Geographical Index > United States > Michigan > Ogemaw County > Article # 582
Media Article # 582
Friday, February 27, 2009
Despite skeptics, West Branch Bigfoot devotee making presentations about sightings
By Jerry Nunn
Bay City News
WEST BRANCH - An illusion of the light, a figment of the shadows, a trick played on a travel-weary eye?
A quick glimpse was all that Phil Shaw and his wife ever received, but he was certain of this much: The creature that crossed the forest clearing stood upright, was much larger than a man and moved in a way that was definitely non-human.
The Bigfoot Field Research Organization, a group that operates expeditions and tracks Bigfoot sightings across the nation, lists 102 Michigan Bigfoot sightings on its Web site at www.bfro.net. Those anonymous sightings include listings from the following counties:
Crawford: In 2000, a woman heard vocalizations and was harassed by an unseen animal determined to be a Bigfoot by researchers.
Arenac: In 2003, a hunter near Standish found a Bigfoot hiding in the bushes. The creature eventually ran off.
Alcona: In 2006, a bow hunter near Glennie heard vocalizations determined by researchers to come from a Bigfoot.
Ogemaw: In 2007, a lady observed a 7- to 8-foot-tall hairy creature cross Rose City Road near Lupton.
Oscoda: In 2008, a bird hunter near Mio happened across a sleeping Bigfoot. He says he could smell the animal even before he saw it.
"There was an opening in the trees and this guy was just going across there," says Shaw. "She and I looked at each other and at the same time we said, 'Did you see what I saw?'
"We didn't see any hair or clothes, like you would on a human. And he had a funny gait, which is often the case in a Bigfoot sighting; people say their movements are not quite human."
That was three years ago during a family vacation to the Canadian Maritime Provinces.
Returning home to Ogemaw County, Carol Shaw put the beastly episode out of her mind, claiming one of those first three possibilities probably holds the truth.
But not Phil Shaw.
Three years worth of studies and interviews have only strengthened his belief that Bigfoot is lurking out there.
"I'm just intrigued by the possibility that Bigfoot is real, I guess," Shaw says, noting there are more than 100 recorded sightings in Michigan. "I'm convinced there is something to this. There is far more evidence to prove there is a Bigfoot than there is evidence to suggest that there is not."
Shaw is not shy when it comes to discussing Bigfoot. He'll deliver a presentation to any group that invites him. Still, he is well aware that most folks don't take the idea of a 700-pound, ape-like creature running through the local forest too seriously.
"I think people are spooked by it," he says. "I don't know why - I'm not talking religion, I'm not talking politics, I'm not talking sex. Why should they be spooked? You can tell they are embarrassed because they try to change the subject."
He admits that the Bigfoot phenomenon attracts more than its share of charlatans and frauds, such as the rubber-ape suit frozen in ice that was presented to the world last fall during a nationally televised press conference. Perpetrators of those frauds cast an air of suspicion over those seeking honest answers and legitimate discussion about Bigfoot's possibility, Shaw said.
Yet enough legitimate evidence, published books and articles and first-hand accounts exist that Shaw can't dismiss the idea of an unknown giant ape living in relative isolation among us.
"There are a limited number of motion pictures and films. We have photographs. We have footprints and hand castings - there are thousands of those," Shaw says. Add to that body impressions, scat and hair samples, beds and structures and, the way Shaw sees it, the evidence points to the existence of Bigfoot.
What's more, the group of believers is growing ever larger and includes anthropologists, biologists and wildlife experts.
Nationally, there are more than 5,000 claimed sightings and similar creatures are a world-wide phenomenon stretching back centuries. Counting the notorious Sasquatch of the Pacific Northwest, Florida's skunk ape, Ohio's grassmen, the Himalayan yeti and others, Bigfoot is part of a very large family, too.
Still, those who claim to see Bigfoot are often met with derision. Shaw, retired from the federal Farmers Home Administration, says the only reason he dares to speak out is "because I don't have a boss that can fire me."
"You can't blame people for not saying anything," Shaw said. "A lot of these sightings go back 10, 15, 20 years. They say, 'I mentioned it to my family and they ridiculed me so much I never mentioned it again.' And for every one that comes forward, there are 10 or 15 sightings that are never told."
By Shaw's argument, the creatures prevent detection by residing remotely, often in swamps and mountain ranges. And he feels they are closer to apes than man - bipedal with lots of hair, good night vision, mainly herbivore. Close encounters indicate they smell bad, a completely understandable result of their swamp environment, Shaw says.
Those who have heard vocalizations, including locals, call them haunting.
The sound they make is long and low, but it can be quite loud," Shaw said.
"If they're intelligent at all, and I think they are, they could remain undetected," Shaw says. "They're very shy, like a bear, and it's lucky they are. If they offended one of us, we'd get up a posse and go out and kill them."
Shaw has been part of a posse before, though he wasn't looking to bag a Bigfoot. But the Bigfoot Field Research Organization, a scientific research group, does hold organized expeditions across the country. Shaw participated in one that took a group of Bigfoot believers through the Upper Peninsula woods on an unsuccessful search for the creature.
Sooner or later someone will meet with success, Shaw says, and deliver hard evidence - an irrefutable photograph, a video or DNA evidence. In the meantime, the Internet has expanded the capacity for scientists, backyard researchers and Bigfoot believers to communicate and share ideas.
It also has become a way for first-time observers, many of whom previously either did not believe or gave the legend no thought, to share their stories.
Until, like Shaw, they saw a Bigfoot for themselves.
"People should be more open minded; that's my conclusion," Shaw said. "If anyone is out in the woods, take a camera. You might only have a minute or two, but that might be enough time to get a photo."
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