Bigfoot Encounters

Bigfoot believers attend convention
on mythical or non-existent creature
By Dan Nephin

Copyright The Associated Press
9/21/02 8:27 PM

JEANNETTE, Pa. (AP) -- Big believers in Bigfoot ignored a history of hoaxes and misidentifications and gathered Saturday to exchange stories and peruse books and items on the creature.

About 120 people attended the fourth annual East Coast Bigfoot Conference and Expo in this town outside Pittsburgh. Sale items included plaster casts of footprints -- some with five toes, some with three.

"There's just too much evidence collected, too many sightings, too many reports for the creature not to exist," said Eric Altman, director of the Pennsylvania Bigfoot Society. Altman does not claim to have actually seen a Bigfoot. However, while investigating a report in the woods of Bradford County two years ago, he and another researcher heard some sort of creature.

"We couldn't see it, but we could hear it mumbling and growling -- almost like speaking," said Altman, 32, who installs software for AT&T. He said it crossed the trail about 100 yards ahead of them, just out of sight.

Over the past three years, the society has investigated more than 50 Bigfoot reports in Pennsylvania. Though the Northwest is best identified with Bigfoot, or Sasquatch, Altman said Pennsylvania ranks fourth among states with more than 500 sightings dating to the 1800s.
Christine Vinkler, 50, said she would have thought anyone claiming to see a Bigfoot was crazy, too -- until June 2000, when she said she saw one while driving to work. "I was a skeptic, very much so," she said.

Others not at the expo said they simply haven't seen any proof. "There's a lot of evidence. The problem is it's not good evidence," said Benjamin Radford, managing editor of "Skeptical Inquirer," the magazine of the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal.

"People have always believed in the fantastic," said Barbara Mikkelson, who runs the Urban Legends Reference Page on the Internet. "We want to believe in a world where miracles can happen."

Dave Grim, 32, a high school history teacher, said he came to the expo out of curiosity. "I'm open and would like to experience something I can't explain," he said.

Copyright 2002 Associated Press. All rights reserved.

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