Strangeness on the ranges, part two: Bigfoot, cults, and UFOs

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Part one of this series can be found here.

According to the 1976 book Mystery Stalks the Prairie, Cascade County, MT Sheriff’s Capt. Keith Wolverton initially thought he could unlock the cattle mutilation case within three weeks. But three weeks came and went, and he found himself still devoted more or less full-time to the investigation.

Wolverton was given a loose rein by Sheriff John Krsul during the course of the investigation.  As stated in Mystery Stalks the Prairie, “No idea was too weird to merit careful consideration.”  His research led him from a prison in Minnesota to an alleged bomb plot to a supposed ceremonial cult site outside Butte, Montana.  He consulted with remote viewers and veterinarians.  He and his team experimented with donated calves — later returned, unharmed, to their owners — to try to determine the effects of different drugs on the cattle.  He tried to cut pieces of cow-hide with all manner of pinking shears, pizza cutters, and other instruments to attempt to replicate the mysterious serrated marks often found on the mutilated cows.  And the mutilations continued to occur with disturbing frequency, with over 100 individual cases reported over just a nine-month period in 1975-76.

Along the way, UFO reports flooded the sheriff’s office.  UFOs of all shapes and sizes were reported, from egg-shaped to saucer-shaped to one that resembled, in the witness’ words, a “two-story hotel sitting out there in the field” that slowly lifted off and drifted away.

In one case, a helicopter-like UFO was seen flying during a storm in 40-mile-an-hour winds — an unlikely feat for any common pilot to attempt.  In another report, a UFO was seen deliberately keeping pace with an Air Force plane.  Although Cascade County is the site of Malmstrom air base (and at the time, of several missile silos), officials there publicly denied any responsibility for, or knowledge of, the UFO reports.

It was only a matter of time before bigfoot showed up to take part in the hullaballoo — although the creatures do not appear to have been directly implicated in the mutilations.  Several unknown creature (and footprint) reports came into the sheriff’s office, with witnesses typically describing red eyes and a pungent odor going along with the hairy bipeds.  Oddly, when the bigfoot reports started coming in, the UFO sightings slowed.  Were the two phenomena somehow linked?

“There was overlapping,” write co-authors Wolverton and Roberta Donovan in Mystery Stalks the Prairie, “but one type of activity seemed to decline as another started.  Was it a piece of the puzzle, or purely coincidence?  Speculation seemed futile.”

From a report in the Helena Independent Record, entitled “What’s going on in Cascade County?,” February 11, 1976:

Reports of screams in the night, pulsating airborne lights and hair-covered creatures have officials here wondering just what is going on in Cascade County — and they’re asking for help.

“With a little help from citizens, we might be able to get to the bottom of this mystery,” Sheriff’s Captain Keith Wolverton said.

Wolverton himself watched one of the hovering lights for about two hours last Thursday night, but was unable to get near it because of the terrain.

Today he was continuing his investigation into a report by two young women who said they saw three hair-covered, human-like creatures near Great Falls on Dec. 26.

Wolverton scheduled a polygraph test for one of the two women, but said it was a routine investigative step.

“We don’t think it’s a hoax by any means.  We’re still investigating.”

Several county residents have reported being awakened at night by a sound “like a man screaming in terror or pain,” Wolverton said, but when they investigated they found nothing but frightened farm animals or pets.

Wolverton is treating the whole matter cautiously and will release few details — and no names.

“We figure there are quite a few people who have stories (of similar sightings) to tell and won’t because of fear of ridicule,” Wolverton said.  “We would like to have those reports.”

He guaranteed anonymity to anyone who requests it in connection with the investigation.

(Both women later submitted to, and passed, polygraph examinations.)

What if the mutilations had a more, let’s say, earthly explanation?  In the wake of the Manson Family, cults were all the rage in the 1970s.  Wolverton, according to Mystery Stalks, had been told by a fellow law officer that “the cattle were being injected with PCP, a hallucinogenic drug.  The blood was then removed from the animal and given to the witches of (a) cult to drink, which caused them to trip out.” (Yes, the italics appear in the original text.)  The cult theory led Wolverton to Minnesota to speak with a convict imprisoned there.  The man supposedly had inside information relating not only to cattle mutilations, but also to a plot to bomb Helena, Montana; and furthermore, that a cult was planning to mutilate human beings, mostly Hollywood celebrities.  Perhaps unsurprisingly, this lead turned out to be dead on arrival.

Wolverton did not discount the cult theory altogether, however.  In April 1976, he traveled south to Butte, MT to reconnoiter a suspected “devil-worshiping” cult’s ceremonial stomping grounds.  This lead also proved futile: nothing of import to the investigation was uncovered at the site.

This is part two of a three-part series.  Part three will drop shortly; in the meantime, here is a Youtube interview of both Capt. Wolverton and Sheriff Pete Howard of neighboring Teton County, Montana.

The Summit of Squatch

“You’ve got to go to the Sasquatch Summit,” they say.  “It’s so much fun,” they say.

This year, I listened.  Booked a cheap flight to Seattle, rented a cheap car, and made my way to the Quinault Casino in Ocean Shores, WA.  This entailed sojourning south on I-5, taking a right at Olympia, and heading straight through that little slice of paradise known as Aberdeen.  More correctly, it entailed making about five complete circuits around Aberdeen before finding my way out.

I don’t remember Aberdeen being so complicated.

I arrived at my hotel on a Friday afternoon in plenty of time for the evening’s squatchy activities.  After finding the casino and ordering a massive bowl of chili and a couple of beverages in the bar, I was ready to go.

When I say “casino,” I mean it.  This was an incongruous setting for a bigfoot conference.  Walking out of the enormous ballroom where hundreds of people are seriously considering the existence of an eight-foot-tall hairy hominoid and into a bright, smoke-filled room full of gamblers staring at dinging and chirping slot machines never got old.

Some friends I’d met at previous conferences had graciously saved me a seat in the second row.  The first presentation of the evening was by Russell Witala, a local researcher.  I must admit I’m still not sure who this person was or why he was speaking, but he frequently assured us that he was saving some essential information to share with us at Sasquatch Summit ’17, so apparently he’s on the roster for next year as well.  Witala spoke of a habituation site he frequents where the juvenile sasquatches have taken a shine to him.  He then showed us some photos of trees which he said were broken by the squatch kids playing on them.  He said they also like to make coyote noises at him.  How he knows that it was not snow that broke the branches or actual coyotes making the noises, I’m sure he’ll reveal next year after he borrows a razor from Mr. Occam.

So we were off and running. Next up was Ron Morehead, whose 1970s “Sierra Sounds” recordings have become iconic in certain circles.  Morehead and certain linguists believe the sounds represent actual conversations between the creatures.  You can hear some of the recordings here.

Next on the program was David Ellis, an audio specialist with the Olympic Project.  The Olympic Project is a well-known outfit which researches alleged bigfoot activity on and around Washington’s Olympic Peninsula.  I was familiar with Ellis through the podcast OK Talk, which I adore, and on which he’s been a frequent guest.  Ellis was presenting sound recordings from the “Devil’s Creek” location discussed in the podcast, so I had already heard most of what he had to share.  They have captured some interesting sounds there, similar to gorilla chest-beating, as well as alleged vocalizations.

I have a slight complaint about Ellis’ presentation and that was that he showed us none of the visual signatures of these sounds. Sound produces vibrations, which can be represented visually similar to a seismic readout of an earthquake.  Ellis repeatedly said that through these spectographs, he can tell that the sounds have NOT been made by known animals in the area — but he didn’t show them as part of his presentation.  David, if you are reading, toss in some screenshots next time!

After a brief “town hall” meeting moderated by Derek Randles, also of the Olympic Project, it was back out into the casino for the remainder of the evening, complete with a live band and line dancing in the bar.

I was a bit late next morning.  Ordered some breakfast back in the good old casino bar and it took a long time.  So I missed the first speaker, who was Mitchel Townsend. Townsend has found bones with teeth marks he alleges are from sasquatch.  He has written an incredibly lengthy and dense analysis of this find which I, admittedly, will probably never work up the wherewithal to read.  I can barely make it through the title page.  You can find it here.

Thom Powell was taking the stage by the time I wandered into the conference room.  Our front-and-center seats had been bogarted, but I skulked around the edges of the room and found a spot.  Confession time: I like Thom Powell.  He reminds me a lot of Christopher Lloyd in Back to the Future and one expects at any moment to see the man hop into a DeLorean and disappear.  His book The Locals is one of my favorite bigfoot reads.  I was in the middle of his more recent book, Edges of Science, at the time of this conference.  Powell has, after years of study, developed a sort of unified theory of the paranormal, which is fascinating in itself whether or not you agree with much of it.  What do extraterrestrials, Aztec gods, Eisenhower, and bigfoot have in common?  Look up “Edges of Science” if this interests you (how could it not?).

Cliff Barackman next did a presentation on sasquatch hand prints.  A lot of attention is paid to footprints, obviously, but a number of alleged bigfoot handprints have been found as well.  This was my favorite presentation of the conference.  So often, the same old beloved stories are dusted off at these conferences.  But Cliff, who is an engaging speaker anyway, was treading territory here unfamiliar to the mass of us.  Explaining the telltale markers of finger length and even the folds of one’s palms, the prints Cliff displayed indicated a definite pattern of hand movement and usage that are more primate than human.  We’re accustomed to thinking in terms of footprints, but obviously handprints have the potential to reveal vastly more about this creature’s behavior.

After another Olympic Project presentation about an alleged sasquatch nest site, complete with photos that indeed appear to be very large ground nests made primarily out of huckleberry twigs, Christopher Noel took the stage to tell us about autism and bigfoot.  I read a book by Noel a while back because it was a free download for the Kindle.  In the book, Noel offers that certain behaviors common to individuals on the autistic spectrum are common to bigfoot as well. He speculates that these behaviors increase the bigfoot’s chances of survival in the wilds.  He calls this the Sasquatch Savant Theory.  I’m just gonna leave this right here.

In another odd juxtaposition — the speaker following Noel was Dr. Jeff Meldrum.  I was especially interested to see Meldrum’s presentation as I had only gotten to see snippets of it at the Big Sky Bigfoot Conference.  Meldrum expressed his displeasure at the public perception of bigfoot as “paranormal,” bemoaning that his book is located not in zoology sections of bookstores and libraries, but in the occult or new-age areas.  (Dewey, of the decimals, categorizes it as “controversial knowledge.”)  He complained — as do I — that the so-called “skeptical” literature of the bigfoot world is anything but.  And like at the Montana conference, he urged the crowd to act as citizen scientists, collecting evidence in a systematic way that can be verified by scientific means.  The implication, of course, is that taking a no-nonsense scientific approach to the problem of sasquatch will elevate its study in the public eye.

I was waiting for David Paulides.  A one-time bigfoot researcher and former law enforcement officer, Paulides has more recently turned his attention to missing-persons cases, writing a series of six (!) books under the title of Missing 411.  He was the anchor of the program and was allotted an hour and a half for his presentation, whereas everyone else had gotten a slim hour.  Paulides’ talk, after taking some potshots at the “bigfoot community,” was a catalog of missing-person case after missing-person case after… well, you get the idea.  It soon began to feel that I was at the “Missing Persons’ Summit” instead of the Sasquatch Summit.  So mainly I had been waiting for Paulides because I really, really wanted the man to make some sort of bigfoot connection, although I didn’t have any expectation that he would do so.  What connections DOES he make?  Well — a lot of people who go missing are doctors!  How can that be a coincidence?  And — a lot of people who go missing are picking berries or mushrooms in the woods! How can that be a coincidence?

So, essentially, the answer to the question “What connections does he make?” is really “None.  None at all.”  But he sure does have a lot of books to sell, and by refusing to make these connections, he assures that he can sell them to the widest possible audience.  I’ve stated before on this blog and I will state again now: There is no good that can come of stirring the pot.  And anyway, what’s the point of collecting hundreds of stories and not formulating a theory to connect them?

Well.  What were my impressions of my virgin Sasquatch Summit? They were right, it was a blast.  It was also large; I believe more chairs had to be brought in to accommodate the hundreds of people who came.  I learned that you can have an eclectic line-up of presenters which includes both “flesh-and-blood” and paranormal believers, and that it can actually work, for the most part.  The Summit affirmed my belief that we CAN all get along despite having disparate positions on the phenomenon. But I also learned that I have real issues with people presenting theories as facts, and perhaps even bigger issues with people presenting facts that have no theories.

The Summit caused me to think quite a bit about the responsible presentation of information.  If you accept as fact when someone tells you, for example, “This tree branch was broken because of sasquatch; I may not have evidence of this, but I know it to be true,” — that’s not critical thinking.  To flip that coin, if you say (as do many of the so-called “skeptics”), “I believe bigfoot does not exist, therefore bigfoot does not exist,” your brain may as well leap out of your skull in a frenetic and desperate attempt to find a better home.  Similarly, if you say, “I have documented hundreds of cases of missing people but I refuse to make any logical connections unifying them,” — what the heck is even the POINT?  Without a logical framework, ANY and ALL presumptions fail.

Going in, I knew it would be a weird blend of flesh-and-blood and paranormal believers, but I didn’t expect the Sasquatch Summit to be so thought-provoking.  I also didn’t expect the casino food to be so good (I’ll be thinking of Friday night’s fisherman’s platter probably for the rest of my life).  So I’m glad I went.  As the last conference of 2016, Sasquatch Summit was a definite winner.

 

 

 

Film review — Boggy Creek Monster: The Truth Behind the Legend

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For their first two documentaries, the Small Town Monsters production crew chose a pair of little-known bigfoot incidents: the Minerva Monster (near my Ohio hometown) and the Whitehall, NY sightings (which I reviewed here).  Both films were nicely produced and preserved for posterity these fascinating, but nearly forgotten, bits of bigfoot Americana.

This time they tackle the famous Fouke Monster of Fouke, Arkansas, immortalized in the 1972 b-movie docudrama, The Legend of Boggy Creek.  To be honest, I thought this was a bit of a departure; there’s arguably no better-known bigfoot case in modern America.  I knew they’d make another good movie, but what I didn’t know was how much more there was to be told.

Whether you choose to view it as a bigfoot movie or as an interesting little bit of folk-history, Boggy Creek Monster succeeds.  Lyle Blackburn serves as the film’s narrator and our guide through the swamplands surrounding the small southern Arkansas town. His laid-back southern personality is perfect for the role. Blackburn literally wrote the book on Boggy Creek, a book I shamefully have not yet read.  He’s clearly very personally invested in the story, having a fascination with the Fouke Monster since childhood.  The film follows Blackburn as he interviews “monster” eyewitnesses and revisits scenes from the 1972 movie.

The crew found plenty of people willing to go on camera to share their experiences with the monster, including the retired sheriff who investigated the actual case that was profiled in Legend.  A lengthy and intriguing recorded interview with Smokey Crabtree, a lifelong Fouke resident who was instrumental in the 1972 movie, is featured as well. (Crabtree passed away last year at age 88, a reminder that it’s vital to preserve oral history while we still can.)

They also speak with a number of ordinary folks — some of whom have never publicly shared their stories — who have sighted the monster right up to recent years.  While nationwide interest in the Fouke Monster died down after the initial release of Legend, that wasn’t the end of the story.  Far from it.  Bigfoot-type creatures are reported in the area fairly regularly.  The witness tales are compelling, made even more so by the filmmakers’ choice to interview them right there on the mucky Arkansas backroads.  In fact, to say the filmmakers nailed the atmosphere of the area is an understatement — there’s not much creepier than a swamp, but in this movie, it’s absolutely chilling.

I also watched the “extras” on the DVD, something I don’t normally do, but it was fun to see the process behind filming the documentary.

While the wide variety of interviews and the scenery make the movie well worth watching, one thing that I would have liked to know more about is the general opinion of your average Fouke resident on the “monster” stories.  It was stated in the film that when the 1972 movie came out, about half the residents were all for it and half wanted nothing to do with it.  It seems the town is embracing its bigfoot heritage — a grocery store called Monster Mart and the local museum figure prominently in this documentary — but I wonder if that 50% is still reluctant to associate with the “legend.”

Some day maybe I’ll go find the answers for myself.  For now, I’ll have to content myself with living vicariously through Boggy Creek Monster, and look forward to the next Small Town Monsters movie, whatever it may be.

Boggy Creek Monster is available at Small Town Monsters.

 

 

 

Enoch: A Bigfoot Story

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I read this book a month ago, and it’s been rattling around in my head ’cause I don’t really know what to make of it.

On one hand I appreciate Autumn Williams’ approach to the subject.  In general, she comes across as calm, logical, and cool.  I even had some “amen, sister” moments when she laments the fact that us modern humans who live in petroleum-derived worlds full of computers and convenience are simply ill-equipped to fathom the nature of a creature who is so like us, yet lives in a state of wildness.  “And we wonder why it’s so very difficult for us to discover them?” she writes.  “To find something, we must first understand it.  How can we inherently understand something that lives in a world so far removed from the one we’ve created for ourselves?” she writes.

On the other hand, the story sometimes seems unbelievable, such as when the witness claims to have happened upon a big old happy bigfoot family reunion.  But we take the good with the bad, right?  It’s what we do as open-minded bigfoot philosophers.

Enoch is the tale told by a witness, “Mike.” Mike is not a bigfoot researcher, but a bit of an eccentric loner.  He prefers to spend his free time secluded in the swamps of Florida.  During these periodic camp-outs, he encounters a swamp ape (in the local parlance) which he names (surprise!) Enoch.

Mike found Williams via the internet and decided he could trust her to believe his experiences, which he relates via phone and email.

More than anything, I take Enoch as a study in the psychology of a bigfoot witness.  Mike wants to tell his story, but is perennially paranoid.  At times when he is relating his swamp ape stories, he breaks down, stonewalls, gets angry, and genuinely wonders if he can trust anyone.  He is torn between wanting independent verification of his experiences and wanting to protect his friend. “I have had many run-ins with these (Bigfoot researchers) online and I don’t want anyone to know where this place is,” he writes Williams in an email.  “I’ve seen what they do and they will chase them away and ruin it.  I’ve built a trust with this one and I would like to show someone, but what worries me is what will happen if I bring a stranger around.  Will he run away and not come back?  Will it make him not trust me?  What do you think he would do?  And how would you protect them from people once the word gets out?  You know what will happen.” His paranoia is complicated when, he says, photos he has of Enoch are stolen from his storage unit.  But Williams persists in her relationship with Mike and succeeds in drawing out more and more information about his encounters.

Williams is also a bigfoot witness.  Her encounter happened when she was a small child and she’s spent decades researching the phenomenon.  She understands Mike’s reluctance to talk and his overriding concern for his swamp ape friend.  She understands how difficult it can be to discuss something that is utterly real to one person, but simply impossible to another — and how comforting it can be to talk to someone who gets it.  But she’s also a reputable researcher and is extremely concerned about how she’ll be received when she brings Mike’s story (portions of which are waaaaay out of the mainstream — yes, there is a psychic-bigfoot element), sans evidence, sans photos, to the world.

Yet her gut instinct as a veteran witness interviewer is to believe Mike, and that’s ultimately enough for her.

I’m not entirely certain how the book was received amongst bigfoot researchers, nor what degree of hostility Williams may have faced, but I do know there have been questions as to the authenticity of Mike’s story.  (Or even if Mike is a real person.)  I also know this community (much as I do love it) can be dog-eat-dog.  And as far as I am aware, Williams is no longer an active researcher, or if she is, she is no longer in the public eye.  Her fascinating final three blog posts written for her web site are on the psychology of bigfooters.  In the last post, she reveals that she is fighting an illness and needs to remove stress from her life in order to devote all her strength to that battle.

I wish I’d known more about this book and Williams, but it was written before I had a significant interest in this subject.  Enoch is an interesting book whether you believe it or not, and Williams offers insights that I’ve not seen elsewhere.  From the little I know about her, I’d say that the bigfoot world has suffered a loss without her input.

 

Bigfoot, mythology, and you

 

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Bigfoot:  The Yeti and Sasquatch in Myth and Reality, John Napier, Dutton, 1973

One of the first scientists to seriously investigate the Bigfoot phenomenon, primatologist John R. Napier published Bigfoot: The Yeti and Sasquatch in Myth and Reality in 1973.  It seems to be out of print, which is a shame, but is readily available for reasonable prices online.  I’ve recently read the book — or most of it; sorry Yeti, I kinda skipped most of your chapters (let’s be honest.  I live in the U.S. so might encounter Bigfoot at some point, but I’m probably never going to be in Nepal).  It’s well worth a look not only for its examination of the infamous cases of the “Cripple Foot,” Minnesota Iceman, and Patterson-Gimlin film, but especially for its discussion of the role of legend and mythmaking in human society.  Napier gives all the evidence a very fair shake, but he also values myth for myth’s sake, as do I.

Food for thought time.  Which is more valuable in the 21st century, the Bigfoot legend and all that it encompasses, or the (theoretical) animal?  Following is an excerpt from the concluding pages of Napier’s book.

I am convinced that the Sasquatch exists, but whether it is all that it is cracked up to be is another matter altogether.  There must be something in north-west America that needs explaining, and that something leaves man-like footprints.  The evidence I have adduced in favour of the reality of the Sasquatch is not hard evidence; few physicists, biologists or chemists would accept it, but nevertheless it is evidence and cannot be ignored.

I have suggested that myth and legend have survival value for mankind, and are therefore subject to natural selection like all physical and many behavioural characteristics of man.  We are far from understanding exactly what the role of a hypothetical myth-gene could be, but perhaps it is connected with man’s highly socialized state.  Bonds and allegiances are the bedrock of our society, as they are of many nonhuman primate societies.  There is the pair-bond of husband and wife, the family-bond, the village-bond and the national-bond; to say nothing of the sex-bond, school-bonds, club-bonds and innumerable, unclassifiable religious and ideological-bonds.  But mankind needs more than bonds, and the comforts of grooming they involve; we need to experience feelings of awe.  Husbands, fathers, elders, statesmen, dictators, presidents, chairmen and grand masters are all very well as god-figures, but they are inadequate because they lack the essential ingredient of remoteness.  Man needs his gods — and his monsters — and the more remote and unapproachable they are, the better….

Perhaps by the time this book is published somebody will have discovered a Bigfoot.  I hope so; but if not, I will happily settle for the myth.

Ideologies abandoned: Bigfoot Interaction Research Conference recap

 

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.

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Myself, Rob, and Vortex tour guide demonstrating the “Shrink and Grow” area at the Montana Vortex

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.

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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.

 

When Roger Met Patty

Do you ever feel like the universe is trying to send you a message?

I don’t, but if I did, it would be today.  Last night I finished Bill Munn’s exhaustive analysis of the Patterson-Gimlin film, When Roger Met Patty.  Not twelve hours later, right after I posted a book review on Goodreads (the review will be at the end of this post), this short video pops up in my Facebook news feed.  We are used to seeing the bit of film where “Patty,” the Bigfoot creature, walks across the screen and looks at the cameraman, but this is billed as the complete reel of footage that Roger Patterson took that day.  It includes the shots that Patterson intended to use as filler in his planned documentary.  Take a look.

 

 

 

Taken as a whole, we can really see what led up to the sighting, and we are with Roger behind the lens the whole way.  We can see how frantic those moments were as Roger chased the creature to get it on film.  Munns points out in his book something that is not obvious — to me, anyway — which is that the short Patty piece actually consists of several mini-segments.  Patterson was turning his camera on and off (presumably to conserve the small amount of film he knew he had left) as he ran along.

One thing I had not fully appreciated until seeing this film is how rugged the terrain is at the Bluff Creek site.  Why would someone staging a hoax do it in such a rough and remote area, when you could essentially shoot the same thing in your own backyard?

I don’t know what’s on that film.  I’ll never know.  I wasn’t there.  But Munns certainly brings up a ton of reasonable doubt that calls the hoax theory into question, and viewing the complete film brings those moments literally to life.

Here’s my review of the book as originally published on Goodreads.

I heard Bill Munns on an episode of “The Bigfoot Show” podcast a year or two ago and decided I ought to read this book. Since then, it’s been on my Amazon wish list, ’cause at 500+ pages, I simply haven’t had the wherewithal to begin to tackle it. I mean, I couldn’t imagine how anyone could possibly expend that many words discussing a few seconds’ worth of film. But since you are reading this, you know that I finally went for it, and I’m glad I did.

Munns’ story in itself is interesting. He has decades of experience in the filmmaking industry and is an accomplished sculptor and makeup artist. So this, he says, makes him uniquely suited to analyze the ever-controversial Patterson-Gimlin film. Was it a man in a suit? The greatest hoax of the twentieth century? Or something really real? Well, who better to tell us than someone who has worked on Hollywood creature costumes and special effects for thirty-odd years?

I’ve always said that Mr. Gimlin is the only person alive who truly knows what is on that film. But Munns brings up some very, very good points. Such as, if the film were a hoax it would likely require multiple “takes,” yet the shadows — which would move rapidly at that time in October — do not move during the film; if the film were a hoax, why would the filmmaker spend the first three-quarters of the roll of film shooting random stuff, leaving only a few seconds to film his hoax segment; if the film were a hoax, how does the figure appear to move its head in such a natural way, as a person in a full-face mask made in 1967 would not be able to do so? …etc. etc.

Munns acknowledges he can’t prove the reality of the figure in the film. But he does raise enough reasonable doubt that, in my mind, makes the possibility of the film being a hoax more and more remote. I was not interested in the section where the author discussed his anonymous Internet detractors (why bother?), and the book in places was repetitive, but I guess that’s just how the author emphasized his points. All in all, a good analysis, and a recommended read.