Bigfoot (also known as Sasquatch) is the name given to a cryptid simian-,ape-, orhominid-like creature that is said to inhabit forests, mainly in the Pacific Northwest region of North America. Bigfoot is usually described as a large, hairy, bipedal humanoid. The term sasquatch is an Anglicized derivative of the Halkomelem word sásq’ets.
Scientists discount the existence of Bigfoot and consider it to be a combination of folklore, misidentification, and hoax, rather than a living animal, because of the lack of physical evidence and the large numbers of creatures that would be necessary to maintain a breeding population. Conversely, scientists Grover Krantz and Jeffrey Meldrum have focused research on the alleged creature for the greater parts of their careers.
Bigfoot is described in reports as a large hairy ape-like creature, in a range of 2–3 m (6.6-9.8 ft) tall, weighing in excess of 500 pounds (230 kg), and covered in dark brown or dark reddish hair. Witnesses have described large eyes, a pronounced brow ridge, and a large, low-set forehead; the top of the head has been described as rounded and crested, similar to the sagittal crest of the male gorilla. Bigfoot is commonly reported to have a strong, unpleasant smell by those who claim to have encountered it. Proponents claim that Bigfoot isomnivorous and mainly nocturnal.
The enormous footprints for which it is named have been as large as 24 inches (60 cm) long and 8 inches (20 cm) wide. While most casts have five toes — like all known apes — some casts of Bigfoot tracks have had numbers ranging from two to six. Some have also contained claw marks, making it likely that a portion came from known animals such as bears, which have five toes and claws.
Native American accounts
Wild men stories are found among the indigenous population of the Pacific Northwest. The legends existed before there was a single name for the creature. They differed in their details both regionally and between families in the same community. Similar stories of wild men are found on every continent except Antarctica. Ecologist Robert Michael Pyle argues that most cultures have human-like giants in their folk history: “We have this need for some larger-than-life creature.
Members of the Lummi tell tales about Ts’emekwes, the local version of Bigfoot. The stories are similar to each other in the general descriptions of Ts’emekwes, but details about the creature’s diet and activities differed between family stories.
Some regional versions contained more nefarious creatures. The stiyaha or kwi-kwiyai were a nocturnal race that children were told not to say the names of lest the monsters hear and come to carry off a person—sometimes to be killed. In 1847, Paul Kane reported stories by the native people about skoocooms: a race of cannibalistic wildmen living on the peak of Mount St. Helens. The skoocooms have been regarded as supernatural, rather than natural.
Less menacing versions such as the one recorded by Reverend Elkanah Walker exist. In 1840, Walker, a Protestant missionary, recorded stories of giants among the Native Americans living in Spokane, Washington. The Indians said that these giants lived on and around the peaks of nearby mountains and stole salmon from the fishermen’s nets.
Local stories were compiled by Indian Agent J. W. Burns in a series of Canadian newspaper articles in the 1920s recounting stories told to him by the Sts’Ailes people of Chehalis and others. The Sts’Ailes maintain, as do other indigenous peoples of the region, that the Sasquatch are very real, not legendary, and take great umbrage when it is suggested that they are. According to Sts’Ailes eyewitness accounts, the Sasquatch prefer to avoid white men, and speak the “Douglas language”, i.e., Ucwalmicwts, the language of the people at Port Douglas, British Columbia at the head of Harrison Lake. It was Burns who first borrowed the term Sasquatch from the Halkomelem and used it in his articles to describe a hypothetical single type of creature reflected in the stories. Burns’s articles popularized the animal and its new name, making it well known in western Canada before it gained popularity in the United States.
A story told to Charles Hill-Tout by Chief Mischelle of the Nlaka’pamux at Lytton, British Columbia in 1898 gives another Salishan variant of the name, meaning “the benign-faced-one”.
Each language had its own name for the local version. Many names meant something along the lines of “wild man” or “hairy man” although other names described common actions it was said to perform, e.g., eating clams.
In 1951, Eric Shipton photographed what he described as a Yeti footprint, which generated considerable attention and led to the story of the Yeti entering popular consciousness. The notoriety of ape-men grew over the decade.
This notoriety culminated in 1958 after large footprints were found on multiple occasions at a road-construction site along Bluff Creek in Del Norte County, California by bulldozer operator Gerald Crew. Annoyed at not being taken seriously about what he was seeing, Crew cast the prints in plaster, following the instructions of his friend, taxidermist Bob Titmus. The story was published in the Humboldt Times, along with a photo of Crew holding one of the casts. Locals had been calling the unseen track-maker “Big Foot” since the late summer, which Humboldt Times columnist Andrew Genzoli shortened to “Bigfoot” in his article. Bigfoot gained international attention when the story was picked up by the Associated Press.
However, following the death in 2002 of Ray Wallace – a Washington state-based road construction contractor – his family attributed the creation of the footprints to him. In addition, the wife of L. W. “Scoop” Beal, the editor of the Humboldt Standard, which later combined with the Humboldt Times, in which Genzoli’s story had appeared, has stated that her husband was in on the hoax with Wallace.
1958 was a watershed year, not just for the Bigfoot story itself, but also for the culture that surrounds it. The first Bigfoot hunters appeared following the discovery of footprints at Bluff Creek, California. Within a year, Tom Slick, who had funded searches for Yeti in the Himalayas earlier in the decade, organized searches for Bigfoot in the area around Bluff Creek.
As Bigfoot has become better known and a phenomenon in popular culture, sightings have spread throughout North America. In addition to the Pacific Northwest, the Great Lakes region and the Southeastern United States have had many reports of Bigfoot sightings. The debate over the legitimacy of Bigfoot sightings reached a peak in the 1970s, and Bigfoot has been regarded as the first widely popularized example of pseudoscience in American culture.
Prominent reported sightings
Distribution of reported Bigfoot sightings in North America.
About one-third of all reports of Bigfoot sightings are concentrated in the Pacific Northwest, with most of the remaining reports spread throughout the rest of North America. Some Bigfoot advocates, such as John Willison Green, have postulated that Bigfoot is a worldwide phenomenon. The most notable reports include:
1924: Prospector Albert Ostman said to have been abducted by Sasquatch and held captive by the creatures in British Columbia.
1924: Fred Beck said that he and four other miners were attacked one night in July 1924, by several “apemen” throwing rocks at their cabin in an area later called Ape Canyon,Washington. Beck said the miners shot and possibly killed at least one of the creatures, precipitating an attack on their cabin, during which the creatures bombarded the cabin with rocks and tried to break in. The incident was widely reported at the time. Beck wrote a 22-page pamphlet about the event in 1967, in which he said that the creatures were mystical beings from another dimension, stating that he had experienced psychic premonitions and visions his entire life of which the apemen were only one component. Speleologist William Halliday said in 1983 that the story arose from an incident in which hikers from a nearby camp had thrown rocks into the canyon. There are also local rumors that pranksters harassed the men and planted faked footprints.
1941: Jeannie Chapman and her children said they had escaped their home when a 7.5 feet (2.3 m) tall Sasquatch approached their residence inRuby Creek, British Columbia.
1955: William Roe, a highway worker, was hiking alone up Mica Mountain near the British Columbia/Alberta border. He sat down when he saw a dark shape ahead of him. As it approached, the features he described were those of a female Sasquatch. It got to within 20 feet and began eating leaves. It noticed him, backed away, turned, and departed, looking over its shoulder and making a whinny at one point. Roe followed its tracks and found sign and a sleeping bed. He did not shoot it, because he thought it might be a man. His daughter made a drawing under his direction.
1958: Bulldozer operator Jerry Crew took a cast of one of the enormous footprints that he and other road construction workers had seen at an isolated work site at Bluff Creek, California to a newspaper office. The crew was overseen by Wilbur L. Wallace, brother of Raymond L. Wallace. After Ray Wallace’s death, his nephew and other relatives came forward with a pair of 16-inch (41 cm) wooden feet, which they said their father had used to fake the Bigfoot tracks in 1958. Wallace is poorly regarded by many Bigfoot proponents. John Napier wrote, “I do not feel impressed with Mr. Wallace’s story” regarding having over 15,000 feet (4,600 m) of film showing Bigfoot.
1964: Mrs. John Utrup said she was chased into her house near Dewey Lake in Dowagiac Michigan on the night of Tuesday, June 10, by a 9-foot tall hairy biped weighing some 500 pounds, which shook ground beneath her. She claimed her dog, which was visibly wounded in the attack, saved her. Police were dispatched, large footprints were found and plaster casts, as well as, photos were taken. The story gained national attention, was covered by over 100 national newspapers and picked up by the AP and UPI. and became known as Dewey Lake Monster. Cass County Undersheriff Ernest Kraus said “about 10 persons have claimed they saw the monster.” Residents of the Sister Lakes area have reported seeing the “thing” for from two to five years, always during the summer months. Gordon Brown and Joseph Smith, two farm workers in the Dewey Lake area at Garret road near Topash street, told reporters they saw it near farm buildings when car lights flashed on it Tuesday night. Both maintained they have hunted all their lives and “that was not a bear.” What they say they sighted matched the general description of a “monster” reportedly seen by other area residents. As well the “monster” made a daylight appearance on Thursday, June 11, 1964 terrorizing three young girls and causing one of them to faint. Joyce Smith, 13, Patsy Clayton, 12 and her sister, Gail, 13, said they were walking a long a wooded road in Silver Creek Township about 9:15 am when the “monster” suddenly appeared. Joyce saw it first and promptly fainted. Patsy got a good look at the creature before it ducked into the woods. Gail was too far away to see it. Joyce said the monster “did not look like a man” it looked more like a giant man-creature “bear” with a “black face.” After the “monster” fled, the girls revived Joyce and they ran to a neighboring home and telephoned police. Sheriff’s deputies armed with rifles rushed to the area. Additionally, migrant workers and their families fled the area in fear of the Dewey Lake monster. Sheriff Robert Dool says at least “a couple” families of migrant farm workers have packed and left in fear. Fruit farmers in the area say that “labor’s leaving at this point is serious since it is the peak of the strawberry harvest. Former Cass County Sheriff, Paul Parrish, was quoted as saying “it was one of the strangest times” in his “33 years of southwestern Michigan law enforcement.” He added “We investigated it long and hard, but were never able to come up with whatever it was. But some good, honest, legitimate people” reported it. The mystery remains to this day as do the sightings; and perhaps the most curious aspect of all is the people who witnessed the “beast” are still reluctant to discuss what they saw. They only want to forget it and are not interested in having their names associated with the “thing” they encountered.
1967: Roger Patterson and Robert Gimlin reported that, on October 20, they had filmed a Bigfoot at Bluff Creek, California. This came to be known as the Patterson–Gimlin film. Patterson sought various experts to examine the film. Patterson, Gimlin, and Al DeAtley, Patterson’s brother-in-law, screened the film for Dale Sheets, head of the Documentary Film Department, and unnamed technicians “in the special effects department at Universal Studios in Hollywood. Their conclusion was: ‘We could try (faking it), but we would have to create a completely new system of artificial muscles and find an actor who could be trained to walk like that. It might be done, but we would have to say that it would be almost impossible. In 1999, Bob Heironimus, an acquaintance of Patterson’s, said that he had worn an ape costume for the making of the film, although he didn’t reveal his name until 2004 in Greg Long’s book, The Making of Bigfoot
2007: On September 16, 2007, hunter Rick Jacobs captured an image of a Sasquatch by using an automatically triggered camera attached to a tree, prompting a spokesperson for the Pennsylvania Game Commission to say that it was an image of “a bear with a severe case of mange. The photo was taken near the town of Ridgway, Pennsylvania, in the Allegheny National Forest.
Both Bigfoot believers and non-believers agree that many of the sightings are hoaxes or misidentified animals.
Bigfoot sightings or footprints have, in some cases, been shown to be hoaxes. Author Jerome Clark argues that the Jacko Affair, involving an 1884 newspaper report of an apelike creature captured in British Columbia, was a hoax. Citing research by John Green, who found that several contemporary British Columbia newspapers regarded the alleged capture as very dubious, Clark notes that the Mainland Guardian of New Westminster, British Columbia, wrote, “Absurdity is written on the face of it.
On July 14, 2005, Tom Biscardi, a long-time Bigfoot enthusiast and CEO of Searching for Bigfoot Inc., appeared on the Coast to Coast AMparanormal radio show and announced that he was “98% sure that his group will be able to capture a Bigfoot which they have been tracking in the Happy Camp, California area. A month later, Biscardi announced on the same radio show that he had access to a captured Bigfoot and was arranging a pay-per-view event for people to see it. Biscardi appeared on Coast to Coast AM again a few days later to announce that there was no captive Bigfoot. Biscardi blamed an unnamed woman for misleading him and the show’s audience for being gullible.
On July 9, 2008, Rick Dyer and Matthew Whitton posted a video to YouTube claiming that they had discovered the body of a dead Sasquatch in a forest in northern Georgia. Tom Biscardi was contacted to investigate. Dyer and Whitton received $50,000 from Searching for Bigfoot, Inc. as a good faith gesture. The story of the men claims was covered by many major news networks, including BBC, CNN, ABC News, and Fox News. Soon after a press conference, the alleged Bigfoot body arrived in a block of ice in a freezer with the Searching for Bigfoot team. When the contents were thawed, it was discovered that the hair was not real, the head was hollow, and the feet were rubber. Dyer and Whitton subsequently admitted it was a hoax after being confronted by Steve Kulls, executive director of SquatchDetective.com.
In August 2012, a man in Montana was killed by a car while perpetrating a Bigfoot hoax using a ghillie suit.
In January 2014, Rick Dyer, perpetrator of a previous Bigfoot hoax, said he had killed a Bigfoot creature in September 2012 outside of San Antonio, Texas. He said he had scientific tests performed on the body, “from DNA tests to 3D optical scans to body scans. It is the real deal. It’s Bigfoot, and Bigfoot’s here, and I shot it, and now I’m proving it to the world. He stated that he intended to take the body, which he had kept in a hidden location, on tour across North America in 2014. He released photos of the body and a video showing a few individuals’ reactions to seeing it, but never released any of the tests or scans. He refused to disclose the test results or provide biological samples, although he stated that the DNA results, which were done by an undisclosed lab, could not identify any known animal. Dyer stated he would reveal the body and tests on February 9 at a news conference at Washington University, but the test results were never made available. After the Phoenix tour, the body traveled to Houston. On March 28, 2014, Dyer admitted on his Facebook page that his “Bigfoot corpse” was another hoax. He had paid Chris Russel of Twisted Toy Box to manufacture the prop, which he nicknamed “Hank”, from latex, foam, and camel hair. Dyer earned approximately US$60,000 from the tour of this second fake Bigfoot corpse. He maintains that he did kill a Bigfoot, but states that he did not take the real body on tour for fear that it would be stolen.
The evidence that does exist supporting the survival of such a large, prehistoric ape-like creature has been attributed to hoaxes or delusion rather than to sightings of a genuine creature In a 1996USA Todayarticle, Washington State zoologist John Crane said, “There is no such thing as Bigfoot. No data other than material that’s clearly been fabricated has ever been presented.In addition, scientists cite the fact that Bigfoot is alleged to live in regions unusual for a large, nonhuman primate, i.e., temperate latitudes in the northern hemisphere; all recognized apes are found in thetropicsof Africa and Asia.
Mainstream scientists do not consider the subject of Bigfoot an area of credible science and there have been a limited number of formal scientific studies of Bigfoot.
Evidence such as the 1967 Patterson–Gimlin film has provided “no supportive data of any scientific value.
As with other proposed megafauna cryptids, climate and food supply issues would make such a creature’s survival in reported habitats unlikely. Great apes have not been found in the fossil record in the Americas, and no Bigfoot remains are known to have been found. The breeding population of such an animal would be so large that it would account for many more purported sightings than currently occur, making the existence of such an animal an almost certain impossibility. In the 1970s, when Bigfoot experts were frequently given high-profile media coverage, Mcleod writes that the scientific community generally avoided lending credence to the theories by debating them.