Last week police in Altoona, Penn., got a 911 call from a man claiming he had proof of Bigfoot. Here's a partial transcript of the police recording:
Person 1: "[an individual] called 911 advising that he contacted the Game Commission to call him back; wants a police officer to come to his residence. Apparently he has proof there of Bigfoot."
Officer: "Bigfoot, right?"
Person 1: "That's affirmative, he has evidence, uh ... proving Bigfoot. He would like a police officer to come there."
Officer: "Apparently there's a large amount of smoke in that area..."
Smoke or no, a police officer was dispatched to the man's residence. What he found there would become a matter of dispute and speculation over the next few days. Bigfoot enthusiasts heard about the incident and various rumors soon circulated, including that a hunter had shot and killed a Bigfoot, and that the presence of a dead unknown manlike creature in Somerset County had been "confirmed" - by who or what is not clear.
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Whatever was going on attracted the attention of somebody important, because a helicopter was reportedly seen hovering over the witness's home. Was it the news media? Federal agents assigned to retrieve the Bigfoot and silence witnesses? A false-flag operation initiated by the Obama administration to take away the rights of law-abiding hunters and gun owners?
The Bear Facts Sharon Hill of the Doubtful News blog followed the story, explaining to Discovery News, "It was typical of Bigfoot rumors - bits and pieces but no real sources. Speculation then went crazy within hours thanks to the Bigfoot online community. This is absolutely the worst way to get information."
Hill credits Eric Altman, director of the Pennsylvania Bigfoot Society, who helped get to the bottom of this bizarre story through follow-up and research.
"The current Bigfoot scene is awash with hype, rumors, backstabbing, hoaxing and rampant unprofessional behavior," Hill said. "You have to look for the few who are interested in answering the question: What, if anything, happened here?"
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So what did happen? Police investigated and concluded that in the end, there was no hunter, no shooting, no Bigfoot (alive or dead), and no Bigfoot tracks - only tracks of a mother bear and her cub that a man was so sure was from a Bigfoot that he needed to call 911 to report it.
According to Cody Combs of wearecentralpa.com, a man named John Winesickle showed responding police officer "picture after picture of alleged footprints caused by what he said is Bigfoot. Winesickle took the investigating officer on a path in the woods he regularly walks and showed the officer the tracks, but according to the police report, the investigator concluded the tracks belonged to a bear."
It's not the first time that bear tracks (and even bear paws) have been mistaken for Bigfoot. As psychologists know, our experiences and perceptions are guided by our expectations, so if you're looking for Bigfoot tracks you'll probably find them, even if they're not there.
Image: Ray Pfortner/iStockphoto