For Marc DeWerth, the existence of Bigfoot isn’t a question.
DeWerth, a member of the Ohio Bigfoot Association, said he’s investigated rumors and sightings of the folkloric creature for decades.
Among hundreds of reports statewide, he said hunters, farmers and travelers have seen them in Medina, Wayne and Summit counties.
He said the most recent report from Medina County came from a father and daughter driving through Litchfield Township in July 2012.
They reported they saw a tall, furry creature walking away from the road with what looked like a deer on its back, he said.
DeWerth told similar stories to more than 60 people at a two-hour lecture 4 p.m. Saturday at Wadsworth Public Library, 132 Broad St.
He said he knows the creatures — which have haunted campfire folklore for years — are real because he’s seen one.
“I was always the guy to say I’d take the fur off its back if I ever saw one,” he said. “But what I saw intimidated me.”
DeWerth said his encounter was in Ohio, near east-central Coshocton County’s Wills Creek about 4 p.m. April 20, 1997.
He said he and some friends of his were there on a Bigfoot expedition following some reports, but had no luck. Instead, they decided to check out rumors of badgers, since those animals were rare sights so far east.
Rangers told him later that Bigfoot reports had been coming from there for 20 years.
As luck would have it, he and his friend were heading back to the car and heard snapping branches. He said he figured it was deer, but wanted to see them himself and told his friend to head back without him.
After five or 10 minutes of silence, DeWerth said he gave up and started back, when he heard snapping branches again. He said he stopped once more, and only silence followed.
“Every time I started walking again, I heard the sounds,” he said. “It was like something was playing cat and mouse with me.”
He said his first thought wasn’t Bigfoot. Instead, he said rumors of mountain lions in the area began to panic him.
“I thought if I ran, it would catch up to me,” he said. “So I tried to hide.”
DeWerth told the audience he heard human-like footsteps next, and they were getting closer. He started to panic more, he said, thinking he had stumbled upon a marijuana farm in the forest and the owner was after him.
It was more unbelievable than that, he said.
When he peeked out to see what was approaching, DeWerth said he saw a “form” about 70 feet away on a ridge. It was bent over, so he said he thought it was a bear.
Remembering he had a camera in his backpack, he said he undid the buckle around his chest — but the sound startled it.
The figure in the distance stood up, he said, and that’s when he realized what he was dealing with.
“It hit me like a brick wall,” he said. “This was a Bigfoot.”
He said he made eye contact with the 7-foot creature, and he was frozen in fear. He said it had a flat face and was covered in brown fur.
The creature’s jaw dropped, DeWerth said, and then retreated.
But that’s not where his story ended.
Recovering enough courage to chase after it, DeWerth said he followed shaking branches with his video camera, trying to document his encounter.
In the video, which he showed the audience, he said viewers could see the silhouette of a face in shadows. A few minutes later, he said a hairy shape moves from behind a tree, and foliage shakes as it walks away.
“There was definitely more than one,” DeWerth said.
He said it was hard to see in the video because he had bought the camera two weeks earlier and wasn’t skilled in its use. He said he regretted the lack of quality in his video.
“I’ll never get another opportunity like that again,” he said.
DeWerth told the audience they should know their equipment if they hope to track a Bigfoot.
More important, he said most reports turn out to be hoaxes or misidentified animals.
“Be skeptical,” DeWerth said. “This is fantastic subject matter, but you have to be honest with yourself.”
Contact reporter Nick Glunt at (330) 721-4048 or firstname.lastname@example.org.