By Jeff Himler
Friday, March 21, 2008-The Derry area has many annual traditions--including the summer agricultural fair in the township and, recently revived, the fall Railroad Days festival in the borough. Another yearly occurrence in that neck of the woods is several reported sightings of a fellow whose shoes would be hard to fill--that is, if he wore any.
We're talking about Bigfoot, whose exploits are among the unusual phenomena cataloged annually by Stan Gordon--a Greensburg resident who has specialized in researching unexplained happenings in Pennsylvania and beyond since 1959.
Though many of the reports Gordon has collected describe Bigfoot as a "man-like creature," as far as I know, there's no evidence that the creature doesn't also exist in a female version. If it didn't, it would be hard to account for the many decades it apparently has been roaming through the rural areas of our region--unless it's extremely long-lived.
Taking a serious approach to his subject long before Hollywood came up with the fictional "X Files" team, Gordon notes that most of the strange incidents he investigates can be explained as being natural or man-made in origin. But there are others that can't be accounted for so easily. Last year, Gordon notes he received reports of possible Bigfoot activity from various locations in Westmoreland County. But the area of the Chestnut Ridge and rural Derry Township yielded incidents of particular note.
According to Gordon, residents along the ridge reported finding large, odd footprints and hearing strange screaming sounds that scared local pets.
Late on the afternoon of Nov. 4, when a man went behind his rural Derry Township house to complete a chore, he was startled to see a strange creature about 45 feet away, near a tree line. The witness described the hairy man-like creature as standing tall with long arms that extended below its knees. Its hair was a "brownish-grayish" color.
The creature took very long steps as it walked off into the woods, Gordon reports.
Gordon and an investigator from a group called the Pennsylvania Researchers Organization interviewed family members and searched the area. A number of interesting and unusual footprints were discovered and photographed, he says.
Gordon also has been in communication with the Pennsylvania Bigfoot Society. Among the reports that organization gathered from throughout the state was a possible April 22 Bigfoot encounter in Derry Township.
In that episode, a man who was night fishing along Loyalhanna Creek watched a man-like creature walk off behind some rocks. According to the witness, it was 9 feet tall, broad-shouldered and covered in dirty, matted dark brown hair.
In May in nearby Cambria County, several men at a cookout chased a tall hair-covered creature into the woods, the society reported. One might question the sanity--or, at least, the common sense--of those particular witnesses, since the report notes only that they were armed with flashlights as they made their pursuit of the hulking creature.
Other possible Bigfoot activity last year was reported from Indiana County, as well as from Clearfield and McKean counties.
Gordon also takes interest in reports of unidentified flying objects. He continues to pursue his own independent investigation of the well-known crash of what has been termed a UFO on Dec. 9. 1965, near Kecksburg, south of Latrobe.
Last October, Gordon reports, there were several UFO sightings in Westmoreland County. Early that month, a Greensburg witness reported seeing a brilliant white spherical light that moved rapidly across the sky, separated into two round lights and then vanished. Also, near New Alexandria, two round lights hovered at treetop level before quickly shooting across the sky in succession, Gordon states.
Over the years, Gordon also has been tracking reported sightings of giant birds with enormous wingspans, mainly in the Black Forest region of the state.
He interviewed a witness who described a close encounter with such a frightening fowl in the early fall of last year on a rural two-lane road outside Clendenin, W. Va.
I'll let readers judge whether the witness was being earnest or engaging in a flight of fancy.
According to Gordon, the man said he came upon a bird that was as tall as his car and was covered in black feathers. The bird was interrupted as it was eating road kill--and, Gordon relates, its "wingtips stirred gravel and dust on both sides of the highway as it prepared to fly off."
He somewhat needlessly adds, "The witness said he was in a slight state of shock as he watched the bird lift off the ground."
Gordon doesn't mention if the man produced any feathers--or, perhaps, a watermelon-sized egg--as proof of that encounter.
If you've had a run-in with an unexplained entity, Gordon would like to hear from you.
You can contact him at 724-838-7768 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Looking down the road, the Pennsylvania Bigfoot Society is planning to play host to the East Coast Bigfoot Conference Sept. 27 in the hall above Pitzer's Townhouse Restaurant in downtown Jeannette. Speakers, displays of items from Bigfoot investigations and vendor tables will be featured. Doors will open at 11 a.m., with activities beginning at noon. For more information, visit www.pabigfootsociety.com.
Gordon additionally reports there are tentative plans for a UFO conference Oct. 25 in the Greensburg area. As details become available, he'll post them on his Web site: www.stangordonufo.com.
Jeff Himler can be reached at email@example.com or 724-459-6100, ext. 13.
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