Bigfoot Encounters

Todd Neiss, Oregon

Ever elusive and ever hairy, the hominid remained invisible to members of Entice Contact 2 last spring. But to Bigfoot-stalkers in the know, there's always the hope for next time.

By Stephanie Earls | Design: Anne Martens Portland, October 1998

Ever since Todd Neiss saw Bigfoot, he has stayed on the lookout.

There was the expedition Neiss led last spring, for example: a trip into the deep forest near Saddle Mountain in Clatsop County,
Oregon. Neiss's five-member team had the run of a two-hundred-plus-acre, privately owned section of land for eight days. During that time, encouraging signs included some 15-inch footprints, but "they were washed out and not of cast quality," explains Neiss, sounding slightly jaded but not discouraged. "We were hoping to find something better later on."

Something better? Neiss means something really better, although he won't admit to hoping for another sighting. "I really question the odds that people have seen a Bigfoot more than once," he says.

Neiss, 37, is the vice-president of a Portland transportation company,and the team leader for Operation Entice Contact 2, or "EC2." That expedition last March was the group's second such trip seeking conclusive biologic evidence to prove the existence of the tall, hairy, elusive hominids said to roam densely wooded sectors of North America.

Neiss has been obsessed with the search since back in 1993, when he caught sight of three huge, hair-covered figures while participating in an Army demolition maneuver in Clatsop County.

Since then, the former skeptic has become one of the most devout and sought-after acolytes in the ubiquitous cult of Bigfoot. It's a cult that stretches throughout the Northwest, from Northern California to coastal Canada and as far inland as Idaho.

EC2 came up only a few ice cubes from empty, just like EC1 and the fistful of other organized expeditions launched in the Pacific Northwest during the past three decades. That is, empty as far as the scientific community is concerned.

Neiss had hoped that the more than $100,000 in video and audio equipment lugged along by his team would turn up some substantial evidence. Equipment ranged from a rifle loaded with a biopsy dart to a bait stand/infra-red alert system slathered with goodies like bacon grease and Spam. The bait stand was designed to lure "BF" -- which is how the creature is known to intimates -- out of the woods; the biopsy dart might have provided conclusive evidence of his existence, if he'd taken the bait.

Then again, if Neiss and other Bigfoot field-researchers have learned one thing from years of searching, it is that expensive toys don't add up to much more than big budgets -- that is, unless BF decides to play.

Bigfoot aficionado Peter Byrne says he has spent several million dollars over the past three decades establishing clearinghouses and conducting large-scale, long-term research projects. The most recent project included a toll-free hotline for reporting sightings. Byrne, who lives in Portland's West Hills, has published numerous books on Sasquatch. His experience working as a big-game hunter and guide in Asia during the 1940s and '50s makes him uniquely qualified for the quest.

For his part, Byrne thinks his work has helped place Oregon on the Bigfoot-sighting map. "Part of the reason there are so many sightings reported in Oregon is because of the projects I've run," says Byrne, who joined Neiss for the latter part of the expedition last March. "I established a place for this information to come."

Researchers like Byrne have helped categorize the phenomenon and pin down what some people believe to be the creature's territorial habitat. But it's vision-quest expeditions like Neiss's that are the heart and soul of the BF cult.

And coming home without an autographed photo of Sasquatch is no reason to consider a venture a failure. "That doesn't mean nothing was found," Neiss says. "There's usually some evidence if you know what to look for -- broken tree branches, a strange foghorn-like whoop-whoop in the night, a foul funk, you name it." Little shreds of evidence are what keep researchers tracking and chasing Bigfoot throughout the region. "What makes it exciting is the prospect of the eventual discovery," Byrne says. "If the things exist, it truly will be the find of the century."

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