"ENCOUNTERS WITH THE HAIRY ONE?"
1992 - The magazine ad says simply: ``Encounters with Bigfoot, whether old or recent, can be reported in confidence to experienced researcher.'' A phone number follows. (No, it isn't 1-800-BIG-FOOT.) People who call the number often sigh with relief after a few seconds; the person at the other end is not laughing about the success of the prank.
Got a tale to tell about a close encounter of the beast kind?
Relief is as handy as the nearest phone. Simply dial the hot line for the Hairy One, AKA, Bigfoot, Sasquatch, Yeti or Alma, as the Russians call the legendary creature.
At the other end is the Pennsylvania Center for UFO Research, a repository of information about unexplained physical phenomena. Sightings of Bigfoot abound, especially in the western part of the state. The problem, researchers say, has been getting witnesses to confess their experiences. ``People who see these things don't want to talk about them,'' said Paul G. Johnson, the center's director. ``They're afraid of the publicity or being laughed at. We end up acting like psychologists.''
Johnson, 48, is the leader of the center's ``Cryptozoological study group,'' which collects and analyzes exploits of these semi-mythical creatures. The group recorded 101 Pennsylvania Bigfoot reports from 1980 through 1989. Bigfoot has been spotted in pairs (Bigfeet?), in family groups (Littlefoot?) and even swimming in ponds.
July and August are the big months for creature sightings, the reports show, perhaps because there are more people hiking through the woods. Johnson is a chemistry professor at a major university in Pittsburgh that, he says, would rather not have its name used because ``they get a little testy'' about being linked with the missing link.
Perhaps it's the same feeling most callers have as they dial 1-800-322-8360.
The callers usually begin: This is going to sound (pick one) - a) stupid b) crazy c) incredible d) all of the above. The group has been running advertisements about the year-old hot line in Pennsylvania Woods & Waters magazine, local newspapers and shoppers' guides.
By people's accounts Bigfoot is 7 to 12 feet tall, weighs as much as 1,000 pounds and has broad shoulders, almost no neck, knee-length arms and dark-black hair covering its body. It walks erect on two big feet, which are 13 to 22 inches long and 6 to 9 inches wide. Bigfoot-watchers believe the creature is a descendant of the ape like Gigantopithecus, which is believed to have lived half a million years ago. Many anthropologists discount this theory, saying that they don't think such a creature has survived and that this species of ape was not as massive as the purported Bigfoot.
Newspaper: The Long Beach Press-Telegram
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