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Bigfoot (also known as Sasquatch) is a mythical creature alleged by some to live in remote North American forests in the Pacific Northwest. As there is zero real evidence for the existence of Bigfoot the study of the "beast" is considered to be a pseudoscience. Bigfoot is also one of the more famous examples of cryptozoology.
Bigfoot is sometimes described as a large, hairy, bipedal hominid creature, and many believe that this animal, or its close relatives, may be found around the world under different regional names, such as the Yeti of Tibet and Nepal. Probably the most famous sighting is 1967 Patterson-Gimlin film which shows a hairy, bipedal figure walking away from the camera.
History of the Bigfoot myth
There have been many stories among indigenous peoples of the Northwest Pacific over the centuries regarding 'Bigfoot' like creatures. As white settlers pushed westward, they encountered these myths and recorded them, with the first documentation of "Bigfoot"-related legends appearing around 1840. Scattered encounters by white witnesses began appearing around the same time, the most famous being the alleged capture of a ape-like creature called "Jacko" in 1884 by Canadian ranchers, later exposed as a hoax. Another story, shared by Theodore Roosevelt, involves a trapper whose camp in Montana had been raided by a mysterious creature. However, generally speaking these stories failed to gain widespread attention.
The term "Sasquatch" (Anglicized from the Salish Indian word sásq'ets, roughly translated as "wild man") was coined by John W. Burns, an Indian agent from the Fraser Valley in British Columbia, who popularized it in a series of magazine articles in the 1920s. However, Burns' version of Sasquatch, based on oral traditions from the Chihalis Nation, differed drastically from later Bigfoot sightings; instead of a large, hairy ape creature, Burns reported the Sasquatch as a race of abnormally large humans who spoke an intelligible language (said to be Ucwalmicwts, associated with the St'at'imc Nation), and often interacted with, and occasionally even intermarried with local groups like the Chihalis. Other early encounters are dated to this era, like the 1924 "Battle of Ape Canyon," where miners were attacked by a group of rock-throwing Bigfeet near Mount St. Helens in Washington. This incident was reported in contemporary newspapers, but later attributed to local teenagers playing a practical joke on the miners.
It was only in the 1950's when the Bigfoot phenomenon went, well, big. A guy named Eric Shipton photographed what he called 'Yeti' footprints in 1951, and after that everyone had Yeti on the brain. There were countless sightings, all of which were undoubtedly made up or reported by some people with wild imaginations. The most ridiculous stories involved the Bigfoot creature kidnapping people and whisking them away to hold them captive or eat them or whatever, it was never elaborated on. A common theme in the stories involving someone coming face to face with the creature usually ended up with the human and beast forming some form of emotional bond and understanding.
In 1958, bulldozer operator Gerald Crew found large footprints in Del Norte County, California and had them plastered for proof. This is where the term 'Bigfoot' was first used. Locals had been calling the track-maker 'Big Foot', which was shortened to Bigfoot in the papers. The Associated Press decided it was newsworthy, cementing Bigfoot's place in folklore. The fact that the family of Ray Wallace, a recently deceased logger, claimed he had forged the footprints and that the wife of the editor of the Humboldt Times, which first reported on the story, exposed her husband as being in on the hoax, didn't stop people from sending out hunting parties looking for the creature.
Probably the most famous sighting happened in 1967, when Roger Patterson and Robert Gimlin purported to have spotted the bipedal ape and caught it on film. The extremely shaky footage shows Bigfoot walking through trees for a few yards, and most famously turning to face the camera briefly with an expression that Patterson described as "contempt and disgust". Scientists and skeptics have deemed the film to be a fake and it was most likely just a guy in an ape costume, based on the fact there is little corroborating evidence for the encounter and some inconsistencies in Gimlin's and Patterson's stories. One of the important controversies of the film is the frame rate it was filmed at: if the speed was 16 frames per second, some researchers and cryptozoologists claim that the gait and stride of the "creature" wouldn't be consistent with a human in an ape suit, but at 24 fps it would look exactly like a human in an ape suit. The super-shaky footage makes it impossible to confirm the frame rate. Patterson profited from showing the short film in movie houses across the Pacific Northwest and appearing on a number of talk shows. Philip Morris, who designed the ape suits for Planet of the Apes, claims to have lent a costume to Patterson. Though there has been no conclusive proof either way about the film's authenticity, Patterson went to his grave swearing it was real. Gimlin maintains that he wasn't involved in a hoax, but is willing to admit he may have been conned by Patterson.
Bigfoot and science
Bigfoot and science actually don't know each other particularly well. At best, they could only be said to be on a nodding acquaintance with one another. 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" (from Skepdic). In addition to the lack of evidence — the only noteworthy examples being eyewitness testimony, footprints of a dubious nature, and bad quality videos — they cite the fact that while Bigfoot is alleged to live in regions that would be unusual for a large, non-human primate, i.e. temperate latitudes in the northern hemisphere, all other recognized non-human apes are found in the tropics, in Africa, continental Asia or nearby islands. The great apes have never been found in the fossil record in the Americas. No Bigfoot bones or bodies have been found.
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). Most who have expressed an opinion consider the stories of Bigfoot to be a combination of unsubstantiated folklore and hoaxes.
Grover S. Krantz concedes that whilst "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).
On May 24, 2006 Maria Goodavage wrote an article in USA Today entitled, "Bigfoot Merely Amuses Most Scientists." In it she quoted John Crane, a zoologist and biologist at Washington State, "There is no such thing as Bigfoot. No data other than material that's clearly been fabricated has ever been presented."
In 2009, J.D. Lozier, P. Aniello, and M.J. Hickerson constructed an Ecological Niche Model for Bigfoot. They constructed their model with the help of nine climate variables that had a strong correlation with Bigfoot-sighting locations. They found that it has a very close match with an ENM for the black bear (Ursus americanus), and they concluded, "Although it is possible that Sasquatch and U. americanus share such remarkably similar bioclimatic requirements, we nonetheless suspect that many Bigfoot sightings are, in fact, of black bears."
Some people claim that Gigantopithecus was an ancestor of Bigfoot. This is very doubtful, as all fossils in the relevant genus were found in continental Asia, not northwestern America. Others claim that Bigfoot are Neanderthals or "Neaderthaloids", a Homo Sapiens - Neanderthal hybrid. In reality, "a Homo Sapiens - Neanderthal hybrid" is simply a variant of modern Homo Sapiens. Further still, while Neanderthals were robustly built, they would almost certainly not have bigger-than-human feet, and they lived mainly in western Eurasia, especially in Europe and the northern parts of the Middle East. As a fairly advanced human species, they had a tendency to leave technology lying about, and finally, a Neanderthal living in North America would probably not choose to remain in a technologically ultra-primitive, extremely secretive tribe, but would likely walk straight into a Sapiens city or Sapiens native reservation. Additionally, such people would've been highly intelligent, and would likely not be left in the Paleolithic, but would instead have picked up on, or invented, tools used by other native American tribes. Later, they would have done what the other native Americans did and resurrected their (90% wiped out by disease?) society using European horses and guns. If Bigfoot were some kind of Neanderthal tribe, they would eventually make use of iPhones, just like other modern tribes in the Pacific northwest do today. The U.S. government and states would make treaties with them. Also, another big elephant in the room is appearance. Bigfoot is generally thought of as being somewhere between brunette and jet black in fur coloration, with dark or even black skin. Neanderthals in Europe had white skin, blue, green, or hazel eyes, and often had blond, brown, or red hair, mostly on their heads. They wore fitted clothing composed of animal hides, and generally were not barefoot, but wore well-made, sturdy boots. They used big, sturdy spears with sharp broadtip points to hunt, but may have sometimes also used thrown javelins.
So they weren't hairy, didn't have big feet, weren't tall, weren't dark, wore clothing, used technology, and generally would've looked like really robust weird-looking white people with unusually sloped foreheads. They could probably pick up on Sapiens languages and appropriate our technologies, and would not be impossibly secretive and isolationist, but would instead probably end up like any other native American tribe, on a reservation designated by the U.S. government.
Bigfoot and the paranormal
The paranormal investigator Jon-Erik Beckjord theorized that the lack of hard evidence supporting Bigfoot's existence may be due to the creature being an interdimensional being that slips in and out of dimensions. In 1976, B. Ann Slate and Alan Berry linked bigfoot to UFOs, dimensions and telepathic experiences.
Recent authors have also linked bigfoot to paranormal dimensions and other multiverses. Kewaunee Lapseritis in his book The Sasquatch People and Their Interdimensional Connection (2011) has written that 187 documented cases have objectified the reality of dimensional bigfoot creatures. Those who believe the Bigfoot is an actual physical creature distance themselves from such paranormal claims and regard them as an embarrassment.
There is a similar myth in the Himalayan region about a large, hairy creature they call "Yeti." To the east of the Himalayas, in Sichuan and Hubei Province, a local favorite crypto-hominid is the Yeren or "Wild Man" - A species believed to be surviving Gigantopithecus descendants, or maybe Homo Ergasters, or maybe a tribe of ancient refugees who stayed really away from civilization for a few hundred years. A large number of ape-man sightings have been catalogued by cryptozoologists from the Caucasus to Pakistan and Mongolia.
The Aussie version, the Yowie (or Yahoo), doesn't get nearly as much attention because... well, it's Australia. Yowie enthusiast Paul Taylor claimed in 2019 to have recovered a sample from near Mackay, Queensland: "We collected some hair hanging from [ripped fence wires] that smelled very strongly of rotten meat crossed with urine, which I remembered from previous expeditions." Insert jokes about Australians here, while waiting for the sample to be analyzed by reputable scientists. And waiting...
The skunk ape is a smelly hominid in the Florida Everglades, covered in long black or red hair like an orangutan or gorilla. Other vaguely similar North American cryptids include the Dewey Lake Monster in Michigan; Mogollon Monster in eastern Arizona, Momo the Monster in eastern Missouri around the Mississippi river; the Wild Man of the Navidad in Texas; and in Canada, Old Yellow Top lives near Cobalt, Ontario.
Another ape-like specimen was the Minnesota Iceman, exhibited in the late 1960s and early 1970s but subsequently revealed to be a latex model encased in ice. It first appeared in 1968 as the Siberskoye Creature, a mysterious hairy hominid frozen in a block of ice in the travelling exhibition of Frank D. Hansen. It came to wider attention at the International Livestock Exposition annual fair in Chicago, and a lot of bizarre rumors spread about it. Hansen claimed it had a secretive owner, rumored to be the actor James Stewart. He said variously that it had been found off Siberia by Russian seal-hunters, by Japanese whalers, in a deep freeze in Hong Kong, and had been shot near Whiteface Reservoir in Minnesota. It was also rumored that Hansen had killed it near Danang, Vietnam. Cryptozoologists Ivan T. Sanderson and Bernard Heuvelmans examined it through its glass case and became convinced it was genuine; Heuvelmans identified it first as a new hominid Homo pongoides and later as a Neanderthal. John Napier, a primatologist at the Smithsonian, investigated more skeptically and concluded it was a latex model; he noted that it seemed to change appearance from year to year, suggesting it was being thawed when not required for exhibition and then re-frozen; such a thing would be very damaging to flesh but fine with latex. In 2013 what appeared to be the original model was offered for sale and is now in the Museum of the Weird in Austin, Texas.
In the Appalachian region, we simply call them "Grandpa gone bad." In spite of their primitive appearance, they are usually fine hands with a homemade still.
In Scotland, the Big Grey Man of Ben Macdhui supposedly wanders the Cairngorm Mountains, giving travellers a "very queer" sensation; it may be a Brocken spectre, which is an entirely incorporeal mirage-like thing and hence unlikely to give you a bear hug.
- Daegling, David J, Bigfoot Exposed: An Anthropologist Examines America's Enduring Legend, Altamira Press, 2004, ISBN 0-7591-0539-1
- Napier, John Russell Bigfoot: The Sasquatch and Yeti in Myth and Reality, 1973, E.P. Dutton, ISBN 0-525-06658-6
- Krantz, Grover S., Big Footprints: A Scientific Inquiry into the Reality of Sasquatch, Johnson Books, 1992, ISBN 1-55566-099-1
- "Wandering shaman 'mistaken' for Bigfoot in North Carolina", BBC News, 10 August 2017
- FBI file on Bigfoot from 1976-77
- Bigfoot Encounters; see also David J. Daenling, Bigfoot Exposed: An Anthropologist Examines America's Enduring Legend (2004), especially Chapter 3, for an overview of the myth's development
- Bigfoot Encounters page on "Jacko"
- Daenling, pp. 30-31
- Daniel Loxton and Donald R. Prothero, Abominable Science! Origins of the Yeti, Nessie and Other Famous Cryptids (2013), pp. 34-35
- Atlas Obscura article; also Daenling, pp. 32-33, 69-70
- Patterson-Gimlin film (YouTube)
- Film Introducing Bigfoot To World Still Mysterious 50 Years Later, OPB, Dec. 20, 2017
- Philip Morris: An Interview With The Man Who Birthed Bigfoot, Strange Carolinas, July 2015
- Lozier, J.D., Aniello, P., and Hickerson, M.J. (2009), Predicting the distribution of Sasquatch in western North America: anything goes with ecological niche modeling, Journal of Biogeography, volume 36, issue 9, pages 1623-1627. J.D. Lozier's comments: Sasquatch ENM Press
- The Cyprtid Zoo: Neaderthals and Neaderthaloids
- B. Ann Slate, Al Berry Bigfoot Bantam Books, 1976 ISBN 978-0553029680
- Kewaunee Lapseritis The Sasquatch People and Their Interdimensional Connection Comanche Spirit Publishing, 2011 ISBN 978-0983369530
- David Daegling Bigfoot Exposed: An Anthropologist Examines America's Enduring Legend 2004, pp. 197—198
- The Strange Case of the Minnesota Iceman, Scientific American blog, Jan 2, 2017
- Cryptid Awakening, John Kuykendall, 2019
- Possible Yowie Hairs Found Caught on a Fence in Queensland, Paul Seaburn, Mysterious Universe, Feb 2019
- Skunk Ape Research Headquarters, Atlas Obscura, accessed 15 July 2019
- See the Wikipedia article on Dewey Lake Monster.
- Cryptid Profile: the Dewey Lake Monster, Pine Barrens Institute, August 19, 2018
- See the Wikipedia article on Mogollon Monster.
- See the Wikipedia article on Momo the Monster.
- Momo, the Missouri Monster, Tobias Wayland, Singular Fortean Society, March 24, 2019
- See the Wikipedia article on Wild Man of the Navidad.
- See the Wikipedia article on Old Yellow Top.
- See the Wikipedia article on Minnesota Iceman.
- The Legend, Big Grey Man, accessed July 16, 2019