Bigfoot Encounters

Yeti hunters form their own group
in Hernando County, Florida...

By Susan Denley, St. Petersburg Times Staff Writer

March 27, 1974 -- Lucky K Ranch - Here in a remote part of Hernando County, a small serious group of people has been silently carrying out a study they believe will soon bring conclusive proof for the existence of the elusive yeti.  

George Kelly, owner of the Lucky K Ranch and his family recently split from the St Petersburg based Yeti Research Society to form a new study group that he says is using more scientific methods to study the man-beasts that he and many of his neighbors believe inhabit the thick woods of Hernando County.  

Reports of sightings of yeti-like creatures have come from all over the world. Known as Sasquatch in Canada, Big Foot in Various parts of the United States, Skunk ape in the Florida Everglades and the Abominable Snowman in Tibet, the creatures have prompted eyewitness accounts that are remarkably similar.  

Yetis reportedly are large with a height that can reach 8 feet and a weight of as much as 1,000 pounds; they have heavy body hair, an overhanging brow and feet 16 to 19 inches long. At times the yeti emits a foul odor witnesses say.  

Kelly's goal is to get a photograph of one and he thinks he is getting close to fulfilling it.  

For four months, he and his group - which includes his wife Nancy, son Shawn and Daughter Debbie O'Neil and her husband Mason and their friends Ramona Clark and Duane Hibner -- have been tracking yeti and trying to observe them in their natural habitat. 

"We disagreed with the way the other group was doing it," Kelly said. 

The St. Petersburg society confines much of its work to weekends and sends large groups into the field to use loud music and campfires as lures for the yeti.  Kelly's researchers - known as the Yeti Evaluation and Technological Investigators - "think small and quiet" and try to conduct the study continuously.  

They have been trying to have a team in the field every night between 6 p.m. and 6 a.m. prime time for yeti sightings. 

"We've gotten closer to them this time than we ever have before," Kelly said.  

Mrs. Ramona Clark says she had the best look at a yeti. A researcher who came to the Lucky K from Jacksonville simply because of her curiosity about the creature, she said she came face to face with a yeti at 25 feet.  "I was frozen in my tracks," she remembers.  

George Kelly's group believes it had been following a "family" of the creatures and says the yetis are so familiar to them now that they are thinking about naming them.  

Apparently the animals are beginning to feel more at ease around the Kelly family too. In recent weeks they have been coming in closer to the ranch to feed, in several instances climbing the fence, the Kelly said.  

The Kelly's neighbors have reported yetis coming in close.  A yeti reportedly chased one frightened woman into her house and another woman "has one appearing regularly at her cookouts," Mrs. Clark said.  

Another neighbor reported seeing a yeti playing with the wheel on a child's tricycle in her yard.  Women seem to see yetis more frequently than men do, the Kelly's said.  

"Maybe they think men are more competitive," Mrs. Clark theorized.  

Yetis apparently are quite strong.  Shortly after the Kelly's moved to the ranch three years ago, an animal - they now believe it was a yeti -- tried to break into their rabbit cages and bent sturdy metal hooks.  None of the Kelly men have been able to duplicate the feat.  

The Kellys also have found the bodies of small animals that have been torn apart in a manner that leads them to believe that the creature responsible must have some degree of manual dexterity.  

At one time, the Lucky K residents carried sidearms at all times outdoors, Kelly said.  Now they have eliminated that practice and have lost some of their fear of the creatures.  "You would think you'd be frightened the first time you see one, but actually the first think you think is, "My God, how big it is," Mrs. Kelly said.  "And if you see it alone you try to talk yourself out of it."  

Right now the Yeti Evaluation and Technological Investigators are looking for financial backing to help them carry on what they want to be a scientifically sound study of the creature.  

Although they say they don't want "sightseers," and idle curiosity seekers involved, they would be willing to include reputable researchers.  

"If a science professor from the University of Tampa called, we would be glad to have him come out," Mason O'Neil said.  

(c) The St. Petersburg Times 3/27/74

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