By Scott Fallon
Alexandria has been the home to some famous people throughout the years. Most people know that the father of our country, George Washington, called Alexandria his hometown and that the Washington Capitals’ own goaltender, Braden Holtby, resides in Old Town. Alexandria natives are probably aware that Nirvana’s David Grohl attended Bishop Ireton and that Jim Morrison of The Doors attended George Washington High School in Alexandria. But even the most ardent local historians probably aren’t aware that Alexandria, VA, is also the home to the Mid-Atlantic’s subject matter experts and thought leaders in the areas of the Cryptozoology, Paranormal, and UFOlogy sciences, The Alexandria Cryptozoology and Paranormal Society, or ACAPS.
“We were doing a good job of flying under the radar until recently,” laughed ACAPS Founder and certified cryptozoologist, Scott Fallon. “Now, we have people coming up to us out of nowhere with personal stories about ghostly encounters and questions about UFOs. Last weekend, I had someone come up to me with photos of Sasquatch footprints that he had taken in Northern California. It’s pretty wild.”
ACAPS has been featured on ABC 7 News, the Washington City Paper, and most recently, Cliff Barackman, a star on the popular TV show Finding Bigfoot, personally recognized ACAPS as the place to go for Bigfoot information and other strange facts. They will also be the guys driving a UFO down the street in the Old Town Alexandria St. Patrick’s Day parade this March, and they’re currently in the early stages of planning Alexandria’s first Crypto/UFOlogy/Paranormal conference. Dates for the event, however, are still to be determined.
Their founders include Alexandria residents Fallon, former Marine Chad Umbach, bartender extraordinaire Roque Aviles, professional musician Gary Dizon, and the group’s resident scientist and skeptic-in-chief—the enigmatic Dr. Black. The group boasts a Facebook page with over 1,500 followers, a website, and a surprisingly endless supply of stickers and t-shirts that they generously pass on to interested local residents. As listed on their website, ACAPS helps to promote scientific analysis, education, and awareness of the existence of Cryptids, Psychic phenomena, and UFOs and Aliens. Areas of specialty for the founding members are as diverse as their backgrounds. Umbach’s passion is UFO’s, as a result of a personal encounter he had while in the Marine Corps. Fallon is fascinated by tales of Bigfoot. Dr. Black prefers astrophysics, space, and alien exploration, while Aviles is by far the subject matter expert in the study of Chupacabras.
Said Aviles, “Chupacabras don’t get the appropriate amount of study and interest in the scientific community. It’s a passion and personal mission to bring more awareness to this fascinating and potentially dangerous cryptid.”
In addition, the group also helps to promote the local music scene sponsoring events, such as Alexandria Live Music Week, and hosts concerts throughout Alexandria featuring both local and national acts. ACAPS events have included a reggae night, a blues event, and most recently, a heavy metal night. In October, they also held a Grateful Dead-themed Stone Brewing tap takeover at local bar Bilbo Baggins. The events bring music, beer, and Bigfoot fans together for a night of conversation and analysis. All proceeds from their events go towards funding ACAPS marketing materials and field study.
“Everything we do is to eventually put the focus back on cryptids, aliens, and ghosts,” said ACAPS co-founder Chad Umbach. “We’re also big music fans and fans of the local music scene. Anything that we can do to help both is a win-win in our opinion.”
Bigfoot, UFOs, and ghosts are the main points of emphasis for ACAPS, however, and field study is something that ACAPS takes very seriously. Locally, the group recently held a by invitation-only private ghost tour in Alexandria. They have also conducted ghostly studies at many local hot spots, including Alexandria’s Ramsay House. Other ventures include an overnight stay at the very haunted By the Side of the Road Bed and Breakfast in Harrisonburg, VA, where Fallon had a scary run-in with the home’s ghost. The group has engaged in Bigfoot expeditions throughout Virginia, as well as in Ohio, Utah, Wyoming, West Virginia, Florida, Georgia, and Pennsylvania. Members recently visited Phoenix, Arizona, to conduct on-site study of The Phoenix Lights, and this May members of ACAPS will be visiting Olympic National Park in Washington State to search for the bipedal hominid, Sasquatch.
Said Dr. Black, “Field studies of Sasquatch can help us understand the complexities and causes of its existence and behavior. Wild animals interact with their physical surroundings and the biological world while breeding, eating, and moving within their habitat. Behaviors that animals exhibit in the wild are closely interconnected with the plants and animals around them and can only be observed during field studies. There are technical benefits to field study as well. Understanding the mechanism behind the inability to get an in-focus picture of Sasquatch could lead to true scientific advances.”
Although the group has a growing following on Facebook, ACAPS’ founders insist that they do not have a formal membership. They regularly update their Facebook page with cryptid and paranormal stories, as well as with pictures and upcoming events. Significant content is also provided by page followers.
“We take some of the content with a grain of salt, but we also take much of the subject matter very seriously,” said Fallon. “We’re skeptics first, but we’re also believers. Thoroughly studying the subject matter allows us to draw scientific conclusions. It’s also just a lot of fun.”
To learn more about ACAPS, and to share your personal stories and encounters, visit the ACAPS page at www.facebook.com/alexandriacrypto/ . You can also visit their evolving website at www.acapsva.org.