DURHAM — Bill Brock bought a house in the woods two years ago because of the Durham gorilla sightings, a local was-it-a-man-in-a-suit-or-was-it-Bigfoot mystery dating back to the 1970s.

“My wife thought I was crazy, but that’s all right,” Brock joked.

The property hasn’t disappointed; he’s seen weirdness in the woods.

Brock met a visitor there Wednesday for an interview next to a campfire, under a green tarp, sun streaming through the trees. A floppy-eared, 4-month-old Great Dane named Stompah loped around.

There was one chair. He kindly said he’d brushed it off. He was sitting on a pile of boughs.

It may not have looked like it, but he and his monster hunting are about to go big time.

Tapped to star in a new monster hunting television show and challenged by producers to assemble his own team, Brock, 43, asked his doctor in Portland (for scientific legitimacy), his Bigfoot hunting buddy from New York (for fun) and professional boxer Jeremy Bates (for monster protection, just in case).

“Monsters Underground” debuts Thursday night on the Discovery Channel, book-ended by shark shows.

That could mean exposure of up to 400 million viewers worldwide.

“Nobody else is doing it, I know that — to film underground is no joke,” Brock said. “There were times we’d have a 50-foot drop right next to us and nothing to hold onto and it was slick as glass. It was a dangerous show to be on.”

But fun, he said. 

“I just like chasing cryptids,” he said. “I didn’t care if I’m chasing a leprechaun or Bigfoot.”

In this six-episode first season, the team goes after rakes, aswangs, subterraliens, cave demons and Mapinguari (a prehistoric sloth with, maybe, one eye and backward feet).

“We saw some weird stuff and a lot of that is reflected in the show, some things that we can’t really explain,” said Christian Horner, co-executive producer with Go Go Luckey Entertainment and a Maine native.

What about the idea of potentially cornering something with one eye and backward feet in a tight, dark cavern with a full crew in tow? 

“I think the running joke on set was, ‘You don’t have to be the fastest person, you just have to not be the slowest,'” Horner said. “Don’t think for a second all of us weren’t concerned. Things could get very squirrelly, very quickly, and you’d better be fleet of foot or it wouldn’t be good. Luckily, nobody died on set.”

‘This might be something’

Brock grew up in Ohio and West Virginia. As a teen, the Patterson-Gimlin footage purporting to catch Bigfoot on tape got his attention.

“I picked up every paperback I could,” Brock said. “Just the thought of some kind of creature living in the woods is cool to a kid.”

He moved to Maine in 1999 and two years ago heard from Go Go Luckey looking to pull together a new show. Through the grapevine, they’d seen his many YouTube clips of Bigfoot hunts.

Brock, who says his full-time occupation is being a Bigfoot researcher, instantly thought, “the team needs a doctor.” So he asked Casey Onik, a general practitioner and osteopath practicing in Portland at the time, while in the middle of his appointment.

“‘Hey, man, what do you think about this?’ He immediately thought I was lying,” Brock said. A few minutes later, Onik was sold. “I didn’t know it at the time; he was really into this stuff.”

Craig McGhee of New York and Jeremy “The Beast” Bates, a longtime friend and professional boxer, rounded out the team.

“I wanted someone who could protect us if some s*** went down,” Brock said of Bates.

The show filmed in early April and voice-overs wrapped two weeks ago. They used thermal cameras and a DNA dart gun with a built-in GPS. Brock said he’d often see a map of the cave in advance but would enter it for the first time on camera.

“I had somebody tell me it was a cross between ‘The Blair Witch Project’ and ‘Destination Truth,'” Brock said. “We definitely ran into a few creatures and got some thermal footage and possible DNA.”

Horner, who lives on the West Coast but still has a house on Mount Desert Island, said it was a challenge to find good locations, to find people who’d heard of the monsters and people willing to appear on camera talking about them, in addition to lugging heavy equipment into cramped spaces and keeping everyone safe.

And, more important, alive.

“(Bill) came across something” in one cave, Horner said. “The show runner and I looked at each other at one point and we’re like, ‘Dear God, please let him not find a dead body.’ He was finding some stuff that we thought might have led to a perished human. At that point, we get into what we call hyper-reality, which is not a really nice place to be.”

Fortunately, they hadn’t stumbled on death.

Horner said the team’s chemistry and sense of humor comes through on camera, which he believes will help sell the show to viewers. They’re regular guys. Looking for monsters.

“You look at them — they’re not superheros,” he said. “They’re extremely passionate and they’re having a great time.”

The show had been slated to debut on Destination America two weeks ago but was moved to the Discovery Channel with back-to-back episodes Thursday night at 10 p.m. and 10:30 p.m.

Horner isn’t sure why, but he’s happy.

“For us, it’s fantastic,” he said. “The fact that it got pulled from Destination America, which is in 60 million homes, as opposed to Discovery, which is in over 400 million, the exposure is tremendous.”

Both said they’d love to shoot a second season.

Brock has planned a viewing party from 8 to 11 p.m Thursday night at Buck’s Naked BBQ in Portland, open to the public. After that, he’s trying to figure out a way to get to Florida. Fast.

Fellow Bigfoot hunter Stacy Brown sent him photos from Florida this week of a mostly skeletal arm dragged out of the woods by a dog. It has five long digits and hair on the back of its hand and measures 18 inches from elbow to fingertip.

Brock wants to join Brown in a hunt for the rest of the body.

“It looks like a primate arm, but primates live in Florida,” Brock said. “But it’s exciting. This might be something huge.”

Weird, Wicked Weird is a monthly feature on the strange, intriguing and unexplained in Maine. Send photos, ideas and DNA-laced darts to [email protected]

“Monsters Underground” debuts on the Discovery Channel on Thursday night with back-to-back episodes at 10 p.m. and 10:30 p.m. 

A viewing party open to the public is being held from 8 to 11 p.m. at Buck’s Naked BBQ in Portland.

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