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Media Article # 668
Article submitted by Stan Courtney
Article prepared and posted by Stan Courtney

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Are River Bend Bigfoot on the prowl?

By John Dunphy
The Alton Telegraph

I was channel surfing on a Sunday night a while back and paused when our flatscreen suddenly displayed the Animal Planet logo in its lower right-hand corner. Viewing the antics of critters is always a safe choice when this writer-businessman wants to let his mind enjoy a brief respite from any heavy intellectual activity.

I quickly realized, however, that the subject of this program wasn’t frolicking puppies or kittens. The “Finding Bigfoot” series deals with four determined investigators who attempt to track down the elusive biped known as Bigfoot or Sasquatch, which is thought by some to inhabit heavily forested regions of our nation.

The quest to find Bigfoot belongs to the realm of cryptozoology, which is defined as the search for animals whose existence has not been proven. Scientists maintain that cryptozoology is a pseudoscience rather than a legitimate branch of zoology, since it relies on anecdotal evidence and alleged sightings. It would be impossible for such large creatures to exist in populations of sufficient size to breed and still remain undetected, scientists assert. I, of course, am a man of science. I even take a cynical delight in telling the out-of-town ghost hunters who stop by my book shop that I don’t believe in spirits, except the kind found in bottles from a distillery. I was just about to see whether Turner Classic Movies was broadcasting a film that I haven’t already viewed at least a dozen times when I suddenly realized that these Animal Planet Bigfoot hunters were looking for those hairy beasts in southwestern Illinois!

I recognized aerial shots of the River Road as one of the investigators talked about Bigfoot sightings. The producers of this series had asked area residents who have seen a Bigfoot to assemble for what the narrator called “a town meeting,” which was held at the Pere Marquette State Park lodge. The crowd was large, although I didn’t recognize anyone as the camera panned the sea of faces. Standing by that huge fireplace, an investigator asked how many had spotted one of these creatures. A majority of those present raised their hands. The most intriguing testimony came from a woman who claimed to have seen a Bigfoot while driving along the River Road at night. She recalled that it was scurrying on all fours, which is a bit unusual since Bigfoot is said to walk upright like a human. The woman also reported that the creature appeared light-colored, which prompted an investigator to remark that it could have an albino or simply elderly enough to have gray hair.

I went to “Finding Bigfoot” on Animal Planet’s web site and found a link to additional testimonies of Bigfoot sightings in our region. A resident driving at night barely missed hitting a strange creature near Otterville in 2008. The driver saw “something running across the field heading for the road.” Briefly illuminated by the car’s headlights, it “was covered in hair and his face looked flattened with a wide nose, large nostrils and huge eyes.” The creature ran up a 20-foot embankment on the other side of the road “without ever losing its pace.” The driver’s cousin, who was riding in the car with him, confirmed the story. The cousin initially thought “it was an animal but then realized it was on two legs.” In order to further corroborate his account, the driver told of a friend’s sighting of a similar creature — or perhaps the same creature, for all we know. He, too, was driving at night in the Otterville area when his four-wheeler almost hit a creature that was running on two legs. He described it as “heavy-built and covered in hair. This account can be read on the web site of the Bigfoot Field Research Organization. Founded in 1995, it claims to be “the only scientific research organization exploring the Bigfoot/Sasquatch mystery.”

When I posted a Facebook comment regarding my surprise upon discovering that Bigfoot is allegedly roaming these parts, one friend joked that the River Road Bigfoot sighting could be explained as “just a biker wandering around Grafton trying to find a bar.” Another person, however, noted that she has some friends “who swear they saw ‘something’ near Elsah one dark night on the River Road.” The most startling post came from an area journalist who wrote a newspaper article about Bigfoot sightings, including one in 2006 at Pin Oak township near Edwardsville. According to his article, Illinois ranks seventh in the 50 states in frequency of Bigfoot sightings. Residents in 76 of our 102 counties have allegedly spotted the creature. Another Facebook friend wrote that Bigfoot has been seen and heard near the southern Illinois towns of Anna and Jonesboro as well as in the Shawnee National Forest.

I posted that I refuse to believe in the existence of Bigfoot until one enters my book shop and makes a substantial purchase. A friend replied, “I’m not sure your kittycats would appreciate a Bigfoot entering the shop.” I immediately saw her point and wrote that, in anticipation of a possible Bigfoot customer, a new sign is going up inside the book shop: “Please Don’t Eat The Cats.”

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