It’s not clear what first sparked Tim Fasano’s interest in finding Bigfoot.
Since 2009, the Tampa man logged thousands of hours hiking, photographing, taking first-person videos and setting up trail cameras in the Florida wilderness. He searched in the Hillsborough Wilderness Preserve, the Ocala National Forest and, his favorite spot, the Green Swamp in Polk County.
By the time of his death on Nov. 14 at the age of 63, Mr. Fasano had posted more than 1,300 videos of his expeditions on the YouTube channel Florida Sasquatch. Some of them have been watched more than 1 million times.
Mr. Fasano was no stranger to internet dispatches. At the height of the blogging craze in 2006, the longtime driver for United Cab began documenting his nights navigating the streets of Tampa Bay.
On his blog Tampa Taxi Shots, Mr. Fasano posted about passengers who could include strippers or strip club patrons, businessmen who argued with him over fares, “suspects” leaving the emergency room at 2 a.m., “gnomes” (people with no money) and strangers who expected him to know where to buy cocaine. His blog caught the attention of local media at the time, earning it mentions in three newspapers.
There was nothing elegant about Mr. Fasano’s writing, but there was something captivating in the short and sometimes typo-ridden posts that focused on the hustle of cab driving. They plainly described a mostly unseen side of life in Tampa Bay, jolting from candid photos of convenience store clerks, graffitied walls and other cab drivers to surprisingly philosophical musings on “what is noble and valiant about man’s quest for his own humanity” among the lost souls who hung around 7-Eleven.
It was a few years after he started the taxi blog that Mr. Fasano found the thing he’d come to be best known for: searching for Bigfoot, a.k.a. Sasquatch, a.k.a. the Florida Skunk Ape.
“He firmly believed he was going to find it, and I thought he would,” said Kevin Kehl, who since 2012 had been working with Mr. Fasano on Bigfoot research and accompanying him into the woods. “It became his life’s mission to prove its existence.”
When news of Mr. Fasano’s death spread among the Bigfoot community — the loose collection of thousands of people across the U.S. who log sightings, follow Bigfoot news and hike the woods in search of the mythical, apelike creature — dozens of tributes poured in.
The Bigfoot Guys sent their “heartfelt thoughts and prayers” on Facebook. The Appalachian Bigfoot and Dogman Research Group posted a photo of Mr. Fasano in his research gear. On enigmaticanomalies.com: “Tim’s passion and perseverance was unsurpassed.” Rictor Riolo from Spike TV’s 10 Million Dollar Bigfoot Bounty wrote that “he was one of the few Bigfoot personalities that made the subject matter fun.” Stories from CryptozooNews and Sasquatch Chronicles followed.
Rumors circulated on the Bigfoot sites that Mr. Fasano died in the woods from a snake bite. His twin brother, Thomas Fasano, said his brother died at home of cardiac arrest and had struggled for years with high blood pressure and his weight.
Matt Moneymaker, host of Finding Bigfoot on Animal Planet and president of the Bigfoot Field Researchers Organization, which logs Sasquatch sightings across the U.S., told the Tampa Bay Times that Mr. Fasano “was a big character who attracted many fans as well as detractors, but he was very serious about his field research and was eventually assisted by a retinue of associates.”
The YouTube videos, from the editing to Mr. Fasano himself, are completely over the top, turning the most mundane moments into high drama with titles like “Bigfoot Kill Zone in Myakka,” "IT FOLLOWED ME TO THE CREEK” and “Red Tail Hawk Murder - Search for the KILLER.” But that’s what his admirers liked about him.
“Tim was my favorite part of the Bigfoot community. I never once said, ‘He’s going to find Sasquatch,’ but I was supremely entertained every time I watched him,” said Christopher York, host of the Fortean Slip podcast. York frequently interviewed Mr. Fasano, and considered him the show’s all-time favorite guest. “You didn’t really interview him, you just kind of tried to corral him for a few minutes. Anyone who delved beneath the surface of the Bigfoot community at all knows Tim.”
Like most Bigfoot videos, the “evidence” is completely inscrutable to the untrained eye, but could cause a big stir among Bigfoot fans. Moneymaker believes Mr. Fasano captured genuine footage of a Skunk Ape.
Mr. Fasano had a long history of sparring with other Bigfoot researchers online over the quality of his videos, which only seemed to make him more appealing to some. One blogger in the United Kingdom posted a collection of “Tim Fasano’s best rants.”
“I can attest that he never hoaxed even though he was accused of it all the time,” said Kehl. “Never once did he suggest to me we should falsely create a video. ... Did he try to create drama to make his videos more entertaining to watch? Yes, but what reality TV show out there doesn’t?"
Mr. Fasano was born in Virginia, and moved to the Tampa Bay area in the 1970s. He worked in distribution for the Tampa Tribune and attended the University of South Florida before beginning his more than two decades as a taxi driver in the early 1990s. He was married once, in the ’70s, his brother Thomas Fasano said, but he divorced and did not remarry or have children.
“He always said the woods and swamps were his friends,” said Thomas Fasano. “He was at peace out there, nobody to argue with, because he could get worked up arguing politics. ... And the guy you see in those videos, that’s not an act. That’s the way he was, an entertainer, even since we were kids."
He kept his taxi blog going in some form right up through this year, though in recent years it was mostly a description of the pointlessness (and razor thin earnings) of driving a cab in the age of Uber.
One of his final posts, before he quit the taxi business, quoted Henry Thoreau — “the mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation” — and detailed the story of a rich guy who’d ordered a taxi, then canceled it after Fasano had driven to the man’s house.
“No big deal for him, but does he know this is disastrous for me?,” Mr. Fasano asked.
Mr. Fasano, said friends, was at his most joyful in the woods, even though he never did find anything definitive out there.
“More than anything, he enjoyed it,” said Charlie Estepp of Ocala Bigfoot Tours. “It was something that he lived for, and in life we’ve all got to have that. We didn’t hit it off at first, but we started to talk, and we gained a respect for each other because I saw that (Bigfoot) was where his happiness comes from.”
Thomas Fasano said that his brother has written a book titled Hack: Stories From a Tampa Taxi that will be published by a small publisher in California next year.
Mr. Fasano is survived by his brother, Thomas Fasano, and his sister-in-law, Sandy Fasano, in Claremont, Calif.; an older brother, Mike Fasano, in Mulberry, Fla.; his aunt, Joyce Hagan, in Plattsburgh, N.Y.; and two cousins, Debbie Hagan and Jimmy Hagan, of upstate New York. The family is making plans for Mr. Fasano to be buried in the family plot in Plattsburgh, N.Y.