2020 Texas Bigfoot Conference Report:
Ed Owens – Dallas Bigfoot Research Society
Lija Fisher – Cryptid Author
Shelly Covington-Montana – Sasquatch Researcher
Ken Gerhard – Texas Monster Hunter
Lyle Blackburn – Cryptid Author and Investigator
Cliff Barackman – North American Bigfoot Center
Friday night, October 167:00-Catered Meat n’ Greet Dinner
Catered by:8:30-10:00 PM Special Presentation: Cliff Barackman – North American Bigfoot Center
Saturday, October 17Texas Bigfoot Conference9:00 AM – doors open
10:00 AM – welcome
10:15 AM – Shelly Covington-Montana
11:00 AM – Break
11:15 AM – Ed Owens
11:45 AM – Break
12:00 PM – Lija Fisher
1:00 PM – Ken Gerhard
2:00 PM – Break
2:15 PM – Lyle Blackburn
3:15 PM – Break
3:30 PM – Cliff Barackman
4:30 PM – Browse Vendors
5:00 PM – conference over6:00-10:00 Saturday Night6:00-8:00 PM Catered Meat n’ Greet Dinner with the Speakers
Catered BBQ dinner by: Riverport BBQ8:00-10:00 PM Special Presentation: Recent investigation with physical evidence of ongoing East Texas Bigfoot encounters
This event report was also included in the November 2020 edition of the Bigfoot Times
This year has brought many challenges including the cancellation of several meetings and events of all kinds across the nation with the exception being a long running annual convention down in the Lone Star State. The 2020 Texas Bigfoot Conference was held on Friday, October 16th and Saturday, October 17th despite the difficult times we have all been facing and still ended up being a great success. Even with capacity restrictions the conference brought together nearly 200 attendees along with several vendors and six high quality guest speakers. While some conferences may struggle to continue annually, Craig Woolheater of the Texas Bigfoot Research Center has done an outstanding job of hosting the event for nearly twenty years and the proceeds of the event are dedicated towards a scholarship for two Jefferson High School students. “The conference is a family friendly event that appeals to young and old alike, and everyone in between.”, stated Woolheater. While there are several locations throughout the state in which such a conference could be held, it is placed specifically within Jefferson, Texas of Marion County every third weekend of October, dubbed “Texas Bigfoot Weekend” along with the city itself being officially declared the Bigfoot Capital of Texas by the mayor due to the ongoing activity reported over the years. The Texas Bigfoot Conference brings together people from all over to explore the mystery of cryptozoology, bigfoot or sasquatch, and other unknown creatures known as “cryptids”.
The conference kicked off Friday night with a meat ‘n greet and catered dinner followed by a special presentation by Cliff Barackman of the North American Bigfoot Center and Animal Planet’s Finding Bigfoot. Considered by many to be an authority and specialist on the subject as well as returning for his second year in a row, Barackman presented a very informative analysis on the Chickamas River Photograph which depicts an unusual figure presumed to be bigfoot captured on a game camera in 2010. By using various methods, the photo was recreated with Barackman in place of the original subject which allowed for estimates to be made regarding its potential height and weight among other qualities. He expressed the significance of utilizing certain investigative techniques when looking into images which allege to have captured these elusive creatures on camera. Analyzing photographs is an important part of the research which goes into investigating the bigfoot phenomenon and may eventually lead to assisting in the irrefutable scientific determination as to the official existence of a currently unknown species.
The main portion of the conference began Saturday morning with each speaker giving their respective presentations throughout the rest of the day. In addition to Cliff Barackman, other guest speakers included Shelly Covington-Montana, Ed Owens, Lija Fisher, Ken Gerhard, and Lyle Blackburn. Their topics ranged from approaches in fieldwork and reports of strange creature encounters to hotspots of activity and the latest happenings in the world of bigfoot. While having to adhere to the capacity limitations, a livestream of the event was provided online for those unable to attend in person. This was a first for the conference and may be an option adapted for future events. Vendors showcased goods and wares clad in sasquatch designs as well as books, casts, crafts, art, and all things bigfoot-related. Attendees could also participate in a raffle and silent auction. Also in attendance were the hairy spectacles of renown; Billy Bigfoot (Billy McDonald), Ted the Big Red (Brian Hulan), and SheSquatch (Tanya Knight) whose presence enlivened the room as they elusively snuck about through the day as conference goers jumped at the opportunity to get their pictures taken with them.
The first speaker of the day was Shelley Covington-Montana, a certified wildlife tracker who is no stranger to the Texas Bigfoot Conference having been a returning guest over recent years. She gave a presentation entitled “The Citizen Science Sasquatch Inquiry” which provided insight into the importance of being a citizen scientist by using proper techniques, methods, and tools while doing fieldwork. The focus of her talk was about how to do nature journaling. “Start to look at things differently than you’ve been looking at them if you really want to help with research, if you really want the scientific community to believe what we know and to take notice”, she urged, “Sasquatch deserves better.” Covington-Montana spends much of her time doing research in the Pacific Northwest gathering data from the field for track identification, DNA testing, and more.
Second to speak was Ed Owens of the now defunct Dallas Bigfoot Research Society, a first-time presenter at the conference. Owens also worked for the Dallas Morning News as a sketch artist and shared some of his work in a presentation called “Bigfooting 40 Years Ago: People Were Seeing Something!”. As a skeptic, Owens admitted that he doesn’t believe in bigfoot but has had a lifelong curiosity in the subject due to his mother who had encounters. Owens promised her that he would share about her encounters at the conference. Along with the early lore of sasquatch history, he shared some of the sketches he recreated from accounts he investigated during the 80’s. Regarding the people he had interviewed, Owens stated, “I am 100% convinced that man saw something, he saw it and I’ll testify to it. What he saw, I don’t know. When he brings one in we’ll talk about that.”
Next, author Lija Fisher, another conference first-timer, came from Colorado to give a presentation on the main subject of her adventure books which is “Cryptozoology for Kids!” “…the search for bigfoot is a scientific endeavor”, she expressed, “it gets kids not only interested in science but also in reading.” Her talk featured several different types of cryptids and other scientific mysteries. She also included recent zoological discoveries and unusual animals which can teach us about the many different forms that life can take. Fisher’s books The Cryptid Catcher and The Cryptid Keeper are available on her website.
Afterward, highly acclaimed cryptozoologist and returning conference guest Ken Gerhard shifted gears from the subject of bigfoot to give a preview of his new book on the Loch Ness Monster. His presentation included an overview of the cryptid’s history as well as innovative theories as to the reality behind the legend. “When we’re dealing with highly controversial topics like the possible reality of something like bigfoot or an undiscovered species in the lakes and rivers and oceans of the world, it’s very important for us to maintain as much credibility in the field of cryptozoology as possible, and the way we do that is by sticking to the facts”, he shared. “Even when the facts may not agree with what we want them to be.” Gerhard’s new book The Essential Guide to the Loch Ness Monster will serve as a primer for those interested in the aquatic cryptid and seeks to shed light on sightings of lake monsters and sea serpents from all around the world. It is scheduled to be released toward the end of 2020.
Then, renowned cryptid author and researcher Lyle Blackburn returned to the conference once again to present a chapter from his latest book Sinister Swamps titled “The Caddo Triangle”. This area of strange activity spans from the Mercer Bayou near Fouke, Arkansas over to Caddo Lake near Jefferson, Texas and to Bayou Bodcau, Louisiana. Blackburn did an excellent job of chronicling reports of sightings and encounters throughout the years as well as the history of films inspired by or based in this hotspot region. “This is where they can be secluded, remote, exist”, he said. “And all this area in the Caddo Triangle is really contiguous…There really could be something out there, there probably is something. Something that perhaps if we keep up, we can truly document or prove. We’re that close.”
Finally, the conference came to an end with a special dinner feature with Cliff Barackman, who gave an entertaining yet informative keynote presentation called “2020: A Squatchy Dumpster Fire”. This included a closer look at some of the interesting exhibits of Barackman’s North American Bigfoot Center along with his recent investigations into reports of sightings, vocalizations, videos, and tracks. Despite the blazing forest fires of the Pacific Northwest, Barackman is determined to continue his work both in the field and at the NABC museum. In closing, he left the conference attendees with some words of reassurance about these challenging times, stating, “Let’s try to pull ourselves together as a community, as a UNITED States of America…other people in the bigfoot community are trying to divide the bigfoot community. Look around you, give some love. They’re your brothers and sisters. Smile at everybody inside and out!”
As a bonus, Barackman also provided insight and assistance in a last-minute addition to the line-up where Michael Waldie (Texas Bigfoot Rangers) and Logan Craft (Cryptid Connection, Logan vs. Everyone) gave an exclusive report from an investigation in East Texas where a family claims to have encounters on their property. To close out the event, dinner attendees were privy to a glass pane from the family’s properties which seems to depict smudge marks allegedly from the face of one of the creatures. While those who sought to stick around after hours at the bonfire near the venue provided by Anne & Kenny Walls of Squatch Dogs, an attempt was made by Waldie, Craft, Covington-Montana, Barackman, and others who stayed behind to extract the material left upon the glass for DNA testing before concluding for the night.
Perhaps there may be something substantial to discover from the results potentially left by a real bigfoot, seen for the first and only time at the 2020 Texas Bigfoot Conference. As plans are already underway for 2021, anyone interested in attending should start marking their calendar and look forward to next year’s event as it will be the 20th anniversary which is sure to be a conference to remember. The Texas Bigfoot Conference almost always sells out of both general admission and VIP tickets so be sure to make plans now because you won’t want to miss the next one! The 20th Anniversary Texas Bigfoot Conference: Friday, October 15th & Saturday, October 16th 2021. See you there!
Daniel Alan Jones