‘Bigfoot’ author draws crowd

Published 10:16 am Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Has researched, gone on expeditions for creature

SOUTH POINT — Nearly 40 people came out on Monday for an unusual presentation at the South Point branch of the Briggs Lawrence County Public Library.

The crowd filled an activity room to capacity to hear invited regional author Doug Waller give his presentation, “Bigfoot: Fact or Myth?”

Waller, who has written two books on the subject and is working on a third, presented his case for the existence of the legendary animal. It is a common subject for those who specialize in cryptozoology. That’s a field made up of investigators who, while not recognized by the mainstream scientific community and considered pseudo-scientists, search for proof of the existence of creatures for whom no hard evidence exists, such as chupacabras, the Mothman or the Loch Ness Monster.

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Waller was assisted in his presentation by Shawna Park, whom he met while working at the Guernsey County Public Library, where he has now retired.

The two began researching the topic in 2006, collecting stories of sightings and going on expeditions hunting for evidence of Bigfoot in the Buckeye State. In 2008, they formed the Southeastern Ohio Bigfoot Society and have been making presentations throughout the area.

Park said it is a chance for people to share incidents, or for the curious to talk about the supposed creature.

“And we’ve had skeptics come to meetings,” she said.

The group has organized a Bigfoot Conference and has hosted campouts at Salt Fork State Park, near Cambridge.

“There have been a lot of sightings there,” Park said.

Waller acknowledged that there is no direct proof for the existence of the creature, which he said was a bipedal with long arms, possibly a relic of human evolution.

“It would take a body before we know what it is,” he said.

He instead focused on what he said was “actual, tangible evidence” he has gathered, such as photos of tree breaks and trees arranged in similar formations in areas of claimed sightings, as well as playing audio of howls recorded in the woods and attributed to the creature.

Park said sightings of Bigfoot have been claimed in 49 U.S. states, and on six continents. Rather than there being one specimen, he speculated that there is a breeding population with family units. He said the descriptions of Bigfoot are similar in most accounts, and speculated on the behavior, intelligence and diet of the supposed creatures, based on the many stories he said he has collected.

Waller has focused his work on sightings in Ohio, and said that he and Park have found tracks at Salt Fork State Park. As a visual aid, he had a map on hand, with pins marking reported sightings. While he didn’t have any reported sightings for Lawrence County, he said he hoped his visit, his first to the area, might lead to one.

“Hopefully, we’ll have pins from this county,” he said.

After he made his presentation, he took several questions from the crowd, who seemed interested in his work. As he had hoped for, he had a few people who had seen something they couldn’t explain.

Two men told him of an incident on a hunting trip, in which they said they had heard sounds, as well as seen the outline of a large animal of some kind. The older of the two said he had spent nearly 70 years in the woods, since childhood, and was familiar with “the way the woods sound.”

“What I heard was not from an animal I can associate it with,” he said.

His friend said it was the first time they had shared the tale publicly.

“I’ve never told this story outside my circle of friends,” he said.

Waller said he hopes his presentations give people a chance to discuss the subject, without fear of ridicule. And while he said in order to conclusively prove his case, a body would need to be found, he said the stories he’s heard have convinced him otherwise.

“If you talk to eyewitnesses, they don’t need that to know that there’s something out there and that they’re real,” he said.