"Bigfoot captures the attention and following of many residents in southeastern Ohio. Frequent meetings are held during the year with devotees telling of their latest sightings and experiences with the illusive Bigfoot.
"Last week an employee of Salt Fork State Park saw something large stand up along the road as she was driving past Hosak's Cave in the park. She said this Bigfoot ran into the woods but left behind a large footprint, which Bigfoot investigators made into a plaster cast.
"Each spring, Salt Fork State Park has an Ohio Bigfoot Conference, which draws hundreds to listen to the latest information about Sasquatch, another name for Bigfoot. This year those dates are May 19-20. Cliff Barackman from Animal Planet's 'Finding Bigfoot' will be the master of ceremonies.
"Several are businesses use Bigfoot as a drawing card. In Byesville, Marvin Orr at Orr's Drive-In placed a statue of Bigfoot beside their picnic tables. Marvin and his daughters frequently attend Bigfoot meetings and conferences. After hearing all the stories told by ordinary people, it makes them believe there's 'something' out there.
"The Feed Barn in Newcomerstown displays and sells Bigfoot statues and T-shirts because of all the sightings in the area. Recently, a young boy was crossing the railroad tracks down by the Tuscarawas River and checked both ways to make sure no train was coming. No train in sight, but he did see a Bigfoot step across the track easily with one long stride.
"In Noble County, at the Caldwell Food Center Emporium, you will be greeted by Bigfoot at the entrance to the parking lot. Denny Crock, owner, knew people talked about Bigfoot frequently so he wanted a concrete statue at his store. This 6-foot-2, 2,400-pound creature attracts much attention.
"Out at Salt Fork Lodge, the Ohio Bigfoot Conference donated a carved wooden statue since their meeting provides Salt Fork Lodge its largest conference of the year. Rooms and cabins are filled to capacity this weekend and the Lodge gift shop has record sales with the wide range of memorabilia.
"Local investigations began with Don Keating in 1980. He wrote an article about a sighting in the Newcomerstown area. Since then Don had organized the Ohio Bigfoot Conference at Salt Fork State Park until he recently stepped back to devote more time to another interest - meteorology.
"Doug Waller speaks frequently around the area about the legendary Bigfoot. The founder of Southeaster Ohio Society for Bigfoot Investigation, Doug and his team tell about the activities and sightings of this mysterious creature.
"Ideas range from an ape-like animal to an extraterrestrial being. The Native Americans saw Bigfoot as a spiritual being, including it on their totem poles. The Delaware Indians cautioned residents here long ago to put out food offerings for 'the wild ones in the woods.'
"Each person is free to explore the ideas he finds probable. But when you hear a scratch on the wall, smell something terrible outside your door, or see and eight-foot tall creature lumber off into the woods, you might just become a believer."Some more info on the Ohio Bigfoot Conference can be found here.