The legend of Bigfoot turns a lot of heads. Many believe it is just an old folk tale told to scare children or to give their woods a sense of mystery, while others have a very strong belief in the existence of the tall, hairy humanoid.
The Mid-America Bigfoot Research Center is composed of a variety of individuals who are devoted to searching for Bigfoot. Each year, they hold the Oklahoma Bigfoot Symposium, open to both believers and doubters.
Both Adair County and Honobia, almost due south in the Kiamichi Mountains, lay claim to being the center of Bigfoot activity. Honobia canceled its festival and conference, planned for Oct. 2-3, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
D.W. Lee, executive director of the MABRC, said the majority of those who attend already believe in Bigfoot, but occasionally, some come just to stir up trouble.
“I would say about 70 to 80 percent of the people who come to these are believers, while the rest are skeptical,” said Lee. “We have had an individual show up and spin a huge tale about a Bigfoot encounter. He then laughed about it, thinking he pranked everyone there.”
The symposium is put together by many different researchers who prepare presentations and present evidence pointing toward the existence of Bigfoot.
“We hold it the second weekend of March every year. We have researchers who go out and look for Bigfoot who bring presentations. We have tabletop displays and casts from all around the country. We show audio, video and pictures that the researchers find, as well. We even go out on a night hike to give the attendees an idea as to what the researchers do,” said Lee.
Lee himself claims to have had 26 encounters with what he believes to have been Bigfoot.
“One happened with 12 other witnesses,” he said.
Lee said one of the researchers he was with was also a wrestling coach and wanted to take his athletes on a Bigfoot hunt. On the expedition, they eventually started hearing and seeing things. The athletes claimed they smelled “something horrible.”
“We smelled what we know was a local Bigfoot,” said Lee. “He smells like four-week-old dead fish. I then heard footsteps in the creek. We turned on our flashlights just as the Bigfoot stepped out of the creek and stood on the bank behind a V-shaped tree. We got on the radio and told the other athletes to bring everything that shines," said Lee. "They couldn’t believe it once they got there.”
They then tried to turn their lights off and turn them back on to lure the Bigfoot out into the open. Lee claims that Bigfoot was incredibly fast and was gone in an instant.
“It was just a split-second, and it ran from the tree to some river reed behind it that was about 50 feet away,” said Lee. “There were 13 of us altogether who saw this creature. With that many witnesses, it’s hard to claim we didn’t see anything.”
Jim Whitehead, Bigfoot researcher, also reports having had a run-in with a Bigfoot in Adair County back in 2010. He said it was silvery-gray in color, similar to a possum, and about 8-1/2 feet tall.
“Me and a friend of mine were up in the Boston Mountain area and we were driving back to town. We were out doing research and were having to go to Walmart to pick up a piece of equipment we needed. We were driving down a dirt road near Stilwell," he said. "We saw what we initially thought was a raccoon until we noticed the road dropped off 6 feet at that spot. As we got closer, it stood up and walked away.”
Whitehead said Bigfoot sightings go back for ages, with several 100-year-old journals and papers that mention interactions with a “man-like beast.” With evidence like this along with his own experiences, he is a firm believer in the existence of Bigfoot.
“Those who don’t believe are entitled to their opinion,” said Whitehead. “But the thing people need to keep in mind is that there is a lot of land out there that nobody has ever stepped foot on, or that people were only on for a short time. People who scoff at those that have encounters should remember that they weren’t there when it happened. Some witnesses are scared out of their minds from their encounters.”
Ultimately, Whitehead wishes for individuals to respect others for what they believe and to keep an open mind in regard to the existence of the creature.