That Guy: Let's hear it for the Maori sasquatch

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There is an old saying that goes: "If you can't get laid at a Big Foot conference/expo, you can't get laid anywhere!", and for the most part I would have to agree with this. However, I might add that although your chances are good, be prepared for it to be with a heavily tattooed woman who could conceivably weigh in at 130 to 180kg.

I attended, or rather gatecrashed, the annual Big Foot conference this year, rather controversially in Ohio. Officially I was there making a documentary series called Leigh Hart's Mysterious Planet for TV2, but rather than research the mythical upright walking hominid himself, I was far more interested in those attending the event.

To cut a long story short, I have never seen so many freak shows in one place at one time.

The conference took place at Salt Fork Lodge which is close to where many Big Foot sightings have apparently occurred in the past, the first as far back as 2004. Coincidentally, that was also the first year they held the conference here.

More than 450 Big Foot enthusiasts attended and for three long days my crew and I walked among them on tours of littered picnic areas; sat through tedious power point demonstrations plagued with technical difficulties; and chatted to people who felt it appropriate to walk around the complex swinging plastic bags filled with fresh faeces, all "samples" that clearly came from a large upright walking hominid.

Diane, a "tell-it-how-it-is" female Big Foot researcher, reminded us that not every broken branch in the woods can be attributed to Big Foot and that other known animals such as bears also make footprints on the odd occasion.

She was remarkably logical and scientific, but blew all credibility when she admitted she still believed in Big Foot, although she had never actually seen it herself.

Her credibility was further called into question when, in the early hours, rather than being out on one of the scheduled night hunts, she chose to stay in the Wild Things bar and pashed not one, but two different camouflage-wearing Big Foot enthusiasts.

Another speaker hadn't actually been back in the woods since 1981.

He was clearly emotionally scarred by his "encounter" and had trouble talking about the details without crying, getting feedback from the microphone or talking in a voice that suggested his testicles were being given a powerful foot massage.

This guy was so emotional you would think that rather than just seeing a Big Foot eating berries in the woods, he had been gang raped by five of them. He also blamed Big Foot for his overweight condition.

The most fascinating thing about a Big Foot conference, however, is the internal politics or infighting that goes on between various factions. There is of course the BFRO, or Big Foot Research Organisation, the OBFRC, or Ohio Big Foot research Centre, the WBFRO, or Wisconsin Big Foot Research Organisation, the United Big Foot Research Society and, of course, the BFUFOSDI, or Big Foot, UFO and Submersible Dinosaur Institute, run by the controversial Dr Gerry Garciamansoin, to name just a few.

These organisations are battling it out for column inches, T-shirt sales, and website hits. To have the upper hand they obviously need to bad mouth each other, call into question others' expertise and techniques, and generally promote themselves as the one true organisation. The parallels with religion are obvious, as we have many idiots believing in something they can't actually see, yet they are prepared to fight to ensure that their particular blind faith is more dominant than someone else's.

The keynote speaker for the evening was supposed to be the director of the documentary series Monster Quest, so you can imagine the disappointment when he decided not to show up.

I saw an opportunity, and volunteered to speak. I began by introducing myself as a director from New Zealand, then proceeded to educate the KFC-eating audience about the KFC-eating Waitakere Yeti. Borrowing from the American Indian "sasquatch" legend I told them that our native Maori had encountered the beast more than 400 years ago and affectionately called him Ngawa Whakata Cafe, which loosely translates into "large, hairy, coffee-coloured man". The fact that coffee had only been in the country for 150 years or so was a detail that didn't seem to bother them.

I told them that our beast was less shy than theirs and had been known to rape campers or trampers, the most documented case been that of Travis Collins who was raped by the beast, not once but three times over a four-year period.

They also believed that back in New Zealand I currently ran the largest faeces analysis machine in the world, giving me a standing ovation when I finally left the podium.

Had I not handed out fake business cards I suspect there would be hundreds of plastic bags of humanoid shit landing on my doorstep as we speak.

So now you know why I always keep a handful of Bill Ralston's cards in my wallet, you just never know when you might need them.

- Herald on Sunday

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