Rochester Magazine: Cryptid artist. Is that your full-time job?
Thomas Finley: I am a man of many hats since resettling in the United Kingdom. I do my cryptozoology art in my spare time and burn the midnight oil as it is a more conducive environment. I do have a day job and keep busy with grandparenting duties throughout the week also.
RM: I probably should tell people what cryptids are. Cryptids are defined as “animals whose existence or survival to the present day is disputed or unsubstantiated.” Cryptozoology is the study of that. You work in various styles, but your focus is Bigfoot. How does one become a “Bigfoot artist”?
TF: Firstly, one just doesn’t become a “Bigfoot artist.” I have been fascinated in the subject of the search for unknown animals since the age of 13. In 1999, I set a goal of starting a series of paintings showing these creatures in more realistic portrayals as you would see in the pages of National Geographic. hat’s how it began.
RM: Tell me about growing up in Spring Valley [he graduated from Kingsland High School in 1978].
TF: Life in Spring Valley was very idyllic back during those years. I was a busy kid and a very prolific artist back then as well. You can ask any of my friends in school or teachers for that matter, as I was always, according to them, “Wasting time drawing!” The best thing was summers at the swimming pool and working at the movie theater on the weekends. Not to mention the brutal Minnesota winters we all survived and lived to tell about.
RM: How did you and Nicola meet?
TF: I met my lovely wife through an obscure internet friendship club and the rest is history.
RM: Have you ever seen Bigfoot?
TF: I have always said the nearest I’ve been in contact with a Bigfoot was when I was 8 years old, when my family went to the Olmsted County Fair in 1968, and my brother Donald and I went and viewed the frozen carcass of a hairy man-like creature in a block of ice dubbed by the press at the time as “The Minnesota Iceman.” In 2015, while on a three-state Bigfoot adventure, we had Bigfoot activity all around us in broad daylight in the state of Tennessee. We experienced tree breaks, vocals, and investigated a large Bigfoot den. All of which gives you goosebumps just being in their proximity.
RM: Wow. That was part of your “Bigfoot/paranormal trip across America”?
TF: Yes. I have made it a goal to visit every state, and along the way investigate and visit areas of interest and those which have had historic cases on record. The best part of each stage of the adventure is talking to locals who were there at the time or witnessed these phenomena. From this I keep an archival account and create art from it.
RM: Have you made it to every state on your quest?
TF: Heavens, no! There are many we haven’t been to yet to be explored and some to return to just because there is a lot of mysterious things to investigate.
RM: And you came to Minnesota for info on Frank Hansen’s “Minnesota Iceman” (the supposed remains of a Bigfoot-like creature, about six feet tall and covered with hair, that was kept in a display case filled with ice and hauled to shows in a refrigerated trailer)?
TF: As part of my research, the trip to Minnesota was to try and gather any information on the case. I’d love to hear from people that viewed the creature at the Olmsted County Fair back in the 1960s. … I saw it when I was 8 years old and it has fueled my own interest in this subject. Another aspect of the trip was to see if the exhibit trailer was still on the Frank Hansen family farm in Altura, this with the hope that some possible DNA might linger in the trailer where the ice chest and creature once were displayed. I contacted a family member that knows them and he does not recall the trailer.
RM: And that was from when you reached out to the PB Answer Man about the Iceman. OK. What brought you to Essex, England?
TF: It’s the home to my British wife, Nicola, and our family.
RM: In one of your last tweets [from 2017], you wrote: “If elephants are to lemons, would aardvarks dance less at sundown with the disadvantaged stares less romantic in our austerity revealed.” My question is, huh?
TF: That was my swan song tweet. Brexit was becoming the top story and I was becoming bored with the site. I’m not a wizard, if that’s what you’re thinking.
RM: What’s something you miss about Minnesota?
TF: I miss listening to the Twins on WCCO radio, sitting outside on a beautiful summer day.
RM: Since you moved to England, do you now speak with a British accent and listen to The Kooks and go for a Cheeky Nando’s?
TF: Funny you should ask that. My sisters and niece are always asking if my accent has changed. And they always look at me funny when we go home for a visit, just waiting fir me to utter something with a British twang rolling across my hips. Sadly, I’m too held back by my superior, accent-less, plain-talking speak I was born with. I do, however, crack on with the lovely jubbly phrases and all such vernacular of the locals. Mate.
RM: What if someone reading this has seen Bigfoot?
TF: In my spare time I am actively documenting firsthand reports of mysterious phenomena from all over the world. Anyone who would like to share a report or story may contact me at: [email protected].
RM: Man, I hope you get some good ones. I’d love to read those.