Bigfoot

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Frame 352 from the Patterson-Gimlin film
This article is about Bigfoot, an unconfirmed North American ape-like creature. For the monster truck, see Bigfoot (truck). For the computer storage product, see Bigfoot (hard drive).

Bigfoot, also called Sasquatch, is described as a large, apelike creature living in the 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. Mainstream scientific experts consider the stories of Bigfoot to be a combination of myth and hoax.

Description

Bigfoot witnesses generally describe a 7 to 10 feet (2.1 to 2.7 m) tall, ape-like bipedal creature. Broad-shouldered and strongly-built, it has small eyes, a pronounced eyebrow, and a small, pointed, low-set head that is alternately reported as crested and rounded. Excepting the face, palms of the hands and soles of the feet, Bigfoot's body is covered with short shaggy hair that is usually black or dark brown in colour; though rust, reddish, sandy or silver are occasionally reported.

Enormous human-like footprints attributed to this creature gave rise to the name "Bigfoot" (see "Bigfoot" below). 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).

A pervasive foul odor, reminiscent of feces, sewage or strong human body odor, is sometimes associated with Bigfoot.

Sasquatch vocalizations have been described in some sightings as high-pitched shrieks or whistles, and in others as low-pitched, guttural grunting or squealing.

Most sightings have been at night, leading to speculation that Sasquatch are nocturnal. Some witnesses reported what Pyle calls "red eyeshine," similar to that of nocturnal animals (Pyle, 209). Individual males are more frequently reported; less often do witnesses report pairs, family groups, or females.

Regarding Bigfoot's diet, anthropologist Grover Krantz writes, "[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).

Bigfoot phenomenon

Along with the Loch Ness Monster and the Yeti (Abominable Snowman), Bigfoot is one of the more famous creatures in cryptozoology. While most Bigfoot encounters (the best-known example included) took place in the Pacific Northwest, similar encounters have been reported throughout North America. The modern phenomenon began in 1958 when enormous footprints were reported in Humboldt County, California, though there had been accounts of large, hairy, apelike or "wild man" creatures (or reports of inexplicably large, human-like footprints) from the Pacific Northwest dating 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.

Mainstream scientists have found existing Bigfoot evidence unpersuasive, and generally consider such evidence and sightings as the product of mythology and/or folklore. For instance, northern Europe's former belief in trolls has been suggested to be similar to Bigfoot legends. Misidentification or hoaxes are other counterarguments. Many academics and professionals contend that further study is a waste of time, but others argue that though current evidence may be lacking, evidence 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

Bigfoot

Primatologist John Napier inserts that "the term Bigfoot has been in colloquial use since the early 1920's 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 have been in evidence for some time...," before detailing the workers' claims to have discovered an enormous footprint at an isolated work site [1]. 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 Wallace, brother of Ray Wallace, who both later claimed to have 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' "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, Chehalis is in the area where historic sightings are densest, and is generally considered to be, if anywhere, "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' neologism came to be used by others, primarily in the Pacific Northwest. In 1929, MacLean's (a popular Canadian general-interest magazine) published one of Burns' articles, Introducing British Columbia's Hairy Giants, which included the word "Sasquatch." After widespread publicity surrounding the 1958, Humbolt County, California Bigfoot reports, researchers began searching old newspapers and documents for similar accounts, thus rediscovering and popularizing Burns' term. To many ears, "Sasquatch" has a less sensationalistic association than does "Bigfoot", and is consequently more popular among researchers who strive for legitimacy.

Evidence - arguments for and against

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 apelike. See List of Notable Bigfoot Sightings or Reports.

The majority of Sasquatch reports are generated from areas having low human population densities. 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. Krantz noted these same points and offered a detailed proposal for Sasquatch ecology and social behaviour (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" [2]. 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

Folklore

There are some Bigfoot hunters who believe that the creature's earliest history can be traced back to ancient Native American legends, particularly the tales of the Witiko, or Wendigo, a giant spirit-beast from Algonquin tribe lore. Native Americans, from the area of what is now known as Quebec and Nova Scotia, also describe a man-beast they called "Roux-Ga-Roux" or "Rugaru." The giant Tsul 'Kalu of Cherokee legends shares many physical and behavioral traits with Bigfoot. It is interesting to note that early European settlers in the Canadian frontier and northern tier colonies/states of the US also reported seeing this creature.

A 1924 Seattle Times story entitled, "Clue to 'Gorilla Men' found, may be lost Race of Giants," reports on a legend of the "Seeahtik", a Clallam word for what are described as creatures "seven to eight feet tall" that "have hairy bodies like the bear." The Seeahtik are attributed supernatural powers and were presumed to have recently become extinct or nearly so [3].

On the other hand, skeptics argue that folktales should not be taken literally, but merely serve as guideposts. In Native American folklore, such putative Sasquatch are often attributed supernatural powers, but this, however, does not necessarily mean that the tales should be discredited, as many common animals in Native American legends are attributed supernatural powers. Furthermore, Native American legends frequently make no distinction between natural and supernatural.

Artifacts

There are various Native American artifacts cited as compelling 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 AD 200 (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 Niska tribe. 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 anthropolgist 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

Researchers frequently assert that the Native American legends of Bigfoot-type creatures support Bigfoot's existence. Clark, however, writes, "...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 legends, so cited from various Pacific northwest tribes, including tales from the Salish, Lummi, Samish and Klallam peoples. Suttles confirms the oft-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 cite abundant physical evidence for Bigfoot.

Footprints

Forensics

Photographs or plaster casts of presumed Sasquatch footprints are often cited by cryptozoologist 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.

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, making a hoax unlikely (Krantz, 23).

Gaussian curve

Researcher Henry Franzoni writes, "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" [4].

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 confirm 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 crippled. 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" [5]. 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 persuasive argument for the existence of Bigfoot, Krantz cited two alleged Sasquatch handprints taken from northeastern Washington in the summer of 1970. 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 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 Sasquatch hand and footprints containing dermal ridges (fingerprints) have been discovered, which 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. 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 quickly ruling them hoaxes after only a quick examination before returning the best cast to Krantz, "as though it might be contagious" (ibid). Notable was Tim White of the University of California at Berkeley, who "found no good reason to reject them" (ibid). Opinion remains divided, however, with suggestions that the man who "discovered" the prints had confessed to other hoaxes [6].

One of the casts with visible fingerprints showed 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 displayisa, 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).

Overall, however, Krantz was disappointed by the mixed responses regarding the dermal ridges, reinforcing his conclusion that only a holotype would persuade professionals that Bigfoot is real.

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" [7].

Hair and feces

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. Roy Pinker, a police science instructor at California State University, Los Angeles, determined that "the hairs did not match specimens from any known animal species and that they had some characteristics common to both humans and nonhumans" (Halpin and Ames, 296).

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. No one has found coproliths (fossilized dung) from a Bigfoot, nor are they likely to due to its perishable nature.

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 and 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, gorillas, chimpanzees and most other primates, live in tropical rainforests 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. All reputed Bigfoot samples, studied using DNA testing, were judged to have come from common animals.

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 to report that some recordings "left him puzzled", and helped change his opinion "from being a raving skeptic to being curiously receptive" [8].

Visual:

On October 20, 1967, Roger Patterson and Robert Gimlin allegedly captured Bigfoot on film. There is much debate as to whether the creature in the Patterson-Gimlin film is genuine. Krantz was convinced the film was proof of Bigfoot's existence. Pyle, while not endorsing the film as authentic, wrote that it "has never been convincingly debunked" (Pyle, 208).

Problems with audio and visual evidence

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. See Patterson-Gimlin film for further information.

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: "People don't construct websites devoted to the bear they saw last summer, but they do for Bigfoot" (Daegling, 21).

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 apelike 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).

Ray 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.

Arguments against the hoax explanation

Sasquatch researchers have noted a difference between suggesting that something might be the result of a hoax, and stating flatly that something is the result of a hoax. Many mainstream skeptics frequently declare that Sasquatch reports — especially footprints — are hoaxes, but rarely do they test or demonstrate a specific method or mechanism that would produce results, consistent with initially-offered evidence.

On the supposedly hoaxed Sasquatch footprints, primatologist John Napier acknowledges that there have been some hoaxes, but also writes that hoaxing is often an inadequate explanation: "We must be prepared to accept the existence of a conspiracy of Mafia-like ramifications with cells in practically every major township from San Francisco to Vancouver. Even if we accept the conspiracy angle, there is still another hurdle to jump. How could footprints of such realism and functional consistency have been made? Rubber-latex molds bonded to a boot or shoe might explain how the footprints are reproduced, but the mechanical problems would be immense, particularly when it is borne in mind that the hoaxer would have to walk considerable distances over difficult terrain wearing such unwieldy contraptions. There is also the problem that footprints are found in conditions where an ordinary man is too light to make any impressions in the substrate. However, it is not impossible that some of the footprints were made in this way" [9]. Pyle characterizes Napier's argument on this more directly: Napier "concluded that a hoax sufficient to explain the facts was even more unlikely than the animal itself" (Pyle, 186).

Similarly, Krantz argues that hoaxing does not explain the vast majority of Bigfoot prints: "The first and most obvious problem with this is the sheer number of tracks that are known to have been found, and the number of them that can be estimated to have occurred ... the supposed fakers would have to spend the vast majority of their time driving, riding and hiking from one location to another. (This also ignores the difficulty of people putting tracks in many places without leaving evidence of their own presence.) ... the skeptics must postulate a well-organized team of one-thousand people, working full-time, who are spread all over North America with their greatest concentration in Pacific Northwest." If it is not a small, well-organized group, Krantz estimates that "something like 100,000 casual hoaxers" would be required to explain the footprints (Krantz, 32-34).

As noted above, Ray 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. The family's claims have been disputed, however. 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" [10].

Conclusion

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" [11]. 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, there must be enough numbers for a breeding populatiion. Every remote area of California is thorougly examined by prospectors, hunters, dogs, loggers, biologists, fishermen, and so on. A real population of creatures this size would have had a lot more contacts with people.

Believers:

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 2003 Denver Post article, Jane Goodall said, "People from very different backgrounds and different parts of the world have described very similar creatures behaving in similar ways and uttering some strikingly similar sounds ... As far as I am concerned, the existence of hominids of this sort is a very real probability" [12]. The same article cites several other prominent scientists who have expressed at least a guarded interest in Sasquatch reports: 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, p 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).

The late Grover Krantz suggested that most academics who contend that Bigfoot does not exist lack even a passing familiarity with the small body of serious scholarly work on the subject and have not examined available evidence, some of which Krantz contended was very persuasive. Supporters have argued that this constitutes a bias on the part of many academics who have chosen to ignore or minimize the serious efforts of many qualified experts.

Similarly, Daegling writes, "It is a fair point echoed across the board by the advocates; the scientific establishment seems to reject Bigfoot reflexively without so much as feigning an interest in examining the evidence" (Daegling, 61).

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, wrote of an unexpected discovery. "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" [13].

Proposed creatures

Various types of creature have been proposed by believers 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 Gigantopithicus was bipedal,

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

This Gigantopithicus 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 the "Sivapithecus" and the orangutan ("Pongo"). Given that most scientists argue that Gigantopithicus 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. blacki's enormous mass would have made it difficult for it to adopt a bipedal gait.

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 actually 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.

Formal studies of Bigfoot

There have been a 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 Come To Life (1961) 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.

1970s:

Perhaps, the first mainstream scientific study of available evidence was by prominent primate expert, John Napier. Bigfoot: The Yeti and Sasquatch in Myth and Reality (1973) offers an even-handed and sympathetic examination. While giving high marks to some earlier researchers ("Ivan T. Sanderson and John Green (and) Rene Dahinden... have made a far better job of recording the major events of the sasquatch saga than I could ever hope to do." (Naper, 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 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).

Notable was a plenary address, by prominent anthropologist Coon: Why There Has To Be A Sasquatch. Coon stated, "Even before I read John Green's book, Sasquatch: the Apes Among Us, I accepted the Sasquatch's existence ... Unfaked footprints are reported every year. (One can usually tell the difference because a man's weight is not enough to press the phony template down enough, among other things)... Professor Stephen I. Rosen of the University of Maryland has identified its hair as that of a previously unknown primate — and he has hair on file for most of the living primates of the world... On this substantially impeccable evidence we may be justified to state that a primate other than man, which is either a pongid (ape), or hominid (kind of man) is alive in Washington... It is easier to say what they are not than what they are. They are not Neanderthals" [14].

Pyle does not offer a publication date, but he reports that some time after the early 1970s, the Army Corps of Engineers mentioned Bigfoot in their formal Environmental Atlas of Washington State. "Under fauna," Pyle writes, "the corps listed Bigfoot and said, 'Reported to feed on vegetation and some meat. The Sasquatch is covered with long hair, except for the face and hands, and has a distinctively humanlike form.' It called the Sasquatch, agile and strong, with good night vision and great shyness, 'leaving minimal evidence of its presence.'" Pyle goes on to suggest, “While the army did not come out and say that Sasquatch occurs in Washington, it discussed the subject seriously at some length and included a map of sightings... the compilers, with the U.S. Army’s imprimateur, classified the animal’s existence as not unlikely" (Pyle, 229).

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, Grover 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 experts 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 (1995), 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.

1997 - Mystery Solved: 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, and eventually killed one. It turns out that Bigfoot, a.k.a. Abominable Snowman, was actually an endangered Himalayan brown bear, ursus arctos, that can walk upright or on all fours.

2000s:

In 2003, Japanese mountaineer, Makoto Nebuka, published the results of his 12-year linguistic study and postulated that the word "yeti" is actually a regional dialect term for "bear". The ethnic Tibetans fear and worship the bear (as do many primitive peoples) as a supernatural being.

This evidence detracts from the credibility of bigfoot sightings in the United States and Canada, especially in British Columbia which is home to about 170,000 bears (as well as Sasquatch Provincial Park).

Bigfoot in modern culture

Whether they are real creatures 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 and have been used in advertising and applied to many products, such as pizzas, skateboards, skis, an Internet search engine, computer hard drive series, gas station, and a monster truck.

Movies and television:

It has been suggested that the Wookiee race from Star Wars resemble Bigfoot and are probably inspired by the legendary creature. Wookiees, in particular the character Chewbacca, have made cameo appearances on The Simpsons and South Park. At least one feature length motion picture has been produced, Harry and the Hendersons. Sasquatch or Bigfoot appeared in three instances in the television series, The Six Million Dollar Man, in the form of an indigenous (Terran) life form that a friendly alien scientist enhanced with neosynthetic limbs (i.e. bionics), and served as a guardian for their peaceful observations of the Earth. Sasquatch's ultimate disposition, after the aliens left the planet, was a gradual transition of his neosynthetics back to natural biology.

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, as well as 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).

Notable Bigfoot sightings and reports

See also this external link for a detailed list of Bigfoot reports.

Footnotes

  1. The method of locomotion for Gigantopithecus is not entirely certain, as no pelvis or leg bone has ever been found; the only remains of Gigantopithecus being discovered is the teeth and mandible. A minority opinion, championed by Grover Krantz, holds that the mandible shape and structure suggests bipedal locomotion. The only fossil evidence of Gigantopithecus — the mandible and teeth— are U-shaped, like the bipedal humans, rather than V-shaped, like the great apes. A complete fossil specimen, with the pelvis and leg bones, would be necessary to conclusively resolve the debate one way or the other, but are absent to date.
  2. Gorillas are in the same class as chimpanzees; gorillas are more closely-related to humans and chimpanzees than they are to orangutans.

Sources

  • Bayanov, Dmitri, "America's Bigfoot: Fact, Not Fiction," 1997, Crypto-Logos, ISBN 5-900229-22-X
  • Bourne, Geoffrey H and Maury Cohen, "The Gentle Giants: The Gorilla Story, 1975, G.P. Putnam's Sons, ISBN 399115285
  • Bryant, Vaughn M . and Burleigh Trevor-Deutch, "Analysis of Feces and Hair Suspected to be of Sasquatch Origin" (in Halpin and Ames)
  • Byrne, Peter, "The Search for Bigfoot: Monster, Man or Myth," Acropolis Books, 1975, ISBN 0874911591
  • Clark, Jerome, "Unexplained! 347 Strange Sightings, Incredible Occurrences and Puzzling Physical Phenomena, Visible Ink, 1993, ISBN 0810394367
  • Coleman, Loren and Jerome Clark, "Cryptozoology A to Z, Fireside Books, 1999, ISBN 0684856026
  • Coleman, Loren and Patrick Huyghe, "The Field Guide to Bigfoot, Yeti and Other Mystery Primates Worldwide, 1999, Avon Books, ISBN 0380802635
  • Coon, Carelton, "Why Sasquatch Must Exist" (in Markotic and Krantz)
  • Daegling, David J, "Bigfoot Exposed: An Anthropologist Examines America's Enduring Legend, Altamira Press, 2004, ISBN 0759105391
  • Gill, George "Population Clines of the North American Sasquatch as Evidenced by Track Lengths and Average Status" (in Halpin and Ames)
  • Halprin, Marjorie, "The Tsimshan Moneky Mask and Sasquatch (in Halpin and Ames)
  • Halpin, Marjorie and Michael Ames, editors, Manlike Monsters on Trial: Early Records and Modern Evidence, University of British Columbia Press, 1980, ISBN 0774801190
  • Hunter, Don with Rene Dahinden, "Sasquach/Bigfoot: The Search for North America's Incredible Creature," Firefly Books, 1993, ISBN 1895565286
  • Krantz, Grover S., "Big Footprints: A Scientific Inquiry into the Reality of Sasquatch, Johnson Books, 1992,
  • Markotic, Vladimir and Grover Krantz, editors, "The Sasquatch and Other Unknown Primates, Western Publishers, 1984, ISBN 0919119107
  • Mozino, Jose Mariano, Noticas de Nutka: An Account of Nootka Sound, Iris Higbe Wilson, editor and traslator, University of Washington Press, 1970
  • Napier, John "Bigfoot: The Sasquatch and Yeti in Myth and Reality, 1973, E.P. Dutton, ISBN 0525066586
  • Pyle, Robert Michael, "Where Bigfoot Walks, Houghton Mifflin, 1995, ISBN 0395441145
  • Shakley, Myra, Wildman: Yeti, Sasquatch and the Neanderthal Enigma," Thames and Hudson, 1973
  • Sprague, Roderick, "Carved Stone Heads of the Columbia and Sasquatch" (in Halpin and Ames)
  • Sprague, Roderick and Grover Krantz, editors, "A Scientist Looks at the Sasquatch II, University Press of Idaho, 1978, ISBN 0893010618
  • Suttles, Wayne, "On the Cultural Track of Sasquatch" (in Sprage and Krantz)
  • Wasson, Barbara, Sasquatch Apparitions: A Critique on the Pacific Northwest Hominoid, 1979, self-published, ISBN 0961410507

See also

External links


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