October is the prime Bigfoot month. The season is open! But it is not for hunting. It is the searching season!
“Don’t tell people you do that!”
But I do!
Searching for Bigfoot is actually one of only two things that causes me no grief in this Kolchakian pursuit of mysteries unsolved. There’s no tragedy– murder, missing people, rapists. There’s the outdoors, adventure, mystery, and the possibility of actually attaining the goal in one of the most majestic settings on earth– the fastness of the Pacific Northwest. You tell me what other mystery offers that?
But searching for Bigfoot isn’t easy. I’ve had to search for the truth behind Bigfoot for years before I could even field a real search. Bigfoot, sadly, as all think of it, is folklore. But the truth behind it is not. If you truly wish to catch the fever again, and even make what is currently a ludicrous carnival, if not outright comic strip cult, respectable again you must go back to the first undeniable fact: A big foot print.
And that Big Foot print was hoaxed. Everything about Bluff Creek, California, 1958, was a hoax, and most thereafter was too. After Bluff Creek 1958 some of the most sincere woodsmen got involved and some of the worst charlatans. But the world that is Bigfootery revealed a wonderful and underlying truth. It revealed that the Indians knew of such hairy wild men in the forests and mountains long before the White Man had ever come. They were vulgar and disgusting, and the Indians couldn’t stand them.
After Bluff Creek 1958 it didn’t matter how clear or how confused the Indian histories were to Whites. Whenever the Indians spoke of these degenerate hairy wildmen, Whites took it only one way: Yeti. The Abominable Snowman of the Himalayas!
The Yeti was the big world mystery in the 1950s due largely to the discovery in 1951 by mountain climber Eric Shipton of a strange anthropoid track of footprints on the Menlung La in the Himalayas. Shipton took a picture of the clearest print “as if made in wax” and the print electrified the world. It looked like a cross between a man and an ape and the whole idea of some living missing link excited the world.
Nevertheless, this sensational and alluring prospect was denigrated by the largest expedition to ever search for the elusive Yeti. In 1954 the Daily Mail sponsored Ralph Izzard and Charles Stonor and a group of impressive mountaineers and scientists to search the Himalayas with 250 Sherpas. The stories they gleaned and the evidence they found led Izzard and Stonor to believe that Yeti was Animal X, a strange undiscovered anthropoid but completely animal. It was certainly an ape of sorts, with tall cone head with a crest, reddish hair all over, and it stood about 5 feet tall. It could walk on its hind legs, but when rushing or chasing cattle it went down on all fours. This was Yeti. To Izzard and Stonor it was the furthest thing from the missing link.
There were those who sincerely disagreed. Based on the known stride of some of the track lines found (in particular Shipton’s) it seemed Yeti must be up to 7 feet tall. A true giant!
Well, on December 3, 1953, a young Switzer living in Alberta, Canada, named Rene Dahinden heard the announcements of the planned Daily Mail expedition to the Himalayas. He was enthralled by the mystery of hunting something that might be the scientific discovery of all history– the true apeman. Wilbur Willick, Dahinden’s boss, stood there listening too. He declared “We have them things here too.” Dahinden admitted something clicked in him. When he moved to British Columbia a couple of years later he had Izzard’s book The Abominable Snowman Adventure and his own theory that British Columbia’s legendary Sasquatch was the same thing– the Yeti!
This was hardly the birth of Bigfoot as we know him today, but it was the beginning of distorting the true image of Sasquatch.
Many things came together to reenergize the old legend of Sasquatch. In 1958 British Columbia was celebrating its centennial. One of the symbols used was the Sasquatch. But it was White Man’s impression of the old legends, not the Indian histories. The Indians had said they were giant hairy mountain Indians, but they were not related to the true Indians. To the Whites they had become tall Indians with long hair on their head, a purely rustic folklore.
Because of the Centenary everything was getting published on something that might fit the Indian legend. A hunter, William Roe, had seen something quite odd up Mica Mountain in the Canadian Rockies in 1955. He was going to shoot it, but it was too humanoid. Yet what he descirbed was something ape-like, not something after the fashion of White Man’s corruption of the Indian stories. He also described the foot– long with a wide ball and narrow heel.
Then a local newsman, John Green, got wind of a horrifying encounter that had happened to the Chapman family in 1941 at Ruby Creek. The mother, Jeannie Chapman, had said a huge hairy man came out of the forest and walked through the potato field toward the house. She gathered her children and fled. Jeannie Chapman called it a Sasquatch to John Green. But she described something animalistic, not some tall Indian with long hair on his head. She said it was about 7 and a half feet tall. It had an unusally small head for its size.
John Green was skeptical, but he chased down the lead she gave him. Sheriff Joe Dunn of Washington State had had a great interest in the legends of Sasquatch in 1941. He came to Canada and visited the farm with a local, Esse Tyfting. They found the prints were about 16 inches long and about 2 inches deep in the potato patch. They circled the house. A barrel of salmon had been thrown against a shed to break it open. Some of the fish was eaten. Dunn was surprised. He traced the clearest Sasquatch print he could find.
John Green actually knew Esse Tyfting. He was able to locate Dunn’s son. From him he got a tracing of the tracing Dunn Sr. had done. It was phenomenal. It was the same type of print Roe had described– wide at the ball and narrow at the heel.
In like manner as they had gaped at these odd footprints and tracings, so have I. Like them these footprints started me on my own journey to find the truth. Why? Because it is clear they are not from the same creature. Crew held up a large, flat human foot. Shipton’s is a wide, peculiar foot about 12 inches long with two large toes and 3 small toes, one of the large toes slightly offset. The Ruby Creek Print of 1941 is neither of them. It is long and narrow and the toes are almost even across.
Yet the legend of Bigfoot has been the legend of a single species– the American Yeti. The Gentle Giant Gigantopithecus or my subhuman buddy. This is not what I seek. In spirit, I understand the love Bigfooters have for their hobby. But in truth they must put away their fandom attitude and take up the attitude of the original Bigfooters and prepare to set out on the tracks of something that remains quite unknown.
Ruby Creek and Shipton’s photo are the earliest tracings or photos we have of the Sasquatch and Yeti, and it is obvious they are from radically different species. Yet American Bigfootery takes its lead from Dahinden that they are one and the same, and the cone headed giant of the Himalayas has become Bigfoot despite a completely different foot. This is the realm of folklorists. They catalog but never analyze. This is not the realm of those who seek the truth.
The Ruby Creek Print is unquestionably of a large humanoid (apparently) anthropoid that the Indians called Sasquatch. But when one digs into their histories, they also said there was more than one tribe. They were clear about this. In all of Bigfootery, who has ever heard of that? They also said that one tribe could speak something akin to the Douglas Dialect. Who even considers that anymore? Humans and a strange anthropoid yet they seem similar.
White Man has built up his own legend post Bluff Creek 1958. However, in reality, the truth behind the Sasquatch and Bigfoot is less clear today than it was 50 years ago when for the first time since the old frontier journals we began to hear again of humans, gross and degenerate, and the stories of the Kangaroo Man of the Sixes River and the legends of the gorillas of Mount St. Helen– the infamous Skoocoom.
The Indians are also right about something else. Sasquatch is about 6 feet to 6 and a half feet tall. To them that was a giant. J.W. Burns, the first to give us their stories in 1929, clarified this. But White Man too lost this for the 8 foot tall ogre of the Pacific Northwest. The truly giant Sasquatch is a rarity, if it even exists.
The legitimate footprints underscore there is more than one species, and the print at Bluff Creek simply doesn’t fit. It is a flat, enlarged modern human foot. It is a fact that no one in modern times has seen either a Sasquatch or Bigfoot clearly enough to describe it accurately.
This is why I so upset Bigfootery with in my book Recasting Bigfoot. I took the phenomenon back to a big foot print and started over. The Sasquatch Print is not what was found at Bluff Creek, where Bigfoot got his name. Patterson’s Bigfoot does not have the right footprint. I took the stories back to the Indians and found them and their artwork far more truthful.
. . . And their artwork gives us the clue. Bigfoot is indeed completely American. But it is not what people have suspected. I don’t seek the cone headed giant of very modern legend. I seek more than one thing and one of them is a native American anthropoid. . . .
It unquestionably juices the hunt to believe one is seeking the missing link. It is the living world of Rice Burroughs, and that is an exciting world. This belief has been the fulcrum around which Bigfooters have ennobled the pursuit of a chimera over North America since 1958. But falsehood only leads to falsehood, and loving it only creates it into that comic strip religion it has become.
There is that little bumper sticker that goes around Facebook. It shows a garish picture of “Bigfoot” and calls him the reigning hide and seek champion in the world. I’m afraid no one has ever sought the real thing.
Recasting Bigfoot has quietly been paving the way to reenergize Bigfootery and take it back to the exciting days after 1958. Much of the spirit of the search is true, but the object has been false. Something far more interesting awaits in the deep forests. It is the belief that Bigfoot is seen all over our roads that has kept serious researchers smirking and those dedicated enough to find Bigfoot from probing in where he may still exist.
In the next Bigfoot post we’ll see why I am either quietly loved or quietly hated within Bigfootery.