Bigfoot buffs assemble in Adair County
Biologist Jim Whitehead mans a table filled with castings of alleged Bigfoot impressions on March 9 at the annual Oklahoma Bigfoot Symposium in Adair County. CHAD HUNTER/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
The entrance to CC Camp near Stilwell, seen March 9, features a Bigfoot silhouette. The camp held the Mid-America Bigfoot Research Center’s annual state gathering. CHAD HUNTER/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
Bigfoot-inspired metal artwork is displayed March 9 at the annual Oklahoma Bigfoot Symposium in Adair County. CHAD HUNTER/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
D.W. Lee, a Cherokee Nation citizen and executive director of the Mid-America Bigfoot Research Center, is seen at the annual Oklahoma Bigfoot Symposium on March 9 at CC Camp in Adair County. CHAD HUNTER/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
STILWELL – Adair County is not only home to Bigfoot researchers, but also the legendary, forest-dwelling beast itself, believers say.
“There’s woods, water and wildlife here,” Bigfoot investigator Randy Savig said. “They’ve got everything they need in this area.”
Mid-America Bigfoot Research Center members recently hosted their annual state gathering at CC Camp near an established Bigfoot research site in Adair County. A tradition since 2012, the March 9-10 Oklahoma Bigfoot Symposium featured vendors, Bigfoot-related artifacts and evidence, and speakers with tales of the famed creature.
D.W. Lee, a Cherokee Nation citizen from Stilwell, is the group’s executive director. He claims to have encountered the elusive Bigfoot on 26 occasions since the 1990s.
“There’s a lot of researchers who know what to look for and that does increase their chances,” he said. “But for the most part, people come up on them by accident.”
Now 14, Piper Ellis, of Pineville, Missouri, was 9 when she stumbled upon a Bigfoot in Adair County, she said.
“It was just squatting right in front of me,” she said, noting that she felt no fear of the creature.
Throughout the year, researchers track regional Bigfoot activity.
“There’s a high-voltage power line that’s about seven miles over,” Lee said. “Along that power line, that’s where the majority of the sightings occur. I think they use it as a travel corridor. They might not walk right on it, but they use it for navigation.”
Descriptions vary, but the most common Bigfoot attributes include a towering height of up to 10 feet and a weight between 400 to 1,000 pounds.
“Most of the time you hear they’re either black or brown or a reddish color,” Lee added.
A stark white variation is uncommon, but researchers claim they exist even in Adair County.
“We’ve got a white Bigfoot that’s been seen here since 1994,” Lee said. “Of course we speculate on stuff, but we think that he’s the alpha male for the troop in this area. He’ll travel the conduit, and we really suspect the troop breaks down into sub-troops to forage for food better. He just kind of seems to go around to all these groups. He’s easy to spot when he’s in the woods.”
The most widely recognized Bigfoot footage was taken in 1967 in California. The shaky video from Roger Patterson and Robert “Bob” Gimlin shows what they alleged was a female Bigfoot alongside a creek.
“The footage they took has been the focus of intense debate,” Alex Boese with the California-based Museum of Hoaxes website argues. “Skeptics insist the creature is simply a person in an ape suit. Supporters counter that special-effects techniques were not good enough in 1967 to have created such a convincing costume.”
Lee notes the video was taken “50 years ago, so it’s time to get off our butts and get footage from our generation.”
Biologist and Oklahoma Bigfoot researcher Jim Whitehead said many older Bigfoot reports “get listed as other things.”
“In this area, there’s been historical sightings since the Removal (Trail of Tears) era,” he said. “They aren’t monsters. They’re not out to get you. They’re animals. I’ve seen them so I know they’re real. But it’s in their best interest to stay quiet and keep attention off of them.”
Whitehead, who specializes in Bigfoot tracking and footprint analysis, said casts have been taken from the CC Camp area as recently as last year’s symposium. He and a pair of fellow Bigfoot hunters used thermal imaging to illuminate a 9-foot-tall female lurking behind a tree, according to Bernie Wall, 68, of Pineville, Missouri.
“I started walking backwards and she growled,” Wall said. “To see one that big, they said I was white as a sheet. We think she had a young one with her. We went the next day and found the point where she was standing. (The footprint) was 19 inches in length.”
For those who suspect a Bigfoot presence, Lee suggests tying a series of strings between trees at heights of 6 feet, 7 feet and 8 feet.
“If you have one under 7 foot tall, he’s going to break the 6 foot string,” he said. “If it breaks the 7 foot string, you know it’s over 7 foot tall. If it breaks all three of them, you might want to move.”
Modern interest in Bigfoot spiked after the Animal Planet television series “Finding Bigfoot” premiered in 2011, believers said. The show aired until 2018.
“We are out to try to help prove the existence of the creature,” Savig said. “It’s not so much for science or the big-city folks, but for the people who have seen it and were ridiculed. It’s to validate what they saw.”
For more information, visit mabrc.com. Q&A with Bigfoot expert, author D.W. LeeQ: What is Bigfoot?
A: “I classify it as a big screaming monkey. The ones that I’ve seen myself, they’re not human. They’re more, I would believe, related to gorillas and apes than us.”Q: How smart are Bigfoot?
A: “Probably as smart as a dolphin.”Q: Where do Bigfoot live?
“I’d like to think they have their special places they hunker down in, a shelter, maybe a box canyon or overhangs.”Q: Should we be scared?
A: “I’ve only seen an aggressive Bigfoot on three occasions. That’s because I put my nose right into his business.”Q: What’s the average life span of a Bigfoot?
A: “I would say 40, maybe 50 years.”