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Media Article # 377

Saturday, April 3, 2004

Third Annual Texas Bigfoot Conference

By Bryan White
FATE Magazine

Most people don’t associate Bigfoot with Texas, but the members of the Texas Bigfoot Research Center didn’t seem to know that, or care. On October 18, 2003, they were busy holding the Third Annual Texas Bigfoot Conference in tiny Jefferson, Texas, and it had the feel of a breakthrough event. First-tier speakers were on hand - Loren Coleman and John Kirk III for example. A crew from the Outdoor Life Network had even come in hopes of interviewing Bigfoot witnesses.

Their venue, the fellowship hall of the First United Methodist Church of Jefferson, near Caddo Lake, was jammed. Over 300 people came from all over the US. Loren Coleman later said that it was “the best darned conference in the world!” John Kirk told me that the crowd was “one of the best I’ve ever spoken before. The intensity of their focus and concentration was impressive and I knew they’d paid attention to what I’d had to say.”

The event began at 11:00 a.m. First up was a short presentation by Bobby Hamilton of the Gulf Coast Bigfoot Research Organization. In 1995, Danny Sweeten, of Clearwater, Texas, videotaped what he claimed was a Bigfoot. Hamilton thought that Sweeten’s tape was very impressive. But Sweeten, an unsophisticated man who knew nothing about Bigfoot prior to his sighting, was unprepared for the rough handling he received from the media and at the hands of the Bigfoot community. It was a brutal shock, and he deeply resented what he regarded as personal attacks by strangers. He later gave Hamilton another video with what he claimed was additional footage of another Bigfoot, along with a tape recording of what he claimed was a Bigfoot “growling.” Hamilton showed both videos to the audience and stated that he believed that the second video and the tape recording were both fakes. He and Loren Coleman agreed that Sweeten’s first video may have been genuine, but that Sweeten faked the second video and the tape recording in hopes that he could embarrass the people who had humiliated him.

A Louisiana Hoax

M. K. Davis’s presentation was in two parts. The first part dealt with the “Honey Island Swamp Monster,” a Bigfoot-like denizen of Louisiana reported by an air traffic controller in the late 1970s and featured in the television series In Search Of… featuring Leonard Nimoy. Davis had an unbelievable stroke of luck. He found a man who had recovered one of the shoes used to perpetrate the hoax-for a hoax the story seems to have been. Davis showed footage of the shoe with a three-toed claw attached to the bottom, which was presumably used to fake the tracks. The other shoe is unaccounted for, but the Honey Island Swamp Monster seems to have been exposed once and for all. Bearing in mind Coleman’s earlier remarks, there may have been sightings of some anomalous creature in the beginning, but the only available evidence points to fraud.

The second part of Davis’s presentation dealt with the mother of all Bigfoot videos-the Patterson-Gimlin Film. The controversy over this film began almost as soon as it left the camera. FATE readers are aware that this magazine has given space to both sides of the debate. Davis used a technique astronomers have used to detect planets in other solar systems, which involves focusing on a small spot and showing that spot in different frames of the film. When applied to the creature in the Patterson-Gimlin film, this technique appeared to show muscle movement. It certainly looked as if muscles of the creature were flexing and relaxing as it moved. It was very convincing.

Of course, there are questions about this film that have as much to do with the men who shot it as of the images on it. For example, columnist Mark Chorvinsky has argued in FATE that it would have been impossible for Patterson to have followed the schedule that he has claimed he did on the day after the film was taken. In addition, there is reason to suspect involvement by prankster Ray Wallace. There will always be controversy surrounding this film, but skeptics should examine Davis’s new findings.

Davis revealed a startling fact-the original film Patterson made has disappeared. What Davis was showing, and what viewers see whenever the “film” is shown on television, CDs, etc., are actually copies. Apparently, no one knows where the original film is. This is disturbing news, and something else that viewers should bear in mind when attempting to judge the film’s authenticity.

Kirk and the Monster

John Kirk III (above) gave an enthusiastic presentation on Bigfoot research in his home province of British Columbia. Kirk is a member of the British Columbia Scientific Cryptozoological Club, which has also investigated Canadian lake monsters and has even sent an expedition to Africa to search for the Mokele-mbembe, which some believe to be a surviving dinosaur. His interest in cryptozoology began after sighting a lake monster.

The historical evidence of Sasquatch in Western Canada goes to the 1600s and precedes the arrival of European explorers. By the 19th century there are reports of whites interacting with Bigfoot, and of at least one Bigfoot being killed. In addition to sighting reports, there have also been reports of Bigfoot speaking English!
(This was an error, John Kirk stated that there have been 3 alleged cases of Sasquatch being killed, all of them being unconfirmed. He also stated that they had received reports of Sasquatch where they have spoken to Indians in the Douglas dialect which is part of the Coast Salish language. -Ed., TBRC)

Kirk was followed by Loren Coleman (below), who observed that there seem to be different species, or at least regional differences, of Bigfoot in North America. The Bigfoot in the Pacific Northwest are reclusive and shy. In addition, they seem to be vegetarians. In contrast, the Bigfoot in eastern North America are more aggressive and appear to be omnivorous. At its first appearance in 1972 the MoMo, or Missouri Monster, was carrying a dead dog and covered with blood. That kind of aggression seems to be part of the makeup of Bigfoot on the Eastern U.S. in general, although Coleman confessed that he didn’t know why the differences would exist.

Bigfoot and Sex

Coleman did something few other Bigfoot researchers have done. He addressed its reproductive process. “I’m not going to talk about Bigfoot having sex with cows!” he promised. He had been excoriated after making a joking remark about homosexuality among Bigfoot. But Bigfoot is a mammal, a large primate. Bigfoots’ sex life is a valid subject for study. Bigfoot isn’t a stuffed toy or a cartoon character.

Coleman covered cryptozoology in general. He discussed Mothmen, Lizardmen, and the Chupacabras. Coleman also made an interesting prediction: with the 50th anniversary of the release of the film, The Creature of the Black Lagoon, he told the crowd to expect reports of “gill men” of the type found in the film.

Chester Moore is an outdoor journalist from Texas who has recently gone public with his interest in Bigfoot. He reminded the crowd that Texas and the surrounding states have enormous wilderness areas, comparable in size to the Pacific Northwest. But the wilderness areas in Texas and the surrounding states are divided into sections by highways, lakes, and rivers, whereas in the Northwest the wilderness is continuous and unbroken. He believes that regional isolation may have caused the Texas Bigfoot to become increasingly inbred, explaining the behavioral differences pointed out by Loren Coleman and the fact that Bigfoot tracks that have been found in Texas and the eastern U.S. are sometimes three-toed.

Moore went on to tell some amusing stories dealing with human/wildlife interaction in Texas. In one case, a woman’s goats had been attacked by some sort of big cat. When Moore contacted the appropriate state official he was told that the goat had been killed by an otter!

Marc DeWerth (above) from Ohio came by his interest in Bigfoot honestly-his grandfather once watched one walk off with an elk he’d shot. DeWerth himself videotaped some interesting footage in eastern Ohio in April of 1997. While hiking with some friends he filmed something that he believes were Bigfoot. He showed the video , which depicted shadowy figures among trees. Like most Bigfoot videos, it’s impossible to tell what the viewer is looking at. However, DeWerth says that when he took it to the primatology lab at the Cleveland Zoo, personnel there identified the creatures as West African gorillas, probably from Uganda, and even pointed out two that he hadn’t noticed. They were speechless when he told them the video was filmed in Ohio.

Alton Higgins, a biology professor from Mid-America Christian University in Oklahoma City, has been following a case in Oklahoma for four years. Like Randy King’s personal experiences, discussed later, this case involves multiple sightings on Indian land. Higgins showed photographs of what may be Bigfoot taken by an anonymous witness, along with several photographs taken by members of the Texas Bigfoot Research Center of the sighting areas. The witness’s refusal to “go public” is understandable, but unless or until he does there won’t be any way to evaluate his evidence. Hopefully Higgins will be able to convince the witness, who he describes as a respected member of the tribal community, to step forward. Until then this will remain an interesting but unproven case.
(This was an error, the photographs were obtained from the witness by the BFRO. The BFRO also photographed the sighting areas. Alton Higgins is a curator with the BFRO. -Ed., TBRC)

Fluffy is Weird

Kriss Stephens, a paranormal investigator for MTV’s Fear told the story of “Fluffy,” a piece of enigmatic roadkill from DeQuincy, Louisiana. Fluffy was the name given to some kind of canine found dead by a road in September of 1996. Guesses as to its species ranged from a hyena to a Chupacabras. Stephens and her partner, Malcolm Tillison, left the cadaver with a local university for identification, but when they retrieved it a month later, only broken bones and hair remained. The university claimed it was an Irish wolfhound, which Stephens and Tillison found absurd based on the creatures hair type and skeletal structure. Unfortunately, before they could take the remains to other experts, Tillison died unexpectedly, and Fluffy disappeared along with the rest of the paranormal specimens he had gathered over the years. He had willed all of his paranormal artifacts to Stephens, but she hasn’t been able to collect any of them.

Stephens showed photos of Fluffy and compared it to photographs of a possible match-the Shunka Warak’in, an animal that once roamed the American Midwest, but which is believed to be extinct. There are occasional reports of similar animals. Since the conference Stephens has told me that she’s been given the name of a man who may have Fluffy’s remains, but she hasn’t been able to contact him.

Bigfoot CD-ROM

Randy King, the last speaker, brought along a beta version of a CD-ROM he’s been developing which he hopes to market both to people with an interest in Bigfoot and to Bigfoot witnesses. He began his project by buying a 3-D image of a Mountain Gorilla and modifying it as the base model for his Bigfoot. He developed software that allows the user to change the appearance of the model to correspond to a witness 's description. The witness can then use the CD-ROM to contact Bigfoot websites to report the sighting. King's CD also features a database of sightings and will include film clips and maps showing the areas where Bigfoot have been sighted. Among the film clips is one King himself took with a night vision camera at an Indian reservation in central Oklahoma showing what might be a Bigfoot. Unfortunately, like all of the film clips that were shown at the conference, the image on the tape is simply not clear enough to identify.

Why is Bigfoot so attractive to people with no background in zoology or any other field of science? Why were people driving from all over the U.S. to attend this conference? Watching the fuzzy, out of focus videos, it occurred to me that the appeal of Bigfoot is that this is a serious subject that might be solved by an ordinary person while being ignored by most mainstream scientists. The solution to the Bigfoot question could come from anyone, not just a wildlife specialist. A stranded motorist could stumble on a Sasquatch corpse, a rancher looking for a calf could find a lair. Kids walking to school could find a large hair sample on a fence or in bushes. People like Loren Coleman have the edge-they’re spending more time in Bigfoot’s habitat and trying harder to actually find him. But it might be a family having a picnic who ultimately finds definitive evidence that will prove the existence of Bigfoot.

King’s presentation ended the official proceedings. The crowd stayed to buy the T-shirts, plaster footprint casts, and some early books by Loren Coleman which were auctioned off to benefit the Texas Bigfoot Research Organization. Copies of the November 2000 issue of FATE with Robert Crumb’s Bigfoot cover were also for sale.

Video tapes of the convention are available through The Texas Bigfoot Research Center’s website is at

BFRO Commentary:

Author Bryan White indicates that the only way to evaluate the evidence, that is, the Oklahoma photos, is for the photographer to “go public.” This assertion is somewhat misleading. In the first place, the photographer is not truly anonymous, at least not in the same sense, for example, that the photographer of the “Myakka Ape” is completely unknown. While the Oklahoma photographer’s name has not yet been published or otherwise publicized, he has repeatedly made himself available to a variety of researchers and has consistently cooperated with BFRO investigation efforts.

Since the first sasquatch sighting reported from the area of the photograph, and up to the present time, the BFRO has been extremely sensitive to tribal concerns regarding unwanted publicity. Some tribal members worry that non-tribal members would attempt to kill a sasquatch if the location of the sightings and photographs was made known, possibly endangering human life. In the opinion of the BFRO, such concerns are warranted.

The photographer has the same right to privacy as any witness contacting the BFRO. There is no way to predict the degree of criticism and personal upheaval the photographer and his family would experience in the wake of public disclosure, but it is not unreasonable to predict that his life could significantly change for the worse, particularly considering the nature of the evidence at hand. The BFRO has endeavored to protect both the identity of the photographer and the community and to objectively analyze the evidence derived from the area.

Convincing the photographer “to step forward” will not enable the evidence to be proven, as asserted by White. As a case in point, the photographers involved with the 1967 Bluff Creek film, Roger Patterson and Bob Gimlin, are well known. However, the evidence they acquired remains controversial. In the opinion of those most involved with investigating the circumstances surrounding the Oklahoma photos, the pictures were not hoaxed. Arguments for that conclusion were presented at the 2003 Willow Creek International Bigfoot Symposium.

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