Believe it or not, Bigfoot is coming to the Ozark Natural and Cultural Resource Center.
The legendary pop culture phenomenon, also known as Sasquatch, is the subject of a joint effort display by local Bigfoot enthusiasts Michael Helm and Dr. Emmett Reary.
“Each of us by ourselves probably don’t have enough for an exhibit, but if we combine our efforts we probably have enough material to be interesting to people,” Helm said. ”I’m just kind of hoping it will be fun.”
The exhibit runs Oct. 8 to Nov. 8 at the ONCRC on Main Street. The highlight is a giant relief sculpture created by Helm that stands over eight feet tall. It will be accompanied by a Bigfoot skull Helm has sculpted, along with old newspaper articles, posters, paintings and several photographs. An audio track he made of night sounds that includes shouting, groaning and howling will enhance the exhibit habitat.
Helm’s first Bigfoot sighting occurred in the Fredericktown area in 1972 when he was 13, he said.
“I know several people that haven seen him in that area,” he said, including family members when he was growing up.
A few years ago, he wrote a book called, “Slocum Hollow Legacy” about sightings reported by his grandparents, aunts and uncles and his mother after realizing their stories would be lost forever unless he recorded them for posterity.
Helm said Reary told him about many sightings in the Salem area that people had related to him.
“He said they’ve had over a hundred sightings around Salem and that people really don’t like to talk about it that much,” Helm said. “They don’t like their name mentioned in any reports. But he’s taken several reports right in and around this area.”
Helm added, ”Some of them come ridiculously close to Salem. You might not think that’s possible but then people wouldn’t think it was possible a bear would show up in the middle of town either, but it did.”
His research indicates all the Indian tribes have different names for the mostly nocturnal creature. Sasquatch is an Indian name. The name Bigfoot wasn’t used until the 1960s.
“In southern states they call them a skunk ape,” Helm said. “My parents called them ape men or wooly boogers. My dad just liked to say that, ‘wooly boogers,’” he laughed.
The exhibit features two paintings he created based on stories from the 1800s. One illustrates the story of a man named Strickland who came across one sleeping in a field near Bixby in 1881, he said.
“It popped up and took off. People didn’t know about Bigfoot back then,” Helm said. “All over Missouri there were peppered sightings of ape men, so Bigfoot is not a new event. Bigfoot has been around over a hundred years.”
Sightings have also been reported in other parts of the country, especially the Pacific Northwest.
Bigfoot seems to be a popular topic among area residents, who tend to show up in force to see speakers or storytellers relating their experiences, he said.
“Most sightings don’t get reported, but it’s a very popular subject with people, and they seem to have an affection for Bigfoot,” Helm said.
For more information on the Bigfoot exhibit call the ONCRC at 729-0029.