Sunday, October 17, 2010

Thom Powell Week: To true believers, Bigfoot lives

We Are kicking off Thom Powell Week. That's right! We are dedicating a whole week to Thom Powell.

Many of you may know him as author of "The Locals" We are doing this to help promote an event co-sponsored by the Oregon Bigfoot Symposium and the University of Oregon at 7 p.m. Nov. 3 in the UO Living Learning Center’s South Building. Tomorrow we will have a full bio of the man, until then, keeping with our pulse on breaking news, we thought we would launch THOM POWELL WEEK with an article just released today by columnist Bob Welch of the Registered Guard.

To true believers, Bigfoot lives

Register-Guard Columnist
Appeared in print: Sunday, Oct 17, 2010

LEABURG — Outside Ike’s Pizza, a half moon tints the thin clouds above the McKenzie River in a touch of mystery. It is just after 8 p.m. last Thursday. The restaurant is closed.

Inside, sweat trickles down the semi-bald head of a 40-something man who is telling of his encounter in Northern California five years ago.

“Please don’t put my name in the paper,” he says. “I have kids who go to school up here. But he looked like the old King Kong. I call it ‘bug-eye gorilla.’ I ran away, then built the biggest campfire I’ve ever built. Haven’t been camping since.”

Behind the man, on the wood-paneled wall, a drawing of a Sasquatch-like creature — “Enoch” — shares face time with the chinook salmon over the fireplace.

Ike’s owner Dave Starck hands the man a paper towel to wipe off the sweat, then turns to me.

“This is what happens to people who’ve had encounters,” says Starck, whose on-display plaster casts of supposed Sasquatch prints fan the creature’s flames. “One customer took one look at that poster and said, ‘That nose was pressed up against my window when I was a kid.’ Another woman was so shaken by it she went back outside. We had to deliver her pizza to her out there.”

The film crew from England is expected shortly. For now, I feel like an agnostic who’s stumbled into a church of tried-and-true believers.

Why here? Why now? Why me?

Because much as I’d like to just make fun of this Bigfoot stuff, I can’t — even though when the guy says the Sasquatch had “matted sideburns,” I confess I think of some Bigfoot/Elvis incarnation.

Instead, when I hear of this gathering of eye witnesses at the McKenzie’s unofficial Bigfoot headquarters, Ike’s — and a five-man film crew from England’s Diverse Bristol (“Men vs. Wild”) film company arriving to capture it — I head upstream like a spawning salmon.

I arrive just before 6 p.m. The film crew is to arrive at 6:30 p.m.

As I wait, I ask Toby Johnson, 35, the organizer of last summer’s Oregon Sasquatch Symposium in Eugene, why he got involved in the movement. Above the greasy remains of a small pepperoni, he hands me his cell phone with a photo of what appears to be a very large footprint.

“Saw this print five years ago, in the hills near Thurs ton, while hiking with my son,” he says.

Like the folks in “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” drawn to the Devil’s Tower, he followed the urge. “It awoke the child in me again,” he says. “There’s this mystery that could be true.”

But going public invites ridicule. “Suddenly, you’re grouped in with these banjo-picking ‘Deliverance’ types,” he says.

Still, that didn’t stop him from organizing the symposium or an upcoming lecture by Bigfoot author Thom Powell, an event co-sponsored by the Oregon Bigfoot Symposium and the University of Oregon at 7 p.m. Nov. 3 in the UO Living Learning Center’s South Building.

The handful of people here tonight all seem to believe. I hear of guys driving dark roads and suddenly seeing Sasquatch come out of the woods along a highway and into their headlights. Of recent footage supposedly taken by a river guide near the McKenzie River’s Fish Ladder Rapids, between Olallie and Paradise campgrounds, that appears to show a Bigfoot-like creature. (See YouTube footage on my blog at And of John Bull’s four encounters over three decades in areas south and east of Cottage Grove.

“At least 8 feet tall and 300 pounds,” says Bull, 42 and a chef’s assistant at a Eugene retirement center. “Smelled like a bear that had gone through a garbage can and laid out in the sun all day.”

Once, he and a few other Boy Scouts had sneaked away from Sharps Creek Campground for a few beers late one night. There it was, only 15 yards away, he says.

“I remember thinking I don’t wanna look. I did. His head turned and he looked over his shoulder at us, but never broke stride.”

As someone who spends time in the woods, I prefer a more lighthearted version, say, the Bigfoot in the Jack Link’s Beef Jerky commercials. But the witnesses clearly see beyond the humor veil.

“I’m a pretty good judge of character,” Johnson says, “but when someone wells up in tears or you see the hair of their arms stand up … . They want it to be a bear or something else, but they can’t shake the fact that it walked on two legs and had fingers and eyes like us.”

By nearly 8:30, I’m convinced that it’s a hoax — the film crew, that is — and am ready to leave. But suddenly in walk five Brits and Jim Stuckey, a hunting-show guide — think a Canadian Crocodile Dundee — who’s auditioning to host a new “strange encounters” show for which this is to be the pilot episode.

I watch the filming. Hear more stories. Then get in my car and head home through the darkness, glancing more than usual into the woods along the way.

Do you believe in Bigfoot? E-mail me at

Source: The Registered-Guard

Other Thom Powell Links
November 3rd Event
Cryptomundo's Review of The Locals
Cliff Barackman talks about the Chehalis Project, investigated by Thom Powell

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