There have been hundreds of Sasquatch sightings in Arkansas but, Big Foot field researcher J. Robert Swain doesn’t believe there has ever been a 2014 Big Foot Bootcamp and Conference set for the state until now.
Swain, who has been a researcher since 2007, will serve as the coordinator of the event to be held May 2-3 in Vilonia. He will also be joined by other researchers from several states. Swain has never seen a Sasquatch, however, he said, he has documented evidence of their existence including castings of footprints, hand prints and knuckles, photographs of broken and positioned limbs and tree limb-type structures as well as stacked stones. At least one of the tree structures he photographed while researching in Saline County, he said, may have served as a shelter to a female Sasquatch while she was giving birth. He also has audio recordings, which he said, don’t identify with the sounds of any other animals.
A Church of Christ minister, Swain said he knows some people may "roll their eyes" when they hear him talk about his hobby but he really thinks it is "pretty arrogant to think we know everything and that all in life is wrapped up neatly in a little box."
Thousands of people have reported sightings, he said, and he doesn’t believe all of them are lying. "If only one report of a sighting is real, then Big Foot is real," he said. "I don’t think there is a worldwide conspiracy to fool people. I also don’t believe the creature is the missing link or a primitive man. I think it is a flesh and blood animal and God made it. There is fossil evidence of a giant ape from Asia and that’s what I believe it is."
Swain is a member of the Alliance of Independent Big Foot Researchers and the founder of the Arkansas Primates Evidence Society (APES). He has "squatched" in several states including Arkansas, California, Washington, Oklahoma, Mississippi and Tennessee. He is well-known in the Big Foot world for being an author and creator of LaughSquatch cartoons. He speaks at conferences across the U.S. and presents a data base listing 300 to 350 reports of sightings in Arkansas, maps marking many locations and shows his castings as well as shares his adventures including the one where he believes he came close to meeting a Sasquatch face to face. Something left a huge handprint on his car during that camping trip and he captured the sound using digital recorders. During his PowerPoint presentation, he also references the first newspaper account of a sighting in Arkansas in the 1850s. He believes that for every one report of a sighting, there are probably 9 that aren’t reported—most because of fears of not being believed.
"If that is the case, there have been 3,000 or more in central Arkansas," he said. Faulkner County, Pulaski County, Saline County, Perry County, around Fouke and in the Boston Mountains, he said, is prevalent locations. He also talked briefly about the reports of sightings from around the world.
Swain describes the Bootcamp and conference as family-friendly with two events including a Friday night camp out in the "scary woods" of Vilonia with real Big Foot researchers sharing their techniques. Attendees will sit around a camp fire on Friday night, Swain said, and hear stories about Bigfoot encounters in Arkansas as well as have the opportunity to participate in a hands-on obstacle course through the woods and learn to find tree structures, footprints and hair and scat samples. They will also learn to make photos, audio recordings and plaster casts as well as the proper way to use call blast equipment and do tree knocks.
Four different Big Foot groups will be represented during the event. All four are very active in Arkansas as well as other states, Swain said. Speakers for the Saturday event, to be held at the Vilonia City Hall, will include Michael Mayes, North American Wood Ape Conservancy, D.W. Lee and Big Jim Whitehead of the Mid-America Bigfoot Research Center and Swain of the Alliance of Independent Bigfoot Researchers and the Arkansas Primate Evidence Society. The cost for the event is $10 per person per day no matter the age. For more information, Swain may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org. The deadline for registering is April 15. The proceeds from the event will go to the Museum of Veterans and Military History in Vilonia.