One block of the main thoroughfare in Columbia, Pennsylvania was cordoned off to accommodate vendors and information tables on a lovely Saturday in September. It was the first annual Albatwitch Festival organized by Rick Fisher, owner of the National Museum of Mysteries and Research Center in Columbia. The community event featured kids’ games, food, local bands, an open house at the museum, and lectures at the Columbia Historical Society - all for free. Every historic town these days seems to have a ghost tour; Columbia is no exception. An evening walking ghost tour of the town required purchased tickets.
What caught the eye of the media (and piqued my own interest) was the mascot of this event - the small Bigfoot-like creature called the Albatwitch (“alba-twitch”).
I was eager to see what the Albatwitch festival was about and to meet its founder, paranormal researcher, Rick Fisher. Rick gave a talk on “Mysterious Creatures” at the charming historical society mansion around the corner from the festival events. As the band played, about 50 attendees joined Rick for his presentation.
Stories are the foundation of paranormal belief. Sound evidence beyond these anecdotes is almost universally lacking for the claims, but most people find the stories fascinating (and enough to support belief in their reality). Rick had some stories to tell - good ones that I’d not heard before. He talked of his own early morning encounter with a thin, hair-covered, bipedal creature walking along a local road. Then he described how another individual had noted a similar, independent encounter. The audience eagerly absorbed and were greatly affected by the stories. As is typical of such events, many also wanted to share their own ghost and monster stories, making them as impressive as possible.
Having listened to hundreds of paranormal investigators lecture, and usually being less than impressed, I liked Rick’s approach. There were several time where he stated he could not vouch for the accuracy of these stories and he would not conclude that the cause was paranormal, but in some cases, he was left without any solid solution. However, he seemed perfectly at ease with proclaiming, “I don’t know,” and leaving it at that. We often do not have enough information and details to soundly conclude what happened to a person who reports such an encounter. All we can rightfully say is “I don’t know”.
Rick also told of the sightings of unexplained creatures around Chickies Rock. While apple snitchers are no longer reported in this area, I’d bet ghost hunters still seek out Chickies Rock as a spook spot.
I loved the museum. You did not have to be a believer in the paranormal to enjoy the Americana items all through the place. The paranormal is normal these days in society, no matter what you think about it. There is much value in the sociology of paranormal belief. That’s why I was here at the Albatwitch festival and looking to talk to Rick Fisher.
I’ve long advocated that if you are skeptical but interested in paranormal topics, you MUST attend these types of events, conferences and presentations. You MUST see what is said and how it is presented and you MUST take note of how seriously the audiences takes these subjects. The attendees are not stupid or gullible. They are human, influenced by the stories of other humans - that’s a main way we communicate information and how we learn.
Champ Day - Moriah, NY The celebration of Champ, the Lake Champlain monster, continued in late summer 2014 after a year off due to flood damage.
California Bigfoot Festival - Willow Creek A Bigfoot parade is the highlight of this Labor Day weekend in the town were the famous monster gained his notoriety.
Honobia Bigfoot Festival - Honobia, OK The October festival had a projected attendance of 2500 and included a conference on Bigfoot topics.
Bessie-on-the-Lake Monster Festival - Lake Erie The festival featuring the lake monster, Bessie, is already in planning for May 2015
Mothman Festival - Point Pleasant, WV 2014 was the 13th year of this event that features paranormal speakers and draws about 4000 people to the small town.
Flatwoods Monster (Green Monster) Festival - Flatwoods, WV The festival used to commemorate the strange event that took place near the town but it later morphed into the Mountain Lake Festival that took place last in 2012.
Manipogo Festival - Manitoba, Canada This event features ice fishing demonstrations at the end of the season. Look out for the monster of the lake.
Silver Lake Serpent Festival - Silver Lake, NY Previously an annual event, it was lately accepted that the serpent was a hoax. The event has been discontinued.
Van Meter Visitor Festival - near Des Moines, Iowa Just launched in 2013, the event celebrates the history of Van Meter including the strange creature seen there once. The legend is said to be instrumental in pushing forward the long-delayed formation of the Van Meter Historical Society.
Roswell UFO Festival - Roswell, NM Probably the biggest town-sponsored festival in the U.S with three days each July of events in the town that completely banks on the saucer crash myth.
If the associated woo-woo doesn’t get too overwhelming, and you don’t take it seriously, the local paranormal-themed festival is some lighthearted fun that gives each location a unique sense of place and character — as long as the community doesn’t invest too much into the reality of such events. That’s another story.