You don’t get into – and I mean really into – this Bigfoot thing unless you possess a taste for the offbeat. Do Bigfoot/Sasquatch have the ability to travel between universes, to cloak themselves from human eyes? Do they come from other planets? Can they communicate telepathically and heal your infirmities? All of this and more was discussed at last weekend’s Team Squatchin’ USA Bigfoot Interaction Research Conference in Bremerton, WA.
As a side note, when I first saw this conference announced, it was billed as the Bigfoot Habituation Research conference. I am not sure why they changed its name. Most – if not all – of the speakers I saw are habituation proponents. That is, they believe that the more accustomed to people Bigfoot gets, the more they will reveal themselves to us. To that end, many of the conference participants frequent areas of known Bigfoot activity, perhaps singing or playing music to attract and comfort the forest people, and sometimes leaving gifts of food or of stones, leaves, feathers, etc.
Team Squatchin’ USA is a group headed up by Matthew Johnson, “Dr. J,” who says he has found a portal in Oregon whereby Bigfoot beings can cross into other dimensions. Interestingly enough (and file this under “Is the Universe trying to send you a message?”), the day of the conference, this showed up in my Facebook news feed: Stephen Hawking: Black holes could be portals to parallel universes . Well. If Hawking says there can be portals, I am not arguing.
I drove 500 miles from my Montana home to attend the conference. Arriving too late to attend Friday evening’s lectures, I stumbled zombie-like from my hotel room bright and early Saturday to get a bite and some caffeine before the conference’s 8 a.m. start time. The day was to be a marathon, with ten speakers scheduled.
I was pouring my third cup of coffee in the hotel lobby when I was asked The Question. “So, have you had an experience?” It was the first of many times I had to answer it throughout the day, and it was asked by Ken from Tacoma. Ken is a self-described “connoisseur of the weird” who was attending his first Bigfoot event.
“No,” I said. “Have you?” He had not. “I went into the woods once, by myself, and it did not go well,” he said. “I’m a city boy.” I hope Ken made some good Squatching connections at the conference. I think he did.
Downstairs in the conference center, I intercepted Mr. Bob Gimlin, of Patterson-Gimlin film fame. I introduced myself and was able to hang out with him a bit throughout the day, which was obviously a lot of fun. Gimlin, as it turned out, was scheduled to speak at the official conference dinner. I didn’t have a ticket to the dinner, so I didn’t get to hear his talk. But he is a lovely, approachable, and down-to-earth human being and I hope I get the chance to talk to him more in the future.
The first presentation of the day was by Samantha Ritchie of Planet Sasquatch. Ritchie’s presentation was the day’s introduction to the subject of cloaking, or the abilities of Sasquatch to possibly refract light or otherwise obscure themselves. She showed many photos. I did not see a thing. I had a moment of panic. “Oh no. Do NOT tell me I drove all day yesterday just for blobsquatches,” I thought. Then I noticed something: others in the conference room were oohing, aahing, wowing. Obviously, other people could see things, Sasquatch things, in these pictures where I saw nothing at all. I began to wonder if I was the crazy one.
Next up was my fellow Montanan and proprietor of the Montana Vortex, Joe Hauser. He gave us an overview of the weird goings-on at the Vortex, including a “little Sasquatch” which appears from time to time in photos taken there. Hauser discussed the idea of Sasquatch traveling inter-dimensionally. Near the end of his talk, Hauser issued a statement that would serve as my guide for the remainder of the day. He reminded us that our lives are made up of our experiences. “Everything you hear today, all of this is true,” he said.
The third presentation was made by researcher and BFRO member Scott Taylor, who related a slew of ongoing Bigfoot activity experienced by a family he knows. The family lives in a forested area and soon after moving to their home, discovered they shared the property with a Bigfoot family. Taylor was often called to investigate the activity at the home. The Bigfoots enjoyed the family’s hammock and swimming pool, and accepted their gifts of food, reciprocating with gifts of their own. Taylor’s closing message: This research is not about proving the existence of an unacknowledged North American ape. Instead, it’s learning about complex and intelligent beings with whom we share the earth.
Author and science teacher Thom Powell gave the next lecture. I’d heard about his books, The Locals and Edges of Science, and I was interested to hear what he had to say. Most of his talk was off-the-cuff and hilarious and ranged from UFOs to government agents infiltrating paranormal conferences to Bigfoot and back again. Powell’s advice to would-be researchers? Act dumb. If you sneak around in camouflage, that just makes you more suspicious. Trust your gut. Identify patterns. And just because something is unconfirmed, doesn’t mean it’s worthless. I bought The Locals later on and really should be reading it right now.
After lunch I must admit my attention span was already waning. Which is too bad. The next speaker was Barb Shupe of Squatchin’ with Barb and Gabby (her dog). She played lots of purported Bigfoot vocalizations which seriously made the hair stand up on the back of my neck. Creepy.
Next was Thom Cantrall, an adorable older gentleman who said he had to abandon his original presentation because it mysteriously vanished from his computer. Cantrall speculated that this was because the entity he calls his Teacher wanted him to give us a different one. No matter; his talk was thoroughly enjoyable, not least because of Cantrall’s off-the-wall insight and humor. He provided an introduction to the Patterson-Gimlin film and reminded us that the human mind has a tendency to try to justify what it sees when what it sees doesn’t fit into a defined pattern, even if the justification itself is outrageous.
Next Ron Morehead presented the Sierra Sounds recordings he made in the 1970s. The recordings, alleged Bigfoot vocalizations, have been analyzed and found to contain distinct morphemes, indicating that they represent an actual Bigfoot language.
The eighth speaker of the day was Connie Willis, of Coast to Coast radio. On her first Bigfoot expedition, Willis said, she was sleeping in a pop-up camper which started rocking back and forth in the middle of the night. She could hear a large creature lurking just outside. Terrified, a thought raced through her head: “I’m not ready for this!” She received a telepathic response: “But this is what you came for.”
Since I didn’t have a ticket for dinner, I ordered a pizza and staggered back to my room, exhausted, for a rest. After the dinner break, Dr. J’s significant other, Cynthia Kreitzberg, related some experiences the two have had in their Southern Oregon Habituation Area, or SOHA. And then it was time for Dr. J.
A tall guy, Dr. J was dressed as if he were on his way to a pickup basketball game, in a do-rag, hoodie, and athletic shorts. I don’t know a ton about him except for his portal claims and that he’s been a controversial figure. It’s easy to see where the controversy comes from: although his appearance is casual, he is INTENSE in his defense of his beliefs and experiences. I wasn’t prepared for the emotion he displayed. “I have never lied and I have never hoaxed,” he boomed, index finger jabbing the air. “If you have difficulty wrapping your brain around what I’m telling you, that’s your problem, not mine.” He called those who believe Bigfoot to be “just another animal” Apers. Bigfoot beings, says Dr. J, can not only travel freely through dimensions via portals, but can appear at will in his home, communicate with him via direct mind-speak, and heal his illnesses.
So, is all of this true? Absolutely it is. Remember the Floyd: all you touch and all you see is all your life will ever be. Does it all seem pretty weird to me? Heck yeah. I can honestly say I believe all of it and equally believe none of it. But that, to me, is the greatest and most addictive aspect of the Bigfoot community. And you know, I didn’t feel the least bit strange walking into this gathering where I didn’t know a soul. I’d like to think I made some friends and forged some connections. Being at this Bigfoot conference was like being on a very congenial, comforting island of misfit toys, and that’s a good thing. We are united in The Foot. In Foot we trust.
Starting on my drive home the next morning, I cued up a podcast I downloaded a while ago and hadn’t yet listened to. It was OK Talk’s interview with Cliff Barackman of Finding Bigfoot, and if you haven’t heard it, you need to. It’s one of the best interviews of anybody I’ve ever heard. Anyway, Cliff’s tagline for the interview was “Abandon all ideologies.” It was an impeccable end to the weekend.