Rick Dyer has plenty of "haters," as he calls them. And he loves it.
The Georgia man spent the last two months traveling the southern U.S. with a Bigfoot "body" made of latex and foam, hyping it as a sideshow attraction, the real deal.
Adults were charged $10 and children $5 to step inside the trailer and gaze at the hairy beast lying under Plexiglas in a homemade wooden coffin. Online videos show people stepping up to view it with their kids.
Of course, Dyer told everyone it was real. Many of them believed it. Dyer even came up with a nickname for the body: "Hank." He thinks of himself as a modern-day P. T. Barnum.
"I'm an entertainer," he laughed in a phone call Monday with CBS 5 News. "A myth-maker."
And when called a liar, he laughed again. "Liar, hoaxer, myth-maker, P. T. Barnum, they all mean the same thing," he said.
Dyer gained attention in January when he and his hired promoter, Andrew Clacy, were ready to launch the "I Told You So" tour. The traveling "Tracker Team" consisted of Dyer, Clacy, and two other men, Lynk Paul and Dale Boswell.
Their first stop was supposed to be in Arizona, but was canceled when every location they contacted to host the exhibit turned them down. They moved on to New Mexico, Texas, Louisiana, Alabama and ultimately Florida, where the hoax finally fell apart. Literally.
Boswell and Clacy said Dyer never let anyone touch the body. Each told CBS 5 News they believed the promises that the body was real, although they begin to suspect something was amiss near the end of the tour.
Boswell said at a stop between San Antonio and Katy, TX, the men found the Plexiglas shield in pieces. Boswell told CBS 5 News he reached in to feel the toes and feet.
"They felt foamy and rubbery," he said. "But the thing that got me was the smell! It smelled like a taxidermy animal. Rick said the feet and hands had been rebuilt."
"Rick is so good at doing what he does," Boswell added. "Whether you call it a con man or what. He's just so likeable when you're around him." Boswell and Clacy said the team repaired the Plexiglas and continued on the tour.
They arrived in Daytona Beach, FL, where the display coffin broke for the third time. That's when Clacy confronted Dyer about his suspicions. "[Dyer] admitted to me personally that the body of 'Hank' was not a real body but rather a construct of a company from Washington state which was paid for by Rick Dyer." Clacy, Boswell and Paul all left the tour at that point.
Dyer calls Clacy's claim nonsense.
"He knew from the get-go," Dyer wrote in an email to CBS 5 News. "The only reason Andrew bailed is because of $$$$$ that's all."
He followed up by phone, proudly taking credit for hoaxing hundreds of people who paid to see the body at each tour stop.
"There's absolutely nothing wrong with what I'm doing," Dyer said. "More people should do it."
Boswell and Clacy said they feel duped. Boswell said he wishes he could refund the money of all who paid to see the phony body.
"I would swear on my father's grave to people what was in my heart," he said. "That it was real. Now I look back and think, 'What an old fool was I.'"
Dyer makes no apologies. In fact, other videos he posted online refer to a second leg of the tour, although he does not say whether it would involve "Hank," another manufactured creature, or the other "real" Bigfoot he allegedly shot.
Dyer also claims "Hank" is up for auction now and he expects the bidding to go as high as $40,000.
CBS 5 News asked Dyer why anyone should believe anything he says.
"They shouldn't," he giggled gleefully through the phone. "They should just bring their kids out and let 'em leave with a smile."
The 30-minute phone conversation was a chaotic mixture of lies, truths and promises. At the end, though, Dyer made the most revealing claim of all.
"There is no evidence whatsoever that Bigfoot exists. There's more evidence for the tooth fairy, actually."
So, if Dyer comes to town hawking a look at a Bigfoot body, you'd be better off asking him to put money under your pillow.
You'll sleep better that way.
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