By FRANCES BORODI ZAJAC
The (Uniontown) Herald-Standard
The (Uniontown) Herald-Standard
YOUNGWOOD, Pennsylvania — Bigfoot, traditionally, is viewed as a simple creature of the woods while UFOs are considered sophisticated visitors from outer space.
Yet, could there be a connection between the two?
Speakers will discuss this possibility at the upcoming Mutual UFO Network (MUFON) of Pennsylvania's seventh annual Pittsburgh UFO-Creature Conference, slated for Nov. 8 at the Westmoreland County Community College near Youngwood.
"There are two different fields of thought with Bigfoot: one that Bigfoot is flesh and blood and, two, that he is inter-dimensional or alien," said Fred Saluga, MUFON's West Virginia state director and Pennsylvania regional director, who is scheduled to speak with Brian Seech, director of the Center for the Unexplained, in a presentation called "Bigfoot and Mysterious Creatures."
A native of Luzerene Township now living in New Cumberland, West Virginia, Saluga, 65, is one of several presenters who will speak on a variety of topics at the conference. Many of them are appearing on television shows. They include journalist Nick Redfern, who appears in "Ancient Aliens" on the History Channel, Derrel Sims, who appears in "Uncovering Aliens" on the Discovery Channel," PA MUFON director John Ventre, of Greensburg, who appears in "Hangar 1" on the History Channel and "Alien Mysteries and Close Encounters" on the Discovery Channel. Seech also appears on "Monsters and Mysteries" on Destination America.
Ventre said as a result of the shows, membership and case reports to MUFON have grown higher nationwide. In Pennsylvania, interest was already strong enough to support three annual conferences that take place in Westmoreland County, Erie and Philadelphia.
"We get six cases a week, about 300 a year," said Ventre.
But the shows make it easier for people to discuss their own experiences.
"I think people are starting to come out now with shows like 'Hanger 1,'" said Saluga, 65, a former police officer who is starting a group called the Bigfoot Research Project in Pennsylvania. "Before, everyone was afraid to say anything. The more you get into this, you realize there's so much in the world we don't understand."
MUFON has been investigating unexplained occurrences since its founding in 1969.
"Pennsylvania is one of the biggest states for reports," said Bob BeHanna, 39, of Uniontown, who is state Section 6 director for PA MUFON.
And many of those cases involve Bigfoot.
"Fayette County has been notorious for Bigfoot sightings for many years," said Saluga, noting people have made reports in Uniontown, Dunbar and along the Chestnut Ridge.
But a Bigfoot creature has never been captured, which leads some to wonder if it might be a ghost or an alien.
"It's like someone put him down and then picked him up. Is that possible for a flesh-and-blood animal?" asked Saluga.
"If you think about it, we'd have found something if it was flesh-and-blood," said BeHanna.
To further that argument, investigators say there are incidents where Bigfoot and a UFO have been seen in the same area.
One happened in the countryside near Uniontown on Oct. 25, 1973, when witnesses saw a glowing object in the sky that landed in a pasture and two Bigfoot creatures came out of the woods.
In another Fayette County episode that took place in the mountains in 1974, a woman reported shooting a Bigfoot that she discovered at her backdoor. The creature disappeared.
While no creatures have been captured, investigators have found strange tracks in areas where Bigfoot has been sighted. Saluga has a cast of a large, four-digit track made in 1979 in Pittsburgh's North Park.
While some may scoff at the idea that Bigfoot could be an alien, Saluga said, "Until we find out what they are, there are no experts."