NORTON, Va. — Time was, hardly anyone knew about the Devil’s Bathtub.
And nobody was talking about a Sasquatch on High Knob, either.
But, as Mike Craft figures, it’s a good thing they are today.
Because, he’s making a bundle on both Bigfoot and Beelzebub, selling T-shirts and bumper stickers at his store, Home Hardware & Furniture Co., in Norton, Virginia.
Nearly 40 years ago, Craft first took a friend hiking to the Devil’s Bathtub near Fort Blackmore, Virginia.
“We used to go there, 20 or 30 years ago, and nobody quite knew what it was,” said Craft, 60. “Back when we went, nobody knew where it was. There probably wasn’t 10 people a year went up there back then.”
One summer, Craft hiked five times through the woods to the waterfall formation in the Scott County section of the Jefferson National Forest, each time crossing a rocky creek about 10 times on the two-mile-long trail to get there.
“It’s at the head of the Devils Fork,” Craft said, “and it looks like a bathtub.”
Yet, before long, somebody pulled the drain on this bathtub’s privacy.
‘Got it going’
A story on the Devil’s Bathtub appeared in this newspaper in 2000 — at a time when the tub was virtually unknown.
It then bubbled-up in books and more newspapers plus magazines and countless Facebook posts, where it became a backwoods poster child for lookie-here’s in Southwest Virginia.
“It is beautiful,” Craft said. “It’s the prettiest place around here. It’s unique.”
A larger-than-life photograph of the Devil’s Bathtub was recently blown up and plastered on the wall of a convenience store in Duffield, Virginia, while tourism officials in Scott County have also embraced the wild wonder, placing its image on brochures.
All the while, Craft has claimed credit.
“We were the first ones to make a Devil’s Bathtub T-shirt,” he said. “And that kind of got it going.”
Yeah, that could have got it going.
Still, not everyone was pleased.
Consider Craft’s tale of a forest official: “That one guy come down and he said, ‘I’m gonna kill you.’ And I said, ‘What are you talking about?’ And he said, ‘All these people coming up to the Devil’s Bathtub and getting lost.’ He said, ‘We ain’t got enough people to fix that trail.’”
And he’s still laughing — all the way from the bathtub to the bank.
“We were kind of the ones that sparked people’s interest in it,” he said.
But, he added, the popularity of the Devil’s Bathtub has sometimes been at the bane of forest service officials who deal with parking problems at the trailhead - or try to assist hikers who get lost on the loop beyond the Devil’s Bathtub in the thick forest.
‘Join the Tub Club’
For art direction, Craft hired David Burgess of Innovative Graphics in Norton.
Craft created the T-shirt image he wanted - a devil with a pitchfork, sitting in a depiction of the Devil’s Bathtub. He added a phrase — “Chillin’ at the Tub” — on the back plus another at the front: “Join the Tub Club.”
He also ordered some “D-B” — Devil’s Bathtub — bumper stickers, also made by Innovative Graphics.
And he put even more money into the Woodbooger.
“The Woodbooger is what we started with,” Craft said. “That was 2012. That’s what started all this — the Woodbooger.”
The Woodbooger is the Bigfoot of High Knob — a hairy monster said to be lurking in the mountains above the City of Norton.
For most of a decade, the existence of a “Woodbooger” on High Knob has been the talk of Norton — ever since a 2011 episode of Animal Planet’s “Finding Bigfoot” featured High Knob’s Woodbooger legend.
“I watched it like everybody else,” Craft said, “and I told my wife, ‘I’m gonna get some Woodbooger T-shirts made.’”
Craft says he sold $50,000 worth of Woodbooger T-shirts in the first year. A couple of years later, he branched into selling the Devil’s Bathtub merchandise.
Craft has, for sure, been to the Devil’s Bathtub.
But, he has still not seen a Woodbooger.
Question: Does Mike Craft believe in the Woodbooger legend?
Cracking a grin, Craft paused and then said, “I believe in selling T-shirts.”
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