Bigfoot (Sasquatch)

A large hairy and somewhat malodorous bipedal creature purportedly roams the wilderness areas of western North America. In the United States it’s called Bigfoot. In Canada it’s called Sasquatch.

Those who have allegedly seen Bigfoot usually describe it as walking on two feet in a somewhat lumbering manner, stocky (approximately 500 pounds), with brown hair and a height that’s about three or four feet (.91 to 1.22 meters) taller than a man.

Scientists and others have given their views on the creature:

Geoffrey Bourne, Emory University, Atlanta, after viewing a film of the creature shot by Roger Patterson and Bob Gimlin noted many inconsistencies and stated “I have grave doubts about the authenticity of this film.”

D.W. Grieve, Royal Free Hospital School of Medicine, London, taking into consideration the speed at which the movie was taken, stated that if the film was shot at 24 frames per second the creature could be a man walking very quickly but if shot at 16 or 18 fps it's probably legitimate.

Dmitri Donskoy, Central Institute of Physical Culture, Moscow, stated that even taking into consideration the variety of human gaits “such a walk as demonstrated by the creature in the film is absolutely non-typical of man.”

A fourth perspective on the controversial movie was provided by Grover Krantz a professor of physical anthropology, Washington State University, who compared the Patterson/Gimlin film with a second film of a man walking in the purported footprints of a Bigfoot/Sasquatch and concluded the creature observed by the film makers was legitimate, the images consistent with other eyewitness accounts.

A popular theory is that the cryptid is actually Gigantopithecus an ape now extinct that probably co-existed alongside early hominids such as Homo erectus (also suggested as a possible candidate). Unfortunately Bigfoot/Sasquatch is always presented as a biped, while Gigantopithecus is generally thought to have been a quadruped too massive to walk on two legs. (The huge ape’s closest living relative is the orangutan which walks on all fours in a sort of side-to-side, foot-dragging shamble.)

The aboriginal peoples of North America’s Pacific Northwest have legends of a large creature roaming the forest that extend back generations.

Newspaper reports date back to the mid-nineteenth century. The 1924 reports in the Oregonian a Pulitzer Prize winning paper of a confrontation between mineworkers and a group of Sasquatch are amongst the most famous. According to the miners they were attacked by giant apes, killing one, before being driven back into their cabin by the ferocity of the onslaught.
Following the event, reporters from the Oregonian inspected both the damaged cabin and allegedly a number of nearby giant footprints. There was no mention of a dead creature.

A less dramatic version of events can be found in the folklore of a YMCA camp on nearby Spirit Lake, tradition has it that the incident was nothing more than a group of energetic young campers hurling stones into nearby Ape Canyon unaware of the miners at the bottom. The miners looking up late at night would have been understandably frightened by the shadowy figures gesturing wildly on the canyons rim, the sounds they made amplified and distorted beyond recognition by the canyon’s walls. With rocks crashing around them the miners must have thought they were under attack by demons from hell itself.

The name Bigfoot became synonymous with the creature in 1958 when workers building a road near Bluff Creek, Humboldt County, California, reported finding enormous footprints in the bush near where they were working. Plaster was pored in the depressions and casts were produced. Photos of the tracks were made available to the public through the mainstream media and inspired the name “Bigfoot”.

A great many scientists dismiss sightings of the mysterious creature as nonsense, mythology or outright hoax and indeed there have been many of the latter. Ray Wallace called by his family the “father of Bigfoot” apparently left wooden track makers to his children as part of their inheritance. The family openly stated they were used to create the Bluff Creek imprints.

Sightings by Native Americans, hunters, traders, surveyors and even missionaries are commonplace, but solid evidence, a live specimen, dead body or even bones has yet to be presented to the scientific community for examination.

Along with the detractors are believers, many famous:

Jane Goodall respected anthropologist stunned many of her peers when in a 2002 radio interview she remarked “Well now, you’ll be amazed when I tell you that I’m sure that they exist . . . I’ve talked to many Native Americans who all describe the same sounds, two who have seen them.”

John Wilson Green is a graduate of both the University of British Columbia and Columbia University, a retired journalist and Bigfoot researcher. He is the only surviving investigator of the Bluff Creek Sasquatch incident and still believes that the tracks found there are authentic. Green has written several books, including "Sasquatch: The Apes among Us" regarded by many as the definitive work on the subject.

Carleton Stevens Coon now deceased, graduated from Harvard in 1925, earned his Doctorate in 1928 and then embarked on a multifaceted career as an anthropologist, archaeologist, teacher and writer, a career somewhat tainted with the publication of his book "The Origin of Races" and his controversial, if not downright raciest ideas concerning human evolution. (He postulated that the reason certain races had developed highly civilized societies while others had not, was because different races had evolved into Homo Sapiens at different times.) This former Harvard professor continued to raise mainstream eyebrows even after death with the posthumous publication of a paper entitled "Why the Sasquatch Must Exist" in which he states “Even before I read John Green’s book 'Sasquatch: The Apes Among Us, I accepted the Sasquatches’ existence.” He further stated that the only group he would definitely rule out as a possible candidate for Bigfoot would be some remnant Neanderthal population.

Henry Gee, British paleontologist, biologist, author and editor of the scientific journal Nature, while not openly declaring that Bigfoot exists, has argued that the elusive creature and others like it warrant further study, stating “The discovery that Homo floresiensis [1] survived until so very recently in geological times, makes it more likely that stories of other mythical human-like creatures, such as Yetis, are founded on grains of truth . . . Now, cryptozoology, the study of such fabulous creatures can come in from the cold.”

Peter Byrne is arguably the name most often associated with Bigfoot. In 1960 he was brought to America’s Pacific Northwest from Nepal (he was involved in several Slick expeditions in search of the Yeti and also allegedly in stealing several bones from a purported Yeti hand) by millionaire adventurer Tom Slick, to lead an expedition in search of the large and elusive North American cryptid. The expedition was unfortunately cut short by Slick’s untimely death in an airplane crash leaving Byrne effectively unemployed. Never one to take adversity lying down, Peter faced the challenge head on and was soon sitting atop of the mountain, literally.

Byrne one time big game hunter, became Byrne the conservationist, published a newsletter the Bigfoot News, wrote books and appeared on radio and television. A fortuitous grant from Boston’s Academy of Applied Science allowed him to establish a base on Mount Hood, Oregon. Tips flowed in via a toll free number and armed with the latest in high tech gear he scoured the country for evidence of Sasquatch.

Was he successful, well, success is relative? He has certainly led an exciting life, but he never did find Bigfoot.

Mr. Byrne is presently retired, spends his time traveling and writing and has a great collection of plaster casts. The toll free number has been disconnected.

[1] The jury is still out on whether Homo floresiensis, nicknamed Hobbits, are a separate species which lived contemporaneous with Homo sapiens 18,000 years ago on the Indonesian island of Flores or simply deformed modern humans that suffered from a neurological disease known as microcephaly.

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