Searching for Bigfoot
Harvey Pratt sat on his couch, his wife Gina beside him, in their sprawling adobe home. It looks charmingly out of place in Oklahoma, as if it should be surrounded by red desert sand and cactus instead of the elm trees in green country. It’s also not all that easy to find, located in a tucked away country haven in the tucked away corner of another tucked away bend outside of Edmond.
But when you arrive, you know an artist lives here.
From the inside out, Native American artifacts, paintings, sculptures of wood or stone are all charming members of the family. Some Pratt created. Some Pratt found. Each an embodiment of a story. Like all of Pratt’s work. There’s always a story.
For the last 45 years working with the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation, 27 of those years as a forensic artist, Pratt has used his eyes and ears, pencil and tablet, to create something solid from eye witness glimpses, glances, and grim memories. He’s created more than 5,000 forensic sketches all over the United States.
His art has always solved mysteries. But, a few years ago, it took on one of the toughest mysteries of all: is there a Bigfoot?
“I heard stories growing up in my indian culture about Sasquatch,” says Pratt, who said the Cheyenne refer to him or them as the “hairy people,” while other tribes may refer to Bigfoot as “the stick man,” “boss of the woods,” “living solid face,” “big elder brother,” or even “the frightener.” There are as many names for Bigfoot as there are Native-American tribes. “All the tribes call him something different.”
The most important point may not be that they call him by different names, but that each tribe recognizes him at all. This was how Pratt and Gina found themselves in Hoopa, an unincorporated community in northern California, interviewing Hoopa tribal members in 2007.
David Paulides, a former police investigator who has studied Bigfoot sightings, hired Pratt to do what Pratt does best – listen and draw what he hears. Paulides, at the time, was putting together, The Hoopa Project: Bigfoot Encounters in California, which compiled investigative evidence gathered from eyewitness accounts of Sasquatch, along with Pratt’s drawings from those interviews.
“The first drawing looked human, like a human being. And David was just shocked,” says Pratt, who, along with Gina, interviewed Hoopa tribal members and local residents – from law enforcement personnel to doctors – who all had eyewitness accounts of seeing Bigfoot.
“They believed what they saw,” says Gina. “The mannerisms, the story, their eyes, they believed this happened to them. You couldn’t question that part.”
Since that project, those stories have sent Harvey and Gina all over the United States, from California to Minnesota, from Oregon to Idaho, from Texas to Arkansas, listening to eyewitness accounts of Bigfoot. Some of the stories are glimpses, some more interactive. Eyewitness experiences run the gamut. There is a California couple who saw a Sasquatch catch a dear and another Oklahoma couple who ran into Bigfoot while on a hike. There are stories of young Sasquatch playing with children, or entire Sasquatch families coming out of the brush to momentarily traverse open ground.
Pratt said most of these eyewitnesses are so frightened by what they saw, or even disbelieving their own eyes, that they hesitate to share their story.
“A lot of people don’t want their name printed,” he says. “They don’t want people to think you’re nuts.” All compiled, however, the eyewitness accounts give a general profile of what may or may not be out there:
Height: 9 to 12 feet tall.
Weight: 800 pounds easy.
Hair color: all different, from white to silver, blond to golden, auburn to black and brown. Also, some are bald on top.
Clothing: none, just covered in hair.
Communication: a verbal language all their own, one Pratt says sounds like “gibberish.”
Food: stories range from apples to watermelons to animals
Pratt says, according to various interactions by eyewitnesses, these Sasquatch are civilized in their culture, but appear to not be as mentally evolved. They are attracted to children, the sound of kids playing or even music. Also, they may stink.
Predominantly, they stick to wild, undeveloped areas of the country and, even after all these years, continue to hide because staying out of view is their instinct, says Pratt.
After all he’s heard, does he believe, like these eyewitness accounts, that an entire species of Bigfoot exist?
“I think there’s something out there,” says Pratt, who would like to see one for himself one day, but has stipulations. “I’d like to see one about 200 yards away. While I’m sitting in a car. A good working car. On a good road. So I can get the hell out of there.”
The Bigfoot search continues.