Squatcher gathering: The Ohio Bigfoot Conference

A carved Bigfoot family tries to look inconspicuous at the Ohio Bigfoot Conference. (Photo by Chip Gross)

Do I believe in the existence of Bigfoot, a hair-covered, 8-foot-tall mysterious monster that smells bad and has been rumored to live in remote Ohio woodlands since the mid-1700s? No. No, I don’t.

But many people do. So many, in fact, that the Buckeye State has no less than three annual conferences dedicated to Bigfoot believers. Much of the activity takes place in and around Ohio’s largest state park, Salt Fork State Park in Guernsey County near Cambridge.

“The Bigfoot page is the most visited section of our website,” says Debbie Robinson, executive director of the Cambridge/Guernsey County Visitors and Convention Bureau. “Our 2019 events calendar includes the annual Ohio Bigfoot Conference, Bigfoot Adventure Weekends, Creature Weekends, and monthly Bigfoot night hikes at the park.”

Another name for Bigfoot is Sasquatch, and true believers refer to themselves as “Squatchers.” USA Today even ranked Salt Fork as one of the top 10 “Squatchiest” places in the country.

John Hickenbottom, a state naturalist at Salt Fork, coordinates the monthly summer Bigfoot night hikes, which take place during the holiday weekends of Memorial Day, the Fourth of July, and Labor Day.

“The hikes have become very popular,” says Hickenbottom, “with anywhere from 150 to 300 people attending each time we hold one. We offer both a family-friendly hike and one for adults only.”

Saturday, May 4, will mark the eighth annual Ohio Bigfoot Conference at Salt Fork. Attended by several thousand people including vendors, the official conference is only one day, but activities extend over the entire weekend. Its website says the conference has grown into the world’s premier Bigfoot conference.

One of a half-dozen Bigfoot experts and celebrities who spoke at last year’s conference — and who is scheduled to appear again this year — is James “Bobo” Fay. Hailing from California, Fay is best known for his role on the Animal Planet TV show Finding Bigfoot. Fay says he sighted his first Sasquatch in 2001 in northern California and has seen several more in various places across the country. He’s not yet spotted a Sasquatch during his visits to Ohio, but claims to have heard two, both at Salt Fork State Park.

Asked why he believes Salt Fork is so “Squatchy,” Fay says that it’s the perfect Bigfoot habitat. “Sasquatch are omnivores, eating both vegetation and preying on other animals, and Salt Fork is a large natural area with plenty of wild foods. It also has a huge white-tailed deer population, which helps a Bigfoot survive the winter.”

Bigfoot sightings have been reported from every state except Hawaii and by all demographics. “The number of reports nationally tends to correlate with rainfall totals,” Fay says. “For instance, 95 percent of Bigfoot reports come from areas with at least 20 inches or more of annual rainfall. In desert regions, there are very few sightings, virtually none. So, a Bigfoot sighting is not a cultural phenomenon — it’s a biological phenomenon.”

According to Fay, the Ohio Bigfoot Conference is the oldest, biggest, and best-run Bigfoot conference in the country. “It’s a great time and definitely something people should check out,” he says.

By the way, Salt Fork State Park is on Guernsey-Muskingum Electric Cooperative lines. Would that make any Bigfoot found living within the park an electric co-op member?

W.H. Chip Gross 
is Ohio Cooperative Living’s outdoors editor, and in all his years spent outdoors, 
he’s not yet spotted a Bigfoot … but he’s looking!