Saturday, June 19, 2010
Coming out of the closet.....
(upper left and at right, stills from the original Patterson-Gimlin film from 1967; bottom left, a more recent picture from an infrared game camera in Pennsylvania)
I have been warned not to confess to this on the blog, and have held off for a long time. But I can do so no longer: I believe in Bigfoot. In fact, I've been on five sasquatch expeditions in the past decade.
Go ahead, think me crazy. But please, also read the rest of this post.
Skeptics, who comprise roughly 99% of the population, will not be satisfied till they have a body, and until then those of us who believe in the creature's existence will be laughingstock. But other than a body, the evidence for the creature's existence is overwhelming.
The most famous piece of evidence for sasquatch's existence is the 1967 Patterson-Gimlin film. You may have seen it on TV. It has been analyzed backwards and forwards by experts, virtually all of whom say it couldn't have been faked. Remember, the film was shot in 1967 with an 8 millimeter camera, long before computer animation. Experts who specialized in making costumes for Disney at the time were shown the film and asked if they could make a gorilla suit like that. They all said that it was not possible to make a gorilla suit in which the leg muscles tensed with each step that way. A more recent analysis has shown that the creature had an injury to the top of its quadriceps muscle on its right leg which curled up with each step.
Another aspect of the creature in the film which only came out upon more careful analysis was that it is a female. (If you're trying to create a scary monster, wouldn't you make it a male? How many King Kong suits have you seen with a pair of pendulous breasts on them?) Subsequent analyses of the film have also shown that its long arm bent exactly where it should have, with the elbow located halfway down. Had it been a human in a costume, the creature might have had long arms, but they would not have bent where they should have.
In yet another analysis, when they superimposed a skeleton onto the creature in the film, they found that it had a subtly unique method of locomotion, with the knees turning inward and then outward with each step. (This was only discovered roughly forty years after the film was shot.) No human in a gorilla suit would ever have thought to walk in this very hard-to-duplicate manner.
Numerous footprints for the creature have been found all over North America (hence, "Bigfoot"). Many of these footprints have been found in extremely remote areas, where nobody would reasonably have been expected to find them. If a hoaxer wanted to drum up some attention with some fake footprints, would he not put them somewhere where they would be more obvious?
Jimmy Chilcott, a leading fingerprint expert who has worked for the FBI, heard about these footprints and set out to debunk them as false. He examined many of the plaster casts which had been made from these prints, some of which were so finely detailed that the dermal ridges on the bottoms of the feet could be seen. Chilcott, coincidentally, had also done research on the dermal ridges of the great apes: chimpanzees, orangutans, and gorillas. What he found amazed him. He said that there were maybe five people in the world who knew that while the dermal ridges on the bottoms of human feet go horizontally, the ridges on the bottom of gorilla and chimpanzee feet are vertical. The ridges on sasquatch feet go diagonally.
Chilcott also said that when there are injuries to the bottoms of feet or the insides of hands, scars form in ways that affect the whorls in certain identifiable patterns. He has noticed these patterns on many of the plaster casts. He has since said that he would stake his reputation on the existence of a large bipedal ape in the North American forests.
Whenever long sets of tracks are found, they show pliable feet, meaning the toes are splayed slightly differently on each stride, depending on the terrain. If a hoaxer were to try to establish a fake set of footprints, he would most likely fashion a fake foot made out of wood or somesuch. Such a foot would not be able to flex and adapt to the ground: it would be stiff and unyielding. But the tracks which are found show natural footfalls, with the toes placed slightly differently in relation to each other, depending on the amount of rocks in the mud, or other anomalies. This would mean that a hoaxer would have had to have constructed a fake foot made out of some sort of rubbery, pliant material. To do that, and also have the level of sophisticated detail recounted by Chilcott, in footprints found in various far flung areas of North America, over the course of many decades, would basically be impossible.
Expert trackers can tell from a footprint how much the creature weighed. Many of the footprints show extremely heavy animals, as heavy as 800 pounds. One tracker commented that in order for a hoaxer to have created the tracks he saw, a 300 pound man would have had to have strapped on the fake feet and taken six foot strides for a long way through the forest -- with another 300 pound man on his back.
There are over 400 sightings a year in North America. (And one must add to that all the sightings that go unreported for fear of ridicule.) There is a remarkable similarity between many of the reported sightings. People describe a creature up to nine feet tall, usually covered in brown or black hair (not fur). There is less hair on the face than elsewhere. Its face is often reported as looking halfway between a gorilla and a man. It is often said to have a distinctive sagittal crest atop its head (like a gorilla). No ears or genitals are visible. It has large eyes which glow in the dark, like other nocturnal animals. It head seems to be set right on its shoulders, and it usually turns its body to look to the side. It is usually described as being tremendously powerful-looking, with huge shoulders and a massive body, and it evidently has a very distinctive, smooth-flowing, long stride. When so inclined it can run extremely fast. Its arms are long, with its hands sometimes extending to it knees. It has large feet and hands for its size.
Sasquatch reportedly have a very loud, fearsome cry, which will often start out as a high-pitched scream and descend into a deep roar. Many people report that the entire forest will go eerily silent around the time of a sighting. This is supposedly because the sasquatch can emit a subsonic sound which frightens all the other animals in the vicinity. (Orcas can do the same.) Even humans are susceptible to this sound, and many have reported a feeling of extreme nervousness right before their sighting.
Skeptics dismiss these sightings as hallucinatory. But the sightings always occur in areas with large amount of forest cover, a dependable fresh water source, and plentiful food, i.e., ungulates and berries.
The people who have sightings tend to be park rangers, hikers, campers, hunters, horseback riders, and those who live in remote areas. Some immediately sense that the creature meant them no harm, and was just curious.But many are terrified, and say that they have never gone back to that area where they saw the creature. Many who report their sightings to the BFRO still show symptoms of fear years later when recounting the incidents. Some people who have seen it from their cars even avoid driving on those roads again.
Many of the reporters have said that they either haven't told their friends or even family for fear of ridicule. Those who have have often been told by their friends that they must have seen a bear walking on its hind legs. But virtually all of the sighters have insisted that they know what a bear walking on its hind legs looks like, and there was no way that what they saw was a bear.
For one of the more dramatic and interesting sightings, follow this link:
Sasquatch can evidently see much better than us. (One hunter reported that he spotted a sasquatch through his telescopic sight, from three hundred yards away; the sasquatch, partly hidden by some branches, was calmly observing him.) They can probably smell better and hear better as well. And they are far more mobile, quicker, and instinctively stay within the treeline and keep themselves hidden. If they see us coming, they stay away. Plus they're primarily nocturnal. It is little wonder they are seen so rarely.
Indian tribes throughout North America named local mountain ridges after this creature, and this encompassed over fifteen different language groups spread all over the continent. Alaskan totem poles hundreds of years old show what are clearly anthropoid faces. But how could the Aleuts have known about primates? There are no other known species of primates in North America. To this day on Indians on reservations throughout the generally believe in sasquatch. To them it is not a mythical beast. This, of course, is partly because the reservations tend to be located in the type of wild, thinly settled areas where sightings occur.
Back before Europe was as densely populated as it is today, sasquatch probably lived there, too. It seems likely that the werewolf myth was based on a European relative of sasquatch. Consider: a werewolf was supposed to be a nocturnal creature, strangely manlike but covered in hair, immensely strong and preternaturally fast, which emitted a fearsome howl. Other than a few Roman centurions, no white man had ever seen a gorilla until the mid-1800's. So if a villager saw a sasquatch at night, what was he to think? They naturally attributed it to the supernatural, and came up with the theory that these creatures were changelings, human by day and werewolf by night. One of the more compelling aspects of this theory is the sheer prevalence of the werewolf myth, which existed in every European country, from Romania to France, from Norway to Greece.
It's easy to imagine that sasquatch is also responsible for a lot of ghost stories: how else to account for howling, moaning, fast-moving creatures which one may not even see?
So what exactly is a sasquatch?
It is most likely a remnant population of Gigantopithecus, the giant bipedal ape thought to have gone extinct on the Asian continent roughly 500,000 years ago. (It has been speculated that Gigantopithecus crossed the Bering land bridge in an earlier Ice Age, approximately 1.6 million years ago.) All there is to substantiate it are a few fossilized teeth, yet from this Gigantopithecus has attained a perfectly respectable scientific recognition. Contrast this to its modern day descendant, which there is a film of, and over 400 sightings a year of, yet which is widely regarded as a joke.
So why haven't they found a body yet? Nature is very efficient at disposing of carcasses, especially in the moist, humid environments sasquatch tends to favor. It takes only weeks before a large mammal will be reduced to its skeleton, and the bones will then generally be dispersed shortly thereafter by animals which chew them for their marrow.
The primary organization investigating these sightings is the Bigfoot Research Organization. Wander around its website sometime (just click on "home" from the link given above). I've read all of the 4026 sightings reports currently on the website (roughly 20 new reports appear in an average month). The BFRO does a good job of weeding out the hoaxers. There are all sorts of fairly sophisticated forensic psychological techniques that can be used to see if someone is a liar, and the BFRO employs them. The police use somewhat similar techniques when interviewing witnesses to a crime. If they ask the witness what the eye color was of the violent criminal, and the witness tells them, then they can be fairly sure the witness is lying (witnesses in those circumstances tend to focus on several things, none of which is eye color). After the BFRO talks to a witness extensively, they then ask his neighbors if he is a trustworthy person. Then, and only then, will they post the report. And they never name the sighter, to weed out those looking for a moment in the limelight.
The BFRO doesn't edit the reports, which are kept verbatim as written by each sighter (with a short note from the local BFRO investigator at the end of each report). This is one of the most convincing aspects of the reports. If the BFRO was a hoax, they would have a small handful of writers churning out reports. After a while, certain similarities in writing style would emerge. But the writing styles in these reports are extremely varied, with a seemingly infinite number of ways to describe very similar observations and experiences. Either the BFRO has unbelievably intelligent and creative people hoaxing, or these sightings are real.
The creature has been sighted all over world. In the Himalayas it is known as the yeti, or Abominable Snowman. In Australia it is known as the yowie. There are reported sightings of similar creatures in Siberia, in the Caucuses, and in South America (in the Amazon it is called the mapingueira). In China it is known as the yeren. In Malaysia, as the Serjarang Gigi. Even within the United States, the creature has acquired different names. In Alabama, it has traditionally been known as the booger. In Florida, they call it the skunk ape. In South Carolina, there have been sightings of a seven foot tall green creature known as the "lizard man" (whose greenish tint is thought to have come from the algae in the swamps it inhabits). In southwestern Wisconsin, there have been numerous reported sightings of a "werewolf."
The media, of course, regards the creature as a joke. The Weekly World News, which has since gone defunct, certainly did its part to keep sasquatch a national joke by featuring headlines like "I was kidnapped and raped by a lovesick Bigfoot" alongside reports of Elvis sightings. In China, they accept its existence. In Nepal, they feel the same way. Even on Indian reservations in the US, its existence is generally acknowledged. But if you're reading this post, you live in a world in which the very idea of its existence is thought to be crazy.
It is actually remarkable the lengths to which people will go to dismiss the creature's existence. Take another look at the photo of the animal taken from the game camera at the top. Pennsylvania Department of Wildlife officials quickly said that it was a picture of a bear. But it is obviously not a bear, its proportions are all wrong. It is a primate (either a chimp or a juvenile sasquatch); yet wildlife officials were willing to ignore their lyin' eyes in order not to be laughed at.
If you can ignore all the noise and silliness and just look at the evidence -- the Patterson-Gimlin film, the footprints, Jimmy Chilcott's testimony, the number of sightings, the similarity of the reports, the Indian lore -- it's quite convincing. In fact, it would basically have been impossible to fake that film or all those footprints. In the words of Sherlock Holmes, once you have eliminated the impossible, what is left, no matter how improbable, is the truth. (Perhaps I shouldn't be quoting a fictional character in these circumstances, but his words seem apropos.)
Either I'm crazy or it exists. (I present the rest of this blog as evidence of my sanity -- or craziness, take your choice; if you like Obama I guess this will make it easier to discount the existence of sasquatch.)
But I'd stake my life on the fact that it exists.
(Maybe that actually is proof of my insanity.)