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Does a large, bipedal creature inhabit the deep wilderness of the Pacific Northwest, as so many believe? What about the proliferation of sightings in recent years in still other parts of the country, such as Florida, Texas, and even New York? Even President Teddy Roosevelt got into the act, writing an absorbing account of a bigfoot creature in his book “The Wilderness Hunter”. It seems he was completely convinced of their existence, and Teddy Roosevelt was a seasoned and hardened outdoorsman.
Accounts of Bigfoot (or Sasquatch, as it is called in Canada) are certainly nothing new. Indian lore of several Pacific Northwest tribes includes mention of a man-like beast covered in fur, and some of their stories make him out to be less than friendly. To some tribes, he is O-Mah . . . to others Sasquatch, which means “boss of the mountains”, loosely translated from the native language of one Pacific Northwest tribe. Other local tribes have their own names for him — Omah, Windego, Yeahoh, Tsiatko, Boqs, and Rugaru, among others. To them, these impressive and solitary creatures are just a part of nature — a Being deserving just as much respect as any other.
A flood of eye-witness accounts occurred in the 1950’s with the building of a highway through some of the most treacherous and remote regions of northern California, when workers became almost accustomed to arriving early every morning to find abundant signs of something large and powerful tampering with construction equipment and leaving huge, humanoid footprints in the soft earth. Often, full 55-gallon fuel drums were found to have been tossed around like toys. It was these workers who dubbed the animal “Bigfoot”, a term that was eagerly adopted by local and national press once the story got out.
The saga took a dramatic turn in 1967 thanks to the considerable dedication of independent sasquatch hunter Roger Patterson. A natural outdoorsman, he had been intrigued with the accounts of bigfoot for many years and had written a book detailing some of his expeditions into back country and telling of footprints he had observed. On a sunny day in October, he and fellow horseman Bob Gimlin were following some apparently fresh bigfoot tracks in an area known as Bluff Creek — an area where bigfoot stories are rampant even now. As part of their equipment, they had brought along a 16mm movie camera, which was tucked in one of Roger’s saddlebags.
As they rounded a bend, they came upon a sandbar in the middle of a creek and spotted something large and black standing out in the open watching them. Suddenly Roger’s horse reared and fell back on him, but he managed to snatch his camera from the bag and, on a dead run, started taking pictures. The creature turned and walked away, separated from them by the sandbar in the creek. Its gait was fast, but it did not break into a run. Instead, it turned to look back at Roger several times as it moved into dense forest after a few breathless moments. Much of the film is shaky but from it has come the clearest evidence yet, aside from an abundance of plastic casts made of footprints, that Bigfoot exists. Of course the footage is controversial. But it has yet to be shown conclusively to be fraudulent, and, in fact, more and more career anthropologists, after examining it frame-by-frame, are coming away convinced of its authenticity.
Several prominent science writers became intrigued with all these apparently unbiased stories and out of that period came many well-researched books. Some of the best of these are now out of print, but I’ve included them here in a special section, at the bottom of this page, so you can take advantage of Amazon.com’s free book search service. Just click on the title of the out-of-print book you want to buy and then sign up to be notified by email when and if a copy is located. You can do this on the page that comes up when you click your title.
More recent books on the subject that I highly recommend are included right here on the Bigfoot bookshelf . . . Where Bigfoot Walks: Crossing the Dark Divide by Robert Michael Pyle and The Field Guide to Bigfoot, Yeti and Other Mystery Primates Worldwide. Both these fine books include much more up to date information and accounts, and cover a wider topic range than the earlier ’50s releases.
Most people associate the word “Bigfoot” or “Sasquatch” with the fictional character seen in supermarket tabloids. Most people are not aware that the cartoonish “Bigfoot” figure is a distorted product of ancient and modern stories describing a real, but unacknowledged species that is still occasionally observed today in North American forests. Stories about these animals extend far back into pre-history among linguistically distinct native American tribes.
The modern existence of these animals is summarily dismissed by most of the scientific community because of a naive but unquestioned assumption that physical remains of at least one specimen would have been delivered to scientists by the public by now. It is politically risky for scientists to discuss the subject among themselves, much less consider probing it for a seed of truth, primarily because of the image created by supermarket tabloids.
“Bigfoot research,” which first began in the late 1950’s, is primarily the inquiry as to whether thousands of credible modern eyewitnesses are actually seeing a surviving species of giant primate that is known to have existed, but is widely assumed to be extinct. Bigfoot research also explores the question of why no remains have been recognized by the scientific community, and why so little photographic documentation exists, to contrast with the thousands of credible eyewitness reports that defy any other reasonable explanation.
The most controversial aspect of the entire bigfoot / sasquatch topic stems from the confusion surrounding the term “Bigfoot”. First coined in the late 1950’s, the public is now more familiar with the fictional solitary “Bigfoot” character of the supermarket tabloids. Yet people who have sightings of the real animals in the wild almost always use the word bigfoot to describe what they have seen, mainly because no other word in our popular vocabulary evokes the appearance of these animals better. To add to the confusion, the word, even as used by bigfoot researchers, sometimes means both the singular and the plural form, like the word “deer”. As a consequence the public often assumes that bigfoot research is the tongue-in-cheek pursuit of a solitary, fictional tabloid character. Nothing could be further from the truth.
The serious scientific investigators probing the topic view it as a fascinating, unsolved natural mystery. For some intellectuals the most interesting aspect is society’s reaction to the topic, and the common logic for why it just could not be. That logic exposes Americans’ fantastically skewed, English garden perception of the landscape. It also reveals a surprising amount of ignorance about how much uninhabited space there still is across the continent.
Some note how most Americans will profess a belief in things they have never seen, such as God and Jesus, but the same Americans will quickly ridicule honest eyewitnesses to these animals, even if those eyewitnesses are their most trusted family members. The topic so sternly dismissed by societal institutions that no one should be surprised that no physical remains have ever been delivered to scientists by the public.
Bigfoot means different things to different people, depending upon how much they know about the subject. People who are little more than grocery store customers laugh at the word. Many historians, scientists, and intellectuals know more of the background and therefore understand it on a different level.
The confusion and diversity of perceptions about the word bigfoot is perhaps the underlying reason for why the animal species that gave rise to the word is still officially unacknowledged.
There have been several commercial usages of the term Bigfoot. The two most recognized usages are:
Bigfoot, the famous “monster truck” (i.e. a pickup truck with giant wheels that performs stunts at arena rallies), and
Bigfoot.com a free e-mail service on the Internet.
Commercial uses of the term are designed to evoke the idea of dominating largeness. “Sasquatch” is the Canadian term for these same animals. It is a derivative of the Coast Salish Indian word “Sesquac”. Various Indian tribes across North America have their own terms, such as Omah, Windego, Yeahoh, Tsiatko, Boqs, and Rugaru. Early white settlers in various regions had their own names too, such as Skookums, Skunk Apes, Swamp Boogers, and Mountain Devils.
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