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Media Article # 361

Monday, October 20, 2003

Searching for Sasquatch

By Anthony Davis
Texarkana Gazette

Staff photo by Anthony Davis
Cryptozoologist John Kirk III from British Colombia traced the history of Sasquatch during the third annual Texas Bigfoot Conference in Jefferson, Texas.

Annual Bigfoot conference draws seekers of all ages

With a stuffed replica of "Bigfoot/Sasquatch" overseeing the proceedings from a corner of the conference meeting room Saturday at the First United Methodist Church Fellowship Hall in Jefferson, Texas, the third annual Texas Bigfoot Conference held the rapt attention of a standing-room-only audience.

Ladies with gray hair wrapped tightly in buns sat alongside wide-eyed youngsters and steely-eyed outdoorsmen as one speaker after another updated the audience with historical facts, current events and information on promising research on the existence of the legendary Bigfoot/Sasquatch mystery.

Craig Woolheater of the Texas Bigfoot Research Center said the two-day event is organized to address the interests of the merely curious to the serious academic.

"This event is just basically public awareness. Generally when people think of Bigfoot they think of the Pacific Northwest, and they don't think of Texas and the South in general," said Woolheater. "There is a history of sightings in Texas that goes back as far as 1924, according to the Texas Folklore Society. There's also a long history of sightings in this area dating back to the '60s and early '70s such as the legend of Boggy Creek.

"At Caddo Lake there have been a lot of things happen in the '60s , such as the thing they cited in 1965 in the Marshall/Longview/Jefferson area called the Cypress Swamp Monster. Also in the '70s around Caddo Lake there was the one who was affectionately known as the Caddo Critter running around. In the state of Texas most of the sightings are up here in the Piney Woods, Northeast area of Texas down into the Big Thicket in Southeast Texas."

As far as the type of "science" involved in the pursuit of verifying the existence of a creature, up to 8 feet in height and bearing a coat of coarse hair of some sort, Bigfoot studies come under the heading of "cryptozoology." Cryptozoology literally translates into "the study of hidden animals, undiscovered and uncataloged by science," Woolheater said. It includes such things as the Loch Ness Monster, sea serpents and "the Thunderbird legends of the Native Americans which suggest the possibility of a type of pteradactyle, birds with wingspans up to 30 feet."

Speakers such as M. K. Davis of Mississippi and John Kirk III of British Columbia were engaging commentators on their work. Davis successfully debunked one sighting alleged to have occurred in South Louisiana's Pearl River swamp, while most recently verifying the accuracy of the much-debated Patterson film from the Pacific Northwest. This footage, shown hundreds of times on television and cited in the literature, depicts a very tall, hominid-looking creature with hair covering it's entire body looking back over its shoulder as he escapes the camera's view.

"My primary interest in Bigfoot has been with the famous Patterson film. The Patterson film was taken in the Pacific Northwest, the one where the Bigfoot looks back over his shoulder," Davis said. "I did a lot of work with some of the frames. There is 100 percent evidence this was not someone in a suit. There's no way it could be. I took some frames and put them through Animation Wizard, and I was able to identify muscle movement. The hair was very thin and the sun was penetrating to the skin and you could see all the muscle movement just as plain as day. You could see skin moving and you could see the gluteus muscles tighten as he walked. It wasn't a suit."

Kirk, representing the British Columbia Cyptozoology Society, traced the history of Sasquatch, the commonly used name in his region of the continent. The Sasquatch has been depicted on totem poles of indigenous peoples of the Pacific Northwest for more than 400 years, he said. The Spaniards became the first outsiders to encounter the creature in 1792 when expeditions sighted "large hairy men stripping limbs of berries and living in central British Columbia, which has since become Sasquatch headquarters to most of the world's researchers.

Kirk also reported on sightings by unsuspecting humans as recently as 2002, when a record number of Sasquatch tracks were identified ranging in length from 8 to 16 inches. Near the end of 2002 a woman camping alone awakened and peered out her tent to see a female Sasquatch and her two young creatures digging and eating roots from the ground. The creatures allegedly gazed at her without aggression until they moved on after completing their meal. The woman's report was substantiated by four other sightings of the trio in the same area at the same time.

These are all thought-provoking accounts for the open-minded, and the audience appeared serious and intent upon hearing information to further bolster their beliefs or skeptics who are looking for holes to punch in what some refer to as flimsy science. Presenter Chester Moore Jr. said the motivation among attendees is a function of natural, human curiosity as much as anything.

"They're curious. Some of them may have had an encounter they can't explain which they want to find an answer to, so they can verify they are not crazy, that they saw a legitimate animal," he said. "People ask me if I believe in Bigfoot and I say no, because believing to me is for religion. It's a belief in faith. I have come to the conclusion after conducting my own research and looking at that of others that we are sharing North America with a bipedal primate which is yet undiscovered."

Perhaps the mystery of the existence of the hulking, bipedal hairy hominoid will never be resolved, but the people gathered in Jefferson, Texas, this weekend are going to do their best to prove it. Woolheater probably put it best:

"What it comes down to is that if just one of them is telling the God's honest truth ... then there's something out there."

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