TAHLEQUAH, Okla. — The reach of human society is ever-expanding, and as people explore uninhabited lands, the chances of discovering a new species - or possibly an ancient one - increases.

The Oklahoma Bigfoot Symposium in Stilwell will feature researchers and Bigfoot experts from around the country, offering their insight and providing evidence for Bigfoot's existence. The symposium is Saturday and Sunday, March 10-11, at CC Camp, and is hosted by the Mid-America Bigfoot Research Center.

"You'll hear stories about encounters, you'll learn stuff about what to look for when you're out in the woods, and you'll also learn about what to notice around your house - if you live out in the country - if you've got Bigfoot activity or not," said D.W. Lee, executive director of MABRC. "We'll also have some pictures, video and audio for people to see."

One of the presenters at the symposium will be Jerry Hestand, author of "Hunting Apes in America: My Life As a Bigfoot Hunter." MABRC researcher Jim Whitehead will give a presentation about the historical records of Bigfoot sightings in Oklahoma.

"Then we've got Robert Swain, who's actually over the Arkansas Primate Evidence Society," said Lee. "He actually had an encounter during last year's symposium, down in one of our research areas. So he's going to be discussing having his first sighting in our research area."

The presenters will include evidence they've collected over the past six to eight months, offering folks an inside look into their process of searching for Bigfoot. Lee said MABRC tries to avoid bringing in celebrity guests who have been on television shows about the American folklore. Instead, the MABRC focuses on the research itself, some of which could sway a few skeptics.

"We've had several people show up who really didn't believe it at all," said Lee. "By the time they left, they were like, 'Man, just listening to the audio and the things that you all have encountered really makes me think there is a Bigfoot out there.'"

Lee said guests will have an opportunity to go camping with MABRC researchers Saturday night, after signing a liability waiver. Guests can go on night hikes and set up listening posts to see if they can hear any Bigfoot vocalization.

Lee said he knows what he would do if he and Bigfoot crossed paths: Get proof.

"Basically, if he's close enough for me to reach out and get two handfuls of hair, I'm grabbing him," said Lee. "I've always told my people, as long as you find my arms, that's the important thing, because there will be two handfuls of hair in them."

The symposium is normally held during October, but the dates were changed to March this year to avoid competing with other Bigfoot conferences in the area. Doors open Saturday at 9 a.m. and the first presentation begins at 10 a.m. Saturday's events will conclude around 5 p.m. The symposium will run from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Sunday.


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