The Cryptozoologist > articles
| Akron, Ohio | March 24, 1999
Believing in Bigfoot
You can scoff at these folks
all you want, but they know . . .
By Chuck Klosterman
Beacon Journal staff writer
In the woods of Ohio and Pennsylvania,
there lives a creature.
This creature is impossible to
photograph and difficult to describe, and it has managed to survive the intrusion
of technology. It defies the laws of science and the rules of common sense. And it's
a creature that evidently cannot die, no matter how many people try to kill it.
It is a creature called Hope.
It's the hope that -- somewhere,
perhaps in the deep underbrush of Coshocton County -- there is a Sasquatch. Laymen
refer to this species as Bigfoot; experts'' call it the Pennsylvania Creature. But
most people simply call it a myth, and those who believe in that myth are politely
It's not easy to have faith in
the Sasquatch. Tell your co-workers you've seen a Bigfoot, and they will laugh at
you. When you walk the streets of your hometown, local teen-agers will drive by,
roll down their car windows and growl at you. Your credibility will constantly be
weighed against your espoused belief in a hairy, 7-foot primate that nobody can capture
(or even successfully photograph). Everyone will think you're nuts.
But for true believers, the unified
sarcasm of a skeptical society simply does not matter.
During the first weekend of March,
about 150 believers drove though a blizzard to Newcomerstown, Ohio, a town with a
population of less than 4,000. They came to Newcomerstown to sit on metal folding
chairs in a tiny elementary school gymnasium, where they drank complimentary Coca-Cola
and rapped about the Sasquatch lifestyle.
For 11 years, Newcomerstown has
hosted an annual Bigfoot Conference. Among them are a few especially serious Sasquatch
searchers who come to Newcomerstown each month to attend meetings of the Tri-State
Bigfoot Study Group, where they analyze recent sightings and discuss the growing
body of Bigfoot evidence.
It is a collection of people who
don't care what you think.
Back in 1988, my name appeared
in the local newspaper because of my Bigfoot sightings, and some of the younger kids
in town made fun of me whenever they saw me out and about,'' says 33-year-old John
Regoli, a Belmont County resident who claims to have seen the creature on four separate
They would yell stuff at me, and
they all seem to think I'm crazy. But once you see it, you immediately become a believer.
You just have to be in the right place at the right time -- and I just happen to
have been in that position several times. I think most people disbelieve the wrong
things. They are willing to believe anything they see on tabloid TV or in a newspaper,
but they totally discount eyewitness experience from everyday, hard-working people.
And I don't know why that is.''
For a handful of conference-goers,
belief in Bigfoot really isn't a choice -- they merely cannot deny their own optic
nerves. It might seem cliche, but seeing is believing. Conference organizer
Don Keating says he knows why the world scoffs at the Sasquatch concept, because
he used to feel the same way. But in September 1985, he saw a large, light-colored
individual'' four miles south of Newcomerstown. That changed everything.
"I can understand the public's
unwillingness to believe in Bigfoot, because we don't have anything physical,'' Keating
says. "There's not a Bigfoot body laying on a metal table that you can prod
with a stick. If I had not seen it myself, I'd still be pretty skeptical. It's a
tough sell. But I'm positive of what I saw.''
It's difficult to argue with a
person who says he's seen a Sasquatch; beyond calling him a liar, there's really
nothing to debate. All the logic in the world won't convince someone that what he
saw wasn't there.
But what about the people who
believe without seeing?
Ms. L* is a Midwest investment
banker. . . Actually, L is her birth name; she refuses to use her business
name in print, because Ms. L S is certain she'd be fired if it was widely reported
that she spends her free time hunting for Bigfoot.
"My name is very well known
in the investment community, so I have been reticent to attach myself to this subject,''
says Ms. L, 39. There are lots of credible people out there who have stories about
Bigfoot. Unfortunately, they're usually afraid to come forward.''
What makes Ms. L's interest in
Bigfoot particularly fascinating is that she's never even seen one. As a high school
senior, she had "an encounter'' in the woods. . . she suspects a Sasquatch may
have chased her through the brush. But she never actually saw the beast -- and seeing
one has become her ultimate goal.
Conversationally, Ms. L seems
completely rational (she has degrees in political science and communications. . .).
Her only personality anomaly is an avowed quest for the Sasquatch. She pores over
the Internet, looking for people who have Bigfoot stories. She is searching for a
lost newspaper clipping about an alleged "dead monkey'' discovered in a. . .swamp
in the 1960s. She's even purchased a piece of satellite equipment called a GPS --
a global positioning system that will aid in the Sasquatch tracking process.
"Anyone who doesn't speculate
in the hope of broadening knowledge is not a very intelligent soul,'' Ms. L said.
"Sometimes it seems like we've reached a point in our social evolution where
we assume we know everything. But we don't.''
Facts vs. fiction
Maybe Ms. L is right; maybe society
does assume it knows everything. But what society knows'' about Bigfoot could
be stored in a shot glass.
We have no Sasquatch flesh; we
have no Sasquatch bones. There have been more than 700 Bigfoot sightings in the Pacific
Northwest, but nobody's ever hit one with a logging truck. Some people swear they've
found Sasquatch hair samples, but the DNA evidence is inconclusive.
The proof'' of Bigfoot's existence
is primarily built on hearsay, a bunch of weird footprints, and 952 frames of 16
millimeter film that were shot by a stuntman named Roger Patterson in 1967. Filmed
near Bluff Creek, Calif., it's the grainy footage that just about everyone has seen:
A female Sasquatch appears to be fleeing from a stream bed into the forest, momentarily
glancing back at the camera. Though the film has never been exposed as an absolute
hoax, it has been widely discredited.
Still, the hunt for information
continues. The torch is being carried by cryptozoologists such as Loren Coleman,
the conference's keynote speaker. (Translated literally, cryptozoology is
the study of animals that are secret or hidden.)
Coleman lives in Portland, Maine,
and teaches college courses in sociology, anthropology and documentary filmmaking.
However, he's better-known as the co-author of The Field Guide to Bigfoot, Yeti, and
Other Mystery Primates Worldwide.
In cryptozoology, we are very
careful about using the word belief. That word belongs in the providence of
religion,'' Coleman says. However -- after 40 years of research -- I have come to
accept the possibility that some kind of unknown primate is out there.''
Coleman assumes that at least
80 percent of all Bigfoot sightings are mistakes or hoaxes. He admits that it probably
is a little irrational to hunt for Bigfoot, mostly because a totally rational
person is not the kind of guy who's going to go looking for something that can't
be easily proven.'' But he thinks that part of intellect is having an open, creative
mind -- and he doesn't care if his peers think otherwise.
There is a thing in academia called
the ridicule curtain','' Coleman says. It's used against anyone who is working on
a subject that's on-the-edge. As soon as I mention Bigfoot, some people stop listening
to everything else I say. There are some people who just call me the yeti guy' or
that guy who writes about Bigfoot.' But I'm so used to being ridiculed, it doesn't
even affect me anymore.''
*No longer wants her name used in association with Bigfoot--January 2002.