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The Bigfoot Show, Episode 51: On Location in Area X

All X all the time! Brian interviews Alton Higgins, Kathy Strain, and Monica Rawlins on location in Area X and then calls NAWAC Field Research Coordinator Daryl Colyer to discuss the highlights from the group’s 2013 field study — Operation Relentless — now in progress.
 

Travis Lawrence, Kathy Strain, and Rick Hayes, of Golf team, Operation Relentless, June 2013.  Golf team documented 165 rock-throwing incidents during the week of June 8-15, more than any other NAWAC team to date.  Photo: Rick Hayes


Go to The Bigfoot Show Blog to listen or download.

Brian Brown, NAWAC Board of Directors; NAWAC Media, Marketing, and PR Coordinator; and host of The Bigfoot Show.  Photo: Chris Buntenbah


One of the research tools of the NAWAC: the ATN ThOR 320-1x (60Hz) Thermal optic.  Photo: Chris Buntenbah


Tod Pinkerton and Rick Hayes of Alpha team, Operation Relentless, April 26 - May 4, 2013.  The two men were on a hike east of base camp.  Photo: Chris Buntenbah


Bob Strain, Charlie team, Operation Relentless, May 12-18, 2013.  Strain looks toward an area where the team heard loud rock impacts on a metal cabin roof.  Photo: Rick Hayes

Ken Stewart and his cousin Ed Stewart, of Echo team, document the flooding that took place in Area X in late May 2013.  Photo: Ken Stewart


A few of the rocks collected by NAWAC teams from the corrugated metal roofs of camp structures. Photo: Rick Hayes


Daryl Colyer and Alex Diaz of Alpha team in a lighter moment in Area X.  Photo: Chris Buntenbah



   

Texas Bigfoot Conference Videos

We're pleased to be able to bring to you the following video presentations from the 2013 Texas Bigfoot Conference. 

Read more: Texas Bigfoot Conference Videos

   

New name, same mission

In 1958, construction worker Jerry Crew discovered some large footprints in the dry, dusty Northern California soil and a legend was born. Crew’s find was eventually related to the world via the Humboldt Times along with the name he and the rest of his work team had given to the maker of those tracks: Bigfoot.

Read more: New name, same mission

   

Valley of the Apes

Over the last three years, the North American Wood Ape Conservancy has intensified its efforts in an area it refers to as “Area X,” located in the heart of the sparsely populated and rugged, seven-million-acre Ouachita Uplift region. The region is approximately 225 miles from its easternmost extremity in Arkansas to its westernmost extremity in Oklahoma and is roughly 75 miles across from its northernmost to southernmost extremities. Alton Higgins, the NAWAC’s Chairman and lead biologist, believes the Ouachita Uplift region, with its rich biodiversity and ecosystems, may serve as the central core area for the distribution of this extremely furtive and as yet unlisted species in the southcentral region of North America.

In 2011, the NAWAC conducted an observational and quantitative field study, designated as Operation Endurance, with some fascinating and notable results. The follow-up to Operation Endurance was conducted in the summer of 2012 and designated as Operation Persistence. Like Operation Endurance, Operation Persistence was a three-month field study that involved teams of investigators deploying in weekly shifts. As one team would finish its week, another team would move in to take the previous team’s place. The outgoing team would be debriefed by the incoming team, and thus during the field study there was continuity and longevity. The primary objective of Operation Persistence was to definitively substantiate the existence of the wood ape as a legitimate species; secondary objectives included the observation and quantification of behavioral activities and patterns of the target species.

Brian Brown, the organization’s Public Relations and Media Coordinator, recently produced two podcast episodes of The Bigfoot Show dedicated at least in part to Operation Persistence. Those two episodes can be accessed below, but are also available on iTunes or Stitcher. Also, an episode from Brian Brown’s heralded BIPcast series, produced by Brown during his first trip to Area X with the NAWAC in 2008, has been made available below as well.

The Bigfoot Show, Episode 39: Down in the valley of the jolly gray wood ape

The Bigfoot Show, Episode 38: Nothing but the truth

BIPcast 6: Area X

   

In response to "Would You Shoot Bigfoot?"

On May 3, 2012, Outdoor Life magazine published an article on their Newshound blog entitled "Would You Shoot Bigfoot?" In it, there were a number of factual errors and misrepresentations of NAWAC policy that needed to be corrected. Here is the NAWAC response sent to Outdoor Life blogger Gayne Young today:

Allow me to correct a few misrepresentations that appeared in your article. 

First, The North American Wood Ape Conservancy is an IRS-recognized tax-exempt 501(c)3 non-profit organization with a board of directors elected by its membership in accordance to its bylaws. Loren Coleman is not and has never been a member of our group, let alone on its board. His only association has been as an honorary advisor. Even so, there has been no communication between Mr. Coleman and the group for several years.

Second, the NAWAC is not "pro-kill." Our mission statement says our purpose, among other things, is to "facilitate scientific, official and governmental recognition, conservation, and protection of the species and its habitat." Our goal is to protect the animal, not to make them into a game animal so we can mount them to a wall. It is true that many of our members advocate the collection of a type specimen. How do we reconcile that with our mission to protect the animal? 

In fact, we believe there is ample circumstantial evidence in the form of witness accounts, footprints, and some photographic examples to initiate a concerted scientific study, but after more than 50 years in our popular culture, that study has not taken place. Bigfoot is, to many, a joke. A myth. All evidence to the contrary, as far as "serious" people are concerned, bigfoot does not exist because, so far, no physical remains have been brought forward. There is an established scientific method for the recognition of new animal species. There are very few examples of an animal being listed through photographs or even DNA evidence alone. A specimen is required.

As the Animal Ethics Review Panel states in their article "Collection of voucher specimens": 

Conservation needs are impossible to assess without the ability to recognise and differentiate species. Thus, identification, although often taken for granted, is fundamental to any animal-based study and particularly important when studying native animals.

Our primary mission is to conserve these animals. They cannot be conserved until they are accepted as fact. They will not be accepted as fact until a type specimen is produced. It's as simple as that.

Many of our critics are decidedly anti-scientific in their positions. They're very emotional and hold romantic notions regarding what is clearly not a human or human-like animal. They assume that since it can walk on two legs that it must be human, but in fact, wood apes are not known to exhibit any other attributes commonly accepted as differentiating us from the other animals on earth. It is our opinion, based on years of experience, that they are intelligent animals, to be sure. Not unlike orangutans in many ways. But human, no. Not even close.

The NAWAC is not "pro-kill"; it is "pro-science." We are a group of citizen naturalists doing the work of science the best we can with our all-volunteer resources and training. We will only know success when the wood ape is listed among the world's primates while critics like Mr. Coleman can only succeed if bigfoot remains on the fringes as a cultural oddity. We have divergent and incompatible interests. Severing our association with him was long overdue.

 
Brian Brown
North American Wood Ape Conservancy 
Board Member and Media Coordinator

   

The Beast of Boggy Creek: Book Review

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Growing up in Ohio during the “formative” years of North American Bigfoot knowledge–the Yeti expeditions of the 1950s and 1960s, the Jerry Crew California tracks of 1959, and the Patterson-Gimlin film of 1967—the Bigfoot phenomenon was to me a distant beacon, tantalizing, but far away. I had just graduated from college and entered my working life when I saw the movie The Legend of Boggy Creek in late 1972. It became a watershed event for me because, as a “true” story, it brought Bigfoot out of the far away Pacific Northwest and into the heart of America. And if the beast was found in a little bottomlands town like Fouke, Arkansas, it might be elsewhere across the country, and it might be closer to me than I thought possible, further piquing my already significant interest in the subject and leading me to pursue it later in life. Now in 2012, another defining moment has arrived on the subject of Boggy Creek and its big-screen monster. Lyle Blackburn’s definitive book, The Beast of Boggy Creek: The True Story of the Fouke Monster (2012, Trade Paperback / Anomalist Books), is such a watershed moment in that he has brought to life the history behind the beast that terrorized Fouke and the surrounding towns in the well-publicized encounters of 1971 that led to the movie The Legend of Boggy Creek.

Blackburn’s book is both informative and entertaining, written in a style that is easy to read and sequenced in an order that follows our logical thought process about the Fouke creature and the resulting movie and answers all the important questions a reader might ask – “Was there a history of sightings before the movie? Did the events in the movie really happen? How did the movie get made? What happened to the creature since the movie? Is it still there? Was it the same type of creature throughout the sightings? What was the real evidence? Who is Smokey Crabtree and what was his role in this?” The research behind this book is extensive and encompassed years of investigation and interviews in the Fouke area, providing a top-rate journalistic viewpoint on the phenomenon and the movie.

The Beast of Boggy Creek’s excellent reading material is supplemented by maps of the Fouke area and the bottomlands of the Sulphur River and Boggy Creek, wonderful sighting illustrations by Dan Brereton, and an extensive number of photographs, including many from the Miller County Historical Society. The appended materials include both a chronological sightings database and the movie scene by scene database with the corresponding real-life sighting descriptions. A comprehensive bibliography also provides a wealth of research materials into the history of encounters with the Fouke Monster and the region’s rich history of sightings.

The Sulphur River Bottoms and its various tributaries, like Boggy Creek and others, have provided a wealth of Bigfoot creature sightings in its three-state (Texas, Arkansas, and Louisiana), rain- and wildlife-rich environment. It is the perfect location to hide such a creature, with vast areas of impenetrable swamplands, thick vegetation, scant human populations, linked river systems, and temperate weather conditions for the most part. In short, it is a highly sustainable habitat for such a creature. Our TBRC sightings database provides an accurate window into that environment and the Boggy Creek creature in the numerous sighting reports from the Sulphur River area, several of which are detailed to great effect in Blackburn’s book. In addition to his accurate and comprehensive descriptions of the physical setting of the Fouke Monster’s habitat, Blackburn brings to life the true spookiness and isolation of the swampy bottomlands, something anyone who has been there can appreciate and something that was a major factor in the popularity of the movie, inspiring that drive-in movie monster kind of fear.

The book’s treatment of its centerpiece—The Legend of Boggy Creek movie—is, by itself, more than ample reason to buy this book. Blackburn richly conveys how a whirlwind of publicity around the Fouke sightings in 1971 created a demand to know more about the creature and Fouke; how that demand led a fledging movie maker, Charles B. Pierce, to leave his advertising career in Texarkana to make his first of many movies; how a shoestring budget forced Pierce to use local Fouke-area people to reprise their own encounters at the actual sites in some cases and to portray their neighbors in other cases; and, how that same shoestring budget forced Pierce to adopt a handheld camera filming approach, a more documentary style. All of these factors, Blackburn concludes, created a perfect storm of a movie that appealed to many on a visceral level, generating both fear and attraction. Blackburn’s interviews with those involved with the movie and the film-maker, including Pierce’s daughter, flesh out what we want to know about the how the movie was made and why it was made the way it was. One important example of that is Blackburn’s exposition of the Crabtree family’s role in the creature sighting saga and the movie, both in front of and behind the camera. Smokey’s son Lynn and his sighting were portrayed by the other Crabtree son Travis, making him the character we knew in the movie. Smokey Crabtree was enlisted as a shooting guide for the area and became the informal liaison between Pierce and the residents of the Fouke area. Later Smokey would become the focal point of some animosity the locals had for Pierce when they did not receive, according to the author, any monetary benefit from the film when it hit big. From a regional low-budget ($100,000) movie that only was seen at first because Pierce rented the theatre to show it in, the film eventually grossed $25 million; this book provides an entertaining behind-the-scenes look at that process.

The film’s climax and focal point, the repeated encounters at the Ford house, are detailed in the book and fact is separated from movie fiction, the latter of which is a whole lot less than you might imagine. This and other actual sightings, both those portrayed in the movie and those not, are brought out in the book in excellent journalistic style (and never dry) with supporting interviews and other background materials.

Blackburn provides a lot of great material on sightings and encounters reported in years after the movie in the immediate area and the region. He also details the impact of the film’s success on the Fouke area locals and the trouble it caused, from the large influx of bothersome monster hunters trampling property to the tension among the locals regarding the film itself. His documenting of contemporary research efforts of organizations such as the TBRC, the continuation of sightings to the present day, and the solid nature of such sightings (presented in vivid detail), lead the reader to the conclusion that an unknown man-like creature is alive and well in the Sulphur River basin.

As to the nature of the beast itself and the curious three-toed tracks associated with this creature, Blackburn discusses and effectively disproves the many theories given about the monster: that it was an escaped circus ape, an invention of moonshiners to keep people away from their stills, a racist town’s means of keeping the area segregated, a hoax, or a panther. We are left then with the concept that this could be a “hidden hominoid” as Blackburn puts it, perhaps a Bigfoot cousin of “Patty” (the film subject in the Patterson-Gimlin film). Then, if real, we are left to answer the question of the three-toed tracks, which Blackburn investigates in a subchapter, entitled “Trouble with Three Toes.”

The Beast of Boggy Creek is, besides being a first-rate piece of journalism regarding this unknown creature and the movie inspired by it, the comprehensive reference to the Fouke Monster and a thoroughly entertaining read, suspenseful and intriguing. Like the improbable movie that ignited many of us to actively research the Bigfoot phenomenon, Blackburn’s book should serve to jump-start this kind of journalistic research in the Bigfoot community. The Beast of Boggy Creek is a must-read for the serious researcher, the fan of The Legend of Boggy Creek movie, and the Bigfoot enthusiast.

You can pick up your own copy of The Beast of Boggy Creek here.

   

Sasquatch Stalkers

Texas Bigfoot hunters are on a mission to catch a glimpse of the legendary beast.

I can remember it as if it were yesterday, though I was only a boy. Eyes glued to the screen, hardly breathing, pulse pounding, I watched for a glimpse of a beast in those woods that looked so much like my own. No doubt about it, The Legend of Boggy Creek made an indelible mark on me.

The campy, early 1970s documentary-style film was set in the backwoods and bottomlands of Fouke, Ark. As the crow flies, Fouke was only about 130 miles from my home, and we shared the same Red River watershed. At the ripe old age of 8, I thought it seemed quite plausible that Bigfoot lived in Fannin County, maybe in the hardwoods I explored with my friends.

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My dad would take us down to the creek bottoms in the dark of night and thrill us with wild tales of the Bois d’Arc Creek monster. His spotlight would catch a pair of glowing eyes in the woods, and he’d delight in telling us that those eerie orbs probably belonged to none other than Bigfoot.

Legend, myth, hoax or reality — call it what you will, but the story of Bigfoot has mystified us for generations.

In the northwestern United States, where the legend came of age, indigenous populations are peppered with legendary stories of Bigfoot. Each culture developed its own nuances about the traits of the mysterious creature. For example, in Texas, Bigfoot is also known as Southern Sasquatch.

Outside the Pacific Northwest, Texas is considered one of the hotbeds of Bigfoot activity with numerous reported sightings over the past six decades. Predictably, because of the forest density and the numerous waterways, the wedge of Texas between the Louisiana border and Interstate 45 from Houston to Dallas has the highest incidence of Bigfoot reports. Most sightings have been roadside encounters. Reports continue to filter in.

With a dearth of scientifically verifiable evidence, many people don’t believe in the existence of Bigfoot. Critics say that anecdotal eyewitness accounts are unreliable and that the chance of such a large animal living undetected is unlikely.

On the other hand, cryptozoologists (scientists who study not-yet-verified animals) believe in the presence of undocumented animals despite the lack of hard evidence. Some point to species like the giant squid and the mountain gorilla as examples of species once thought legendary yet are now part of the scientific record.

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For members of the Texas Bigfoot Research Conservancy (TBRC), the quest is for the truth.

“While growing up, I was always interested in any shows about the outdoors or wildlife, but I was always greatly intrigued by the idea of undiscovered species,” says Chris Buntenbah, TBRC member and frequent research expedition participant. A professional videographer and photographer, Buntenbah parlays this fascination to assist the group with his particular skill set. In 2006 he headed up TBRC’s most ambitious research project to date: Operation Forest Vigil.

Operation Forest Vigil is a five-year project to capture photographic proof of the Sasquatch in East Texas, as well as the Ouachita Mountains of Arkansas and Oklahoma. TBRC has invested tens of thousands of dollars in rapid-fire remote wildlife cameras. The results, so far, have yielded no evidence of the Southern Sasquatch. Buntenbah points out that a known species in the area — the mountain lion — has also never been captured on camera.

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“We have a very compelling piece of evidence in a dread of hair found by a hunter in East Texas that has come back [from the lab] as ‘nonhuman primate.’ We are also testing some evidence that could be a game-changer,” he says.

Buntenbah isn’t alone in his fascination with the unknown. TBRC (originally formed in 2001 as the Texas Bigfoot Research Center) is a federally recognized nonprofit group made up of volunteer investigators, naturalists and scientists from all over Texas and Oklahoma. The TBRC mission is, in part, to conduct research and investigate the existence of primate species in Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas and Louisiana.

For Buntenbah and other members of the TBRC, the chance to explore the unknown is what draws them afield.

“I saw The Legend of Boggy Creek movie back in the 1970s, and I vowed to research the subject,” says Jerry Hestand, lifelong resident of Grayson County in North Texas and a fourth-grade math teacher in Bells. Hestand is a founding member of the group and helps organize its annual conference in early October in Tyler.

Like Buntenbah, Hestand heads out on research trips when reported sightings bear enough credibility to warrant the group’s time. He hasn’t always been a believer.

“I have seen two items of ‘hard evidence’ in the last two years,” he says. “I was somewhat of a skeptic until June of 2011. Then some evidence came forth that is compelling. I feel our group and another group of scientists are close to solving the mystery of this evidence with indisputable proof.”

During our day together, Hestand wouldn’t reveal the exact nature of the evidence other than to say that it’s “good.” Nevertheless, I couldn’t help but be intrigued.

We traipsed around together in the woods of north-central Fannin County, and I took them to a spot where I saw an unknown figure on a winter’s night back in 1986. My brother Bubba tells them of another mysterious encounter back in the ’80s just about a mile away. While we’ll never know exactly what we saw, we both know we saw something. After we relate our stories, Lyle Blackburn tells me of his experiences.

“I spent a lot of time as a kid hunting deer and turkey with my dad around the North Texas area,” he says. “Once I watched a show about Bigfoot and realized that there might be a real monster living close by in Arkansas, my imagination ran wild.” I was beginning to see a pattern here.

Blackburn is a creative type who lives in Bedford and spends his time as a Web/graphic designer, writer and rock musician. A newcomer to TBRC, he has been an active investigator for only two years, but he participates with zeal.

“I’ve read a lot books and watched documentaries on the subject over the years, but it wasn’t until about three or four years ago that I had time to look into the phenomenon more closely,” he says.

Blackburn is finishing up a book on the Fouke, Ark., legend.

“As an adult I have a more rational approach to the subject,” he says. “Nonetheless, I still feel that sense of childlike wonder when I’m out there in the dark woods at night trying to get my own glimpse of a legendary creature."

Original source:

Graves, R. A. (2011). Sasquatch stalkers. Texas Parks & Wildlife Magazine online. Retrieved from here November 18, 2011.

Visit Russell A. Graves's website.

Visit Russell A. Graves's blogsite.

Note: The Texas Bigfoot Research Center was formed in 1999; the Texas Bigfoot Research Conservancy was incorporated as a nonprofit research organization in January 2007.

   

Brian Brown Presentation: Operation Endurance

At the 2011 Texas Bigfoot Conference, TBRC Board Member Brian Brown gave a fascinating presentation on the TBRC’s historic 2011 research project Operation Endurance; Brown co-wrote the presentation with Daryl Colyer and Alton Higgins. During the presentation, Brian provided video and audio clips from Operation Endurance. Although the videos are not provided here, the audio is provided. Perhaps at some point in the near future, we will provide the video clips used by Brian during his presentation.

Listen to Brian Brown’s Operation Endurance presentation here.







 

   

2011 Texas Bigfoot Conference Panel Discussion

If you missed the 2011 Texas Bigfoot Conference, here’s your chance to hear all the speakers participate in a lively panel discussion moderated by Brian Brown. The various speakers fielded engaging questions offered by the audience and provided some interesting answers and discussion. The participating speakers were Ian Redmond, Jeff Meldrum, Alton Higgins, Robert Swain, Willie Mendez, Lyle Blackburn, Daryl Colyer, and Brian Brown as the moderator.

You can hear the panel discussion here (MP3, 47 MB).
   

Alton Higgins Presentation: The Sasquatch Phenomenon

If you were not able to attend the TBRC's 2011 Texas Bigfoot Conference, you missed some great speakers.  Not to worry though; here, you can hear Alton Higgins's presentation in its entirety.  Brian Brown was the Master of Ceremonies for the Conference and can be heard introducing Alton in the beginning.  

Click here to listen to Alton's presentation (MP3, 33.3MB).

   

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