Bigfoot: Evolution of a Legend

Is Bigfoot some sort of undiscovered hominoid, or something even more mysterious?

Is Bigfoot some sort of undiscovered hominoid, or something even more mysterious?

Whether you believe in Bigfoot or not, most people tend to think of the creature as an elusive, hairy, ape-like beast that roams the woods that has yet to be discovered due to our lack of definitive physical evidence like a captured specimen or cadaver. 

Over time, with the advent of the internet, the phenomenon seemed to evolve into something much more — with new research that looked more closely at physical evidence, kinesiology, and behavior patterns. The internet also provided a platform for a wide variety and new generation of researchers, as well as homemade videos taken by the multitudes of eyewitnesses taking video with their smartphones. Modern digital technology enabled researchers to manipulate and analyze existing footage to a level of scientific scrutiny like never before.

Today, I’m seeing a number of individuals who claim to interact with Bigfoot, and even communicate with them telepathically. This same school of thought describes Bigfoot’s apparent supernatural powers, which include ESP, contact with UFOs, and ability to traverse dimensions. 

This post looks at how Bigfoot research has evolved over the years from the time of my childhood in the early ‘70s to where it stands today, with its forays into the paranormal, UFO phenomenon, and supernatural. I divide the researchers into three camps I call the Analysts, the Pragmatics, and the Experiencers. 

MY BIG CHILDHOOD OBSESSION

Anyone who knows me well knows I’ve been interested in Bigfoot since I was a kid. I’d check out the same 12 books in my elementary school library over and over again, fascinated by the eyewitness accounts, photos of physical evidence like plaster of Paris casts of their massive footprints, and the Holy Grail of Bigfoot footage at the time, the Patterson-Gimlin Super-8 film of “Patty,” a Bigfoot they allegedly filmed in broad daylight at remote Bluff Creek, CA.

During my teen years, my obsession faded off a bit as I became more immersed in MTV and the music of Def Leppard, The Police, and Quiet Riot. But I’ve had recurring dreams about Bigfoot my whole life, and that continue to this day. I never talked to them, and they never spoke to me—they were just a vaguely frightening and very powerful presence lurking deep in the woods, sometimes right outside my window. I’ve never stopped believing they were real, and never lost interest in the subject.

STUDYING BIGFOOT AS AN ADULT

Fast-forward a few years later to the late ‘80s, when I was on summer break from college and saw an article in the Philadelphia Inquirer about an area in Western Pennsylvania that was known for its Bigfoot and UFO sightings—the Allegheny National Forest and in particular, Chestnut Ridge. In fact, there was so much Bigfoot-UFO activity in Western Pennsylvania in 1973–1974 that a well respected researcher by the name of Stan Gordon wrote a whole book about it called Silent Invasion (I’ve read it and it’s actually quite good). 

silent invasion.jpg

The book features numerous eyewitness accounts that Stan documented himself, since a number of locals and even the police—who didn’t know what to do about the wave of reports they were getting—were coming to him as a known UFO expert. What makes the book convincing is Stan’s sober, investigator-style descriptions of some very strange events, some of which he witnessed firsthand. 

The one that sticks out in my mind the most was a wave of sightings that happened on a remote farm, where Bigfoot was seen coming and going from a UFO, disappearing and reappearing in thin air, and even getting shot without getting killed. After a particularly close encounter, one of the younger farmers on the property was left with strange abilities.

Dr. Jeffrey Meldrum, Ph.D. is a professor of Anatomy & Anthropology at Idaho State University, and one of a few academics willing to go public with their research into the Bigfoot phenomena.

Dr. Jeffrey Meldrum, Ph.D. is a professor of Anatomy & Anthropology at Idaho State University, and one of a few academics willing to go public with their research into the Bigfoot phenomena.

Back to the newspaper article: I saved it for years, and around 1999 took my first “Squatching” trip (a hiking trip to search for Bigfoot) to in that area with a friend. This precluded any shows like “Finding Bigfoot” and today’s droves of researchers on YouTube. We didn’t find anything more terrifying than a few hillbilly spelunkers that weekend, and with its sparsely wooded hillsides, Chestnut Ridge didn’t seem particularly “Squatchy” (a word we Bigfoot nerds like to use to describe areas with a high likelihood of a sighting). My friend left the area more convinced than ever that Bigfoot wasn’t real. But I remained a believer.

After graduating from film school, I wanted to write a screenplay about the legend, so I dove into the topic as an adult all over again. Thanks to the advent of Amazon, I now had access to a bunch of new books that had come out since I was a kid, so I focused on the ones written by serious researchers and even professors in academia like Jeffrey Meldrum and Grover Krantz, who were putting their reputations on the line by even speaking publicly about their work.

Based on the books I was reading at the time, there seemed to be much more physical evidence than there had been in the past, including hair samples, scat, in-depth studies of “dermal ridges” (basically unique fingerprints in footprints), and even consistencies in widespread footprints that could be attributed to unique Sasquatch individuals. A phenomenon that had formerly been explored by a few pioneering, and sometimes eccentric, outdoorsman and adventurers had since become an area of serious scientific and academic inquiry—even if the number of more reputable academics willing to step forward were understandably still quite small.

Soon after finishing my Bigfoot-themed screenplay while living in Philadelphia, I moved to San Francisco, and again tapered off diving deep into the subject to settle into my new life on the West Coast. Several years later, around 2014, I reconnected with my college friend Tom, who shared my interest in the topic and showed me videos from a Facebook page with the imaginative title of “Facebook Finding Bigfoot.” I found the videos fascinating, and found my lifelong interest in Bigfoot rekindled all over again. I also realized that the research being done on this page represented an exciting departure from the research I’d been familiar with to date—one that aggregated footage and looked much more closely at a growing body of it from across the internet. I call these digital pioneers…

THE ANALYSTS

FACEBOOK FINDING BIGFOOT

In my view, the videos on the FBFB page represented a huge step forward in identifying a number of physical traits and other commonalities between video footage the two page admins had aggregated from the internet—from classic footage like the Patterson-Gimlin film to the Freeman footage to dozens of new clips I’d never seen. These videos usually consisted of them narrating over the eyewitness footage while analyzing the alleged Bigfoot’s anatomy, behaviors, and kinesiology (the study of movement)The videos often featured fairly sophisticated side-by-side comparisons of human movement and physicality alongside the creature in the footage. Even though these two guys were not actual scientists or academics—or at least they didn’t identify themselves as such—I found myself convinced of their observations and rationale, which they underscored with Powerpoint-esque written recaps and titles of their narrative throughout.

I thought FBFB deserved a lot of credit for the work they were doing, which in my view pushed Bigfoot research into a new era. 

The iconic frame 352 of the Patterson-Gimlin film, with the subject now known today as “Patty.”

The iconic frame 352 of the Patterson-Gimlin film, with the subject now known today as “Patty.”

First and foremost, the advent of the internet allowed them to aggregate footage from across the web shot from all kinds of eyewitnesses, whether it was a more recent clip or classics like the Patternson-Gimlin film that had previously been hard to find in their analog form. 

Another factor that bolstered the sheer amount of material FBFB had to work with was that we had entered an era where everyone had a smartphone. This meant eyewitnesses from all over the world were shooting Bigfoot when they could retain enough of their faculties to do so. Granted, most of these amateur clips were blurry as usual, but now there was much more footage to observe and find patterns in.

The admins of the site saw Bigfoot as some sort of undiscovered primate, and kept a strong focus on the physical aspects, going so far as to self-publish a book about Bigfoot’s evolutionary ties to humans. This work reminded me of the theories of Lloyd Pye, who believes that humans are descended from aliens, but that’s for a different blog post.

Unfortunately, Facebook Finding Bigfoot took its own page down after being duped by a known Bigfoot hoaxer by the name of Rick Dyer, who claimed in 2012 to have shot a Bigfoot and had the body to prove it. The hoax was picked up by the international media but soon revealed to be a publicity stunt similar to Dyer’s prank-like activities in 2008. I personally thought it was a shame that FBFB felt the need to dismantle their work, which to this day helps me distinguish between what I feel are real and manufactured fakes.

Here are some of the physical characteristics FBFB identified:

  • Bigfoot doesn’t turn his head. Rather, their whole upper body swivels when they need to look from side to side.

  • Bigfoot does not walk like humans. Their knees remain slightly bent when walking in a way that’s impossible for humans to duplicate. Researchers like Meldrum attribute this to their unique anatomy, particularly of the feet and hips.

  • Bigfoot often observes by “peeking” from around trees, and remains very still while being observed (or when observing others)

  • Bigfoot’s sheer muscle mass and visuals like muscle rippling under masses of hair are virtually impossible to reproduce in a gorilla suit or even with modern-day prosthetics and effects. (Many academic and visual FX experts have weighed in on the Patty film and have largely drawn similar conclusions).

Even with FBFB gone, apparently for good, my own lifelong obsession, and a trip to Vancouver Island wouldn’t let me drop the topic.

Squatching on Mt. Sicker

About five years ago, my wife and I decided to take a family vacation with our then two-year-old son to Victoria, the capital city of Vancouver Island. I was thrilled she was interested in this area since it’s always been a hotbed of Sasquatch activity—so much so that the History Channel devoted an entire episode of “Monster Quest” to it. That episode features an account of a young man who had a frightening encounter at the top of Mount Sicker, a very rugged, very remote area near the center of Chemanius River Provincial Park. 

This dude got way further up on Mount Sicker than I did… with memories to last a lifetime.

This dude got way further up on Mount Sicker than I did… with memories to last a lifetime.

Once my family settled into our Victoria rental apartment, we spent a lot of time hiking over the next few days in parks on the eastern and southern sides of the island. Of course I convinced my wife to join me on a trip to Mount Sicker, which would be about an hour-long drive north of Victoria. Once we passed through Duncan, all we could see was a few trees and small farms with dense treelines behind them. There was one last ramshackle house before the very rural “Mount Sicker Road” turned to dirt, which led to a dark tunnel of massive, leafy trees that ran all the way to the top.

I parked the car to think twice about driving up the mountain road, which even in broad daylight looked foreboding. A beat-up pickup truck pulled up next to my rental car and a rough-looking old man and his wife (I presume) gave us a curious look. I asked him if this was the road to Mount Sicker and he nodded cautiously.

“What do you want to do up there?” he asked me, revealing a few missing teeth.

“Oh, just driving up to have a look around,” I said innocently.

He stared at me for what seemed like a long time. “Don’t get lost,” he said with a hint of a smile, revealing a few missing teeth.

I slowly drove up the road—wife in the passenger seat, my infant son in the back—struck by how thick and dark the forest was. We could barely see a few feet into the foliage. I literally thought Bigfoot could step in front of us from anywhere. 

We weren’t driving for long at all before the road getting very steep, and I could see from little cracks in the dense forest to my right that we were already at an alarmingly high elevation. The road also got so narrow that I couldn’t see how or where I was going to turn the car around if need be. I started to think my family wasn’t safe, and my wife questioned if we should keep going. I had no idea the drive would take us into such remote territory, and I had no idea how long we’d have to drive to get to the top. I’ve been known to keep a cool head in a crisis, but all these factors on Sicker Mountain made me break into what I would call a sort of irrational panic.

I’ve heard accounts of people having a feeling of incredible fear and even irrational terror just before or in conjunction with Bigfoot encounters. Some researchers like “Finding Bigfoot”’s Cliff Barackman have theorized that this is a result of Bigfoot projecting infrasound—extremely low-frequency sound that’s outside the range of human hearing. As Cliff points out, other animals like whales and even tigers use infrasound to communicate and stun prey. Exposure to infrasound can cause dramatic, negative psychological and physical effects like intense fear, nausea, hallucinations, and even organ damage.

I can’t say with any amount of certainty that I was hit with infrasound that day, but I do remember feeling what I’d call an abnormal and even irrational fear around our situation—especially considering that there was nothing in particular threatening us or our safety. We drove for a bit further until I finally found a very narrow turnoff that wasn’t a steep drop off the side of the mountain, and I managed to turn the car around. 

As we continued down the mountain, I felt a growing sense of relief. Nothing bad had happened, we weren’t in any real danger, and I don’t think we were driving more than five minutes before deciding to turn around (I should note that I’ve driven for over 20 miles up mountain roads in the Willow Creek area without seeing a single person, and without panicking). All that said, I can say that stretch of dirt road was easily the spookiest place I’ve ever been, and I have never felt that spooked since.

On our way back to Victoria, I pulled over to get gas and snacks at a small general store (again in the middle of nowhere). Inside, I came across an entire book rack dedicated to a small publisher featuring the work of one David Paulides.

THE PRAGMATISTS

David Paulides

David Paulides is an ex-cop who spent two years living in Hoopa, CA to interview local native Americans about their Bigfoot experiences. This resulted in his book, The Hoopa Project, originally published in 2008.

Paulides’s investigative background and just-the-facts style of writing and observation—along with the accounts themselves—make this a convincing, compelling read. This is the first time I'd come across a researcher with career investigative credentials, let alone applying that kind of approach to the Bigfoot phenomenon. Adding to the sober-mindedness of the book are an abundance of illustrations based on eyewitness accounts by FBI forensic sketch artist, Harvey Pratt, who's worked on many high-profile cases, including the Green River Killer and the Ted Bundy cases. Paulides takes it a step further by informing us that each interviewee signs an affidavit after their interview.

David Paulides’s first book about Bigfoot.

David Paulides’s first book about Bigfoot.

David’s second book on the topic, Tribal Bigfoot, studies the intriguing link between Bigfoot and Native Americans, with a focus on Northern California, but now expanding to Minnesota and Oklahoma as well. 

A few years after reading these books, I spoke to another well known Bigfoot researcher in person who had met Paulides. He told me that Paulides felt that after writing these books, he’d taken his research as far as it could go, and that he’d conclusively proved the existence of the elusive creature. In subsequent years, Paulides' turned his attention to the alarmingly high and very mysterious missing person cases in our national parks, with his Missing411 book series (to be a topic of a future blog post), which has since spawned a documentary and multiple high-profile appearances on the History Channel as well.

Ex-cop, Bigfoot researcher, missing persons investigator, and all-around badass David Paulides.

Ex-cop, Bigfoot researcher, missing persons investigator, and all-around badass David Paulides.

Although he apparently remains a controversial figure in the Bigfoot community, I've seen David speak in person and have corresponded with him on occasion. Having read several of his books now, I’ve developed an immense respect for his work, approach, and dedication. Whether it's Bigfoot or missing person cases, he refuses to speculate, instead relying on the facts to identify patterns and shed more light on these mysteries. He's someone who made enormous strides to make Bigfoot a more serious topic of research.

Justin Chernipeski — Mountain Beast Entertainment

Justin Chernipeski is a young filmmaker from Canada whose work I came across on YouTube. As he describes it, “Mountain Beast Mysteries is a channel dedicated to providing information and stories on the subjects of Bigfoot (also known as Sasquatch) and conspiracy theories relating [to] it.” His documentaries are well crafted, and Justin is articulate and insightful in his adventures.

The first I’m aware of, Wildman: My Search For Sasquatch, features Justin driving out by himself to a remote lake where his father and a family friend saw Bigfoot. His father also goes on camera to describe his spooky encounter while fishing with a friend. You’ll probably agree that he does not seem like the kind of person who’d make up a story like this, and his testimony comes across as convincing, down to the assertion he’d never return to the spot. 

The doc also features interviews with Dr. John Bindernagel, a PhD wildlife biologist and Bigfoot researcher with his own personal library of plaster cast footprints and eyewitness accounts. Dr. Bindernagel speaks to a profile of sorts that he’s developed over the years from consistent descriptions of how Bigfoot eats, what they look like, and how they behave—which includes communication and intimidation tactics like stone-throwing, wood knocks, and tree shaking and branch breaking (again, all behaviors that span multiple researchers and eyewitnesses in more recent years). 

I have to admit it turned me off to see Justin and a group of friends enter the woods with a bunch of shotguns, but his second film, The Supernatural Sasquatch, seems to have changed his approach and thinking.

Here, Justin explores the paranormal aspects of the Bigfoot phenomenon, including his personal encounter with infrasound and “projected” animal sounds, which I’ve also read in accounts by many other eyewitnesses. I see Justin’s work in this film, at this time, serving as a bridge of sorts from those who see Bigfoot as a flesh-and-blood creature hiding in the woods to something even harder to comprehend, let alone explain. 

Which brings us to our next group of researchers…

THE EXPERIENCERS


From observation to interaction: Mike Paterson

I can’t recall the first time I’d discovered the work of a then-anonymous researcher with a YouTube channel called Sasquatch Ontario, but I’ve been following it for almost seven years now.

To describe the nature of these videos broadly, they are the work of another Canadian researcher, Mike Paterson, who spent time interacting with a number of Sasquatch from the same clan. Mike’s footage is taken at a remote cabin owned by a friend. The footage initially consisted mostly of Mike narrating still footage of footprints, handprints, gifts, and other bits of evidence.

What I found most compelling, though, were the fascinating audio samples he’d captured of his “conversations” between himself and what sounds like enormous Sasquatch, primarily of one who identified himself as “Nephatia.” I’ve heard other well known recordings of Bigfoot whoops and howls, but nothing like this, which sounded so close range and akin to what we would call language. Mike has posted many videos from as long as seven years ago, but here’s one that features the Bigfoot “language” recordings.

I’ve found Mike to be an insightful and intelligent narrator of his fascinating experiences. There’s a certain beauty in his wonderment and journey of awe and discovery as he interacts with this clan of Sasquatch, learning more about their supernatural abilities and unique personalities over the years. 

What I like most about Mike is his pure heart. He occasionally expresses anger at dumb Bigfoot with guns and the trolls on his page, although comments on his videos seem to be overwhelmingly supportive, and sometimes come from those who’ve had their own encounters. 

Mike’s videos and patient work started to dovetail with other accounts and videos I’d been reading from across the internet, whether it was from anonymous personal accounts from non-researches posted to squatchable.com or videos across YouTube. Some of these elements include:

Gifting” — Experiencers leaving gifts of food, toys, or other shiny objects and receiving gifts like weavings and marbles in return as a form of bonding and communication. These gifts from Bigfoot materialize out of thin air.

  • Invisibility — Bigfoot remains invisible while interacting or observing, or while leaving physical evidence like footprints or marbles. People sometimes also call this “cloaking.” Tracks appearing and then inexplicably dropping off would be part of this phenomenon.

  • Weavings — These are small figurines or structures woven from what looks like some sort of plant-like material that’s been molded and hardened.

  • Handprints and fingerprints — Mike and others have shared photos and video of huge and very convincing looking handprints left in the snow or dirt, sometimes even on their vehicles.

  • Intelligence and sense of humor — Mike’s videos and interactions and particular reveal a certain playful quality to Bigfoot’s nature. He conveys a strong sense of respect and intelligence for them, and sees them as individuals.

  • Orbs — While Bigfoot has long been associated with UFOs and other strange phenomena, Mike has shared photos of small, glowing blue-white orbs that often appear in conjunction with Bigfoot activity or in those locations.

  • Stick structures — I had been seeing photos and videos of these across the web before Mike’s shared his own photos and videos of this phenomenon. These structures are actually made from whole trees, and shaped and contorted in a way that seem absolutely impossible if they were done by a person, or even a crew of people with equipment. 

  • Tribes and clans — Bigfoot is more often being described as belonging to a tribe, clan or family that appear and reappear in a certain area or location.

“Interactive” researchers like Mike have revealed even more about what, or who, Sasquatch is. But that kind of understanding is taken a step further by this next group I’d like to cover.

“Psychic Bigfoot” — Kewaunee Lapseritis 

There’s a growing group of people who claim to be interacting with Bigfoot through telepathy and ESP. Some of them meet at conferences, while others choose to share similar stories online outside these “experiencer” communities. The point is, what I’m about to describe is not limited to a single group or community.

Leading what seems to be the best known community of Sasquatch “experiencers” is one Kewaunee Lapseritis—a self-described healer, researcher and social scientists who’s written two books on his experiences with Bigfoot as a race of “Star People”: The Psychic Sasquatch and their UFO Connection (1998) and more recently The Sasquatch People (2011). You can buy both books on Kewaunee’s website

Trippy reading. Fiction… or fact?

Trippy reading. Fiction… or fact?

Kewaunee claims to have been speaking to Bigfoot telepathically for the last 32 years. Through this interaction, he’s come to believe that Sasquatch are an ancient race of nature people, that they are here to share a message with us about our planet (namely, that we’re destroying it), and that they are reaching out to an increasing number of “experiencers” who claim to have similar telepathic communication with this “terrestrial extraterrestrial.” 

Kewaunee’s group recently posted the first part of a multi-part documentary on their telepathic and direct contact with Bigfoot, called Sasquatch Speaks on his YouTube channel. It features Kewaunne and a number of other experiencers talk about their telepathic experiences on-camera and in great detail, with some of them even communicating with Bigfoot on-camera.

I have to admit that when I first came across Kewaunee’s work, it seemed pretty out there for me. But I kept an open mind, and there are some intriguing aspects to their stories. It would be one thing if Kewaunee were the only person to have had these kinds of telepathic experiences (that we even know about), but he’s interviewed hundreds, and they certainly aren’t limited to the people he’s documented or that are part of his community.

Some of what the experiencers describe also gibe with Mike Paterson’s work, including gifting, orbs, objects like marbles materializing out of thin air, Bigfoot’s apparent benevolence and desire to contact those on the same “frequency” and with an “open” heart. The big difference is that, to my knowledge, Mike does not claim to have had any telepathic experience with the Sasquatch he’s been interacting with for a number of years—although it seems he’s drawing similar conclusions about their abilities and even purpose here on earth. 

To me, the work of these two researchers mark a major shift in what we know about Bigfoot—who they are, what they’re doing here, why they want to contact some of us, and what their message is for humanity.

As I point out with Stan Gordon’s work above, Kewaunee is not the first researcher to theorize that Bigfoot’s some sort of alien. This theory’s been around for so long that I actually wrote a song about it called “Bigfoot’s an Alien,” which you can play or buy on Bandcamp here (I’m kinda proud that “Finding Bigfoot” host Cliff Barackman posted it on his Facebook page. And btw, Cliff qualified that when posting my song that he was not in the “paranormal/alien” camp when it came to Bigfoot, believing instead that they’re simply elusive flesh and blood creatures that inhabit our forests). 

As crazy as it seems, wouldn’t Bigfoot being from another planet, with the ability to travel between this dimension and others (as many believe) explain some of what’s been coming to light these past few years? For example, how is it that we’ve never discovered a Bigfoot body? How have they managed to evade capture for so long, let alone star in a halfway decent video that’s not blurry? How do we explain the multitude of eyewitness accounts that see them in conjunction with UFOs and orbs, or their disappearing tracks and ability to stay invisible, even when there’s physical evidence of their presence? 

I understand that skeptics out there might be groaning. Some of the same arguments above make a great case that there’s just as much of a chance of finding a leprechaun in the woods as a Bigfoot. I find it hard to believe some of this realm of research myself. 

All that said, I am inclined to believe it. The world can be a strange and mysterious place. We know so little about the natural world, let alone what lies just beyond it. At the end of the day, the best science can do is qualify and quantify what we observe and what we know. If it could explain everything, we’d all be teleporting and traveling at the speed of light, which Einstein taught us is theoretically within the realm of possibility. 

Bigfoot’s been a mystery for so long, I think I’m personally hungry for some sort of explanation. Judging from the enduring popularity of the legend, I’m sure I’m not the only one.

WHAT’S YOUR OPINION?

Have you had your own Bigfoot experience, or want to contribute to the dialogue surrounding this topic or post? Sound off in the comments. With a few caveats in mind…

ABOUT THE COMMENTS: I understand that the topic of Bigfoot can be controversial and stir up strong opinions from believers and non-believers alike. I welcome and encourage thoughtful and constructive comments in the commentary, but I do not debate in comments, and I delete comments I deem offensive, hostile, or just plain rude. For all you nice people, thank you for reading.