Life is continuing education, and in that spirit I keep seeking new experiences, tutelage, and personas. I achieved all of these on Saturday, April 27, 2013, by becoming a Bigfoot School Graduate and receiving my handsome Chautauqua Lake Bigfoot School Diploma—signed by several of the field’s luminaries. It now has an honored place next to my Ph.D. diploma and various forensics certificates.
The school was part of The 2nd Chautauqua Lake Bigfoot Weekend & Expo. Tipped to the convention by colleague Mandi (Ward) Shepp, I hastened to send in my application and modest fee. Early on the appointed day, I set out for the site and, after a hearty breakfast in a village restaurant, I found the location on the shores of one of New York’s beautiful lakes. Scarcely had I taken my seat than “Squatch Detective” Steve Kulls came by with a friendly recognition and welcome—one of many I received despite my infamy as a skeptic (having been something of a regular on TV shows like National Geographic’s Is It Real? History Channel’s Monster Quest, and Animal Planet’s Lost Tape Series).
The day’s workshop featured information useful to cryptozoologists and skeptical cryptozoologists alike. Melissa Hovey started things off with detailed instruction in making track casts—from selecting equipment, cleaning away debris, and making photographs, to mixing plaster of paris, pouring, adding reinforcing rods for strength, and removing and cleaning the cast. She provided many tips and pointers and even allowed the several children in attendance to come up and help out.
Next, the personable Steve Kulls gave a Power Point presentation on interviewing eyewitnesses—or perhaps I should say alleged witnesses, since Steve’s talk included more skepticism of people’s claims than some might have expected. If he seemed a bit overconfident about the possibility of detecting deception (especially via “body language”), he nevertheless presented many cautionary tales and much useful advice.
The final major segment of the workshop was Billy Willard’s show-and-tell presentation of Bigfooters’ equipment. He began with such essentials as a notepad and pen, camera, binoculars, first-aid kit, flashlight, GPS device, and a fishing vest worn to contain it all (similar to what Vaughn Rees and I carried on our expedition to Bluff Creek, California—many miles back into the wilderness overlooking the site where in 1967 Roger Patterson made his historic “Bigsuit” film). Willard then presented more exotic items—parabolic microphones, hat-mounted video cameras, night-vision cameras and thermal-imaging devices, audio recorders, and so on, and on, including walkie-talkies—none of which, alas, has ever resulted in proof of Bigfoot’s existence.
My diploma also earned me the autographs of six instructors. In addition to Hovey, Kulls, and Willard, there were Larry Battson, Tom Yamarone, and no less a figure than Bob Gimlin himself—about whom I devote a subsequent blog. All in all, this was a useful and enjoyable experience.