Yesterday I had a piece in the Sunday New York Post about how I fell away from my belief in Bigfoot. The Post’s web version doesn’t include all the hyperlinks I gathered that lead to more discussion of Sasquatch, however, so I thought I’d reproduce my original draft here on the site:
Bigfoot exists, and we’ve got his DNA. At least, that was the claim of a group of researchers led by a vet from Texas, Dr. Melba Ketchum, at a press conference on Oct. 1. She says analysis of DNA samples proves that Bigfoot is the product of interbreeding between humans and some other, unknown primate species. (Yes, that means someone would literally be able to say, “I had Bigfoot’s baby.”)
When I was 13, I would have been overjoyed at this news. I would have taken it as the long-needed proof that a hairy ape-man actually does leave giant footprints all over the United States.
I grew up in Idaho, supposedly prime Bigfoot country, and I was a hard-core Sasquatch believer. It didn’t matter to me that actual, lifelong outdoorsmen like my grandfather thought it was utter crap, or that all I ever saw on my Boy Scout camp-outs were rain clouds and partially raw hot dogs. Bigfoot was proof that there was more to my home state than limited horizons and abundant potatoes. I would argue — passionately, with many people who did not care — that there was too much evidence for these mystery creatures to ignore.
That made me a lifetime ticket-holder to the cryptozoo, the shadowy realm where Bigfoot, the Loch Ness Monster and Mothman lurk. My library is still filled with Charles Fort and John A. Keel and Loren Coleman.
My public evangelism for Bigfoot cooled when I started dating, but even a few years ago, I would have said I held out hope for Sasquatch to be revealed.
Today, there are more people than ever who agree. The Olympia Brewing Company has a standing offer of $1 million dollar for anyone who can capture Bigfoot. (You are not allowed to shoot, stab, or even net the creature. You can, however, lure him into your car with cookies.) Olympia is also helping to fund The Falcon Project, which will use a flying drone to search for Bigfoot from the skies. This is in addition to the thousands of plaster casts of footprints. And the dozens — possibly hundreds — of murky photos and video and film clips. There’s alleged Bigfoot hair and poop. There are multiple TV shows that trek into the backwoods with ‘Squatch hunters who yodel out Bigfoot calls in the night.
Sadly, I’m not on the team anymore. Despite all these people looking for him, none of the evidence has improved much since I was in junior high.
Abominable Science! Origins of The Yeti, Nessie, And Other Famous Cryptids, a recently released book by Daniel Loxton and Donald Prothero, sums up all the reasons to be skeptical of Bigfoot better than I ever could. It goes back to the foundations of the Bigfoot legend, and dismantles it brick-by-brick.
Loxton and Prothero reveal that many footprints and plaster casts of Bigfoot are admitted or proven fakes — and that there’s no way to tell which ones are “real” and which are not, even by the self-proclaimed experts. Bigfoot poop and hair? From other, known animals.
Most important, no one has ever produced a corpse of a dead Bigfoot. Or even a single fossil, not even of a toe bone, which, the authors point out, should be present if the creatures have lived in North America as long as humans. In 2008, two guys claimed to have a dead Bigfoot in a freezer. It turned out to be a rubber suit filled with roadkill.
As for Ketchum and her group, other scientists say they are misreading contaminated DNA samples that are actually from a possum. Ketchum maintains that she’s seen the Sasquatches in the wild several times. And yet, she has not produced a video of them that doesn’t look like a shag rug attached to a Halloween Chewbacca mask.
It’s telling that the best evidence for Bigfoot is still a grainy, 10-second snippet of home-movie footage shot on October 20, 1967 — 46 years ago — by Roger Patterson and Bob Gimlin, which supposedly shows a female Sasquatch walking near Bluff Creek in California.
For some reason, this film has never been equaled, despite the fact that nearly everyone now carries a camera around all the time, everywhere they go, in their pocket. Even the professional TV crews on shows like “Finding Bigfoot” always manage to point their lenses in the wrong direction.
Unfortunately for believers, when the Patterson film is stabilized to remove the handheld jitters, it does look a lot like a man in a suit.
But let’s imagine, for a moment, that Bigfoot is real. That we do find him, and bring him out into the light for everyone to see.
Would that really be better? History is filled with wonders we’ve ignored after the initial thrill of discovery. In the real world, Bigfoot would become one more pain-in-the-ass endangered species for loggers and environmentalists to argue over, or just another animal kept in some vaguely depressing exhibit in a zoo.
Bigfoot is probably better off in the realm of folklore. As long as he’s there, his followers can keep believing in rubber suits and possum DNA, and ignoring anything that might cast a shadow of doubt.
That’s not a search for truth. That’s a religion.
So until someone produces a body, I’m a Bigfoot atheist.
That’s the rational, grown-up answer, anyway. If I went back and told my 13-year-old self, it would break his heart.
He really wanted to live in a world where we can have adventures with ape-men and living dinosaurs, a world that was wild enough and big enough to contain giants.
I know better now. But a big part of me still wishes that world was real, too.
And here’s the page proof in PDF for those not lucky enough to live where you can get a hard copy of the Post: SASQUASHED