Woodsmen claim noisy Bigfoot stalks Oklahoma forest  
By Ron Wolfe The Tulsa Tribune
November 13, 1989

McCurtain County

IDABEL, Oklahoma. -- Down near Idabel, where the Little River borders the Ouachita National Forest, where the woods are thick, where the wild things are -- down there in the dark, people are reporting sightings of a large, smelly creature that seems to fit the description of the legendary Bigfoot.

Also known as Sasquatch, Yeti and the Noxie Monster, the existence of such a creature never has been confirmed, although people have reported seeing it in wooded areas across the country, especially in the Pacific Northwest. Now, McCurtain County residents report that it is making noise down their way -- and what a noise.

Whatever it is produces a scream that Joe Atwood has trouble describing.

"It's just a real shrill scream,' Mr. Atwood said. "It sounds kind of like a siren that's off-key.'

Mr. Atwood said the sound is enough to scare his coon dogs out of the woods.

"Whatever this is, they don't want anything to do with it,' he said. And he said he agrees with the dogs' good sense.

Mr. Atwood, a 52-year-old timber cutter and longtime coon hunter from Bokhoma, tells of two occasions when he might have seen the giant, ape-like creature that scared his dogs back to the truck.

"I don't know what it is,' he said. "Something unusual . . . , something that doesn't belong out there.'

Mr. Atwood's account is one of several reported sightings in the past six months of "something unusual' in McCurtain County, in far southeastern Oklahoma.

McCurtain County Deputy Sheriff Kenny McKee said "probably a half-dozen or more people' have reported seeing an animal that fits the general description of Bigfoot.

"I wouldn't know why they would lie about it, or want to start a rumor,' Mr. McKee said.

"I was raised up in that area for 50 years,' Mr. McKee said. In all that time, he said, he never saw a Bigfoot.

But the woods are deep enough to hide a mystery, and there are caves along the river. Mr. McKee said he is willing to concede that, "evidently, there is something down there, but I don't know what.'

Mr. Atwood said the first time he saw the creature was about five years ago, and the second time was about six months ago.

Both times, Mr. Atwood said, he was coon hunting at night, and he was able to shine a light on the animal that he saw from a distance of 50 to 75 yards before it lumbered away from him.

"He's a big animal, 7- or 8-feet tall . . . dark-colored, heavy-made . . . weighs 300 pounds or better,' Mr. Atwood said.He said the stringy-haired animal "smells pretty raunchy; he needs a bath real bad.'

Mr. Atwood said he thought it was odd that the animal's eyes didn't seem to reflect light. And when he tried to find tracks in the daytime, he couldn't.

"Over the years, I've had people laugh at me 'cause I said I saw it,' Mr. Atwood said.

Bigfoot stories date at least to the early 1900s in Oklahoma. Even earlier stories abound in the Pacific Northwest, but no one has been able to prove what the Bigfoot really is. Missing link? Elusive, endangered wild animal? Nothing but a shaggy myth?

Dr. Grover Krantz, visiting professor of anthropology at Oregon State University in Corvallis, Ore., has been researching the Bigfoot phenomenon for 20 years. People laugh at him, too. "That's a common reaction that people have,' Dr. Krantz said. But to him, the study is "part of my field of human evolution.'

"I don't have any real knowledge of the Oklahoma area,' the anthropologist said, but the sightings in McCurtain County are similar to some reports from the mountainous,
wooded states of Oregon and Washington.

"I'm satisfied that half the reports in my area are real,' Dr. Krantz said. His evidence includes plaster casts of massive footprints he identifies as being those of a Bigfoot.

However, Idabel High School track coach Skippy Smith doesn't need that kind of evidence to be convinced.

Mr. Smith told of the June morning when he went squirrel hunting a half mile into the woods.

"I thought all morning that I could feel something watching me,' Mr. Smith said. And then, he began to hear the sounds of something big and strong on the move, something just out of sight.

"The sound of breaking limbs, shaking trees . . . ,' Mr. Smith said. Through a gap in the leafy cover near the ground, Mr. Smith said, he saw the hairy, reddish-brown legs of an animal that appeared to be walking upright.

"I got the heck out of there,' he said. "And I haven't been back. "I've got a reputation for being a real good hunter,' he said. "For a long time, I didn't tell anybody' about the animal.

When he did tell people, "everybody made fun of me, so I haven't said too much about it.' But he is beginning to feel vindicated. "Too many other people have seen it,' Mr. Smith said. "A lot of coon hunters have been talking.'

State Game Ranger Mike Virgin's job includes listening to that talk, although he has not been persuaded by it. He recalls too many other times of "bears' that turned out
to be hogs, and "mountain lions' that turned out to be dogs in the woods.

These woods have been full of stories about Bigfoot by one name or another "probably as long as people have been here,' the ranger said. "The Indians -- Choctaws -- had stories about them.

"I'm in the woods all the time, and I haven't ever seen the track of one. I haven't ever seen one."Of course, that doesn't mean anything,' Mr. Virgin said.

Bringing in evidence probably would mean shooting or trapping the animal, and Mr. Atwood said he has no intention of taking a shot at any 8-foot-tall creature, least of all with a .22-caliber squirrel gun.

"It seems to be that if you don't crowd him, he won't crowd you,' Mr. Atwood said. And the hunter would just as soon keep it that way."If somebody was to shoot him and get him upset,' Mr. Atwood said, "he might make it rough for everybody in the woods.'

Copyright The Tulsa Tribune - Distributed by The Associated Press

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