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Media Article # 400
Monday, June 28, 2004
Bigfoot is Back!
By Mark Williams
Life's unsolved mysteries explored at the Southern Crypto Conference
The creepy and perplexing mysteries of the East Texas Piney Woods and the world beyond will be explored this Saturday, the 26th, at the Third Annual Southern Crypto Conference happening at the Lone Star Convention & Expo Center in Conroe.
The interest in cryptozoology -- the study of the unknown -- has grown in Montgomery County right along with the conference. Three years ago, it fit into a conference room at the Holiday Inn on the edge of Conroe. And although the event has grown enough to move onto the grounds of the convention center, so many people have already purchased tickets for this year's conference, it has been moved from the Horseshoe Club to the Convention Center itself.
So much for a fear of the unknown.
At the forefront of cryptozoology research is Chester Moore, the host and founder of the Southern Crypto Conference. Moore is a wildlife columnist and radio host located in the Beaumont area. A lifelong outdoorsman, Moore has logged adventures from Canada to South America. He is an avid cryptozoological researcher and is the owner and host of www.cryptokeeper.com, which has had more than 2-million "hits" since its internet inception in April 2001. Moore is the author of three books: In the Dark: Chasing Phantoms, Dust and Shadows, Bigfoot South and Boogers, Bears, Birds and Beasts.
While a sighting of a Bigfoot creature is considered to be a white whale for many serious cryptozoologists, Chester Moore's interests are varied. According to Moore's website, one of the greatest mysteries in the field of cryptozoology is the presence of "black panthers" in the United States and Great Britain. There is no such species as a "black panther" -- although leopards and jaguars do produce black offspring.
America's common big cat, the cougar, may produce black offspring, but science has never acknowledged such a possibility.
Another explanation could possibly be "jaguarundis": a cat species that is supposed limited only to the deep southern regions of South Texas, Arizona and New Mexico. These cats, which are believed to be able to grow up to 54 inches in length, are much bigger than most people perceive and come in dark brown and dark gray colors.
Chester Moore is conducting field research on jaguarundis and hopes to get photographs of the elusive animals some 400 miles north of their accepted range. Moore would also like to capture photographic evidence of jaguarundis and cougars in East Texas -- where they are not supposed to exist.
According to Moore, there are two types of "cryptids," or "hidden" creatures: known and unknown. Known cryptids are those that are considered extinct, like the ivory-billed woodpecker, another creature Moore pursues with a passion, or the Tasmanian tiger -- both animals that were known to exist in the world at one time or another. Unknown cryptids are creatures that could possibly exist, but no physical specimen has yet been recovered to prove their existence.
Other cryptozoologists and experts on the unknown coming to the weekend conference chase these crytids -- while others chase answers into other worlds. Cryptozoological investigator Kriss Stephens has been on the hunt for Bigfoot with Chester Moore and consulted with MTV on its spooky-lite reality show, Fear, but her passion lies in trotting around the globe chasing after ghosts. Stephens, who doubles as a paranormal investigator and photographer, says that she grew up in a haunted house and "learned to make the best of a bad situation."
Stephens' most famous cryptid case, however, is very much earthbound. In September 1996, a woman near DeQuincy, LA, accidentally hit a large animal with her car. The strange, dead creature lying on the edge of the road was like nothing she had ever seen, so she drove home to get a camera to photograph it. The authorities were called, as well as the Lake Charles newspaper, which took pictures and declared the animal to be a Chupacabra.
Stephens and her partner, Malcolm Tillotson, heard about the incident, and Tillotson went out to DeQuincy, scooped up the carcass, and stored it in a Rubbermaid container. Stephens stated that the animal, which was dubbed "Fluffy," looked like a large canine, but also had characteristics of a hyena and a baboon. The creature had prominent canine teeth, pointed ears, and a "pushed-in" snout -- all similar to a Chow dog; a baboon-type build, with the front legs higher than the rear; a long tail; and extremely thick, reddish fur. The muscular animal was larger than a St. Bernard and was estimated to weigh over one hundred pounds.
Stephens and Tillotson sent the body to a nearby university for testing, but didn’t hear anything for over a month. They finally went to the university to check on the status of the analysis, and were told that the carcass was that of an Irish wolfhound. "Fluffy’s" remains, by this time, had been reduced to a few disarticulated bones and hair.
Stephens didn’t believe it was a Chupacabra or an Irish wolfhound, which has short gray hair and is slender -- unlike the heavily furred, robust "Fluffy." She decided to go to the university and conduct her own investigation. Using teeth as a guideline, her research led her to the determination that the creature most closely resembled a Borophagus: a hyena-like dog from the Pleistocene era. She learned that there is an animal in Native American mythology called a "Shunka Warak’in," a savage hog-like creature that is theorized to be a surviving Borophagus.
Stephens and Tillotson had planned on having DNA testing done on the remains, but Tillotson lost his job and relocated to Washington State, taking "Fluffy" with him. Unfortunately, he died a month later. All of his cryptozoological belongings -- including the remains of "Fluffy" -- were supposed to have gone to Stephens, but after nearly four years, she still doesn’t have them. Tillotson's widow's, who still resides in Washington, supposedly still has possession of them, and allegedly has made repeated excuses for not handing them over. Stephens has since had offers for free DNA testing, but she has no remains to be tested.
So what exactly are the true origins of "Fluffy"? So far, it's just another unsolved mystery in a world filled with them.
This year's keynote speaker is Bob Gimlin, who comes to Conroe under a cloud of crypto controversy. The surviving half of the famous duo who took filmed the famous footage of Bigfoot in 1967, Gimlin has for years stood by his account of what happened that June day so many years ago.
Although attempts to expose the footage as a hoax have never been entirely successful, another campaign has been mounted. Bob Heironimus, a retired Pepsi bottler from Yakima, WA, came forward last month to reveal that he donned a gorilla costume and appeared in the famous grainy film clip that helped fuel the Bigfoot craze and is studied by Bigfoot, Sasquatch and Yeti investigators to this very day.
Heironimus, 63, makes his full "confession," as he calls it, in a just-published book by paranormal investigator Greg Long, The Making of Bigfoot. Long spent four years investigating the 60-second film clip and the people behind it. He traces the shaggy Bigfoot costume to a North Carolina gorilla suit specialist, Philip Morris, who says he sold it for $435 to an amateur documentary maker named Roger Patterson -- Bob Gimlin's partner, who died in 1972. The hoax was staged near Bluff Creek in Northern California, according to Heironimus.
However, M.K. Davis, a late addition to the Southern Crypto Conference schedule, like many who study the film clip, still believes in its validity. He is slated to make a presentation focused on what he believes to be far more reliable evidence. Davis has long been noted for his analysis of the film clip, in which he was able to bring out amazing details by recording frames of the film through a red sensitive emulsion filter. Davis' research has lead him to find that nothing appears artificial on the animal or leads him to believe that the film is a hoax. He feels that the film still holds a wealth of information to be gleaned as newer techniques are developed and utilized.
So the hunt for the ever-elusive Bigfoot goes on and on -- as does the argument as to its authenticity...
Meantime: "Smokey" Crabtree, the keynote speaker for the inaugural conference, is back again, to talk about living in the Arkansas bottomlands and his family's intimate experience with the Fouke Monster. The creature apparently inhabited a swampy area near the Crabtree homestead, and ravaged the family's livestock pens from the time Smokey was just a boy; and although he admits to never actually having seen the creature, Crabtree tells of his experience tracking the creature through the bogs, which he does to this day.
The legend of the Fouke Monster, which was made into the obscure drive-in movie classic, The Legend Of Boggy Creek, has put Fouke, AK on the map, and every year thousands of tourists flock to the marshlands for a possible peek at the creature. Crabtree has written three books on the subject: Smokey and the Fouke Monster, Too Close to the Mirror and the new The Man Behind the Legend.
Ken Gerhard will speak about the various sightings of "thunderbirds": pterodactyl type creatures spotted in Texas and throughout the world. Ken is an accomplished musician and has a new book out called Monsters are Real.
As the conference has grown, so have the exhibits; this year marks the debut of the Traveling Southern Cryptozoology Museum, including a life-size southern Bigfoot replica, built to the specifications of the famous Fouke Monster. There will be booths and displays from numerous cryptozoology authors, researchers and vendors including crypto artist Patrick Trumble; find rare books and other items, plus a silent auction is planned with cryptid plaster casts and original cryptozoology art up for bid.
Despite his ongoing search for evidence to the contrary, Chester Moore has said he does not believe in Bigfoot; belief, he maintains, is the province of religion. Rather, Moore has concluded, according to the evidence he and other researchers have collected, that people share the North American continent with a hidden species of "bi-pedal primate". He further maintains that there is an active breeding population in Texas and other southern states.
But the truth itself remains a cryptozoological mystery...
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