My friend, who shall herein be referred to as Not-Platypus, and I sat sipping beverages at her home.
“I can’t believe we’re going to a Bigfoot conference,” she said.
“What you should be saying,” I said, “is, ‘I can’t believe we haven’t gone to a Bigfoot conference sooner.”
This exchange should tell you quite a bit about our relationship. A friend who says “yes” when you ask if she wants to spend a weekend at the Ohio Bigfoot Conference with you is a friend indeed.
The following morning, Saturday, after an adventurous start to the day that began with an unsuccessful breaking-and-entering attempt and a near-riot over expired food at a Kroger in the middle of a cornfield, Not-Platypus and I pulled into Salt Fork State Park, ready to experience our first Ohio Bigfoot Conference.
Salt Fork State Park has been a hub of Bigfoot activity for decades, with many reported sightings. There is a persistent tale that, at one time, certain campgrounds in the park were closed due to Bigfoot activity. The veracity of said tale depends entirely upon the person to whom you are speaking at any given moment. Well, I live in Montana, and we can have campgrounds or trails closed for bear activity, so I guess, why not? (Local fauna. Sometimes you’ve just gotta shake your head.) Anyway, in recent years the park has become something of a Squatcher magnet.
And Salt Fork is massive, so it’s not difficult to imagine the area as prime Sasquatch habitat. After passing the park entrance sign, my Smurf-blue rental car wound its peaceful way along several miles of blacktop, past golf courses, camping areas, a “beach,” and thousands upon thousands of acres of woods. In fact, the park consists of over 17,000 acres of woods as well as several thousand acres of water. Here and there as we trundled toward our destination, the lake would reveal itself, a long, narrow body of water that snakes through the heart of the park. Finally we found the park lodge, site of the conference.
The day was spent browsing the vendor area, listening to presentations – and songs! How wonderful (and unexpected, to the uninitiated) is it that someone has taken the time to write songs about Bigfooting? — on various aspects of Sasquatchery, and rubbing elbows with Bigfoot researchers and enthusiasts. And you know what? We had a great time.
We enjoyed meeting with Eerie Eric, an artist who paints Sasquatch landscapes, as well as cryptozoological creatures of all kinds. I don’t know why Not-Platypus didn’t buy one. They are fantastic.
I was especially excited to see the premiere of the documentary, Minerva Monster. Minerva, Ohio is a typical small town near where Not-Platypus and I grew up, and the location of a rash of Bigfoot-type activity in 1978. But neither of us had ever heard of the “Minerva monster,” and our parents don’t remember hearing of it, either. In fact, according to the filmmakers, practically nobody in Minerva had any recollection of the monster. Even the woman sitting next to me for the screening, who said she’d lived all her life in Minerva, didn’t recall a thing about the monster sightings – despite the fact that they’d caused quite a flap at the time.
I enjoyed the film and thought the filmmakers had done a wonderful job editing it so that the people who figured in the narrative – the policeman and reporter who investigated, and those who witnessed the “monster” for themselves – were respectfully portrayed and able to tell their own stories.
Another highlight was meeting Bob Gimlin, of Patterson-Gimlin Film fame. He is a cowboy and a gentleman, and it was fun to speak with him, if only for a minute.
The next day, Sunday, we made our way to the oddly post-apocalyptic-looking beach area at the park for the cookout/chainsaw-carving demonstration. Snuffy Destefano, an artist from Pennsylvania, crafts incredible life-sized Sasquatches from blocks of solid wood, using only a chainsaw and a fabulous imagination. We also were able to speak with some researchers who told us about experiences they’d had tracking Bigfoot right there in Salt Fork State Park.
We didn’t know what to expect for our first OBC. But the conference was fun, interesting, and the attendees were welcoming and not at all strange. In fact, I felt the gathering of people at the conference was far more normal than most groups of people one may see in a regular, day-to-day public setting. But I guess that may say more about me than about the conference. If we could have done one thing differently, it definitely would have been to stay in the park, instead of a nearby motel — Next year. Watch out, OBC 2016.