Author’s note: Last week, “From the Shadows” brought you the story of a 1932 Bigfoot encounter in Missouri. This week we flash forward about 55 years – same state, different type of encounter.

Moonlight cast an even light on the southern Missouri woods. A group of 20-somethings walked down a path in those woods, trees and undergrowth visible in the gray night.

Then the smell struck them; something so foul it pulled them to a stop.

Ron Boles, of Springfield, was in that group in the late 1980s and remembers the odor like it was still in the air.

“We smelled the most god-awful smell you’d ever smelled,” Boles said. “Worse than a skunk.”

As they stood in the path they noticed something standing nearby. It was black and standing on two legs.

“A friend of mine, taller than me, about 6’4” or 6’5”, stopped in his tracks and about 25 feet away from us was a creature looking back at us,” Boles said. “My friend took off running, and, considering he was the biggest of the bunch, I followed suit.”

The friends ran until they could no longer smell the stench and stopped on the path to catch their breath talk about what they’d seen.

“We wondered if it was a tree and something dead,” he said, the young people wondering if they hadn’t just misidentified the looming figure and the smell. “Me and another gentleman went to the site about 10 minutes later. The smell was gone, and so was the creature.”

Boles is convinced he saw a Bigfoot that day. Since then, Boles has dedicated himself to researching a creature unknown to science. He became an investigator for the Bigfoot Field Researchers Organization, a group that says on its Web site (www.bfro.net) to be “the only scientific research organization exploring the Bigfoot/Sasquatch mystery.”

Boles has organized a number of Bigfoot research expeditions in Missouri and Arkansas, including three in 2008. Each of them has been productive.

Two group members had a daylight sighting of one or two of the creatures, one saw red eyes about eight feet off the ground staring at her through the darkness, and Boles said on one trip the creatures did a nice job getting his group’s attention.

“One Thursday afternoon they gave us a calling card,” he said. “They broke a tree in half and tossed it down the hill toward us.”

The BFRO estimates the Bigfoot population in the United States to be between 6,000 and 10,000, although “we suspect there are more than 20,000,” Boles said. According to those who are convinced Bigfoot exists, these creatures are a six to 10-feet-tall, 600-pound, nocturnal, North American species of ape.

“We think they’re descendent of the Gigantopithecus,” Boles said, referring to a 10-foot tall species of Pleistocene ape indigenous to Asia. “They probably came over with the mammoths and people on the land bridge (that connected Siberia to Alaska roughly 14,000 to 11,000 years ago).”

The animals, Boles said, are curious, but cautious.

“These are very intelligent creatures,” he said. “A full-grown chimp has the intelligence of a 5-year-old. A gorilla in captivity, Koko, uses sign language at the level of a 12-year-old. Imagine the capacity of an even larger primate with a larger brain mass.”

Apart from plaster casts of the up to 27-inch footprints that give Bigfoot its name, Boles said the BFRO has scat, hair and blood samples of the creature. However, this evidence hasn’t been enough to prove to mainstream science the creature exists.

“The scientific community won’t be happy until one is alive in a cage or dead on a slab,” Boles said. “Our job is to research. We’re not out to shoot one, to capture one or kill one. God help you if you do. They run in packs. If you kill one you have more to deal with. The idea of killing one absolutely mortifies me. We don’t even allow guns on our expeditions.”

Although discouraged by events such as the August 2008 Bigfoot hoax by two Georgia men who claimed to have a Bigfoot body in their freezer (it turned out be a costume), Bigfoot is a passion Boles doesn’t foresee abandoning.

“The thing in Georgia was bittersweet,” he said. “On one side it brought a lot of attention to the subject, and on the other side there were people saying, ‘there you go.’”

But it’s the encounter in the 1980s that keeps him interested.

“My first experience was terrifying. It haunts my dreams to this day and that was 20 years ago,” he said. “But my first ride on a roller coaster was terrifying. Now, to me it’s an absolute rush. I’d give my right arm for a daylight sighting and one day I will have one.”