Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Bigfoot

Bigfoot, (also known as Big Foot and Sasquatch), is the name of a phenomenon which has polarised people around the world, being either the product of vivid imagination or a creature that has somehow avoided close observation or capture by man.

Bigfoot is described as a large, bipedal hairy humanoid creature living in remote wilderness areas of the United States and Canada, specifically those in southwestern Canada, the Great Lakes, the Pacific Northwest, the Rocky Mountains, the forests of the U.S. Northeast, and the U.S. Southern states. Some claim it is a creature which may be found around the world under different regional names, such as the Yeti, or is at least a closely related species. Sightings have allegedly occurred in Malaysia, China, Russia, Australia, South America and Hawaii. [1] [2] [3]

The majority of scientists reject the possibility of the creature's existence, and consider the stories of Bigfoot to be a combination of unsubstantiated folklore and hoax. This is due to current scientific knowledge plus the lack of bones or a body.

Descriptions are widely divergent

Individuals claiming to have seen Bigfoot give widely divergent descriptions. They generally describe a 7 to 10 feet (2 to 3 meter) tall, ape- or human-like bipedal creature, broad-shouldered and of a strong build. Aside from the face, the palms of the hands, and the soles of the feet, the creature's body is said to be covered with short shaggy fur that is usually black or dark brown in color, though rust, reddish, sandy or silver fur are occasionally reported.

Reports sometimes describe large eyes (Green 1978:16), a pronounced brow [4], and a large, pointed, low-set forehead [5] that is alternately reported as crested and rounded.

Enormous human-like footprints attributed to this creature gave rise to the name "Bigfoot". Ecologist Robert Michael Pyle describes them as follows: "Tracks commonly measure fifteen to twenty inches or more in length. They have five toes, a double-muscle ball, and a wide arch" (Pyle, 3).

Foul odors, reminiscent of feces, sewage, carrion (rotten meat/ dead animals) or strong body odor are believed by some to likely be associated with Bigfoot. [6]

What some people believe to be Sasquatch vocalizations have been described as high-pitched shrieks or whistles, and in others as low-pitched, guttural grunting or squealing. [7] However, there is no widely accepted evidence demonstrating a link between such sounds and the alleged creature.

Most alleged sightings have been at night, leading to speculation among proponents that the creatures, if they exist, could be nocturnal.

Opinions even exist about this theoretical creature's diet. According to Bigfoot researcher and anthropologist Grover Krantz, "[t]he kinds of food that are consumed by sasquatches are reported by many observers; how many of these reports are accurate is a matter of diverse opinion." (Krantz, 159) He also adds, "In general I would describe the sasquatch as omnivorous. It is probably mainly a vegetarian and what might be described as an 'opportunistic carnivore'" (ibid, 160-161).

The alleged disposition of the individual creatures vary.

Bigfoot phenomenon

Bigfoot is one of the more famous creatures in cryptozoology. Cryptozoologist John Green has postulated that Bigfoot is a worldwide phenomenon (Green 1978:16).

Many who consider the creature's existence a possibility claim that accounts of large, hairy, ape-like or "wild man" creatures (or reports of inexplicably large, human-like footprints) from the Pacific Northwest date as far back as the late 18th century. Some researchers have argued that these earlier accounts are consistent with more contemporary Bigfoot reports, while critics doubt their authenticity and question the accuracy of interpreting older reports through modern preconceptions. Skeptics also question the authenticity of these earlier reports in general, as many of them were not documented before the 1950s.

The earliest unambiguous reports of gigantic ape-like creatures in the Pacific northwest date from 1924, after a series of alleged encounters at a location in Washington later dubbed Ape Canyon, as related in The Oregonian [8] As noted in "Etymology" below, similar reports appear in the mainstream press dating back at least to the 1920s.

The phenomenon reached widespread recognition in 1958 when enormous footprints were reported in Humboldt County, California.

Mainstream scientists have found existing physical Bigfoot evidence and sightings unpersuasive; generally, science dismisses the phenomenon as the product of the misidentification of common animals, mythology or folklore. For instance, northern Europe's former belief in trolls has been suggested to be similar to Bigfoot legends. The Swedish author, naturalist and debunker of cryptozoological claims, Bengt Sjögren, suggested this humorous explanation (1962) to the reported hominid cryptids:

"Since we stopped worrying that the trolls would come and get us, their existence have become so pointless that they have all emigrated. Some of them got lost and ended up in the Rocky Mountains, and one of them was temporarily seen by professor Pronin in Soviet Pamir. But the majority of these poor trolls into exile have established themselves in Himalaya, where they only risk being seen by people with a desire to have something to tell."

Less charitable scientists have argued that many (or most) sightings are simply hoaxes.

Many academics and professionals contend that further study is a waste of time, but others argue that though current evidence may be lacking, new data should be evaluated objectively as it arises. Others (including an active subculture composed primarily of amateurs) continue research and consider the existence of Bigfoot a possibility.

Etymology

The words "Bigfoot" and "Sasquatch" are often used interchangeably, though they have different origins worth noting. The term "Sasquatches" sometimes refers to the unknown beings collectively, whereas "Bigfoot" is often used to refer to an individual creature. Usually, in the plural, "Bigfoot creatures" is more acceptable, and this terminology is generally accepted by researchers.

Bigfoot

The late Smithsonian primatologist John Napier noted that "the term Bigfoot has been in colloquial use since the early 1920's [sic] to describe large, unaccountable human-like footprints in the Pacific northwest" (Napier, 74). However, according to Loren Coleman and Jerome Clark, Andrew Genzoli deserves credit for the first formal use of the word on October 5, 1958 (Coleman and Clark, 39-40). Genzoli was a columnist and editor at the Humbolt Times, and that day's front page story showed Jerry Crew, a bulldozer operator on a road-building crew, holding an enormous plaster cast of a footprint. The text began, "While the tracks of old Big Foot [sic] have been in evidence for some time...," before detailing the worker's claims to have discovered an enormous footprint at an isolated work site [9]. Genzoli's story was picked up by the Associated Press and garnered international attention, culminating several years later into what anthropologist Grover Krantz characterized as "sasquatch mania" (Krantz, 5).

It is worth noting that Crew was overseen by Wilbur L. Wallace, brother of Raymond L. Wallace, who both later claimed to have collected conclusive evidence of Bigfoot's existence and to have hoaxed substantial amounts of it. Wallace was poorly regarded by many who took the subject seriously. Napier wrote, "I do not feel impressed with Mr. Wallace's story" regarding having over 15,000 feet of film showing Bigfoot (Napier, 89).

Sasquatch

The term "Sasquatch" was coined in the 1920s by J.W. Burns, a school teacher at a British Columbian Chehalis reservation. Burns collected Native American accounts regarding large, hairy creatures said to live in the wild. Loren Coleman and Jerome Clark wrote that Burns's "Native American informants called these beasts by various names, including 'sokqueatl' and 'soss-q'tal'" (Coleman and Clark, p. 215). Burns noted the phonetically similar names for the creatures and decided to invent one term for them all. That name, Sasquatch, happens to be similar to the word for the beast in the Chehalis dialect of Halkemeylem, sesqac (c=ts). Interestingly, proponents note, Chehalis is in the area where historic Bigfoot sightings are densest, and is generally considered to be, if anywhere is, "Sasquatch territory." The Sasquatch is, in fact, a local clan totem and the band is nonchalant about the creature's existence, except to say that the creature is camera-shy and would rather be left alone.

Over time, Burns's neologism came to be used by others, primarily in the Pacific Northwest. In 1929, Maclean's published one of Burns's articles, "Introducing British Columbia's Hairy Giants," which included the word "Sasquatch" in describing the enormous creatures.

After widespread publicity surrounding the 1958's Bigfoot reports from Humbolt County, California, researchers began searching old newspapers and documents for similar accounts, thus rediscovering and popularizing Burns's term.

To some ears, "Sasquatch" has a less sensationalistic association than does "Bigfoot," and is consequently more popular among researchers who strive for legitimacy.

Eyewitness reports

Some cryptozoologists have argued that the most persuasive circumstantial evidence for Bigfoot's existence is the high number (possibly thousands) of credible eyewitness reports from individuals, who claim to have clearly seen creatures that they describe as large, bipedal and ape-like.

The majority of Sasquatch reports are generated from areas having low human population densities, but many do originate from parks near major cities, such as Portland, Oregon [10], Washington, D.C. [11], and Baltimore, Maryland [12]. In addition, most sightings are near rivers, creeks or lakes, and from areas where annual rainfall exceeds twenty inches (500 mm). Researchers point out that these common factors indicate patterns of a living species occupying an ecological niche, as opposed to hoaxed sightings [13]. The late Grover Krantz noted these same points and offered a detailed proposal for Sasquatch ecology and social behavior (Krantz, 158-171).

Critics suggest people may have mistaken bears for Bigfoot, as sightings are near habitats of bears. However, the witnesses include experienced hunters and outdoorsmen, who claim to be familiar with bears, and insist that the creatures they saw were not bears. Biologist John Bindernagel argues there are marked differences between bears and Sasquatch reports that make confusion unlikely: "In profile, the bear's prominent snout is markedly different from the Sasquatch flat face. In frontal view, the Sasquatch squarish shoulders contrast with the bear's tapered shoulders. The Sasquatch has relatively long legs that allow for a graceful stride, in contrast with the short-legged shuffles of a bear when it walks on its hind legs. A bear's ears are usually visible, while those of the Sasquatch are apparently hidden under long hair" [14]. Krantz made similar arguments (Krantz, 5).

Problems with eyewitness reports

As previously mentioned, Bigfoot sightings are near the habitats of bears, including the grizzly bear. Bears are large and furry and often stand up on their hind legs, leading to speculation that Bigfoot witnesses mistook bears for something more exotic.

It has also been suggested that the number of people reporting Bigfoot sightings could be explained by hoaxes or "confusion" about what they really encountered. Similarly, Napier wrote that however accurate and sincere witnesses might seem, "eyewitness reports must be treated with considerable caution ... Although we don't always know what we see, we tend to see what we know" (Napier, 19). He also adds, "without checking possible (ulterior) motivations, they (eyewitnesses) cannot be acceptable as primary data" (ibid, 198).

Bigfoot researchers claim that there are many sightings that pre-date the worldwide interest in the subject. It has, however, been suggested that such stories were either not reported until afterwards, or have little or no resemblance to typical Bigfoot sightings; researchers may be misinterpreting or selectively citing these accounts to support their own conclusions.

Native American culture

There are various Native American artifacts presented as circumstantial evidence for the existence of Sasquatch.

Stone heads

Pyle writes, "Certain artifacts suggest that some Amerindians were acquainted with something having the visage of an ape," and adds: "several carved stone heads from the Columbia River basin" (Pyle, 146). Pyle also notes that prominent paleontologist Othniel Charles Marsh wrote in 1877, "Among the many stone carvings (from the Columbia) were a number of heads, which so strongly resemble those of apes that the likeness at once presents itself" (ibid). Furthermore, the stone carvings are prehistoric (a conclusion supported by B. Robert Butler, who determined the heads as dating from Wakemap Middle Period, 1500 BC to 200 AD (Halpin and Ames, 299), depicting "prognathous, chinless faces with heavy brow ridges and in at least one case a sagittal crest." Pyle adds, "relics do not prove that Bigfoot exists or that they (natives) had contact with apes, but they do raise some uncomfortable questions" (Ibid, 146).

These artifacts are discussed at length by anthropologist Roderick Sprague in Carved Stone Heads of the Columbia and Sasquatch. Dozens of similar stone heads were recovered and most depict common animals. Sprague examines seven carved heads, which he argues have distinctively monkey- or ape-like features. Like Pyle, Sprague notes that this does not necessarily support Bigfoot's existence, but Sprague sees the question of what inspired the carved stone heads as intriguing and unresolved.

Face masks

In The Tsimshian Monkey Masks and Sasquatch, anthropologist and ethnologist Marjorie Halpin describes two wood facemasks that were collected from the Tsimshian and Nisga'a tribes (near Prince Rupert, British Columbia). One was obtained by Lieutenant G.T. Eammons in about 1914, and the other was obtained by C.M. Barbes in 1927.

Eammons described the artifact as "a mythical being found in the woods, and called today as a monkey" (Haplin and Ames, 211). Halpin also reports that physical anthropologist R.D.E. MacPhee examined the Eammons mask and noted that it had both monkey- and ape-like features, but could not match it exactly to any recognized species (ibid, 212). Halpin details the elaborate mask-related folklore and rites pertaining to a creature called "pi'kis," which has both human and animal traits (especially connected to otters). He also describes the creature as occupying a "dangerously close intersection between human and animal" in native lore (ibid, 225). As with the carved stone heads, Halpin notes that these monkey-like masks alone do not prove that Sasquatch are real; rather, they are curious artifacts which warrant further investigation.

Problems with Native American culture as evidence

Jerome Clark offers a skeptical perspective of Native American legends which are sometimes presented as evidence to support Bigfoot's existence, writing: "...such beliefs are usually taken out of context and selectively cited ... Comparable monsters loom large in a number of North American Indian mythologies; they warn members of violating taboos and serve other, more complex functions within tribal societies" (Clark, 28).

In the article, "On the Cultural Track of Sasquatch", Wayne Suttles offers a detailed examination of such legends, cited from various Pacific northwest tribes, including tales from the Salish, Lummi, Samish and Klallam peoples. Suttles confirms the often-repeated observation that none of the groups makes "real/mythical or natural/supernatural dichotomy" (Sprague and Krantz, 43). However, Suttles concludes that rather than being inspired by a real creature, "It seems more likely that these beliefs have grown out of several sources and have been maintained in several ways. One of the sources may have been a real man-like animal. But I must reluctantly admit that as I have presented data and organized arguments, I have found its track getting fainter and fainter" (ibid, 71).

Physical evidence

Bigfoot researchers make numerous claims that there is physical evidence for the creature's existence. Such evidence has seen, at best, minimal and scattered interest from mainstream experts, and are regarded as far from conclusive.

Footprints

Forensics

Photographs or plaster casts of presumed Sasquatch footprints are often cited by cryptozoologists as important evidence. Krantz writes that "the push-off mound in midfootprint is one of the most impressive pieces of evidence to me" (Krantz, 36). This is a small mound of soil created "by a horizontal push of the forefoot just before it leaves the ground", present in some alleged Sasquatch tracks (ibid). Krantz argues that neither artificial wood nor rubber Sasquatch feet can create this convincing feature, as he discovered after many attempts.

Krantz notes, "The comfortable walking step for humans is about half the individual's standing height, or a trace more. Sasquatch step measurements correspond, in general, to stature estimates that are reported from sightings" (Krantz, 22). Krantz also reports that reputed Sasquatch steps are "in excess of three feet" (Krantz, 21), arguing that this enormous step would be difficult or impossible for hoaxers to create artificially.

Coleman and Clark write that there are some footprint hoaxes, but argue that they are often clumsy in comparison to presumably genuine prints, which "show distinctive forensic features that to investigators indicate they are not fakes" (Coleman and Clark, 42). Similarly, Krantz notes, "Toe positions can and do vary from one imprint to another of the same foot. We have several clear examples of this. It is my impression that sasquatch toes are more mobile than those on civilized human feet," and that hoaxing this detail would require detailed anatomical knowledge, as well as dozens or hundreds of different casts for each set of Bigfoot tracks, making a hoax unlikely (Krantz, 23).

Gaussian curve

Researcher Henry Franzoni writes:

Bigfoot
A strong piece of evidence which suggests that the footprints are not due to a hoax or hoaxers is from Dr. W. Henner Farenbach. He has studied a database of 550 track cast length measurements and has made some preliminary observations... The Gaussian distribution of the 550 footprint lengths gives a curve that is very similar to the curve given by living populations of known animals without much sexual dimorphism in footprint length. The standard error is very low, so additions to the database will not affect the result very much. It is not very likely that coordinated groups of hoaxers conspiring together for 38 years (the time span covered by the database of track measurements) could provide such a 'life-like' distribution in footprint lengths. Groups of hoaxers who did not conspire together would almost certainly result in a non-Gaussian distribution for the database of footprint lengths" [15].
Bigfoot

Similarly, in Population Clines of the North American Sasquatch as Evidenced by Track Length and Average Status, anthropologist George Gill writes, "The preliminary results of our study support the hypothesis that Sasquatch actually exists ... not only seem to exist, but conform to ecogeographical rules" (Halpin and Ames, 272).

Deformity

A series of alleged Bigfoot tracks found near Bossburg, Washington, in 1969 appeared to show that the creature's right foot was affected by clubfoot. The deformed footprints are consistent with genuine disfigurement, and some argue that a hoax is unlikely. John Napier wrote of this case, "It is very difficult to conceive of a hoaxer so subtle, so knowledgeable; and so sick; who would deliberately fake a footprint of this nature. I suppose it is possible, but it is so unlikely that I am prepared to discount it" [16]. Krantz declared that "analysis of the apparent anatomy of these tracks proved to be the first convincing evidence... that the animals were real" (Krantz, 54).

Handprints

As another argument offered for the existence of Bigfoot, Krantz cited two alleged Sasquatch handprints taken from northeastern Washington in the summer of 1970. He claims the prints were of a left hand, showing a very broad, flat palm (more than twice as broad as Krantz' own larger-than-average hands) with stubby fingers, lacking an opposable thumb. Krantz writes that the prints have "many irregularities ... which cannot be identified in terms of human anatomy" (Sprague and Krantz, 118).

Another pair of alleged handprints was recovered in the late 1980s by Paul Freeman and given to Krantz for analysis; for similar reasons, Krantz judged them genuine (Krantz, 47-51).

Fingerprints

Several alleged Bigfoot hand and foot impressions said to contain dermal ridges (fingerprints) have been discovered; fingerprints are present only on humans and other primates.

Krantz reports that he offered casts of these prints to "more than forty" law enforcement fingerprint specialists across Canada and the United States for study. The reactions that he received ranged from "'very interesting' and 'they sure look real' to 'there is no doubt these are real.' The only exception was the Federal Bureau of Investigation expert who had said something to this effect, 'The implications of this are just too much; I can't believe it's real'" (Krantz, 71).

Krantz offered these same casts to physical anthropologists and primatologists. Conclusions were similarly varied, with several ruling them hoaxes. Tim White, unlike most respondents, said there was "no good reason to reject them" (ibid). Opinion remains divided, however, with suggestions that the man who allegedly discovered the prints had confessed to other hoaxes [17].

One of the casts with visible fingerprints showed what Krantz took to be sweat pores. Krantz reports that "police expert Benny Kling ... commented that anyone who could engrave ridge detail of such quantity and quality should be making counterfeit money" (Krantz, 77). This same print showed dysplasia, a common minor irregularity. Krantz writes, "The late Robert Olson was particularly impressed with this irregularity, as was Ed Palma of the San Diego Police Department" (ibid).

Body cast

The so-called Skookum Body Cast was collected in the summer of 2000, and researchers argue that it could be the impression of a Sasquatch. Prominent primate expert Daris Swindler said, "In my opinion the impression is not made by a deer, a bear or an elk nor was it made artificially. The Skookum body cast is that of an unknown hominoid primate".

Hair and blood

Hairs retrieved from a bush in 1968 near Riggins, Idaho were given to Roy Pinker, a police science instructor at California State University, Los Angeles. Pinker concluded that the hair samples did not match any samples from known animal species. Pinker also stated that he could not attribute them as being Bigfoot hairs without a bonafide Bigfoot hair sample to compare to. (Halpin, M. & Ames, M. [eds.] Manlike Monsters on Trial, p. 296. University of British Columbia Press). Pinker's analysis did not use DNA testing. In "Analysis of Feces and Hair Suspected to be of Sasquatch Origin", anthropologist Vaughn M. Bryant Jr. and ecologist Burleigh Trevor-Deutch report the analysis of six alleged Bigfoot hairs recovered near Riggins, Idaho. (Halpin & Ames, pp. 191-200.). They examined several sets of hair samples and their results were inconclusive, but the samples appeared to be most similar to those from a Black bear [18]

Hair samples were also taken from a house located on the Lummi Indian reservation in Washington. Three more samples were retrieved from Maryland, Oregon and California. Forensic Anthropologist Dr. Ellis R. Kerley and Physical Anthropologist Dr. Stephen Rosen of the The University of Maryland, as well as Tom Moore, the Supervisor of the Wyoming Game and Fish Laboratory, examined the hair samples and stated that all the hair samples matched in terms of belonging to a "non species specific mammal". They concurred in finding that the four sets matched each other, were similar to gorilla and human but were neither, and they did not match 84 other species of North American mammals. ("The Bigfoot Evidence", pp22-29, Frontiers of Science Magazine, Vol. III, no.3, May 1981). Blood associated with the sample from Idaho was tested by Dr. Vincent Sarich of the University of California and found to be that of an unknown higher primate. ("The Bigfoot Evidence", pp22-29, Frontiers of Science Magazine, Vol. III, no.3, May 1981). DNA testing was not performed in any of these situations however.

Problems with physical evidence

Absence of fossil evidence

Critics think it significant that the fossil record provides no support for Sasquatch. There is ample fossil evidence in North America of prehistoric species of bear, cougar, moose and mammoth. Yet, aside from clearly human remains, there is no evidence of a prehistoric hominid or any other North American primate. A skeleton, or even a bone of a huge primate, if discovered, could not be mistaken as coming from any other North American mammal. No one has found coproliths (fossilized dung) from a Bigfoot.

Bigfoot researchers argue that the absence of fossilized evidence is not evidence of fossil absence. Sasquatch is not represented in the fossil record, but neither are gorillas nor chimpanzees. Coleman and Patrick Huyghe note that "no one will look for such fossils, if the creatures involved are not thought to exist in the first place. But even with recognized primates, fossil finds are usually meager at best" (Coleman and Huyhge, 162). However, it is worth noting that gorillas, chimpanzees and most other primates, live in tropical rain-forests where conditions are unsuitable to create fossils, and in areas where few or no archeological studies were undertaken. In contrast, there are thousands of known remains of native American mammals and humans.

As to the lack of Bigfoot remains, Krantz suggested that this alone is not a valid argument against the creature's actuality. Noting that most animals hide before they die and are then quickly lost to scavengers, he writes, "I have yet to meet anyone who has found the remains of a bear that was not killed by human activity." (Krantz, 10) Fossilization also requires "ideal" conditions, such as being covered by a landslide, mudslide, or other deposit soon after death so that mineralization can take place on an undisturbed carcass.

Inconclusive analysis

Most scientists find that the physical evidence, cited as supporting the existence of Bigfoot, has been ambiguous at best, or hoaxes at worst. There have been no dead bodies, bones or artifacts. There have been reported samples of fur and feces, but aside from the hair analysis by Dr. Rosen, none have been ruled conclusively (or by multiple authorities) as originating from any unknown animal. Some reputed Bigfoot samples, studied using DNA testing, were judged to have come from common animals; one such case earned press attention in mid-2005, but the alleged Bigfoot hairs were ruled by University of Alberta geneticist David Coltman to have come from a bison, as related in this MSNBC story. [19] Other hair samples did not contain the hair follicle, so no DNA analysis was possible.

Audio and visual evidence

Audio

Analyses of purported Sasquatch vocalizations have been recorded and analyzed, leading bioacoustics expert Dr. Robert Benson of Texas A&M University - Corpus Christi to report that some recordings "left him puzzled", and helped change his opinion "from being a raving skeptic to being curiously receptive" [20].

Visual

On October 20, 1967, Roger Patterson and Robert Gimlin captured a hairy, bipedal Bigfoot-type figure on film. There is much debate as to whether the creature in the Patterson-Gimlin film is genuine. Krantz was in the minority in his conviction that the film was proof of Bigfoot's existence. He argued that you could not have a man in an ape suit unless "you broke his arms and placed a new hinge in them". He claimed the human body was not built that way and it would be physically impossible to "fake" a film like this. Pyle, while not endorsing the film as authentic, wrote that it "has never been convincingly debunked" (Pyle, 208).

The Patterson-Gimlin film shows a creature that is definitely not a bear, and this film was for a long time considered the strongest evidence for Bigfoot. However, Wallace claimed to have been involved in hoaxing the film, and opinions remain divided as to the film's authenticity. Many experts have judged it as a hoax, Napier among them. In late 2005 the film was stabilized to make the action clearer. It can be seen here, and some say it clearly shows the action of a man walking. See Patterson-Gimlin film for further information.

Problems with audio and visual evidence

Critics note that most audio and/or visual evidence is often of poor quality, making analyses troublesome or even worthless.

Psychological explanations

Arguing against the existence of Bigfoot, anthropologist David Daegling suggests that Sasquatch fills a basic human need for mysteries and monsters.

Hoaxes

The fact that many Bigfoot sightings have been proven to be hoaxes suggests to some that others may also have been. For example, Jerome Clark argues that the "Jacko" affair, involving an 1884 newspaper report of an ape-like creature captured in British Columbia (details below), was a hoax. Citing research by John Green, who uncovered the fact that several other contemporary British Columbia newspapers regarded the alleged capture as most dubious, Clark notes that the New Westminster, British Columbia Mainland Guardian wrote, "Absurdity is written on the face of it" (Clark, 195).

Wallace claimed to have produced a substantial amount of hoaxed evidence from 1958 onward in a prank that continued beyond his expectations. Wallace's family published many of the details following his death in 2002, and critics have offered this confession as evidence against Bigfoot's existence, despite many marked inconsistencies in the testimonies of family members.

Arguments against the hoax explanation

Primatologist John Napier acknowledges that there have been some hoaxes but also claims that hoaxing is often an inadequate explanation. Krantz argues that "something like 100,000 casual hoaxers" would be required to explain the footprints (Krantz, 32-34).

As noted above, Wallace claimed to have begun the modern Bigfoot phenomenon in 1958 by using phony foot casts to leave Bigfoot prints in Humbolt County, California. His family received major press attention in 2002 when they detailed what they said were Wallace's claims. Bigfoot supporters deny their claims. One writer, for example, argues: "The wooden track stompers shown to the media by the Wallace family do not match photos of the 1958 tracks they claim their father made. They are different foot shapes." [21]

Mainstream response

Skeptics

Mainstream scientists and academics generally "discount the existence of Bigfoot because the evidence supporting belief in the survival of a prehistoric, bipedal, ape-like creature of such dimensions is scant" [22]. Furthermore, the issue is so muddied with dubious claims and outright hoaxes that many scientists do not give the subject serious attention. Napier wrote that the mainstream scientific community's indifference stems primarily from "insufficient evidence ... it is hardly unsurprising that scientists prefer to investigate the probable rather than beat their heads against the wall of the faintly possible" (Napier, 15). Anthropologist David Daegling echoed this idea, citing a "remarkably limited amount of Sasquatch data that are amenable to scientific scrutiny." (Daegling, 61) He also suggests mainstream skeptics should take a proactive position "to offer an alternative explanation. We have to explain why we see Bigfoot when there is no such animal" (ibid 20). While he does have some pointed criticism for mainstream science and academia, Krantz concedes that while "the Scientific Establishment generally resists new ideas ... there is a good reason for it ... Quite simply put, new and innovative ideas in science are almost always wrong" (Krantz, 236).

A species cannot exist as a single individual, as there must be enough numbers for a breeding population. Every remote area of California, Washington, Oregon and British Columbia are examined by prospectors, hunters, dogs, loggers, biologists, fishermen, and so on. A real population of creatures this size, it is argued, would have had a lot more contacts with people.

Proponents

Although most scientists find current evidence regarding Bigfoot unpersuasive, a number of prominent experts, however, have spoken out on the subject, offering sympathetic opinions.

In a 2002 interview on National Public Radio, Jane Goodall first publicly expressed her belief in bigfoot, "Well, I'm a romantic, so I always wanted them to exist.... Of course, the big, the big criticism of all this is, 'Where is the body?' You know, why isn't there a body? I can't answer that, and maybe they don't exist, but I want them to." [23]. Several other prominent scientists have also expressed at least a guarded interest in Sasquatch reports including George Schaller, Russell Mittermeier, Daris Swindler and Esteban Sarmiento.

Prominent anthropologist Carleton S. Coon wrote Why the Sasquatch Must Exist during his life, but was published after he died. He wrote, "Even before I read John Green's book Sasquatch: The Apes Among Us, first published in 1973, I accepted Sasquatch's existence" (Markotic and Krantz, 46). Coon examines the question from several angles, stating that he is confident only in ruling out a relict Neanderthal population as a viable candidate for Sasquatch reports.

As noted above, Napier generally argued against Bigfoot's reality, but he also argued that some "soft evidence" (eyewitnesses, footprints, hair and droppings) is compelling enough that he advises against "dismissing its reality out of hand" (Napier, 197).

Krantz and others have argued that a double standard is applied by many academics to Sasquatch studies: When a claim is made or evidence is presented alleging that Sasquatch is genuine, enormous scrutiny is applied to the claim or evidence, as well as it should be. Yet when individuals claim to have hoaxed Bigfoot evidence, their claims are often quickly accepted, though they typically lack corroborative evidence.

In 2004, Henry Gee, editor of the prestigious Nature, argued that creatures like Bigfoot deserved further study, writing, "The discovery that Homo floresiensis survived until so very recently, in geological terms, makes it more likely that stories of other mythical, human-like creatures such as Yetis are founded on grains of truth ... Now, cryptozoology, the study of such fabulous creatures, can come in from the cold" [24].

Proposed creatures

Various types of creature have been proposed by proponents to explain the sightings.

Gigantopithecus

Krantz argued that a relict population of Gigantopithecus blacki was the most likely candidate to explain Bigfoot reports. Based on his analysis of its jaws, he championed a view that Gigantopithecus was bipedal.

Bourne writes that Gigantopithecus was a plausible candidate for Bigfoot since most Gigantopithecus fossils had been recovered from China, and also that extreme eastern Siberia has forests similar to northwestern North America. Many recognized animals were known to have migrated across the Bering Strait, so it was not an unreasonable notion that Gigantopithecus could have as well. "So perhaps," Bourne writes, "Gigantopithecus is the Bigfoot of the American continent and perhaps he is also the Yeti of the Himalayas" (Bourne, 296).

This Gigantopithecus hypothesis is generally considered highly speculative. Rigorous studies of the existing fossilized remains seem to indicate that G. blacki is the common ancestor of two quadrupedal genera, represented by Sivapithecus and the orangutan (Pongo). Given the mainstream view that Gigantopithecus was a quadruped, it seems most unlikely that it could be an ancestor to a biped, as Bigfoot is said to be. Furthermore, it has been argued that G. blackis enormous mass would have made it difficult for it to adopt a bipedal gait. However, an analysis of the famous Patterson-Gimlin film shows that frames 369, 370, 371, and 372 all show a slender lower mandible, that does not match the massive lower mandible of Gigantopithecus blacki, which, assuming that the Patterson-Gimlin film is legitimate, would eliminate G. blacki as a candidate for Bigfoot. (Bigfoot Coop Newsletter, March 1997, also the documentary Sasquatch: Legend Meets Science).

"That Gigantopithicus is in fact extinct has been questioned by those who believe it survives as the Yeti of the Himalayas and the Sasquatch of the Northwest American coast. But the evidence for these creatures is not convincing." (Campbell p.100)

Paranthropus

If an animal like Sasquatch has ever existed in North America, it has been argued that a likely candidate would be a species of Paranthropus, such as Paranthropus robustus, which would have looked very much like Sasquatch, including the crested skull and naturally bipedal gait. This was suggested by Napier and by anthropologist Gordon Strasenburg.

Meganthropus

There is also a little known subspecies of the Homo erectus, called Meganthropus, which reputedly grew to enormous proportions, though most recent remains of the hominid are more than 1 million years old, and are only to be found several thousand miles away from North America.

Alternative theories

Some researchers have suggested that Bigfoot is not a normal flesh-and-blood creature at all, but rather a "trans-dimensional" entity that can pass through wormholes and enter our universe for short periods of time. Other researchers have proposed a connection between Bigfoot sightings and UFO activity, implying that Bigfoot may be of extraterrestrial origin. Indeed, reports of Bigfoot-like creatures have been made in connection with UFOs on several occasions. The majority of those involved in Bigfoot studies, however, strongly reject any paranormal explanations.

Formal studies of Bigfoot

There have been a limited number of formal scientific studies of Bigfoot or Sasquatch.

1950s

Bernard Heuvelmans’s 1955 magnum opus, On The Track of Unknown Animals, did not specifically discuss Bigfoot, but did discuss Yeti accounts and is often seen as the root of cryptozoology.

1960s

Ivan T. Sanderson’s articles on mysterious animals, some appearing in the Saturday Evening Post, as well as his book Abominable Snowmen: Legend Comes To Life (ISBN 051504444X) that went through several printings, were aimed at popular audiences. Coleman and Clark write that the 525-page volume "remains a useful reference book" (Coleman and Clark, 212), while Krantz characterizes Sanderson’s writing as "'enthusiastic' ... reporting data from a variety of sources with what seemed to be little concern for consistency or verification," an approach which "certainly lowered his credibility in the eyes of the few scientists who read his work" (Krantz, 1). Sanderson’s book remains notable as perhaps the first book-length survey of enigmatic "hairy hominids", and certainly helped popularize Yeti, Bigfoot and other mysterious primates, reported worldwide. Ivan T. Sanderson is also credited for interviewing Roger Patterson and Bob Gimlin four months after the filming of the Patterson-Gimlin film in 1968 February issue of Argosy magazine. In his last year of life, Sanderson gave up on conventional explanations and adopted a paranormal view of Bigfoot. (Pursuit Magazine, 1980)

1970s

Perhaps, the first mainstream scientific study of available evidence was by Napier. Bigfoot: The Yeti and Sasquatch in Myth and Reality (ISBN 0525066586) offers an even-handed and sympathetic examination. While giving high marks to some earlier researchers ("Ivan T. Sanderson and John Green and René Dahinden... have made a far better job of recording the major events of the sasquatch saga than I could ever hope to do." (Napier, 73)), Napier wrote that if we are to form a conclusion based on scant extant "'hard' evidence," science must declare "Bigfoot does not exist" (ibid, 197).

Yet this conclusion is qualified, as Napier seemed willing to leave the question unresolved. He found it difficult to entirely reject thousands of alleged tracks, "scattered over 125,000 square miles” or to dismiss all "the many hundreds" of eyewitnesses. He also adds that "if one track is genuine and one report is true-bill, then myth must be chucked out the window and reality admitted through the front door" (ibid, 203). In the end, Napier writes, "I am convinced that Sasquatch exists, but whether it is all it is cracked up to be is another matter altogether. There must be something in north-west America that needs explaining, and that something leaves man-like footprints." (ibid, 205) Decades later, Krantz suggests that Napier "stuck his neck out a lot further than most primatologists by writing a book about hairy bipeds in which he took the subject quite seriously" (Krantz, 240).

In 1974, the National Wildlife Federation funded a field study, seeking Bigfoot evidence. No formal federation members were involved, and the study made no notable discoveries (Bourne, 295).

The 1975’s The Gentle Giants: The Gorilla Story (ISBN B0006CJNPU) was co-authored by Geoffrey H. Bourne, another noted primatologist. Its final chapter is a brief summary of various mystery primate reports worldwide. Like Napier, he laments the dearth of physical evidence, but Bourne does not dismiss Sasquatch or Yeti as impossible.

From May 10-13, 1978, the University of British Columbia hosted a symposium, Anthropology of the Unknown: Sasquatch and Similar Phenomena, a Conference on Humanoid Monsters. Presented, were 35 papers (abstracts collected in Wasson, 141-154). Most attendees came from anthropology backgrounds, and Pyle writes that the conference "brought together twenty professors in various fields, along with several serious laymen, to consider the mythology, ethnology, ecology, biogeography, physiology, psychology, history and sociology of the subject. All took it seriously, and while few, if any, accepted the existence of Sasquatch outright, they jointly concluded 'that there are not reasonable grounds to dismiss all the evidence as misinterpretation or hoax'" (Pyle, 186).

Following this modest peak in interest in the late 1970s, there has been little formal academic interest in the subject; many experts see further study as a waste of time. In more recent years, Krantz achieved a degree of notoriety as probably the leading accredited expert to devote considerable effort to the subject, though a few professionals have followed in his footsteps. Few have endorsed Krantz’ conclusions that Sasquatch is a real creature, but at the very least, such supporters argue that serious studies on the subject deserve fair consideration.

1980s

Some papers presented at the symposium were collected in 1980 as Manlike Monsters on Trial: Early Records and Modern Evidence, edited by Marjorie Halpin and Michael Ames.

1990s

It’s worth noting that Pyle's Where Bigfoot Walks: Crossing the Dark Divide (ISBN 0395857015), as much a survey of Bigfoot’s cultural impact as of the likelihood of the creature’s reality, was researched and written with a grant from the Guggenheim Foundation. Pyle, author of Wintergreen, the acclaimed 1987 requiem for the forests of Washington's Willapa Hills, had well established his credentials as a scientist and nature writer.

1997 - Italian mountaineer, Reinhold Messner, claimed to have come face to face with a Yeti. He has since written a book, My Quest for the Yeti: Confronting the Himalayas' Deepest Mystery (ISBN 031227078X), in which he argues that the Yeti was actually an endangered Himalayan brown bear that can walk upright or on all fours.

2000s

Reported sightings of three giant human-like creatures in the Endau Rompin National Park in late 2005 led to the formation of an official Bigfoot-tracking team, appointed by the state's Chief Minister, Abdul Ghani Othman in January of 2006. "Bigfoot" fever struck Johor after three fishermen reported seeing the creatures and took a photograph of a footprint, which was printed in Malaysian newspapers. The Singapore Paranormal Investigators have also joined in the search. [25]

Bigfoot in popular culture

Whether it is a real creature or not, Bigfoot has had a demonstrable impact as a cultural phenomenon.

Advertising

The meanings of the words, "Bigfoot" or "Sasquatch", are quickly understood by most individuals (at least in North America) and have been used in advertising and applied to many products or services, such as pizzas, skateboards, skis, an Internet search engine, computer hard drive series, gas station, Kokanee beer, a monster truck, and the mascot of the basketball team, the Seattle SuperSonics[26].

Movies and television

A number of fictional, feature length motion pictures have been produced featuring Bigfoot as a central character. Some of them include:

Harry and the Hendersons was followed by a short-lived television series. Bigfoot and Wildboy was a recurring segment in the 1970s children's program The Krofft Supershow produced by Sid and Marty Krofft. It has been suggested that the Wookiee race from Star Wars resembles Bigfoot and is probably inspired by the legendary creature. Sasquatch or Bigfoot appeared in three instances in the The Six Million Dollar Man television series.

In the Rugrats episode "The Legend of Satchmo," (Season 3, Episode 4) the Sasquatch is mistakenly referred to as "Satchmo."

Literature

Many have written on the subject, demonstrating a broad spectrum of approaches from lurid tabloids to a small body of serious scholarly work. The Weekly World News occasionally runs a story on the mysterious creature. There have been several Bigfoot-related novels (such as Monster, which describes the capture of a woman by a group of bigfoot, later revealed to be the products of a science experiment). There is a Marvel Comics character named Sasquatch.

Conventions

There are annual Bigfoot-related conventions, and the creature plays a role in Pacific Northwest tourism, such as the annual "Sasquatch Daze" in Harrison Hot Springs, British Columbia. Napier writes, "Bigfoot in some quarters of North America has become big business ... It can no longer be considered simply as a natural phenomenon that can be studied with the techniques of a naturalist; the entrepreneurs have moved in and folklore has become fakelore" (Pyle, 160).

Law

Regarding Sasquatch, Skamania County, Washington passed a law in 1969 that "any wilful, wanton slaying of such creatures shall be deemed a felony", subject to substantial fine and/or imprisonment. The fact that this legislation was passed on April 1 did not escape notice, but County Commissioner Conrad Lundy said that "this is not an April Fool's Day joke ... there is reason to believe such an animal exists" (Pyle, 278). Hunter and Dahinden record their own "speculation that Skamania County authorities had their ears tuned much more to the music of a publicity bandwagon than to any song of distress" for Bigfoot (Hunter and Dahinden, 135-136). Notwithstanding, the ordinance was amended in 1984 to preclude an insanity defense and to consider such a killing homicide if the creature was proven by the coroner to be humanoid (Pyle, 279).

Alleged Bigfoot sightings

  • 1811: On January 7, 1811, David Thompson, a surveyor and trader for the North West Company, spots large, well-defined footprints in the snow near Athabasca River, Jasper, Alberta, while attempting to cross the Rocky Mountains. The tracks measure 14 inches in length and 8 inches in width.
  • 1840: Protestant missionary Reverend Elkanah Walker records myths of hairy giants persistent among Native Americans living in Spokane, Washington. The Indians report that said giants steal salmon and have strong smell.
  • 1893: An account by Theodore Roosevelt is published this year in The Wilderness Hunter. Roosevelt relates a story which was told to him by "a beaten old mountain hunter, named Bauman" living in Idaho. Some have suggested similarities to Bigfoot reports. (Note: Roosevelt's testimony is the only evidence this encounter ever occurred.)
  • 1924: Albert Ostman claims to have been kidnapped and held captive for several days by a family of sasquatch. The incidence occurred during the summer in Toba Inlet, British Coumbia.
  • 1924: Fred Beck and four other miners claim to have been attacked by several sasquatches in Ape Canyon in July, 1924. The creatures reportedly hurl large rocks at the miners’ cabin for several hours during the night.
  • 1941: Jeannie Chapman and her children claim to have escaped their home when a large sasquatch, allegedly 7½ feet tall, approached their residence in Ruby Creek, British Columbia.
  • 1940s onward: People living in Fouke, Arkansas report that a Bigfoot-like creature, dubbed the “Fouke Monster”, inhabits the region. A high number of reports occur in the Boggy Creek area and are the basis for the 1973 film The Legend of Boggy Creek. The last known report was in 2004.
  • 1955: William Roe claims a close-up view from concealment of a female sasquatch near Mica Mountain, British Columbia.
  • 1958: Two construction workers, Leslie Breazale and Ray Kerr, report seeing a sasquatch about 45 miles northeast of Eureka, California. 16 inch tracks had previously been spotted in the Northern California woods.
  • 1967: On October 20, 1967, Roger Patterson and Robert Gimlin capture a purported sasquatch on film in Bluff Creek, California. See Patterson-Gimlin film for more information.
  • 1995: On August 28, 1995, a tv film crew from Waterland Productions pull off the road into Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park, and film what they claim to be a sasquatch in their RV's Headlights.
(Via Wikipedia.)

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