Reasons Bigfoot Myth Still so Popular
He’s nine feet tall and covered with hair. Some who have seen him claim it’s brown; others claim it is black. There have been footprints, grainy videos and even hair and scat samples. There’s even “that” famous film. The one thing there has not been is definitive proof of the existence of Bigfoot. Many believers, though, ask: Why haven’t scientists offered conclusive evidence that Bigfoot does not exist? Seemingly backing up the believers, some scientists have even brought forth a theory that Bigfoot is a member of a surviving group of Gigantopithecusspecimens. The fact that First Nation and other Native American peoples, particularly those of the Halkomelem group, have told tales of Sasquatch for hundreds of years indicates that this is at least a remote possibility. Whether someone believes in Bigfoot or not, one burning question remains: Why is Bigfoot so popular? Unlike other cryptids, whose popularity has waned over the years, Bigfoot remains front and center in American culture. Let’s look at the Top 10 reasons why:
10. Bigfoot Is Mysterious
Bigfoot appears in photos and T-shirts as the greatest hide-and-seek player in the world. If it were possible to give him the award personally, it would be fitting. Despite hundreds of sightings and dogged pursuit over the years, Bigfoot has managed to avoid detection in all by the most tenuous ways. Sure, Bigfoot hunters might hear a howl or two occasionally, or a couple of wood knocks, but almost no one has gotten closer than that.
People also have a lot of ideas as to what Bigfoot is, from alien monster to primitive human being who just happens to be nine feet tall. There are many lingering questions, too, such as, “why has no one ever found a body?” or “why hasn’t a hunter gotten that ‘one lucky shot?'” Bigfoot enthusiasts offer a variety of explanations, beginning with “they bury their own dead.” It would certainly make sense that it’s difficult to find a body when Bigfoot’s brethren hold impromptu funerals. The naysayers offer a direct explanation: There’s nothing to find because Bigfoot doesn’t exist.
If he exists, why is Bigfoot so elusive? Again, there are many pet theories. The obvious one would be: Human beings don’t treat animals well a lot of the time. If we assume Bigfoot exists, he lives in the wilderness. It is a virtual certainty that he would have seen hunters shooting deer, moose, bear and elk in the course of his movements. He just might not want to get shot.
9. Bigfoot Has Been Around for a Long Time
There are 1,500-year-old stories of the Irish St. Brendan visiting North America during his famous voyage and encountering a giant humanoid that threw lava at his ship. Although most of St. Brendan’s tales are deemed fanciful today, it is at least within the realm of possibility that he saw something on his voyage.
First Nation peoples in Canada and other Native Americans in the United States recounted their stories of Bigfoot, whom they called sásq’ets, first to missionaries in the 1800s and later to government officials and newspaper reporters. The Sts’Ailes people of southern British Columbia have great reverence for sásq’ets and honor his desire to avoid men, particularly white men. J.W. Burns first collected the stories of the Sts’Ailes people in the 1920s. It was Burns who first Anglicized the word sásq’ets into Sasquatch. The Native Americans have other names for Bigfoot that translate, roughly, to “the one with the benign face” or “wild, hairy man who eats clams.”
Burns’s account tells of “frightened Indians,” whom Bigfoot attacked, and of one particular Native American man who claimed to have shot a young Bigfoot and been accosted by its mother. The man reported that the mother actually spoke to him in the Ucwalmicwts language, which was spoken by Native Americans in the area of Port Douglas, British Columbia. From the sixth century to the 21st century, tales such as these only reinforce the mystery shrouding Bigfoot
8. Bigfoot, by any Other Name, Is All Over the World
Bigfoot doesn’t just appear in North America. In the Himalayas, for example, the Sherpas tell tales of the Yeti. From the Orang Pendek in Sumatra to the Mapinguary in Brazil or the Yowie in Australia, Bigfoot-like creatures have been sighted all over the world. Although it might make sense in today’s day and age that concurrent sightings are the result of mass-media dissemination of the story, or even by collusion, there have been sightings in other countries that date back to the 1400s. People alive during the Renaissance didn’t have email or social media to talk to each other. Communication between countries on different continents took weeks, or even months. So, the German traveler who reported seeing what the Mongols called the Almas in 1420 probably didn’t talk to the Native Americans in the Pacific Northwest of what would become the United States.
Similarly, even in the 1800s, news traveled slowly, if at all. British subject B.H. Hodson described an attack on his servants by what the Sherpas called the “raksha,” which meant demon in their language. Several years later, another Sherpa confirmed that the raksha and the Yeti were one and the same. It is unlikely that these British explorers were aware of reports of the Mapinguary coming from Brazil’s jungles along the Araguaia River at the same time.
7. Bigfoot Is Similar to Us
From the frozen wastes of Siberia to the dry, dusty Outback, Bigfoot-like creatures almost all have one thing in common: They look like us, more or less. There are, however, tales from some areas, notably Quebec in Canada and the area around Mount St. Helens in Washington, where the creatures are described as monstrous, however. The Windigo and skookums, for example, are described as terrifying, cannibalistic and supernatural. There are reports of an apish biped in Africa, called the Chimiset. Unlike other reports, however, the Chimiset has yellow hair and a tail. It also goes on all fours, and, although it is not described as monstrous, has been known to attack human beings.
The Russian Bigfoot lookalike from Siberia is called the Chuchunaa. Russian scientists believe that it might be a member of a tribe of aborigines that survived the Ice Age in the far, northeastern reaches of Siberia beyond Yakut. They’re described as very tall humanoids with long, matted hair. Some reports even mention they wear animal skins. In Asia, the Japanese Higabon, Chinese Yeren and Vietnamese Nguoi Rung are described as being six or seven feet tall and covered with hair. The Yeren is also described as half-human.
Closer to home, the Skunk Ape is a red-haired, bipedal cousin of Bigfoot and lives in the Everglades. Similar to its relatives around the world, it smells bad; however, the Skunk Ape’s odor is so bad that it purportedly causes immediate vomiting. The Seminoles and other tribes of the area believe the Skunk Ape to be real, even though the National Park Service thinks it’s a hoax.
6. Bigfoot Is Big Business
Venture capitalist Carmine Biscardi is creating a company called Bigfoot Project Investments with the express purpose to find and, if possible, capture our elusive friend. In fact, he’s hoping to earn $3 million from the initial public offering, which he plans to use to make movies and produce DVDs. Bigfoot Project Investments has also earmarked $113,805 annually for the funding of expeditions.
Even though there is a lot of excitement about Bigfoot Project Investments, not everyone is pleased. Some Bigfoot enthusiasts consider Biscardi’s plan to be overly commercial. They think it detracts from what they consider to be a serious, scientific pursuit. United States Forest Ranger Kathy Strain points to Biscardi’s fiasco with the men in Georgia who stuffed a cow’s teeth into a suit they had also crammed with animal offal. Strain wants Bigfooting to be backed by science, no matter the outcome, and she believes Biscardi risks turning the entire field into a joke.
Biscardi, for his part, considers himself to be the “king of the hill,” when it comes to Bigfooting. He is undeterred by skeptics who think selling shares in a company designed to find “something that doesn’t exist” is pure folly. He’s decorated his vehicles with Bigfoot in various poses, and he drives around dispensing advice on Bigfooting in general. Some Bigfoot enthusiasts are appalled at this self-nominated “expert,” who was so easily deceived by the two men in Georgia.
5. The Patterson-Gimlin Film
To believers, frame No. 362 says it all. The extraordinary film taken by Roger Patterson and Bob Gimlin in California in 1967 shows a hairy, bipedal creature walking along a tributary of the Klamath River called Bluff Creek. At Frame No. 362, the figure in the film turns and looks at the camera. When it does, the figure’s breasts are clearly visible, making the figure a female.
Patterson had had the idea to do a documentary on the existence of Bigfoot for many years but had not put that plan into action until 1967. According to both Patterson and Gimlin, the encounter with the creature was purely by accident. While mounted on horseback, they approached a deadfall of trees along the creek’s edge. Suddenly, the horses reacted violently to something. The female creature strode out from behind the deadfall and began crossing the sandbar in the middle of Bluff Creek as Patterson’s horse threw him to the ground. Patterson quickly disengaged from the horse and ran after the purported Bigfoot, who, in recent times, has been named “Patty,” camera in hand. Gimlin, who was still mounted at the time, covered him with his rifle in case Patty attacked Patterson. In all, Patterson shot 24 feet worth of film as Patty strode off into the underbrush.
Underscoring that fear that Patty, or, perhaps, other Bigfoots in the area, possibly even Patty’s mate, might attack them, Patterson and Gimlin did not venture into the thick forest after her. Besides, they reasoned, there is a record of the encounter on film anyway. Over the almost 48 years since the filming on October 20, 1967, the two men have been called everything in the book by skeptics. Neither, however, has ever wavered from their belief that it was a real Bigfoot sighting. Patterson died in 1972, but Gimlin is still alive.
4. The Ongoing and, as yet Unsettled, Debate About the Film
Almost immediately after Patterson and Gimlin had their film developed, the naysaying started. The owner of the store where Patterson acquired the camera has stated that the two men hired a big, husky athlete named Bob Hieronimous, who was Gimlin’s neighbor at the time, to wear a suit specifically for the video. The suit was supposedly outfitted with shoulder and butt pads and a football helmet. Recent analysis of the film shows great evidence that contraindicates the existence of butt pads. Another analysis of the film, specifically frame 61, clearly shows delineated toes on Patty’s foot. In 1967, such digits were beyond the scope of costuming technology. Skeptics, on the other hand, claim that it’s simply an optical illusion, a shadow or even just dirt on the foot of the costume.
Witnesses who saw Patterson and Gimlin before they set out for Bluff Creek have also stated that they never saw Bob Hieronimous, nor anyone else, with them. Hieronimous also changed his story several times, including his description of the costume. Perhaps most telling is that Hieronimous has never been able to describe the route Patterson and Gimlin took to reach Bluff Creek. Skeptics, however, continue to disbelieve. They cite as many reasons the film is fake as the believers cite that the film is real. Neither side seems to put much faith in the other’s argument, which means the debate is likely never to be settled unless Patty, or a creature very similar to her, is one day found, or even captured.
3. The Emergence of Organizations like the B.F.R.O.
The B.F.R.O., or Bigfoot Field Research Organization, was founded by Bigfooter Matt Moneymaker in 1995. The team employs evidence analysts, field callers and even scientific skeptics to collect and analyze information regarding Bigfoot sightings, footprints, films and other evidence. There are other, less prominent organizations built along the same vein, including the Rocky Mountain Sasquatch Organization, North America Bigfoot Search and several others named after certain states and Canadian provinces.
These organizations strive to maintain a high level of scientific authenticity to their investigations. They are as eager to expose hoaxes as nonbelievers because they believe that such hoaxes damage their credibility. These organizations employ differing levels of stricture in their evidence gathering and analysis. Skeptics have leveled accusations of unscientific bias against Moneymaker in the past. Skeptical author Michael McLeod denounces virtually all Bigfoot researchers in his book, “Anatomy of a Beast: Obsession and Myth on the Trail of Bigfoot.” Nevertheless, Bigfoot research is gaining in popularity as more and more organizations become more mainstream than ever before.
2. The Worldwide Sensation That Would Occur if Definitive Proof Were Ever Obtained
One can just imagine the uproar. Every newspaper from the lowliest supermarket tabloid to the staidest of publications would probably scream it in bold type. Every television and radio station would be clamoring for interviews with the discoverers. Every believer in Bigfoot would relish the gigantic amounts of crow being devoured by every skeptic in the world. If such proof were ever to appear, what form would it take? Would there be, finally, a totally clear film? Perhaps a hunter might bag one? Scientists might even be able to link the DNA of a collected sample in the wild with a fossil of Gigantopithecus.
Bigfoot enthusiasts, from amateur sleuths to professional researchers, probably all dream of making that discovery. It’s undoubtedly part of their drive to search for something many claim doesn’t even exist. There might, however, be unknown, and possibly disturbing, ramifications, should Bigfoot’s existence be proven beyond doubt. What, for example, would the creature’s legal status be if it turns out it is, as described by the Native American man who spoke an almost-extinct dialect with a Bigfoot? Would they, as intelligent beings similar to humans, be granted citizenship? What would happen if Bigfoot were classified as a “previously unknown but threatened species?” Would vast tracts of the Pacific Northwest, with its extremely valuable timber, be designated as a protected habitat? Perhaps most disturbing, if a hunter were to shoot and kill a Bigfoot, and DNA analysis later shows Bigfoot to be a direct ancestor of human beings, would the hunter then be guilty of murder? There are, as yet, no answers readily available because there is no definitive, and widely accepted, proof of Bigfoot’s existence beyond doubt.
1. The Show “Finding Bigfoot”
Cable-TV channel Animal Planet debuted “Finding Bigfoot” in 2011, and there have been seven seasons so far. The shtick is that four investigators of diverse backgrounds and skills go looking for Bigfoot in areas all around the United States and, in a few episodes, around the world. They’ve looked for the Yowie in Australia, Yeren in China and Orang Pendek in Indonesia.
In reading online reviews of the program, there are two groups of opinion. One group claims everything is faked and that the show is lame beyond compare. The other group enjoys the team’s on-screen chemistry and the possibility of them finally finding something, even if the viewer’s sensible side “knows” there’s nothing to find. The controversy behind the show that “looks into the Bigfoot controversy” fuels the popularity of both Bigfoot and the show itself. Both believers and skeptics are talking more and more about Bigfoot every day. The investigators on the show comprise three of the most prominent members of the B.F.R.O. and one skeptic:
- Matt Moneymaker, president
- Cliff Barackman, evidence analyst
- James “Bobo” Fay, expert field caller
- Ranae Holland, research biologist and skeptic
In all, the Bigfoot phenomenon isn’t likely to go away any time soon. Mankind is too curious about the unknown, and that curiosity has driven too many people to strive both to prove or disprove Bigfoot’s existence. From ancient sightings to 21st-century cell-phone videos, many people are sure they’ve encountered Bigfoot at one time or another. An equal number of people claim that such sightings are the result of delusions, egomania or wishful thinking. No one, however, can dispute the effect of Bigfoot on popular culture, especially when businessmen are drawing up budgets of millions of dollars to go Bigfoot hunting. There’s even a “Bigfoot Crossing” sign on the only road up to Pike’s Peak in Colorado and on U.S. Highway 2 in the Cascade Mountains.
What is it on the cell phone cameras, police car dashcams and other less-than-clear videos? What is it in the hundreds of photographs? What is it that Patterson and Gimlin filmed? Is it really just a collection of bears and other animals, big, muscular dudes in ape suits or other fakes? Did all those people over the last 1,500 years collectively, and independently, make stuff up just to feel important? Or, could it be remotely possible that a few reports, possibly even just a single report, is a true Bigfoot? The answer to that last, tantalizing question, along with the whirlwind of fame and fortune that could go with it, may never be known; however, that won’t keep the true believers from looking and the skeptics from telling them “you’re wasting your time” for a long time to come.