Bigfoot Blamed for Strange Shrieks
1. The Empty Fossil Record When two Georgia men declared they were storing the body of Bigfoot in a freezer -- and that they had its DNA -- more than a few skeptics cried foul. Is the legend of Bigfoot (a.k.a. Sasquatch) little more than a stubborn myth? For the dirt on the doubters, Discovery News contacted Benjamin Radford, managing editor of Skeptical Inquirer magazine, who was more than happy to rattle off the top 10 reasons Bigfoot is bogus. First on his list: the fossil record. Why, he asked, would a legacy of large mammals reported to exist throughout North America (and beyond) simply disappear from the same soil that has preserved everything from the dinosaur bones pictured here, to woolly mammoths, to tiny marine crustaceans? "There's no fossil record of anything fitting the description" of Bigfoot, said Radford. "There's simply nothing there."
2. Forget Fossils, Where Are the Bodies? Putting aside paleontology, Radford points out that today, if Bigfoot exists, it must disappear when it dies. "There's no hard evidence in the form of bones. There are no hair samples, there are no live or dead specimens," he said. Bigfoot believers argue that the soil in areas where the creatures live -- such as the region surrounding Bellingham, Wash., seen here -- is acidic and quickly breaks down the bones. Nonsense, says Radford: "There's nothing to that, because Bigfoot has been reported in every state but Hawaii."
3. Where Do Bigfoot Babies Come From? Even for mammals that are relatively rare in global terms, such as the chimpanzee, it takes a decent population size to maintain a species. "If Bigfoot is a zoological reality," said Radford, "there has to be a breeding population." For that population to be big enough to account for even a fraction of the sightings, there would need to be tens of thousands of the creatures in North America alone. "Think about that for a second. Tens of thousands of Bigfoot, living, breathing, doing what they do. Where are they? Why don't they get hit by a car?" asked Bradford. "The numbers just simply don't add up."
4. Your Lying Eyes The majority of "evidence" for Bigfoot, says Radford, consists of eyewitness accounts. Yet as psychologists and schooled juries know, such accounts are famously inaccurate. What's more, says Radford, "the problem is, that's not evidence, it's an anecdote....It's interesting and you shouldn't dismiss it out of hand, but it's not evidence."
5. The Ever-Mysterious Blobsquatch This black-and-white image was taken in 1977 by a man named Frank White, near Bellingham, Wash. "I'd call it a North American ape," White told reporters at the time. "You can call it a Sasquatch or anything you like." Radford calls it a Blobsquatch. Aside from eyewitness reports, blurry images like this are what most Bigfoot believers rely on. But it's no proof, said Radford: "These photos show something that is probably alive, it's probably dark, it's not a cat, it's not a camel. It could be a Bigfoot, or it could be a deer or it could be a guy in a suit." "Ultimately," he concludes, "it's a two-dimensional image. It's pixels."
6. Doctor Who? For Radford and other skeptics, the only acceptable standard of proof is the scientific one. Why, when there are countless researchers probing the far corners of every continent, is there no rigorous, documented, peer-reviewed evidence for Bigfoot? Only one answer makes sense, says Radford: Bigfoot isn't real. Attendees of the Texas Bigfoot Conference, pictured here, might disagree. The annual event draws hundreds of people -- including Bigfoot enthusiasts, amateur researchers, historians, and tourists -- but few if any academic scientists.
7. The Case of the Ivory-Billed Woodpecker Speaking of science, Bigfoot believers sometimes complain that funding for Sasquatch Studies is hard to find. But scientists are notoriously good note-takers, Radford points out, even about subjects they aren't directly studying. Consider this league of biologists scouting for the elusive ivory-billed woodbecker in Arkansas' White River National Wildlife Refuge, an area where Bigfoot sightings have been made. "There was a huge, hardcore investigation. They were well-equipped, well-funded and made a sustained search," noted Radford. "What I found interesting was, what didn't they find? They didn't find Bigfoot."
8. This Katydid Couldn't Hide Dozens of new species, previously unknown to science, are discovered each year. But for the most part, they are tiny: microorganisms and insects such as the newly discovered katydid pictured here. Could Bigfoot really hide in such a peopled world? "The last large animal to be found was probably the giant panda, and that was 100 years ago," said Radford. "There has not been a single new creature that doesn't fit the recognized taxonomy discovered in the last century, there just simply hasn't."
9. If It Walks Like a Hoax ... This ruddy strand, about 70 micrometers in diameter, could be taken as a hair. But it isn't -- it's a carpet fiber. A similar thread was once claimed to have fallen from Bigfoot's back. Later, it was shown to be synthetic Dynel fiber, said Radford. An alleged vial of Bigfoot blood once turned out to be transmission fluid, and many Bigfoot sightings, in the end, are admitted fakes. "There is no category of Bigfoot evidence that doesn't have a string of hoaxes attached to it," said Radford. "If you're studying a subject in which virtually all the evidence either comes down to being inconclusive or a hoax, something's wrong."
10. The Case of the Missing Footprint This picture shows Al Hodgson, a volunteer guide at California's Willow Creek-China Flat Musuem, holding up a plaster cast believed by some to be a Bigfoot imprint. Authentic or not, footprints and other physical artifacts are meaningless scientifically, says Radford, when there is no standard to measure them by. "Some of the footprints have three toes, some have four toes, and some of course have five," he noted. "Even if I'm certain a certain track wasn't made by anything else, how do I know it's Bigfoot? You can't." The same goes for DNA. Scientists make a positive identification by comparing an unknown sample to a known one. There is no such standard for Bigfoot, says Radford. Even an educated guess about the giant footprint pictured here or a Blobsquatch gone wild is, at best, a shot in the dark. Benjamin Radford is the co-author of "Lake Monster Mysteries: Investigating the World's Most Elusive Creatures."
Do new recordings from Oregon's Blue Mountains offer good evidence of the mysterious bipedal creature known as Bigfoot? That's what some are claiming after hearing a recording of strange roars and shrieks given to The Oregonian newspaper.
When people think of Bigfoot evidence, casts of big footprints and blurry photos and films often come to mind. But someof the more interesting bits of evidence are sound recordings of alleged vocalizations. One company, Sierra Sounds, markets a CD called "The Bigfoot Recordings: The Edge of Discovery." Narrated by "Star Trek" actor Jonathan Frakes, the recording claims to have captured vocalizations among a Bigfoot family. The sounds include a series of guttural grunts, howls and growls.The liner notes offer testimonials from a "linguist" whose self-described credentials include playing the flute, speaking several languages, and having "a Russian friend thinks I'm Russian."
She confidently asserts that the tapes are not faked, and that the vocal range is too broad to be made by a human. She also suggests that Bigfoot individuals have a language, possibly including "Sasquatch swear words."
In his 1992 book "Big Footprints: A Scientific Inquiry Into the Reality of Sasquatch" (Johnson Books, 1992), physical anthropologist Grover Krantz discussed his experience with Bigfoot recordings: "One ... tape was analyzed by some university sound specialists who determined that a human voice could not have made them; they required a much longer vocal tract. A Sasquatch investigator later asked one of these experts if a human could imitate the sound characteristics by simply cupping his hands around his mouth. The answer was yes." As for other such recordings, Krantz "listened to at least ten such tapes and find no compelling reason to believe that any of them are what the recorders claimed them to be."
It's little wonder that one of the top scientific Bigfoot investigators held audio recordings in low regard: Sounds are simply poor evidence. [Infographic: Tracking Belief in Bigfoot]
Other explanations for the Blue Mountain sounds include foxes and coyotes, which — unlike Bigfoot — are known to exist in the area. Just because an animal call seems unusual or mysterious doesn't mean that it is. There are many factors than can affect how something sounds from far away, including temperature, wind and geographical features such as canyons
Some suggest perhaps a hoaxer in the area is having a bit of fun with the local legend. And sometimes Bigfoot hunters go deep into the woods and "sound blast" pre-recorded "Bigfoot calls," hoping to elicit responses from any real Bigfoot nearby. Of course other people in the area can also hear the strange shrieks and howls coming from the dark wilderness and — not knowing that Bigfoot noisemakers are afoot — may report the sounds as genuine and unknown.
According to "Good Morning America's John Muller, this latest recording is not the only one; in fact the mysterious sounds have been coming out of the area since at least November. This raises an obvious question: If anyone seriously believes these sounds could be real evidence for Bigfoot, why haven't investigators been able to photograph or videotape the source of the sounds? For example the cast of the optimistically titled Animal Planet show "Finding Bigfoot" has spent months in that area, and so far have come up empty-handed. Surely a well-financed cable television show would be able to provide its team members with the equipment they need; Neal Karlinsky of ABC News noted that the "Finding Bigfoot" crew has "every bit of cutting edge technology — night vision gear and all the sensors they can get their hands on." So what's the problem?
This isn't rocket science; it's the science of acoustics. With an array of sensitive microphones placed strategically throughout an area, it's relatively simple to triangulate the location of a sound to within a few feet almost instantly. If that same area is also covered by an array of wide-angle, high-resolution cameras (using infrared at night), it should be fairly simple to trigger cameras nearest the source of the sound to photograph whatever created it: fox, hoaxer, Bigfoot or something else. Researchers could even use camera-mounted drones to help locate the vocalizations and monitor the area. Another option would be to set up a perimeter around areas where Bigfoot are said to be especially active and use sound-activated cameras. [Rumor or Reality: The Creatures of Cryptozoology]
Surely a group of 8-to-10-foot tall hairy bipedal animals can't be that hard to find if you place cameras around a hotspot of activity and wait a few weeks. Of course covering huge swaths of wilderness would not be cheap. But it would be a small price to pay if it finally provides hard evidence of Bigfoot — instead of more ambiguous roars, grunts and howls in the wilderness.
Benjamin Radford is deputy editor of "Skeptical Inquirer" science magazine and author of six books including "Tracking the Chupacabra: The Vampire Beast in Fact, Fiction, and Folklore." His Web site is www.BenjaminRadford.com.
This article originally appeared on LiveScience.com.
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