Bigfoot believers, skeptics gather near Farmington for camping adventure

When the Comini family celebrates holidays, Annie always receives the brunt of Bigfoot jokes.

“My family thinks I'm nuts,” the Sewickley Township mother of three said as her husband, Chuck, laughed. “I've told them all I want written apologies, when (an uncovered body) comes out.”

Like thousands, Annie became fascinated with Bigfoot when TV shows like “Finding Bigfoot” and “Mountain Monsters” rose in popularity. Then, her intrigue shifted from entertainment to education, which brought her to last month's 2016 Pennsylvania Bigfoot Camping Adventure, the gathering's inaugural event.

Experts, enthusiasts, believers and skeptics, most from the tri-state area but some from as far away as California, assembled at Benner's Meadow Run, a campground and Sasquatch hotbed near Farmington in Forbes State Forest. Day hikes, night investigations, speakers and cookouts filled the weekend itinerary for those who purchased the 225 tickets sold. Proceeds benefited three local charities.

“There were no TV shows when I started this. Bigfooting wasn't cool,” event organizer and Bigfoot researcher of 35 years Eric Altman of Jeannette said. “With the experience, education and the scientific, objective research that we do, we want to teach the new people that are interested in it the right way to do it.”

Despite some people's reason for attendance being pure amusement, several took advantage of the event's empathetic fellowship to offset harassment from family and colleagues.

“It took me about three years to talk. I didn't want the ridicule,” said Dave Groves, who joked he is “the Bigfoot guy from Mars (Pa.).” “There's a community that I never knew existed.”

But the weekend wouldn't be complete without an abnormal encounter, even for Annie's skeptic husband, whom she coaxed to come along. A shadowy figure caught playing peek-a-boo on a thermal imaging device moved the needle of Chuck's disbelief.

“It was nothing we ever heard in the woods before,” said Chuck, an avid hunter who compared the encounter to game. “There's so much of the world that we don't know. Take a ride in an airplane and look down at the ground. See how much is actually woods. There are still spots on our Earth that man hasn't touched.”

BAPS Bigfoot and Paranormal Society co-founder Shawn Dennis pauses at the top of a pipeline tree clearing during the 2016 Pennsylvania Bigfoot Camping Adventure at Benner's Meadow Run campground near Farmington on Friday, May 6. Experts say Bigfeet prefer hilly, wooded areas and pipeline clearings make their habitats easily accessible. The Farmington area has been known as a Bigfoot hotbed with numerous encounters reported by campers, hunters and locals.

BAPS Bigfoot and Paranormal Society co-founder Shawn Dennis pauses at the top of a pipeline tree clearing during the 2016 Pennsylvania Bigfoot Camping Adventure at Benner's Meadow Run campground near Farmington on Friday, May 6. Experts say Bigfeet prefer hilly, wooded areas and pipeline clearings make their habitats easily accessible. The Farmington area has been known as a Bigfoot hotbed with numerous encounters reported by campers, hunters and locals.

A vanity license plate owned by Kathy Altman, wife of event organizer and Bigfoot expert Eric Altman of Jeannette, drips with rain during the 2016 Pennsylvania Bigfoot Camping Adventure at Benner's Meadow Run campground near Farmington on Friday, May 6. The Farmington area has been known as a Bigfoot hotbed with numerous encounters reported by campers, hunters and locals.

A vanity license plate owned by Kathy Altman, wife of event organizer and Bigfoot expert Eric Altman of Jeannette, drips with rain during the 2016 Pennsylvania Bigfoot Camping Adventure at Benner's Meadow Run campground near Farmington on Friday, May 6. The Farmington area has been known as a Bigfoot hotbed with numerous encounters reported by campers, hunters and locals.

Event organizer and Bigfoot expert Eric Altman of Jeannette (center) leads a group along a damp trail as he educates on what to hear and look for when Bigfoot researching during the 2016 Pennsylvania Bigfoot Camping Adventure at Benner's Meadow Run campground near Farmington on Friday, May 6. The Farmington area has been known as a Bigfoot hotbed with numerous encounters reported by campers, hunters and locals.

Event organizer and Bigfoot expert Eric Altman of Jeannette (center) leads a group along a damp trail as he educates on what to hear and look for when Bigfoot researching during the 2016 Pennsylvania Bigfoot Camping Adventure at Benner's Meadow Run campground near Farmington on Friday, May 6. The Farmington area has been known as a Bigfoot hotbed with numerous encounters reported by campers, hunters and locals.

Kaden Theys, 8, of South Fork, Cambria County, catches rain with his tongue while hiking with event organizer and Bigfoot expert Eric Altman of Jeannette as Altman leads a group along a trail during the 2016 Pennsylvania Bigfoot Camping Adventure at Benner's Meadow Run campground near Farmington on Friday, May 6. The Farmington area has been known as a Bigfoot hotbed with numerous encounters reported by campers, hunters and locals.

Kaden Theys, 8, of South Fork, Cambria County, catches rain with his tongue while hiking with event organizer and Bigfoot expert Eric Altman of Jeannette as Altman leads a group along a trail during the 2016 Pennsylvania Bigfoot Camping Adventure at Benner's Meadow Run campground near Farmington on Friday, May 6. The Farmington area has been known as a Bigfoot hotbed with numerous encounters reported by campers, hunters and locals.

Tom Crowell of Altoona listens to event organizer and Bigfoot expert Eric Altman of Jeannette as Altman leads a group through the woods educating them on what to hear and look for when Bigfoot researching during the 2016 Pennsylvania Bigfoot Camping Adventure at Benner's Meadow Run campground near Farmington on Friday, May 6. The Farmington area has been known as a Bigfoot hotbed with numerous encounters reported by campers, hunters and locals.

Tom Crowell of Altoona listens to event organizer and Bigfoot expert Eric Altman of Jeannette as Altman leads a group through the woods educating them on what to hear and look for when Bigfoot researching during the 2016 Pennsylvania Bigfoot Camping Adventure at Benner's Meadow Run campground near Farmington on Friday, May 6. The Farmington area has been known as a Bigfoot hotbed with numerous encounters reported by campers, hunters and locals.

Jim Brown of Smithfield uses his homemade high-gain amplifier to listen to a possible "fourth knock" he heard after the group made three tree knocks while on a night research hike during the 2016 Pennsylvania Bigfoot Camping Adventure at Benner's Meadow Run campground near Farmington on Friday, May 6. The Farmington area has been known as a Bigfoot hotbed with numerous encounters reported by campers, hunters and locals.

Jim Brown of Smithfield uses his homemade high-gain amplifier to listen to a possible "fourth knock" he heard after the group made three tree knocks while on a night research hike during the 2016 Pennsylvania Bigfoot Camping Adventure at Benner's Meadow Run campground near Farmington on Friday, May 6. The Farmington area has been known as a Bigfoot hotbed with numerous encounters reported by campers, hunters and locals.

Ohio anomalous researcher and ParaNexus Executive Director Brian Parsons scans the forest floor for evidence while on a night research hike during the 2016 Pennsylvania Bigfoot Camping Adventure at Benner's Meadow Run campground near Farmington on Friday, May 6. The Farmington area has been known as a Bigfoot hotbed with numerous encounters reported by campers, hunters and locals.

Ohio anomalous researcher and ParaNexus Executive Director Brian Parsons scans the forest floor for evidence while on a night research hike during the 2016 Pennsylvania Bigfoot Camping Adventure at Benner's Meadow Run campground near Farmington on Friday, May 6. The Farmington area has been known as a Bigfoot hotbed with numerous encounters reported by campers, hunters and locals.

Ohio anomalous researcher and ParaNexus Executive Director Brian Parsons listens to frogs' ceased croaking, which could be a sign of something large in the woods, while on a night research hike during the 2016 Pennsylvania Bigfoot Camping Adventure at Benner's Meadow Run campground near Farmington on Friday, May 6. The Farmington area has been known as a Bigfoot hotbed with numerous encounters reported by campers, hunters and locals.

Ohio anomalous researcher and ParaNexus Executive Director Brian Parsons listens to frogs' ceased croaking, which could be a sign of something large in the woods, while on a night research hike during the 2016 Pennsylvania Bigfoot Camping Adventure at Benner's Meadow Run campground near Farmington on Friday, May 6. The Farmington area has been known as a Bigfoot hotbed with numerous encounters reported by campers, hunters and locals.

Chuck Comini of Hutchinson, a Bigfoot skeptic who supports his wife Annie who is a believer, shows a screenshot of a thermal image captured by former licensed private Investigator of 19 years Steve Kulls from Sasquatch Detective Radio the day after on a night research hike during the 2016 Pennsylvania Bigfoot Camping Adventure at Benner's Meadow Run campground near Farmington on Saturday, May 7. “Last night made me believe more but I’m still not 100 percent sold,” Comini said. “There were three guys there, all hunters, and we all said it was nothing we ever heard in the woods before." The Farmington area has been known as a Bigfoot hotbed with numerous encounters reported by campers, hunters and locals.

Chuck Comini of Hutchinson, a Bigfoot skeptic who supports his wife Annie who is a believer, shows a screenshot of a thermal image captured by former licensed private Investigator of 19 years Steve Kulls from Sasquatch Detective Radio the day after on a night research hike during the 2016 Pennsylvania Bigfoot Camping Adventure at Benner's Meadow Run campground near Farmington on Saturday, May 7. “Last night made me believe more but I’m still not 100 percent sold,” Comini said. “There were three guys there, all hunters, and we all said it was nothing we ever heard in the woods before." The Farmington area has been known as a Bigfoot hotbed with numerous encounters reported by campers, hunters and locals.

Cryptozoologist Dave Dragosin of Clairton listens to a woman describe her Bigfoot encounter while looking at his forensic style’ sketches he is known for during the 2016 Pennsylvania Bigfoot Camping Adventure at Benner's Meadow Run campground near Farmington on Saturday, May 7. The Farmington area has been known as a Bigfoot hotbed with numerous encounters reported by campers, hunters and locals.

Cryptozoologist Dave Dragosin of Clairton listens to a woman describe her Bigfoot encounter while looking at his forensic style’ sketches he is known for during the 2016 Pennsylvania Bigfoot Camping Adventure at Benner's Meadow Run campground near Farmington on Saturday, May 7. The Farmington area has been known as a Bigfoot hotbed with numerous encounters reported by campers, hunters and locals.

Owner of Benner's Meadow Run campground Marylou Rohlf kisses "Mountain Monsters" television star Trapper during the 2016 Pennsylvania Bigfoot Camping Adventure at Benner's Meadow Run campground near Farmington on Saturday, May 7. Rohlf said over 225 tickets were sold, and she welcomes the first-time event again next year. TV shows like "Mountain Monsters" and "Finding Bigfoot" has spoked tremendous interest in Bigfoot, said several attendees. The Farmington area has been known as a Bigfoot hotbed with numerous encounters reported by campers, hunters and locals.

Owner of Benner's Meadow Run campground Marylou Rohlf kisses "Mountain Monsters" television star Trapper during the 2016 Pennsylvania Bigfoot Camping Adventure at Benner's Meadow Run campground near Farmington on Saturday, May 7. Rohlf said over 225 tickets were sold, and she welcomes the first-time event again next year. TV shows like "Mountain Monsters" and "Finding Bigfoot" has spoked tremendous interest in Bigfoot, said several attendees. The Farmington area has been known as a Bigfoot hotbed with numerous encounters reported by campers, hunters and locals.

Tom Crowell of Altoona looks into the woods while on an educational Bigfoot hike lead by event organizer and Bigfoot expert Eric Altman of Jeannette during the 2016 Pennsylvania Bigfoot Camping Adventure at Benner's Meadow Run campground near Farmington on Friday, May 6. The Farmington area has been known as a Bigfoot hotbed with numerous encounters reported by campers, hunters and locals.

Tom Crowell of Altoona looks into the woods while on an educational Bigfoot hike lead by event organizer and Bigfoot expert Eric Altman of Jeannette during the 2016 Pennsylvania Bigfoot Camping Adventure at Benner's Meadow Run campground near Farmington on Friday, May 6. The Farmington area has been known as a Bigfoot hotbed with numerous encounters reported by campers, hunters and locals.