A Bigfoot researcher is planning to build, equip, and dispatch a remote-controlled blimp to spend months above forests in the Pacific Northwest, California, and Utah in hopes of finally getting good evidence of the giant bipedal mystery animal.
According to a Reuters news story, "An Idaho scientist shrugging off skeptical fellow scholars in his quest for evidence of Bigfoot has turned his sights skyward, with plans to float a blimp over the U.S. mountain West in search of the mythic, ape-like creature. Idaho State University has approved the unusual proposal of faculty member Jeffrey Meldrum... Now Meldrum is seeking to raise $300,000-plus in private donations to build the remote-controlled dirigible, equip it with a thermal-imaging camera and send it aloft in hopes of catching an aerial glimpse of Bigfoot."
Information from the blimp would be relayed to teams on the ground who would be dispatched to follow up on any sightings or strange activity.
Part of the reason that the plan - dubbed the Falcon Project - is gaining such notoriety is the participation of Jeffrey Meldrum. In stark contrast to the vast majority of Bigfoot hunters and enthusiasts across the country and on television, Meldrum has legitimate scientific credentials as a professor of anatomy and anthropologist.
While these areas of research are not directly relevant to Bigfoot, Meldrum is more academically qualified than most to examine and analyze alleged Bigfoot tracks and photographs.
The idea for the novel project originated with a Utah man named William Barnes who claimed to have seen a Bigfoot in 1997. Meldrum and Barnes are hoping to raise money through donations and selling the broadcast rights to cable television shows.
It's clear why Bigfoot searchers are desperately seeking new ways of collecting evidence: Nothing else is working. By far the most common type of evidence for Bigfoot is eyewitness sightings; unfortunately this is also the weakest and most error-prone type of evidence.
Decades of studies have proven that eyewitness testimony can be notoriously unreliable, and many innocent people have been convicted based on reports from credible, sincere, absolutely certain - and absolutely wrong - eyewitnesses. As New Jersey Supreme Court chief justice Stuart J. Rabner recently wrote, "Study after study revealed a troubling lack of reliability in eyewitness identifications.... Indeed, it is now widely known that eyewitness misidentification is the leading cause of wrongful convictions across the country."
Other supposed evidence for Bigfoot exists, of course, but it is no more fruitful.
There are hundreds of different casts of alleged Bigfoot tracks dating back over 50 years; there are hundreds of photos (mostly dark, fuzzy, ambiguous, and from a great distance) said to be of Bigfoot; there are various claims of recovered Bigfoot hair and blood and DNA samples - all of which has turned out to be either hoaxed, mistakes, or of such poor quality that tests are inconclusive.
Not a single piece of all this evidence has led to the establishment of a single known fact about Bigfoot. The mystery monsters, if they exist, are just as unknown as they were a half-century ago.
Nothing else has worked, so Meldrum has wisely decided to change tactics. Will this latest project succeed in getting hard evidence where everything else has failed? It's not clear; much of the area is heavily wooded, so Bigfoot should be able to easily hide under trees to escape detection. Even using infrared cameras, it's not clear how a heat signature from a Bigfoot would be distinguished from, say, a bear, moose, or other large animal.
If the team waits long enough surely at least a few of the giant man-like beasts will eventually wander into an open area and be photographed. On the other hand, we would have expected that at least one Bigfoot would have been hit by a car on a highway at some point for the same reason.
Though some may dismiss the idea of searching for Bigfoot as silly or ridiculous, there's no reason why the topic shouldn't be taken seriously and investigated scientifically. If Bigfoot exist, it is important to find out what they are, how they may be related to humans, and how exactly tens of thousands of them have managed to exist in North America without leaving any hard evidence. If Bigfoot don't exist, the question becomes a psychological and social issue: why so many people report and believe in them.
Two things are certain: If Meldrum and the Falcon Project are successful, they could add immensely important information to our scientific knowledge of zoology and anthropology. On the other hand if they fail to find evidence of Bigfoot, that will not settle the matter; believers will offer excuses and the search will continue, as they have for decades.