Photo: Brendan Sullivan Bigfoot researcher Alex Tomas of Lawrenceville searches for sasquatch several nights a week in the woods of Georgia. Tomas poses for a portrait at a Gwinnett County Park with his Native American flute that he uses to communicate with the so-called sasquatch.
LAWRENCEVILLE -- Alex Tomas knows he is the "eccentric uncle" in the family.
Well, that is, until the kids got into watching "Finding Bigfoot" on Animal Planet.
Now, the Lawrenceville businessman who spends a couple of nights a week stalking sasquatch in the woods of Georgia is the "cool uncle."
The show, Tomas said, has helped shed the image of a backwoods, uneducated enthusiast, allowing him to emerge from his online radio show to organize a Bigfoot conference, complete with Ivy League speakers, this month.
"I know it sounds crazy. It used to sound crazy to me," Tomas said, as he demonstrates how his hobby in a Gwinnett park -- where he swears the mythological creatures pass through. (Many, he said, live near Lake Lanier.)
The man's interest began when his daughter saw a large being cross a road on his north Georgia property. Tomas didn't see anything at the time, and ribbing from her brother quickly made the girl clam up.
But Tomas began watching and, mostly, listening.
"I've seen a bunch of them. I guess I'd call 'em the shadow people," he said, describing hairy, muscular beings twice the size of men.
They are pranksters, he says, who would peek into the windows of his neighbors' house and bang against the siding of his own abode.
Once he saw the so-called sasquatch, things began to add up, he said, like the time his young son didn't want to go into the bathroom because he didn't want "the gorillas" to watch him.
"It was like going out and you are discovering this hidden world," Tomas said, adding that he has conversed with some of the beings in English and Spanish -- and posted audio recordings on his own website and on YouTube.
"A lot of people go out and do this stuff and they think these people are like monsters," he said. "A lot of times, they are big hairy kids, teenagers. They get a big kick out of watching you run scared."
For a while, Tomas said his pursuit of bigfoot was "an obsession." But now, it's just a hobby.
Once or twice a week, he takes his audio equipment and a Native American flute many researchers believe lure the sasquatch out, and he just spends time in the woods, smoking his cigar.
"When I'm not with my friends or working on my business, it's something different to do at night," he said. "I watch what happens. It's kind of a rush."
To find out about Tomas' Bigfoot conference, scheduled for Jan. 12-13 in Dahlonega, go to mwsbc.com.