Bigfoot conference slated for Saturday in Newcomerstown

**NEWCOMERSTOWN -- Don Keating went from bigfoot skeptic to a believer in1985.
Keating started researching bigfoot in July 1984. His research took him to County Road 33 in Guernsey County in September 1985. There he was investigating possible sasquatch activities.
"I was about four miles south of Newcomerstown," Keating said. "Then I saw some movement in some goldenrod weeds." Keating said he saw a 9 foot, light colored creature slowly walk through the weeds. "It walked to within 35 feet of me," Keating said. "It stopped and walked away twice as fast as it had come down the hill. I had a camera hanging around my neck and I never thought to take a picture."

Keating then founded the Tri-State Bigfoot Study Group, which will host its 14th annual Bigfoot Conference/Bigfoot Expo Saturday. The event will take place from 4 to 10 p.m., at the Newcomerstown Middle School.

The group investigates any reported bigfoot sightings in Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia. The 40-member group meets monthly to discuss findings locally or internationally.

Keating said bigfoot stories were handed down by Indians. He added that there are reports from early colonial American settlers, as well.

Most researchers believe sasquatches are evolved from apes. Most sighting reports state the creatures are between 7 to 12 foot tall and weigh approximately 400 pounds.

Marc DeWerth became interested in sasquatches on April 20, 1997, after seeing what he believed to be Bigfoot in Wills Creek off County Road 410 in Coshocton County.

"My first thought was that it was a bear," said DeWerth, who is the group's travel coordinator. "When it turned its head and looked at me I thought 'Oh my God, they do exist.' I was always interested in it as a kid, and wanted to see bigfoot, but I never believed it would be in Ohio."

DeWerth said the conference is the largest bigfoot event in the world.

"It's only going to get bigger," DeWerth said. "With the advent of the Internet, it's easier for people to find out about things like this."

"I was quite surprised at last year's turnout, considering the subject matter," said Mike Frizzell, who spoke at last year's conference. "I was involved with the International Fortean Organization for 15 years. They explore unexplained phenomena worldwide. I don't think I attended an event that drew over 225 people in my 15 years. That's the amazing thing about Don's conference, it pulls more people," said Frizzell, who will also speak at this year's conference.

**Keating researches sasquatch activity for the Bigfoot Field Researchers Organization. Keating said he found evidence of possible bigfoot existence in Warsaw on two occassions in the past 12 years. His finding are posted on the organization's Web site, "There was definite evidence of sasquatch activity in the area," he said.

Thom Powell, a curator for the organization, said the Ohio sightings fall into the organization's research data suggestions. The organization compiles evidence and patterns on sasquatch sightings and activities.

"There is more food in a state like Ohio because the deer population has exploded," Powell said. "We're convinced that sasquatches are meat eaters and deer are a principle source of food. We see a lot of depredation of livestock, cows, goats, sheep, rabbits and chickens. There are more than enough food sources for a night-dwelling creature to avail itself of."

Powell, a Portland, Ore., resident and Ohio native, added that a bigfoot is intelligent and may be hiding its presence.

"Ohio has a lot of forested areas where a sasquatch can hide," Powell said. "There are large tracts of forested land, even in metropolitan areas. The creatures operate basically at night so they aren't sighted. A lot of sightings aren't reported because people fear ridicule."

Keating said that while people fear ridicule, interest in the conference is still high.

"There are a lot of skeptics out there, but we still had 323 people attend last year's conference." 295-3431
Originally published Thursday, April 4, 2002

** "Just a minor correction to this story..... In it there is mention that I do field research for the BFRO. I do NOT do field research for the BFRO. Thanks. Don Keating"
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