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
They say it’s harmless. But seriously, look at the size of that thing.
Another sea creature: the Bloop.
Scientists have revealed a mysterious recording that they say could be the sound of a giant beast lurking in the depths of the ocean.
Researchers have nicknamed the strange unidentified sound picked up by undersea microphones “Bloop.”
While it bears the varying frequency hallmark of marine animals, it is far more powerful than the calls made by any creature known on Earth, Britain’s New Scientist reported on Thursday.
It is too big for a whale and one theory is that it is a deep sea monster, possibly a many-tentacled giant squid.
This site yielded not only a .wav file of the noise itself, but the fact that the sound is believed to be coming roughly from 50oS; 100oW. After reading that, I wondered how close that was to the coordinates given in “The Call of Cthulhu”. Allow me to quote: “Then, driven ahead by curiosity in their captured yacht under Johansen’s command, the men sight a great stone pillar sticking out of the sea, and in S. Latitude 47°9′, W. Longitude l23°43′, come upon a coastline of mingled mud, ooze, and weedy Cyclopean masonry which can be nothing less than the tangible substance of earth’s supreme terror – the nightmare corpse-city of R’lyeh, that was built in measureless aeons behind history by the vast, loathsome shapes that seeped down from the dark stars.”
Which means only one thing. That’s right, kids: Cthulhu.
Somehow it always comes back to Cthulhu.
For those who were kept awake nights, wondering what the hell that thing in a North Carolina sewer was — Anyone but me? No? Well, screw it, I’ve got an update for you anyway.
But aside from confirming its existence, the director of environmental services for the the city of Raleigh can’t say what it is, or even if anything will be done about it.
The video was taken in a private sewer system by a private contractor working for them. It does not belong to the City of Raleigh nor will it reach the Neuse River Wastewater Treatment Plant. This is the response from our director: “The video is of the private sanitary sewer in the Cameron Village and was taken by a private contractor working for them and not taken by our staff. The blob has been identified by others as worms.”
The Raleigh News and Observer investigated as well, and it says bryozoans, which was my guess.
Actually, the sewer monster is made up of thousands of tiny organisms called bryozoans, or moss animacules, said N.C. State University biologist Thomas Kwak. Invertebrates, they bunch together in colonies and feed with tiny tentacles.
“They can get as big as the size of a watermelon,” he said.
No, these are not bryozoans! They are clumps of annelid worms, almost certainly tubificids (Naididae, probably genus Tubifex). Normally these occur in soil and sediment, especially at the bottom and edges of polluted streams. In the photo they have apparently entered a pipeline somehow, and in the absence of soil they are coiling around each other. The contractions you see are the result of a single worm contracting and then stimulating all the others to do the same almost simultaneously, so it looks like a single big muscle contracting.
OK, gang. Mystery solved. Everyone back in the van, and it’s off to the malt shop for dancing and Scooby snacks.
In his decades-spanning career, Keel chronicled much of the weirdness that didn’t make the headlines. People might know names like “Bigfoot” and “Nessie,” or look to the skies for flying saucers, but Keel searched for the unknown parts of the unknown. He went to spots where our reality gets thin, and probed the cracks.
As far as his theories went, Keel seemed convinced that there weren’t actually wild ape-men in the forest, or aliens visiting the earth like a tourist spot. He studied history and myth, and found that the names have changed, but the phenomena have been with humans as long as we’ve been telling stories and writing stuff down. We’ve called them fairies, demons, angels and monsters, but they have always been there, out at the edge of the light.
Keel himself posited that there were beings on this planet, much older than us, who enjoyed toying with us. Occasionally, they show up, whether as a hairy monster or a silver-suited spaceman, just to play havoc with our lives.
He formed this theory after the events in Point Pleasant, West Virginia, which ended in the Silver Bridge collapse that killed 46 people. From his writing after that, he seemed fairly convinced that whatever these things were, they didn’t have our best interests at heart.
People can differ about the reality of the paranormal. I go back and forth on it myself, all the time. But Keel produced volumes of fascinating, challenging work that forever altered the way I look at the world. My writing would be a lot emptier and duller if I hadn’t been exposed to Keel at an early age, and if I didn’t go back to him often, looking for the strangest parts of the strange.
He introduced me to some amazing concepts. Now I get to play with them full-time, and I’m in his debt.
Fine. I warned you.
A truly odd — and more than a little gross — viral video came over the Internet at me today, called “Unknown Life Form In N. Carolina Sewer.”
I can’t resist something with a title like that. So I checked it out. At first, I had the nagging suspicion I’d been duped into viewing a video of a colonoscopy, but it does show something slimy oozing around in what appears to be a sewer.
Just what is it? Well, the candidates are UFO creature, hoax/publicity stunt, or bryozoan — “colonial animals … superficially similar to coral … known to occur worldwide … [and] observed to exist in sewer systems, examples being Denver and North Carolina.” (Emphasis added. And thanks, Wikipedia.)
It’s always tempting to leap to the flying saucer explanation, especially when something looks as weird and horrible as this. But real-life science has plenty of weird and horrible things in it. For some reason, however, saying “colony organism that has the ability to move on its own power and lives in sewers” just doesn’t carry the same thrill as saying “UFO creature! RUN!”
After my exhaustive five-minute research, I’m going to have to vote for bryozoan.
Then again, it could be a C.H.U.D. Yeah, scratch that. Now I’m voting for C.H.U.D.