-foot Creature has been seen with one about nine feet tall.
Besides the strange sightings, an awful smell usually is noted when the creature or creatures are seen. Several people from the initial family and other individuals have now sighted the creatures.
The creatures are described as gorilla-like. Even those people who have seen the creatures at close-range seem to have trouble describing the things accurately.
Pilichis took plaster casts of footprints found in the vicinity. He described the ground as quite hard, indicating that the creature must be quite heavy to sink one and one-half to two inches into the earth.
Each of the creatures has "large red glowing eyes". A mystery even to Pilichis is that after clear sightings, often no tracks are left even though grass may be matted down and branches broken.

While these reports may sound bizarre at best to the uninformed, to Pilichis they are almost normal. For The Valley News he introduced books and reports from Pennsylvania and several surrounding states.

The large three-toed tracks, glowing red eyes, the stench and other similarities make the Rome reports sound nearly identical.

"I want to make it clear that I have spent at least 60 research hours on these sightings," said Pilichis who has spent several nights in the area. "I firmly believe these people have not made anything up. There is always a slight percentage factor of exaggerating but these people have seen something."

In similar cases, the sightings have continued for several months and then suddenly stop.

A year ago in Lisbon, Ohio similar reports of strange noises and breaking limbs were noted. As in the Rome case, even the most fearsome of dogs cowered in fright.

In June of the same year in Russell's Point, Ohio, a six- foot tall creature, which had a horrible smell, scared a farmer and his dogs and left a 16-inch footprint.

Other Ohio sights dated back to 1973 have been recorded in Minerva (1978 to present, East Liberty, Mecca, Mansfield and Oberlin).

It must be noted that in none of these cases were humans harmed or any great amount of damage done. Other than fright, these creatures seem to do no harm to humans.

According to Pilichis, there were some minor incidents earlier in the year that had relevance to the incidents during the summer. A deer had been found dead in the woods and it appeared that its side was ripped open by claws. An Amish group claimed that feed bags had been ripped open by something with claws.

Around June 15, a farmer claimed that four ducks and one chicken were found dead in the tree line on the back of his property. They were physically mutilated. Something had bitten their heads off and gashes were found on their bodies. Footprints were found that resembled claw marks.

The strange activity then shifted to Robert’s family within their property. For the sake of simplicity, I will produce a listing of events in chronological order that is further detailed in NIGHT SIEGE.

June 25, 1981 (In the a.m.):
Robert and his boys saw a "thing" in the front yard when he heard his DUCKS acting up. It had two big glowing eyes, was on all fours. No body detail given. Robert shot at it and it ran down a field, screaming in a high pitched-low pitched sound. They estimated the animal to be 8 feet tall.



June 26, 1981(2 a.m.):
Robert went outside to see why his dog was barking and shinned his flashlight out back to see a gorilla-like animal that he described as black with two bright red eyes. It was making snorting and growling noises. Robert also saw the face, teeth and chest area. He ran back into the house and grabbed his shotgun and told his sons to get dressed. They got into their truck and chased the creature until it vanished in the wood line. On their way back to the house, Robert said their truck stopped running in the driveway. Robert told a neighbor what was happening. This neighbor related a story that his kids were afraid to campout in the backyard because they saw an animal that looked like a bear. After a few minutes, Robert was able to get the truck running again.

Further descriptions:
9 1/2 feet tall; long shaggy hair; red glowing eyes, about the size of baseballs and self Luminous; very large, flat noise; 1 1/2 inch fangs; the arms hung down below the waist. The chest had small white patches about the size of half-dollars where breasts would be. No details given on hands or feet.

June 28, 1981 (In the a.m.):
Late this night, the family saw some unusual forms in the wood line out back. They put their youngest boy on the tractor and drove out into the field. They saw these forms waving what looked like flashlights with a dark blue light. As they proceeded closer, the forms had red glowing eyes. Robert started shooting and emptied two boxes of 12 gauge shells. He appeared to hit one of the animals and saw two eyes fall to the ground. They thought they killed this animal when they saw the same type eyes coming from all directions. They hurried back to the house and witnessed the creatures roaming about all night through their window. The following day, Dennis Pilichis arrived on the scene to do a field investigation. They discovered three-toed impressions throughout Robert's property: a least 40 or so.

Descriptions of tracks:
3-toes, 7 inches by 8 inches, with the middle toe sinking deeper in the ground than the others.

Quote from NIGHT SIEGE: "Mind you, the creature who is directly connected to this trail was in the front yard after the ducks on all fours at the time of discovery. The field was mostly mud, dirt and chunky parts." Pilichis has no explanations for the series of strange lights and black forms seen, although he believes they are not the same phenomena as the "Bigfoot-type" creature(s).

June 29, 1981:
The Ashtabula County Sheriff's Department was called twice on this date. (5:00 a.m. and 11:00 p.m.) They drove their cruiser around the field and saw some ground indentations. The police did not see anything unusual, but Robert claims that members of his family witnessed strange forms coming from another direction. When Robert used the cruiser's spotlight to shine in that area, there was nothing to be seen.

The deputies filed the following reports:

DATE: 6/29/81
TIME: 0500
NATURE OF INCIDENT: Suspicious Activity

" Robert S. reported that on Wed and Thurs evening of late last week he and his family were awakened by loud growling and activity in the front and backyard. When we went to check the disturbance they reportedly saw a large black colored animal standing about 7 to 9 feet tall. Each time they shined a light on the animal or attempted to shoot it, it would run off into the woods. Last evening the animal returned and was in the north Field behind the house. Robert S. and his sons chased the animal toward a clearing in the north tree line where they said they saw three pairs of large eyes. They fired several shots at the animal and were waiting for daylight to check for any signs. I checked the area along with Mr. S. and saw no signs of blood or tissue. We did discover a few large prints in the ground but they were distorted. Mr. S. said he had called our offices and game Warden Kelly last week and was told nothing could be done unless a clear print could be obtained. Mr. S. mentioned that he had lost four ducks and a chicken since the activity had started and advised of other incidents where horses belonging to Amish loggers, and other farm animals had been attacked."

Report filed by officer assigned.

DATE: 6/29/81
TIME: 2300
NATURE OF INCIDENT: Suspicious Noises

"I arrived at the above location and met with the Robert S. family. They explained that they have been hearing strange noises around their property for the last week or so. Mr. S. said that they have seen a huge animal also, at nighttime. He said that it looked like it stood about 9 feet tall. The animal makes a real loud growl. HE SAID IT LOOKED LIKE IT COULD BE A BEAR. It has always been dark when they see it. So he hasn't got a real good look at it. They have found large paw marks in the ground around his property. Deputy D. came to the scene with a shotgun, and Sgt. F. arrived also. We checked the area with our spotlights but didn't see anything. Resumed patrol.

Report filed by officer assigned.

(Obviously, the author edited these police reports, as there is no name given for the complainant or deputies and without address.)

The family decided to keep their guard by positioning themselves on the roof of their house during the night. They had been doing this since the alleged activity began.

(End of Part 1)

References:

1.See the following web sites: Vinton County incidents and Alien body photos

2. Kelly-Hopkinsville, Kentucky Occupant Incident. (1955) Project Blue Book. Also “Mysterious America – The Revised Edition” by Loren Coleman, 2000 (pgs. 245-248)

Retrospective:
Rome, Ohio Incidents

Ron Schaffner

This is the end of part one of Ron's article. Go to Rome, Ohio Part II to read additional information.

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