HAMLET — Hundreds of cryptid enthusiasts trekked to Cole Auditorium this weekend for the inaugural EncounterQuest to share their thoughts on Bigfoot, aliens and other creepy creatures.
Rockingham Mayor John Hutchinson — wearing a specially made T-shirt featuring the santer, a cat-like beast reportedly seen in Richmond County and other spots along the Yadkin-Pee Dee River basin in the late 1800s and early 1900s — opened the event.
A cryptid is an animal — like Bigfoot, the Loch Ness Monster and Mothman — that has been reported being seen by multiple witnesses but is not recognized by the mainstream scientific community. The study of such creatures is called cryptozoology.
The guest speakers and several vendors had booths set up in the lobby, with more vendors stationed in the banquet room, down the hall and just outside the front doors, selling a variety of cryptid merchandise including T-shirts and sweatshirts, hats, socks, stickers, clocks, wood carvings — and stuffed Sasquatches.
Vendors came from across the eastern half of the U.S., with the farthest being from Ohio — the same as Justin England and Jay Wolber, hosts of the “Cryptids of the Corn” podcast.
The pair chose their topic from an online poll: giant centipedes.
Not only did the podcasters discuss reports of monstrous arthropods of the Ozarks, but also recognized giant centipedes from around the world that can grow up to 20 inches long.
“Cryptopunkologist” Kenney Irish kicked off EncounterQuest with a presentation of “Dogman” sightings.
Irish compared the modern encounters with older accounts of werewolves and referenced the work of the late Linda Godfrey, a journalist who covered the “Beast of Bray Road” in Wisconsin in the early ‘90s.
While most reported sightings have occurred in the north Midwest — ranging from Ohio to Minnesota — a Google map shows three reports in North Carolina: one each in Pamlico, Cumberland and Robeson counties.
Irish also had one witness — an unnamed judge from Ohio — deliver his personal account via phone, recalling being chased by an upright wolf-like creature as a teenager.
Squatch Watchers, a North Carolina-based group of Bigfoot “hunters” (no firearms involved, just cameras), followed Irish, with each member speaking about their experiences and how they became involved.
The group also introduced each of the speakers and gave out prizes during the event.
Following the lunch break, adventurer Ron Morehead took the stage to talk about his experience in recording the “Sierra Sounds” in the early ‘70s and give his thoughts on the nature of Sasquatch, highlighted in his book, “The Quantum Bigfoot.”
Quantum physics, Morehead posits, can explain how a Sasquatch can seemingly disappear and how tracks abruptly stop.
Morehead said he believes the creature featured in the infamous film from Roger Patterson and Bob Gimilin from Bluff Creek, California, in 1967 is different from those he encountered in California’s Sierra Nevada Mountains in 1972 and 1974.
Retired Navy crypto-linguist R. Scott Nelson spoke about how his analysis and transcription — not translation — of the “Sierra Sounds” appear to show a spoken Sasquatch language. According to Nelson, one of the clips appears to be a conversation between a male and female Bigfoot.
As for the UFO/alien end of the spectrum, Derrel Sims’ presentation centered around the alien abduction and implant phenomenon and his belief in a hybridization program.
Members of local ghost-hunting group Pee Dee Region Paranormal also had a booth and gave a brief talk at the end of the event.
Organizers Kim Ristau and Jessica Mora thanked the vendors, speakers and attendees in a Facebook post Monday afternoon.
“Words cannot describe just how amazing EncounterQuest was,” they said in the post. “Each of them (the speakers) brought a different perspective to each of their topics and they nailed it! We have heard nothing but wonderful things about how unique and amazing our speakers were.”
The organizers plan to make EncounterQuest an annual event.
See more photos from the conference below.