New Bigfoot Claim, Old Bigfoot Hoaxer
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."
A wilderness tracker says he shot and killed a Bigfoot -- whom he named Hank -- in late 2012, but he kept the mystery under wraps until now.
If this sounds dubious (or familiar) to you, it should. The tracker, Rick Dyer, was one of two Georgia men who, in 2008, claimed to have found a dead Bigfoot creature nearly 8 feet all, covered with hair and weighing 500 pounds. They released a photograph of it inside a freezer, promising DNA evidence at a press conference.
The press conference made national news, but didn’t quite live up to expectations. As National Geographic news reported:
“Only days after Georgia residents Matt Whitton and Rick Dyer told reporters at a press conference on Friday that they had a dead Bigfoot body, their evidence has been exposed as a rubber ape costume. The deception was made public by the very company Whitton and Dyer teamed up with to announce their supposed find. In a statement posted on the Web site of Searching for Bigfoot Inc., “Sasquatch Detective” Steve Kulls said he realized the Bigfoot ‘corpse’ was a fake when the frozen body began to thaw -- after the press conference had already taken place.”
This time, Dyer insists, he has the real deal.
Dyer told KSAT News, "Bigfoot is not a tooth fairy -- Bigfoot is real. The most important thing to me is being vindicated, letting people know that I am the best Bigfoot tracker in the world and it’s not just me saying it."
Dyer is expected to hold another press conference to show the body, and he plans to take it on a tour of the United States, Mexico and Canada. He’ll charge a small fee to view it, KSAT reports.
Dyer also has a new documentary film he’s promoting. And he's released a photo he claims is of Hank’s face, but which resembles Norwegian troll figurines sold at Disney World’s Epcot theme park.
Bigfoot Credibility Goes Bust
This is, of course, not the first time that people have claimed to have found a Bigfoot, alive or dead. The history of the search for Bigfoot parallels the history of Bigfoot hoaxes.
For many years the pursuit of Bigfoot -- and its foreign cousins such as the Australian yowie, the Himalayan yeti, and the Canadian sasquatch -- was driven by genuine scientific curiosity.
In his book “Searching for Sasquatch: Crackpots, Eggheads, and Cryptozoology,” Brian Regal, an assistant professor for the history of science at Kean University, describes the state of monster-hunting a half-century ago:
“Unlike the common view of scientists uninterested in such a pursuit, and even actively discouraging it, the story of the hunt for the Yeti reveals a more complex situation. Some anthropologists and other scientists took to the subject with enthusiasm to the point of actively engaging in the hunt. The 1950s and 1960s can be seen as a golden era of cooperation between amateurs and academics in the search for manlike monsters.”
These serious scientific researchers are mostly a relic of the past. Today’s Bigfoot community is populated -- many would say contaminated -- by publicity-seeking promoters, hoaxers and self-styled Bigfoot buffs who offer perpetually fruitless weekend tours into the wilderness to look for the beast.
Ironically, these folks may sound the death knell for serious Bigfoot research. Sooner or later the public will tire of the parade of hoaxes, exaggerated claims and publicity stunts. It will become more and more difficult for sincere, science-minded researchers -- such as Todd Disotell and Brian Sykes, two geneticists who have attempted to sequence DNA from unknown animals -- to do their work.
Real science moves forward through cautious claims, careful analysis and peer-reviewed evidence. How can it compete with outlandish, fictional claims of Bigfoot bodies for the public’s attention, support and interest?
If and when the existence of Bigfoot, the Loch Ness Monster, ghosts or other such mysterious entities is proven, information about it will appear in legitimate academic journals and reputable news outlets, not personal web sites, YouTube videos and independent documentary films.
If Bigfoot researchers wish to be taken seriously, they could start by cleaning their own house. The biggest threat to their credibility is not skeptics nor a ridiculing public but instead those who provide an endless stream of bogus claims and evidence.