Bigfoot believers gather in Fort Worth, say more research is needed

Posted Saturday, Mar. 16, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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FORT WORTH -- They describe a freakishly tall, hairy and ape-like creature with a terrifying howl. To those who claim an encounter, Bigfoot is more than myth.

Having such a run-in made a believer out of Mike Mayes, a Temple schoolteacher and coach.

Mayes was one of more than 400 people Saturday to attend the 2013 Texas Bigfoot Conference at the Fort Worth Convention Center to swap experiences and absorb presentations concerning the existence of Bigfoot, also known as Sasquatch, which is believed to be living in remote parts of North America, including Texas and surrounding states.

Mayes said he spotted the beast while camping with a friend near Sam Houston National Forest in 2005.

"We were on a dirt road, came over a hill and this thing was standing in the road," Mayes said. "It stood there a few seconds and then walked off into the woods. We never saw it again."

At first, the campers thought it was someone playing a prank, someone wearing a costume. But after an extensive drive throughout the area without seeing any cars or trucks, they knew nobody else was around, Mayes said.

"Honestly, if I had been by myself, I never would have said a word to anybody," he added. "No one would have believed me. Since my friend was there, it was validated."

Despite hundreds of reported sightings, many still dismiss them as products of a hoax or folklore. But that hasn't stopped the relentless search. The conference's sponsor, the non-profit Texas Bigfoot Research Conservancy, is trying to raise several thousand dollars for a night surveillance equipment.

The only thing that's going to prove it beyond a shadow of a doubt is a body," Travis Lawrence, 26, a math teacher in Spring who is a volunteer field investigator for the conservancy. "That's ultimately what we are looking for. That's how science works, we want to collect a specimen."

If there were skeptics at the conference, none made his or her presence known.

Among speakers was Lyle Blackburn, author of The Beast of Boggy Creek, who insisted that there have been just too many sightings for Bigfoot to be written off as a fabrication.

"At one point, 40 people saw this thing," Blackburn said of an alleged 1969 sighting at Lake Worth. "Forty witnesses is one of the outstanding cases."

"It doesn't become real until you see it," he said. "But all of our questions will be answered when there's proof. Until then, we have to keep investigating."

Maston Mitchell, an Azle resident who counts himself among believers, is convinced that some sort of official cover-up is holding back truth on the elusive, hirsute biped.

"The government wants you to know what they want you to know," said Mitchell, who hasn't glimpsed Sasquatch but sees a Washington conspiracy. "Kind of like Area 51 that 'doesn't exist.' "

Susan McFarland, 817-390-7547

Twitter: @susanmcfarland1

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