Friday, August 25, 2017

This Sunday in 1958, a legend was born

On August 28th, 1958, a legend entered the American popular consciousness.

And a six year-old Jon Nichols couldn't have been happier.

A construction crew was building a road near Bluff Creek, California. Jerry Crew, one of the workers, arrived on the site amid the tall pines early that morning on the 28th. He was shocked at what he found. Next to his bulldozer was a trail of 16-inch long footprints in the mud. Eventually, plaster casts were made of the prints (see above pic). Someone informed a local newspaper and the paper ran a story, calling the mysterious maker of footprints, "Bigfoot." Although the article also spoke to local Native Americans about their centuries old legends of an "ape man" called "Sasquatch" said to roam the wilds of the Pacific Northwest, it was of course the name "Bigfoot" that stuck. The rest is history.

The whole idea captivated me in my childhood. I checked out copious books from the library on the subject, I sat glued to Leonard Nimoy's In Search Of episodes that tracked Bigfoot and his Asian relative, the Yeti, and I can still remember holding the phone when my dear Grandma told me Bigfoot had been seen near her farm in Ohio. Who knows how many times I watched the Patterson Film during that era, footage that was shot by the way near Bluff Creek. Here's the iconic still from the film.

Why my fascination? I think for the same basic reason that the legend has endured for so long. That is, we love telling stories. It's in our collective make-up to compose narratives, whether they be oral or written, and to tell them to one another. Few things could be more compelling than the idea of a half-human/half-ape creature, whether incogitant or sentient, living in what few wild places still remain on our continent. That may be another factor. Like the accounts of werewolves or "dogmen," the idea of Bigfoot may serve as a link to our primal past. While we are ostensibly more civilized these days, humans are still animals by nature. Maybe we still wish we were still roaming the woods as "wild men."

Note how many stories involve what might lurk in "the woods."

As for the reality of Bigfoot itself, doesn't look good. While there are many sightings and legends that predate Western contact, there still isn't much solid, concrete evidence for creature. If there is, then somebody should probably get it through peer review because they have an amazing scientific discovery on their hands. I can just imagine the National Geographic special on it now.

Oh the initial footprint findings in 1958? Well...the construction crew's boss, a man named Ray Wallace who had a penchant for practical jokes, was long suspected of faking the prints with wooden cut-outs tied to his boots. His family confirmed this was the case after his death in 2002.

Just the same, if I ever find myself in a wilderness again, I'll always be wondering what's behind the trees.

Follow me on Twitter: @Jntweets

1 comment:

  1. This just in:


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