This past weekend I flew out to Ohio to speak at the annual Creature Weekend, which was organized by Bruce Harrington (and with great help from a fine team of volunteers, including friends Brian and Terrie Seech). This was the fourth such event, but the first that I had attended - and I'm very glad I did. It was an excellent, three-day gig held at the Salt Fork State Park Lodge and Resort. It was also a gig that saw the likes of Bigfoot, unidentified big cats, and a multitude of other bizarre and unknown beasts, placed under the microscope.
After an early Friday morning flight from Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport, I arrived at Akron, Ohio around lunchtime. Bruce met me at the airport and we took a drive of about 80 minutes to the lodge. After an easy and relaxed afternoon, the event kicked off with a meet-and-greet event at 6:00 p.m., which was followed by dinner. The latter included a Bigfoot birthday cake made for Bill Brock, but which everyone tucked into! Then it was time for a presentation from Bill.
Bill's was an interesting and alternative presentation that focused on the usefulness of employing drones in the search for cryptids, such as Bigfoot. Well, if the technology is good enough for Big Brother, why not for monster-hunters?! Bill gave a good overview of the technology, capabilities, and science behind drones, and made it clear that drone technology will likely play an increasing role in creature-seeking, as the years progress.
Bill was followed by a screening of an episode of the Mountain Monsters television show (four members of the cast were in attendance to answer questions), and a late-night bonfire behind the lodge. It was a great night, with no tiresome and tedious egos in sight, no ridiculous demands for preferential treatment (believe me, I have seen some seriously pathetic behavior on the part of certain speakers over the years...), and just a large group of people hanging out, sharing stories, and getting to know each other.
Saturday morning marked what was, for me, the best presentation of the weekend: Chad Arment's lecture, titled "Mystery Mountain Lions & Panthers in the Eastern USA." What I particularly liked about this was that not only was Chad able to expertly demonstrate the nature of the so-called "Alien Big Cat"/ABC phenomenon in the east, but the presentation was opened up, forum-style, to ensure a great deal of audience participation.
It was this section of the presentation that brought forth new data, cases, and theories from the audience - including from those who had kept big cats over the years. And, very generously, Chad was giving away dozens of copies of his near-700-pages-long 2010 book, Varmints: Mystery Carnivores of North America.
As people who know me well will be aware, one thing (actually just one of many) that drives me to 28 Days Later-style rage is when things don't run on time, when speakers knowingly run over their allotted time, when people are late, and when the organizer seemingly throws the timetable out of the window. Thankfully, there was none of that at the Creature Weekend: Bruce kept everything running perfectly for the entire three days. So, with Chad's presentation complete, there was a smooth transition to the next thing and, as a result, my fist-clenching was, for once, nowhere in sight.
The Ohio Bigfoot Hunters gave a cool, illustrated lecture on their work. Then Chad was back again, this time speaking on lesser-known cryptid creatures, such as glowing spiders. Bill Brock was next, focusing on a very controversial but fascinating piece of film footage that showed what some believe to be a Bigfoot striding through the woods. It was footage that provoked very good questions from the audience, as well as a solid, open, and unbiased debate on the matter of "real or hoax?"
I was next, speaking on the equally controversial matter of Bigfoot in Britain, and the tales of such critters as the Man-Monkey, the Wild Man of Orford, and the Beast of Bolam. Post-dinner, the Mountain Monsters guys took part in a Q&A and discussed intriguing background data on the show, behind-the-scenes info, and how they came to be involved.
A final Q&A with all of the speakers followed, and then it was time for a raffle that raised a good amount of money for "Dollars For Scholars." Then, it was either a midnight trek around the woods for the Monster Safari, or a couple of hours hanging out at the bar (for me, the latter beckoned...). Sunday was the final day. It was comprised of an excellent barbecue lunch and the Ohio Bigfoot Hunters doing a very informative workshop on the ways and means to collect and preserve cryptid-based evidence secured in the wild.
And, then, it was all over - and all too quickly! Old friends were seen, new friendships were made, new and intriguing insights of a cryptozoological nature were revealed, and a good time was had by everyone - and I really don't think I'm exaggerating by saying everyone. If cryptozoology is your thing, pencil in the 2016 Creature Weekend. You wont be disappointed.