The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

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April 28, 2012

Bigfoot sightings common in Four-State Area

— Woolly corners of Kansas, Missouri, Arkansas and Oklahoma may support more than just black bears, mountain lions and wild hogs, according to one group of researchers. They believe the region also could hide a population of the legendary sasquatch.

They cite dozens of unexplained encounters in the Four States going back 150 years. But their search for a 7-foot tall beast has run up against more obstacles than bigfoot’s shy nature.

‘Old Sheff’

Loren Coleman, founder of the International Museum of Cryptozoology in Portland, Maine, says some of the earliest reports of sasquatch sightings in the country came from Missouri and Arkansas.

Coleman says there are reports of a “monstrous wild man” in the swamps of the Missouri Bootheel dating to the 1840s. A decade later, hunters in Arkansas reported seeing a creature that was “gigantic in stature, hairy, and having footprints that measured at least 14 inches long.”

“What we have to look for in terms of old reports are people talking about hairy wild men and there are many, many of those coming out of the Ozarks. It was a real hotbed for reports of these creatures in the 1850s,” he said.

A similar report emerged out of Crawford County, Kan., just after the Civil War.

“We of the Arcadia Valley, in the southern part of Crawford County, are having a new sensation, which may lead to some new disclosures in nature history, if investigated as it should be. It is nothing less than the discovery of a wild man or a gorilla, or ‘what is it,’” stated a report that first appeared in the Journal Free Press of Osage City, Kan., in 1869, and was soon reprinted in the St. Louis Democrat. “It has so near a resemblance to the human form that the men are unwilling to shoot it. It is difficult to give a description of this wild man or animal. It has a stooping gait, very long arms with immense hands or claw; generally walks on its hind legs but sometimes on all fours.

“The settlers, not knowing what to call it, have christened it ‘Old Sheff.’

“It cannot be caught and nobody is willing to shoot it.”

The letter was signed by M.S. Trimble.

SOUTHWEST CITY

Since then, there have been more than 200 reports of Bigfoot encounters out of Kansas, Oklahoma, Missouri and Arkansas, according to the Bigfoot Field Research Organization.

Ron Boles, who lives in Springfield and is senior regional investigator for BFRO, said they are a volunteer group that catalogues, investigates, and rates Bigfoot encounters across the nation. A Class C encounter, for example, is non-visual evidence, such as a track; a Class B encounter may involve a vague or blurry sighting; the rarer Class A sighting, said Boles, involves a sober-as-Sunday-morning contact.

One such encounter occurred in Southwest City the morning of Sept. 6, 2010, according to Boles and BFRO.

It was Labor Day, and three fishermen were driving home at about 12:50 a.m. when they allegedly spotted a large creature hiding behind a trash can on the north end of Main Street. When they approached in their vehicle, the creature stood on its hind legs and fled. The fishermen pursued briefly before it escaped into the night.

The incident was reported by the driver to the BFRO and Boles says he investigated it, along with Larry Newman, a current candidate for sheriff in Jasper County.

“I was never more convinced of a Class A sighting than that one,” Boles said.

“Never in my life was I prepared for what I saw,” the witness told investigators. “It had long hair about 5 or 6 inches long and turned and looked at us twice to see if we were on his tail, I guess. This was a face-to-face encounter with this thing. He had his head in a trash can eating something. That’s how we got so close, he didn’t see us coming. He left a footprint behind and the police took a picture of it.”

Boles says the driver willingly gave his account but the others were reluctant to talk.

“I trust apprehensive witnesses a lot more than I do willing ones,” Boles said. “In some rural areas, people would rather go to their graves than lose face.”

Newman and Boles, who conducted their investigation six days later, described the witness as “genuinely frightened” by the experience.

“The footprint was 16 inches long and 8 inches wide,” Newman’s investigative report states. “They described a creature about 6 1/2 to 7 feet tall with a shoulder width of about 3 feet. Very heavy muscular legs, arms and body. The face had a wide flat nose, black around the eye area and small ears. The hair (not fur) was a reddish-brown color and not messy and matted as often described. The face was black.

“After this lengthy and detailed interview we believe this to be a close contact Class A sighting,” Newman wrote.

Boles and Newman said they did not want to release the name of the witness, citing the stigma surrounding those who claim to have sighted Bigfoot.

Newman has conducted other investigations for BFRO, and says he was contacted by the group because of his experience in law enforcement. He says he has investigated several reported sightings in the region. He says some seem legitimate while others are clearly false.

Newman says he has never seen a sasquatch himself, so he remains unconvinced of their existence. Boles says it is good for investigators to have a healthy dose of skepticism..

“We have been taught to be more skeptical of these reports than anybody,” he said. “If we’re not the most skeptical people out there, then that takes away the integrity of our research.”

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