Last Saturday Charlie Raymond, founder of the Kentucky Bigfoot Research Organization, hosted the Bluegrass Bigfoot event at the Laurel County Public Library. He presented video footage, audio clips and eyewitness reports suggesting the existence of Bigfoot.

"I first became interested in Bigfoot when I was a kid," said Raymond. "I lived in South Florida and heard about the Skunk Ape" which he said was the name used for Bigfoot in Florida. Raymond added that watching In Search of..., a television series from 1977 hosted by the late Leonard Nimoy which investigated paranormal events and encounters, inspired him to learn more about the creature.

"I grew away from Bigfoot when I went to college," said Raymond, "but when I moved to Kentucky 30 years ago, all the forests here rekindled my interest." After forming the Kentucky Bigfoot Research Organization in 1997, many witnesses have come to him to talk about their experiences.

"They spend their time and gas to come talk to me in person. Some of these people remain anonymous because they don't want the attention," said Raymond. He pointed out that even park rangers and members of law enforcement have come forward anonymously because they fear losing their jobs.

The Kentucky Bigfoot Research Organization believes the creature to be an undiscovered species of hominid. While he's never seen one in person, Raymond believes he's been close to them in his expeditions. At the Bluegrass Bigfoot presentation, he played a thermal imaging video taken during one of his expeditions of two creatures sneaking through the grass. According to Raymond, Bigfoots are curious and tend to watch people who enter their territory. He speculates the two figures captured in the footage to be young Bigfoot creatures, since their body shape and movement didn't match that of a deer or canine animal.

"We try to debunk as much of the evidence as possible," said Raymond. He says Bigfoot creatures don't have claws, meaning that any clawed footprints are likely to be those of bears or canines. When recording Bigfoot vocalizations, Raymond compares those to the noises of known animals. If the sounds do not match, the next step is to compare it to other supposed Bigfoot vocalizations.

"I believe in the next 100 years, the Bigfoot'll go extinct," said Raymond, "these creatures are landlocked to the forests, basically. They can't travel and reproduce." He worries that the destruction of their habitat through deforestation will kill off their species, and he hopes to have laws established in Kentucky that protect them.

"If we can provide enough evidence without a body, if we can attain credible eyewitness testimonies, we can rally for lawmakers to protect the species," said Raymond.

If others wish to search for a Bigfoot, Raymond advises to do so without guns or flashlights. At the presentation last Saturday, he said Bigfoot creatures have become familiar with the tools hunters use and know how to avoid them. He added that if people encounter a Bigfoot to try talking to it, since the species may be able to identify intent through the tone of a person's voice.

"If a Bigfoot starts pushing things over and throwing rocks, you need to leave," warned Raymond, as the creatures can grow upwards of 10 feet tall and can weigh 1,000 pounds.

"I encourage people to have an open mind," said Raymond, "get out there and do research. Worst-case scenario is you enjoy a beautiful day in one of Kentucky's national forests. Who knows, you might just see something."

Raymond encourages those with eyewitness accounts, video or sound recordings to submit it to the Kentucky Bigfoot Research Organization website at KentuckyBigfoot.com. He says witnesses have the option to submit their reports anonymously.

dcombs@sentinel-echo.com

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