Sunday, April 24, 2011

Observation Vs. Interpretation

It is a fact that thousands of people have claimed to see/hear large, upright, hair-covered, manlike animals across North America and in parts of Asia. These observations have lead the witnesses (as well as the researchers, academics, skeptics, and journalists involved) to have many different interpretations about what was seen or heard.

This article is about separating the observations from the interpretations. I'll be examining a few different aspects of the sasquatch phenomenon, and discussing how different interpretations of the phenomena can become far-removed from the actual observations. I strongly feel that this occurs within the realm of research all too often.

- Observing Unexplained Phenomena - 

Paranormal phenomena is defined as phenomena that occurs outside of the normal range of human experience, or involves something that has yet to be fully examined and explained by mainstream science. Although many researchers feel that sasquatches have, in essence, already been discovered; they still fall into the category of paranormal or unexplained phenomena.

Like other paranormal phenomena, sasquatches are frustratingly difficult to document. As a result of this difficulty, rampant speculation about their true nature, origins, etc. abound.

Most observers get a fleeting glimpse of one; few are lucky enough to see/interact with one for any length of time. Moreover, most pieces of visual and audio evidence are quite brief; so brief that we are only able to gather a limited amount of data from them.

Nevertheless, these observations and bits of evidence occur frequently enough to fuel the speculative minds of researchers and enthusiasts alike.

Observing rare and unexplained phenomena creates a conundrum for many people, as we typically want a sufficient explanation for all things. There is a deeply ingrained desire to "fill in the blanks" of one's experience. There also seems to be a limitless number of "experts" who are willing to fill in those blanks for other people, too. As sasquatch researchers, we're often guilty of that. I know that I have been. It's simply in our nature to want to understand these mysteries thoroughly. 

- Interpretation - 

The interpretation of paranormal phenomena is a subjective practice. It is completely influenced by the interpreter's background, culture, religious or spiritual beliefs, personal experiences, desires, exposure, environment, geography, etc. It can have either a lot or very little to do with what was actually observed. 

Here's an example (albeit a broad generalization) of an observation/interpretation scenario:

Observation: Unusual lights are seen in the night sky. The lights move irregularly and then disappear from view.



Let's say that there are many different witnesses to this event. What will their interpretations be? How will they differ? One person might claim that they saw an extraterrestrial craft being operated by beings of a higher intelligence from elsewhere in the universe. Another might claim that it's a foreign military craft collecting intelligence and scouting for an imminent attack. Some might speculate that it's top secret US military technology being tested in the dead of night. Some might say it's being generated by a deity. Others might dismiss it as atmospheric light phenomena. The list goes on and on...

Truthfully, the only thing that was observed were lights in the sky. The interpretations are all the result of factors other than the observation itself. They can't all be correct in their interpretations, can they?

Now, on to the sasquatch...

Observation: A large, upright, manlike animal is seen in a remote river valley. It moves quickly into the nearest treeline and disappears from view.



Those who are reading this blog have probably heard that one before... but how does this get interpreted? Here are a few that I've heard (some more than once) over the years:

"It's a surviving gigantopithecine; a member of the Asian wood ape lineage."

"It's a racial memory; a vestigial genetic imprint of the encounters that humans had with large apes in our past."

"It's a hallucination/manifestation of the wild-man archetype; brought about by a deeply ingrained need for humans to reconnect with the natural world." 

"It's an alien/human hybrid created eons ago by visitors from outer space." 

"It's an individual from tribe of Neanderthals who evolved to achieve a tremendous size, and who've lost the need for tool use or fire."

"It's a dude in a gorilla suit."

"It's a bear on two legs."
 
"It's a projection from a machine that's buried under the surface of Mars, built by Martians. That's why no one can kill or capture one. Occasionally, the machine gets turned off, and that's why people see them disappear or tracks end abruptly." 

(That last one is my favorite. I heard that explanation during an episode of Coast To Coast AM.) 

Again, these speculations are being influenced by the variables that affect the interpreter. It is paramount that we (as researchers) separate these from the observation.

Please understand that I am not suggesting that we dismiss, ignore, or throw out the interpretation. In fact, the interpretation can offer invaluable insights into a witness, investigator, researcher, journalist, etc. I am merely saying that these things should be calculated and weighed separately from the observation.

Here's a more specific example. I recently interviewed one of the most compelling witnesses that I have had the opportunity to speak with. This witness had a fascinating story; a series of events at rural farm and homestead in central Georgia. He had one very good visual observation of a large male sasquatch at close range. He said it had large dark eyes that were wide open. When I asked him to elaborate, he said this: "Its eyes were filled with pure hate."

That wasn't the answer that I was expecting, but it certainly helped me to understand how it felt to this witness (as a young man) to have been face to face with a sasquatch. The emotion that he described is of course an interpretation of his observation, based on how he felt more than how the sasquatch may have felt. Could that look have been fear? Apathy? Disdain? Fascination? Confusion? Who knows... but it certainly gave me an important insight into the witness, and allowed me to make an emotional connection with him and his experience.

- Conflicting Descriptions? - 

Some sasquatch proponents make the assumption that there are different types of sasquatches based on the differing descriptions of witness. I suggest that we remain cognizant of the context of the observation/encounter when studying reports.

Again, context is everything when it comes to how witnesses interpret their observations. To illustrate with another example, I'll use the mountain gorilla.

Observer A: Observer A is watching a large male silverback though thick glass in a local zoo for over an hour. The observer has the opportunity to see many subtle and intricate nuances of the gorilla's behavior. The observer intuitively picks up on many of the shared primate behaviors between humans and the gorilla. At the end of the observation, Observer A is certain that he/she has just watched a very human-like animal, one of our closest living relatives.



Observer B: Observer B is walking alone through a thick jungle in the Virunga Mountains. He/she begins to hear movement just out view. There seems to be a large animal just behind the thick vegetation. Suddenly, the foliage bursts to life as a large silverback gorilla bluff charges the observer, screaming and baring its massive canines. Before the observer can react, the huge animal disappears into the jungle. Observer B is certain that he/she just witnessed a terrifying animal, a veritable monster in the jungle. 



In this example, both observers saw the same animal, but have different interpretations based on their experiences. Sasquatch researchers must be cautious when weighing observations against each other from people with different experiences and backgrounds.

- In Conclusion - 

Human nature dictates that we will always attempt to explain that which we experience; no matter how unusual or brief. These explanations can often reflect more on the observer than the subject being observed.

As dedicated researchers who have involved ourselves in an unexplained phenomenon, we must be aware of, and be able to responsibly separate the observation from the interpretation of witnesses, enthusiasts, and most importantly ourselves.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Reconyx RC60 and Infrared Light Experiments

Since November of 2009, I have been using three Reconyx RC60 units in various configurations and with various strategies in an attempt to capture images of sasquatches. I haven't had success... yet.

I am very confident that this technology can be used to photograph sasquatches. However, I also suspect that there is one major obstacle that has (thus far) prevented many game/trail camera owners from obtaining clear pictures of sasquatches...

I firmly believe that sasquatches can see into the infrared spectrum. I also firmly believe that they avoid (and circumnavigate) flashing infrared lights.

Most of the newer motion-activated camera technology utilizes infrared light in short bursts to illuminate the scene, thus illuminating whatever "subject" triggered the camera. I think that sasquatches can see these flashes (when the cameras are triggered by wind, other animals, etc.) and will avoid walking in front of the flashing object(s).

It would take a lengthy article to explain my position on the issue; and perhaps I'll write that article in the future (when more corroborative data is gathered and released). Until that time, I'll just say that I am currently conducting a series of experiments that are predicated on the notion that sasquatches can see into the IR spectrum.

The goal is simple. I am trying to perfect a methodology of using the Reconyx RC60's with their on-board IR flashes disabled, and with an alternative, static IR light source, still illuminate the "scene" and "subject" enough so that the RC60 units can clearly photograph them. This way, I could use the units in an array that would visually cover a target area, but the units would emit no IR flash that would give away their respective positions.

I have been writing draft after draft of ideas and concepts in an effort to achieve this goal. Once I feel like I have a solid strategy, I'll be experimenting with it in field targeting places with fit my "established habituation" criteria.

This video documents the first experiment: using the IR flash from one "active" RC60 to illuminate the scene for other units whose IR lights have been disabled or obscured.

Reconyx RC60 IR Experiment: Video One   


Do Established Habituation Scenarios Exist, Waiting To Be Documented?

ha·bit·u·ate
1. To accustom by frequent repetition or prolonged exposure.


Among the bigfoot/sasquatch research community, the concept of habituation (with regard to sasquatch/human interaction) has grown in popularity tremendously over the last decade. This concept has been perpetuated by the claims of witnesses and researchers across the continent, with several prominent (and a few infamous) examples.

Habituating sasquatches seems like a daunting and arduous endeavor. A researcher must first find a scenario that meets specific criteria, and cultivate many factors over a long period of time to have any hope of producing viable documentation of the presence of sasquatches.

But, what if habituation scenarios are already in place across North America, waiting for thorough and responsible researchers to document? What if sasquatches in certain areas have already been "habituated" to certain human behaviors in specific contexts, and have been exploiting these situations for years?

It is my opinion that they have.

-The Hypothesis-

My hypothesis is that sasquatches will exploit human resources in specific contexts, in specific areas, due to prolonged exposure to repeated and predictable human behaviors. These contexts are varied. Reports suggest that they occur most often at public-use sites in heavily forested areas, and at rural homesteads that are connected to food-producing agricultural lands.

For this blog entry, I will focus on public-use sites (campgrounds, parks, recreation areas).

-Setting The Stage-

Humans are certainly among the most predictable of species; especially with regard to the way we behave in certain forested environments that sasquatches inhabit. We drive our vehicles in and out on the same access roads, occupy the same campgrounds, walk the same trails, swim in the same holes, make fires in the same pits, leave trash in the same designated bins, etc. Just think of any given public-use campground in a National Forest or State Park near your favorite research area or "hotspot". During certain seasons, holidays, or times of favorable weather, dozens and dozens humans will flock to these specific sites year after year. Their arrival is announced by the sounds of dozens of vehicles on gravel or dirt roads, the slamming of car/truck doors, loud talking, laughing, and the sounds of celebrating. Multiple fires produce plumes of smoke that are carried through the surrounding forest. Each night, one-by-one, the humans retreat to their tents, campers, or vehicles, and the camps fall silent in darkness, for at least some time until sunrise. The sights, smells, and sounds will presumably seduce the curiosity (and stomachs) of the intelligent, and resourceful sasquatches who might inhabit the area.

After one or more nights of this activity, the humans (as if following some strange command) simultaneously begin to pack their belongings back into their vehicles, and departing the forest in droves. Many times, much of their precious high-calorie, sugar-rich, carbohydrate-rich food waste is left behind in designated bins, containers, receptacles, or even in firepits and make-shift dumps (some humans aren't very responsible with their trash).

This scenario has undoubtedly played out countless times in recreation areas across the continent; certainly enough times for resident sasquatches in many areas to have become habituated to this behavior. Their intelligence, combined with their cautiousness and stealth would enable them to exploit human food waste in these areas at night (after the humans are either all asleep, or have vacated the forest), rarely being detected (or even suspected) of such.

-Observations That Support The Hypothesis-

After several years of gathering data, and after re-examining many of the reports available to the public (using resources like the BFRO's public database, and John Green's database), I have found numerous observations of sasquatches exhibiting behavior that support this hypothesis. I will explore a few examples of what I believe represent "habituated" sasquatches here.

Monday, September 2, 1974
Blackburn State Park - Dahlonega, GA

Les Alexander, Bob Martin and Chris Stevens camped in Blackburn State Park, saw at 4.30 a.m. an 8-foot creature helping itself out of garbage cans. It made a high-pitched howl.

(Source: John Green Database)


Note that this incident occurs on the first Monday in September: Labor Day. This holiday is celebrated by millions of Americans each year, and in certain areas (like Northeast Georgia) many families spend the three-day weekend enjoying the outdoors, camping in public recreation areas. It's significant that this observation occurred during this holiday weekend.

I strongly suspect that the park was occupied by a high number of campers celebrating the holiday. Often, this three-day weekend represents the end of summer for many families, and is cause for an extended camp/cookout. Monday (the holiday) would have been the last day of the weekend, and most recreationists would be vacating the area to return home to prepare for work on Tuesday. A late night visit would hold the promise of human food waste in the designated receptacles, especially if the occupants of the park had been celebrating loudly, cooking food on makeshift grills over campfires, and attracting the attention of the local sasquatches. It is entirely possible that the sasquatch that was observed in this instance was indeed habituated to campers leaving food waste at the state park.

One of the most exhilarating and amazing encounters that I've ever had occurred in Northeast Georgia near the entrance of a heavily-used campground on the night after Labor Day... but that event will be the subject of a future blog post.

March 2008
Uwharrie National Forest, North Carolina

During the 2008 North Carolina BFRO Expedition, participants occupied one of the most frequently used campgrounds in the Uwharrie National Forest. The previous year, I, along with Leigh Culver, JT McAvoy, Don Tart, and Tyler Stanley experienced a close approach incident in the vicinity of the large campground along a creek bottom. For two consecutive nights, the participants (including myself) ventured out on foot from the campground into the surrounding forest (via trail systems, old road beds, and game trails) in an effort to document the resident sasquatches. The activity was minimal, and so BFRO Director Matt Moneymaker devised a plan for the participants to drive away from the camp and spread out over distant logging roads in an effort to relay mimicked sasquatch vocalizations across a large area in hopes of eliciting a response.

While nearly all of the vehicles loaded up and left the campground, a small handful of expedition participants stayed behind. The participants began to hear something quietly and steadily approaching the camp in the darkness. Keith McLain watched (through a 3rd Gen Night Vision monocular) a large sasquatch walking bipedally at the periphery of the camp.

A little over one year later, Mike Greene would capture thermal images of what could possibly be the same habituated sasquatch making the same approach to the camp in total darkness.

Again, I speculate that the local sasquatch(es) in the vicinity of this camp have become habituated to dozens of humans occupying the campground for a few days at a time, and leaving food waste behind in the many trash cans and waste bins around the camp. It seems that when many of the vehicles depart, the sasquatches feel much bolder about approaching the site. Many of the initial reports that drew the BFRO to investigate (and conduct expeditions in) the area involved approaches at that very campground.

-The Usual Suspects-

Of the dozens of reports of sasquatches approaching camps when humans are asleep in tents or after most have vacated the area, there must certainly be countless others which have gone unnoticed. Either the campers slept through the entire event, or all of the humans left the area and the prowling sasquatches were completely alone during their inspection. On the other hand, there must also be many people who hear the intruders, or see the aftermath of their plundering, and blame the usual suspects: bears.

Indeed, bears are troublesome intruders in human encampments in the areas that they inhabit. Sasquatches are much more subtle camp visitors than bears are; but should a camper actually hear a sasquatch outside of his/her tent, with no knowledge or awareness that sasquatches actually exist, they would certainly blame the other large mammalian omnivore species which notoriously visits camps and takes food.

There are reports of purported sasquatches raiding camps, in which no sasquatch is seen, nor tracks found, that make one wonder if the culprit wasn't actually a bear. However, we must wonder about instances when people describe "bears" raiding camps in the dark when no bears are seen, and no bear tracks are found, and no obvious tooth or claw marks mark the coolers or containers from which food is taken. Could sasquatches be to blame for some of these incidents? I suggest that they could.

It seems that sasquatches have quite the scapegoat for their exploitation of human food waste.

-Potential for Documentation-

This combination of factors creates a unique potential for researchers to document the presence of sasquatches in a given location. Sasquatches may rely on these scenarios in certain places and certain times of the year for a reliable source of food; food that they don't have to hunt for. They may have become habituated to this routine over many years. The behaviors associated with these scenarios may be deeply ingrained in certain individuals or groups. This allows researchers some degree of predictability, should this hypothesis or strategy prove viable in specific areas.

Moreover, this scenario allows for the placement of documentation technology (cameras, thermal imagers, audio recorders, etc) among other man-made objects or structures. Sasquatches would presumably be much less suspicious of strange man-made objects in areas that are heavily frequented by humans, as opposed to placing the technology in remote forested areas far from the human presence.

I will be experimenting with different techniques and strategies related to this hypothesis in the hopes of obtaining audio/video/photographic documentation of sasquatches throughout the year. Please check back for updates, video blogs, etc.

Archive Of Sound Files/Most Recent Podcast Interview

Folks,

I will soon have a complete archive available online of all of the sound files related to my research.

I also will have all of my radio and podcast appearances stored in the same archive as well.

In the meantime, here is the most recent podcast that I appeared as a guest on:

West Georgia Paranormal 1/16/2011 (Matt Pruitt) by Matt Pruitt

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

First Post

Thanks for visiting my new blog! After years of gathering data related to sasquatches, I have decided to create an outlet for the information, insights, and experiences that I have accumulated, and am still accumulating.

Here you'll find information related to things such as: specific reports that I have investigated, witnesses that I have interviewed or spent time with, field techniques that I have utilized, expeditions that I have attended and organized, and experiences that I have had.

I hope to also keep readers informed of the projects that I am currently developing or engaged in, like planning expeditions, investigating reports, on-going equipment experiments, etc.

Again, thanks for visiting, and please feel free to contact me with any questions, suggestions, or criticisms at mattpruittonline@gmail.com

Best,

MP