“BIGFOOT: MAN, MONSTER, OR MYTH?” #WeirdDarkness
PLEASE SHARE THIS EPISODE in your social media so others who loves strange and macabre stories can listen too! https://weirddarkness.com/listen
Listen to ““BIGFOOT: MAN, MONSTER, OR MYTH?” #WeirdDarkness” on Spreaker.
IN THIS EPISODE: We are fascinated by him when we read about him in books, or see him on TV or in movies. Bigfoot has become bigger than life with every paranormal and cryptozoology enthusiast gobbling up every bit of news that comes out about the furry mysterious creature. But what would you do if you came face-to-face with one, in real life, in his territory? Tonight we look at Bigfoot. Sasquatch. The Yeti. Whatever you want to call him, he has found fame worldwide in both paranormal circles and cable TV shows. We’ll ask what he is, what he is not, what evidence has been collected, the interesting take on our fuzzy friend that Russia has, and more. *** (Originally aired January 27, 2021)
SOURCES AND REFERENCES FROM THE EPISODE…
“How The Bigfoot Legend Began” by Becky Little for History.com: https://tinyurl.com/y3pmtb3j
“Bigfoot: Man, Monster, or Myth” by Benjamin Radford for LiveScience.com: https://tinyurl.com/y3745nht
“Yetis Nests Found in Russia” by Benjamin Radford for LiveScience.com: https://tinyurl.com/y5w8yd54
“Russians Claim Indisputable Proof of Yeti” by Benjamin Radford for LiveScience: https://tinyurl.com/y3yjuoz5
“Infamous Yeti Finger Flunks DNA Test” by Benjamin Radford for LiveScience: https://tinyurl.com/y3l68wka
“Bigfoot Vandalizes a Winnebago” by Benjamin Radford for LiveScience: https://tinyurl.com/y6d3ujef
“Bigfoot Hoaxer Killed In Accident” by Benjamin Radford for LiveScience: https://tinyurl.com/y32jevfg
“If You Spot Bigfoot, Should You Shoot Him?” by Benjamin Radford for LiveScience: https://tinyurl.com/y4nltw8f
“Bigfoot Was Watching You” by Karen Hopper Usher for Cadillac News: https://tinyurl.com/y2s23pby
“That Was No Bear” by John Zada for Lapham’s Quarterly: https://tinyurl.com/y3xdpbzj
Visit our Sponsors & Friends: https://weirddarkness.com/sponsors
Join the Weird Darkness Syndicate: https://weirddarkness.com/syndicate
Advertise in the Weird Darkness podcast or syndicated radio show: https://weirddarkness.com/advertise
= = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =
Weird Darkness theme by Alibi Music Library. Background music provided by Alibi Music Library, EpidemicSound and/or StoryBlocks with paid license. Music from Shadows Symphony (https://tinyurl.com/yyrv987t), Midnight Syndicate (http://amzn.to/2BYCoXZ) Kevin MacLeod (https://tinyurl.com/y2v7fgbu), Tony Longworth (https://tinyurl.com/y2nhnbt7), and Nicolas Gasparini (https://tinyurl.com/lnqpfs8) is used with permission of the artists.
= = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =
OTHER PODCASTS I HOST…
Paranormality Magazine: https://weirddarkness.tiny.us/paranormalitymag
Micro Terrors: Scary Stories for Kids: https://weirddarkness.tiny.us/microterrors
Retro Radio – Old Time Radio In The Dark: https://weirddarkness.tiny.us/retroradio
Church of the Undead: https://weirddarkness.tiny.us/churchoftheundead
= = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =
(Over time links seen above may become invalid, disappear, or have different content. I always make sure to give authors credit for the material I use whenever possible. If I somehow overlooked doing so for a story, or if a credit is incorrect, please let me know and I will rectify it in these show notes immediately. Some links included above may benefit me financially through qualifying purchases.)
= = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =
“I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness.” — John 12:46
= = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =
WeirdDarkness® is a registered trademark. Copyright ©2023, Weird Darkness.
= = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =
Stories and content in Weird Darkness can be disturbing for some listeners and intended for mature audiences only. Parental discretion is strongly advised.
In 1958, journalist Andrew Genzoli of the Humboldt Times highlighted a fun, if dubious, letter from a reader about loggers in northern California who’d discovered mysteriously large footprints. “Maybe we have a relative of the Abominable Snowman of the Himalayas,” Genzoli jokingly wrote in his September 21 column alongside the letter.
Later, Genzoli said that he’d simply thought the mysterious footprints “made a good Sunday morning story.” But to his surprise, it really fascinated readers. In response, Genzoli and fellow Humboldt Times journalist Betty Allen published follow-up articles about the footprints, reporting the name loggers had given to the so-called creature who left the tracks—“Big Foot.” And so a legend was born.
“There are various wild man myths from all over the world,” says Joshua Blu Buhs, author of Bigfoot: The Life and Times of a Legend. In western Canada, the Sts’ailes First Nation have the “Sasq’ets,” the supposed origin of the word “Sasquatch.” However, the modern U.S. concept of bigfoot can be traced quite directly to the Humboldt Times stories in 1958.
“People later go back and dig through old newspapers and stuff and find scattered reports of a wild man here, a wild man there,” he says. “But it doesn’t coalesce into a general discussion until the ‘50s.”
Even though loggers blamed acts of vandalism on Bigfoot, Allen thought that most of them didn’t really believe in the creature. It seemed to her that they were just passing along stories with a “legendary flavor.” Still, the story spread to newspapers all over the country, and the TV show Truth or Consequences offered $1,000 to anyone who could prove the existence of Bigfoot.
“Who is making the huge 16-inch tracks in the vicinity of Bluff Creek?” Genzoli wrote in one of his columns that October. “Are the tracks a human hoax? Or, are they the actual marks of a huge but harmless wild-man, traveling through the wilderness? Can this be some legendary sized animal?”
Once Bigfoot’s story went public, it became a character in men’s adventure magazines and cheap trade paperback novels. In these stories, he—for Bigfoot was definitely a “he”—was a primal, dangerous creature out of the past who lurked in the modern wilderness. By the 1970s, pseudo-documentaries were investigating his existence and films were portraying him as a sexual predator.
In the ‘80s, Bigfoot showed his softer side. He became “associated with environmentalism, and a symbol of the wilderness that we need to preserve,” Buh says. One big example is the 1987 movie Harry and the Hendersons, which portrayed Bigfoot as a friendly, misunderstood creature in need of protection from John Lithgow and his family.
So why has the Bigfoot legend persisted for so many years? “It takes on its own momentum because it is a media icon,” Buh suggests.
Just as no one really needs to explain that characters who turn into wolves during a full moon are werewolves, no one needs to explain who a hairy man-ape walking out of the woods would be. “It’s just something that’s easy to refer to,” Buh says. That would be Bigfoot.
I’m Darren Marlar and this is Weird Darkness.
Welcome, Weirdos – (I’m Darren Marlar and) this is Weird Darkness. Here you’ll find stories of the paranormal, supernatural, legends, lore, the strange and bizarre, crime, conspiracy, mysterious, macabre, unsolved and unexplained.
Coming up in this episode…
We are fascinated by him when we read about him in books, or see him on TV or in movies. Bigfoot has become bigger than life with every paranormal and cryptozoology enthusiast gobbling up every bit of news that comes out about the furry mysterious creature. But what would you do if you came face-to-face with one, in real life, in his territory? Tonight we look at Bigfoot. Sasquatch. The Yeti. Whatever you want to call him, he has found fame worldwide in both paranormal circles and cable TV shows. We’ll ask what he is, what he is not, what evidence has been collected, the interesting take on our fuzzy friend that Russia has, and more.
If you’re new here, welcome to the show! While you’re listening, be sure to check out WeirdDarkness.com for merchandise, to visit sponsors you hear about during the show, sign up for my newsletter, enter contests, connect with me on social media, plus, you can visit the Hope in the Darkness page if you’re struggling with depression or dark thoughts. You can find all of that and more at WeirdDarkness.com.
Now.. bolt your doors, lock your windows, turn off your lights, and come with me into the Weird Darkness!
STORY: BIGFOOT – MAN, MONSTER, OR MYTH=====
Bigfoot, also known as Sasquatch, is a giant ape-like creature that is said to roam the Pacific Northwest. There is scant physical evidence that such creatures exist, but Bigfoot buffs are convinced that they do, and that science will soon prove it.
While most sightings of Bigfoot occur in the Northwest, the creatures have been reported all over the country. Heck, all over the world. There are many native myths and legends of wild men in the woods, but Bigfoot per se has been around for just over 60 years. Interest in Bigfoot grew rapidly during the second half of the 20th century, spurred by magazine articles of the time, most seminally a December 1959 “True” article describing the discovery of large, mysterious footprints the year before in Bluff Creek, California.
If you don’t believe in Bigfoot (singular or plural), you’re not alone. According to a 2007 Baylor Religion Survey, only 16 percent of Americans said that Bigfoot “absolutely” or “probably” exist, with 44 percent responding “probably not” and about 40 percent saying that they “absolutely [do] not” exist. (In contrast, over twice as many people believe in ghosts or astrology.)
By far the most common evidence for Bigfoot is eyewitness reports.
A Pennsylvania man who accused Bigfoot of vandalizing his 1973 Winnebago in October of 2012 is just one of a long history of people who have blamed the hairy humanoid for attacking personal property and dwellings.
John Reed, a Bigfoot enthusiast, claims that during a camping trip he and his girlfriend saw a tall, dark, hairy figure walk past their camper window at night. According to one news story, Reed said the Bigfoot “threw rocks at his mobile home’s outside light to escape discovery.”
This explanation doesn’t make sense; if the Bigfoot didn’t want to be noticed, it presumably wouldn’t have walked right past the Winnebago’s window with two people inside, nor thrown rocks at the camper. The creature could simply have avoided the campsite, or kept walking into the darkness if it did not want to be detected, instead of standing and throwing rocks at an exterior light. That’s not a very good way to go about trying not to be noticed.
As odd as this story seems, Reed is not the first to claim to find traces and evidence of what they assume must have been a Bigfoot, though not clearly seeing or photographing it at the time. The logic goes like this: I don’t know what else it might have been, so it must have been Bigfoot.
It is well known that wild animals attack vehicles such as car and RVs — especially if they can smell food inside. And many animals, including bears and raccoons, can be very clever and persistent in trying to get into vehicles and other containers. Trashcans in national parks have specially designed latching mechanisms to thwart feral intruders.
Bigfoot have been claimed to vandalize not only dwellings but also trees. In October 2011, Bigfoot researcher and biologist John Bindernagel visited western Siberia to examine evidence of the Yeti (the Russian version of Bigfoot). He claimed to have found evidence that the creature broke trees and branches. “Twisted trees like this have also been observed in North America and they could fit with the theory that Bigfoot makes nests,” Bindernagel said in an interview with the British tabloid “The Sun.” We’ll get back to “Bigfoot Nests” a bit later.
In another mysterious incident that some attribute to Bigfoot or another unknown creature, in 2008 a South Carolina couple claimed that something vandalized their vehicle, leaving mysterious bite marks and ripping out part of the fender on their 2002 Dodge Grand Caravan.
The most famous case of a Bigfoot attack allegedly occurred at a place called Ape Canyon, near Mount St. Helens, Washington. In 1924, a group of five miners working at the site were besieged by a group of “ape men.” One of the miners, a man named Fred Beck, claimed that they sighted a group of Bigfoot high above them on the edge of the canyon. The miners then spent a terrified night holed up in their cabin, during which the Bigfoot bombarded the cabin with rocks, and, they claimed, even tried to break the door in. The miners couldn’t get a good look at the Bigfoot—partly because it was dark and partly because they could only see outside through small cracks in the door and walls.
The incident was cited for years in Bigfoot lore as a classic Bigfoot attack, and the details were exaggerated with each retelling. For example a few dozen fist-size rocks that rained down on the roof and walls became “giant boulders” in some versions of the story. Later research found that the famous Ape Canyon Bigfoot attack was not a hoax — but nor was it real: it was instead a combination of a prank and misperceptions.
It seems that the “Bigfoot” were local YMCA youth from nearby Spirit Lake, who had a long tradition of throwing stones (including pumice rocks, which can be deceptively light for their size) down into the canyon from above. The kids would not have known the miners were in the canyon, nor even that they were necessarily hitting a cabin in the darkness far below. When the miners looked up they would have only seen silhouettes of figures far above them. It must surely have been a terrifying experience for the miners, and it’s easy to see how the Bigfoot story could have been spawned.
Could something similar explain the recent incident in Pennsylvania? Reed says he believes that the damage to his Winnebago wasn’t caused by a group of pranking kids, though police think that’s exactly what it was and are treating the case as ordinary vandalism. If Reed wants to file an insurance claim for the damages to his camper, he might want to go with that story.
It’s not the height that freaks you out. It’s the mass. For people that believe they’ve seen Bigfoot in-person, the sighting, however benign, can become a source of absolute terror. That’s coming up when Weird Darkness returns!
Don Peer is an Upper Peninsula-based investigator with the Bigfoot Field Researchers Organization. He has looked into several reports of Bigfoot sightings, as well as participating in Bigfoot expeditions. One story has stuck with him; it was the first time somebody broke down sobbing on the phone with him.
“He said, ‘I don’t think I can ever hunt again. I can’t even bring myself to go out and look,'” Peer recalled of the conversation with the hunter. “And all he did was stumble upon one that was laying on the ground, basically sleeping.”
The creature jumped up and ran away.
“You’re talking 800 to 1,000 pounds for an adult male. Just that size is what really freaks people out,” said Peer, who has never had a direct sighting but hopes to.
Kim Fleming, a former Bigfoot investigator who says she’s had several sightings, agrees that people get spooked by the size of what they’re seeing.
It happened to her.
She was investigating a Bigfoot report near Kalkaska when something crossed behind her car.
“It was absolutely huge. It took up two-thirds of my (rearview) mirror,” said Fleming, formerly of Traverse City.
Fleming, a former college biology major and science teacher, is confident when she says the sandy-colored animal was not a cougar or a deer. She’d researched cougars out of her own interest at time when the Department of Natural Resources was saying there weren’t cougars in Michigan (there are, there’s just no evidence of a breeding population).
“All I could think of was, ‘hit the gas,'” Fleming recalled. So she did.
Later, she began having panic attacks.
“There’s a sense of fear that comes over you,” Fleming said, comparing it to the adrenaline rush you might experience when narrowly avoiding a car crash.
“That situation in Kalkaska, made me realize I probably wasn’t doing the wisest thing,” Fleming said, noting that she didn’t have a weapon and nobody really knew where she was. “And it just it scared me. And so I was like, ‘Okay, I think I’m done.”
Chances are, you don’t believe in Bigfoot. However, you may be slightly more likely to believe in Bigfoot than you were a few years ago.
Chapman University regularly conducts surveys of American fears. In 2018, the university’s survey of paranormal beliefs showed 20.7% agreed or strongly agreed that Bigfoot is a real creature.
Paranormal beliefs, in general, have been climbing in recent years, the university said in 2018; belief in Bigfoot specifically was up 7.2% between 2016 and 2018.
The Cadillac News asked Peer why he thinks so many people don’t believe in Bigfoot.
“People fear ridicule,” Peer said.
Not him. “I don’t care what people think of me,” Peer continued. “I don’t care at all. I’m fortunate, in that sense, because it really holds people back of life, when they do.”
Peer said he’s often the first person to hear about a Bigfoot sighting, sometimes years after the fact.
“They’re afraid to tell anybody else because of ridicule, and they actually break down, they start sobbing,” Peer said. “There’s so much raw emotion when people have an encounter. You can’t fake that.”
On one of Peer’s first expeditions, his son had an encounter, he said.
The boy, 15 at the time, had gone quiet, out-of-sight. When they found him again, “he’s just white as a ghost, he’s literally just shaking,” Peer recalled. “And he said it was watching you guys.”
That was 12 years ago. The Cadillac News asked Peer if he thinks his son would have told him if he’d just been pulling his leg a decade ago.
“There was no faking that fear,” Peer said.
For the Bigfoot Field Research Organization (BFRO), the chief mystery they are trying to solve is one of flesh and blood.
“The BFRO has a standard of flesh and blood only,” Fleming said. “If you think there’s a spiritual dynamic, that doesn’t go in your report.”
They’re looking for hard evidence, like tracks and video and DNA.
Vern Richardson, a wildlife biologist for the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, has seen evidence of the type preferred by the BFRO. As a wildlife biologist, it’s part of his job to identify animals based on the hard evidence available.
Once, somebody reported possible Bigfoot tracks to him.
But it was another animal entirely: a human trespasser.
The footprints, at first look, appeared too big to be human.
But melting snow can do that to footprints.
“I think it was early in the spring … And when you step on the snow, and you compact that, it may melt faster where you stepped,” Richardson explained.
The sun warms the ground underneath “and then melts the edges of that track faster than the adjacent fluffy snow, which makes the track expand,” Richardson said.
“I haven’t seen any evidence to suggest that Bigfoot is a thing, at least around here or anywhere else that I’ve seen anything from,” Richardson said.
While there’s still a lot of mystery in the local woods, Richardson said he’s not expecting to encounter a previously unidentified large animal.
“From a purely scientific, evidence-based stand, stuff gets hit on the road. Stuff turns up dead. Things don’t live forever,” Richardson said. “Unless there’s a carcass disposal system, if something’s alive, it will die at some point and there will be evidence that it was once there.”
After her scare in Kalkaska, it took a little while for Fleming to stop investigating altogether. In part, that was because there was a long-term investigation near Lake City that she wanted to see through.
There have been several sightings in the Cadillac News coverage area in this century; Fleming and Peer have investigated several of those sightings.
The Lake City area sighting involved the most extensive BFRO investigation in Wexford, Missaukee, Lake or Osceola counties.
Ultimately deemed a “Class A” (high quality) encounter, in the spring of 2013 a Lake City area man reported wood knocks, whistling and tracks. Fleming and other BFRO researchers visited several times and the man continued reporting sightings and other unusual ephemera.
Wexford County had a Class A report in 2000 near Kingsley. It wasn’t reported until 2014. Teens shining for deer reported a thing running towards them and breathing heavily.
Class B reports in Wexford County include seeing a shadow and rocks thrown in the Long Lake State Forest between Manton and Cadillac in 2010; a coon hunter followed out of the woods by something in the Buckley/Mesick area in 2004; and a bowhunter witnessing a tree being shaken and something roaring or screaming in 2000 or 2001 near Hoxeyville.
Osceola County had a Class A “close encounter” near a school bus stop when “a large figure knocked a small dead tree over and chased me and my sister.” That incident was reported to the BFRO in 2012. In 2012, a hunter reported previous incidents near Pecks Lake involving heavy steps, a 7-foot figure and a “guttural noise.” That report was considered a Class B report.
Lake County has had one report, a Class A near Baldwin in 2006 that was reported in 2012. Brothers reported a tall fuzzy creature that ran faster than a man.
BFRO says “Class A reports involve clear sightings in circumstances where misinterpretation or misidentification of other animals can be ruled out with greater confidence,” while Class B reports are “incidents where a possible sasquatch was observed at a great distance or in poor lighting conditions.”
Additionally, the Tippy Dam area is known for having rock-throwing incidents, where big rocks are chucked at people in watercraft, Fleming said.
Poor quality reports or reports where it’s believed to be a prank don’t make it onto the public website, Fleming said.
Hartwick Pines frequently attracts people who search for Sasquatch. Craig Kasmer, an interpreter at the Hartwick Pines Visitor Center, said he’s never seen any evidence of Bigfoot. But he understands the impulse to search.
“I like to know the names of things, I think it’s important. I think once you get to know the name of something, you care for it, or have a potential to care about it more,” said Kasmer, who was seen in a few shots of a 2012 episode of “Finding Bigfoot.”
“Any mystery to me, that comes up in my line of work, I want to find the answer to it.”
Unfortunately, eyewitness reports are by far the weakest type of evidence. Anyone can be mistaken, and pilots, policemen, priests, and public officials are no exception. Psychologists and police know that eyewitness testimony is notoriously unreliable, and that people are simply not very good at accurately describing something they saw — especially at a distance in low light and when the subject is partially hidden by trees and foliage (as most Bigfoot reports are). Speaking of trees and foliage, let’s get back to that theory that nests are being woven by Sasquatch – something I’m still having a hard time wrapping my head around.
As mentioned previously, in October 2011, Bigfoot researcher and biologist John Bindernagel visited western Siberia to examine evidence of the Yeti (the Russian version of Bigfoot). He claimed to have found evidence that the creature broke trees and branches, which he said fit his theory that Bigfoot makes nests.”
“We didn’t feel like the trees we saw in Siberia had been done by a man or another mammal,” he told The Sun newspaper. “Twisted trees like this have also been observed in North America and they could fit with the theory that Bigfoot makes nests. The nests we have looked at are built around trees twisted together into an arch shape.”
Bindernagel was part of a small group of scientists who visited western Siberia to examine evidence of the Yeti in October of 2011. That group made headlines around the world for issuing a statement that they had “indisputable proof” of the Yetiand were 95 percent sure it existed based on the evidence – a few strands of hair – they found.
Tree twisting, also called splintering, has been claimed as Bigfoot evidence for decades throughout the Pacific Northwest and elsewhere. In some cases tool markings have been found on trees said to have been twisted by Bigfoot. This suggests that the creatures are even possibly more intelligent than previously suspected and may be able to somehow locate and use pliers, monkey wrenches, and other common hardware tools.
Although many of the “mysteriously” twisted tree limbs are conveniently near ground level, some are found at the top of trees. Bigfoot researchers claim these are stronger evidence of the Yeti’s existence, because whereas any hoaxer could easily twist small, waist-level branches, only a Bigfoot-like animal would be able to climb up that high.
However, that raises the not-insignificant question of how a huge, heavy animal would get to the top of a tree without breaking it, or at least snapping a few branches on the way up. Bigfoot are often said to be between 8-and-12-feet tall and weigh several hundred pounds; surely if such a tall, heavy animal made its way up a tree – most of the trees that have been found twisted are spindly in nature – there would be much more obvious damage than a few woven branches at the very top. And if Bigfoot and Yetis spend time perched at the tops of trees doing arboreal decorating, why aren’t they spotted more often?
There’s even more reason to be skeptical of Bindernagel’s claim. According to Sharon Hill of the Doubtful News blog, another scientist who participated in the same Russian expedition concluded that hoaxing was afoot. At a Bigfoot conference that Hill attended, Jeff Meldrum (a professor of anatomy and anthropologist at Idaho State University who endorses the existence of Bigfoot) said that he suspected the twisted tree branches had been faked. Not only was there obvious evidence of tool-made cuts in the supposedly “Yeti-twisted” branches, but the trees were conveniently located just off a well-traveled trail.
Meldrum, who eventually concluded that the whole Russian expedition was more of a publicity stunt than a serious scientific endeavor, refused to sign the group’s statement endorsing “indisputable proof” of the Yeti, and returned to the United States. Others, including Bindernagel, remain convinced that conclusive Yeti and Bigfoot evidence is just around the corner.
Most Bigfoot researchers admit that the vast majority of sightings are mistakes or hoaxes (up to 95 percent, by some estimates). Still, they insist that a Bigfoot must be hiding in that tiny portion of sightings and reports that can’t be easily explained.
The most famous image of a Bigfoot is the short film taken in 1967 by Roger Patterson and Bob Gimlin. Shot in Bluff Creek, Calif., it shows a dark, man-sized and man-shaped figure striding through a clearing. Widely considered a hoax by skeptics, for believers it remains to this day the best evidence for Bigfoot. However this poses a serious blow to the film’s credibility: if it’s real, and these Bigfoot creatures are really out there wandering in front of people with cameras, it’s very suspicious that better films and videos haven’t emerged since Lyndon Johnson’s administration.
These days almost everyone has a 5 megapixel, HD camera in their pocket with their iPhones or other devices. At no time in history have so many people had high-quality cameras on them virtually all the time. If Bigfoot exist, logically the photographic evidence for them should improve over the years. Yet it hasn’t. Photographs of people, cars, mountains, flowers, sunsets, deer, and everything else have gotten sharper and clearer over the years; Bigfoot is a notable exception.
One possibility is that there is some supernatural explanation, such as that Bigfoot somehow emits special, unknown light waves that inexplicably cause the beasts to always appear out of focus in photographs, no matter how good the camera is. The more logical explanation is that the photographs of them we see are either hoaxes or misidentifications.
In his book “Big Footprints,” veteran researcher Grover Krantz (Johnson Books, 1992) discussed alleged Bigfoot hair, feces, skin scrapings and blood: “The usual fate of these items is that they either receive no scientific study, or else the documentation of that study is either lost or unobtainable. In most cases where competent analyses have been made, the material turned out to be bogus or else no determination could be made.”
When a definite conclusion has been reached through scientific analysis, the samples have invariably turned out to have ordinary sources — “Bigfoot hair” turns out to be elk, bear, or cow hair, for example, or “Bigfoot blood” is revealed to be transmission fluid. Sometimes alleged Bigfoot samples are subjected to DNA analysis and are deemed “unknown” or “unidentified.” However “unknown” or “unidentified” results do not mean “Bigfoot.” There are many reasons why a DNA sample might come back unknown, including that it was contaminated or too degraded by environmental conditions. Or it could simply mean that the animal it came from was not among the reference samples that the laboratory used for comparison. We have no reference sample of Bigfoot DNA to compare it to, so by definition there cannot be a conclusive match.
Researchers from Oxford University and the Lausanne Museum of Zoology were asking anyone with a collection of cryptozoological material to submit descriptions of it. The researchers then asked for hair and other samples for genetic identification.
When interviewed at the time, geneticist Bryan Sykes of the University of Oxford said, “I’m challenging and inviting the cryptozoologists to come up with the evidence instead of complaining that science is rejecting what they have to say.”
While Sykes didn’t expect to find solid evidence of a yeti or Bigfoot monster, he said he was keeping an open mind and hoped to identify perhaps 20 of the suspect samples. Along the way, he’d be happy if he found some unknown species.
“It would be wonderful if one or more turned out to be species we don’t know about, maybe primates, maybe even collateral hominids,” Sykes told LiveScience. Such hominids would include Neanderthals or Denosivans, a mysterious hominin species that lived in Siberia 40,000 years ago.
“That would be the optimal outcome,” Sykes said.
The project is called the Oxford-Lausanne Collateral Hominid Project. It is being led by Sykes and Michel Sartori of the zoology museum.
Sykes doesn’t want to start receiving loads of skin, hair and other samples haphazardly, so he is asking people to send detailed descriptions of their “yeti” samples.
Sadly, the results were not what cryptozoologists and harry hominid lovers worldwide were hoping for. The “yeti” hair sample they did receive turned out to be polar bear fur. And then there’s the story of the Yeti finger…
A finger long claimed to be from a yeti, once revered in a monastery in Nepal and taken in the 1950s by a Bigfoot researcher, was been identified after decades to be just a regular old human finger — albeit one with a very interesting history.
The so-called “yeti finger” was either bought or stolen from the Pangboche Buddhist monastery in the 1950s, depending on which disputed story you believe. It had been in London, among the collection of the Royal College of Surgeons, for more than half a century.
The finger was taken from the monastery by Bigfoot researcher Peter Byrne and was smuggled out of the country, so the story goes, by beloved Hollywood actor Jimmy Stewart, who hid it amid his wife’s lingerie. The monstrous finger ended up in the possession of Dr. William Osman Hill, who had searched for the yeti in the 1950s on behalf of Texas millionaire Tom Slick; Hill later bequeathed the finger to the Royal College of Surgeons.
The finger has generated controversy among Bigfoot and yeti believers for decades and, until in 2011 when researchers at the Edinburgh Zoo performed DNA analysis on the mysterious digit. Before then it was impossible to know for certain what kind of animal it belonged to.
If it is indeed a Yeti finger, and not human, then the mysterious beast is even more man-like than anyone could have ever imagined. According to the researchers’ DNA analysis, the Yeti finger is human though, perhaps from the corpse of a monk. But definitely human.
Rob Ogden of the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland explained to BBC News: “We had to stitch it together. We had several fragments that we put into one big sequence, and then we matched that against the database and we found human DNA.” The researchers said that the result “wasn’t too surprising, but obviously slightly disappointing.”
In 1960 Sir Edmund Hillary, the first man to scale Mount Everest, searched for evidence of the beast and found a “yeti scalp” that scientists later determined had been fashioned from the skin of a serow, a Himalayan animal similar to a goat.
But if populations of Russian yetis really exist, they, like Bigfoot, have somehow managed to avoid leaving any physical traces of their presence: bodies, bones, teeth, hair, or anything else.]
Hoaxers have further contaminated the problem of sorting fact from fiction. Dozens of people have admitted faking Bigfoot prints, photographs, and nearly every other type of Bigfoot evidence. One man, Rant Mullens, revealed in 1982 that he and friends had carved giant Bigfoot tracks and used them to fake footprints for decades. Which are real? Which are fake? Often the Bigfoot experts themselves can’t agree. And sometimes, the hoaxers are so committed, they put their own lives in danger for the joke.
In August of 2012, a Montana man was struck and killed by cars while trying to hoax a Bigfoot sighting. Randy Lee Tenley of Kalispell was pronounced dead at the scene on U.S. Highway 93 south of Kalispell after being hit by two cars consecutively. Tenley was wearing a military-style ghillie suit, which is a type of camouflage that resembles vegetation or foliage. Police interviewed Tenley’s friends to determine why he would be wearing a full-length dark ghillie suit in the right-hand lane of the highway at night, and were apparently told of Tenley’s nocturnal Bigfoot-inspired mischief. Trooper Jim Schneider, interviewed by the Daily Inter Lake.com, said that Tenley “was trying to make people think he was Sasquatch so people would call in a Sasquatch sighting. You can’t make it up. I haven’t seen or heard anything like this before. Obviously, his suit made it difficult for people to see him.” The most famous film of a Bigfoot — one shot in 1967 in Bluff Creek, Calif., by a man named Roger Patterson — is widely considered by skeptics to be a hoax pulled off by a man in a costume. Either way, anyone pulling such a stunt these days is taking a real risk.
But Tenley’s death does bring up another question. What if it truly was a Bigfoot, and not a man in a suit? If you hit Bigfoot with your car, did you just kill a member of an endangered species? If you’re on a hunting trip, as Patterson was when the famous 1967 footage was filmed… what if he had taken a shot at the creature? Would it be ethical to shoot and kill a Bigfoot? Some say yes, because that’s the only way to prove they exist, and once proof is found, funds could be made available to protect them as an endangered species. Others say no, that because Bigfoot sightings are so rare, they must have very small populations and killing one might drive the animals to extinction. Ecological ethics aside, aiming a gun at a Bigfoot could be a bad idea. You simply can’t know for sure if the mysterious, burly figure you have lined up in your sights is the real beast, or a bear, or a hoaxer in a costume. And even if it’s the real thing, how on earth would you know how it would react to being shot at? You know it’s not going to be happy about it – and if it’s intelligent, as suspected, it’s going to know the burning painful injury it just received came from you, the one with the bang stick. Plus, the whole idea might be outright illegal in the first place. In 2012 a Texas teen shot what he believed to be a Chupacabra, and while charges were not brought against him, if the creature turned out to be someone’s dog or a mangy coyote, he could potentially have faced a felony charge.
The lack of good evidence hasn’t dampened the enthusiasm of Bigfoot buffs; they have all they need in sighting reports, fuzzy photos, inconclusive hair samples, and footprints to keep the search going. Until better evidence comes along, old evidence will be rehashed and re-examined — and unless Bigfoot is proven to be alive, the search will continue.
When Weird Darkness returns, we’ll take a short look at the history of Bigfoot – as well as a few more sightings that are considered classics of Bigfoot lore!
In the world of Bigfoot, there are stories. And then there are stories. The former involve encounters of the run-of-the-mill variety. They are the brief, unexpected, and often perplexing brushes between man and beast that occur with little fanfare and end all too quickly, leaving a trail of questions in their wake. The discovery of tracks, the screams, the glimpses of fur and form, the sound of footsteps around the tent at night—these are the more common, dime-a-dozen experiences. Had my early exposure to the phenomenon been limited to a few of these sorts of accounts, Bigfoot perhaps would not have left its indelible impression on me.
The bigger and brasher tales—the classics, as they’re called—are what fueled my journey to believerdom. These yarns were so outlandish, so seemingly preposterous, that they could only be relegated to that borderland where reality segues into fantasy.
No Bigfoot connoisseur worth his night-vision equipment doesn’t know the story of Albert Ostman—a Sasqualogy cause célèbre second only to the 1967 Patterson-Gimlin film. Ostman, a Swedish Canadian logger, claimed he was kidnapped in his sleeping bag one night while prospecting in the wilderness at the head of Toba Inlet, British Columbia (just south of the Great Bear Rainforest), in 1924. Ostman alleged that after being picked up in his bag and dragged through the mountains for most of the night, he was dropped in a clearing in a small valley where the light of the rising sun revealed a nuclear family of Bigfoots—a father, mother, son, and daughter—staring at him in the faint light of dawn. His otherwise curious and mostly benevolent hosts, chattering in an incomprehensible patois, kept him prisoner there for almost a week. Ostman finally made a successful dash for freedom after poisoning “the Old Man,” as he called him, by feeding him a can of chewing tobacco he happened to have in his sleeping bag.
In 1957, Ostman came forward and related the incident to journalist John Green, just before the humanoid tracks discovered in Bluff Creek, in northern California, propelled Bigfoot into popular awareness. “I Was Kidnapped by a Sasquatch,” the title of Green’s dead-serious newspaper story on Ostman’s encounter, appearing on the front page of the Agassiz-Harrison Advance, foreshadowed every chintzy supermarket-tabloid headline to ever appear on the subject.
Soon after Ostman’s tale came to light, another yarn, also reported to have occurred in 1924, resurfaced to take its rightful place in Sasqualogy’s annals of the unforgettable.
On July 13, 1924, the Oregonian, a Portland daily, reported that a group of five miners, prospecting on the southeastern slopes of Mount Saint Helens in Washington State, had been attacked in their cabin by a group of “Mountain Devils.” The story later came to be known as the “Ape Canyon incident,” named after the gorge where the attack took place and where gorilla-like creatures had been seen for as long as anyone could remember.
Early Sasquatch investigators found and interviewed the last surviving member of that drama, Fred Beck, after digging up the old Oregonian article in the mid-1960s. Beck told them the assault on the cabin came in response to the prospectors’ firing on creatures that had been shadowing them in the woods for several days. The account of the cabin attack, which came in the dead of night and continued in unrelenting waves until daylight, is worthy of its own horror film. The mob of ape-men swarmed the outside of the cabin, banging on its door and walls, stomping on the roof, pelting it with rocks, and reaching in with their shaggy arms through gaps in the logs. The terrified miners barely kept the creatures at bay, firing their rifles at the walls and ceiling all night, until the attack finally came to an end with the rising sun. The Oregonian reported that the miners “were so upset by the incidents of the night, they left the cabin without making breakfast.” The forest ranger who was assigned to that district, and who claimed to have met the men as they were fleeing, later told investigators, in the 1960s, that he’d never seen grown men more frightened.
Stories like these fed my fascination when I was a child. What sets them apart from other Sasquatch tales is the drama, danger, and emotional tension built into them—and a narrative flamboyance that fires the imagination. Raising the emotional pitch, research shows, leads to gullibility and conditioning. But something fundamental to these tales is key to understanding every Sasquatch enthusiast’s fascination. These stories depict Bigfoots as quasi-human, intelligent, self-aware, and calculating. Even more, they insinuate a shadowy and almost forbidden parallel world, which the creatures inhabit.
When I was a kid, there was no skepticism, no weighing of evidence, no sense of whether any of it jibed with reality. At no time while reading these stories did I find it strange that Ostman, in the account of his kidnapping, never said he felt fear or terror. Or that despite also having a gun in his sleeping bag, he didn’t attempt to shoot his way out. Or that the creatures that attacked Beck and his colleagues didn’t simply break through the cabin door, or ambush the men later during their retreat (or indeed why most Sasquatch encounters do not—as far as we know—end in violence or death). Nor would my opinion have changed had I known that in 1966, Beck, infected by the growing vogue of Eastern religious cults sweeping the Western world, had self-published a New Age manifesto entitled I Fought the Apemen of Mt. St. Helens, in which he claimed psychic powers, argued for the existence of UFOs, and alleged that his party made contact during their Ape Canyon trip with native spirit guides wearing buckskin.
The Committee for Skeptical Inquiry, a science-minded organization of debunkers, has run articles in its flagship publication, Skeptical Inquirer, taking potshots at claims of the existence of Sasquatches. The idea the magazine espouses most frequently is that Bigfoots are often no more than misidentified bears.
“Mistaken identifications,” writes Joe Nickell, the author of one such piece, “could be due to poor viewing conditions, such as the creature being seen only briefly, or from a distance, in shadow or at nighttime, through foliage, or the like—especially while the observer is, naturally, excited.” The idea that Sasquatch is nothing more than a misidentified bear isn’t new. But this argument gained significant traction after the publication, in 2000, of My Quest for the Yeti, by Italian alpinist Reinhold Messner. The celebrated mountain virtuoso and explorer—known for the first solo ascent of Mount Everest without supplemental oxygen, in 1980—has spent his life exploring the Himalayan region. His conquest of all fourteen Himalayan peaks that top eight thousand meters, the highest on earth, has made him a legend among alpinists. After scaling every major summit in the area, the mountain-obsessed Italian turned his sights to a formidable new challenge: the mystery of the yeti.
In his book, Messner claims that he encountered a yeti in eastern Tibet in 1986. The incident took place in the evening, while he was on a solo expedition, tracing an old Sherpa route through a series of valleys. As he was trekking up a forested ravine, trying to reach a clearing above the tree line, Messner was startled by a fleet-footed, upright silhouette, which was stealthily darting back and forth between the trees. At first he thought he’d come across a yak and its owners, but the nature of its movements soon convinced him otherwise.
“It moved upright,” he writes. “It was as if my own shadow had been projected onto the thicket. For one heartbeat it stood motionless, then turned away and disappeared into the dusk.”
Messner then found large tracks going up the mountainside, before the same or a similar creature reappeared and now whistled angrily at him. This time Messner got a slightly better look at it: “Covered with hair, it stood upright on two short legs and had powerful arms that hung down almost to its knees. I guessed it to be over seven feet tall. Its body looked much heavier than that of a man that size, but it moved with such agility and power toward the edge of the escarpment that I was both startled and relieved. Mostly I was stunned. No human would have been able to run like that in the middle of the night.”
After making inquiries with villagers, Messner discovered that he had encountered what locals referred to, fearfully, as a chemo—a creature comparable to the Nepalese yeti. Messner was fascinated. He decided to embark on a new mission to find and make sense of the mysterious animal.
After twelve long years of research and excursions with local guides in both Pakistan and Tibet, the alpinist concluded that the animal he had encountered in 1986 was not the yeti but none other than the rare and elusive Tibetan blue bear (thought to be a subspecies of brown bear). The bear’s mix of unusual qualities and behaviors matched those of the alleged man-beast:
1. The Tibetan bear often walks upright. When on all fours, it places its back foot into the print of its forepaw (as bears in North America occasionally do), causing the two tracks to merge into one humanoid-looking footprint.
2. It is nocturnally active.
3. Its vocalizations are high-pitched.
4. It is known to kill yaks with one blow of its paw (yak predation is another purported yeti pastime).
5. The Tibetan bear is red when young, becoming black when it grows into adulthood. So too is the yeti.
To Messner, his discovery made absolute sense. The Tibetan blue bear was no regular bear. The animal was highly idiosyncratic, and when people were influenced by ignorance, fear, and superstition, it morphed into a beast of the imagination whose reputation spanned generations and continents.
“I hasten to add that this is an extraordinary animal—fearsome and preternaturally intelligent, as far as possible from the cuddly image people in the West sometimes have of bears,” he writes. “These animals are nearly impossible to track, and for all their reality they remain deeply enigmatic. They avoid all contact with humans and are partly bipedal, nocturnal omnivores.”
American conservationist Daniel C. Taylor, who lived and worked for much of his life in the Himalayas, spent sixty years meticulously researching the Yeti mystery, starting long before Messner and beginning as a wild-man enthusiast himself. After traveling in the region’s most remote valley systems and himself coming across a set of mysterious tracks, he concluded similarly that snow prints purported to be yeti impressions were made by Asiatic black bears and other local bear species. He demonstrated convincingly that the tracks, including an iconic set of prints photographed by explorer Eric Shipton on the Nepal-Tibet border in 1951 (photos that set off the worldwide yeti craze), were double impressions of a bear’s forepaws and hind paws. Taylor even managed to find a never-before-published photo of the Shipton tracks that shows claw marks in the snow—which are not seen in the famous photo.
Since it’s assumed by most people that the yeti and the Sasquatch are generally the same creature, these bear theories have been taken up and applied wholesale to Bigfoot. Reinhold Messner himself personally led the charge. “Believe me,” the mountain climber declared in an interview with National Geographic Adventure magazine on the eve of his book’s publication in 2000. “Bigfoot is in reality the grizzly. Somebody will prove it like I proved the yeti story. It’s very logical, the whole thing.”
Even if Himalayan bear theories are correct, which I suspect they are, the Himalayas are not the Pacific Northwest. The grizzly bear is not the Tibetan bear. And amorphous impressions in the snow are not the same as detailed humanoid tracks in dirt or mud. Time and again in discussions with eyewitnesses in the Great Bear Rainforest, we are told in no uncertain terms: We live with bears. They are our relatives. We know how they look and act. Believe me: what I saw was no bear.
One of the more frequently brandished and more convincing arguments for the existence of Sasquatch is its apparent presence in North American aboriginal folklore. More than a few indigenous communities, particularly in the Pacific Northwest, allege that Bigfoot-type creatures do exist and can cite names and descriptions for them in their own traditions. For proponents of the Sasquatch, this is almost tantamount to hard proof; if such a species exists, it would have been known to local inhabitants before European colonization. When early Bigfoot researchers managed to get past walls of secrecy and reticence, they were told by indigenous people that the creatures were greatly feared and respected. Some cast them as cannibal spirits. Others described them as thief-like, preying on women and children. In most depictions, the animals were said to have special powers, including the ability to hypnotize, induce insanity, and cause physical harm. The power to shape-shift or transform into other creatures, many said, is what accounted for their elusiveness. These sorts of cultural beliefs were often of secondary importance to conventional Bigfoot investigators, who were—and still are—more interested in confirming the apelike qualities of the animal, as evinced in some indigenous carvings, masks, and dances.
There are many permutations of indigenous wild-man beings along the North American west coast. The Sasquatch, of course—its name derived from a Coast Salish word, Sasq’ets, meaning “wild man”—is the most famous. Among the Heiltsuk, the creatures are known as Thla’thla. In folklore, the Thla’thla is depicted as a large, hair-covered, forest-dwelling supernatural humanoid. Stories usually cast it as female. Its trademark quality is a penchant for abducting and eating children. It carries a large basket on its back with an inwardly spiked lid in which to stash abductees and transport them back to its lair. Parents often used the stories of the Thla’thla to prod or frighten their children into obedience.
For a long time, like many Sasquatch enthusiasts, I’d taken it for granted that any humanoid or bogeyman-type creature that is part of an indigenous group’s pantheon of supernatural beings must be the same as what people today call Bigfoot, since some, like Thla’thla and Sasq’ets, seem to fit the bill.
A few of the beings nowadays equated with the Sasquatch are the Gagiit of the Haida, a human who has succumbed to fatigue, cold, or hunger to become a ghostly wilderness dweller; the Kooshdaa Khaa of the Tlingit, who is likened to a land-dwelling otter and is believed to be the embodiment of a drowned or lost relative; and the wendigo of Algonquian-speaking peoples—a troublemaking spirit of the woods that can possess people and cause them to perpetrate acts of insatiable greed, murder, and cannibalism.
There may be something to these linkages with Sasquatch. After all, much indigenous oral history and traditional knowledge has been shown to be accurate—long antedating the same scientific or academic “discoveries.” But is it possible that the Sasquatch—simply one indigenous version of the wild man, whose name was Anglicized by nonindigenous people—has become so prominent and universal a story in its own right that it has come to be mixed up with and grafted onto other unique aboriginal traditions? Could the deluge of media coverage and the long-standing pop-cultural aspects of the Sasquatch story have influenced some indigenous people, and also Sasqualogists, to see more of “Bigfoot” in some supernatural beings than is actually there? Several such creatures don’t overlap much with Bigfoot apart from being humanoid or semi-humanoid.
Muddying the waters is the fact that common forest creatures are, in certain native stories, imbued with human qualities. Some can transform themselves into humans. The idea of a creature that bridges the human and animal spheres is in a sense commonplace.
Thanks for listening (and be sure to stick around for the bloopers at the end)! If you like the show, please share it with someone you know who loves the paranormal or strange stories, true crime, monsters, or unsolved mysteries like you do! You can email me anytime with your questions or comments at email@example.com. WeirdDarkness.com is also where you can find information on any of the sponsors you heard about during the show, find all of my social media, listen to audiobooks I’ve narrated, sign up for the email newsletter, find other podcasts that I host including “Church of the Undead”, visit the store for Weird Darkness merchandise, and more. WeirdDarkness.com is also where you can find the Hope in the Darkness page if you or someone you know is struggling with depression or dark thoughts. Also on the website, if you have a true paranormal or creepy tale to tell, you can click on TELL YOUR STORY. You can find all of that and more at WeirdDarkness.com.
All stories on Weird Darkness are purported to be true unless stated otherwise, and you can find links to the stories or the authors in the show notes.
“How The Bigfoot Legend Began” by Becky Little for History.com
“Bigfoot Was Watching You” by Karen Hopper for Cadillac News
“That Was No Bear” by John Zada for Lapham’s Quarterly
And a huge thanks to Benjamin Radford from LiveScience.com for his extensive research and writing on Bigfoot over the years – this episode would not have been possible without it, as most all of this episode is thanks to his work.
WeirdDarkness® is a registered trademark. Copyright, Weird Darkness.
Now that we’re coming out of the dark, I’ll leave you with a little light… “I urge you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned. Keep away from them. For such people are not serving our Lord Christ, but their own appetites. By smooth talk and flattery they deceive the minds of naive people.” – Romans 16:17-18
And a final thought… “A person who feels appreciated will always do more than is expected.” – Unknown
I’m Darren Marlar. Thanks for joining me in the Weird Darkness.