EAST GLACIER — There are probably some things that the average person doesn’t know about the creature called Bigfoot.
For one thing, most probably don’t realize that Glacier National Park and the surrounding area is a natural Bigfoot byway for the creatures coming out of Canada and moving south.
Then there’s the fact that the Bigfoot who call northwestern Montana home are quite a bit bigger than those found in states like California and Alabama.
And their howls can only be explained as a combination of moose, wolf and chimpanzee.
If everything goes as planned for Bigfoot hunter Tom Biscardi and his East Glacier partners, Bill and Carole Stewart, that’s just a small part of the information that people will be able to glean from the world’s largest Bigfoot Museum. It's scheduled to be housed on the second floor of a new, five- to seven-story motel just across the street from the old railroad bridge visitors drive under to visit Glacier National Park.
On the day last week before the first big snowstorm was set to arrive at East Glacier, the wind was roaring through town as a smiling Bill Stewart and his wife pulled up in their red pickup truck underneath their blinking Dancing Bear Motel sign at the intersection of U.S. Route 2 and Montana Highway 49.
Stewart didn’t seem to notice the biting blast that sends anything not nailed down tumbling down the town’s backstreets. After 30 years of operating businesses in this gateway community, the Stewarts have come to an understanding with the wind.
Stewart’s smile was filled with excitement as he stepped in close and began pointing at the old log fly shop and a small brown house that’s almost hidden a short distance away in the weeds.
“That’s where it’s going to go,” Stewart said. “The current plan calls for seven stories… and the second story will hold the world’s largest Bigfoot museum and a place to host live entertainment.”
For years now, Stewart said he’s been slowly putting together the pieces of property needed to build a modern motel that he believes many visitors to East Glacier crave.
“We’ve been in business in East Glacier for 30 years,” he said. “We own three motels and other businesses. It’s become very obvious to us that East Glacier needs a new motel.”
All the motels in the area are older and don’t meet the modern tastes of many travelers who come to visit the East Glacier portion of the national park and then drive off to stay in Kalispell or Great Falls, Stewart said.
“These people would like to stay in a newer hotel room,” Stewart said. “It will bring a whole new class of tourists into East Glaicer.
"It’s going to be nice and we’re going to be full, full, full.”
The proposed $25 million development doesn’t stop with the motel that Stewart believes will be a Marriott Spring Hills franchise.
The Stewarts own all the businesses in the next block down, which includes the Glacier Village Restaurant. They plan to tear down the antiquated gift shop and bar on the corner and replace those businesses with a two-story bar and lounge that people staying at their new motel will be able to access via a skywalk.
If everything goes as planned, Stewart said construction will get underway this spring, with a planned motel opening in May 2019.
With record numbers of visitors coming to see the national park, Stewart believes the timing is right for the new motel. He hinted that this might not be the only one in the works.
“This town is going to change rapidly,” he predicted.
The Stewarts got to know Biscardi during his Bigfoot hunting expeditions in the area. They began about 15 years after Biscardi said he received a call from a Native American who shot one of the creatures to protect his family.
“We came in and saw the photos. We sent those off to the lab,” Biscardi said. “They came back as being the real deal. The photos depict a Bigfoot cradling the one that was shot in its arms and then carrying it up to some burial caves. There are actually burial grounds in those caves.”
When asked for a general description of where the caves are located, Biscardi said simply “in the mountains.”
Biscardi said he celebrated his 50th anniversary of seeing his first Bigfoot in April, which, coincidentally, is the same year the famous Roger Paterson film was released. Since then, he said he’s had six other encounters with the creatures, including two in Montana.
“The two we saw in Montana just blew us away,” he said. “We’ve never seen one that big. It blew our minds.
"It must be because they travel through the mountains. The ones in California and Alabama are much smaller.”
Biscardi’s business, Bigfoot Projects Investment Inc., will be part owner in the new motel.
The Bigfoot Museum will feature hundreds of footprint casts, museum-quality photographs, hair samples and a variety of other artifacts, Biscardi said.
Biscardi also owns two Las Vegas-style shows featuring the music of Elvis Presley and Michael Jackson. Those shows will be presented in the portion of the motel set aside for entertainment.
Bigfoot Projects Investments Chief Financial Officer Sara Reynolds said the final financial pieces of the project are coming together.
“Oh yes, it will happen,” Reynolds said. “The contracts are signed. It’s a done deal. We just have to make sure that all the T’s are crossed and I’s dotted. When it opens, it will mean another 200 jobs in East Glacier.”
Reynolds, a self-described Missouri farm girl with a knack for tracking, hasn’t actually seen a Bigfoot so far, but she has heard them howl.
“The best way that I can describe it, it’s a combination of a moose and a wolf and a chimpanzee,” she said. “Their howls have such a force behind them. I cannot imagine the lung capacity they must have to create that level of sound. It’s just phenomenal.”
The company currently has a $1 million bounty for solid evidence that the creature exists.
“There are a lot of people who criticize Tom for trying to take Bigfoot public,” Reynolds said. “What we’re trying to do is legitimize the industry. We’ve seen it. We’ve heard it. And now we just want to prove it to the world.
"It’s North America’s unknown primate.”
Not everyone is happy with the idea of a modern motel going up in a town that hasn’t really changed much in decades.
After taking shelter from the wind on the side of one of the many historic businesses, Greg Strutz pulled hard on his Glacier Park hat before saying the size and scope of the proposed project doesn’t fit the character of a town that includes many buildings that can trace their roots back a century.
“This thing would be way too high and too big,” he said. “They are talking like 100 rooms in a building that will be 30 to 40 feet higher than anything else in town. It won’t fit in.
“And then there’s this whole concept of having a Bigfoot museum,” Strutz said. “How does that fit in with being part of the gateway into a national park?”
Strutz first started visiting East Glacier 30 years ago. When he retired in 2006 from the University of Minnesota, he decided to move to what he’d learned was a close-knit community. He said he’s not hearing any support from the local residents.
“I think they will come out en masse if they ever see shovels actually starting to dig,” he said. “I think they would be opposed to this horrific change that would certainly change forever the novelty of this place.
"Right now, I think most people think it’s just a pipe dream.”