Oregon Sasquatch Study

but who's studying who?

                                  MEDIA

                                    

To true believers, Bigfoot lives

Appeared in print: Sunday, Oct 17, 2010


LEABURG — Outside Ike’s Pizza, a half moon tints the thin clouds above the McKenzie River in a touch of mystery. It is just after 8 p.m. last Thursday. The restaurant is closed.

Inside, sweat trickles down the semi-bald head of a 40-something man who is telling of his encounter in Northern California five years ago.

“Please don’t put my name in the paper,” he says. “I have kids who go to school up here. But he looked like the old King Kong. I call it ‘bug-eye gorilla.’ I ran away, then built the biggest campfire I’ve ever built. Haven’t been camping since.”

Behind the man, on the wood-paneled wall, a drawing of a Sasquatch-like creature — “Enoch” — shares face time with the chinook salmon over the fireplace.

Ike’s owner Dave Starck hands the man a paper towel to wipe off the sweat, then turns to me.

“This is what happens to people who’ve had encounters,” says Starck, whose on-display plaster casts of supposed Sasquatch prints fan the creature’s flames. “One customer took one look at that poster and said, ‘That nose was pressed up against my window when I was a kid.’ Another woman was so shaken by it she went back outside. We had to deliver her pizza to her out there.”

The film crew from England is expected shortly. For now, I feel like an agnostic who’s stumbled into a church of tried-and-true believers.

Why here? Why now? Why me?

Because much as I’d like to just make fun of this Bigfoot stuff, I can’t — even though when the guy says the Sasquatch had “matted sideburns,” I confess I think of some Bigfoot/Elvis incarnation.

Instead, when I hear of this gathering of eye­witnesses at the McKenzie’s unofficial Bigfoot headquarters, Ike’s — and a five-man film crew from England’s Diverse Bristol (“Men vs. Wild”) film company arriving to capture it — I head upstream like a spawning salmon.

I arrive just before 6 p.m. The film crew is to arrive at 6:30 p.m.

As I wait, I ask Toby Johnson, 35, the organizer of last summer’s Oregon Sasquatch Symposium in Eugene, why he got involved in the movement. Above the greasy remains of a small pepperoni, he hands me his cell phone with a photo of what appears to be a very large footprint.

“Saw this print five years ago, in the hills near Thurs­ton, while hiking with my son,” he says.

Like the folks in “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” drawn to the Devil’s Tower, he followed the urge. “It awoke the child in me again,” he says. “There’s this mystery that could be true.”

But going public invites ridicule. “Suddenly, you’re grouped in with these banjo-picking ‘Deliverance’ types,” he says.

Still, that didn’t stop him from organizing the symposium or an upcoming lecture by Bigfoot author Thom Powell, an event co-sponsored by the Oregon Bigfoot Symposium and the University of Oregon at 7 p.m. Nov. 3 in the UO Living Learning Center’s South Building.

The handful of people here tonight all seem to believe. I hear of guys driving dark roads and suddenly seeing Sasquatch come out of the woods along a highway and into their headlights. Of recent footage supposedly taken by a river guide near the McKenzie River’s Fish Ladder Rapids, between Olallie and Paradise campgrounds, that appears to show a Bigfoot-like creature. (See YouTube footage on my blog at www.registerguard.com/blogs.) And of John Bull’s four encounters over three decades in areas south and east of Cottage Grove.

“At least 8 feet tall and 300 pounds,” says Bull, 42 and a chef’s assistant at a Eugene retirement center. “Smelled like a bear that had gone through a garbage can and laid out in the sun all day.”

Once, he and a few other Boy Scouts had sneaked away from Sharps Creek Campground for a few beers late one night. There it was, only 15 yards away, he says.

“I remember thinking I don’t wanna look. I did. His head turned and he looked over his shoulder at us, but never broke stride.”

As someone who spends time in the woods, I prefer a more lighthearted version, say, the Bigfoot in the Jack Link’s Beef Jerky commercials. But the witnesses clearly see beyond the humor veil.

“I’m a pretty good judge of character,” Johnson says, “but when someone wells up in tears or you see the hair of their arms stand up … . They want it to be a bear or something else, but they can’t shake the fact that it walked on two legs and had fingers and eyes like us.”

By nearly 8:30, I’m convinced that it’s a hoax — the film crew, that is — and am ready to leave. But suddenly in walk five Brits and Jim Stuckey, a hunting-show guide — think a Canadian Crocodile Dundee — who’s auditioning to host a new “strange encounters” show for which this is to be the pilot episode.

I watch the filming. Hear more stories. Then get in my car and head home through the darkness, glancing more than usual into the woods along the way.

Do you believe in Bigfoot? E-mail me at bob.welch@registerguard.com.

 

                          

Desperately Seeking Sasquatch

Stalking Eugene’s Bigfoot bash

By Rick Levin

The Northwest is a hairy place. For folks raised in these parts, and especially in the boonies, the world was all hair — uncles with big bushy beards, deadheads, tangle-haired hippies and yippies, the swinging tresses of grunge rockers, bears, beavers, not to mention the fuzzy moss that spreads like kudzu on every damp surface. Here, where the forests reign supreme, we like to let our hair down. Keeps us warm. Sends a message.

Part and parcel of that literal hairy-ness is the history and mythology we inherit. The pantheon of legends comprising our folklore is peopled by real and fictional icons as hirsute as Samson and bearded as billy goats: From the stubble-chinned trappers and shaggy settlers of yesteryear, from Paul Bunyan to John Whiteaker, Oregon’s first governor, right on up to present day hipsters sporting retro-porn mustaches and bushy sideburns, our life west of the Cascades is largely about hair, and lots of it.

Few things better epitomize the Great Hairy Northwest than the bigfoot legend — that super tall, reportedly stinky and mysterious ape-like creature of the woods, allegedly seen and allegedly heard and allegedly photographed and filmed and tape-recorded hundreds of times, yet never once captured. Never definitively proven to exist. When it comes to sasquatch, there is no corpus delicti — no body, no fossils — and for that reason, among others, the thing is lumped in with other such paranormal phenomena as the Loch Ness Monster, flying saucers, alien abductions and people who see dead people.

Bigfoot, then, is our particular contribution to the trove of urban legend, though the sasquatch couldn’t be less urban. And, for some people, he ain’t no legend, neither. He’s as real as you or me. It’s just that there’s something a little, well, elusive and dodgy about bigfoot. Like an electron or Snuffleupagus, the harder you look, the less likely you are to find it.

According to the Oregon Bigfoot web site, there have been 1,248 bigfoot sightings in Oregon, 76 of those in Lane County. Neighboring Linn and Douglas counties notch 28 and 37 sightings, respectively, so we’re sort of a hotbed of sasquatch activity. That considered, it’s only right that a bunch of bigfoot people converged at Lane Community College this past weekend, coming together like Pentecostal tent revivalists for the first-ever Oregon Sasquatch Symposium on June 19-20. The two-day bigfoot bash, which was attended by more than 200 people, featured presentations by witnesses, researchers, tenured professors, one high school science teacher and a few big-time bigfoot celebrities.

                     

                                                    Organizer Toby Johnson 

OSS organizer Toby Johnson hasn’t seen a sasquatch first hand, but he is a BF believer through-and-through. This wasn’t always so. Five years ago, he and his son found what Johnson calls “a large human footprint” during an early morning hike around Thurston, though even then he wasn’t convinced he’d stumbled upon anything special. “I was used to seeing bear tracks in that area,” he said. “It just looked like it was a hoax.”

Nonetheless, Johnson snapped a photo of the print and began “shopping it around to people in the community,” and things began to change. To his surprise, Johnson discovered that the Eugene area is teeming with bigfoot witnesses, though many of the people he spoke with were unwilling to go public with their stories. “For whatever reason, people don’t want to be associated out and out,” Johnson said, giving examples of witness “backlash” than can run from ostracizing and stigmatizing to the breaking up of families and workers getting fired  “for sticking to their story,” he said.

Because of this, the symposium partly served as a sasquatch support group, albeit one where the therapeutic model is reversed — instead of opening up and sharing your problems, you’re simply sharing what you consider to be a healthy and indisputable truth. “Right around us there are little small miracles,” Johnson said, adding that one of his motivations in putting together the symposium was to provide “a safe environment for two or three days to talk about that weird thing that happened in the woods.”

A confederacy of bigfooters

Every night I fall asleep listening to Coast to Coast, the widely syndicated radio show that plants its flag in the shifting sands of paranormal phenomena. The listeners who call to gab with host George Nory fill the airwaves with a cross-section of belief’s outermost fringe — alien abductees and Flat Earthers, time trippers and Nostradamus fanatics, along with people who have seen flying saucers, ghosts, demons, little green men and, yes, bigfoot. I’ve always pictured the generic caller as looking like a backcountry cross between Ted Nugent and Zippy the Pinhead, and paranoid to the point of psychosis. It’s a grossly unfair portrait, I know, but there it is.

And I’ll admit that it was just this species of lunatic zealot I expected to be attending the Oregon Sasquatch Symposium. I couldn’t have been more wrong. There was nothing weird or offbeat about the people at the symposium, nor was there anything discernible in the way of gender, age, class, fashion or any other outward indicator that might describe the average symposium-goer — nothing, that is, save a rapt collective attention to the matter at hand. These folks emanated that unmistakable aura of people who know exactly why they are where they are. To a person, they were polite, attentive, responsive and knowledgeable.

                         

                                                       Autumn Williams 

The symposium started off with a bang. Autumn Williams, an Oregon native and daughter of bigfoot witness and symposium speaker Sali Shepard-Wolford, was a childhood sasquatch witness as was her mother, and at 16 began doing field research. She has appeared on television, including a stint hosting Mysterious Encounters, and she also heads up the Oregon Bigfoot organization. Her specialty is habituators or what she’s dubbed “long-term witnesses,” which are people who experience ongoing sasquatch encounters in the vicinity of their homes. Basically, Williams — with her striking good looks and the sharp, angular features that telegraph an intimidatingdon’t-mess-with-me disposition — is about as close as the bigfoot movement gets to having its own superstar.

 

Big feet, big johnson

Williams is an engaging speaker whose gestures and vocal style, at times, border on the theatrical. She understands how to construct a strong narrative and she also knows that when it comes to bigfoot the best offense is a good defense. This means she’s dismissive of non-believers, contemptuous of mainstream media, and distrustful of governmental and scientific agencies with their driving need for forensic evidence. “If you found a body tomorrow,” she said, “the government’s going to go, ‘Thank you very much, that’s a weird specimen.’”

Williams spent a good deal of time talking about a pseudonymous witness she called Mike, a “redneck” bulldozer driver from Florida, who claims to have developed close ties to a sasquatch he calls Enoch. Williams’ relationship with Mike appears to have had a profound, almost life-altering impact on her. “I felt like somebody had handed me the Holy Grail of sasquatch research,” she said of hearing Mike’s story.

               

                                                  ENOCH a bigfoot story 

 Williams attested that Mike was an “incredibly credible” witness whose stories were “detailed” and “intense” and never once changed despite several retellings. If it’s that the devil is in the details, and so is the believability of any good yarn. And, as related by Williams, Mike shared some lovely, offbeat and wonderfully colloquial observations about “skunk apes,” which is what he calls sasquatch.

Sasquatch, Mike said, will eat just about anything, but they particularly like turtles, which they crack open and slurp “like we eat oysters on the half shell.”

“When he takes a crap, he squats down and lets fly.”

“Skunk ape farts are in a class all by itself.”

And, regarding males, Mike has this to say: “Big feet, big  johnson,” meaning a horse ain’t got nothing on a squatch, though “with all the hair you can’t see it.”

According to Mike, skunk ape eyes look like “the inside of a Tootsie Pop,” their eyebrows are bushy “like Andy Rooney,” their skin color is “like a Pakistani.” They smell “like a wet, musky garbage dump,” and their mustaches grow right out of their nostrils.

Williams’ bigfoot presentation, over time, took on a distinct utopian vibe, one of rosy romantic primitivism. The underlying message of her story was that the bigfoot — community oriented, nonmaterialistic, free of artifice and, overall, purely pure as nature itself — lives a simpler, less encumbered and more peaceful way of life than human beings. In fact, it is actually us, with our alienating cities and glitzy consumer goods and fear of boredom and, as Williams put it, our constructed selves that “change on a daily basis with fads,” who must learn from the skunk apes. “We’re so far removed from what we were,” Williams said.

 

Once upon a time

To come clean personally about this bigfoot thing, I’ll put it like this: I don’t recall believing in Santa Claus even when I was a wee lad, and deep in my guts I’ve always suspected that we create gods in our image rather than visa versa, so it’s not likely you’ll convince me there are big hairy hominids thumping around the forests and we haven’t unearthed a single fossilized metacarpal. Call me a cautiously agnostic positivist, I suppose.

Bigfoot, by the way, is a cryptid (roughly, a “hidden animal”), and the study of bigfoot falls under the category of cryptozoology. Most mainstream biologists consider cryptozoology a pseudoscience. Accusing a cryptozoologist of pseudoscience is like telling a Baptist that Jesus is just a fairy tale.

               

                                                          Dr. Jeff Meldrum 

Over the years there have been a handful of mainstream scientist and tenured academics — including anthropologist Carleton Coon, primatologist Jane Goodall and symposium speaker zoologist Jeff Meldrum — who have staked their reputations on the reality of sasquatch, or at least saying, like Goodall, that it sure would be cool if bigfoot is real.

I’ve interviewed quite a few people recently who seemed determined to at least get me to entertain that possibility of bigfoot’s existence. I’ve been handed stacks of research papers, directed to a numerous web sites and passed a pile of CD recordings. I’m no scientist, but as far as I can tell a good portion of this research hardly qualifies as scientifically rigorous, and the prose is  often riddled with typos and grammatical boners. Not exactly the stuff to inspire confidence.

A lot of amateur sasquatch research employs a forced, mangled scientific jargon that sounds silly, and there are conclusions drawn that make a Swiss cheese of logic. And the more touchy-feely bigfoot writing heaps on the nativist hoo-haw and New Age fluff like so much whipped cream spooned atop the honky appropriation of indigenous myth.

That said, it’s just as difficult to prove, scientifically speaking, the reality of burning bushes, parted seas, 40-day floods and a six-day work week where God cooked up heaven and earth, yet hoards of people continue to believe these things heart and soul. As both legend and contested reality, the real source of bigfoot’s appeal, like the source of the Bible’s appeal, is anecdotal — as a fable filled with wonder, suspense and local color, all ringed with a halo of otherworldliness.      

               

                              From left to right: Sali, Cliff, Dave, Thom at Denny's 

Dave Rodriguez, who spoke at the symposium, tells one hell of a sasquatch story. A California native who moved to Oregon in the early ’80s, Rodriquez, 52, said his first sasquatch encounter occurred in 1977, when he and a buddy were driving home to Yosemite late one night. With his friend asleep in the passenger seat, Rodriguez was steering his pickup around a corner when, all of a sudden, “here’s an eight-foot hairy creature that had stopped just off the hill, right in front of me. I’m looking right into his eyes when he looks down at me.”

Skidding to a stop, Rodriguez was able to observe the monster. “I’m taking in every hair on his body, looking at every detail … the palms of his hands, his eyes, his nose.” He described the creature as extremely powerful looking. “They’re nothing but muscle,” Rodriguez explained. In the end, he and his friend agreed not to tell anyone about what happened. “They’d all think we were crazy, so we just sort of kept it to ourselves,” Rodriguez said, noting this was the beginning of a self-imposed public silence he finally broke at last weekend’s symposium.

Rodriguez has had other bigfoot sightings, bit it was his third encounter, just five years ago in the Cascades, that was the “biggie” — a harrowing close encounter that had him freaked and housebound for a week and a half afterward. “That one shook me,” he said. Although accompanied by his hunting dog and armed with a deer rifle, Rodriguez still didn’t feel safe. “My 30-30 felt like it was about six inches long,” Rodriguez says of his rifle, adding that in terms of ballistics, “there’s no match” for a sasquatch.

“I was able to keep calm,” he said of having to pass within feet of the beast in order to return to his truck. At one point, Rodriguez and the bigfoot “both turned toward each other, breathing heavy,” and he caught a whiff of the creature’s odor. “I got a really good, strong smell of him,” Rodriguez explained, discounting widespread claims about the horrible stench of a sasquatch. “He smelled just like a wet elk. It wasn’t all smelly or sewagey.”

Perhaps the most interesting part of Rodriguez’s story is the epilogue: After keeping quiet for years, the concerns that ultimately compelled him to go public about bigfoot were ecological and humane. Basically, Rodriquez wants you and me and everyone to believe in sasquatch so we can get busy protecting the creatures and their habitat. “There needs to be some education,” he said, which for him means moving beyond the “mindset” that they don’t exist. “Whether they’re endangered or not, that’s another question,” he said. “But they need to be treated as a sentient being. We trash the environment and shoot up things we don’t understand. We need to respect them more, but they need to ‘exist’ before that can happen.”

 

Movies, myths and the bigfoot fetish

By far the most famous sasquatch footage is the sequence captured in the region of Bluff Creek, California (some say staged) with a 16-millimeter camera in 1967 by Roger Patterson and Robert Gimlin. This is the Zapruder film of bigfoot footage, with a history just as long, tangled and topsy-turvy with intrigue. The Patterson/Gimlin film has been endlessly played and analyzed and and dissected, frame by grainy frame. And, whether hoax or cinematic proof, the jumpy footage is seriously creepy, especially that moment (the fabled Frame 352) when bigfoot turns and looks into the camera.

                  

                                                              Bob Gimlin 

So let me confess that shaking hands with Robert Gimlin at the Oregon Sasquatch Symposium was just as thrilling as the times I met Spaulding Gray or Alex Chilton. I can’t believe I just said that, but I think my excitement had something to do with being a Northwest boy who had the crap scared out of him repeatedly by that footage. Nearly every culture on the planet has ancestral stories of super-sized human-like monsters roaming the earth, but sasquatch is a distinctly Northwest phenomenon, as much a part of our culture as rain, Raymond Carver, good pot and red delicious apples.

And, just like Nike or Microsoft, sasquatch has gone global, becoming a worldwide superstar of the supernatural. Bigfoot battled the Six Million Dollar Man, for Pete’s sake, and also took the lead alongside John Lithgow inHarry & the Hendersons. He’s the hero of a current kids’ cartoon, and I would argue that sasquatch inspired the wookie Chewbacca in Star Wars. Bigfoot was even mentioned in the most recent episode of HBO’s vampire series True Blood. Sure, sasquatch sightings have been reported down South and on the East Coast, but I would chalk that up to nothing more than bigfoot envy. Let them name their Hampton hairballs and Baton Rouge rampagers something else. Sasquatch is ours.

 

Leaping with faith, looking with logic

“We tell ourselves stories in order to live,” Joan Didion wrote. At the Oregon Sasquatch Symposium, people told stories in order to prove that something else lives despite mountains of doubt and a lack of palpable proof, which is something akin to the religious impulse compelling converts to proselytize. Some symposium speakers trotted out science, some offered up anecdotal evidence while yet others simply presented the defiant example of their personal belief, which was a “leap of faith” into the contested realm of all things paranormal. This tension between science and storytelling begs the question: Is there a hierarchy or status among all these inexplicable, unsolved tales we continue to talk about and debate? Is the possibility of bigfoot’s existence, by its very nature, somehow more believable than, say, the idea of being abducted by aliens? Somehow, I think there is a difference, not of degree but of kind. Or, put another way, if I happened upon a sasquatch in the woods, I’d be far less shocked than if I were to discover I had a double living an alternate life in another dimension.

                           

                                  Jaime and Jeff teaching a casting lesson 

There were times during the symposium — like when “Mike” phoned Autumn Williams, a littletoo conveniently, right in the middle of her lecture — that pushed the envelope of credibility.

[Clarification from Autumn Williams: I did not "take" a phone call while giving my presentation. I has pre-arranged to call Mike at 10 a.m. so he could listen to the latter half. At the point in my presentation when I began taking questions, I put him on speaker and leaned down to let him know, in case he wanted to interject an answer.]

Mostly, however, the presentations I attended were interesting, entertaining, earnest and unexpectedly full of diverse or conflicting opinions. Organizer Toby Johnson did a superb job enlisting an array of speakers and presenters who proved unencumbered by any single strain of bigfoot orthodoxy.

My mind was changed not one iota about the existence of bigfoot, which is not to say my mind wasn’t changed at all. It’s possible to gain respect for someone’s views without believing the things they so devoutly believe. So I must say that, after hanging out at the Oregon Sasquatch Symposium, and as odd and disconcerting as it is to say, I think I might have been the person most drastically affected by the proceedings. I’m not sure what to think anymore, because either there’s one serious mass delusion going on, or bigfoot exists, or those people were the best liars I’ve ever encountered.    
 
 
 

                                       

A  symposium draws Sasquatch seekers from across the nation

Appeared in print: Sunday, June 20, 2010, page B1


An unusual group of hominid was spotted Saturday in the fir-ringed valley at Lane Community College in south Eugene.

Although the skies were sunny, 210 of them gathered in the shade of a lecture hall and exchanged vocalizations on the subject of a bigger, hairier and more elusive and most controversial species — bigfoot.

“One thing these people have in common is determination in the face of societal opposition,” said Jim Kiser, who researches bigfoot from his home in Newberg. “My son thinks I’m crazy and my brother-in-law is less polite. My Ph.D.-in-chemistry friend says he has a bigfoot detector — and it’s a six pack.”

The range of the bigfoot-seeking hominid is national, but, since 2003, large seasonal gatherings have occurred in California, Oklahoma, east Texas and Ohio — where 670 turned up in April, said Jeffery Meldrum, who teaches anatomy at Idaho State University.

“It’s a curious commentary on human nature that there are these sorts of gatherings all over the country,” he said. “It becomes a social network that fills a human need, obviously.”

Saturday’s gathering, called the Oregon Sasquatch Symposium, drew participants from — besides Oregon — Washington, Idaho, California, Nevada, Florida, Texas, Hawaii and New Zealand. The symposium continues today in Building 17 at LCC.

The participants’ habitat — while traveling — is the Red Lion Inn or similar motels. But their ordinary location is out in the woods, listening for unaccounted-for knocks and whoops that might indicate the presence of bigfoot.

“Many of them devote any time they’re off the job,” said Jon Nichols, a Sasquatch researcher and bull breeder from Vancouver, Wash.

Bigfoot followers cannot be distinguished by surface activities, such as career or political affiliation, Nichols said. “You’ll see computer programmers to pipe fitters — a wide spectrum,” he said. “You have everything from the greenies to the rabid conservatives.”

They are tool users, these human bigfoot-seekers. They employ infrared night vision goggles, motion activated cameras, plaster casting kits. Some have developed mobile field research laboratories they tow behind pickup trucks to support their work.

Increasingly, they pursue bigfoot on the Internet, where several websites have cataloged signs and sightings of the elusive animal.

The Bigfoot Field Researchers Organization, for instance, lists 224 sightings in Oregon, including 13 in Lane County — including details of each encounter.

The bigfoot-seekers refer to themselves as “witnesses” if they’ve glimpsed a bigfoot-type creature and “habituators” if they’ve “come to know these beings,” said Toby Johnson, a University of Oregon student and the symposium organizer. Although, he said, the term “habituator” is fading in favor of “long-term witness.” The group calls itself the “bigfoot community.”

The community has its alpha individuals, who are revered for their experiences, their knowledge of foot- or voice-print — or their ability to rivet an audience to an encounter story.

Robert Gimlin, who shot the most famous bigfoot footage in 1967, was on hand Saturday. So was Meldrum, who is among the most prominent academicians to venture into Sasquatch study, despite the ridicule of university peers.

But the rock star was Autumn Williams, the keynote speaker, who was feted with whoops and cheers. “We are a family,” the slender blond woman said as she started her story, “drawn together by our interests.”

Williams told the story of a 50-year-old bulldozer driver in Florida, who took up residence in a swamp to escape the tragedies in his life.

There, Williams said, he took up a Jane Goodall-style life with a tribe of bigfoot. She referred to him only as “Mike” and said that she was the only human in the world to which he would confide.

Mike is a profane and funny witness, given to playfully calling his friends, the bigfoot — bigfeet? — “snapperheads.”

Williams said Mike would not supply her with a picture because he is wary of the demand for such “evidence,” but he allowed an artist to simulate an image that he verified was close to accurate, she said.

“Oh,” a woman in the audience gasped, when Williams flashed a close-up of the hairy face with luminous eyes, wrinkled nose and broad mouth on the lecture hall screen.

“Wow,” other audience members said.

Williams took questions after her speech, and none were critical, Meldrum noticed. “There were no probing questions, none of that,” he said, later adding: “It reflected the attitude of the audience. They were won over to her story.”

Many bigfoot enthusiasts are fervent — and some range into the realm of anti-science, Meldrum said. At an earlier conference, he said, “I thought I was in a Bible belt meeting in the South.”

The bigfoot-seekers are fairly shy. A half dozen wouldn’t mind sharing their experiences for this story, but not if they were identified by name.

“I just don’t want anybody to know,” said a woman from Spokane.

There are a number of reasons for their reticence, Nichols said. “As a (bigfoot) researcher, your highest priority is to not let anybody know what your doing and keep your mouth shut. They don’t want to be held up to ridicule.”

Another reason, Nichols said, seekers are proprietary about the woods where they do their field research. They don’t want their sites compromised.

“Mike,” the habituator in Florida, must remain secret so his identity doesn’t bring attention and jeopardize the safety of bigfoot — which he calls Enoch, Williams said.

“The big guy comes first,” she said Mike said.

Those who follow bigfoot’s trail tend to assume that the creature they seek is, generally speaking, friendly and intelligent.

Some have been influenced by the movie Avatar, Meldrum said, whether they recognize it or not. Williams, for instance, depicts bigfoot as a kind of noble savage who shuns the use of technology and lives communally.

She juxtaposes bigfoot with man’s image-and-possession obsessed society.

“That’s the politically correct posture for a lot of people,” Meldrum said. “The Sasquatch has chosen a path that’s more pristine and pure.”

“The Sasquatch has chosen a path that’s more pristine and pure.”

— Jeffery Meldrum, Symposium participant


REVIEWS/COMMENTS

 

Lenny Green: We had a great time and got to meet some fine people doing some great work.Hope to see you again in the near future!

Thom CantrellThank you for a WONDERFUL TIME... great people, great guests... great speakers... and I particularly loved your family!!!! 
 My favorite symposium I have done so far!!
 
Scott Nelson: The best event I ever spoke at!
 
Sharon Lee: I can't believe I had so much fun on the very first day! I am in love with the west coast squatchers, they are so amazing. 
 
Mike Leone: Great job, especially since it was the first one, I think it went over great.
 
Dean Higgens: Congratulations for hitting it out of the park.  I've seen similar events turn into chaos due to audio/visual technical difficulties or other issues and that never happened this weekend.  Your tight control of the time line was very, very appreciated.
 
Autumn Williams: IT WAS BETTER THAN AVATAR!!!!
 
Sali Sheppard-Wolford: What a hoooooot.
  
Dr. Jeff Meldrum:  The event was stellar.
 
Bill Hodgson: Still on a mountain high
 
Ron Morehead: I think it was one of the best ones I have gone to.
 
Cliff Barackman: You have to be pleased.