Hundreds flock to Bigfoot convention

Next to a lifelike replica of a giant ape head, the believers milled around tables on Saturday covered with casts of large footprints and T-shirts proclaiming “Bigfoot: Often imitated, never invalidated”.

While they can have a sense of humour about it, the search for the legendary Sasquatch is no joke for many of the nearly 400 people who came to the Texas Bigfoot Conference to discuss the latest sightings and tracking techniques.

“It’s not a matter of believing, like faith, when you believe in something you can’t see,” said Daryl G Colyer, a Lorena businessman who has investigated hundreds of reported Bigfoot sightings in Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas and Louisiana.

“It’s a flesh-and-blood animal that just has not been discovered yet,” Colyer said. “And I think we’re getting closer and closer and closer.”

Outlandish theories about the origin of Bigfoot abound, including that it might be an extraterrestrial. Many believe that a towering, ape-like creature descended from a prehistoric 2m- to 3m-tall gorilla called a gigantopithecus, and that it now inhabits North American forests.

Hoaxes have been a large part of the making of the Bigfoot legend.
California construction company owner Ray L Wallace donned 40cm wooden feet to create tracks in mud in 1958, and it led to a front-page story in a local paper that coined the term “Bigfoot”.

But there have been more than 2 550 seemingly credible Bigfoot sightings reported in North America the past century, according to Christopher L Murphy’s 2004 book Meet the Sasquatch.

Murphy believes thousands more witnesses are too afraid of ridicule to come forward.

Colyer and others estimate that about 2 000 are in North America today, living reclusively in thickly wooded areas with waterways, eating meat and plants and making nests out of trees and brush.

Pictures and film footage are often disputed, such as the 1967 footage of a creature walking near a California creek. Most evidence centres on casts of footprints collected since the 1950s.

Jimmy Chilcutt, a retired fingerprint analysis expert for the Conroe police department, said many of the hundreds of prints he examined belonged to a primate, but not a human, ape, gorilla or chimpanzee.

Other well-respected professionals have come forward to say such evidence should not be dismissed.

“This is not a paranormal question; it’s a biological question,” said Jeff Meldrum, associate professor of anatomy and anthropology at Idaho State University who has studied more than 150 casts of footprints.—Sapa-AP

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