Bigfoot researcher Phil Shaw displays a map of Iosco County showing where several alleged Bigfoot sightings have occurred in the area. He discussed information about the mythic beast during a Saturday presentation at the Robert J. Parks Library during a program called “The Mystery of Bigfoot.”

OSCODA — A Bigfoot expert Phil Shaw of West Branch shared his observations, research and experiences with the mythical creature during a special presentation held, Saturday, at the Robert J. Parks Library in Oscoda.

The presentation, entitled “The Mystery of Big Foot,” was held in front of a packed audience. According to Shaw, Bigfoot, although considered only a legend by many, has been known and reported for centuries by peoples on every continent, with the exception of Antarctica, with frequent sightings  recorded especially in China, Russia, and the Himalaya Mountain regions.

Shaw said during the presentation that it is believed that thousands of years ago the first of these beings traveled from China to North America via an existing land bridge.

He said most of the Native American tribes accept the entity as real–albeit frightening — and have a name for it, each in their own language. Shaw told the group, for example, the Ojibwa know it as Weendego. Their fear stems from the disappearances of women and children who went out to forage for food and never came back. Despite searches, no remains or evidence of them were found, thus leading to a belief the “wild man” (yet another name) is a cannibal who eats its own species

Shaw said there are records of encounters between these beings and early settlers as well and, depending on the geographical location, especially in southeastern Ohio (a very active reporting area),West Virginia, and Kentucky, there are a variation of names, many including reference to a foul odor, as in the “fetid” or “stinky beast.”

Bigfoot and sasquatch are our most common names for the gigantic, hairy beast, but a name search brought up a long list from all over the world, Shaw told the audience. For instance, in Australia, the aborigines call it Doolagahl but it is Yahoo to the rest of the country. Chinese people refer to it as the “Chinese Wild Man.” Shaw said should a person travel to northwest Pakistan, there it is called Barmanu, and in Latin America, it is known as Ucumar. Even hundreds of years ago, the ancient Aztecs were familiar with the animal, which they named Nu’numic.   

Shaw’s presentation went on to what researches know about the alleged creatures. He said from alleged evidence collected or experienced in sightings, they appear to weigh 800-1,000 pounds. They are both bipedal (walk upright) and also quadruped (move on all fours) changing from one to the other very quickly. Their feet, unlike those of humans, have a joint in the middle, allowing the creature to walk more forward than flat-footed. Plaster casts of footprints reveal they are typically 14-17 inches long and as much as seven inches wide.

   Shaw said researchers say the creatures are secretive, preferring dense forest or swamp land and are generally nocturnal. When deposits of extremely large fecal matter were discovered and sent to a lab for analysis, results showed that the swamp dwellers had a preference for wild rice and aquatic plants, including all parts of the water lily.  

According to Shaw, many Bigfoot sightings are dismissed as just being bears. He said, however, big foot stands taller than a fully-grown bear and appear different from that creature. He said interestingly, they “vocalize” in low tones which can carry over long distances.    

One question that was on the minds of many in attendance was why, if the creature actually exists in nature, have there not been more sightings?

Shaw told the crowd it’s a matter of “focus and said most don’t believe in Bigfoot and when they’re out hunting, hiking, camping, or riding an ATV they’re so focused on where they are going that even if a member of the Bigfoot family was standing six feet off the path, they wouldn’t notice, and it is unlikely Bigfoot would make his/her presence known. 

“If you don’t believe, you won’t be looking and if you don’t look, you won’t find,” he said.

Another big question was whether northeast Michigan has had any sightings of the creature. Shaw said there had been, including in Iosco County.

From a map showing locations of 90 reported incidents in the past 11 years, the greatest number have been in the West Branch/Rifle River area with others in Mio, Hale, and as close as the dense forest south of Foote Dam, across River Road, in Oscoda Township. Other sighting “hot spots” are around Cheboygan/Black River, Traverse City and the western portion of the Upper Peninsula.

Shaw said it was his own Bigfoot experience with his spouse in 2006 that got him interested in doing research. He told the crowd that he and his wife were driving along a wooded stretch of highway, in New Brunswick, Canada. They came to a clearing and the wife (in the passenger seat) got a quick glimpse of something unusually big, tall and upright, and walking with a “funny gait.” Ironically, even after seeing and describing it, his wife does not believe that Bigfoot is real.

Phil suggested, in addition to online sources, that your local library has a wealth of resources, including MelCat, an inter-library lending service which allows a patron to borrow books from other libraries in the state. Additionally, Phil has a YouTube channel, which can be found by searching “PHILONEWS1.”