Don Keating has spent thousands of hours in the deep woods of Ohio, Washington, Oregon, Pennsylvania, West Virginia and British Columbia all in search of Bigfoot.
The 43-year-old founder of the Eastern Ohio Bigfoot Investigation Center and the Tri-State Bigfoot Study Group has purchased night-vision and recording equipment in his quest to document the existence of the legendary creature the past two decades.
Still, the biped he fears most as he spends hour upon hour in the backcountry is not Bigfoot.
What frightens me more than anything I’ve seen out there is man, he said. When you get right down to it, were the most dangerous creature out there.
Keating, who began his search for Bigfoot in 1984 after reading the book, Sasquatch: The Apes Among Us, presented some proof.
It was in the early 1990s and me and two other guys were walking
through the woods and we walked past this guy and said hello. He didn’t even look at us. He had a rifle slung over his shoulder and a pistol in a holster. A few minutes later, we heard him open fire on something.
Later, we were watching television and they ran a story on the Ohio Outdoorsman Killer. His name was Thomas Dillon. They showed his photograph.
It was the guy we walked past in the woods. If one of us had been alone and had stumbled across him, who knows what would have happened?
Keating, who works for Detroit Diesel, a factory in Newcomerstown, Ohio, by day, is the first person to admit there are a lot phonies when it comes to a subject matter such as Bigfoot.
Oh, no question, he said. Of all of the people I’ve talked to, of all of the thousands of hours I’ve spent out in the woods, there is not one shred of evidence to positively prove that a creature exists.
Despite that, he keeps beating a path into the forest whenever possible.
There are too many reliable people who swear they’ve seen this thing, he said. I just can’t believe all of them could be wrong, or be running a hoax.
There’s something out there... we just haven’t found it yet or it hasn’t allowed us to find it yet.
Keating admits it will take a dramatic turn of events to convince the mainstream that Bigfoot does indeed exist.
It will take one of two things, he said. For people like you and me, positive, undebatable video evidence would be enough.
However, for the scientific community, nothing short of dragging a corpse of the creature and dropping it into their laps would be enough to convince them.
After all the years he’s spent tracking the reclusive creature, Keating hopes it doesn’t come to that.
I figure, if a 7-foot, 1,000-pound creature wanted to take apart a man, it could, so it must not want to, he said. I’m sure with all my time spent out there alone in the dark, if something wanted to attack me, it would have no problem doing that.
His preference is to find proof that the creature exists without having one be killed to satisfy the non-believers.
My goal has always been to find the answer to whether it does or does not exist, he said. That hasn’t happened yet, so I’m going to continue.
In these parts...
Keating said he was aware of the sightings in Rome Township (see accompanying column) from back in 1981.
In fact, he and another well-known investigator in the field, Tom Archer, paid a visit to Ashtabula County to follow up on the case years later.
We went and talked to a guy who wrote a book about those sightings, Dennis Pilichis, Keating said. After he realized we were legitimate, he opened up and talked to us. Sounds like it was an interesting case, though judging from what you’ve told me of your experiences with it, it sounds really interesting!
Unfortunately, even a Web search for Pilichis book, Night Siege: The Northern Ohio UFO Creature Invasion, failed to turn up a copy. It wasn’t a real big seller, Keating said with a laugh.
Keating said the most well known sighting in Ohio happened in Minerva.
It was the summer of 1978, he said. And the case is very, very well known in this field.
The creatures kept coming right up and into a trailer park, over and over again, and to this day, no one knows why or what attracted them.
Keating said he wishes he knew.
If we were armed with that kind of knowledge, I’d be out there in the woods doing whatever it was to attract them, he said.
While The Legend of Boggy Creek is one hook into the realm of Bigfoot, the famed Roger Patterson film from the 1960s is the fields Holy Grail, at least to this point, so to speak.
Its on 16mm film, Keating said of the clip that shows a large, hair-covered biped hurriedly walking away as the hand-held camera of Patterson, who passed away years ago, shakes with a combination of excitement and fear. What convinces me that it is legit is the fact that technology did not exist in the 1960s to produce something like that.
They took that film to Disney at the time and asked them to replicate it. Those folks, the greatest creative minds in the world, could not do it using that equipment.
And what about The Legend of Boggy Creek?
The first portion of the film is true, he said.
Right up until the family moves into the house and is attacked.
That’s pure hogwash.
One haunting aspect of the movie is especially true.
The scream or howl they play at the beginning and end of the movie is an actual recording of Bigfoot someone caught on their tape recorder, he said. It’s really something.
In the hunt
As to the age-old question of why none of the millions of hunters who enter the woods across the world have ever produced a Bigfoot carcass, Keating offers good reasoning.
Most hunters are very woods-savvy and they don’t shoot what they can’t identify, he said. If they see something out there walking on two legs, they’re not going to shoot it because it might be their buddy or another hunting party.
That hasn’t stopped many a hunter from spotting the creature, though.
I can’t even begin to count how many men and women who have come up to me and told me they’ve seen it, he said.
So why don’t they go public?
The same reason most don’t they don’t want to be ridiculed, laughed at or the scorn that would come with it. Without proof, it’s really not worth it and, quite honestly, I don’t blame them.
Keeping the faith
Keating hasn’t and won’t give up his quest.
In July, Ill start my 23rd year of searching, he said. I guess it’s my life’s work and my fiancée is OK with it, so Ill keep going.
While he has yet to come across proof, his belief has waned.
I’ve seen and heard way too many things and had too many unusual experiences, he said.
I look at it this way, he continued. The Silverback gorilla wasn’t discovered until the early 1900s. The Panda bear wasn’t discovered until after that. Now, they’re in captivity, in zoos for the entire world to see.
There’s still an awful lot of this world that has yet to be explored. New species are being discovered every day. So, why not Bigfoot?
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