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1999 'Official' Annual Bigfoot Conference Review

On March 6'th, 1999, Don Keating, Chairman of the Tri-State Bigfoot Study Group, hosted the 11'th Annual Bigfoot Conference. The event took place in the gymnasium of the Newcomerstown West Elementary School.

Keating was in ill health. Having had the flu for a week already, he was somehow able to handle the Conference and the event went over without a major hitch. However, two major factors contributed to the attendance being only about half of what was originally anticipated (300). The weather went down hill all afternoon. The temperature was a mild 45 at noon with light showers. By 5 p.m. the temperature had dropped to 30 with light snow developing. By 10 p.m. at Conference end, the temperature was a cold 24 with light snow ending, 1.5" of new snow on the ground, slippery driving conditions and wind chills to nearly 0. Another major factor was that one local newspaper of which Keating was told would send his news release across the Associated Press news wire, didn't. Even though, with those factors working against him, the Conference still had 143 in attendance. Following is the review Daniel Perez wrote. Mr. Perez edits the "Bigfoot Times" newsletter out of Norwalk, CA. Subscription information can be found near the end of this page.

"'Maine's Loren Coleman proved worthy as the unofficial keynote speaker at the 11'th Annual Bigfoot Conference in Ohio, easily putting away speaking competition from Arkansas, Indiana and Maryland.

Chairman Don Keating fell ill with flu-like symptoms but nonetheless presided over the event. The Associated Press failed with no word of the gathering, putting attendance at about 140, in addition to weather as a factor; 37 degrees and snow.

A printed program was handed out at the door, which carried the names of businesses who sponsored the event. Domino's Pizza also picked up a slice of the bill.

Loren Coleman from Portland, Maine (l) Larry Battson from Green Castle Indiana and J.E. "Smokey" Crabtree pose for a 'speaker picture' after the Conference.

Merchandise was sold at the front of the conference room with Loren Coleman selling out of his new book well before the show started. Dr. John Bindernagel was unable to attend due to a death in the family. However, Bob Chance from Maryland (who attended the historic Canadian Monster Conference in 1978), was not only a surprise attendee but also managed to squeeze in as a speaker! Ever colorful Erik Beckjord stated he would not attend the meeting unless escorted by armed guards. It's a good thing, as it certainly appeared to me there were shadows lurking on the grassy knoll.

Kick off started at 5:17 with Larry Battson from Green Castle, Indiana speaking first, rehashing some general information, then recounting briefly his wife's sighting next to a mailbox several years ago. His wife apparently attributed to having said: "it's the biggest guy you ever saw..." He also noted a report of a 9 foot tall Sasquatch on the Wabash River in 1980 that was linked with rock throwing. When asked what the North American Bigfoot population might be, Mr. Battson avoided numeric data but said they were "everywhere," he added, "hell, we can't even find one." At 6:26 p.m. Larry signed off.

Unscheduled speaker Bob Chance, a science teacher from Bel Air, Maryland grabbed the microphone next, discussing his many years of researching Bigfoot from his neck of the woods. His activities have slowed to a crawl due to health related problems.

Bob Chance from Bel Air, Maryland speaks to the 143 in attendance at the Conference. Chance was an unscheduled speaker, and had a great slide presentation with him. Nice job, Bob!!

"Bob [Gimlin] was very convincing," Mr. Chance told the audience in reference to having met Bob Gimlin in 1978. He also told his listeners, "John [Green] has done more for cryptozoology than anyone else."

Like the speaker before him, Bob Chance discussed rock throwing from an area called Muddy Springs. In this episode, a rock was thrown at intervals of 5 to 6 minutes.

As I mingled with the crowd I was introduced to Rip Lyttle, also a Maryland resident. He told me at one time he was a "paid" volunteer for the now defunct Bigfoot Research Project, headed by the notorious Peter Byrne. He went on to say that once he phoned John Green to find out some real information, and Peter reacted by flying off the handle. He was ordered not to call Green again and that Byrne was rumored to have said something like: "you [Rip Lyttle] work or me..." Mr. Lyttle, not amused by Peter told me; "Byrne is a fu---n loser."

Julius Earl "Smokey" Crabtree, from Fouke, Arkansas was up on stage at 8:49 p.m., talking like an auctioneer in slow motion. "Smokey" (apparently the name is derived from boyhood when he filled his fathers pipe), now forever linked to three toed tracks and the scary movie The Legend of Boggy Creek proved to be a very straight forward, credible observer. Part of his discussion dealt with his son's sighting from many years ago. It was a broad daylight encounter and the subject was "moving around in disgust," and you "couldn't see it's eyes." The subject, stated Smokey, was "standing like it was a man trying to use the bathroom standing up." The observed animal, estimated at between 7 and 8 feet tall, was about 80 steps from Smokey's son and was apparently trying to smell the surrounding air. The subject was fired at with a shotgun and Smokey told his audience "we heard the shots from the house." The blasts from the gun was described as having no effect.

Smokey, 72, has spent a lifetime in the woods with animals and has never once seen one of these Bigfoot like creatures but describes them as a "mix between a man and a gorilla." He has been fortunate enough, however, to having spied fresh 3-toed tracks in a bean field near his residence in Fouke. In private discussions with me, he was firm in that the tracks were only three toed with a step measurement of 57 inches and a "really high" arch in the foot.

Don Keating presents J.E. "Smokey" Crabtree with a plaqe of appreciation for his presentation. Smokey did a fine job at the Conference.

Smokey's association with the producers of the movie,
The Legend of Boggy Creek, was very much a negative event as he stated no one in his community ever got paid for their services. So bad was the situation it found its way into court, and was later documented in his book. Reflected Smokey Crabtree: "we went through hell." It was also noted this was Mr. Crabtree's first speaking engagement outside of Arkansas. Smokey had several copies of his book. Smokey and the Fouke Monster for sale in addition to hats, shirts and a poster.

With two books on the subject slated for release this year and decades of investigation and research under is belt, the celebrated Loren Coleman spoke last, launching his informative talk at 8:57 p.m., all the while insisting the state of Maine does not have celebrities, per se. Okay, Mr. Coleman. And so he started, "I don't believe in Bigfoot," equating the word believe for religious use. Instead, Loren Coleman went on to say the evidence so far collected is convincing enough to cause one to conclude that Bigfoot is for real. He showed portions of various movies, included a clip from Return To Boggy Creek, and added commentary as to how this movie and others have shaped public and media perception of the whole business.

Loren danced, dallied and dazzled but covered alot of Bigfoot ground in short order, telling his eager listeners, "There is always the Patterson film to fall back on." Along those lines Loren noted quite recently, both in the mainstream press and on television, there has been "attempts to destabilize it [the film]," but no one yet has landed a KO punch.

Loren Coleman stated there are three things which continue to intrigue him: the investigation, the people and the history of the Bigfoot mystery both in North America and worldwide.

Daniel Perez (l) and Loren Coleman pose (well, sorta) for a picture before the 11'th Annual Bigfoot Conference begins.

It was very clear to me the crowd enjoyed the knowledgeable Loren Coleman, 52, who half seriously said, "in my forty years I fogot more than I know."

Publisher Simon & Schuster is scheduled to release a second Coleman book offering by summer, this one tentatively titled Cryptozoology A to Z: An Encyclopedia.

Mr. Coleman has been through divorce (twice) and bankruptcy but has still managed to stick with his interest in Bigfoot, later expressing disappointment that colleagues in similar situations have folded shop rather than stay the course. We applaud him for his toughness and the Ohio audience did likewise.'"

That ends the review that Daniel Perez published in his March 1999 issue of Bigfoot Times. If you are interested in subscribing to his newsletter, write him at 10926 Milano Avenue, Norwalk, CA 90650-1638. The cost is $9.00 for 12 issues.

Opinions and comments in Mr. Perez' article do not necessarily reflect those of the Chairman of the Annual Bigfoot Conference, Don Keating.

Loren Coleman (foreground) takes a final question during his presentation while Don Keating listens on.

The Annual Bigfoot Conference for the year 2000 will NOT be held the first Saturday of March. It likely will be held during the month of April. However, a firm date has yet to be established. Much of that depends on when the Easter weekend falls. A few lessons were learned from this Conference.

#1---Sponsors help. Much of cost of the rent for the school was covered from sponsorship fees. Thank you to all sponsors who might see this!!

#2---I will NOT rely on a single source to spread the word for me in 2000 about the Conference. i.e the local paper. I will find a way to send the news release across the A.P. without having to rely on someone else.

And finally, this thing called the internet ... it really helps!! At least 30 people attended the Conference in 1999 because they saw the web page for the event. Thanks to everone for attending!! Any questions, comments or suggestions of any kind for 2000, please e-mail me!! Also, if YOU attended the Conference this year, please take a moment to sign the guestbook below and give your thoughts on the event. Special thanks to Monte Ballard, Marc DeWerth and Peggy Tillman for use of their photos. From Newcomerstown, Ohio, I am Don Keating.

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