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Media Article # 391

Sunday, June 20, 2004

Team researches local Bigfoot evidence

By Andy Hogue
Gainesville Daily Register

A team of researchers last weekend scoured southern Oklahoma looking for a phenomenon step by step.

And big steps, at that.

The researchers were with the Bigfoot Field Researchers Organization, a team of volunteer "cryptozoologists" looking for the elusive Sasquatch.

A member of the Texas Bigfoot Research Center, an affiliate of the national organization, contacted the Register two weeks ago asking if a reporter would be interested in a story on its search.

The group claims the legendary half-man, half-ape creature has a Cooke County connection. Its Web site even featured an article supposedly from the Register.

The date given for the article, Aug. 4, 1984, was incorrect, and its legitimacy could not be verified by press time as neither the purported author, former Register editor John Moody, and the parties mentioned in the story could be contacted for comment.

The article, "Something with big feet startles fisherman," was an account of Kenneth Williams and his nephew, Lynn Wages, who encountered a large, upright hairy creature while fishing between Interstate 35 and the old toll bridge along the Red River. The two, according to the article, took a plaster cast of one of the creature's footprints with six toes, no claws and apparently long stride.

"We saw something move. It was big, hairy, either black or dark brown. About that same time these horses started raising cain," Williams said in the article. "We waited a few minutes and decided it was time to move out."

According to the article, the duo allegedly returned to the site of the encounter to take the plaster cast because those they told doubted their story.

Craig Woolheater, the president of the Texas Bigfoot Research Center, said most people who see something strange in the woods meet a lot of skepticism. While most people would not flat out deny any possibility that Bigfoot exists, he said, the majority of the public tend to doubt its existence.

"For a lot of people who have had a Bigfoot sighting, talking to us is a soothing experience," Woolheater said. "Some people are traumatized who have seen these things. They need to talk to someone who won't laugh or call them names."

Woolheater, a Dallas resident and self-employed software developer, said he and his fellow researchers search for Bigfoot as a hobby.

"We're not out to shoot or kill one of these animals," Woolheater said, adding the search for Bigfoot is merely a fact-finding mission. He said a wave of Bigfoot movies and television specials namely the feature film, "The Legend of Boggy Creek" inspired a spike in both serious and prank sightings in the late 70s and early 80s. He said there is a stigma associated with Bigfoot sightings, but when a popular film or book comes out people are less reluctant to come forward with stories of encounters.

"Some have never told anyone about what they saw, not even their spouse," Woolheater said.

Woolheater said he had an encounter of his own on Memorial Day in 1994 in Louisiana when he and his wife saw a light-colored, hairy creature walk in front of Woolheater's jeep.

Daryl Colyer, with the national Bigfoot Field Researchers Organization, said the volunteer researchers are careful to investigate each sighting reported to the organization to make sure the stories are consistent and not hoaxes.

"Bear in mind also, that there are many reports that have been determined to be hoaxes. These bogus reports outnumber the ones we consider to be legitimate by probably 10 to one," Colyer said. "Bogus reports are not necessarily hoaxes, but may simply be misidentification."

"In Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas and Louisiana, there are dozens and dozens of reports of encounters with these creatures from credible eyewitnesses who have nothing to gain and much to lose as they are many times subjected to ridicule. These witnesses are often of unimpeachable character and choose to remain anonymous ... Investigations and research in Texas, Oklahoma and Arkansas keep me extremely busy," Colyer said.

He said he has never been ridiculed for his involvement in searching for evidence of the mysterious creature.

The reports of Bigfoot in this area have much in common, Colyer said, in that the creature sighted is often large and hairy with a long stride and typically long arms. But the details often vary, including hair color, the pitch of its scream or roar and sometimes the creature is reported to have walked on all fours.

"I believe Bigfoot to be a rare, highly intelligent, nocturnal, undocumented primate that is very reclusive," Colyer said. "One researcher described the task of tracking the creature very appropriately as trying to track an animal with the agility and cunning of a cougar, the brawn of a gorilla, but with the brains of a chimpanzee."

Colyer and Woolheater both said Bigfoot sightings tend to happen around rivers and lakes, or in areas with heavy annual rainfall. Woolheater's hypothesis is the creature would follow waterways for safety and to find food.

Cooke County's water sources, including the Red River, are subject to such stories as well.

On Ray Roberts Lake in May of 1990, according to a report on the Bigfoot Field Researcher's Web site, a Bigfoot-like creature was sighted near Mountain Springs.

"When we saw the creature, it was about eight feet tall and stood straight up with its back to us," the anonymous report said. "Then as it ran away it stopped as if it was looking at us. Then Russ shot at it with the shotgun. I thought it hit it square in the chest. Then it made the same roar only more intense. Then it pushed a cottonwood tree over (we inspected the tree some time later and the tree was very green and eight inches in diameter)."

In Callisburg in the Fall of 1975, along a creek near the "1893 Bridge" (recently moved to Parkhill Park in Callisburg) several people saw a tall human-like creature, able to step over a fenceline, according to another report on the Web site. The one who filed the report said he felt "silly" in filing the report, but it was necessary.

Near Sadler, the most recent sighting was reported in the summer of 1998 in the Hagerman Wildlife Refuge. A family reported seeing another family of three in a thicket of trees near a picnic area, according to the Web site report. The family by the trees were not quite human, but brownish in color and roaring.

With several sightings, the question remains why hasn't more physical evidence been found?

"One misconception about Bigfoot, in my opinion, is the idea that by now we would have found a carcass or that some hunter would have shot one already. Both of those ideas proceed on false assumptions," Colyer said. "The short answers are that we have never actually looked for carcasses and hunters don't hunt for these animals. Most of the hunters that I've interviewed, that have had encounters, have remarked that the creatures looked too human or that they didn't feel they had enough weapon to take the animal down. Carcasses are rarely found of rare animals anywhere, especially in forests and river bottoms, where we believe these animals dwell primarily. Usually, the acidity of forest soils and scavengers serve to remove remains of dead animals rather quickly."

Woolheater said the Bigfoot researchers he knows tend to be interested in the outdoors in general. The prospect of other forms of wildlife no doubt excites many of them.

Gainesville resident Louise Tucker said she doesnąt know enough to comment on the existence of Bigfoot, but wonders why people are not more concerned with their own kind first.

"I've heard about Bigfoot but I don't know anything about it," she said. "But someone should take their big foot and stomp down some of these dead tree limbs around town."

On the Net: The Bigfoot Field Researchers Organization Web site may be viewed at

The Texas Bigfoot Research Center's Web site may be viewed at

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