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Bigfoot discovered? Virginia man says he's on verge of Bigfoot discovery

Bigfoot is alive and well in Virginia according to Bigfoot expert who runs 'Sasquatch Watch of Virginia.'

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Ron McCormick, president of a home-building company, says people have more pressing concerns, such as plummeting property values and paying bills. "On the other hand, it could bring in tourists," he says as he sits at his desk, playing solitaire on his laptop.

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Craig Petrie, 55, mowing grass a few miles away, volunteers that he sometimes hears voices calling his name from below ground as he tends the cemetery adjoining Wallers Baptist Church, where he holds the titles of head deacon and chief groundskeeper.

But Bigfoot sightings? "Never happened," he says, although he's open to the possibility, particularly with all the new subdivisions in the area ripping out trees and kicking up dirt. "If anyone's going to see him, it's me, because I'm always on this mower. And if he kills me, they'll just have to walk a few feet to bury me. It's convenient."

The small but avid universe of Bigfoot enthusiasts includes self-styled investigators who pursue their quest during off-hours from their day jobs. Willard, for example, hosts an Internet radio show and maintains a Web site from his home in Manassas; he also monitors his Bigfoot hotline for reported sightings (a recent caller announced "I just saw Bigfoot in Reston," before exploding in laughter and hanging up).

More dispassionate scholars are fascinated by the unflagging interest in bogeymen. "People have a need to think about something like ourselves, something scary, using them as a cautionary tale," says Robert Michael Pyle, whose book "Where Bigfoot Walks" explores the history of Sasquatch.

Pyle has spent years contemplating Bigfoot, including why witnesses typically report sightings in remote settings where no one is around to corroborate the discovery. "If this animal exists," he says, "I think it's aware of its plight, and that there are a lot of big guns and big trucks out there, and that it's a good idea to remain secretive."

Undermining that secrecy is the mission of Bigfoot organizations such as the Texas Bigfoot Research Conservancy and the Bigfoot Field Researchers Organization, which grades all reports of sightings, from "A," awarded for "clear sightings in circumstances where misinterpretation of other animals can be ruled out," to "C," which includes second- and third-hand reports.

No category exists for hoax, which was what three men were accused of perpetrating in 2008 when theBigfoot they claimed to have found in Georgia turned out to be a gorilla costume stuffed with animal parts.

Such episodes make Willard wince but do nothing to quash an interest that began when he was an 8-year-old at a drive-in theater watching "The Legend of Boggy Creek," a docudrama about a Bigfoot-type creature in Arkansas. Willard still spends countless hours in the woods listening for footsteps, always with a camera, ready to snap a picture.

He brings a set of knives and a hatchet. If he finds a dead Bigfoot, he intends to walk away with the ultimate trophy, DNA evidence, to send a message to those who ridicule the believers: "To give them the final 'Aha! I told you so.' "