Monster man

Amid legends of the Sheepsquatch, Wolfman, Devil Dog, Hellhound, Grassman and Mothman, the Appalachian Investigators of Mysterious Sightings (AIMS) dive right in and prepare for confrontation with the fabled mountain beasts on Destination America’s breakout hit series “Mountain Monsters.”

The six-man team featured on the show, which returns Friday, includes Waterford resident Jeff Headlee, who said he and the team are like a family.

“It’s the experience of a lifetime and I have six of the closest people near me; I can call them brothers,” he said. “They hold up their end; it’s the best combination of a tracking/hunting team I’ve ever seen.”

Myth, legend and monster lovers can get their fix of monster hunting during the season two premiere at 10 p.m. Friday, which will feature the legendary Kentucky Hellhound.

The premiere is something to watch, said Colt Straub, executive producer for American Chainsaws Entertainment, which produces the show.

“We start off with a bang this Friday with the Kentucky Hellhound,” he said. “It’s going to be nonstop this season.”

Filming for season two started in mid-fall and stopped in January, for a total about three months of filming.

Headlee, 56, said he got involved with AIMS after the personal experience of a creature attacking his dog led him to other people with similar experiences.

“Through that experience, I met ‘Trapper,'” he said.

John “Trapper” Tice is considered the leader of the group, which formed in 2006. Six members make up the group: Tice, expert hunter and trapper; Jake “Buck” Lowe, the rookie of the group who’s still learning the ropes; Joe “Huckleberry” Lott, security expert; Headlee, researcher; Willy McQuillain, expert trap builder; and “Wild Bill” Neff, expert tracker and hunter.

Headlee acts as the researcher and technology expert. He is well-versed in mountain folklore and textbook history and operates the thermal camera for the AIMS team during hunts.

When he’s not hunting monsters, Headlee runs a family antique booth at Rink’s Flea Market in Marietta. The business, which started in 1990, is called H&S Trading Post. He said he is considered a vintage recycler and he likes to build primitive furniture.

Headlee is also a family man who has a wife, Tammy, of 25 years, and two sons, Cody, 22, and Alex, 14.

Going from a plain local to a local celebrity has been exciting for Headlee.

“I get recognized quite a lot,” he said. “It’s hard to believe a local has the knowledge, know-how and gumption to hunt (these creatures).”

Headlee said his favorite fan encounter involved three boys who live down the street from him.

“One comes up and he stares and stares,” he said, adding that soon he walked away only to come back the next day. “He says, ‘Are you Jeff?’ That’s one of the most memorable moments.”

He said there are some challenges to being a monster hunter.

“It’s challenging trying to pinpoint a location where we can hunt the creature,” he said.

After a location is pinpointed, a full night hunt takes place for the creature, said Headlee. Actually getting to the full night hunt can take a while; Headlee said that sometimes he’ll have a backlog of sightings back several years.

Sometimes fear is the friend of a hunter, he said.

“Our fear is our best friend,” he said. “Fear can be a weapon. If you’re not able to stand up to (the creature), you’re going to be scared.”

Straub said being on the hunt with the AIMS team can sometimes be nerve wracking. He brought up an instance where Headlee was injured.

“We thought he was severely injured,” Straub said. “He’s got the battle scars to prove it. There was blood and there were bruises. When that’s happening, it becomes very real. You never know what’s going to happen in the Appalachian Mountains; you don’t know what to expect.”

Straub said one thing some viewers and many skeptics scoff about is the fact that from the look on camera, the crew is surrounded with light.

“It’s something that’s deceiving about the show,” he said. “No one realizes the cameras are shot in infrared. They’ve got either a small flashlight in their hand or one on their head. We shoot things at night; it’s basically pitch black.”

He said being out in the wilderness adds to the mystery.

“The majority of the time, it’s way back there,” he said. “You have to take a little journey to the middle of nowhere. You’re taken to places you wouldn’t expect to go.”

He said a challenge of filming is that sometimes people are intimidated by cameras, especially the witnesses.

“Getting the eyewitnesses to open up, it’s challenging,” he said. “You have to talk to people that sometimes don’t want to share.”

Straub said the camera sort of fades into the background this season for the AIMS team.

“This time around, they kind of forgot the camera was there,” he said.

Later in season two, the AIMS team will venture to Hocking Hills, where they run into Hogzilla.

Headlee said quite a few people have had experiences of this hog chasing them.

“These people, these witnesses are some of the best people I’ve met…they’re intimidated by this hog,” he said. “It’s 7 1/2 to 8 feet long and roughly 1,200 pounds and it’s pure muscle.”

Headlee said the tusks on the beast are anywhere from 12 to 18 inches long.

“This creature was very vicious,” he said. “There’s been several in the Hocking Hills. It’s probably the largest one known ever to exist.”

This season will have major extremes in it, Headlee said.

“You’ll see things this year you’ve never seen in your life,” he said. “We do push things to quite the extreme this year.”

Straub said those looking for a thrill will also get a scare while watching the show.

“The scares are bigger, the bangs are bigger, there’s better traps,” he said, adding, “If you liked the first season, you’re going to love season two.”