Bigfoot Lore Lures Thousands Of Tourists To SE Oklahoma
HOCHATOWN, Oklahoma - Spying Bigfoot in southeast Oklahoma is easy. He's hanging out at nearly every roadside gift shop in Hochatown.
"Actually, I see him every day when I come to work," said Elaine Starr, Broknbo Vintage Market. "I think it's fun for people, the unknown and just the thrill of the hunt."
For the thousands of tourists that flood into this small town each year, they've hit the jackpot. From t-shirts and hats to yard signs and even bath bombs, there is plenty of evidence that sasquatch does exist, in the retail world.
"We can't keep enough of the shirts in stock," said Candi Gammon, Janet's Treasure Chest. "I mean, it's a good souvenir, I guess."
But believing the tall and hairy creature is more than a myth depicted on a souvenir, is mixed among the locals. We asked if they had ever seen anything they couldn't explain.
"Oh definitely, yeah," said Gammon.
But for Tony Starr, who sells Bigfoot souvenirs, he says he's not a believer.
"People like to be entertained, they like to tell stories," he said. "I've seen things, but I'm not gonna say that this was that."
So, we decided to see for ourselves by going "squatching."
"It's that sixth sense that you know that there's something there," said Troy Hudson, a Bigfoot field investigator.
Among the tall trees in a remote area north of Broken Bow, is where Troy Hudson and his buddies have seen Bigfoot on more than one occasion. He and his group take tourists out on six to seven Bigfoot expeditions each year.
"They're like us - they do not look the same, each one of them had their own unique characteristics, their facial structure," Hudson said.
They've even gathered evidence, DNA, footprints and pictures of suspected Bigfoot activity.
"They'll make signs in the sand with sticks and things like that," he said.
"We don't try to scare it off, we try to draw it near to us," said Jim Mordecai, a Bigfoot enthusiast.
And most often that happens when the sun goes down. The guys set up a gifting table that includes an offering of nutty bars and marbles. Then we waited. Using infrared cameras and night vision, we walked out through the woods. Several images popped up on the thermal camera, but nothing we could claim was the hairy creature.
"You don't have to believe, but usually when you come out with us, things happen," said Mordecai. "I mean we'll hear whoops and hollers, sometimes we'll be walking down a path and you'll hear them following right behind you."
On this night, though, the elusive beast remained in the shadows. But it won't stop the hunt for this group of friends.
"It's like fishing, you never know what you're gonna catch," said Steve Byrd, a surveillance specialist. "Might get rocks thrown all night long, might have a sighting, and then the next 10 times you go out, you get absolutely nothing, but you keep coming back because of that adrenaline of what's gonna happen next."
And while not everyone is convinced that he exists, one thing these townspeople do believe is that Bigfoot is big business.