Bigfoot, mythology, and you

 

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Bigfoot:  The Yeti and Sasquatch in Myth and Reality, John Napier, Dutton, 1973

One of the first scientists to seriously investigate the Bigfoot phenomenon, primatologist John R. Napier published Bigfoot: The Yeti and Sasquatch in Myth and Reality in 1973.  It seems to be out of print, which is a shame, but is readily available for reasonable prices online.  I’ve recently read the book — or most of it; sorry Yeti, I kinda skipped most of your chapters (let’s be honest.  I live in the U.S. so might encounter Bigfoot at some point, but I’m probably never going to be in Nepal).  It’s well worth a look not only for its examination of the infamous cases of the “Cripple Foot,” Minnesota Iceman, and Patterson-Gimlin film, but especially for its discussion of the role of legend and mythmaking in human society.  Napier gives all the evidence a very fair shake, but he also values myth for myth’s sake, as do I.

Food for thought time.  Which is more valuable in the 21st century, the Bigfoot legend and all that it encompasses, or the (theoretical) animal?  Following is an excerpt from the concluding pages of Napier’s book.

I am convinced that the Sasquatch exists, but whether it is all that it is cracked up to be is another matter altogether.  There must be something in north-west America that needs explaining, and that something leaves man-like footprints.  The evidence I have adduced in favour of the reality of the Sasquatch is not hard evidence; few physicists, biologists or chemists would accept it, but nevertheless it is evidence and cannot be ignored.

I have suggested that myth and legend have survival value for mankind, and are therefore subject to natural selection like all physical and many behavioural characteristics of man.  We are far from understanding exactly what the role of a hypothetical myth-gene could be, but perhaps it is connected with man’s highly socialized state.  Bonds and allegiances are the bedrock of our society, as they are of many nonhuman primate societies.  There is the pair-bond of husband and wife, the family-bond, the village-bond and the national-bond; to say nothing of the sex-bond, school-bonds, club-bonds and innumerable, unclassifiable religious and ideological-bonds.  But mankind needs more than bonds, and the comforts of grooming they involve; we need to experience feelings of awe.  Husbands, fathers, elders, statesmen, dictators, presidents, chairmen and grand masters are all very well as god-figures, but they are inadequate because they lack the essential ingredient of remoteness.  Man needs his gods — and his monsters — and the more remote and unapproachable they are, the better….

Perhaps by the time this book is published somebody will have discovered a Bigfoot.  I hope so; but if not, I will happily settle for the myth.

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Ideologies abandoned: Bigfoot Interaction Research Conference recap

 

You don’t get into – and I mean really into – this Bigfoot thing unless you possess a taste for the offbeat. Do Bigfoot/Sasquatch have the ability to travel between universes, to cloak themselves from human eyes? Do they come from other planets? Can they communicate telepathically and heal your infirmities? All of this and more was discussed at last weekend’s Team Squatchin’ USA Bigfoot Interaction Research Conference in Bremerton, WA.

As a side note, when I first saw this conference announced, it was billed as the Bigfoot Habituation Research conference. I am not sure why they changed its name. Most – if not all – of the speakers I saw are habituation proponents. That is, they believe that the more accustomed to people Bigfoot gets, the more they will reveal themselves to us. To that end, many of the conference participants frequent areas of known Bigfoot activity, perhaps singing or playing music to attract and comfort the forest people, and sometimes leaving gifts of food or of stones, leaves, feathers, etc.

Team Squatchin’ USA is a group headed up by Matthew Johnson, “Dr. J,” who says he has found a portal in Oregon whereby Bigfoot beings can cross into other dimensions. Interestingly enough (and file this under “Is the Universe trying to send you a message?”), the day of the conference, this showed up in my Facebook news feed: Stephen Hawking: Black holes could be portals to parallel universes .  Well. If Hawking says there can be portals, I am not arguing.

I drove 500 miles from my Montana home to attend the conference. Arriving too late to attend Friday evening’s lectures, I stumbled zombie-like from my hotel room bright and early Saturday to get a bite and some caffeine before the conference’s 8 a.m. start time. The day was to be a marathon, with ten speakers scheduled.

I was pouring my third cup of coffee in the hotel lobby when I was asked The Question. “So, have you had an experience?” It was the first of many times I had to answer it throughout the day, and it was asked by Ken from Tacoma. Ken is a self-described “connoisseur of the weird” who was attending his first Bigfoot event.

“No,” I said. “Have you?” He had not. “I went into the woods once, by myself, and it did not go well,” he said. “I’m a city boy.” I hope Ken made some good Squatching connections at the conference. I think he did.

Downstairs in the conference center, I intercepted Mr. Bob Gimlin, of Patterson-Gimlin film fame. I introduced myself and was able to hang out with him a bit throughout the day, which was obviously a lot of fun. Gimlin, as it turned out, was scheduled to speak at the official conference dinner. I didn’t have a ticket to the dinner, so I didn’t get to hear his talk. But he is a lovely, approachable, and down-to-earth human being and I hope I get the chance to talk to him more in the future.

The first presentation of the day was by Samantha Ritchie of Planet Sasquatch. Ritchie’s presentation was the day’s introduction to the subject of cloaking, or the abilities of Sasquatch to possibly refract light or otherwise obscure themselves. She showed many photos. I did not see a thing. I had a moment of panic. “Oh no. Do NOT tell me I drove all day yesterday just for blobsquatches,” I thought. Then I noticed something: others in the conference room were oohing, aahing, wowing. Obviously, other people could see things, Sasquatch things, in these pictures where I saw nothing at all. I began to wonder if I was the crazy one.

Next up was my fellow Montanan and proprietor of the Montana Vortex, Joe Hauser. He gave us an overview of the weird goings-on at the Vortex, including a “little Sasquatch” which appears from time to time in photos taken there. Hauser discussed the idea of Sasquatch traveling inter-dimensionally. Near the end of his talk, Hauser issued a statement that would serve as my guide for the remainder of the day. He reminded us that our lives are made up of our experiences. “Everything you hear today, all of this is true,” he said.

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Myself, Rob, and Vortex tour guide demonstrating the “Shrink and Grow” area at the Montana Vortex

The third presentation was made by researcher and BFRO member Scott Taylor, who related a slew of ongoing Bigfoot activity experienced by a family he knows. The family lives in a forested area and soon after moving to their home, discovered they shared the property with a Bigfoot family. Taylor was often called to investigate the activity at the home. The Bigfoots enjoyed the family’s hammock and swimming pool, and accepted their gifts of food, reciprocating with gifts of their own. Taylor’s closing message: This research is not about proving the existence of an unacknowledged North American ape. Instead, it’s learning about complex and intelligent beings with whom we share the earth.

Author and science teacher Thom Powell gave the next lecture. I’d heard about his books, The Locals and Edges of Science, and I was interested to hear what he had to say. Most of his talk was off-the-cuff and hilarious and ranged from UFOs to government agents infiltrating paranormal conferences to Bigfoot and back again. Powell’s advice to would-be researchers? Act dumb. If you sneak around in camouflage, that just makes you more suspicious. Trust your gut. Identify patterns. And just because something is unconfirmed, doesn’t mean it’s worthless. I bought The Locals later on and really should be reading it right now.

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After lunch I must admit my attention span was already waning. Which is too bad. The next speaker was Barb Shupe of Squatchin’ with Barb and Gabby (her dog). She played lots of purported Bigfoot vocalizations which seriously made the hair stand up on the back of my neck. Creepy.

Next was Thom Cantrall, an adorable older gentleman who said he had to abandon his original presentation because it mysteriously vanished from his computer. Cantrall speculated that this was because the entity he calls his Teacher wanted him to give us a different one. No matter; his talk was thoroughly enjoyable, not least because of Cantrall’s off-the-wall insight and humor. He provided an introduction to the Patterson-Gimlin film and reminded us that the human mind has a tendency to try to justify what it sees when what it sees doesn’t fit into a defined pattern, even if the justification itself is outrageous.

Next Ron Morehead presented the Sierra Sounds recordings he made in the 1970s. The recordings, alleged Bigfoot vocalizations, have been analyzed and found to contain distinct morphemes, indicating that they represent an actual Bigfoot language.

The eighth speaker of the day was Connie Willis, of Coast to Coast radio. On her first Bigfoot expedition, Willis said, she was sleeping in a pop-up camper which started rocking back and forth in the middle of the night. She could hear a large creature lurking just outside. Terrified, a thought raced through her head: “I’m not ready for this!” She received a telepathic response: “But this is what you came for.”

Since I didn’t have a ticket for dinner, I ordered a pizza and staggered back to my room, exhausted, for a rest.  After the dinner break, Dr. J’s significant other, Cynthia Kreitzberg, related some experiences the two have had in their Southern Oregon Habituation Area, or SOHA. And then it was time for Dr. J.

A tall guy, Dr. J was dressed as if he were on his way to a pickup basketball game, in a do-rag, hoodie, and athletic shorts. I don’t know a ton about him except for his portal claims and that he’s been a controversial figure. It’s easy to see where the controversy comes from: although his appearance is casual, he is INTENSE in his defense of his beliefs and experiences. I wasn’t prepared for the emotion he displayed.  “I have never lied and I have never hoaxed,” he boomed, index finger jabbing the air. “If you have difficulty wrapping your brain around what I’m telling you, that’s your problem, not mine.” He called those who believe Bigfoot to be “just another animal” Apers. Bigfoot beings, says Dr. J, can not only travel freely through dimensions via portals, but can appear at will in his home, communicate with him via direct mind-speak, and heal his illnesses.

So, is all of this true? Absolutely it is. Remember the Floyd: all you touch and all you see is all your life will ever be. Does it all seem pretty weird to me? Heck yeah. I can honestly say I believe all of it and equally believe none of it. But that, to me, is the greatest and most addictive aspect of the Bigfoot community. And you know, I didn’t feel the least bit strange walking into this gathering where I didn’t know a soul. I’d like to think I made some friends and forged some connections. Being at this Bigfoot conference was like being on a very congenial, comforting island of misfit toys, and that’s a good thing. We are united in The Foot. In Foot we trust.

Starting on my drive home the next morning, I cued up a podcast I downloaded a while ago and hadn’t yet listened to. It was OK Talk’s interview with Cliff Barackman of Finding Bigfoot, and if you haven’t heard it, you need to. It’s one of the best interviews of anybody I’ve ever heard. Anyway, Cliff’s tagline for the interview was “Abandon all ideologies.” It was an impeccable end to the weekend.

 

January odds and ends

I have been remiss in updating this blog lately.  Of course we had The Holidays and their attendant joys and horrors to distract us, and this month I have been suffering, and later recovering, from a terrible cold — nothing serious, of course, but enough of a hindrance to my daily life that I haven’t even been able to contemplate writing anything.

One good thing about my convalescence, however, was that I got some reading done, namely Raincoast Sasquatch by J. Robert Alley.  This book seems to be puzzlingly little-known within the Bigfoot community, but presents excellent sighting reports (many of them out of the ordinary, such as the parked group of teenagers reporting an unknown creature lifted and held their car’s back end to prevent their escape) and research from southeast Alaska and surrounding areas.

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One thing in particular that caught my attention in Raincoast Sasquatch was the section dealing with stick construction and tree markers, which I discussed a little while back in my post, Of Sticks and Sasquatch.  Alley describes a number of what have been reported to him as “nests” of woven sticks and bark that were seen by forestry professionals and others, and also recounts an extremely unusual formation of trees in the Klawock Lake area of Prince of Wales Island, Alaska.

Alley writes (with accompanying photographs), “As reported to me in 1996 by Klawock forest workers, the trees were located thirty feet off a logging spur, several miles up the Klawock-Hollis Highway, which transects the island.  According to researcher Al Jackson, Prince of Wales Island Native elders had stated that fifty years ago the trees had been jammed into the soft muskeg by huge two-legged creatures as markers.

The trees above Klawock Lake are all trunks set quite vertically, with root wads uppermost, in a seemingly deliberate fashion… The largest tree shows approximately thirteen feet of wood above ground; the next largest shows approximately nine feet…. An estimated one-third of their total length may be embedded below the muskeg.”

So… mature trees, their tops jammed forcefully into the soil, with their roots towering vertically nine to thirteen feet above the surface of the ground?  What the heck?  Certainly doesn’t sound like anything most non-Herculean human beings would be able to pull off.

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Friend of the Big Sky Bigfoot Conference Russell Victor Acord reports that the second book in his Bitterroot Series will be available very soon.  Russ read from his manuscript of the new book at last fall’s conference and I for one am stoked to see the final product.  If you haven’t already, check out the first book, Footprints of a Legend.

Russ is a busy guy — he’s also co-organizing the International Bigfoot Conference, to be held in September in Kennewick, Washington.  This is shaping up to be a huge conference, so if you are likely to be anywhere near Kennewick around Labor Day, you have no excuse for missing it.

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I came upon this quote in the book Glacial Lake Missoula and its Humongous Floods by University of Montana geologist David Alt.  While it was not intended to pertain to Sasquatch, I think it serves as food for thought for the subject:

“Very few scientists in any discipline come to daring new conclusions as they consider the evidence.  Most go through life believing what they learned in college, resenting challenges to their settled beliefs, and disliking those who present them.  They muddle their way through their problems in a fog of confusion just like people who are not scientists.  That may not be how science should be done, but that is how it very often is done.”

Alt recently passed away and I regret I’ve only just read this book and did not have a chance to meet him.  I’m not normally into geology, but it has given me a new perspective on the whole landscape ’round these parts, and I appreciate the work that Alt did to bring awareness of ancient Lake Missoula to the masses.

 

Of sticks and Sasquatch

More mysteries in the woods.  Do Sasquatch use sticks and trees to mark their territories, trails, or preferred hunting areas?  My friend Richard Soule, author of the Nox Gigas Study, suspects that they do.  One thing is for certain, and that’s once you start looking, you will see some odd formations in the forest.

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Branches and logs apparently placed in formation over old stump, Pattee Canyon, Missoula, Montana.  Photo mine

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Rob with arch in Pattee Canyon.  Photo by Richard Soule

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Abundance of arch structures in deciduous forest in Iowa.  Photo by Richard Soule

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Small tree broken about nine feet up, Pattee Canyon.  Photo mine

What causes these unusual-looking tree and stick formations?  It’s difficult to say.  Wind and/or falling debris could theoretically cause a tree snap like we see just above.  Bears might push over or otherwise destroy old trees while looking for the nutritious insects living therein.  Trees could serendipitously fall on other trees, bending them over and pinning them into an arch.  Hikers of the human variety could break branches to create unique markers to find their way off-trail.  Survivalists could practice their outdoors skills by building primitive teepee-like structures.  Well, you get the picture:  there are a million and one reasonable, logical explanations one’s mind can find for some of this weird stuff.

But then, as Richard and our faithful sidekick Rob found, you might see something like this.

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Rob with arch, near Lincoln, Nebraska.  Photo by Richard Soule

Here is Rob standing before an arched cottonwood.  It appears to be systematically held in place with a series of woven trees and branches, rather than a random windblown conglomeration of debris.  And just how does a tree of that size — especially a notoriously brittle cottonwood — bend without splintering?  It’s weird.  The sheer size and weight of the trees involved would seem pretty much to rule out human construction.  You’d think you’d have to have a big old crew to make something like this — and why the heck would you even bother?  An 8-foot-tall, 500- or 600-pound creature, however, could knock this baby out in a matter of minutes.  Theoretically.

But why?  Under what circumstances is a Sasquatch undertaking these construction projects in the woods?  It’s not like they’re in a job-training program or something.  Or that at least seems unlikely, even in this economically challenged age.

Richard theorizes that alpha male Sasquatch — that is, the somewhat grumpy dominant males of a given population — make such structures as seen above to show off their physical prowess to other Sasquatch who may happen to wander through the area.  Sort of a KEEP OUT sign in Sasquatch language, in other words.  As for smaller structures, perhaps juvenile members of the species are “playing” like a human child would with blocks or Legos.

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Teepee-like structure in Pattee Canyon.  Photo mine

I have many, many times seen human kids build structures similar to this one above in the public gardens where I work each summer.  However, it takes a horde of little ones to do it; they tend to lose interest within fifteen minutes; and anyway, it’s unlikely children could even pick up branches of this size, let alone manipulate them into place.  This particular teepee is suspiciously close to a trail (which you can see running along just behind), and that will pretty much always put “people” into the front of my mind.  The National Guard does on occasion do trainings on this site, so perhaps this one could have been built as part of a wilderness survival training course.  With a covering of pine boughs, this teepee would make a serviceable shelter in a pinch.

The moral of this post, and I do have one:  just use your head.  Are people around who could possibly be messing about in the woods?  Has there been a recent severe windstorm in the area?  Do you have bears or other known creatures who could have cracked, scratched, broken, or pushed over the trees or stumps during the course of their normal foraging?  Obviously there are many factors at play aside from possible Sasquatch intervention that could create strange and fascinating formations with sticks and trees in the deep, dark forest.  Most times, a pile of sticks in the woods is just a pile of sticks.  But occasionally, logic may fail to explain what you see.

Richard’s field guide to stick structures may be found here: Forest signs of the Sasquatch

 

Squatch Lit 101

Bigfoot literature is overwhelming.  There’s a LOT of it floating around out there; some good, some not so much.  Fear not, because here is Sasquatch and Friends’ Guide to Squatch lit.  The following are books I read early on in my journey to understand Bigfoot and its lore, and serve as good introductory reads on the subject.

What are your Bigfoot must-reads?  Let me know in the comments!  I am constantly on the lookout for good Squatch lit.

Bigfoot! The True Story of Apes in America — Loren Coleman

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Coleman’s book is one of the first I read on the subject, and remains a favorite.  A broad-based and entertaining introduction to the subject of all things Squatchy, this book is one I’d highly recommend to anyone new to the subject.  Coleman gives a good overview of Bigfoot and Bigfoot-like creatures allegedly sighted throughout North America, including the notorious MoMo (the “Missouri Monster”) to the Skunk Ape of Florida.  Its coverage of the Minnesota Iceman and a transcript of an interview done with both Bob Gimlin and Roger Patterson are excellent.

Notes from the Field: Tracking North America’s Sasquatch — William Jevning

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Washington state native Jevning comes across in this book as a no-nonsense, boots-on-the-ground researcher. The book is a chronicle of Jevning’s work over the years to prove the existence of Bigfoot, from his early efforts and association with Squatch pioneers Rene Dahindren and John Green, to his research of more recent goings-on at a Washington farm. Jevning also includes a brief history of modern Sasquatchery and a Q&A featuring common questions about The Big Dude. All together, Notes from the Field is a fascinating foray into the Northwest’s Bigfoot territory.  I’m not sure if he’s out there, but if he is, I hope William Jevning is the one to find him.

Where Bigfoot Walks: Crossing the Dark Divide — Robert Michael Pyle

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Robert Michael Pyle treks across Bigfoot’s legendary habitat in the Pacific Northwest, hiking and camping mostly solo. His goal is to explore the terrain Bigfoot is rumored to walk, to experience what such a creature may experience, and to take the reader along on the journey. With an open mind, he observes the environment and talks with some of the people who have contributed so much to the legend.  The subject of Bigfoot is approached as an ecological conundrum: If the species exists, what of its habitat? What is its range? What are its requirements for survival? And how can we preserve it?

But what made this book particularly memorable is the fact that Pyle interviewed many of the major (and most colorful) players in the world of Sasquatchery. These include famed researcher Peter Byrne; footprint hoaxer Ray Wallace; and Datus Perry, an eccentric Bigfoot enthusiast and claimer of multiple sightings. He speaks respectfully of these men, not passing judgment, instead allowing the reader to come to his own conclusion.

Advanced Squatch Lit coming soon!