Seth Breedlove on His Favorite Monsters, and the Bray Road Beast Documentary
By Tobias Wayland; with images by Emily Wayland
Emily and I pull into the Bray family farm in the early evening at the end of a cold, rainy day. It's Wisconsin's second winter, the one that comes after the false Spring we so often see in late February, and I have a feeling that nobody told the Small Town Monsters crew about it before they came to film in rural Elkhorn. They're after stories of the Bray Road Beast, and we're here hunting down an interview with Seth Breedlove--the man behind Small Town Monsters and their string of successful monster documentaries released over the last few years.
We find Seth walking outside with Mark Matzke--a pastor and published cryptozoological author who assists in production--and we take shelter in a small barn loaded with large wooden spools to begin our interview.
Seth started as a freelance reporter prior to making documentaries, but he admits he's not sure how that led to his current career.
"I had to give a talk recently about film-making, for younger people, and I was like there's no career path that I was on that you can follow," he jokes. "And I actually wouldn't recommend people follow how we've done it...a lot of our success is predicated on pure luck."
"I grew up in a town where we had Bigfoot stories," Seth says of his hometown of Bolivar, Ohio. "And I heard about the Minerva monster a lot as a kid."
But it wasn't until his mid-twenties when a friend at church gave him some DVDs loaded with old episodes of In Search of... and other documentaries that he really became interested in Bigfoot.
"[My friend] was fascinated by Bigfoot, and he knew I was a weirdo, and he thought since I was a weirdo I must be interested in Bigfoot, too," he says. "So I watched it, and then I got interested."
Small Town Monsters began as a book project, but issues with finding a publisher led instead to the pursuit of documentary film-making.
"It started as a book project, and then became documentaries. Essentially, we saw a hole and we filled it," Seth explains. "I just didn't feel like there was high-quality visual content for people into the paranormal."
"There just wasn't high-quality content tailored to sane people," he laughs.
Small Town Monsters consciously avoids replicating the onscreen antics of reality television, which often relies on scripted dialogue and contrived scenarios to entertain viewers. Seth does plan on delving into the subject of onsite investigation with their upcoming On the Trail of... series, but says that it will focus on the experience of investigators and not on supporting any cult of celebrity. And no, he says, so far they haven't had any paranormal encounters while shooting the documentaries they've already made.
When I ask Seth if he thinks one case in particular that they've covered stands out from the rest in terms of believability, he doesn't hesitate in his response.
"Flatwoods," he replies. "For me, Flatwoods is one of them where something happened. The witnesses are very believable. I don't think the witnesses are telling anything all that outlandish. They're basically saying they went up the hill and saw this large, mechanical something on top of the hill."
"And when you talk to them it's clear that they saw something and what they're describing, to me, I don't understand how you explain away what they're saying they saw as an owl. Because what they're saying they saw is not something you would mistakenly take an owl to be. If it was the hooded, cloaked figure that the Flatwoods Monster has become in myth, I could see that, but they very clearly saw a mechanical object that had a sheen to it, and was reflecting the surface around it. I one hundred percent believe they saw what they said they saw," he states emphatically.
But not all monster stories are created equal, and Seth admits that he still has a hard time believing in Bigfoot.
"I have a real hard time with Bigfoot still. I really want there to be a Bigfoot, and I actually think it's the most believable; it's just that I haven't seen any real proof that would convince me," he says.
"It's the one I like the most, though, but it's also the one I have so many questions about; like the existence, and how that works," Seth continues. "How there would be some sort of population of these things without us finding bodies. You know, the typical skeptical questions that everyone asks. I just haven't seen enough to really dissuade me from the questions I have."
And as we wrap up our conversation, I ask Seth what he hopes his audience takes away from the films made by Small Town Monsters.
"Just really entertaining looks at stories that people very often scoff at or don't take seriously," he tells me. "I don't make movies to convince anyone of anything, because a lot of the time what we're covering is not necessarily something that I am convinced of myself. A big part of what we're doing is just trying to tell interesting stories, which again is very different than a lot of the typical entertainment that's out there, I think. Typically, something is either trying to persuade you to have a skeptical response to the stuff or convince you that whatever the subject is, is real--like something that you have to believe in."
"What we've done is a response to reality TV, and the shows that are out there already."
It's something Small Town Monsters brings that nobody else is right now, and I can't help but agree with Seth when he says they're filling a void that exists in the paranormal community. There's something to be said about contextualized, nuanced storytelling when it comes to strange subjects, and right now nobody is doing it better than Seth Breedlove and the crew of Small Town Monsters.
And as far as The Bray Road Beast is concerned, expect that documentary to take a little broader look into its root phenomenon than perhaps did its predecessors.
"It's really different from the other stuff we made," Seth says. "I think it's really pushing the horror sort of vibe, stylistically with the movie. Our other movies aren't about phenomena, they might be about one particular story that could be a subsect or a little spin-off from a phenomenon; so like the Flatwoods Monster is sort of a cryptid story and sort of a UFO story, and the Boggy Creek Monster is sort of like a Bigfoot story, but it's not about Bigfoot [as a larger phenomenon]. I think this movie will be much more about the phenomenon of dogman."
There's no set release date yet for The Bray Road Beast, but look for it later this year.