Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
- This article is about Bigfoot, an unconfirmed North American ape-like creature. For the monster truck, see Bigfoot (truck).
Bigfoot is the name given to a large creature allegedly living in the remote wilderness areas of the US (the Pacific Northwest, the Great Lakes, the Rocky Mountains, the Southern forests, the Northeastern forests) and southwestern Canada. An alternative term is Sasquatch, a word allegedly coined and popularized by J.W. Burns of Vancouver, British Columbia, in the 1920s, which he claims to have derived from several Northwest Coast Native American terms from folkloric tales with some similarities.
The Bigfoot phenomena began in 1958 with reports of enormous footprints in Humboldt County, California. There are many claims of early reports of large, hairy, apelike or "wildman" creatures from the Pacific Northwest, allegedly dating back to the early 19th century, though, as noted below, some such reports are of doubtful authenticity.
While Bigfoot may or may not exist, a Bigfoot culture of mostly amateur researchers is active. Some professionals and academics have argued that though current evidence may be lacking, further evidence should be evaluated objectively as it arises. Others, including many amateurs, continue research and consider the existence of Sasquatch a possibility.
Witnesses generally report similar features: A large, apelike bipedal creature usually 7 to 9 feet (2.1 to 2.7 m) tall, broad shouldered and strongly built. The head is small, pointed and low-set; sometimes a low crest or ridge is reported on top of the skull; sometimes a head that is more round is reported. The eyes are usually described as small, hidden below a pronounced brow. Excepting the face, hands and feet, short shaggy hair covers the body. Hair color is reported as being black, brown, rust, reddish, sandy, or silver.
Most sightings are at night, leading to speculation that sasquatch are nocturnal. Individuals are usually reported, though some witnesses report pairs or family groups.
- Generally, mainstream scientists and academics "discount the existence of Bigfoot because the evidence supporting belief in the survival of a prehistoric bipedal apelike creature of such dimensions is scant." Furthermore, the issue is so muddied with dubious claims and outright hoaxes that most scientists do not take it seriously.
- Most of the areas where Bigfoot has been reported are near habitats of bears, notably including the grizzly bear. Bears are large and furry and often stand up on their hind legs, leading to speculation that Bigfoot witness mistook bears for something else.
- Alleged physical evidence that might support the existence of Bigfoot, such as audiotapes and video, is generally of poor quality. A number of people report sightings, but those could easily be explained by hoaxes and confusion about what they really encountered.
- Ray Wallace claimed to have produced a substantial amount of hoaxed evidence from 1958 onward in a prank that continued beyond his expectations. Wallace's family published many of the details following his death in 2002, but the family's claims have been disputed. One writer argues, for example, that "The wooden track stompers shown to the media by the Wallace family do not match photos of the 1958 tracks they claim their father made. They are different foot shapes." 
- Supporters of Bigfoot claim there are many sightings that predate the world-wide interest in the subject. Frequently, however, such stories were either were not reported until afterwards, or have little to no resemblance to typical Bigfoot sightings, strongly suggesting that people were distorting or misinterpreting these accounts to support their own conclusions.
- Similarly, Bigfoot proponents frequently assert that Native American legends have stories of Bigfoot-creatures, which they claim supports the idea that they have been around for a long time. An actual look into the legends offered up as proof frequently refer to completely different types of characters, often with only a minimal similarity to the idea of a large, furry humanoid creature wandering the forest.
- In Northern Europe there was formerly a belief in trolls, which some have suggested is similar to Bigfoot legends.
- At least one film (the Patterson-Gimlin film) shows something that is definitely not a bear, and this film was for a long time considered the strongest evidence for Bigfoot. Wallace claimed to have been involved in hoaxing the film, and opinions remain divided as to the film's authenticity.
- Rumors circulated that the creature seen in the Patterson-Gimlin film was a suit designed by special effects legend John Chambers. Some reports state that film director John Landis started such rumors. Chambers designed the ape costumes seen in many of the original Planet of the Apes films, and was reportedly an acquaintance of Ray Wallace and Bob Gimlin; in 1997, however, Chambers flatly denied involvement. Philip Morris of Morris Costumes — a leading company producing costumes, props and stage products — has claimed that he made a gorilla costume that was used in that film and later instructed Patterson in how to make the costume appear less gorilla-like by adding shoulder pads and using sticks to make the arms appear longer. 
- Curiously, the figure shown in the Patterson-Gimlin film appears to possess both a male sagittal crest (as in gorillas) and pendulous female breasts (as in human and chimpanzee females).
- The hypothesis that sasquatch might be a late surviving representative of the Gigantopithecus blacki is generally considered highly speculative. Rigorous studies of the existing fossilized remains seem to indicate that G. blacki is the common ancestor of two quadrupedal genera, represented by the Sivapithecus and the orangutan (Pongo). As the likelihood that these two modern animals would be descended from a bipedal animal does not seem plausible or probable to scientists, the current consensus is that G. blacki walked on all fours as a quadruped like an orangutan or Sivapithecus, not as a biped as Bigfoot is said to walk, and the enormous mass of G. blacki would have made it difficult for it to adopt a bipedal gait.
- The fossil record provides no support for sasquatch: there is ample fossil evidence in North America of prehistoric species of bear, cougar, moose and mammoth. Yet, aside from clearly human remains, there is no evidence of a prehistoric hominid. No one has coproliths from a Bigfoot.
- There have been many reported sightings, but physical evidence for the existence of Bigfoot has been ambiguous at best, or hoaxes at worst. There have been no dead bodies, bones or artifacts. There have been reported samples of fur and feces, but analyses have varied widely. Considering how many amateur and professional researchers have been looking for such evidence for decades, the absence of such evidence seems to some sufficient evidence for Bigfoot´s lack of existence.
- As noted above, most mainstream experts find current evidence regarding Bigfoot unpersuasive. A number of prominent experts, however, have spoken out on the subject. Jane Goodall has said, in a 2003 Denver Post article, "People from very different backgrounds and different parts of the world have described very similar creatures behaving in similar ways and uttering some strikingly similar sounds ... As far as I am concerned, the existence of hominids of this sort is a very real probability."
- The late Grover Krantz suggested that most academics who contend Bigfoot does not exist lack even a passing familiarity with the small body of serious scholarly work on the subject, and have not examined available evidence, some of which, Krantz contended, was very persuasive.
- Recently, Henry Gee, editor of the prestigious Nature, writes of an unexpected discovery, that "The discovery that Homo floresiensis survived until so very recently, in geological terms, makes it more likely that stories of other mythical, human-like creatures such as yetis are founded on grains of truth....Now, cryptozoology, the study of such fabulous creatures, can come in from the cold" .
- Arguments have been made that the Patterson-Gimlin film is genuine; Krantz, for one, expressed this view.
- Photographs or plaster casts of footprints are often cited by cryptozoologist as important evidence, while others have argued all such footprints are hoaxed.
- John Napier acknowledges that there have been some footprint hoaxes, but also writes that hoaxing does not seem to explain all footprints: "We must be prepared to accept the existence of a conspiracy of Mafia-like ramifications with cells in practically every major township from San Francisco to Vancouver. Even if we accept the conspiracy angle there is still another hurdle to be jumped. How could footprints of such realism and functional consistency have been made? Rubber-latex molds bonded to a boot or shoe might explain how the footprints are reproduced, but the mechanical problems would be immense, particularly when it is borne in mind that the hoaxer would have to walk considerable distances over difficult terrain wearing such unwieldy contraptions. There is also the problem that footprints are found in conditions where an ordinary man is too light to make any impressions in the substrate. However, it is not impossible that some of the footprints were made in this way."
- Krantz has cited a number of prints containing dermal ridges (fingerprints). Krantz reports that he offered casts of these prints to several law enforcement officials, who thought the dermal ridges were genuine, and further noted that a hoax seemed unlikely. Opinion remains divided, however, with suggestions that the man who "discovered" the prints had confessed to other hoaxes .
- A series of alleged Bigfoot tracks found near Bossburg, Washington , in 1969 appeared to show the creature's right foot was crippled. The deformed footprints are consistent with genuine disfigurement, and some argue that a hoax is unlikely. John Napier wrote of this case that "It is very difficult to conceive of a hoaxer so subtle, so knowledgeable — and so sick — who would deliberately fake a footprint of this nature. I suppose it is possible, but it is so unlikely that I am prepared to discount it".
- It has been suggested a body of Native American legends regarding Sasquatch-like creatures led support to the creature's actuality: "Some Bigfoot hunters believe that the creature's earliest history can be found in ancient Native American legends, particularly in the tales of the Witiko, or Wendigo, a giant spirit-beast from the lore of the Algonkian tribe." .
- Reports of large, bipedal hominid-like creatures from the remote wilderness exist from well before any hoaxers were born, perhaps going back to the early 1800s. One notable account was related to President Theodore Roosevelt. Unknown large primates have been reported in wilderness regions on every continent except Antarctica. One of the more famous is the Yeti (or Abominable Snowman) of the Himalaya. Enthusiasts go so far as to theorize that at least some of these reports could be of present-day specimens of the giant ape Gigantopithecus.
- Absence of fossilized evidence is not evidence of fossil absence. Sasquatch is not represented in the fossil record, but neither are gorillas and chimpanzees.
- Some cryptozoologists have argued the most persuasive evidence for Bigfoot's existence is a high number—possibly thousands—of credible eyewitness reports from individuals who claim to have clearly seen creatures they describe as large, bipedal and apelike. Some consider such circumstantial evidence persuasive. See List of Notable Bigfoot Sightings and Reports below.
- The vast majority of reports are generated from areas that are low in human population densities. In addition, most reports are from areas where annual rainfall is in excess of twenty inches (500 mm). Rivers, creeks, or lakes are usually in close proximity to sightings. Researchers point out that these common threads among most sightings indicate patterns of a living species occupying a specific ecological niche, as opposed to hoaxed sightings. Researchers question why individuals would be more inclined to perpetrate hoaxes in areas where very few people live or in areas of twenty inches (500 mm) or more of annual rainfall.
- There have been analyses of purported sasquatch hair and feces. Some were deemed hoaxes, and more came from common animals. A few seemed more puzzling and were judged by at least some experts as belonging to an undetermined primate. (All reputed Bigfoot samples that have been studied using DNA testing were confirmed to have come from common animals.)
- Analyses of purported sasquatch or bigfoot vocalizations have been recorded and analyzed, leading bioacoustics expert Dr. Robert Benson of Texas A&M to report that some recordings "left him puzzled," and helped change his opinion "from being a raving skeptic to being curiously receptive".
- As noted above, some have suggested that people have mistaken bears for Sasquatch. Some Bigfoot witnesses, however, include experienced hunters and outdoorsmen who claim to be familiar with bears, and report the creature they saw was not a bear. Biologist John Bindernagel argues there are marked differences between bears and sasquatch reports that make confusion less likely: "In profile, the bear's prominent snout is markedly different from the sasquatch's flat face. In front view, the sasquatch's squarish shoulders contrast with the bear's tapered shoulders. The sasquatch has relatively long legs that allow for a graceful stride, in contrast with the short-legged shuffles of a bear when it walks on its hind legs. A bear's ears are usually visible, while the sasquatch's apparently are hidden under long hair."
- If an animal like Sasquatch ever existed in North America, it's been argued a more likely candidate would be a species of Paranthropus, such as Paranthropus robustus, which would have looked very much like Sasquatch, including the crested skull and naturally bipedal gait.
- There is also a little known subspecies of Homo erectus known as meganthropus which actually did grow to enormous proportions, though newest remains of the hominid pre-date 1 million years and have only be found several thousand miles away from North America.
Notable Bigfoot sightings and reports
- 1811: Surveyor David Thompson (explorer) reported large footprints near Jasper, Alberta Canada
- 1840: Reverend Elkanah Walker records reports of hairy giants among Spokane Native Americans.
- 1893: An account by Theodore Roosevelt is published this year. He relates a story told him by "a beaten old mountain hunter, named Bauman". Some have suggested similarities to Bigfoot reports .
- 1924: Albert Ostman claims to have been kidnapped and held captive by a sasquatch.
- 1924: Ape Canyon: Fred Beck and others claim to have been attacked by several sasquatch.
- 1967: Patterson-Gimlin film
- 2005: North of Winnipeg: Bobby Clarke records a video of a beast in a river 
See also this external link for a detailed list of Bigfoot reports.
- The method of locomotion for Gigantopithecus is not entirely certain, as no pelvis or leg bone has been found, the only remains of Gigantopithecus discovered are teeth and mandible. A minority opinion championed by Grover Krantz holds that the mandible shape and structure suggests bipedal locomotion. The only fossil evidence of gigantopithecus—the mandible and teeth—are U-shaped, like bipedal humans, rather than V-shaped like the great apes. A complete fossil specimen with the pelvis and leg bones would be necessary to conclusively resolve the debate one way or the other, and have to date never been found.
- Gorillas are in the same class as chimpanzees; gorillas are more closely related to humans and chimpanzees than they are orangutans.
- Hancock House is the synopsis of the book the picture at the top of this page was taken from
- Skeptic's Dictionary entry on Bigfoot
- Bigfoot Field Researchers Organization
- Texas Bigfoot Research Center
- Pennsylvania Bigfoot Society for information about Bigfoot on the East Coast
- Bigfoot Forums
- "Lovable trickster created a monster with Bigfoot hoax"
- Information on Sivapithecus the common ancestor to both Orangutans and Gigantopithecus
- "Wallace Hoax Behind Bigfoot?" - a Bigfoot supporters view
- "Is Bigfoot Really Dead?" - by cryptozoologist and Bigfoot supporter Loren Coleman
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