It was standing room only when the Juneau Bigfoot Town Hall kicked off on Friday, but some had wandered out by the time story time began. The roughly 300 who remained inside Elizabeth Peratrovich Hall paid close attention to stories of encounters with Sasquatch.
A little girl told of being with her mother when she saw the creature. An older woman from North Carolina told a story from when she was a little girl and a creature had picked her up and taken her off somewhere, and then brought her back without hurting her. The crowd clapped politely between stories about the bipedal, ape-like creature.
Then a man told his story of hiking up West Glacier Trail in November 2003, when he was attending the University of Alaska Southeast. He knew the trail well and that day had brought his deer rifle. He was about four hours in when he heard something he didn’t recognize, and it was big. The storyteller, who didn’t identify himself, listened intently, glad he was moving in the other direction.
Whatever it was stopped, so he stopped. Suddenly he heard it again and this time it was “running up the hill right at me.” The storyteller said he’d grown up in the area. He had seen bears and moose, and packs of wolves, and he had never been afraid. This was different. “I could taste the fear in my mouth,” he told them.
He got a look at the creature, which was about 15 feet away. It stood eight to ten feet tall “with legs as big as tree trunks.” But he only looked for a few seconds before he began running away as fast as he could. He didn’t stop until he got to the roadway. The supportive crowd clapped loudly when he finished.
The town hall, which ran from 2:30-5:30 p.m., was an extension of the Alaska Bigfoot Cruise which had stopped in Juneau overnight. The final count of the group on the cruise ship was 386, said Martin Pippin, marketing manager for Gather Up Events, sponsor of the event. All 400 tickets were sold for the Juneau event, a good portion to cruise-goers. The cruise had sold out months earlier, the town hall just a few days ago, he said.
Thom and Leni Bennett, who were on the cruise from Jackson, New Jersey, said they follow cryptozoology, the search and study of unknown, legendary, or extinct animals whose existence is disputed. They learned about Gather Up Events at a Cryptid-Con in Kentucky, and later saw an ad for the cruise.
“I’m getting a lot out of it,” said Thom Bennett. “There’s a lot of knowledge floating around.”
“I’ve been pleasantly surprised,” said Sterling Witt, an artist and musician from Kansas City, Missouri, who was on the cruise with his father, and a friend. Witt said he had been fascinated by Sasquatch for about 10 years, and attended several events to hear talks by David Paulides. Paulides, a former police officer and a Bigfoot investigator and author was also featured at the town hall.
“I think there is some interdimensional aspect to Bigfoot, or at least with a lot of the cases I’ve heard about, where it appears and disappears,” said Witt. His friend had joined him for all events on the cruise ship, while his father attended more selectively. They were enjoying the trip.
Gather Up holds Bigfoot conferences in North Carolina and Tennessee, and this is the first time they organized a cruise. Pippen said Friday there had been some hiccups. For instance, thousands of dollars in merchandise they’d shipped in for the Juneau event was rejected by the post office for a wrong address and returned.
But overall, it was a success, Pippen said. They have already booked space on another Alaska cruise, and they are expanding the show in Juneau. Next year the town hall will be held in Centennial Hall.