There’s an obscure channel most people probably haven’t heard of called Destination America. My parents had it because they had the big cable package. I’d estimate 95% of its programming are Bigfoot hunting and paranormal investigation shows. Most of them are terrible, but there is one show that stands above the rest via in its terribleness that it’s impossible to not be hooked and reeled into its fantastic world.
Mountain Monsters follows the adventures of the Appalachian Investigators of Mysterious Sightings (AIMS) team as they hunt down exotic, mythical beasts that are reported in the central Kentucky area. It’s awful. The monsters and Bigfoots are impossible to believe, the danger is so clearly staged, and the dialogue is so cringe-worthy fake that you’d think Tommy Wiseau wrote it. It’s also delightful. I never miss a chance to watch a rerun when Destination America runs one of their all-day marathons.
Where other Bigfoot hunting shows revel in how serious they portray themselves, Mountain Monsters makes no bones about its fakeness and simply tries to make ridiculous television that is downright hilarious and must-see. They absolutely succeed. They recently wrapped their fifth season and 50th episode last spring, but a sixth season is still uncertain. Which is a shame, because this show deserves at least 20 seasons.
Why I’m telling you all this is because I wanted to tell you about one, well actually two, episodes of Mountain Monsters that are without a doubt the most incredible two hours of television I have ever witnessed. It’s downright sublime. Even for this show, which revels in the absurd (one episode featured the capture of a Chupacabra only for the Bigfoot to break out the beast while the team was celebrating nearby), this two-episode storyline raised the bar for television entertainment. It’s right up there with the greatest television episodes I’ve ever seen, next to Breaking Bad’s Ozymandias, Game Of Thrones Red Wedding, and this moment from Nathan For You.
Buckle up, folks.
The AIMS Team
Before we get into the episode, we have to get to know the wonderful cast of characters that make up the incomparable AIMS Team. Allow me to do the honors.
- Trapper (Team Leader): First up is our fearless leader, Trapper. Unfortunately, Trapper isn’t seen in these episodes. He’s dealing with an injury or sickness or something. This investigation was the first for the team without their leader, so you can tell nerves were high. It’s like the New England Patriots without Tom Brady.
- Buck (Expert Caller): Next up we have Buck, who essentially takes over the leadership role left vacant by Trapper. Buck is by far the youngest member and is one of the only members (along with Wild Bill) without a giant, disgusting beard. His official title is “Expert Caller” even though I’ve never actually seen him do an animal or Bigfoot call.
- Wild Bill (Expert Tracker): Wild Bill is exactly what you pictured when you heard the name “Wild Bill”. A former marine, Bill is clean shaven and is the most unintelligible and incoherent team member while also being the loudest. Exhibit A. He’s like a loyal pit bull, chomping at the bit to track down that damn Bigfoot.
- Huckleberry (Security): Then we have Huckleberry who is the biggest and the most intense member while missing the most teeth. Huck is always on the lookout for a Bigfoot ambush and constantly screaming to “get that Bigfoot son of a b***h!”
- Willy (Trap Builder): Willy makes all the traps for the team, as each episode generally follows the formula of investigating an area for Bigfoot, find “evidence” of Bigfoot, build a trap, hunt Bigfoot into the trap, catch/come close to catching Bigfoot, Bigfoot escapes. Willy is usually the most normal and calm member (although he has his moments, which you’ll see in this episode).
- Jeff (Research): Oh Jeff, my sweet Jeff. Jeff is the most soft-spoken member, whose job is to scribble down notes during interviews with witnesses and provide background on the Bigfoot their hunting. He offers little to nothing when it comes to the hunts and is usually manning the thermal camera telling everyone he doesn’t see anything. He is precocious and like a big teddy bear.
That is the world-renowned AIMS Team. Now, let’s get to what we came here to see.
The AIMS Team vs. The Lightning Man and the Thunder Brothers
In order for this blog to not surpass 10,000 words, I’m going to focus on the second episode of this two-episode storyline (each episode is an hour long). But first, I’ll catch you up on what happened in the episode.
Season 4, Episode 3: Bigfoot of Blair County: The Lightning Man
*deep breath* OK, here it goes.
The AIMS Team is in Blair County, Pennsylvania (sans Trapper) because of reported sightings of a mysterious Bigfoot named “The Lighting Man” and his posse of seven(!) other Bigfoots, called “The Thunder Brothers”. So, the team is hunting eight Bigfoots in this investigation, and without their leader. It’s going to be a tough one.
According to Jeff’s research, The Lightning Man is about eight feet tall and weighs about 1,000 lbs with jet-black fur and white stripe down his back. His legend goes back to the 1700s where he would terrorize native-Americans and settlers (it’s never explained whether this is the same Bigfoot, making him 300 years old, or his descendants). Folklore says that the Thunder Brothers would cause a distraction by making the sound of thunder by smacking hollow trees with rocks and the Lightning Man would then strike and disappear, as fast as lightning. It’s never explained what the Lightning Man and his cohorts motivations are. Are they killing people? Stealing? Protecting their territory? We don’t know.
Back to the present, the AIMS team meets with an eye-witness who says lately he’s heard a commotion at an abandoned barn near his property, but he can never figure out what it is because everytime he goes to investigate his flashlight and other electronic devices stop working. This will become a pattern through the investigation for the AIMS Team.
The climax of the episode features the team investigating the barn, at night, looking for what they believe the Lightning Man and the Thunder Brothers are looking for in the barn. They find a marking on the barn’s ceiling, which is apparently the native-American symbol for lightning and they begin to dig into the floor. All of a sudden, THUNDER. The team’s flashlights and headlights all go out, presumably because the Lightning Man can control electricity. Curiously, the cameras from the production crew remain working…
The team scurries away towards the noise of thunder, except for Buck, who doubles-back to the barn alone, without telling anyone, for some reason. Buck resumes digging and finds a stone, not natural but carved into a specific shape. Just as he’s examining it, A HAND REACHES THROUGH THE BARN and tries to grab Buck before he makes his escape. Buck returns to the team to show them what he found, and they decide to return to West Virginia to talk with Trapper, before returning for further investigation.
Ok, that about wraps up the first episode, now, let’s get to the REALLY good stuff. Yes, it gets crazier from here.
Season 4, Episode 4: Bigfoot of Blair County: Thunder Brothers
The AIMS Team returns to Blair County to finish the investigation. They try to meet with another Lightning Man eye-witness, Larry, but he doesn’t want to talk. Buck approaches him alone, showing him the stone they found, but the man is cagey and a little bit frightened by the sight of it. He also tells Buck, “I’ve seen your show and I don’t like it”. LOL. Larry says he wants no part of it, to protect his family.
After getting owned by Larry, Buck and the team meet with a guy named Shannon, who is supposedly an expert on the Lightning Man legend. They hope he can offer more information on the stone they found and why the Lightning Man wants it. We get dumped with a boatload of exposition here by Shannon, but hang in there.
So, according to Shannon, the stone is called the “thunder blade” and is one of three parts to the “thunder ax”. Yes, you read that right. Apparently, the ax was made by native-Americans and handed down to settlers to fight the Lightning Man. The ax is a blessing and a curse; it’s the only weapon that can be used against the Lightning Man but is a curse if the Lightning man ever gets a hold of it…
We’ve fallen into the deep end here.
A family by the name of Sutter came by the ax and the father took it apart in three pieces: blade, handle, and leather lashing. He gave a piece to each of his three sons and told them to hide them so the Lightning Man could never find it. Also, a spell was on the ax that prevented the Lightning Man from touching it, but that spell was broken when the blade was unearthed by Buck.
Now, it is up to the AIMS Team to find the other two pieces before the Lightning Man and Thunder Brothers do. They must assemble the thunder ax, make it so the Lightning Man touches the ax again to put the spell back on it, disassemble the ax and hide it once again. Shannon leaves them with a cryptic message, “If the Lightning Man gets a hold of this, it’s all over from there.” THE FATE OF THE WORLD IS IN THE AIMS TEAM’S HANDS.
Can’t believe the government dropped the ball on this Lightning Man business. This Thunder Ax is essentially a weapon of mass destruction, yet then-president Obama did nothing. Hmm…Was Obama covering up the Lightning Man scandal? Why isn’t the mainstream media covering this? Where’s Alex Jones on this? Luckily, we got the AIMS team. Real American heroes.
Shannon tells them where the general vicinity of the pieces are and gives them clues that will apparently lead them to their location. We’ve got a good old-fashioned Bigfoot weapon scavenger hunt. The team sets off on their mission to save the world.
The team begins their quest on the 100-acre property which supposedly belongs to a man by the name of “Skunky Tom” who doesn’t like intruders on his property. Tremendous. Their first clue reads, “They bang the trees and the thunder comes, but the thunder boys should bang the drum.” After meandering around the forest they come upon a giant oil drum. Inside, they find a large, hollow pipe. However, when they’re about to open it, GUNSHOT. They look to see what can only be Skunky Tom running and screeching toward them. We get only a glimpse of him as the AIMS Team runs for safety, but he looks exactly like someone who would garner the nickname Skunky Tom.
The team runs (or does their best at running, they’re pretty, uh, large fellas) to safety, barely evading the dastardly Skunky Tom. Finally safe, the team opens the pipe to find the handle of the thunder ax. Much rejoicing follows. Before they set out to find the next piece, Buck tells the team he has to leave for a day to return to his job (???).
The fate of the world is at stake here, Buck! Your job back home is irrelevant!
I’d love to see how Buck’s co-workers react to seeing Buck on TV with a bunch of guys running and screaming through the forest at night looking for a Bigfoot on a regular basis. It’d be hilarious if Buck was, like, a respected doctor.
Anyway, the team moves on now without their leader (Trapper) and backup leader (Buck) to find the final piece of the Thunder Ax. The next clue reads, “the rain it falls, and then it pools, and then it hides the leather clue.” Eventually, they stumble on a pond, which they immediately deduce is around 80-90 years old based on…the trees (or something). The clue must be hidden in the pond.
Willy and Wild Bill, the only members who look like they could tread water for more than 30 seconds, jump in and start searching the bottom of the pond. We’re also given the treat of seeing Wild Bill’s insanely white legs. My retinas were damaged by looking at them. (You can see them for yourself if you dare.)
After a while, they find nothing until they get the idea to look under the floating dock in the middle of the pond. I don’t know, that probably would have been the first place I would have looked, but I’m not an expert investigator.
They find a metal box under the dock and inside is a thermos looking thing. Inside that, the final piece! The leather lashing! They have the pieces! The Lightning Man’s days are numbered.
Cut to the next day and the return of Buck, who is delighted to see the team has found the last piece. However, when they try to assemble the ax, something is wrong. It doesn’t fit together and they realize they need another lashing. Jeff breaks open the thermos that hid the first lashing and finds another clue. That’s right, the scavenger hunt isn’t over baby!
Buck sums up the feelings of the group and the audience by yelling, “What is this, some kind of wild goose chase? A joke?” Our thoughts, exactly, Buck.
The clue reads, “you shall find if you seek at the cabin by the creek.” With this new information, a plan is formulated for that night that will have Buck and Wild Bill locked in the trap built for the lightning man with the pieces of the ax while the rest go searching for the final piece. Once all the pieces are found, they’ll assemble the Thunder Ax, put it in the trap, and have the Lightning Man touch it before the trap locks it away to safety.
That night Huckleberry, Jeff, and Willy are searching the creek when they find the cabin. Upon entering, they conclude the cabin is easily a hundred years old because of the number of cobwebs (seems legit). They find nothing until they decide to light the firewood in the stove furnace. They notice one of the logs in the stove isn’t natural and seems to have a tube inside it. When they take out the log, THUNDER.
The Thunder Brothers and the Lightning Man are coming. Huckleberry, in his brilliant quick-thinking, decides to cool off the burning piece of wood by pissing on it. Jeff then grabs it (ew) and they’re off to rejoin Buck and Bill at the trap with the final piece.
Meanwhile, at the trap, Buck and Bill are on high alert looking out for the Lightning Man. All of a sudden, THEIR LIGHTS GO OUT. They begin to scream and shout. Huck, Willy, and Jeff arrive just in time with the remaining piece. They’re finally able to assemble the Thunder Ax.
When assembled, we get the highlight of the episode which is Willy, raising the ax high above and screaming in triumph, “WE HAVE THE THUNDER AX! WE HAVE THE POWER!”
They lay the trap with the ax for the Lightning Man and fall back and wait for the sound of the trap being sprung. While they wait from a safe distance, a thunderstorm begins out of nowhere. Then, LIGHTNING STRIKES. It hits a tree right next to Jeff, igniting the tree and sending Jeff flying backward. I guess the Lightning Man can control actual lightning but his aim sucks.
Jeff is alright, besides literally pissing himself, making the last 15 minutes pretty urine-heavy. Then, they hear the trap door! They rush to the trap to find the ax in it. The trap worked! The spell is back on the ax! The AIMS team takes the ax and retreats to safety, victorious over the Lightning Man and Thunder Brothers.
Huckleberry, in his exuberance, yells, “by golly, I got happy feet!” He dances the way you would expect a man named “Huckleberry” would. The team celebrates its victory. Now, it is up to them to disassemble the ax and hide the pieces once again from the Lightning Man.
And that’s the end of this incredible story of bravery and beasts. I guess they never really do anything about the Lightning Man and Thunder Brothers. One can assume they’re still just running around Pennsylvania, looking for the Thunder Ax.
I don’t know why I decided to share this story. It seemed too unbelievable to not be shared. It remains the most marvelously awful and beautiful two hours of television I have ever witnessed. Truly great television doesn’t come around often, and I felt the need to make sure as many people appreciate it as possible.
The next time you’re scrolling through your channels and see Mountain Monsters is on, for the love of god, turn it on. There are so many other unbelievable stories and episodes, including a season-long feud with a “Rogue Team” that includes kidnapping in season five.
Watch the show and delight in the insanity of it all.