Bigfoot Encounters 

A 'Bigfoot' Tracker Is Hot on the Trail
In the Buckeye State

The Shy, Hairy Beasts Live Not Far From Cleveland, Many Eyewitnesses Say

ALLIANCE, Ohio -- Robert W. Morgan crunches across a frozen cornfield on the outskirts of town
after midnight, hooting like an owl, sniffing like a dog and pausing here and there to listen.

"Come on, you big hairy beast-scream," he shouts into the darkness. But there is no peep from
anything big and hairy, only train horns, highway noise and protests a farmer's dog.

Disappointed, Mr. Morgan hikes back to his car and tries to excuse another unsuccessful search
in Ohio for the mythical beast, Bigfoot. Only he doesn't think the human-like, ape-like being is
a myth. "Anybody who thinks Bigfoot isn't in Ohio hasn't lived here," he says.

Since arriving in October to visit family, Mr. Morgan has clearly boosted Bigfoot awareness in the
Buckeye State. As sort of a professional Bigfoot tracker and promoter, he has been giving
speeches to high schools, sitting in on talk shows, and setting up an 800-number to report Bigfoot
encounters. He also sells copies of a "Bigfoot Pocket Manual" form containing a "Bigfoot Encounter Report" form asking readers to mail in even third-hand details of sightings. The response has been (what else?) monstrous.

He says he has received Bigfoot sightings reports from all over the state -- 50 in all -- some near
Cleveland. Mr. Morgan, who says he has spied Bigfoots three times in Washington State, estimates there are 18 living in Ohio, the seventh most populous state. "Bigfoot is very urbanized and intelligent around here," he says.

Ron Brunner, an alliance farmer, saw a 9 -- foot -- tall creature in a field across from his house
in December -- just 50 - odd miles from Cleveland. "My friends tell me I was in the silo drinking
too much corn juice," he says. "But what I saw definitely was Bigfoot." He says his 50 cows
were scared, too.

Barbara Bilinovich, in nearby Barberton, says three "humongous" creatures chased from the woods one night.

"It's just going nuts around here" with all the Bigfoot sightings, says Steve Jones, a host of a hunting and fishing radio show in Akron. While Mr. Morgan was a guest on his program, several sightings were called in to the station.

The Bigfoot fuss is nothing new in Ohio. A few years back a Columbus TV station reported that a band of Bigfoot hunters were taking women into the woods to lure the animal. But no Bigfoot took the bait. A decade earlier in Minerva, a 7-foot Bigfoot peeked in on Mary Ackerman's family through their dining-room window.

Paul Rozich, a leader of Canton's Tri-County UFO Study Group, says Bigfoot has become the main topic at its monthly meetings since several of its 85 members spied the animals in recent years.

Mr. Morgan, 56 years old, is strictly an amateur anthropologist. On the evolutionary scale, he is about as distant from Bigfoot as one can get. He is short and pudgy with a shaved head and blue eyes.

Nevertheless he feels for the Bigfoot, or Sasquatch, as the beast is sometimes called. He fears their population, which he puts at 2,500 in North America, is shrinking fast. His reasoning: Bigfoot is good at keeping out of sight that he rarely runs across potential mates.

Mr. Morgan says the creatures -- "gentle people," he calls them -- are nocturnal, semi-nomadic and highly intelligent. They use a written language, scratched on rocks, which he claims to have seen in Arizona and the Northwest. He is using a computer to decipher the symbols.

The scientific community finds Mr. Morgan's claims a bit Neanderthal. While bones of a Bigfoot-type creature, Gigantopithecus, have been discovered in China, and some scientists believe that the beast may even live today in the Pacific Northwest, Mr. Morgan is practically alone in believing the creatures are smarter than apes and live in Ohio.

"There's no scientific reason under the sun to expect such a creature would ever have been in Ohio," says Frank Poirier, professor of anthropology at Ohio State University. "The existence of Bigfoot in Ohio is more in these people's minds than in reality.

Jim Shannon, a police captain Stark county, which includes Canton, rejects Bigfoot on more empirical grounds. "We're a pretty urban county, so there's not too many places for Bigfoot to
hide," he says. "When Bigfoot walks into one of our liquor stores and pulls a hold up, then
I'll believe it."

Mr. Morgan compares himself to Galileo and Columbus, a "lone ranger" shunned by an ignorant, arrogant society that fears the truth. His goal is to have the species protected, but he's in a bind. The government requires proof that the thing exists, and Morgan is reluctant to catch one because he considers Bigfoot human. Capturing a Bigfoot, he says, would bring the Civil Liberties Union on his back.

Instead, he plans to get close enough to rip off a hunk of Bigfoot's hair and flesh, though he hasn't yet decided what he'll do if this angers the creature -- which, he admits, it well might.

He say's he first spied a Bigfoot on a hunting trip in Washington in 1957. After seeing a Bigfoot article in a 1969 Reader's Digest, he says he quit his job as a computer specialist to track Bigfoot full time. He lives in Montana but has pursued his quarry in Florida, New Mexico, and the Northwest.

Mr. Morgan says he supports himself with money from various business ventures in marketing and films, many of which have failed. But he is optimistic about his next project: filming a detective movie in Romania. While there, of course, he'll hunt for Bigfoot. (Mr. Morgan did appear in the 1975 docudrama, "In Search of Bigfoot," which aired on network TV.)

Some have tried to take Mr. Morgan for a fool. In Washington, he recalls, someone offered him, for 1 million, film of a man in an oversized jacket shaking a tree. In Oregon, he says, a man tried to throw off the track by running nude through the woods at night, covered in fish oil.

In Ohio, he persuaded Canton's Daring Publishing Group, specialists in military and spiritual healing books, to print his handbook and provide an office. He has recruited the publisher and a local paramedic to help him track Bigfoot.

Daily, they pore over encounter reports at the office: a 38-year-old electrician in Mantua spied the beast walking in the middle of the Cuyahoga River; another man found Bigfoot crying one morning at a campsite off Route 87; another found the beast covered with berries and walking down a dirt road in Sharon.

They plot the sightings on a map, and head out to investigate. It isn't long before he pulls the off the road and darts into the woods. "Hmmm," he says pointing to a broken sapling. Yards later, some bark is scraped off of a tree, and a patch of moss is missing from a log. "Hmmm." Nearby, there's a smell of urine, or perhaps fertilizer. "Hmmm." He finds a cluster of dried leaves
draped over a branch. A signpost left by Bigfoot? "Hmmm."

He admits the find is not "conclusive." Even so, Mr. Morgan believes he is getting warm. "We're on the verge," he says, "of serious contact."

By Dana Milbank, Staff Reporter of The Wall Street Journal - Circa: 1996
Article courtesy Tim Olson

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