Bigfoot Encounters

Ray Crowe's International Bigfoot Society
THE SPOKESMAN Tuesday, May 14, 2002

Bigfoot believers meet to swap tales
Plaster-cast footprints abound at Oregon gathering
By Andrew Kramer
Associated Press

HILLSBORO, Oregon. _ Woodsy men in suspenders and muddy boots examined Ziploc bags holding strands of "Bigfoot hair" and grainy photographs of apelike forms. One man -- a schoolteacher -- keeps a pile of dung he says may have come from a Bigfoot.

About 400 people showed up for a weekend regional conference on Bigfoot, also known as Sasquatch.

It was a meeting not of skeptics, but of true believers -- folks who are quite certain there's a large, hairy apelike creature roaming the misty forests of the Northwest.

"A lot of people in the Northwest believe in Bigfoot," said Ray Crowe, a retired electrician and director of the Western Bigfoot Society, a Portland-based nonprofit that's considered the largest of its kind.

A big man wearing a dress shirt un-tucked over khakis, Crowe shuffled about as he reviewed fresh photographs, brought in from places like the Mount Hood wilderness in Oregon, the slopes of the Coast Range, and Skamania County, Washington, where a 1969 ordinance protects Bigfoot.

In those places, a sea of trees hides a body of lore that has captivated people for generations -- even though Bigfoot's existence has never been proven.

Supposed evidence of Bigfoot was on display, and on sale, at the weekend convention at the Washington County Fairgrounds.

They included plaster footprints that ranged in size from the eponymous big -- 20-inch indentations with toes as big as corn dogs -- to a dainty pair from a "baby Bigfoot."

For the kids, there were Chewbacca action figures -- apparently offered because of the Star Wars character's resemblance to many people's idea of what Bigfoot looks like.

The search for Bigfoot had its heyday in the Northwest in the late 1960s, after Robert Patterson and Bob Gimlin returned from an expedition in Northern California with film of a Bigfoot about 10 feet tall loping along a creek behind a log jam and gravel bank.

Bigfoot societies were formed and expeditions launched. Peter Byrne, an Irishman who has also sought Yeti in Nepal, opened the Bigfoot Research Center in The Dalles with a $1 million endowment from a donor.

Huge, humanoid footprints were found across the country.

Crowe said he receives about 30 letters a month describing sightings these days, most from around the Northwest.

The weekend convention showed something new is afoot among those who seek the Sasquatch.

Accounts have evolved alongside the changing sensibilities about the environment in Bigfoot country, which is generally understood as Northern California, Oregon, Idaho and Washington.

In past decades, Bigfoot sightings returned from the woods with loggers and hunters. More recently, Bigfoot seekers include environmentalists who propose preserving Bigfoot habitat from logging, said Crowe.

"It's definitely shifted more to conservation," Crowe said.

But Terry Reams says killing a Bigfoot may be necessary to disprove those who doubt its existence.

"In my personal opinion, it has to come down," said Reams, a 51-year-old electrician from Longview, Wash.

Reams told the assembled believers of driving east on Interstate 84 near Cascade Locks on a rainy December in 1975. He looked out the window and saw Bigfoot loping along the shoulder of the highway beside his car, he said.

Thom Powell, an eighth-grade science teacher, keeps two clumps of dung in a cupboard of his science classroom, and says they may have come from a Bigfoot.

Powell has concealed a video camera in a bird house near Chehalis, Wash. He hopes only to catch a glimpse of Sasquatch eating the tasty morsels he put out as bait.

"We're trying to get people to recognize that there is a population of these creatures," he said.

THE SPOKESMAN Tuesday, May 14, 2002

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