Friday, November 7, 2014

The Battle Over Bigfoot

Buzzfeed has an article up today covering the split in the Bigfoot hunting community between legitimate investigators and scammers like Rick Dyer. Dyer has pulled off two Bigfoot hoaxes that attracted media attention, including here on Augoeides. Melba Ketchum, who I likewise have covered, is another example of either an incompetent or an outright fraud.

But not everyone researching Bigfoot sightings is a confidence artist out to make a quick buck. A few serious scientists are involved as well, and while they are often criticized by their peers, they insist that they are simply looking to get to the bottom of whatever is prompting all the sightings. I know that it's far less believable to me that all of the evidence and reports are completely made up than that there's some sort of living creature behind at least a few of them.

As Dyer has become a wily villain in the Sasquatch scene, he has drawn outsize media attention, swarms of paying customers and fans, and loathing from the many people who consider Bigfoot a living creature. After a hoax earlier this year, a petition was posted on demanding that he be charged criminally (he has not been). Loren Coleman, the cryptozoologist and author of Bigfoot! The True Story of Apes in America, describes Dyer as a “disgusting phenomenon” who just won’t go away.

For this second variety of Bigfooter, the search for Sasquatch is a serious endeavor. They are modern-day explorers, amateur investigators, and even academically credentialed researchers who have sought to not only bring science to Bigfoot, but Bigfoot to science. While no bones, body, or DNA have been discovered, they argue that there is considerable circumstantial evidence that Bigfoot is real.

For these dedicated few, Rick Dyer is more than an entertainer — he’s a danger to a field of study that already has credibility issues. That they all toil under the same big tent is one of the great oddities of a subculture that is as crowded and fractious as ever, one that can seem like an amalgam of a cult and an earnest explorers club, with competing camps of believers and skeptics, hoaxers and hunters, self-appointed experts and serious-minded scientists, all seeking to advance, in their own peculiar way, the mystery of Sasquatch.

The article is much longer than this brief summary, and if you're interested in the subject you should read the whole thing.

As I've written before, my personal opinion is that the living creature behind Sasquatch sightings is probably the black bear. A lot of people don't realize that black bears, despite the name, come in a variety of colors. Also, much of the classic "bear shape" is produced by the animal's coat. When suffering from conditions like mange which cause them to lose most of their fur, they become unrecognizable as bears at a distance. And they do sometimes spend significant amounts of time walking around on their hind legs in a manner that looks surprisingly human-like.

For example, take a look at the trail camera footage above that was submitted to the Bigfoot Field Research Organization. I'm convinced it's genuine, but I don't think it's an ape. I think it's a bear. You can't see the face to tell for sure, but look at the proportion of the legs to the torso and how it's down on all fours. Note that It's not as "bear-shaped" as you might expect because it's lost a lot of fur. Now imagine seeing it standing up, through the woods, at a distance, maybe from behind. Sasquatch for sure!

But of course I could always be wrong. The range that Bigfoot sightings cover is vast, and it's possible that a small population of large, unknown animals could inhabit it. If that's indeed the case, people like Dyer and Ketchum are doing all sorts of damage to the push for answers by making Bigfoot enthusiasts look like a bunch of clowns.

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Rose Weaver said...

I'm not that interested in "Bigfoot", although I'm interested in many things "Mysterious", no doubt. I'm a skeptic at heart. I've seen and experienced so many odd things during the course of my life and know some of these experiences can be explained by current scientific means. Others, however, cannot. And then there is the category of things which may be explained rationally but remain within the realm of "hypothesis" because many don't take the mystery seriously (as you point out here), or there simply isn't enough evidence for serious forensic study.

And the last category of "mysteries" which are truly unexplainable with any current scientific and/or forensic capabilities does exist. For me, I set those apart and explore them as best as possible with everything I happen to have at my disposal... in a serious manner. Bigfoot simply isn't this category for me at the moment because so many other things already exist here which I've personally encountered, or experienced, so I limit myself to the "personal experiences", but I ramble.

My point being this: I agree with everything you say here. There may be something to the Bigfoot story/mythology, but perhaps not what people may believe. You made the point about bears and those with mange. It's an excellent point and one which shouldn't be ignored.

And your point about those who hoax areas of research such as "Bigfoot" in which others are currently attempting serious study certainly isn't lost on me, since I do the same type of "research" and feel my work isn't taken seriously. As far as I'm concerned, research into the "mysterious" should not be limited to those with degrees in some kind of specialty, or any other discipline, but all with an open mind and a passion for the unknown should jump in with both feet.

Hoaxers are a pox on all those who seek answers into phenomenon "real science" won't touch.

Key for entering this comment for those interested: 44044

Nerd said...

Think about "skeptics" nowadays is that they defend the MAINSTREAM. When I think of someone who is "skeptical" in the classical sense, I think of someone who CHALLENGES closely held beliefs.

Nowadays what passes for "skepticism" is hiding behind the mainstream and throwing stones at anything not taught in "8th grade science."

TRUE OR FALSE: Hoaxers exist in the establishment too.

Rose Weaver said...

The "establishment" IS MAINSTREAM. But, that all depends on who/what you define as "establishment".

So far as I'm concerned, hoaxers exist in every aspect of society, unfortunately.