One of the fondest memories of my teenage years was spotting a Discovery Channel helicopter buzzing my high-school when the “Finding Bigfoot ” team came to interview my county’s former sheriff. (Yep, that actually happened) I love me some monster hunting shows. They’re fundamentally stupid and staged entertainment that give what I imagine to be a similar sensation to that of a parasite eating your brain. It’s all a bunch of complete, but magnificent nonsense. There is no laugh heartier than that of a laugh derived from a monster hunt. Yes, these shows are essentially just watching a bunch of crazy people aimlessly walking around trying to catch something that isn’t real. But that begs the question, what if there was a monster hunting show where they actually catch the monster every now and then? And by God, what if they blew the monster to hell with a chorus of shotgun fire when they spotted it? If something like that sounds intriguing, then strap in, because I’ve got a show for you. Come with me now on a journey of hogwild insanity that is “Mountain Monsters”.
West Virginia is a hard place that spawns hard people. It only makes sense that the AIMS team was born in the state. Appalachian Investigators of Mysterious Sightings, or AIMS, is composed of a band of self-described hardcore hunters and trappers. Team leader John “Trapper” Tice (who sadly passed away last December), team rookie Buck, security expert Huckleberry, researcher Jeff, trap builder Willy, and tracker Wild Bill. They’re a group of rugged and heavyset old men who scour Appalachia looking for monsters. They’ve been all over this region of the country. A few of the AIMS teams “hunts” include a Werewolf in Kentucky’s own Wolfe County, a Wampus Beast (?) in West Virginia, a Lizard Demon in West Virginia, a Snallygaster (???) in West Virginia, and of course, Hogzilla in Ohio.
The early seasons of the show follow a pretty cut and dry format. The team discusses the creature that is being hunted this week, this is followed by a crude CGI rendition of the monster appearing on screen. The AIMS team then visits a so-called eye witness who recounts to them an encounter with the monster before spending a night in the woods hunting for said monster. Hijinks ensue, ranging from briefly catching a shapeless mass of shadow on camera to Trapper getting Sheepsquatch piss in his eyes (more on that in a bit). The next night, the team will return to these woods with an elaborate trap built and finish the hunt to mixed results. Oftentimes, they’ll catch more blurry footage before the monster goes into the trap off-screen. While the team is celebrating their success, the monster will break out of the trap (also off-screen) and the team will open fire on it with a 12 Gauge or two before going back to the celebrations and riding off into the morning sun.
Like every other paranormal investigation series, everything that happens in “Mountain Monsters” is blatantly staged. Honestly it doesn’t even need to be said. But where most shows in the genre are content to leave things with a couple of weird noises and shadows, “Mountain Monsters” ups the ante in some of the most unintentionally comical ways possible. The AIMS team will have stones thrown at them along with inhuman howls. Sometimes members will have personal off-screen encounters with the creatures and live to tell the tale. Who could forget when Huckleberry was hypnotized by the Cherokee Devil (one of various Bigfeet on the show) and wound up tied to a tree naked and covered in mud? Or the aforementioned incident when Trapper got a face full of frothing Sheepsquatch (Sasquatch, but also a sheep?) piss and almost passed out?
The earlier seasons of the show are ridiculous. But, the later seasons are psychotic. The format of the series changes from stand-alone episodes to seasonal story-arcs. Some of these story-arcs include a rival monster hunting team attempting to thwart AIMS, the investigation of a haunted forest, and a conspiracy involving a mysterious group of robed men and Native American folklore. “Blair Witch” style shrines and begin popping up around the woods. A supposed witch in a terrible latex mask begins stalking Buck. A guy with a witness protection voice and who’s also wearing a terrible latex mask kidnaps members of the AIMS team and leaves cryptic clues wherever he goes. The fact that all of this lunacy is played off with utter sincerity makes it that much more enjoyable.
What was once a pretty standard (albeit quirky) paranormal reality show has transformed into something else entirely, an almost indescribable blend of gaudy reality show and gaudier horror. It’s like a redneck version “The X-Files” filmed on a 2$ budget, and for me personally, the pinnacle of “so-bad-it’s-good” television. I love this show, and I hope it gets more absurd with every season. Give me the AIMS team fighting a kaiju and I’ll die a happy man.
“Mountain Monsters” airs on the Travel Channel.