Tuesday, October 26, 2010


The Sky EruptsI arrived late the first evening to the forested hills and hollows around Atoka, OK. A fat sky sank low over the region, threatening storms at the slightest upset, but it made for a beautiful drive to this remote town almost two hours southeast of Oklahoma City. The foliage lately has slowly been turning those autumnal shades that always seem somehow more spectacular against bilious heather skies.

That night, eleven miles outside town, at the Boggy Depot State Park, an evening of Bigfoot related movies was underway. It was a meet-n-greet for the guests and attendees and quite the success, as I learned the following morning.

The day held promise as I arrived early the next day. It was cool and sunny and looked to be the best of all possible conditions, save for some annoying winds that buffetted the tarps surrounding the covered picnic area that would serve as the main arena. With an ad-hoc podium, congregational rows of chairs, and a tented-in pavilion, the whole event felt like a camp revival for Bigfooters. If only I knew that soon I would witness the speaking of tongues.

Local Choctaw DancersWithin a short period, other vendors began showing up: a man selling Bigfoot t-shirts, the delightful aroma of food filled the air, and a large moon bounce was erected for the kiddos. Drumming and singing was heard from a contingent of Choctaw men and women, dressed in traditional garb.

Attendees settled in quickly and early. Despite a late start, all eyes were focused on Randy Harrington and Darren Lee as they delved into the intricacies of hunting for this elusive creature. Then it was Brit Nick Redfern's turn. He talked about various unknown beasts from the UK as well as Texas, where he now resides. His current book is about these various strange animals from Texas legends. It was co-authored by Ken Gerhard, who was also in attendance. When their back-to-back talks were concluded, it signaled a break in the day's events and devotees flocked to the two men like groupies to rock stars.

During the morning, the sun slowly receded and a roiling charcoal sky filled its absence. The wind picked up, tearing through the trees and sending a shower of golden leaves fleeing only moments before the heavens erupted. The rain fell in periodic torrents for the next several hours. Many attendees scurried with sudden urgency to the vendor tents that had thus far gone somewhat ignored. Ah, to be in such sudden demand.

When the talks resumed, the crowd was still holding strong even if a few had been washed away down stream. A retired Navy crypto-linguist, R. Scott Nelson, introduced neophytes to the lost language of Sasquatch - to the amusement of some. It was hard to ignore how funny this grunting, gutteral language sounded when he would parrot what had just been heard on an audio file. I can't describe it other than to say it bore more than a passing resemblance to Klingon. And while I was left with questions (namely how rudimentary translations of discreet sounds can be established without visual context), I daresay not a soul was bored with the presentation.

We heard from cartoonist Robert Swain, known for his popular Laughsquatch comics. If you're not familiar with them, think a Farside take on Bigfoot.

New Zealander, Daniel Falconer, who is an artist with the visual effects company WETA (known for their work on several Peter Jackson projects, including Lord of the Rings and King Kong), showed the audience some behind the scenes footage of how these movie monsters are made. His presentation was compelling because this is a company that, with millions of dollars, can make a believable hoax. This stands as a strong argument against the common thought that you can just throw on a monkey suit and fool people. As an example, he showed a commercial for a New Zealand search and rescue outfit that utilized a Yeti costume the company had designed. It cost more than $25,000 dollars to create but was still obviously fake. While the body looked very good, the facial features just gave it away.
Hobbit Foot Close UpHe also passed around a latex foot of a "Hobbit" (worn by one of the principle actors in the films) that was remarkable for its degree of detail. It had dermal ridges, a cracked toenail, calluses... These are details that would never have translated to screen, but they were there. Ostensibly, these are added to increase the degree of verisimilitude both for the actors portraying the characters and for the off chance Jackson needed a closeup shot of a foot. But what amazes me is that these artists had no problem fashioning a believeable foot - and frankly one more believable than half the casts out there right now. If this silicone foot had been stamped into some muddy soil, I can guarantee you it would send shockwaves. But it wouldn't have been real. I think that's definitely something worth pondering.

By the time I got up to speak, much of the crowd had left. Whether driven out by the nonstop rain or maybe I just didn't hold their interest, I won't speculate. I'd like to think I entertained those few left. Microphone problems had me dusting off some old theater skills in projecting my voice over the wind and weather. I hope everyone managed to catch an earful of my tales of Bigfoot, Thundebirds, and mysterious alligator-headed beasts that walk on two legs.

Row of Old TombstonesConcluding the lineup of guests were members of Paranormal Investigations of North Texas. Sharing EVP's, videos, and still images from their various haunted excursions, the team had the fewest attendees, but this was probably beneficial since it allowed everyone to gather in close to hear their various audio files. One of the interesting events that happened to them occurred only the night before as they investigated a cemetery close by. Filled with Civil War Era stones, the cemetery is a gorgeous spot to rest for eternity. However, it was a far newer grave that yielded an EVP of a little girl's voice calling out "Momma?"

The day's events concluded with dinner from Bigfoot Bar-B-Q and an auction of Bigfoot track casts, books, collectors items, and a framed print from King Kong (complete with two spent shells collected from a gunfight in the movie) that was supplied by Daniel Falconer.

I have been assured that another is already in the works for next year. I'm glad. Despite the torrents of rain, it was still a very successful event with some interesting speakers in a lovely part of the state. I look forward to returning to Boggy Depot next year.

No comments: