Ohio is becoming known more and more as a hotbed for bigfoot activity. The state produces numerous sightings a year, has a plethora of researchers, and hosts arguably the largest bigfoot conference in North America. In the following article a couple of very well known researchers, Marc DeWerth and Paul Hayes, are both featured as they discuss encounters in Northeast Ohio.
Dateline: June 24, 1980; Bellefontaine, Ohio- “I was unloading eight pigs I had bought about 11 p.m. I shut off the light in the barn and went around the corner to see what my two dogs were raising Cain about.” So starts the Ohio Daily News’s account of police officer, Ray Quay. Quay was “dumbfounded and surprised” to find a “seven-feet tall, hairy animal” lurking in the corners of his barn. Other officers were sent to corroborate his account, but to Quay’s frustration, nothing was found. Tales like this are as apocryphal as they are abundant for Northeastern Ohio.
According to local Bigfoot researcher, Marc DeWerth, the Allegheny mountain range, which spills into Northeastern Ohio, possesses an “abundance of water, a huge deer population, and lacks of any natural predators like cougars and wolves. The Sasquatch are on the top of the food chain,” he contends, “and Ohio has an abundance of food that they may take advantage of with little or no competition.” Dewerth coordinates his investigations through the Bigfoot Research Organization (BFRO), which claims to be the “only scientific research organization exploring the Bigfoot/Sasquatch mystery.” According to the site’s database, aside from Northern California and the Florida Everglades, there is no other state with more recorded sightings than Ohio. So replete are Bigfoot sightings in Eastern Ohio that famed cryptozoologist and founder of the Cryptozoology Museum in Portland, Maine, Loren Coleman, has stated in his book, Mysterious America, “Besides California, I don’t know of another state that has as many Big Foot investigators.”
I held a conversation with a person whose 2013 case prompted an independent investigation. “Suzy” did not want her real name revealed, but shortly after moving to the rural area outside of Loudonville, she encountered a lumbering figure in thick black fur leaping before her car as she passed some grazing horses. Her family was quick to assure her that it must have been a bear, but the spark had been lit. “It changed my life,” she admitted. The months following her experience found her descending into rabbit holes of personal research and meetings with members of the BFRO as well as the team from the television series, Finding Bigfoot. “I spent the next two and a half years trying to figure out what happened … the only thing that really saves my sanity is the science.” It was not long before her burgeoning obsession would begin to raise eyebrows. “Both sides of my family were just like, ‘Wow, what happened to Suzy?’”
Paul Hayes, of Stark County, had a similarly profound experience in 2011, which led him to create his own Bigfoot investigative branch known as the Genoskwa Project. He told me that it all started “on a regular night, one of those sleepless nights.” Stepping out for a midnight smoke, Hayes was met with a thunderous guttural howl erupting from the nearby pines. Intrigued, Hayes took his son into the woods in search of the sound’s origin several days later. “My son was standing in a small clearing. The grass is ten inches tall, degraded.” Hayes described the fateful night, the event still fresh in his mind these years later. “There were still leaves on the trees. I hunched down and there he was … I couldn’t even tell you how long the sighting even lasted. You were just in a shock where time stood still. It was amazing.” His tone went from sensational to somber when he added, “It changes you drastically. When you walk into the woods, you’re constantly looking over your shoulder, jumping at every twig snapping.”
Both Hayes’ and Suzy’s encounters are listed in the BFRO database, but the site’s primary function is its hotline. Here, people can call or email reports of potential sightings, not only in Ohio, but throughout the country. From there, researchers, like DeWerth, are dispatched into the field to follow up alleged sightings with a discriminating eye. Despite ruling out ninety percent of the cases he has investigated as either misidentification, a prank or hoax, when pressed, DeWerth contends that the remaining ten percent have proven compelling enough to keep the faith.
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