By Ed Cara
As temperatures across the U.S. climb to new highs this summer, wildfires devastate large swaths of forest, from California to Colorado. This last week alone added to the toll of Colorado’s most destructive wildfires in history as yet another fire found its way to the doorsteps of its second largest city, Colorado Springs.
By Sunday, the newly enshrined Waldo Canyon Fire, the eleventh such blaze to hit the state this year, would shove 35,000 people out of their homes, destroy 17,000 acres of land and leave several dead or missing. Amidst the fiery carnage and charred rubble though, there was something else to be found. A groundbreaking discovery deserving of its very own press conference to be held June 29th at 3 o’clock in the afternoon. A discovery that could shatter biology textbooks everywhere: the very burnt but very intact remains of a Bigfoot corpse.
As it turns out, even ‘allegedly’ would be too kind of a word to describe the minuscule hubbub that struck the Bigfoot Evidence blog this weekend, a cornucopia of news, links and videos dedicated to the big man-beast himself. A anonymous commentator on the self-proclaimed ‘Only 24/7 Bigfoot News Blog’ decided to leave this particularly specific comment on a thread last Thursday:
I have a fellow BF researcher friend that lives in Colorado Springs, Colorado. He sent me an email informing me that they had found a Bigfoot near an area where one of the fires had recently passed through. They rescued it and took it to one of their houses and have it in the garage…He also said that they’ll be holding a press conference tomorrow at noon, regardless of whether or not the creature survives.
Bigfoot Evidence, having an admittedly slow news day, decided to run with the comment and count down to the press conference with a wink and a smile, even running polls as to whether any of their visitors actually believed the story. An update from the supposed original poster assured us that:
The Bigfoot died during the night. They wrapped it in wet towels and did everything they could to ease it’s suffering, but it wasn’t enough. They said it seemed that there was a lot of damage from smoke inhalation. The creature’s breathing was very labored from the beginning and became progressively worse, up until it expired. The University of Colorado was contacted yesterday afternoon and told about the situation and a team arrived this morning and removed the body. Two members of the research group flew to Boulder, where the body was taken. The presser is now scheduled for 3:00 PM mountain time.
Sometime after the date came and went with no sign of researchers from the University of Colorado, press conferences, or Bigfoot remains, a few of the contributing writers of Bigfoot decided to call the University itself and verify if anyone from the U of C had even been contacted by anyone looking to certify authentic Bigfoot bits, to which they received a resounding no. For my own part, I called up the Media Relations department of the university, and in perhaps the most awkwardly serious conversation since my 8th grade girlfriend and I parted ways, was duly informed that Bigfoot had not been one of the talking points that weekend.
All in all, the silly saga of the scorched Sasquatch was put to an end by weekend’s close, with tongue firmly in cheek by everyone involved. One of the latest items on the site? A collection of photoshopped guesses as to where the Colorado Bigfoot has disappeared off to. All this fun does bring up an interesting question though. Does anyone take Bigfoot seriously anymore?
What’s perhaps most interesting about the Bigfoot legend is how recent it actually started, the moniker of Bigfoot only being coined in 1958, by a reporter of the Humboldt Times in Eureka, California describing the plaster casts brought into the office by local construction worker Jerry Crew. Though stories of ape-men and sasquatches had echoed throughout the years all over the world, it was Crew’s Bigfoot that sparked a new craze of monster-hunting, a craze personified by the infamous 1967 Patterson-Gimlin film, a grainy and shaky minute-long video of the titular Bigfoot out in the buff while stalking around its natural hunting grounds of Bluff Creek, California, the same area where Crew’s cast originated. From there, the legend of Bigfoot solidified, and with it, hundreds of ‘bonafide’ footprints, out of focus videos and detailed real-life encounters from the die-hard, if amateur, community of Bigfoot enthusiasts.
Of course, apes have never been found in the Americas, there’s been no credible remains that could be attributed to such a ape, and with the suspected size and weight of Bigfoot, there probably isn’t even enough forest left to maintain any population of humanoid beasts, let alone enough cover to successfully hide them from the scrutiny of Bigfoot trackers for so many years. Just some of the reasons why no respectable scientist or zoologist has hitched their wagons to the ‘Bigfoot’s real’ camp. Not that any of that would matter in the face of irrefutable evidence, such as an actual body. If that was found, then no one, no matter how many letters came after their name, could deny the truth of Bigfoot, and in 2008, two men by the name of Rick Dyer and Matthew Whitton claimed that’s exactly what they had.
Their alleged Bigfoot body would make national news as they made a show of sending off hair and tissue samples and presided over a press conference that quickly left reporters looking for solid proof disappointed. To make a long story short, the supposed body was a rubber suit, the authentic tissue they sent over was bits and pieces from other animals, and one of the creators, Rick Dyer, came forward soon after to admit it was a complete and utter hoax.
To be fair, Dyer and Whitton were only following in the proud tradition of other such Bigfoot hoaxers, like Ray Wallace, a logger who also worked in Bluff Creek and some 40-odd years later would be outted as the man who created Crew’s original discovery with a wooden plank cast of oversized feet. Why? Well according to his sons, Ray was a well known prankster, and after the unexpected surge of popularity his feet had brought, would spend years trying to cash in on his brainchild before finally dying at the age of 83 in 2002 in a Washington State nursing home. As for the best proof ever recorded, the Patterson-Gimlin film? Aside from the fairly unscrupulous nature of Roger Patterson, a costume designer by the name of Phillip Morris would step up decades later to admit that he had supplied Patterson with a gorilla suit right around the time of the film. Even more telling was the confession of Bob Heironimus, the 6’2” tall and muscular man that he is, who alleged he was paid by Patterson to wear the modified Morris suit. So much for the smoking gun.
Then again, that seems to be the recurring theme behind the search for Bigfoot; overhyped, grand shows of proof spoiled quick by the admission of hoax or prank. It’s practically gone meta by now, as the Colorado Burnt Bigfoot story shows. An anonymous prankster leaving behind a vague, easily debunked, but admittedly entertaining story to stir up the flames and provide fodder for the weekend. A story purposefully reminiscent of the Dyer debacle to boot, with dreams of a national press conference and a live, if charred, body. Trollish that it was, it was still fun to count down to three ‘o’clock that afternoon, and see what would happen, skeptic and believer alike.
Likelihood aside, there’s no discounting the big guy’s enduring popularity: recent exploits include finding himself the Spokesquatch of sausage commercials, the main character of a series of humorous autobiographies, and as last Saturday, the CGI-ballooned monster of the week in the Sy-Fy Channel’s made-for-tv epic, Bigfoot.
There’s something endearing about the larger than life creature that keeps us coming back for more. You can easily push it aside as simply yearning for the possibility of a new cousin in the family, a large, freakishly strong, yet familiarly bi-pedal version of humanity, but that isn’t entirely it, least in the States. What keeps us coming back for more is that Bigfoot belongs to us. It’s our own home-grown monster, free from the cultural claims of European werewolves, Transylvanian vampires or Scottish Nessies. Far from the routine city lights and cookie-cutter suburban lawns, the slowly disappearing redwoods still hold the promising air of mystery, filled with the lure of a rough and tumble beast distinctly surrounded by Americana. Sure, the Himyalas have their Yetis and the Australians their Yowie, but Bigfoot’s ours; the hickory-smoked ape man of the Pacific Northwest as physically menacing as he is lovingly shy.
That’s probably why, according to a recent Angus Reid Public Opinion poll, there’s at least one-third of Americans who still dutifully believe in the ‘Foot’s probable existence. Wishful thinking? Maybe. Say what you will about hoaxes and improbabilities though, the simple truth is that it’s a hundred percent of us that are rooting for him to show up the skeptics and make his long awaited debut on the cover of the New York Times science section.
Any day now.
Stay tuned for Part 2! An interview with the Bigfoot Evidence bloggers on all things Bigfoot
Update: Unfortunately due to unforeseen circumstances and busy schedules, a planned interview with the Bigfoot Evidence bloggers likely won’t be forthcoming.
Catch US-based skeptic with a k, Ed Cara, on Twitter at TheImprovateer.