STILWELL – After skipping 2021 out of COVID caution, the long-running Oklahoma Bigfoot Symposium returned in March to a crowd of believers, some who say they’ve had their own close encounters with the fabled beast.
Cherokee Nation citizen, Sissy Turner, said that as a child she saw Bigfoot twice, the first time with her brother in Hulbert, then later in the same rural area next to a lone tree.
“We were just goofing off, running up the road and stuffing,” she said. “So, we looked over and right next to the tree, it was standing, and it had its arm up on a limb. That limb was at least 7 foot tall. We just kept looking at it, looking at it, and it was massive. So we got scared and run back to the house. Our mom, she took us back up there in the car and it was gone. ”
The Oklahoma Bigfoot Symposium, hosted by the Mid-America Bigfoot Research Center, was held March 12-13 at CC Camp near Stilwell. A tradition since 2012, the event featured vendors, Bigfoot-related artifacts, evidence and noted speakers.
A special symposium guest was the beast itself, as portrayed – in a long-haired costume – by DW Lee, a Cherokee Nation citizen and research center executive director who claims to have encountered the elusive Bigfoot on more than 20 occasions since the 1990s.
“That’s right – we managed to drag Bigfoot in from the woods to do a presentation,” he joked in an event preview.
The event’s keynote speaker was Ken Gerhard, a noted cryptozoology author and TV personality.
“I investigate evidence of unknown animals, which includes Bigfoot, Loch Ness monster, the chupacabra, thunderbirds,” said Gerhard, who has appeared in a number of related television programs on the History Channel, Travel Channel, National Geographic, Syfy and more. “I’ve invested all of the different types of mysterious animals.”
Gerhard says he’s never seen Bigfoot himself, but may have captured its sounds.
“I’m convinced I’ve heard and recorded vocalizations that can’t be explained,” he said. “I’ve found footprints and a possible bedding area – some weird stick structures. I’ve interviewed hundreds of eyewitnesses, and I’ve done field research all over North America from Alaska to Central America, and I’m convinced they exist. “
Researchers note that wooded, rural areas, like those in Adair County, are the perfect habitat for the towering creature.
“Eastern Oklahoma has kind of been a hotspot for Bigfoot activity in recent years,” Gerhard said. “There seems to be a lot of sightings. As you would expect, the vast majority of it is in the wilderness areas where you have a lot of natural resources and a lower population density. ”
Descriptions of Bigfoot vary, but the most common attributes include a height of up to 10 feet and a weight between 400-1,000 pounds. Most, researchers say, are black, brown or a reddish color. A stark white variation is uncommon, but researchers claim they exist even in Adair County.
Arguably the most widely recognized Bigfoot footage was taken in 1967 in northern California. The shaky video from Roger Patterson and Robert “Bob” Gimlin shows what they alleged was a female Bigfoot loping alongside a creek.
The lack of definitive proof, Gerhard says, may be attributed to the beast’s low population and elusive nature.
“Really the only logical way to explain it would be that Bigfoot, first of all, is an extremely rare species,” he said. “It’s all speculation, but it’s probably just a few thousand animals spread across the continent. The other thing is that Bigfoot must have adapted behavior patterns specifically not to be found by humans. They are great at hiding. ”
Biologist Jim Whitehead, who manned a table filled with castings of purported Bigfoot impressions, has said that sightings date back to the (Cherokee) Removal era. For Dennis Henderson, of Tahlequah, a chance meeting with Bigfoot was “traumatizing.”
“I was out in southeastern Oklahoma with my girlfriend – who’s my wife now 38 years later – and we were camping up on a ridge by ourselves,” he said. “All of a sudden it got quiet. I was overcome with the worst fear I’ve ever had in my life, and there was something big and dark over there. I couldn’t see any features but there was a big, dark figure. I grabbed her out of the tent and we left then drove into Poteau and stayed in a hotel. I stayed out of the woods for a couple of years. ”
For more information, visit mabrc.com.