Registered: Jan 2003
Local time: 03:00 AM
Location: Santa Cruz
Larry Brink thinks the day will come when that headline will not be confined to supermarket tabloids.
Brink, a 37-year-old Harborcreek resident, said he believes Bigfoot is out there ? and he's not alone.
He and some other Pennsylvanians are convinced the mythical ape-like creature could be lurking nearby.
While the Pacific Northwest has long been America's hotbed for Bigfoot sightings and searchers, many believers now think Bigfoot might be stomping through Penn's Woods.
They claim to be hot on the trail of the proto-human whose legend stretches back more than 5,000 years.
Members of the Pennsylvania Bigfoot Society last February searched a forested area around Guys Mills in Crawford County after an Erie resident who owns land there said he glimpsed a large creature running through the woods.
The Bigfoot Society investigators didn't spot an 8-foot-tall Sasquatch, but they did find a pile of bones and a large sampling of "scat'' that they hope to have analyzed at a laboratory.
The reported sighting is one of a several from Erie and Crawford over the last 25 years and scores more from across the state of Pennsylvania.
Yet for all the mysterious claims and the hours spent investigating in the field, Bigfoot Society members admit they still lack the smoking gun ? credible proof that Bigfoot exists.
"People think we're crazy for doing this, but what happens when something does get discovered?'' said Brink, northwest regional investigator for the Bigfoot Society. "Then, all of a sudden, we are not the crazy ones.''
Indeed, Bigfoot believers are often dismissed as kooks, crackpots or conspiracy theorists.
Yet, Pennsylvania Bigfoot Society founder Eric Altman, 33, of Jeannette, said that people from all walks of life ? and socioeconomic status ? have either joined his organization or believe that Bigfoot may exist.
"I'm willing to bet there have been more sightings in the state, but people are afraid to come forward and talk about it,'' Altman said. "It's slowly starting to grow. People are starting to take it seriously. I think it's only a matter of time with the technology and manpower that we find something out there.''
James Adovasio, an internationally known archaeologist who serves as director of the Mercyhurst Archaeological Institute, said he does not think Bigfoot exists.
But he stops short of ruling out the possibility entirely.
"I don't deny the possibility that a large primate has gone undiscovered,'' Adovasio said. "But the evidence to support their existence is more than tenuous.''
Bigfoot believers often point to the discovery of new species in the past few decades when trying to explain why conclusive proof of Bigfoot hasn't been found.
Adovasio said that new species have been discovered in the "recent past,'' but mostly were found in remote, sparsely populated wilds and jungles of the world.
Adovasio classified the chance of a Bigfoot existing without discovery in North America as "extremely slim.''
"But if folks want to run around Pennsylvania, Oregon or the Himalayas in search of such a creature they are certainly free to do so,'' Adovasio said. "And if they should find one, so much the better for biologists and zoologists.''
Altman and a core group of researchers don't limit their investigations to reading, Internet searches and conventions like the Pennsylvania Bigfoot Society's annual East Coast Bigfoot Conference/Expo that was held in late September.
When someone contacts them claiming to have seen or heard a Bigfoot, investigators conduct extensive interviews to determine if the claim is a hoax.
When they think the report is credible, they will often spend the better part of a weekend staking out the location where the sighting or strange activity was reported.
Investigators wear thermal night vision goggles and have high-tech monitoring and sound equipment in hopes of catching Bigfoot on film or tape.
Altman said he has spent many a night leaning against a tree, looking and listening for Bigfoot.
"I'm 95 percent sure they are real,'' Altman said "I have seen footprints in the snow and mud, I have talked with hundreds of witnesses who obviously are shaken up by what they have seen. I think there is something out there. What we are trying to do is prove it or disprove it.''
Altman admits for all the time he has spent in the woods, he's never caught sight of a Bigfoot. The closest he came, he says, was in August 2000 during a stakeout in Bradford.
"Something began to circle us, it was grunting and screaming and making all types of racket,'' Altman said. "We never saw it but when it happens to you it walks right off the pages of a book right into your world.''
Brink said he has looked into several local reported sightings.
In one instance, two campers in 1998 were near Lake Erie in the Fairview-Girard area when they said "a creature'' strolled across the path. Brink said his organization also gets many bogus reports.
"Once in a while we get reports that one ran into the middle of town,'' Brink said. "It's like, come on, we're trying to be serious here. If Bigfoot exists, he hasn't survived by going into town.''
So if Bigfoot does exist, then why haven't at least some skeletal remains been found?
"There are a lot of different theories,'' Brink said. "The major theory is that Bigfoot bury their own. Others think they are cannibals. You are going to have people who don't believe it until someone brings one in alive. And how are you going to do that? You're not.''
Adovasio said the search for the unknown and inexplicable will never end.
"We seem to want to believe in the existence of things unverified by scientific observation,'' he said. "Whether we are talking about Bigfoot or flying saucers, we are rarely content with what we can see and touch. We may stop believing in Bigfoot or the Loch Ness Monster, but there will always be something else. It seems to serve some psychological need.''
Source: Erie Times News