Bigfoot Encounters

In search of Bigfoot, Coshocton County, Ohio  
by Lionel Green

Photo caption: Searching for Sasquatch -- Hawk Spearman shows a drawing of what he saw while living in Ohio in April 1999. The sighting led to his interest in Bigfoot research and to create an Alabama chapter of the Elusive Primates of North America.

Published May 24, 2008 -- ONEONTA — Hawk Spearman remembers his face-to-face encounter with the creature.

It was April 1999 in Coshocton County, Ohio.

“We had just moved to this location about month or so before,” he recalls. “I walked up the hill behind our home to look at some large humanlike foot tracks I had found a few weeks before.

“The foot tracks were close to a power line alley. I found the old tracks but did not find any new ones. I decided to look around to see what kind of wildlife I could find and look for a good area to hunt in later in the year.

“I was walking and looked up towards the top of the hill about 100 yards or so away and saw what looked like two people standing, facing each other beside the telephone pole. I did not know if they were hunting or what, so I decided to leave the area.

“I turned to leave, walked about 50 yards and right in front of me stood a large, hairy, bipedal creature about 6 1/2 or 7 foot tall. It had hair from head to toe. The hair on its head was longer than on the rest of its body.

“It was reddish brown in color. I would compare the shoulders to someone wearing football pads only wider.

“It had a large rock — one that would take two good men to carry — in its hands, and at first, it was paying no attention to anything in particular. Then it looked up and saw me standing there. We both screamed about the same time. It threw the rock towards me, and it landed right in front of my feet. “I took off down the hill and it ran up the hill towards the phone pole. It took me a good 20 minutes or more to walk that far up the hill, but only took me five minutes to get back down.

“I never in my life expected to see anything like that, but I am very fortunate that I did.”

The encounter set Hawk on his current quest and is ultimately the reason he founded an Alabama chapter of the Elusive Primates of North America, or EPNA, earlier this year. The fledgling chapter is a volunteer group with about six members and is looking for more. Membership is free.

Hawk and his wife, Karen, have dedicated almost a decade of their lives to finding proof of Bigfoot’s existence.

“We have been in this research for about 10 years,” says Hawk, who operates an animal control business. “We do not see ourselves as experts in this field of research because in our opinion there is no such thing as an expert in Bigfoot research and never can be until Bigfoot is proven to exist without a doubt.

“There are many very good researchers from all walks of life, past and present, who have trekked through the woods for many years and have invested time and energy into proving the existence of this creature by following leads and interviewing countless eyewitnesses.

“Many foot tracks have been cast and even more pictures and videos taken, but to date there still has not been enough proof to satisfy the skeptics or the scientific world that Bigfoot really does exist.”

Hawk and Karen live in Altoona, a small town in Etowah County about 30 miles from Albertville. They were hosts to a meeting of EPNA this month at the Oneonta Public Library.

On display were the plaster cast of an odd-looking footprint, hair samples from some creature, audio recordings of strange sounds in the forests and photos showing the well-camouflaged visage of something … or was it simply an eerie pattern of shadows and light?

Hawk will not say definitively if the creature he saw was Bigfoot. But he wants to solve the mystery one way or the other.

EPNA investigates

Enter EPNA, the group dedicated to answering the question, “Does Bigfoot exist?”

The group investigates strange footprints, sightings and sounds reported in the region. EPNA is currently working on a handful of active investigations.

When EPNA surveys a location, its members typically set up voice-activated audio recorders and motion-sensitive cameras near a bait bag in isolated spots.

The Spearmans are focused on Marshall, Blount, Etowah, Jackson and Shelby counties but are willing to delve into substantive cases in all parts of the Southeast. Last year, Hawk says he joined an expedition in Texas looking to find Bigfoot. It came up empty, but Hawk notes, “A lot of people said they seen some things.”

At EPNA’s meeting this month, two residents requested the group look into possible cases in their neck of the woods.

“I want to make the meetings comfortable for people to talk about this,” says the 35-year-old Hawk. “It takes a lot of courage to talk about it.”

Hawk shrugs off any ridicule he receives for his interest in the semi-mythical beast.

“I have people calling me that crazy Bigfoot guy,” he says. “My wife’s called me worse.”

Frankie Green, of Oneonta, reported strange sounds and footprints in her area, adding older relatives mentioned similar incidents in the past involving screams that sent frightened hunting dogs running back home.

“Whatever it is, it’s been around a long time,” says Green, who discovered EPNA in a newspaper article. “Some of my neighbors have seen and heard things. It sounded like a bull hollering. It was a weird sound, but there’s no cattle around. It’s not too far from Palisades Park. There’s a lot of wild terrain in this part of North Alabama.”

Hawk agrees.

“There’s a lot of caves back there and a food supply big enough to support a ’squatch,” he says.

In fact, Hawk was busy Thursday setting up a camera and recorder at the Green location after a flurry of activity last weekend. Hawk says Green’s daughter and son-in-law heard screams in the woods so convincing they thought a child was lost and called law enforcement.

Hawk says three dogs turned up missing and another canine was injured in the area that night. He suspects a large cat but is reserving judgment because the sounds came from the area where suspicious Sasquatch-like footprints were photographed in 2005.

Regina Sloan, of Straight Mountain near Springville, also attended the EPNA meeting in May. She heard a high-pitched scream in the wild near her home.

“My husband thought I was playing a trick on him,” Sloan says. “He heard it and came running in the house to get his gun. He said it sounded like something that was hurt. I’ve heard several stories from people with similar descriptions, like no dogs would bark when they heard the screams.”

Sloan’s mother, Judy Keener, remembers hearing those screams in the same area in the 1970s. The sounds still resonate three decades later.

“It did it three times and nobody else heard it,” Keener says. “I was scared to death.”

Neither mother nor daughter speculates about what made the screaming noises.

“If it exists, God created it and it’s OK with me,” says Keener. “As long as it doesn’t come near me.”

Is Bigfoot here?

EPNA plans to investigate cases in the Boaz and Lake Guntersville areas soon. Bigfoot probes are usually sparked by calls from concerned residents.

The Spearmans say many sightings occur right before storms and in the presence of a significant swarm of locusts or grasshoppers. Hawk thinks Sasquatch uses the abundance of bugs for a protein fix.

With seven reports in the past two months, Hawk anticipates increased Bigfoot activity as people get out more in the summer. The Bigfoot Field Researchers Organization has documented 50 reported listings in Alabama, according to its Web site.

Washington, with 433, has the most in the U.S.

Hawk stresses his intentions are purely scientific.

“We will not kill the creature,” he says. “We will attempt to capture it for scientific study. If they’re a new and unknown species, they need to be protected.”

Hawk’s belief is tempered with a healthy skepticism and is quick to note Bigfoot research is filled with a lot of fraudulent claims.

With his coyote-teeth earrings dangling from his lobes and long dark hair flowing down his back in a ponytail, the half-Apache and half-Cherokee Indian speaks bluntly about his work.

“We investigate all calls seriously,” Hawk says.

“I believe Sasquatch is prehistoric men or cave men. But we leave it up to individuals to believe or disbelieve.”

His wife, Karen, is also part-Cherokee. They wrote a lengthy publication documenting their research called “Bigfoot Seekers.” The couple is also mentioned as Ohio researchers in a book by Loren Coleman called “Mysterious America.”

Some of the recorded vocalizations Hawk played at the meeting come from Marshall and Etowah counties. Many of the noises sounded like apes and monkeys in a jungle.

“We’ve had activity in Snead and Guntersville, Boaz and Blountsville,” he says.

One of the latest sightings occurred earlier this month in Etowah County, when a woman reported seeing a 7-foot-tall hairy creature crossing a road on two feet while she was driving between 7:30 and 8 in the morning.

Hawks calls such sightings urban ’squatches and says they’ll become more prevalent because of human encroachment into previously undeveloped areas.

“A lot of them are seen in broad daylight,” he says.

Hawk describes cases where humans were allegedly kidnapped by Bigfoot, and even witnesses who say they’ve seen family units. Hawk thinks the research community should call the younger Bigfoot by the name “’squatchlings.” He lists people, like park rangers and politicians, who’ve reported sightings. Still, the creature is not taken too seriously by most in the scientific community, who often classify its cryptozoological study as a pseudoscience.

Hawk tries to get expert opinions on possible evidence when he can. For example, he shows a hair sample with part of the skin still attached that he sent off for DNA testing to a primate research center. He says it came back “unknown.”

The hunt goes on

The Spearmans are devoted to the search for Sasquatch.

“I imagine I could buy four or five new cars and a new house just off what we’ve spent the last 10 years,” Hawk says.

The Bigfoot bug even bit Karen’s 16-year-old daughter, Mandy.

“Finding the tracks is what excites me,” says Mandy.

“We don’t like to take small children with us when we go out,” Hawk quips. “We prefer older children for bait.”

Peculiar tracks, fleeting glimpses, simian sounds, pungent odors … but no bona fide evidence. How can Bigfoot stay so elusive in the modern world?

“We both believe the Sasquatch has remained a mystery because it is that – elusive,” says Karen. “Let’s say you lived in the woods and everything you needed was right there. There would be no reason for you to venture away from what you know. For example, in the year 2000 in South America, an Indian tribe, that had been thought to be extinct for over 300 years, walked out of the rain forest.

“They were wearing their native clothing, speaking their native language, everything they have done for centuries. The reason they walked out of the rain forest is because people were destroying a part of the rain forest those people lived in and they had no choice.

“For years there had been reports of people seeing the members from this tribe roaming in the forest, but no one could find any evidence of them. When people reported about the sightings of these Indians, they were told it was impossible for these sightings to have taken place because the tribe was extinct and had been for over 300 years.

“If an entire tribe of people can stay elusive for over 300 years, it would be much easier for a Bigfoot, who we believe live in small family units, to stay hidden for centuries.”

Karen says she just hopes Bigfoot is not killed by a human looking to make a buck.

“There’s so many people that want to kill them for like a trophy,” says Karen. “They think they’re going to make a million dollars. They’re not.”

Adds Hawk: “Our only goal is to prove the existence of Sasquatch without killing it.”

The Spearmans admit they’re concerned about the consequences of their own search.

“We have asked ourselves many times if proving the existence of Bigfoot will help this gentle creature, or will it destroy something that has evaded man for centuries?” Karen says. “Should we move forward or should we discontinue our research? Until we can answer this question or someone can give us an answer ... the search continues.”

Sand Mountain Reporter, serving Albertville and the Sand Mountain region...

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