Sooner or later I'd get to this. Surely it comes as no surprise, in fact I think I stated it in my initial post, but I started watching In Search Of... and reading books on UFOs, the Loch Ness Monster, Bigfoot, and the Yeti when I was a mere 6 years old. In fact, it was a book on the Yeti that kicked my Fortean interest into motion, much to the disdain of parents and teachers alike.
In the summer of 1980, my Grandmother called me. She lives in the southwest corner of Ohio and was excited to tell me that Bigfoot had been seen in their area. Yep, the sightings were in all the local papers. With the large stretch of woods at the far back end of their property, visits to my grandparents' farm were never the same for us young Nichols boys.
Fast-forward to summer of 1988. I was approaching 18 and in an effort to fit in with "teenage cool" (and failing miserably at it, I might add), I stayed as far away from things like Bigfoot as I could. Again we were at my grandparents house and I was talking with my Grandfather. How we got on the subject of Bigfoot I have no recollection, but Grandpa told me this: "I do believe there really are such creatures and they were in Ohio at that time. I've talked to guys who saw it back then and I...I just don't think they'd make up something like that." It is impossible for me to quantify the love and respect I have for my Grandfather. And being that he shared the grounded, "no nonsense" approach to life that many of "The Greatest Generation" had, this bold statement of his caught me a bit unawares. Ever since, my interest in both Bigfoot and cryptozoology has slowly crept back.
Ah Bigfoot. I have never seen a phenomenon with such marvelous evidence on one hand and a complete dearth of it on the other. Let's take a look at the supportive evidence first:
-Accounts of Bigfoot-type creatures, sasquatches, predate the arrival of Europeans on these shores. Many works of Native American art depict humans, wildlife such as bears, and then a large humanoid shape among them. There are also rather ape-like masks among the tribes of the Pacific Northwest.
-There's all of those footprints. Obviously there have been many fakes, but there those casts that have intricate details, such as dermal ridges and even broken and unset bones in one case. One primate researcher compiled a survey of all the yet to be disproved footprint casts that she could. She plotted all the finds out on a graph, based on length, width, and other characteristics. What she got back was a bell-shaped curve. This only happens with a living species.
-Samples of alleged Bigfoot hair have come back with no known match in the zoological database. The closest they've come to an identification is "some kind of ape."
Now for the con:
-Just where the hell is Bigfoot in the fossil record? Anthropologists have yet to find any hominid that would even come close to fitting the bill. Sasquatch enthusiasts point to Gigantopithecus, but that creature's skeleton, though quite incomplete, does not suggest a bipedal animal.
-We've never found a dead one. Related to the above point, it seems that someone at one point or another should have found a bone or two, or maybe even hit one with their car.
-With the dense population of North America, it would seem most unlikely that any kind of large primate could go on living undiscovered. For the species to have gone on living for this long, it would need to have a sizable breeding population. We should be tripping over them.
Not all of those cons are entirely dissuasive. Thanks to my Dad, I've traveled to the habitats of every major land animal in North America, except for the polar bear. Never once have I seen a dead one. When an animal dies, nature takes care of it pretty quickly.
As for fossils, paleo research involves a great deal of guesswork with the finds. All we've found of Gigantopithecus is its enormous jaw. We extrapolated the rest from there. If you had never seen an elephant before and found the skull of one, you'd probably assume it had very large nostrils for there is no evidence for a trunk.
Then there is the Patterson-Gimli film, the 8mm movie where the iconic picture above is from. This film has been pronounced a fake and then authentic so many times that I'm about to get whiplash.
"It's a guy in a suit."
"No one could get the biomechanics of ape movement down like that. Look. It turns its whole upper body like a gorilla."
"When you're in that suit, you have to turn your entire body."
"Look at the detail of the musculature."
"The guy in the suit AND Patterson admitted it was faked."
"There've been about 50 guys who claimed to be the one in the suit and there is no such documented statement from Patterson."
"Well...this time it's for reals."
"The object of hoaxing is money and notoriety. Patterson got a bit of that last half, but died fairly broke. Gimli wishes they'd never even shot the film."
"Teams of special FX experts have no idea how that could have been faked back in the 1960s."
"Those statements have never been verified."
And back and forth it goes, seesaw seesaw seesaw. Seems the verdict on the Patterson-Gimli film is much like that of Bigfoot itself: murky at best.
Is it real? I have no idea. I'd really like it to be, but the absence of a body or any kind of fossil deals a sharp blow to the evidence or lack thereof. But just maybe...
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