Washington state is famous for countless reasons. It’s the birthplace of Starbucks and Bill Gates, one of the biggest producers of the U.S.’s lumber and apple industries, and — arguably one of the most interesting facts — boasts some of the most Sasquatch sightings in the country.
In fact, Pierce County specifically is known to believers of the cryptid as one of the best areas to encounter one, so it should come as no surprise that the third International Conference for Primal People is being held nearby at both in Enumclaw and Greenwater.
The conference, slotted for April 26 – 28, is organized by Thom Cantrall, a “mainstay” of the Sasquatch community who has penned several books on the elusive being since his own encounter.
“There’s things out there people don’t understand,” said Cantrall, who recently made Enumclaw his home. “I’ve spent 60 years in this pursuit and have learned a lot.”
His interest in Sasquatch started when he read a 1958 news article about a man who discovered a whole series of 16-inch footprints in northern California.
“It was not far where I lived at the time, when I was growing up, and it lit my fire,” Cantrall said, adding he was 15 at the time.
He continued to follow rumors and stories about Sasquatch for a number of years afterward, including when the famous Patterson-Gimlin film was released in 1967, which Cantrell said was filmed in the same general area as where the footprints were found a decade earlier. He was in the navy at the time, “so there wasn’t much chance to do more than read when you’re under the north Atlantic,” he said.
The Navy transferred Cantrall to Washington’s Olympic Peninsula in 1968, where he stayed after he left the armed forces to get a logging engineering degree from the UW. It was his degree, which allowed him to spend a lot of his work day in the woods, that led to his first sighting.
“There’s this little whistle they do… for years, I thought it was just a bird I hadn’t classified. And I finally figured out that’s how they signal to one another,” he said. “I’d hear it, I’d look up, and there’d be set of eyeballs peeking around a tree.”
Cantrall said he has had several encounters over the decades. Many times, he’d just get clues that Sasquatches have been around, or just catch glimpses — but on rare occasions, he’d stumble on something really amazing. Once, he observed a pair of Sasquatch fishing.
“It was amazing to watch. This was in a small stream up on the Peninsula — they’d run the fish up against a beaver dam and pick them out and squeeze them. I couldn’t figure out for a long time why they would squeeze them. Some they’d split open, others they’d throw back,” he said. “Finally, I figured it out — they’d squeeze them, and if eggs didn’t come out, if sperm didn’t come out, they’d throw them back. They were spawned out.
“They are a very intelligent species,” he continued. “They’re not some dumb apes like many people think they are.”
Much of Cantrall’s Squatching days are behind him, although he continues to help organize and host conventions from time to time. But the difference between his events and others is that everyone who presents at his conventions has had their own encounters.
“We do things a little differently, in that we don’t have the television celebrities and, for the most part, the professors,” he said. “The people that are on the dais are people that have had face-to-face encounters, so they’re speaking from personal knowledge. We do have a couple of professor-types, but they also have muddy boots, and that’s important.”
The third International Conference kicks off with a meet and greet at 5 p.m. on April 26 at the Enumclaw Expo Center’s Field House.
The following day is also at the Field House, with various people giving presentations about their own experiences with Sasquatch from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., including Scott Taylor of the Bigfoot Field Researchers Organization.
The keynote speaker will be Dr. Rob Alley, author of “Raincoast Sasquatch,” after 8 p.m.
The convention moves to the Greenwater Community Center (at 59707 WA-410) on Sunday, April 28 for hands-on classes from 9 a.m. to noon.
The classes cover topics “like how to secure an investigation site, how to do forensic investigations, everything from how to use a camera to fingerprinting,” Cantrall said. “We’ll have classes on how to walk in the woods and observe what to look for — the structures they make, the communications they use.”
Tickets for the convention are $40 for just Friday and Saturday, or $50 for the whole weekend, and can be bought at http://www.ghostsofrubyridge.com/sas-conf-19/. You can also view a full schedule of events on the website.