Who can resist the first annual bigfoot conference....especially in Florida? There were a few reasons why I decided to attend this event at the RP Center in Lakeland. While I am not that focused on Bigfoot, cryptozoology is on the edge of my radar. A few members of the SPIRITS followed the television shows and their interest also encouraged me to go. Also, this area had the passing of a fellow paranormalist and Bigfoot enthusiast from Pasco county. Somehow, I wanted to learn a bit more to help fill the void that her death left in the general area. Though Pinellas does not have many reports of Bigfoot, I know of at least two people in Pasco who had first hand encounters. Though Pasco is about an hour away from St. Petersburg, it's still close enough that the phenomenon merits study.
Though Bigfoot is not really my thing, I still enjoyed the conference. I think it reminded me very much of the small conventions that I remember from my youth. Friendly people, not being overwhelmed by vendors, able to talk to the guests and get free autographs. Even if it wasn't my main topic I do feel like I learned a few things. I had no regrets attending the event.
I have to say that there were a few interesting takeaways from the Bigfoot conference. One is the element of justification of proof. And I hate to be that person but some of the descriptions of the Bigfoot encounters, particularly in the 1800s, sound to me like a person afflicted with a medical condition. Could history have been reinterpreted? The description of Bigfoot from the 1800s was "wild man" -- which is what the word "Seminole" means. Florida had multiple Seminole wars during the 1800s; could actual encounters have been transformed by enthusiasts to become "proof" of early encounters?
Bigfoot likes to eat. Many point to proof of contact as food left in the wilderness disappearing. Apples seem to be a big draw. and Skunk Ape allegedly likes lima beans. Other contact points include closed jars of peanut butter or, in one story, Nutella. Believers point to the consumption of these foods as proof of intelligent contact -- the jars are opened, the food is eaten, and the lids are screwed back on. Impossibly big finger imprints are left behind (as described by one speaker, who created casts of these finger prints in hardened Nutella). The idea is that this is happening in the middle of the wilderness, away from people. However, the Bigfoot hunters, themselves, are humans in the middle of the wilderness. Who is to say others are not there? Campers, pranksters, and animals could be responsible for some of the disappearances.
The advice that I did get from one Bigfoot hunter, featured on Expedition Bigfoot on Discovery, is that one never investigates the creatures (See video). They only appear when one is not expecting them -- going camping or on a hike. While ghosts can sometimes do this, it seems that spirit investigations get more evidence (visual, audio, and group encounters) than do the Bigfoot investigators.
I am saddened that the stories of Florida Bigfoot encounters often alarmingly deal with violence. Invariably, people shoot at the Bigfoot, hitting it or killing it, or it is rammed by cars. Both of these things make me entirely unhappy. I will give Stacy Brown Jr. kudos because he actually said that when people ask him what gun he takes out hunting, he answers "a flashlight". He believes that the Bigfoot is attuned to night time vision and flashlights disrupt their vision and tend to scare them off. I am all for the non-violent resolutions.
I did enjoy the sound section presented by Bobo. He played a number of sound files that were believed to come from Bigfoot from various parts of the US. The most common sound was the "whoop" cry, sometimes produced as a single sound, sometimes in almost a song format. I do wish that we had some sound comparisons with various wild animals of the areas where these sounds were captured as some did sound remarkably like wildlife, but I do not have the expertise in the field that these gentlemen did.
Bifgfoot enthusiasts appeared to be primarily male. At least one story about going into nature included the idea that wives did not want to go into that area with them, thus allowing men to have some bro time and to be exposed to Bigfoot through unexpected encounters.
There was also an aggressive push b the organizers to create a new breakaway paranormal team specifically to "push the envelope" and to get a television show. Admittedly, this did make me frown quite a bit. My general philosophy is that the Bigfoot want to be left alone or else they would reveal themselves to us via close-capture images, clear recordings, and direct personal encounters. Any paranormal field also needs an element of respect embedded within it. This can be a dangerous field and, in today's world, there is a need for human decency towards all.
I have included a highlight video of the day and a few images. There are other Bigfoot Conferences hosted by this company, and others, that take place across the United States. Feel free to check it out and if you go, let us know what you think!