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Bigfoot believers gather in Tri-Cities

Annual Bigfoot conference draws local’s interest
Phil Wright

East Oregonian

Published on August 29, 2018 6:49PM

Bigfoot believer Corissa Howland of Milton-Freewater poses with souvenirs she brought back from last year’s International Bigfoot Conference and Film Festival.

Staff photo by E.J. Harris

Bigfoot believer Corissa Howland of Milton-Freewater poses with souvenirs she brought back from last year’s International Bigfoot Conference and Film Festival.

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Bigfoot remains big business.

The International Bigfoot Conference and Film Festival is in its third year and runs Friday through Sunday at the Three Rivers Convention Center in Kennewick. The event attracts hundreds, from die-hard Bigfoot believers and enthusiasts to the curious to skeptics.

Corissa Howland of Milton-Freewater is among the believers and will trek back and forth from Oregon all three days of the conference with her aunt from Pendleton.

Science didn’t verify the existence of the mountain gorilla until 1902, Howland said, and stories about Bigfoot stretch back into the long history of American Indians. She also finds modern reports of the hairy hominid compelling.

“With the variety of sightings for the most part being consistent,” Howland said, “it stands to reason there very well may be something out there.”

Howland has not had an encounter with the legendary creature, but she recalled her father told of spotting “something” from a distance that looked large and upright. She said when he checked the tree the figure had been standing near, the height of the branch indicated it was about 8 feet tall.

She said if she saw a Bigfoot from some distance away, she would try to snap a clear photo. But she might have a different reaction in a closer encounter.

“If all of a sudden I was face-to-face with the big guy,” she speculated, “I might be freaking out a little bit.”

The Bigfoot Field Research Organization claims to be the only scientific research organization delving into the mystery. The BFRO collects reports of encounters and publishes that information on its website. The organization’s most recent report of an encounter in Oregon was in September 2017 near Dufur in Wasco County, when archery hunters heard a “loud whoop-type sound” several times. Bigfoot researchers and believers assert Bigfoot makes whoops, yowls and screams.

Clackamas County earns the top Bigfoot encounter area with 27 in the organization’s database. Josephine County comes in second with 21 and Douglas is third with 17. Umatilla and Lane are next with 16 sightings each.

Umatilla County seemed to have a spike in encounters and sightings in the 1990s. The most recent in the database happened in November 2012, when locals heard strange shrieks near Mission on the Umatilla Indian Reservation.

The database has one sighting for Morrow County. Two men in March of 1995 reported they were driving in the dark eastbound on Interstate 84 near Boardman when the driver swerved to avoid hitting a possible juvenile Bigfoot.

Howland said her interests have grown in the paranormal and cryptozoology — the study of unknown animals but not an actual science. Her sister is the co-creator of the podcast “The Caravan, The Library of Lore,” which explores the paranormal, and Howland has been on that a couple of times. She attended a few hours of the Bigfoot conference last year and said she found the speakers and their theories interesting, including Thomas Sewid of Victoria, British Columbia, a Canadian First Nations member who spoke of his tribe’s legends about Dzunukwa, a type of wild woman of the woods, and her relation to myths of Bigfoot.

Howland said she enjoyed the experience and wished she could have stayed longer and mingled a bit.

“I’m hoping I can connect with a couple of people this year and kind of chat,” she said.

If this year’s conference attendance resembles the previous, finding someone for a like-minded conversation will not be nearly as much effort as tracking down a Bigfoot.

You can find out more about the conference here: https://www.internationalbigfootconference.com/

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Contact Phil Wright at pwright@eastoregonian.com or 541-966-0833.



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