Comic Strip Fandom. I really never understood it, even as late as 5 years ago, a brief period of time in my 25 years of pursuing the X Files world. In Recasting Bigfoot I only briefly described a culture around Bigfoot that I considered almost pseudoreligious. It perhaps was too arcane a way to put it. Jean St. Jean put it to me simply and straight forward as “a real life comic strip.” I found this to be the best description. This does not just apply to Bigfoot. It applies to anything that becomes a popular urban legend. A core group become fans. A new writer cannot come to the franchise and rewrite the story. He can’t change Superman’s background and say he is not from Krypton and Marlon Brando is not his father.
Apparently that’s what I did.
Had I been some snide debunker, it would be different. Bigfootery would dismiss me. But in Recasting Bigfoot I gave the community something new, something alluring while at the same time demolishing Patterson’s Bigfoot and the reliability of the golden age of Bigfoot. I changed the image. It was heresy. The worst thing. The great danger is not paganism, it is heresy. Believing in the truth behind Bigfoot yet not endorsing every vignette that has become accepted in the Gospel of Bigfoot is like saying you believe in Jesus but you don’t believe in the water-into-wine episode in Cana of Galilee. You are a heretic.
Opposition has not been vociferous. It cannot afford to be. A large number of Bigfooters disillusioned by the relic hunting attitude of modern Bigfootery have come over to the thesis of Recasting Bigfoot. My thesis has not only recast Bigfoot’s image, it has brought him back to the Pacific Northwest. Not Pennsylvania, Indiana or Ohio. A lot of strong, traditional Bigfooters still reside here, especially in Canada, and none are too impressed with the worldwide monster convention Bigfootery has become.
Well, as you might imagine, I’m not liked but the point will not be pushed for fear the schism will become an open fight.
Classic Bigfootery’s image is adorable. Let’s face it, however, that is not modern Bigfootery. So many of my generation fell in love with the whole real life Rice Burroughs novelette plot that is inherent in the pursuit of Bigfoot that they invented one in their own backyard. Returning the hunt to the Pacific Northwest excludes much of the quick fix crowd and their backyard Bigfoot dancing with the wood elves.
The towering image of the first and early Bigfooters– John Green, Rene Dahinden, Grover Krantz– was a bulwark to a carnival that was always at hand. Only Green remains alive and he is not in a position to act as a tempering influence anymore. Yet no new towering figures have emerged. No one has any credible, believable thesis. There are tour guides and relic hunters. There is no new pioneer except the one they hate.
When PNE&S takes the field, a moment in time is reborn. Those early days that so inspired the legend are coming again. The days of men clad in their Scot flannel shirts, thick-rimmed glasses and Elmer Fudd hats scouring the deep woods looking for the owner of big footprints. For a hobby expressing itself in monster conventions, this is frightening. A new era with new personalities and a goal to go in deep. Not paranormal shows, not shaky cameras, not the cone headed berry eating buddy crossing our highways.
Both frontier journals and Indian histories speak of hairy wild men and “something after the fashion of a gorilla but unlike anything else.” Footprints are the only hardcore evidence. As early as 1818 they were described as long and narrow, the ball of the foot wide, the heel narrow. They are not human. There is also the repeated report of a large, long print with only 4 toes. Until all that was Buff Creek 1958 and its enlarged flat human feet this was the truth underlying the mystery that was the “wild men” or “hairy human monster” of the Pacific Northwest. They were rare and preferred to live deep in the forests or high in the mountains.
After 1958 Bluff Creek suddenly enlarge human prints were being found everywhere, and the Yeti of the Himalayas, despite having a radically different foot, became the image of Bigfoot.
True Bigfootery’s purpose is to find the origins of these footprints, not just physically but literary as well. The stories go back long before frontier America. Pedro Cieza De Leon heard of ape-like creatures in South America in the 16th Century. Naturalist Philip Gosse reported more academically in 1860 that from the reports there must exist an anthropoid in South America bigger than both the orangutan and chimpanzee. At Merida, the Maya have statues of strange anthropoids. It is a fact that most of the reports of such anthropoids are between South America and Canada, not Alaska. Something has been migrating north for thousands of years, not from Eurasia.
Masks and other artwork of the Pacific Northwest Indians reflect features that are identifiable with native American anthropoids. In some there is even a Platyrrhinian nose. It is a fact that all old world primates (including man) are Catarrhinian and all new world primates are Platyrrhinian. Yet this artwork has been used to underpin the theory that Bigfoot is an old world primate and, on top of this, the ultimate hunt– the missing link. Artwork is used to underscore that the Indians knew of ape physiology. Yet the details show they were familiar with native American primate features, not the missing link of Eurasia.
The idea that Bigfoot had to be Yeti was so pervasive that the distinctive features of the Yeti, especially the tall cone head, appear on the “creature” in Roger Patterson’s 1967 Bluff Creek Film. Yet the Indians never describe such a feature. There are reports in Yakut and Siberia of something called a Dawn Man that remarkably fits descriptions of Sasquatch, including old reports of a long foot, narrow in the heel. Like the true descriptions of the Sasquatch it is much more human-like and has no cone head.
There is the thin possibility that an unknown old world primate has crossed the Bering Strait in ancient times along with all the other animals known to have done so. But if so, he butts heads with more than one species that has for long been migrating north from South America and is entirely native to the Americas. The Indians speak of more than one tribe of “Sasquatch Man,” but the Sasquatch is a very limited legend to the Saskahaua of British Columbia. There, in the wild mountains, two tribes are said to exist, and one definitely is human, speaking something akin to Douglas.
But outside the Saskahaua there are many stories. The Skoocoom of Mount St. Helens. They only have a 4-toed print. Like some South American monkeys, they are said to have 5 fingers and no offset thumb. Certainly not the Sasquatch of British Columbia with its defined 5 toes. There is also the Dsonoqua. They are a hairy people or “dangerous things” in the deep forest whereas the Skoocoom and Sasquatch are mountain dwellers. The Dsonoqua and the Bukwas are the most frequently portrayed in masks and artwork, and many of these show ape appearances. The Skoocoom and the Sasquatch were too dreaded to ever be near and thus to be captured in art.
All this and much more underscores an exotic quest for the truth of “Bigfoot” in America. It may not be the cone headed star of the Patterson Film, but Skoocoom, Sasquatch, Dsonoqua and Bukwas have far more evidence than a hairy form on celluloid. At least one of these is the true Bigfoot. He merely does not look like the Yeti or the “Patty,” and he doesn’t have big, flat enlarged human feet. And he most certainly is not our berry-eating buddy, but a mean anthropoid out to protect his dwindling turf.
But that is heresy– and that is why I am hated. But it is time to meet the new Sasquatch . . . and it is time to realize he is not one and the same with Skoocoom or Dsonoqua. First we will meet Dsonoqua in the next Bigfoot post.