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There is possibly no other creature in the annals of science (or non-science) that arouses more curiosity than Bigfoot. The case files contain thousands of reported sightings, yet no actual specimen has ever been found. Hundreds of photographs exist, but the creature has not been identified. Still, the clues accumulate year after year. In the words of one investigator, "It is an extremely complex phenomenon with no starting point and few geographical limits." If Bigfoot exists, and nothing short of the actual creature will suffice for most skeptics, then it most certainly must be a relative of man.
Although no one has ever managed to capture a live creature, or claimed the carcass of a dead one, it still does not follow that Bigfoot is a creation of the imagination. The legend of wild half-men is universal, reaching from the satyrs and centaurs of Greek mythology to Tarzan and others of modern fiction. Nearly every mountain range in the world has stories of shambling, manlike creatures with footprints too large to be human. Eyewitness reports and physical evidence is just a little too staggering---a little too overwhelming---to be tossed aside as mere tricks of the mind.
Descriptions of the apelike creature do not vary. Bigfoot is anywhere from six to ten feet tall, 300 to 1,000 pounds, and walks upright on two legs. Hair covers almost all of its body and ranges in color from black to silvery-white, with the predominant color being reddish-brown. The creature has a flat face and nose, a receding, sloped forehead with a prominent brow ridge, and a cone-shaped head which sits on broad shoulders with no apparent neck. Its proportions are roughly those of a human, except for its long dangling arms. Species? Unknown.
Bigfoot draws its name from the gigantic footprints it leaves behind...some as long as two feet by eight inches wide. The length of its stride varies, but the distance is usually close to four feet between prints. Seldom in the company of others of its kind, although there have been occasional sightings of families---two adults and one or more juveniles---it appears to be largely nocturnal, feasting on whatever it finds. Some researchers claim it is usually inactive in extremely cold weather, but since evidence of its existence is normally found at the higher elevations of densely forested, largely uninhabited mountain ranges, how would humans really know what its preferences are in the midst of winter?
When the first gorilla was seen by a white man early in the last century, the reaction to the news was one of astonishment. Native stories of such creatures were well-known, but generally viewed as mythology by the scientific community...until the actual discovery of the enormous, intelligent animals reminded man that there might really be living fossils tucked away in the remotest reaches of the world. It was a sobering thought and spawned a world-wide search of dense jungles and icy mountain habitats for other creatures hitherto unknown or thought extinct.
Also with the discovery of the gorilla, the hairy man legends once again aroused interest. This time, modern fossil hunters were amazed to discover that the legends spanned the globe. They found that the majority of the sightings were concentrated on two continents, Asia and North America. The stories were fascinating...and baffling. If the most intriguing and elusive creature walking upright on the earth inhabited both the mysterious mountains of the west coast of North America and the snowy vastness of the mighty Himalayas, were they one and the same species? Scientists wondered. Further, how could the Australian two-legged hairy beast, a wild man called the Yowie, be explained in a land with no native gorillas?
It turns out from analyzing the reported sightings and folklore, that the hairy man may be a varied and widespread clan encompassing every continent of the world. There seems to be three distinct types: small, large, and extra-large, all or none of which may be related. They go by many different names: Alma, Shookpa, Yowie, Meti, Kang-mi, Kaptar, to mention a few, with Bigfoot, Sasquatch, Yeti and Abominable Snowman the most commonly used by the western world. They all have one thing in common: an exceptionally big, human-like foot.
How, then, do these Bigfoots compare to one another? Are they different geographic races of the same species or several different types with nothing in common but big footprints, an upright stance, and lots of hair? John Green, the famous Sasquatch hunter, once theorized that the North American variety was a good deal larger than the others. He also believed that the Russian creature was taller than the Himalayan, although it might not be much heavier. But the real shock was his belief that the Himalayan creature, on the evidence of both its description and its footprints, was entirely unlike a human, whereas the Russian variety appeared to be very human indeed. The creatures called Bigfoot simply were not logical.
The earliest American report of Bigfoot seems to be the giant footprints discovered by well-known explorer and fur trader David Thompson in 1811. Trying to reach the mouth of the Columbia River by crossing the Rocky Mountains near Jasper, Alberta, Canada, he came across a trail of prints measuring nearly fourteen inches long by eight inches wide. (The toes themselves were almost four inches in length.) They were incredibly human-like with a distinct heel and five toes. He recorded all the information in his diary and later published a book, Narrative, which included his account of the first meeting with Bigfoot. The Indians in the area told him the tracks belonged to Sasquatch, the giant men living on Vancouver Island. Thompson never did find any giants, but since his time, many others have claimed to have seen creatures that could easily pass for one.
A few years later, the Yeti arrived on the Western scene when B. H. Hobson, a British naturalist, went to live among the Nepalese high in the mountains of the Himalayas. In 1832, he wrote about a tall, erect, apelike creature covered in red fur living in the remotest reaches of the high forest. He said the Sherpas called the creature yeh teh in their language, which meant "hairy man of the snow" or "mountain demon." He said they came in three sizes, meh teh, yeh teh, and deh teh, meaning large, extra-large, and giant. Although the news was not taken lightly, eminent scientists of the time thought Hobson was writing of the large Langur monkey or the Himalayan red bear, both of which are extremely reticent and seldom seen. His accounts were duly noted and ultimately dismissed.
It wasn't until 1887 that an outsider first saw direct evidence of the Himalayan Yeti. Another Briton, Major Lawrence Waddel of the Indian Army Medical Corps, wrote of seeing strange, gigantic footprints in Sikkim, footprints that the Sherpas said were "the trail of the great hairy wild men who live in the eternal snow." Mystified, Western man finally went searching.
The North American Bigfoot hit the news again in the 4 July 1884 issue of The British Daily Colonist newspaper, which served readers in British Columbia, Canada. According to the story, an engineer driving a train along the Fraser River between the towns of Lytton and Yale saw a body lying across the tracks ahead of the train. He managed to stop the train before hitting the body, but the squeal of the train's brakes frightened the creature and it fled to the nearby rocks. Crewmembers then chased the hairy beast across dangerous rock ledges before one of the crewmen managed to drop a heavy rock down on the creature's head, rendering it unconscious. Several of the men carried the beast back to the train.
"Jacko," as the creature was subsequently called, was four feet, seven inches tall and weighed 127 pounds. He was covered in dark hair all over his body, except for a small area around his eyes, palms of his hands, and soles of his feet. The creature also had long forearms. The examiner noted that Jacko was "something of the gorilla type." The only sound the creature made was "half bark and half growl."
Jacko was kept in a train car for the remainder of the trip to Yale and fed berries and milk. After being placed on exhibit in Yale, Jacko was sold to Barnum and Bailey's Circus, but he managed to escape before reaching his new circus home.
Theodore Roosevelt, a Deputy Sheriff of Billings, Montana, and no pushover for tall tales, heard the story of a great hairy creature roaming the wilderness of the Salmon River in Idaho. He wrote in his book, The Wilderness Hunter, of the incident in 1893. The story went that in the early 1850s, a solitary hunter had mysteriously been killed and half-eaten in a particularly wild and lonely pass in a remote mountain ridge dividing the Salmon River from the headwaters of the Wisdom River. A year after the grisly remains were found, two trappers decided to venture into the forbidding area to try their luck.
The men went upstream, set their traps, and returned at dusk to find their camp nearly destroyed. The only visible clue left by the intruder was a clear set of huge footprints indicating that whatever it was, it had walked upright, but was not human. Later that night, one of the men was awakened from deep slumber by a strong, wild-beast odor and turned over in his bedding to see a great body looming in the darkness at the mouth of the lean-to. He grabbed his rifle, shot at the shadow, and apparently missed, as he heard the thing smashing through the underbrush into the black night.
The next day the men again returned from their traps to find the camp destroyed. Most of the food was gone and everything else was generally messed up and scattered all over the area. Totally unnerved, they sat guard by the campfire all night, listening to moans, shrieks, whistles, and hisses from something staggering about in the darkness. At daybreak, they decided to collect their traps and leave.
When they had collected all but three of the traps, the men decided to split up in order to be out of the area by nightfall. It was agreed that one would work the traps, and the other would return to camp and pack up their belongings. The one working the traps found beaver in the last three, and by the time he had prepared them, the sun was low on the horizon. Keeping an uneasy eye on his surrounding, he warily returned to camp and yelled for his companion. Receiving no answer, he dropped his packs and cautiously searched the campsite.
He found the body of his friend stretched out beside the trunk of a great fallen spruce that they had been using as a repository for some of their non-perishable supplies. The body was still warm, but the neck was broken, and he could see four great fang marks in the throat. The human-like footprints of a great beast lay everywhere. Reading the signs, the trapper was able to determine that his friend had finished packing, built a fire, and then sat down on the log facing the fire with his back to the dense woods. The creature had not only killed his friend, "but apparently had also romped and gamboled around [the body] in uncouth, ferocious glee, occasionally rolling over and over it; and had then fled back into the soundless depths of the woods." According to Roosevelt, the man swore never again to return to Idaho's Salmon River.
The story caused a wild sensation and then gradually died, becoming no more than a tall tale to be told around campfires on dark nights---especially to tenderfoots and newcomers just arriving in the area. But after the turn of the century, newspapers began printing articles from other "credible witnesses" who claimed to see similar creatures in the Pacific Northwest. In fact, in 1902, a hairy, eight foot, upright creature wielding a club, terrified a group of ice skaters at a pond in Chesterfield, Idaho. Two years later, an entire Indian village abandoned their home on Vancouver Island because a "monkey-like wild man" took to spending the nights howling on the beach in an unearthly fashion.
As Bigfoot sightings increased, the number of skeptics did also, with most of the skeptics thinking the great hairy creatures were just legends from Indian mythology. They pointed out that the giant hominoids had been a part of American Indian traditions for centuries and the subject of at least 245 legends variously rooted in Canada and the United States---legends of giant men with cannibalistic natures and superhuman powers, including the ability to possess people and turn them into creatures like themselves. The legends bore names like O-mah and Seeahtik, Wendigo and Sasquatch.
In the late 1890s near the Chetco River in southern Oregon, a dozen loggers and their families encountered a great beast with disastrous results. Camping in tents by the river, the lumbermen would awaken each morning to find their freshly cut timber, logs which required three men to move, carelessly scattered about like matchsticks. Huge human footprints left in the damp earth were the only clues. Since they had been having trouble with bears, the men followed the footprints through the torn shrubbery and uprooted saplings until they disappeared.
That night, the loggers were awakened by shrill screams of something not quite human in the near underbrush. Seizing a rifle, one man lit a torch and headed into the darkness. He was quickly followed by several other men. In a very short time, the first man rushed back to collapse in terror at the feet of his tracking companions. He babbled incoherently about a hairy monster eight feet tall with yellow eyes, fangs, and hands like a man. His description put the camp in an uproar.
The next night, two men decided to track and kill the hairy intruder. They carried a small lantern and loaded rifles and disappeared into the darkness behind the tents. Back in camp, their friends heard screams and shrieks and the sounds of gunfire. Then...silence.
When the two men did not reappear, the other loggers grabbed lanterns and torches and, while firing their guns into the air, set out in search of their comrades. A half mile from camp, they found the scene of a desperate struggle. Broken and bleeding, arms and legs ripped from the torsos, their two friends lay scattered all over the place. They had been slammed against trees and torn into pieces by something with incredible strength. Blood dripped into small pools from branches high in the trees, as well as from the crushed greenery of the surrounding shrubs. But of the hairy creature responsible, there were only bloody footprints leading deep into the woods.
The loggers struck camp and left the area the next day. Professional hunters entered the forest in the days that followed, but found no sign of the creature.
The incident didn't stop lumberman Mike King from wanting to log a certain area of Vancouver Island in 1901. When his Indian workers refused to follow him because of the giant Sasquatch, he set out by himself with a rifle and a backpack to explore the area. Several days into the trip, King crossed a small hill and saw a hairy creature squatting by a stream. He lined up his rifle and through the sights he saw that the "bear" he was about to shoot was washing roots in the water and then stacking them in a neat pile on the riverbank. He was perplexed. Bears just didn't do things like that.
King hollered. The creature growled and shambled off on two legs, swinging long arms in pendulum fashion as it disappeared into the woods. When King investigated the riverbank, he found large human footprints in the damp earth.
In 1924, two amazing eyewitness reports lent more credibility to the North American Bigfoot myth, although one wasn't reported until 1957 when the Bigfoot phenomena was in its prime. Taken together, they provide astonishing insight into the creature's intelligence.
In the first report, miners in a canyon on the east side of Mount St. Helens in the Lewis River area of southwestern Washington State were alarmed to find huge footprints surrounding their cabin. The footprints looked human, having a distinguished heel and five toes, yet they were a foot-and-a-half long by eight inches wide. Where the ground wasn't covered with pine needles and other forest vegetation, some of the prints sank an inch or more into the soft dirt of the forest floor. Realizing that no human could possibly make such prints, the miners were baffled---and more than a little frightened.
A week later, unnerved by days of strange whistling and thumping sounds emanating from the nearby ridges, one of the miners shot at a huge, hairy apelike creature peeking from behind a tree. He wounded it in the head, and it lumbered off, shrieking and moaning in a frightful manner. Later, another miner named Fred Beck accidentally ran into a huge hairy creature on his way back from the coal mine. He panicked and shot the beast three times before it fell over the edge of a giant cliff. He raced to camp, mustered several men and returned to the cliff. Climbing to the bottom of the canyon in search of the creature's body, the men found nothing. That night, the real nightmare began.
As the miners nervously stood guard, something attacked the cabin, battering at the roof and walls in an attempt to break in. All through the night, the onslaught continued. The miners heard wood being ripped from the cabin walls, and heavy objects sounding like large rocks crashing on the roof. There was even a concentrated effort to bash in the door. But the cabin had been built to withstand heavy snowfalls. It had no windows, and with the door braced from the inside, whatever was outside was unable to get in.
Beck and his friends knocked out some chinks between logs and fired their rifles into the blackness. The attack continued, and the cabin shook from the pounding. The men kept shooting, becoming sick as the room filled with gunsmoke. When dawn finally crept over the treetops, the creatures left---and so did the miners. They abandoned both cabin and mine. None of the men could say what had really attacked the cabin, but they agreed that there were at least two creatures involved.
Newspaper reporters visited the scene later and wrote of giant footprints found in the dirt. The place, appropriately named Ape Canyon after the incident, became a place of mystery and fear. Unfortunately for today's seekers, if the creatures did live in the area, the eruption of nearby Mount St. Helens in 1986 buried any evidence in a deep layer of ash.
The second astonishing event from 1924 concerned Albert Ostman, a British Columbian logger and construction worker. While on a prospecting vacation looking for a lost gold mine rumored to be at the head of Toba Inlet opposite Vancouver Island, he listened to the natives tell of an old Indian legend about huge hairy beings---called Sasquatch---living in the mountains near where the mine was supposed to be. Being a skeptic, he refused to take the Indian fables of "big people" seriously. It was a decision he would later regret.
Starting out on foot with all the supplies he could carry, the thirty-year-old Ostman hiked for a week before settling on a likely area to prospect. He made camp near a spring between two tall cypress trees...and immediately things began to disappear in the night. After several nights of being robbed, he determined to stay awake and find out what kind of creature was making off with his supplies. He took off his boots and crawled into his sleeping bag fully dressed. He then pulled his boots and rifle in beside him.
Around midnight, just as he was beginning to doze, he was rudely snatched up, bag and all, "like a sack of potatoes, the only thing in sight being a huge hand clutching the partly closed neck of the bag." Before he could move, he was in the air and tossed over a broad shoulder. After hours of uncomfortable travel "hunched down on the bottom of the sleeping bag...sitting on my feet and my legs ached terribly," and while trying vainly to reach his knife and cut himself free, he was unceremoniously dumped on the ground. With dawn approaching, he clambered out, and found himself in the company of what appeared to be a family of Sasquatch giants from the Indian legend---father, mother, son, and daughter. The creatures made no effort to hurt him, but it was clear they did not want him to escape.
The "old man" (Ostman's term) was eight feet tall and had a large hump on his back. The mother was seven feet tall with "very wide hips and a goose-like walk. She was not built for beauty or speed." She weighed nearly 600 pounds. The son was almost full-grown at seven feet tall and 300 pounds. The daughter was young and kept a good distance from Ostman. All were covered in hair except for the palms of their hands, soles of their feet, and an area at the upper part of the nose and around the eyelids.
He was trapped in a tiny valley and the only way out was a ten-foot wide gap at the far end. While the mother and son did the chores and food-gathering, the father and daughter kept watch over Ostman. The creatures ate grass and roots while Ostman cooked from his dwindling food supply. The creatures slept under homemade blankets of cedar bark strips woven together while their "guest" slept in his sleeping bag.
After six days, Ostman decided he had had enough. He waited until the older male grabbed the chewing tobacco, and then fired his gun. The loud noise startled the creatures, and as the older male choked on the tobacco, Ostman made good his escape. Ostman told no one of his adventure until 1957 when Bigfoot phenomena was seriously being studied, rightly reasoning that he would not be believed. Swearing before a Justice of the Peace in Ft. Langley, British Columbia, on 20 August 1957, Ostman became the only man ever to live with a Bigfoot---and live to tell about it.
In late autumn of 1928, another man claimed to have been kidnapped by a Sasquatch in British Columbia. Muchalat Harry, a trapper and a giant of a man, was scooped up from his camp in the dead of night, wearing only his underwear, and carried several miles by a Bigfoot. At daybreak, he found himself surrounded by a crowd of the apelike creatures, male and female, at a campsite that was also littered with large bones. Completely terrified and thinking himself about to join the huge bone pile, Harry bolted when the creatures went on a food-foraging expedition that afternoon.
Harry said he was in such a panic that he raced right past his own camp without stopping to dress, traveled another ten miles to the river, retrieved his hidden canoe, and paddled non-stop the forty-five miles back to his native Indian village of Nootka. He never again went trapping in the woods. In fact, he never again stepped out of the village. His priest said Harry was in such a state of nerves that the slightest noise would send him shrieking in terror to the comparative safety of the church.
It was also in the 1920s that an international mania for mountaineering occurred among the unknown peaks of the Himalayas. These expeditions sent more details of the remarkable Yeti back to the eagerly awaiting Western journalists, and one of them coined the now famous phrase, "Abominable Snowman."
It so happened that the Nepalese villagers, Tibetian lamas, and hardy Sherpas had centuries of recorded history which claimed that something half-human and half-beast lived on the upper slopes of the icy mountain ridges. They claimed the Yeti was not a man, nor did it live in the snow. Instead, the animal's home was deep in almost impenetrable thickets in the highest Himalayan forests between 12,000 and 20,000 feet. Tibetian lama monasteries even claimed to have scalps, skins, and mummified remains of the creatures, only Westerners were forbidden to remove any of the relics for analysis.
One British explorer, however, did manage to swap a finger from a human skeleton with a finger from one of the relics, tying the human finger to the relic with a thin piece of wire. He smuggled the finger to England, where it could not be identified by a friend in the medical profession. Ironically, when the lamas finally did consent to a Western evaluation of some of the remains, it was this substituted human finger that gave cause for the scientific community to declare the entire collection a hoax. The scientists also discovered the so-called "Yeti scalps" were, in fact, ox hide and hair. But it is also true that the scientists weren't given everything to examine---only a few select pieces. Maybe the lamas intended to keep their true relics sacred from prying Western eyes?
All Himalayan villagers described the Yeti as big, sometimes as tall as twelve feet, and manlike, yet extremely agile. It walked erect with a loping gait, and was covered in thick, reddish-brown hair. They were said to be shy and to approach human habitation only when driven by hunger. Their diet was mainly lichen and rodents, and the Sherpas said they disemboweled their prey before eating it...a distinctly human trait. The Sherpas also reported that the females had breasts so huge and droopy that they had to throw them back over their shoulders in order to run properly. This exaggeration seemed to suggest that the creatures' protuberant rather than flat breasts ruled out the higher order of primates---the gorillas, chimpanzees, and orangutans---and made the creatures seem more like humans.
The scientific community was in an uproar, yet no one was able to provide evidence of its existence. No one, that is, until Colonel C. K. Howard-Bury became the first European to see one.
Colonel Howard-Bury was leading a British expedition attempting to scale Mount Everest when he spotted a strange group of creatures at about 17,000 feet on the Lhapka-la Pass. Reaching the spot, his party found enormous footprints in the snow, "each of them about three times the size of a normal human print." Although the Sherpas said the tracks were those of the Yeti, the Colonel remained skeptical. Despite his own description of the prints, he finally attributed them to a wolf.
In 1925, Russian troops in the midst of post-Revolution upheaval pursued defeated White Army soldiers into the Vanch mountains of the Pamirs. The Pamirs are the icy chunks of mountain ridges lying between Afghanistan and China---one of the reported "hiding places" of the elusive man-beasts. After several days, the soldiers encountered giant footprints of something not quite human which they suspected belonged to the wild-men. But the soldiers were not looking for Yeti, and they never really expected to see one. That is...until the day they accidentally shot one.
Firing into a cave suspected of hiding the enemy, the soldiers were astonished to see a strange hairy creature stagger out, howling loudly and hideously. They instantly killed it. After carefully examining the corpse, the Russian leader thought the specimen was some kind of a man. The medical officer stated otherwise. No one could identify the species, and it was finally accepted to be that of the Alma, regarded by the peoples of that remote region as a lowly sort of human being.
The male corpse was covered in grayish-brown fur, except for the face, palms, and feet. The soldiers reported that its skin on the hands, knees, and feet was coarse and thickly calloused. The face was dark, with dark eyes, and it had a heavy, sloping brow, prominent cheekbones, "a flattened nose, and a massive lower jaw." The teeth appeared to be those of a human, and its torso was much like that of a man. Unable to carry the heavy body down the slopes, the soldiers buried it under a pile of stones. Scientists, reading the description months later, decided it matched that of Neanderthal Man, but an expedition to find the burial cavity went fruitless.
Many years later in 1937, the first photograph allegedly showing the Yeti's footprint was taken by Frank Smythe and published around the world. It was inconclusive and still no documentary evidence of the strange creature's existence, but it did fire the imagination, and full-scale Yeti hunts began to earnestly comb the mountainsides for proof.
Then on 8 November 1951, British mountaineers Eric Shipton and Michael Ward were climbing in the Gauri Sankar range of Mount Everest with their Sherpa guide, Sen Tensing, when the trio stumbled over a fresh trail of unusual, human-like footprints in the snow on the Men-lung Glacier at 18,000 feet. The prints extended for a mile along the edge of the ice mass, and as the trail descended into shallow, crystalline snow, the prints became increasingly firm and distinct. Shipton decided to photograph the clearest and sharpest of the prints. He used Ward's boot as a scale in one photograph and an ice axe as a scale in another.
The pictures were of a footprint not quite human, more than thirteen inches long by eight inches wide, and having an exceptionally broad heel with five toes, one of which was greatly enlarged. Later analysis indicated a creature about eight feet tall. Shipton, no stranger to tracks in the snow or the effects of melting ice, said he was convinced of the existence of a large apelike creature, either "quite unknown to science or at least not included in the known fauna of central Asia." His impeccable credentials convinced many.
Two years later when Mount Everest was finally conquered by Sir Edmund Hillary and Sherpa Sen Tensing, Hillary also found giant footprints scattered about in the snow. But Hillary always denied the existence of the Yeti. He even led the World Book Encyclopedia expedition in 1960 to prove it. The result was that no Yeti was found, and Hillary maintained it was because the Yeti did not exist. Even as recently as 1989, on the BBC/PBS program, Search for the Yeti, he was still repeating some of the same old tired, unsupportable arguments for why Yeti does not exist. Often his remarks reflected the notion that the Sherpas are somewhat foolish for believing there's something real behind it all.
It was 1958 when Bigfoot hunting took a giant step forward in the United States. Road construction workers near Bluff Creek in Humboldt County in northwestern California found huge footprints in the freshly turned dirt near their bulldozers. They were building Bluff Creek Road through the heart of Bigfoot country, clearing land in places where no man had gone before, and the footprints appeared each morning for a week, baffling the workmen. Other strange things also began happening up and down the construction site.
Concrete culverts measuring forty-eight inches across and weighing hundreds of pounds were being torn out of their fresh beds and thrown into nearby streams. The main supply truck carrying dozens of the culverts was flipped completely over onto its roof, scattering culverts all over the place and ruining most of the pipes. Two crews of workmen had difficulty just turning the truck back onto its wheels. Workers at another site were puzzled by the disappearance of a 55-gallon drum of diesel fuel weighing more than 300 pounds. The drum was finally located in a ravine where it had been tossed, not rolled, in. Gigantic human footprints were scattered all over the place. At a line shack, one worker came face to face with Bigfoot. The man reached behind him, felt across the counter top for a chocolate bar, and offered the candy to the beast. Bigfoot took the candy and walked away. The man ran in the opposite direction.
Finally one of bulldozer operators, Jerry Crew, decided to make a plaster cast of one of the larger prints. He then had his picture taken holding the cast. The resulting picture showed a footprint that stretched from Crew's shoulder to his waist. The cast measured sixteen inches long by seven inches wide, and the great weight of the creature that made it had sank the print two inches into the dirt.
On 5 October 1958, the Humboldt Times ran a full-page picture of Crew and his plaster cast. The picture and the story were picked up by local newspapers and then spread like tentacles all over the country. It was Jerry Crew holding that enormous cast of a footprint that really brought the creature to the attention of the people of the United States---and made Bigfoot a household word.
It was also in the early 1950s that Tom Slick, a millionaire Texas oilman, visionary, inventor, and world traveler, led and sponsored several major expeditions to the Himalayas in search of the Yeti. He assembled a world-wide group of consultants to examine and analyze the evidence gathered by his Nepalese expeditions. An insatiable cryptozoologist, Slick also financed and led extensive investigations into the Pacific Northwest in the quest for Bigfoot. He died in 1962 in a mysterious plane crash in Montana. With his death, Bigfoot research came to a screeching halt for nearly ten years.
Up until the 1950s, most of the Bigfoot sightings in North America occurred mainly in the Pacific Northwest of the United States and Canada. But as logging and other types of construction advanced deeper into the untamed forests all across America, reported sightings began to surface in practically all the mountain states. The description of the giant beasts were always the same: a great, unidentifiable, hairy apelike person stalking the upper slopes and dense underbrush. Reports of a similar "Boggy Creek" Bigfoot also surfaced in the swamplands of the Deep South, Boggy Creek being used in reference to the cult movie, The Legend of Boggy Creek, which is about the Foulk, Arkansas, Bigfoot.
It should be pointed out that one of the main reasons the general population (not the skeptics, who still considered Bigfoot a fake) began to take these reported sightings seriously was that news services all across America no longer reported the great hoax stories that circulated around the turn of the century. Also, witnesses no longer had a deep fear of being ridiculed by their peers. Indeed, sighting Bigfoot was a sort of status symbol eagerly sought by most individuals.
As the eyewitness reports became more frequent, lay investigators began venturing into the brush hoping to glimpse one of the elusive beasts. Distinguished men like John Green, Ivan Sanderson, and John Napier sought out witnesses, tried to find patterns in the data of the sightings, and wrote articles and books about their findings. One book, Abominable Snowmen: Legend Come to Life, by cryptozoologist Ivan T. Sanderson, published in 1961, was the first of its kind to discuss Bigfoot in any comprehensive manner, linking the North American reports with the worldwide traditions of "wild men, Almas, and Yeti."
Then the seemingly impossible happened. In late 1967, Bigfoot was captured on film...twenty-eight feet of glorious 16mm color film taken from three different vantage points.
The amateur cameraman was Roger Patterson. A 1959 article in True magazine had sparked his interest in the creature and whenever time permitted, he roamed the Pacific Northwest woods with motion-picture camera in hand. Early in the afternoon of 20 October 1967, he and a companion, Bob Gimlin, rode their horses northward up the partly dry bed of Bluff Creek in the Six Rivers National Forest of northern California. They were patrolling sandbars on which Bigfoot tracks had previously been seen. The area was a virtual hotbed of Bigfoot sightings, becoming something of a weekend tourist attraction, and the men hoped to film fresh tracks or the creature itself for a documentary Patterson was preparing.
At one point, a large pile of logs in the center of the stream obstructed their view and interfered with their progress to such an extent that they had to detour around the logs to the east. As they passed the logs and veered back to the left to resume their northward course, they saw something that engulfed them in a controversy which, decades later, has yet to end.
A Bigfoot, squatting in the creek water, stood up at the sound of the approaching horses, and briskly ambled up into the trees, swinging its arms to and fro in pendulum fashion. The horses panicked, and Patterson's reared and fell sideways to the ground. As he rolled free, Patterson frantically groped for his movie camera in the saddlebag and raced up the slope after the creature, leaving Gimlin to recover the spooked horses.
Patterson stopped from a distance of about eighty feet and began filming. He managed to shoot a few clear frames that showed a heavily built creature, about seven feet tall, three feet across the shoulders, and covered in black hair. It walked smoothly with its knees bent the way a human does. When the creature turned to look back at Patterson, it revealed large, drooping breasts. The face was flat and hairy, with heavy brow ridges. The head was peaked at the back in a cone-shape, and sat right on the shoulders with no evidence of any neck.
The creature continued up into the brush. It left footprints fourteen-and-a-half inches long. Patterson and Gimlin made two crisp casts and several still photographs of the tracks.
The first investigator on the site, Bob Titmus, found tracks corresponding exactly to the creature's route as depicted in the film and made casts of ten of them. He also discovered the creature had gone up the hillside and sat down for a period, apparently to watch Patterson and Gimlin as they worked.
Then the controversy started. Investigator John Green, who wrote a very good book in 1973 on Sasquatch called On the Track of the Sasquatch, reported that analysis of the Patterson material revealed no evidence of fraud. Naturalist and primate biologist Dr. John Napier, equally cognizant of Sasquatch and who also wrote a very fine book on the creature in 1973 called Bigfoot: The Yeti and Sasquatch in Myth and Reality, disagreed. The disagreement seemed to stem from the crucial matter of the speed at which the film was shot and the apparent height of the creature.
Patterson said he could not remember if the film speed was twenty-four feet or sixteen feet per second. It does make a difference. If the film was shot at sixteen feet per second, according to a British biomechanics specialist, D.W. Grieve, then the cycle time and the time of swing were in a typical human combination. They were also much longer in duration than expected for the stride and the pattern of limb movement. It meant that if sixteen feet per second was the proper film speed, the creature's stride was very different to that of humans and the figure could not be a man in an ape suit. The possibility of fakery would be ruled out. But at twenty-four feet per second, the creature walked with a gait pattern very similar to a man walking at high speed.
The height of the creature was also important. Patterson estimated the height at seven feet, four inches. Painstaking on-site reconstruction estimated it at slightly under six feet, six inches. John Napier claimed either height was inconsistent with the size of the footprints---that only an animal in the size range of eight feet could have made fourteen-inch tracks. He also pointed out that the spacing between one footprint and the next was forty-one inches, and he believed that a creature six feet, five inches in height should have a step of forty-five inches, particularly, as it was seen in the film, when it was striding out. He also called attention to the exaggerated nature of the walk, summing that the step should be somewhat longer than the normal, or about fifty inches. His conclusion was that the footprints were fakes...or the film was.
It was most confusing. John Napier believed in the integrity of Patterson. In fact, he stated that he didn't believe Patterson was deliberately lying. But he just couldn't believe in the film. On the other hand, John Green claimed that the creature's walk was actually much smoother than a normal man's because the knee was bent as the weight came on it. He said a walking man would bob up and down as the body went over the top of the straightened leg, but the Sasquatch in the film moved in a flowing fashion. "It [the leg] is much straighter when she is reaching out in full stride than when it is bearing her full weight."
The controversy raged with strong evidence for both sides. If foot size and stride length did not match for the creature's height and gait to be that of a biped taking normal strides to which it was accustomed, then what exactly was it? No one could say. But although the small community of Bigfoot investigators were in disagreement on that issue, among others, they were in full agreement on one matter: Patterson and Gimlin simply were not bright enough to pull off a hoax of that magnitude.
The film, shown worldwide, renewed interest in the elusive creatures, and Bigfoot-hunting became a national pastime. Also later that same year in Oregon, a family of "ape-men" was reported to have been seen picking through a rock pile for hibernating rodents and then eating them "like bananas." Investigation by authorities did seem to support the claim, since huge boulders were tossed aside and deep tunnels were dug out of the hillside, but no evidence of Bigfoot was found.
What really impressed everyone, though, occurred not long afterward in Bossburg, Washington. Footprints found in October 1969 by butcher Joe Rhodes and reported to Sasquatch hunters Ivan Marx and Rene Dahinden showed something totally unexpected. In evaluating the material provided by the two investigators, John Napier studied 1,089 footprints measuring seventeen-and-a-half inches by seven inches. What was so astonishing was that the creature had a deformed right foot---a clubfoot---which Napier thought was from a crushing injury to the foot in early infancy. Napier claimed it would be very difficult to conceive of a hoaxer "so subtle, so knowledgeable---and so sick---who would deliberately fake a footprint of this nature." He discounted the footprints as fakes.
Suddenly, from coast to coast, border to border, sightings made headlines. In the autumn of 1967 in Marietta, Washington, a man night fishing the the Nooksack River felt a tug on his net. He pulled in the net and at the end of it was a dripping wet Bigfoot. Four other fishermen helped separate the Bigfoot from the net. Apparently, the creature was after the fish in the net.
In Munroe, Michigan, seventeen-year-old Christine Van Acker and her mother, Mrs. George Owens, almost ran down a Bigfoot standing in the middle of the road. Christine was driving. She slammed on the brakes, the car died, and before she could restart it, the creature reached through the open driver's window and grabbed her by the hair. Somehow in the struggle that ensued, Christine suffered a black eye. The creature was identified as being well over seven feet tall and smelling like rotten eggs.
Tina Barone, thirteen, from Yale, Michigan, literally ran into a Bigfoot in her barn. Her family had been terrorized for weeks by something tearing down fences, ripping doors off the barn, and howling and shrieking at all hours of the night. When Tina went to check on the livestock, the barn was dark. She reached for the light switch and plowed her fingers through "fur that was about one inch thick and all matted and dirty."
The Lake Worth monster, sighted in 1969 outside Fort Worth, Texas, in Possum Kingdom State Park touched off the biggest monster hunt in Texas history, surpassing the great headless horseman hunt of South Texas in the late 1840s. (See the story of The Headless Horseman under Ghost Legends on this site.) The Lake Worth creature was described as a biped, about seven feet tall, and covered with short white fur. One tall teenager, who happened to be wearing white coveralls during the search, was actually shot in the shoulder by one enthusiastic monster hunter.
The Missouri Mo-Mo surfaced in 1971 when two girls, traveling along Route 70 from Hannibal to St. Louis, encountered the creature at a roadside park where they stopped to have lunch. They first noticed a smell "like a family of skunks," and turned to see a huge, hairy beast staring at them from a thicket behind the picnic table. The girls raced to the car, hopped in, only to discover they had left the ignition keys behind on the table. The creature followed them. The girls described it as "ape-like, except that it was also human. It walked upright on two feet and its arms dangled way down." Honking the horn discouraged the beast and when it left, the girls retrieved their keys and drove away as quickly as they could.
When the Florida Skunk Ape was sighted in 1973, it made the national news on all major television networks. One man said he actually hit the creature with his car while driving home from work late one night. He claimed to have hurt it, and it limped off into the swamp. Police examined his car and found it damaged with traces of blood and fur on the car. Right after the story aired, an engineer and archaeologist, H.C. Osborn, told of his encounter with the creature while excavating an Indian mound in the Big Cypress Swamp. The creature left gigantic footprints in the soft earth, prints that measured seventeen-and-a-half inches long by eleven-and-a-quarter inches across at the toes. It was covered in reddish-brown fur.
In the early 1980s, a set of footprints were found with dermal ridges or fingerprints, which animals don't have and which monkeys, apes, and human beings do. A U.S. Forest Service ranger named Bill Freeman, driving his route through the Blue Mountains in the Walla Walla Ranger District of the Umatilla National Forest of southeastern Washington and northeastern Oregon, decided to leave his vehicle to check a herd of elk for calves among the herd. Rounding a curve, he was overcome by a powerful stench and looked around to spot a Bigfoot less than 200 yards distant. When the area was examined two hours later, twenty-one prints, measuring fourteen inches long by seven inches wide, were found where the eight-and-a-half-foot tall creature had been.
Seven days later, Joel Hardin, a U.S. Border Patrol tracking expert and a Bigfoot skeptic, examined the prints and pronounced them hoaxes, mainly because they showed evidences of dermal, or skin ridges, on the soles of the feet. The prints also showed sweat pores and wear patterns, anatomical details almost impossible to duplicate, even by the cleverest of hoaxers. But Hardin refused to be swayed.
However, the day after Freeman had his encounter, a five-man search party was in the area looking for a boy who had disappeared the previous fall. They were following up on the "powerful stench" Freeman had reported. Although they weren't looking for Bigfoot, they discovered and tracked a trail beyond the twenty-one footprints found by the U.S. Forest Service. The tracks were discernible for three-quarters of a mile. "It would not be possible to fake the tracks without a helicopter," reported Art Snow, a local businessman who headed the search.
Anthropologist Grover Krantz of Washington State University studied four casts from the area, including one that Art Snow had made. The casts showed feet about fifteen inches long with toes nearly equal in size. The arches were nearly flat, and a double ball was visible at the base of the big toe. The estimated weight of the creature was more than 600 pounds. After careful analysis, Krantz declared that the prints were from two individuals. One had a big toe larger than that in the average Bigfoot track and the second specimen had a "splayed-out second toe." He was particularly taken by the dermal ridges, which he thought were visible because of the exceptional clarity of the prints.
Pointing to the bone impressions in the plaster casts, Krantz noted that the ankle seemed to be moved further forward on the foot than that of any other known primate, including man and gorillas. Such an evolutionary shift forward, Krantz maintained, would be necessary to support the great weight of the creature, another key detail fake prints would most assuredly overlook.
Another sighting making national news was the Colorado Bigfoot in the Pike National Forest. Dan Masias of Green Mountain Falls saw two of the creatures running down the road in front of his house the evening of 28 March 1987. He had been noticing strange footprints in the snow around his house for several days and determined to find out what kind of creature was making them.
Staying up late watching television with his son, he looked out his window around midnight and saw two large creatures running down the road. He said one was small, about five-and-a-half feet tall, and the other creature was about six fee tall. The creatures were covered in hair and as they ran, the long dangling arms swung back and forth in a pendulum motion. The road was covered in new-fallen snow, and tracks revealed human-like footprints.
After Masias's encounter made the headlines, others in the same general area came forward with similar stories. Then in early August 1988, a cabin was broken into by a large animal. When the owner rushed to the back porch, the intruder had vanished, but the cabin door had sustained considerable damage. Whatever had broken in had left tufts of dark hair snagged in the screen door. The hair was sent to a diagnostic laboratory at the University of California at San Francisco.
Doctor Jerold Lowenstein, who conducted the tests, reported that the hairs did not match any of the larger animals like deer and bear. It only reacted with the primates, and of the primates, it only reacted with the hominoids. There are only five hominoids: human, chimpanzee, gorilla, orangutan, and gibbon. He eliminated everything except human and chimpanzee. His conclusion was that it was a large animal closely related to human or chimpanzee. "And, it's hard to see how that could have escaped detection over thousands of years."
Be that as it may, the coelacanth, a prehistoric fish dating back at least 350 million years, was long thought to be extinct until fishermen accidentally caught one off the coast of South Africa in the Indian Ocean in 1938, and the Stone Age Tasaday tribe lived virtually undetected in the jungles of the Philippines until they were accidentally discovered in 1971. The pygmy hippopotamus found in the jungles of Liberia in 1912, the kouprey or wild ox found along the Mekong River in Cambodia in 1937, the mountain nyala found in the high mountains of Ethiopia in 1910, and the Komodo dragon or giant monitor lizard found on the island of Komodo, Indonesia, in 1912 are other recent discoveries of hitherto unknown wildlife. Even as recently as 1975, the discovery of the long-nosed peccary, a relative of the pig, was made in Paraguay. Why not Bigfoot?
In July 1988, seventeen-year-old Christopher Davis was terrorized by a creature known as "Lizard Man" at the Scape Ore Swamp in Lee County, South Carolina. Located near the sleepy community of Bishopsville, about 100 miles south of Charlotte, the creature was reported to be seven feet tall and weigh nearly 1,000 pounds, having long arms, skin like a lizard, and covered in fur. It left footprints of fourteen inches long by seven inches wide and more than two inches deep in the mud.
According to Davis, who was driving his father's car from Bishopsville to his home in nearby Brownstown at dusk, he had just passed the swamp when the car had a flat. Pulling over to the side of the road and fixing the tire, he was putting the tools away when he saw something running across the field toward him. It had red glowing eyes.
Ignoring everything, Davis jumped in the car, tried to slam the door shut, and engaged in a tug-of-war with the creature, which had grabbed the partially rolled-down car window. "I could see him from the neck down---three big fingers, long black nails. He was strong." Davis finally got the door shut and took off with the creature chasing him in his car at speeds of 40 mph. The creature then jumped on the roof of the car and "I could see his fingers through the front windshield where they curled around the roof." Davis accelerated and swerved, and the creature tumbled off into the darkness. By the time he got home, Davis was so hysterical he wouldn't even get out of the car to go to the house until his parents came to the door in response to his frantic honking. Chris' father, Tommy, investigated the car the next day. He found a wing mirror "twisted round funny" and scratches on the roof.
The latest report indicates there is a Bigfoot burial ground in the Oregon wilderness. In July 1993, an archaeologist and four assistants searching for Indian relics east of Seneca in the Malheur National Forest stumbled on a large skull fragment that had apparently been exposed by wind and rain. They began digging, and were baffled by the size of the skeletons they dug up. They finally decided that the skeletons, which stood between eight and nine feet tall, must have come from creatures weighing as much as 600 pounds. Putting two and two together, they decided the skeletons belonged to Bigfoots. There were hundreds of the creatures buried in the Bigfoot cemetery. True? Who knows. However, the archaeologist, Dr. Jan Margate, claimed their suspicions were confirmed when they analyzed DNA samples from bone fragments they recovered from the ground. The skulls and bones were found to belong to creatures that were neither ape nor human, but something in between. Some bones were several centuries old, and others were as recent as two years. Doctor Margate's observations, which appeared in Weekly World News for 10 August 1993, indicated that she thought the creatures possessed an intelligence and spiritual awareness far beyond that of apes and other animals.
There are, in fact, some scientists who believe that Bigfoot might be the "missing link" in the evolution of man. They claim the creature might be related to either Neanderthal Man or Java Man, both of whom are presumed to be extinct. These scientists theorize that it is possible that one group survived and might have evolved into what is now called a Bigfoot. It would also account for the opinions of many Asians that the strange creature is a lowly form of man.
Bigfoot sightings now number about one per month from everywhere in the world, and even with the discovery of the cemetery, comprehensive proof of Bigfoot's existence is still elusive. A fragment of skin, a patch of hair, a few drops of blood...these are about all that scientists ever get to study. All that can be said for certain is that the creatures are too large to be men, and too much evidence exists for them to be myths. Until hard physical evidence does appear---like a live specimen or decomposing remains of a dead one---skeptics will continue to doubt. But skeptics have occasionally been wrong.


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