New 'Bigfoot' Sighting Latest in Series of Hoaxes
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 team of Bigfoot buffs called a press conference earlier this week to present what they called “definitive video and DNA evidence from the elusive Sasquatch.” Several short video clips, presented with more sincerity than credibility, turned out to be a publicity teaser for an upcoming Bigfoot movie.
Sharon Hill, a blogger who has written extensively about this story for Doubtful News.com, noted that “high definition footage of the creature known as ‘Matilda’ presented… This conference was announced via press release but honestly, those of us seriously following this fiasco assumed it would be another joke. And so it is. Not only does Matilda remarkably resemble a throw rug but the face seems eerily reminiscent of Chewbacca. The clips that were shown in the news conference were described as short and grainy. That’s kind of odd for HD footage, don’t you think?”
Pro-tip: If your high-def camera can’t distinguish between a sleeping Sasquatch and a throw rug, you need to buy lens cleaner. And why would there only be a few seconds of video? Surely the team stuck around long enough to videotape it as it woke up, if not call for additional cameras to surround it — or even a tranquilizer gun.
History of Bigfoot Hoaxes
This is only the latest of many confirmed and suspected Bigfoot hoaxes on film and video. The most famous recording of a Bigfoot is the short film taken in 1967 by Roger Patterson and Bob Gimlin.
Shot in Bluff Creek, Calif., it shows a supposed female Bigfoot striding through a clearing. The film is generally considered a hoax, though to this day — nearly 50 years later — it is widely described by Bigfoot believers to be by far the best evidence for the creature.
This is of course not the first time that people have claimed to have found a Bigfoot, live or dead. The head of a prominent Bigfoot group, Tom Biscardi, appeared on the “Coast to Coast with George Noory” radio show in 2005 claiming that his group had captured a Bigfoot. It was, he said, a male standing eight feet tall and weighing over 400 pounds. Despite repeated promises to make the amazing discovery public, the whole thing turned out to be a hoax designed to drum up publicity for a Bigfoot film.
Three years later two Georgia men claimed to have found a dead Bigfoot creature towering nearly eight feet all, covered with hair, and weighing 500 pounds. They released a photograph of it inside a freezer and promised follow-up video and genetic analysis. That DNA evidence never materialized because the “Bigfoot” ended up being a rubber costume.
The history of Bigfoot evidence is full of similar audacious, high-profile hoaxes, and indeed there is no category of Bigfoot evidence that has not been widely hoaxed, including video, photographs, tracks, hair samples, blood samples and DNA samples. (One well-known sample of “Bigfoot blood” turned out to be transmission fluid.)
Dozens of people have admitted hoaxing Bigfoot prints. These days it’s easier than ever to fake Bigfoot tracks; anyone in the world can buy a cast of an alleged Bigfoot on eBay and use it to make tracks that resemble those accepted by some “experts” as authentic.
These hoaxes frustrate those in the Bigfoot research community who take the subject seriously and try to bring science and good research to the mystery. Faked evidence — sometimes created by sincere Bigfoot believers — not only casts doubt on potentially legitimate evidence, but can also waste enormous amounts of time and effort in disproving the hoax.
In one case hoaxing turned deadly; last year a man in Montana died while trying to pull off a Bigfoot hoax. Randy Lee Tenley was struck and killed by several cars; according to police he was dressed in a dark camouflage costume standing near a highway at night in an attempt to spur Bigfoot sighting reports.
If the public is skeptical, the video of Matilda the Sleeping Sasquatch is considered dubious even among many Bigfoot believers. If Bigfoot are real, their existence will be proven using good science to help weed out the hoaxes from any real evidence.
Photo: Bigfoot claims have become common enough that photo services produce their own staged photos of the creature. Credit: Corbis