WHERE BIGFOOT WALKS
American Monsters Among Us -- Truth or Legend?

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American Unsolved Mysteries & Tales of the Unexplained by Troy Taylor


MYSTERIOUS ILLINOIS
The History, Mystery & Unexplained of the Prairie State 


OUT PAST THE CAMPFIRE LIGHT
Hauntings, Horrors & Unsolved Mysteries of the Great Outdoors

 

MYSTERIOUS KENTUCKY
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STRANGE HIGHWAYS
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There is no greater mystery in the annals of the unexplained in America than Sasquatch, the creature most commonly known as "Bigfoot". Reports of giant, man and ape-like monsters have been documented all over the country, although primarily in the forested regions of the Pacific Northwest. There are many tales of giant hairy figures in every state in America, although the "traditional" Bigfoot is believed to roam the vast regions of California, Oregon, Washington, Idaho and the western edge of Canada. The narrative that follows will include history and lore from a variety of locations.

Although most mainstream scientists maintain that no such creatures exist (and short of an actual specimen, their minds will not be changed), it is not inconceivable that undiscovered creatures could be roaming this wide region of mountains and forests. There are areas here that have been almost completely untouched by man and where few signs of the modern world can be found, even today. If we combine these often unexplored areas with the hundreds of eyewitness accounts and pieces of evidence left behind, then we have no choice but to at least consider the idea that these creatures may actually be real. Of course, the reader is asked to judge for himself but let's consider the history of Bigfoot in America.

According to the many eyewitnesses, Sasquatch averages around seven feet in height, sometimes taller and sometimes a little shorter. They are usually seen wandering alone and hair covers most of their bodies. Their limbs are usually powerful but are described as being proportioned more like people than like apes. However, their broad shoulders, short necks, flat faces and noses, sloped foreheads, ridged brows and cone-shaped heads make them appear more animal-like. They reportedly eat both meat and plants, are largely nocturnal and less active during cold weather. The creatures are most commonly reported as being covered in dark, auburn-colored hair, although reports of brown, black and even white and silver hair do occasionally pop up. The footprints left behind by the monsters range in size from about 12 to 22 inches long, with around 18 inches being the most common. They are normally reported to be somewhere around seven inches in width.

The stories of Sasquatch and reported man-like creatures have been part of Northwestern American history for generations. Native American legend and lore is filled with creatures that sound a lot like Bigfoot in description. One such creature was the "Wendigo". While this creature is considered by many to be the creation of horror writer Algernon Blackwood in his classic terror tale of the same name, this spirit was considered very real to many in the north woods and prairies. Many legends and stories have circulated over the years about a mysterious creature who was encountered by hunters and campers in the shadowy forests of the upper regions of Minnesota. In one variation of the story, the creature could only be seen if it faced the witness head-on, because it was so thin that it could not be seen from the side. The spirit was said to have a voracious appetite for human flesh and the many forest dwellers who disappeared over the years were said to be victims of the monster.

The American Indians had their own tales of the Wendigo, dating back so many years that most who were interviewed could not remember when the story had not been told. The Inuit Indians of the region called the creature by various names, including Wendigo, Witigo, Witiko and Wee-Tee-Go but each of them was roughly translated to mean "the evil spirit that devours mankind". Around 1860, a German explorer translated Wendigo to mean "cannibal" among the tribes along the Great Lakes.

Native American versions of the creature spoke of a gigantic spirit, over fifteen feet tall, that had once been human but had been transformed into a creature by the use of magic. Though all of the descriptions of the creature vary slightly, the Wendigo is generally said to have glowing eyes, long yellowed fangs and overly long tongues. Most have a sallow, yellowish skin but others are said to be matted with hair. They are tall and lanky and are driven by a horrible hunger. But how would a person grow to become one of these strange creatures?

According to the lore, the Wendigo is created whenever a human resorts to cannibalism to survive. In years past, such a practice was possible, although still rare, as many of the tribes and settlers in the region were cut off by the bitter snows and ice of the north woods. Unfortunately, eating another person to survive was sometimes resorted to and thus, the legend of the Wendigo was created.

But how real were these creatures? Could the legend of the Wendigo have been created merely as a "warning" against cannibalism? Or could sightings of Bigfoot-type creatures have created the stories? While this is unknown, it is believed that white settlers to the region took the stories seriously. It became enough a part of their culture that tales like those of Algernon Blackwood were penned. Real-life stories were told as well and according to the settlers' version of the legend, the Wendigo would often be seen (banshee-like) to signal a death in the community. A Wendigo allegedly made a number of appearances near a town called Rosesu in Northern Minnesota from the late 1800's through the 1920's. Each time that it was reported, an unexpected death followed and finally, it was seen no more.

Even into the last century, Native Americans actively believed in, and searched for, the Wendigo. One of the most famous Wendigo hunters was a Cree Indian named Jack Fiddler. He claimed to kill at least 14 of the creatures in his lifetime, although the last murder resulted in his imprisonment at the age of 87. In October 1907, Fiddler and his son, Joseph, were tried for the murder of a Cree Indian woman. They both pleaded guilty to the crime but defended themselves by stating that the woman had been possessed by the spirit of a Wendigo and was on the verge of transforming into one entirely. According to their defense, she had to be killed before she murdered other members of the tribe.

There are still many stories told of Wendigo's that have been seen in northern Ontario, near the Cave of the Wendigo, and around the town of Kenora, where a creature has been spotted by traders, trackers and trappers for decades. There are many who still believe that the Wendigo roams the woods and the prairies of northern Minnesota and Canada. Whether it seeks human flesh, or acts as a portent of coming doom, is anyone's guess but before you start to doubt that it exists - remember that the stories and legends of this fearsome creature have been around since before the white man walked on these shores. Like all legends, this one too was likely started for a reason.

The Yakama Indians of the Pacific Northwest had a tradition of a "Qah-lin-me", which was a devourer of people and the Hupa Indians called the man-like beasts the "Omah", a demon of the wilderness. The Nisqually tribe of western Washington had the "Tsiatko", which was a gigantic, hairy beast and the "Tenatco" was known by the Kaska. Their creatures were known to dig a hole in the ground as a place to sleep and would sometimes kidnap women and children. Most of the woodland giants in the lore of the Native Americans seem to be more aggressive than the creatures we know as Bigfoot but there is little mistaking them for something else. In fact, in 1934, author Diamond Jenness reported that the Carrier First nation told of a monster that left enormous footprints in the snow, had a face like a man, was very tall and was covered in long hair. This hardly seems to be coincidence when compared to "modern" version of Bigfoot.

The legend of Bigfoot-type creatures is so mired in the history of American that even the Native American term "Sasquatch" is a bit of an extraction from mythological stories. The folkloric Sasquatch (the word is the Americanized version of the Coast Salish Indian term from Canada) was introduced to the world in the writings of J.W. Burns, a schoolteacher at the Chehalis Indian Reservation near Harrison Hot Springs, British Columbia. Burns' Sasquatch was a legendary figure that he learned of through native informants and was really more man than monster. He was an intelligent "giant Indian" who was endowed with supernatural powers. Somehow, the name managed to stick for the huge beings that we would come to call Bigfoot.


THE HISTORICAL BIGFOOT
In 1901, an account of a Sasquatch encounter appeared in the Daily British Colonist. In this story, a lumber man named Mike King stated that he was working alone on Vancouver Island, near Campbell River, because his Indian packers had refused to accompany him because of their fear of the "monkey men" they said lived in the forest. Late in the afternoon, he observed a "man beast" washing roots in the river and when the creature became aware of King, it cried out and ran up a nearby hill. King described it as being "covered with reddish brown hair, and his arms were peculiarly long and were used freely in climbing and brush running; while the trail showed a distinct human foot, but with phenomenally long and spreading toes".

Three years later, on December 14, 1904, the Colonist again featured a Sasquatch story, this time from "four credible witnesses" who saw a man-like creature on Vancouver Island. In 1907, the newspaper told of the abandonment of an Indian village due to the inhabitants being frightened away by a "monkey-like wild man who appears on the beach at night, who howls in an unearthly fashion."

In July 1924, a weird incident involving a group of Bigfoot occurred in the Mount St. Helens region of southwestern Washington. The incident involved a night long assault by unknown creatures on a cabin where four miners were staying. The men had been prospecting a claim on the Muddy, a branch of the Lewis River, about eight miles from Spirit Lake. While working in the canyon, the men occasionally saw huge footprints but had no idea what to make of them. Then one day, they saw a huge ape-like creature peering out from behind a tree and one of the men fired his gun at it. The creature was apparently struck but it ran off. Fred Beck, one of the miners, met one of the monsters at the canyon rim and shot it in the back three times. It fell down the cliff and into the canyon but they never found the body.

That night, the "apes" struck back, starting an assault on the cabin where the men were staying by knocking a heavy strip of wood out from between two logs of the cabin. After that, there were repeated poundings on the walls, door and roof. Luckily, the cabin had been constructed to withstand heavy mountain snows and the creatures were unable to break in. However, they did begin using rocks to hit the roof from above and the miners became nervous enough to barricade the doors. As the creatures began thumping around on top of the cabin, as well as battering the walls, the men fired shots through the walls and roof, but to little effect. The noises and attacks continued until nearly dawn, ending after about five hours. Even though the cabin had no windows and the men could not see what was attacking them, Beck later told Bigfoot researcher John Green that he was sure that more than two creatures had been outside.

The incident was more than enough to get the men to pack up and abandon their mine the next day. They told their story when the returned to Kelso, Washington and a party of men went back to the cabin. Big footprints were found all around it, but no creatures were discovered. There have been other sightings in the area since, but none with such dramatic results. A first-hand account of the events was later written by Fred Beck called I Fought the Apemen of Mt. St. Helens. The area where the events took place was later dubbed "Ape Canyon" and it still is called that today.

One of the most bizarre Bigfoot encounters in history also occurred in 1924, although it would not be reported until many years later, in 1957. It involved a man who claimed to be abducted and held captive by a party of the creatures while on a prospecting trip in British Columbia. Although such tales seem to stretch the limits of believability, those who interviewed the man years later, including esteemed investigators John Green and Ivan T. Sanderson, did not for a moment doubt his sincerity or his sanity. Primatologist John Napier remarked that the man gave a "convincing account... which does not ring false in any particular."

The same cannot be said for all alleged Bigfoot "abductions" though. In 1871, a young girl named Seraphine Long was said to have been kidnapped by a male Bigfoot and she was taken to a cave and held prisoner for a year. She eventually got sick and so her captor allowed her to leave. However, when she returned home, it was discovered that she was carrying the creature's baby! She gave birth to the child but it only lived a few days. Of course, that was the story. The reader is asked to judge the validity of it for himself but I have to confess that I have my doubts about this one.

However, it's tough to feel the same way about the ordeal of Albert Ostman, who was prospecting for gold near the Toba Inlet in British Columbia in the summer of 1924.He claimed that he was abducted by Bigfoot but his detailed accounts of the creature's habits and activities remain unique to this day - leading many to wonder if perhaps he was telling the truth after all.

Toba Inlet in British Columbia was a secluded wilderness in 1924 when Albert Ostman decided to visit there during a much-needed vacation. The construction worker and lumberjack liked to prospect for gold as a hobby and in addition to doing some hunting and fishing, he planned to search for a legendary lost gold mine that was rumored to be in the area. Ostman hired an Indian guide to take him to the head of the inlet and on the way, the Indian told him about a white man who used to come out of the area laden with gold. When Ostman asked the guide what happened to the man, the guide replied that he had disappeared and had probably been killed by Sasquatch. Ostman scoffed at the story, not believing a word of this tall tale.

When they reached the inlet, the guide helped Ostman to set up his base camp and then he departed. Ostman had paid him to return in three weeks. For the first week or so, he hunted and fished a little for food and spent quite a bit of time hiking in the woods and searching for any traces of the lost mine. He was quite casual about the search though, enjoying the outdoors and the freedom away from his work. Then one day, he returned to camp to find that his gear had been disturbed. Nothing was missing, but it had all been moved around. Ostman assumed that a porcupine or some small animal had been looking for food. He tried to stay awake for two night to try and catch the annoying animal but each time, he fell asleep. On both mornings when he awoke, he discovered that food was missing from his pack.

Now irritated, and determined to trap the culprit, he loaded his rifle and shoved it down in his sleeping bag with his clothes and some of his personal belongings. He planned to stay awake the entire night and drive off the pesky animal. Despite his intentions though, Ostman fell asleep. Later on that night, still half asleep, Ostman awoke to find that he had been picked up, still inside his sleeping bag, and was being carried through the woods. He first assumed that he had been tied and thrown over the back of a horse, but then realized that he was pinned into his sleeping bag by two large arms. Unable to reach his rifle, or even his knife, he was trapped in the bedroll. There was no sound but the uttering of breath from the figure who carried him, the sound of powerful feet trudging through the forest and the occasional rattle of a fry pan and canned food in Ostman's pack, which the giant had also picked up from the camp.

Ostman traveled for several hours and estimated that he journeyed about 30 miles inland. At the end of this time, he was dumped onto the ground and he slowly crawled out of the bag in the darkness. His whole body ached from the trip and as he was trying to massage some feeling back into his legs, the sun came up and the prospector got his first good look at his abductors. Squatting nearby were four hairy giants, the same type of creatures that had been described to Ostman by the Indian guide.

They sat there looking at Ostman with curiosity, but did not seem threatening in the least. The two older creatures were male and female and the two younger ones were also of both sexes. The oldest male stood nearly eight feet tall and weighed an estimated 750 pounds. The oldest female was slightly smaller and had large, hanging breasts. The younger creatures were of smaller proportions than what Ostman assumed were the parents and the younger female had no breasts. All four of the Bigfoot had coarse, dark hair that covered their bodies.

Ostman later recounted that the older female seemed to object to his presence during the first day of his captivity. She chattered and grunted at the male but eventually, he seemed to win the day and was allowed to keep Ostman around. The two females avoided him as much as possible, spending their time hunting for roots, nuts and berries. The two male creatures were curious about everything the prospector did and found the contents of Ostman's pack and sleeping bag to be quite fascinating. He had with him his food, his rifle, a few pots and pans and his knife. They often looked at these items but never touched them, although the oldest creature was very interested in Ostman's snuff box and its contents. This keen interest would eventually prove to be integral in Ostman's escape.

Two days into his captivity, Ostman tried to run away. The Sasquatch lived in a small ten-acre basin that was cut between two cliff walls. A narrow break in the rock provided the only entrance. When Ostman tried to slip out of the valley, the oldest male quickly caught him and pulled him back into the basin. He considered using his rifle and trying to shoot his way out, but knew that if he did not kill the creature with the first couple of shots, the beast would surely tear him apart.

After six days, Ostman had another idea. He was becoming increasingly nervous of the creatures because he was starting to get the impression that he had been captured in order to provide a mate for the younger female. Not wanting to spend the rest of his life in captivity, he began working on a plan to break free. He knew that the elder Bigfoot was very interested in his chewing tobacco. Each day, he gave the creature a small amount of it to chew on. He wondered if there might be a way to use the Bigfoot's love of the snuff to his advantage.

On the morning of the seventh day, Ostman made a fire for the first time since he had arrived. He decided to make some coffee, which interested the two male Bigfoot. As he was eating his breakfast and drinking from the tin of coffee, he decided to try out his idea. He reached over and offered the older Bigfoot some of his snuff. He held on tightly to the box so that the creature could only take a small amount, which irritated him. He jerked the box from Ostman's hand and proceeded to devour the entire contents of it. He liked the taste so much that he literally licked clean the inside of the container.

It only took a few moments for the Bigfoot to become violently ill. Retching and coughing, the creature ran towards the stream and collapsed on all fours. At the same time, Ostman grabbed his rifle and his pack and began to run. He shot towards the narrow entrance but his escape attempt was noticed by the older female, who set off after him. He made it to the gap in the rock just seconds before she caught up with him and turning quickly, he fired a shot over her head. The creature stopped in her tracks and let out a squeal, but she did not pursue him any further.

Using his compass, Ostman managed to make his way back to civilization. After three days, he met up with a party of lumberjacks and told them that he had gotten lost while prospecting. He was sure that no one would ever believe his account of what really happened and he remained silent for more than 30 years, only telling his story in 1957.
Although Ostman has long since passed away, Bigfoot researcher John Green knew him for more than 12 years and questioned him extensively about his captivity. He had no reason to consider him a liar and neither did the police officers, primate experts and zoologists who also looked into his account. For this reason, we have only the option to consider his story, no matter how bizarre, to be true. But, of course, that remains up to the reader to decide.

Sasquatch sightings and encounters continued and were occasionally mentioned in mostly Canadian newspaper accounts. Bigfoot did not enter the American mainstream until 1958, when the now infamous tracks were discovered at Bluff Creek. This was the time when the giant creature entered the mainstream but America's fascination with Bigfoot was only beginning. Through the remainder of the 1950's, the 1960's and the 1970's, interest in these elusive creatures reached its high point. After a cooling down period of about two decades, when only Bigfoot hunters and diehard enthusiasts were seeking information about Sasquatch, public interest is again on the rise. New attention has been given to some of the evidence that has been collected for the creature's existence, including plaster casts of footprints, possible fur, photographs and film. Let's take a look at some of that evidence and the reader can judge for himself how credible much of it actually is.

THE PATTERSON FILM
By the decade of the 1960's, Bigfoot had become firmly entrenched in the imaginations of Americans. Though scientists refused to admit that what witnesses could be seeing was actually what they claimed to see, a number of investigators had begun seeking out witnesses and venturing into the forest, hoping to catch a glimpse of one of the monsters. Books began to appear and articles began to generate even more interest with the readers of magazines like True and Saga.

Among the amateur investigators who went looking for Bigfoot was Roger Patterson, a onetime rodeo rider, hopeful documentary film maker and Bigfoot hunter. In 1967, Patterson was barely scraping by as an inventor and promoter but his interest was piqued by a 1959 True magazine article about Bigfoot. From them on, he devoted as much of his spare time as he could afford roaming the woods of the Pacific Northwest in search of the creature. Patterson always carried with him a motion picture camera on his expeditions, hoping that he might be able to catch one of the monsters on film.

Around 1:15 in the afternoon on October 20, 1967, Patterson and a friend, Bob Gimlin, were riding north along a dry stretch of Bluff Creek in the Six Rivers National Forest of northern California. At one point, a large pile of logs in the middle of the stream bed blocked their path and they had to maneuver their horses around to the east. As they rode along the logs, they veered left and resumed their original course, only to see something that still has investigators and researchers puzzled today.

A female Bigfoot stood up from the creek water where she had been squatting and walked away from the approaching men and horses, moving briskly and swinging her arms as she moved toward the forest. At the same time this occurred, all three horses (including the pack horse) began to panic. Patterson's horse reared up and fell over sideways onto his right leg, but managed to stagger back to its feet again. As it did, Patterson quickly reached for the 16mm camera in his saddlebag and began to follow the creature, filming as he went. Unfortunately, only 28 feet of film remained in the camera but Patterson managed to use it to record the Bigfoot's escape from three different positions.

After his return to civilization, Patterson enlisted the help of researcher John Green to get some sort of scientific confirmation of the evidence that he had captured. However, the amateur investigator was ignored and berated by the established scientific community so in 1968, he took his case to the public. After padding his film footage with a documentary-style look at other evidence gathered in the search for Bigfoot, he went on a tour of the American west, renting small theaters and auditoriums for one-night shows and lectures. Since that time, the footage has gone on to become one of the most famous, and most controversial, pieces of Bigfoot evidence ever found.

Patterson's life was cut short in 1972 when he died, nearly broke, from Hodgkin's Disease, but he swore to the end of his life that the sighting and the film were authentic. Bob Gimlin also maintained that the events really took place and that his friend's film was the genuine article. Gimlin did not start out as a believer in the creature either. He was interested but unconvinced and only came along on his buddy's expeditions out of friendship, rather than a belief that they would actually find anything. "He'd talk about it around the campfire," he said in an interview. "I didn't care, but after a time you'd find yourself looking for the doggone thing too."

The first investigator on the scene of the sighting was a man named Bob Titmus, who found tracks that matched the creature's stride depicted in the film. He made 10 casts of them and discovered that the footprints led up a small hill, where the creature had paused to look back on the men below. Patterson and Gimlin had elected to recover their horses rather than pursue the Bigfoot and risk being stranded in the wilderness.

And while Patterson died in 1972, the legacy of his film lives on. Unfortunately, it has never settled the question as to whether or not Bigfoot exists in the forests of America. Both the number of supporters and detractors of the film are many. Researchers have argued about the speed of the film, the gait of the creature, the distance of its stride and more. Most biologists and zoologists who have studied it remain noncommittal. Film experts and individuals experienced with hoaxes have been unable to find evidence that it is not authentic. For this reason, the film has never been successfully debunked.

Of course, that's not for the lack of trying though. The most recent claims against the validity of the film have stated that the Bigfoot was actually a man in a monkey suit. Some maintain that Patterson and Gimlin were knowing participants in the hoax and that they rented the suit with the idea of gaining from the resulting film financially. This is in spite of the fact that the men made very little money from it and Patterson died nearly broke. Regardless, this theory has it that Patterson and Gimlin (who were both poor rodeo riders in 1967) rented the expensive suit, transported it to an area that was nearly inaccessible by car and cleverly shot the grainy, jerky and poorly executed film.

Defenders of the film believe this is ridiculous and state that a frame by frame analysis of the footage shows a creature that does not walk like a man. Anthropologist Grover Krantz demonstrated that the human walk involves the locking of the knees but the filmed Bigfoot does not do this, which would have been very difficult for a hoaxer to do and still walk as smoothly as this creature does. In addition, after viewing the film with Bigfoot investigator Peter Byrne in 1973, the chief technician at Disney Studios stated that "the only place in the world a simulation of that quality could be created would be here, at Disney Studios, and this footage was not made here." If the Bigfoot was a fake, it was one that was very, very well done.

And while the Disney tech may have been overstating the importance of the studio, there were very few places that such a film (or a suit like that) could have been made in the late 1960's. Even the detractors grudgingly agree that Patterson and Gimlin did not have the resources to pull off a hoax of the magnitude of the film and certainly could not have paid to have a suit like this one created. Only two companies could have created a suit of that type, at that time, and both claimed that they did not do so. To make matters more mysterious, the man in the suit (if there was one) has remained silent for more than 35 years, ignoring the opportunity for financial gain by confessing.

Interestingly, a more popular theory as to who made the suit has emerged within the last few years. According to some conspiracy theorists, the Patterson Bigfoot was actually a man wearing a suit created by master makeup artist John Chambers, who created the makeup for the classic film Planet of the Apes with Charlton Heston. The debunkers have fixed on Chambers for a couple of reasons, including his award-winning makeup effects for the movie and also for the fact that the movie finished filming on August 10, 1967, just a couple of months before Patterson's encounter. The idea is that Patterson could have easily rented one of the surplus monkey suits for his own purposes.

Even though this seems somewhat plausible, the theory has its problems as well. For one thing, the Bigfoot in Patterson's film looks nothing like the apes that were created for the movie. The apes in Planet of the Apes were not suits but were mostly facial makeup. Were they clever? Yes, but the Bigfoot in Patterson's film does not resemble these apes at all. The idea that Chambers may have created the Bigfoot suit was apparently the result of director John Landis joking about it to some friends at a party. As anyone who knows anything about Hollywood knows, you can't take every rumor you hear seriously in that town. To make matters worse, Chambers himself repeatedly denied the claims until his death. He told interviewers that he was "good but not that good" in response to the story and it has been a general consensus that Chambers enjoyed people thinking that he "might" have made the suit because it bolstered his skills as an artist. The truth is that it's very unlikely that he made it. In spite of this, the story lives on.

To this day, the debate continues to rage. Many Bigfoot experts believe that it is valid footage of an unknown creature but just as many people laugh when the subject is brought up. While I see that it might be possible for Chambers to have created the suit and helped to perpetrate a hoax, I really have to ask if it's plausible? I have no hard evidence to back up my own opinion that the film is genuine. I see both sides of the argument and have followed the debate for quite some time but for myself, I see nothing here to convince me that this is a suit. Based on the time period, I don't think that enough information had been made available to the general public for someone to have imitated a creature in the way that the Bigfoot moves in the Patterson film. Just because Chambers "could" have made the suit does not mean that he did.

PRINTS, HAIR AND RECORDINGS
As the reader can well imagine, there have been literally thousands of fraudulent footprints, photos and film that have been "discovered" since Bigfoot entered the mainstream. While much of the alleged evidence that appears is dubious at best, other Bigfoot prints and samples have managed to defy easy explanation.

In 1969, a series of 1,089 tracks were discovered near Bossburg, Washington and were analyzed by researchers. They measured 17 1/2 inches long and about seven inches wide and seemed to indicate that the creature that left them had a right clubfoot, the result, some surmised, of a childhood injury. This minor detail seemed to rule out any chance of a fraud for it's unlikely that any hoaxer would have gone to the trouble to include this in such a huge number of tracks.

And there have been hundreds (perhaps thousands) more footprints found that are not easy to explain away. The occurrence of these tracks in remote and seldom-traveled areas also seems to argue against a hoax as well. Why would someone go to the trouble of creating phony Bigfoot tracks in an area where no one would likely ever see them?

Other evidence that has been discovered consists of feces and hair samples that are either associated with sightings or may have been indications of a Bigfoot's recent passing. Many of these samples seem to resist identification. But what about the body of a Bigfoot? Debunkers and skeptics say that Bigfoot cannot exist for if it did, then we would have found the corpse of one by now. Jeffrey Meldrum, an associate professor of Anthropology at Idaho State University, disagrees. "Think about it," he said in an interview. "It's rare, reproduces infrequently, and if it's like other apes, it may live for 50 years. It's at the top of the food chain, so death most likely comes from natural causes. When an animal is ill or feeble, it'll hide somewhere safe, which makes it more difficult to find any remains. Scavengers strip the carcass and scatter the bones. Rodents chew up what's left for the calcium. Soil in the Northwest is acidic, which is conducive to plant fossilization but not to bones. They disintegrate."

Beyond the physical evidence, there have also been the recordings that have been made by Bigfoot hunters of what is alleged to be the "voice" of the creature itself. Many of the tapes have been analyzed, including one notable recording that was obtained on October 21, 1972 in California's High Sierra mountains. That night, investigators recorded a series of moans, whines, growls and grunts that were coming from the darkness. Two electronic specialists, one from the University of Wyoming and one from Rockwell International, came to the conclusion that the sounds came from "more than one speaker, one or more of which is of larger physical size than an average human male. The formant frequencies found were clearly lower than for human data, and their distribution does not indicate that they were a product of human vocalization and tape speed alteration."

One of the most recent, and perhaps most convincing, pieces of evidence to turn up has been the Skookum Cast, which was discovered in September 2000 by members of the Bigfoot Field Researchers Organization around Mount St. Helens in Washington. During a Bigfoot expedition, researchers baited a marshy plain, known as Skookum Meadow, with apples and melon hoping to attract Bigfoot. They returned the next morning to find a number of prints and many pieces of the fruit missing. They recognized both coyote and elk tracks but were unable to identify a set of anthropoid forearm, heel and butt imprints. They even found marks that had been made by hair in the muddy ground, pressed down by a huge weight. The hunters spent the next eight hours studying the signs and creating a plaster cast of what appeared to be a spot where Bigfoot had reclined.

The cast found many supporters among the most influential men in the field, including John Green, Grover Krantz and others. In June 2002, three noted anthropologists studied the cast and commented on their findings. The examiners were Darius Swindler, a professor emeritus from the University of Washington, Natural History anatomist Esteban Sarimento and Jeffrey Meldrum from Idaho State University. The presence of Sarimento marked the first interest in Bigfoot by the New York-based American Museum of Natural History. In his comments, Sarimento noted that one impression that was lined with hair marks "could have been made by a huge hindquarters." Meldrum summed things up by stating that he felt that all of the evidence pointed to an eight-foot-tall creature leaving the impressions at Skookum Meadows.

As exciting as this was to Bigfoot proponents though, the real proof of the creature's existence would be not just capturing his footprints - but the creature himself. "The ultimate evidence that this thing exists," said Esteban Sarimento, "is if somebody found one and brought it back."

THE BIGFOOT HUNTERS
There have been numerous expeditions created to try and track down Bigfoot over the years and many of the men involved with these hunts have gone on to be considered as seminal figures in modern Bigfoot research.

In 1960, Texas millionaire Tom Slick organized the Pacific Northwest Bigfoot Expedition, the most formidable group of researchers working at that time. Most of the men were seasoned trackers and had spent time in the Himalayas with Slick searching for the Yeti. Despite extensive searching though, the group made little progress and when Slick died in a plane crash in 1962, the Expedition disbanded.

In 1970, Robert W. Morgan tried to continue Slick's research when he formed the American Yeti Association. The group consisted of an archaeologist, a cinematographer, at least one psychic, several biology students and George Harrison, the editor of National Wildlife. Morgan and his crew traveled to the region around Mount St. Helens and used jeeps, radios and advanced gadgets of the period in their search. Funded by the National Wildlife Association, Morgan was desperate for results and even resorted to baiting Bigfoot traps with a nude female volunteer. Eventually, after spending more than $50,000, he was forced to dissolve the association.

In 1997, Peter Byrne, the Irishman who played a prominent role in Tom Slick's 1960 expedition in the Northwest (and the 1959 expeditions to Asia), created the Bigfoot Research Project. It was financed by the Academy of Applied Science of Boston and made use of a wide range of technology, including digital global positioning units, high tech cameras, night vision equipment and motion and heat sensors. Byrne also planned to use a special biopsy dart that could be shot at a Bigfoot and that was designed to take small blood, hair and tissue samples without injuring the creature. Byrne reasoned that with this evidence, along with the other samples collected over the years, he could conclusively prove the monster's existence. Unfortunately, the team failed to spot a creature, much less shoot one with the biopsy dart. Byrne dissolved the Project and has been on hiatus ever since.

Another important figure in Bigfoot research was the late Rene Dahinden, a Canadian who conducted numerous field investigations throughout the Northwest. As a supporter of the Patterson film, Dahinden worked hard to see that it got attention from the scientific community and from the public as well. His only book, Sasquatch (1973), was written by Don Hunter. Sadly, due to declining health Dahinden was forced to reduce his research in 1999. He passed away in 2002.

John Green is considered one of the leading researchers in the field, although has reportedly stopped cataloguing new accounts of Bigfoot sightings. Born in Canada in 1927, Green began investigating with Tom Slick, Rene Dahinden and others during the early days of Bigfoot research. He wrote a number of books on the subject, including Year of the Sasquatch, On the Track of the Sasquatch and Sasquatch: The Apes Among Us. He chronicled many famous cases (including Albert Ostman) and reportedly has gathered more than 2,000 sightings and several hundred incidents of footprint finds.

Grover Krantz was the first real scientist to become associated with the study of Bigfoot. He once wrote that "It is tantamount to academic suicide to become associated with any of these people" and yet he did so anyway. As a professor of Anthropology at Washington State University, he paid dearly for his fascination with the mysterious creature, by way of lost promotions and professional ridicule. By the end of his life though (he died in 2002), he no longer cared. He had first been convinced that there was something "out there" after the 1969 footprints that had been found near Bossburg, Washington. He and many other researchers, including Rene Dahinden and John Green, studied the tracks that had been left behind by "Cripplefoot", as they dubbed it, and while Krantz had little hope that Bigfoot was real at that point, he was soon to change his mind. The professor managed to bring back plaster casts of 17 inch feet, the right foot of which curved like a C and had enormous bunions and splayed toes. Nobody could have faked that, Krantz realized.

He came to believe that Bigfoot may have descended from the Gigantoithecus, a huge primate that roamed southern China more than 300,000 years ago. Its bones are part of the fossil record and it may have migrated to North America by way of the Bering Strait when it was still a land bridge. He thought it possible that some remnants of these creatures may have survived.

Today, there are still many researchers out there hunting for Bigfoot, hoping to bring back remains, tracks or anything else that will prove these creatures exist. As mentioned already, the reader is asked to judge the existence of these creatures for himself for short of incredible evidence, we can only surmise that the mysterious giants are out there in the forests of the Northwest. Until one is found though, they have to remain one of the greatest of the mysteries in the annals of the unexplained in America.

Copyright 2003 by Troy Taylor. All Rights Reserved.

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