By GUY D’ASTOLFO
Paul Hayes vividly remembers the first time he saw a creature that he believes is a Bigfoot.
It was in September 2011 in a wooded area near his Stark County home.
“I was on my back porch at about 2 a.m., having a smoke, and I heard a loud guttural growl from the corn field behind my property, but I couldn’t see anything,” he said.
“The next night at 1 a.m., I went outside and it was an identical scenario. I went back in the house and my wife had gotten up. I told her what I heard and she said she had heard it before, too.
“A few days later, my oldest son and I took a walk in the woods back there to investigate. We were out for about an hour and we did see some strange structures made out of sticks. We had been walking along a deer trail, and at one point had come across an odor we couldn’t explain.
“As we were walking back, my son stopped all of a sudden and he pointed to his left. I hunched down to see under a limb, and there that thing stood, about 120 feet from us. We caught it by surprise. I couldn’t tell if it had seen us, but I would say that it did because it was rocking its upper body back and forth like it was looking for us.
“It made my son nervous, so we went back to the house, and the minute we stepped in the backyard, we heard two loud tree knocks coming from the woods.”
Hayes, who owns an automotive shop in Canton, was moved to found the Genoskwa Project, a Bigfoot research team, with co-founder Dan Baker.
The research team has a half-dozen members, and about 1,000 friends on Facebook.
Hayes and his team had a second encounter on a June night last summer, about midnight. The research group was on a nighttime expedition in a rural section of Carroll County where Bigfoot activity had been reported.
“A man there had reported continuous howls, tree knocks and having his house slapped in the middle of the night,” said Hayes.
The research team and the property owner went up a ridge in the vast area, while Baker and his wife stayed with the property owner’s wife at his house.
“[Baker] was hearing footsteps just beyond the tree line, going right to left, and he used his night-vision glasses and spotted it, moving its upper body out from behind a tree and then back,” said Hayes.
“At this time, we were on the other side of the ridge, so he couldn’t raise us on the radio. Finally he did get ahold of us and I came back on an ATV with the property owner.
“They thought it left but I got out my night-vision [glasses] and I saw it ducked down on the left side of a tree,” said Hayes. “Then it got brave and stood up. Everyone there saw it.
“Once the rest of the research team got back to the house, we decided to go into the woods to find it, but when we got halfway there, it took off up the hill. We could see the tree branches moving as it passed.”