Bigfoot Project holds first meeting in New Bethlehem

Bigfoot is a legend to some people and a hoax to many others. But count a dedicated group of researchers statewide as among those who believe the elusive creature is very real.

To further that research, Gregg Schrecengost, of Rural Valley in Armstrong County, started a Pennsylvania Bigfoot Project chapter for both Clarion and Armstrong counties, which held its first meeting in New Bethlehem on Thursday.

“I met the founder of the Pennsylvania Bigfoot Project, Mary Fabian, last year at the Marienville Big Foot Festival and I was fascinated,” Schrecengost said. “I realized that there was no chapter leader for Armstrong or Clarion counties.”

Apparently, like Schrecengost, there are quite a few local people who are “fascinated.” According to Schrecengost, the Clarion/Armstrong chapter has 170 members. Overall, the Pennsylvania Big Foot Project has about 16,000 members.

Schrecengost said the Clarion/Armstrong chapter will investigate local Bigfoot sightings.

“We have had a report from the Worthington area (Armstrong County) and we will be going there. There have been sightings along the Clarion River,” he said. “There are people investigating in the Allegheny National Forest, but this is basically a virgin area for bigfoot research.”

Fabian, of Wampum in Lawrence County, said she has seen five individual bigfoot in the state, and also has seen them in Ohio and Oklahoma.

“I have seen one of them three times. I had one stalking me when I lived in Beaver County,” she said.

“He would come around the house and look in my windows. He scared my dog and I became irritated. I chased him away with a golf club. He just ran off.”

Fabian said she saw her first bigfoot in 1967, on a farm south of Pittsburgh in Allegheny County. She believes she is more in tune with Bigfoot, which allows her to see them more easily than other people.

“Some people can look right at them and not see them,” she said.

Bill Rigby, of Sharon, the chapter leader for Mercer and Lawrence counties, said he also has had a bigfoot encounter.

“I was on the Buckeye Trail in Ohio and it was just starting to get dark. I … was about 90 paces ahead of my group,” he said.

“I was kneeling down and I saw a little movement. It was kneeling down looking at me. I stood up and he stood up. That is when I started running backwards and he started running down through the woods. We were running in opposite directions.”

Rigby described that creature as about 7 feet tall, with dark brown fur, and 4 feet wide at the shoulders.

“It had a big black nose that was flat like a boxer with a head that was gorilla-shaped but not so conical,” he said. “The muscles he had scared the hell out of me. I thought ‘God help me, I’m gonna die.’ I think he was a juvenile. I think he was more upset with himself for getting busted by a human.”

Rigby said the whole incident took only about 10 seconds, but “seemed like a lifetime.”

Rigby said the researchers do not investigate every call.

“Sometimes, the caller provides too much detail,” he said. “Believe me, if you see a bigfoot the last thing in your mind is getting all of the details. You are shocked and scared. When you see a 7-foot, muscular creature looking at you the last thing you think of is getting a picture.”

There are certain signs the researchers look for, Rigby said, such as footprints and structures.

Fabian said the bigfoot have woodland skills.

“We will determine if these structures were made by nature or were manipulated,” she said. “Often, the branches are intertwined.”

The researchers often find footprints.

“I screwed up the first time I tried to make a cast of a print,” Rigby said. “It was 16 inches long. It looks similar to a human footprint. The gait was a 5-foot spread. I followed the track into the woods but lost it.” Also, bigfoot is a mammal and they make scat.

Bigfoot is known for being elusive, but Fabian believes it is not unknown to the government.

“The government already knows about them and have had bodies for years,” she said. “There are at least five killed during every hunting season.”

According to the website of the Pennsylvania Bigfoot Project, which is a no-kill organization, the group “respects the Bigfoot and respects their territory.”

“They are a primate similar to a great ape,” Schrecengost said. “They are intelligent and they have never had anything to do with humans probably because they feel that would compromise their society.”

Fabian said human food is “readily available and they go after that. They are omnivores. They eat both meat and vegetables and some things that are barely eatable.”

The Pennsylvania Bigfoot Project will be at the second annual Forest County Bigfoot Festival on June 10-12 in Marienville.