BUCKHANNON — A cast member of the Destination America hit show “Mountain Monsters” was in town Friday — not to search for mysterious creatures, but to meet and greet fans.
William “Wild Bill” Neff is one of six native West Virginia hunters and trappers who star on the documentary series now entering its sixth season.
“It’s been the number one show since 2013,” Neff said. “This past season was the biggest season we have ever had. They aired five episodes and the whole season was on the Secrets of the Dark Forest.”
Neff was invited to Friday’s Dave Kelley auction by a mutual friend, Tom Scavairello. Scavairello sells produce at Kelley’s auctions and mentioned the idea to Neff.
Scavairello first met Neff at a flea market.
“We got to talking and have been friends ever since,” Scavairello said.
Kelley said when Scavairello mentioned the idea to him and they talked back and forth, he thought it was a great idea.
Kelley said, “I think it’s great what [Wild Bill] does. You can tell he is a Marine, 110 percent. He served our country well and my hat is off to all the service men and women who protect our freedom.”
Neff accepted the invitation and said he and the other cast members do appearances at events like the Mothman Festival in Point Pleasant to give back to their fanbase.
“This wouldn’t be the number one show if it wasn’t for our fans,” Neff said. “Any time I can get a chance to come out and meet and greet the fans, tell them I appreciate them and let them see who I am and what I am about, I try to do that.”
Fan of “Mountain Monsters” who meet Neff in person will recognize the Marine veteran turned creature-chasing cast member on television is the same on or off camera. He greets people with an overly strong handshake, some friendly words and even poses for photos. But when it comes to pictures, there’s no smiling from Neff.
“I have to be serious,” he said as he posed for a picture with Kelley.
Five years later, Neff still relishes the experience as he recounts how he was picked to be a member of the Appalachian Investigators of Mysterious Sightings team.
“They called me,” he said of the “Mountain Monsters” producers. “They wanted to come interview me. They wanted someone who was hyper, had a lot of energy and was tough as nails so they called West Virginia Trappers Association who said ‘we know just the person.’”
Neff said the producers flew from Los Angeles, Calif. to Columbus, Ohio, rented a car and drove to Summersville where they met and interviewed Neff at the New River Bridge overlook.
They then told Neff they would contact him in a few weeks with their decision.
“It wasn’t 30 minutes and they were calling me back,” he said. “Thirty minutes and they wanted me to sign a six-year contract. I told them ‘no, no, no.’ So, I signed a two-year contract and it’s been five years and I’m still here. Evidently, I am doing something right.”
Neff isn’t shy about talking about his faith either and credits God with giving him this opportunity.
“It’s awesome,” he said. “How many people can even say they have been on TV? I never dreamed. The only reason I got this position is the radical old Marine that I am, that Almighty God made me. If I was doing this on my own, I can assure you I would screw it up.”
Neff is originally from Clay County but lives in Nicholas County now.
He spent six years in the U.S. Marine Corps, joining just eight days after high school graduation, and was stationed all over the United States and even abroad with deployments in Thailand, Japan and the Philippines.
When “Mountain Monsters” signed Neff, he quit a stable job he had been in for 27 years with paid time off, a 401K, sick days and all.
Now he works 16 and 18-hour days and sacrifices family time during filming season, but said being on national TV is something he is glad to experience.
“This has been one of the awesomest things I have ever done in my life to be on a national TV show,” he said. “Out of millions of millions of people, they could pick, they interviewed 700 and they chose me as one of the six.”
And Neff found a family in his fellow cast members: “Trapper” John Tice, Jeff Headlee, Willy McQuillian, Jake “Buck” Lowe and Joe “Huckleberry” Lott.
“It’s a brotherhood,” he said. “The AIMS team is my family. We are like brothers. There is a bond there that can’t be broken. It’s just like being in the Marine Corps; it’s a brotherhood.”
After five seasons, Neff said his favorite episode so far is from Season 1, Episode 2: “Grassman of Perry County” which was filmed in Ohio.
“He was the meanest, toughest adversary we went after,” Neff said. “He didn’t kick our tail end one time, he kicked it three times and we are still going to go back. When the going gets tough, the tough get going. Oorah.”