Friday, February 14, 2020

In Defense of My Pursuit of the Sasquatch

A phenomenon exists in North America colloquially referred to as the “bigfoot” or “sasquatch” phenomenon. This phenomenon primarily occurs in two forms: the form of claimed human observations, and the form of physical evidence attributed to the phenomenon.

The primary constituents of this phenomenon are testimonial claims, and the relevant majority of those claims involve a purported visual observation of a large, hair-covered, upright animal that defies categorization within the extant (living) zoological or biological catalogue of known species. Elements of these claims suggest that the closest living analogues within the known biological realm are hominoids (apes), in that they describe a large, flat-faced, hair-covered, tailless animal, devoid of claws. As such, we can reasonably discount the possibility of another mammalian order (such as a novel bear species) when assessing the potential category of the animals described.

Claims of secondary experiences also exist; hearing loud, powerful vocalizations that defy categorization amongst known North American animals, the discovery of large, hominoid-like tracks (footprints) that are larger than human tracks, and yet cannot be attributed to other large mammals. Claims of experiencing stone or wood projectiles hurled through the environment in contexts that rule out human aggressors also comprise some of the phenomenon. A more ambiguous subset are the claims of percussive sounds (wood on wood, or rock on rock, etc.), purportedly generated by these animals.

Much rarer than the claims are the physical objects and impressions said to represent the evidence of the corporeal existence of the animals described. The most numerous examples are tracks that have been either cast or photographed. Other physical items attributed to the phenomenon have been (but are not limited to) damaged vegetation, damaged/manipulated manmade objects or structures, and nests or bedding sites that appear to have been constructed and used by a large animal. 

No one with any exposure to this subject could responsibly say that the claims do not exist, nor could they say that the objects touted as evidence do not exist. The unresolved issue relates to whether or not at least some of the claims and/or evidence warrant the consideration and pursuit of the physical reality of an as-yet-unrecognized hominoid species, or whether they're the result of a combination of misidentification, hallucination, or outright lying/fabrication.

A great deal of the claims and evidence can be responsibly interpreted as misidentification. There have also been many fabrications of claims and evidence. Regarding the most detailed, least ambiguous testimonies and physical evidence, the only worthy conclusions to consider would be that some either represent the physical reality of a hominoid species, or that (in the absence of such a species) they were all entirely fabricated by humans. No other reasonable explanations exist.

Given that the claims and evidence that constitute the phenomenon do exist, the fundamental question is: “What is responsible for this phenomenon?”

Exploring that fundamental question has been the most challenging cognitive task that I have undertaken in my life. After pursuing this for nearly two decades, I take the position that the most parsimonious answer is that there is a biological reality at the core of the sasquatch phenomenon. That position is based on my personal experiences and my interpretations of the cumulative amount of information that I have engaged. Admittedly, I am an amateur, and not a scientist.

This will not be a defense of the claims and evidence as “proof” of the existence of North American apes. At present, there is no "proof"; only data that is open to multiple interpretations. Much has been written in defense of that data, and I won't retread that heavily explored territory here. This is a defense of my choice to pursue this question.

Regarding the fundamental question, I have not yet answered it conclusively for myself, much less to the satisfaction of others. I am, at present, convinced of a biological reality responsible for the mythos, but have yet to observe it directly.

Since I do take the path to answering this question by attributing it to a biological reality, it's crucial to inform the interested reader that this is at least possible. Without an awareness of the possibility of the existence of such an animal, it would be easy to assume that I am trying to defend the impossible. As such, it's important to construct the informational framework necessary to pose the question in biological sense that makes the consideration of this possibility viable. I will briefly lay out that information here.

We know that a line of large apes existed in Asia from roughly 8.5 million years ago until roughly 100,000 years ago. These apes were the descendants of an ape called Sivapithecus, which was also an ancestor of the orangutan. The lineage of apes (often referred to as the Asian wood ape line) constituted what has been recently defined as a “sister clade” of the orangutan line, diverging from the common ancestor 12-10 million years ago.

The earliest form in the fossil record is Indopithecus giganteus; formerly Gigantopithecus giganteus. These apes were roughly the size of modern gorillas, but occurred in Asia (with fossil teeth and jaws having been recovered from the Potwar Plateau of Pakistan, and the Siwalik Hills of India). The younger, much larger form is Gigantopithecus blacki; the largest ape species represented in our incomplete fossil record.

G. blacki had a large geographic distribution. The fossil record for G. blacki represents a temporal span from roughly two million years ago until roughly 300,000 years ago. The G. blacki fossils currently available were preserved by two key processes; the formation and opening of karst topography (which has the proclivity to preserve bone and other organic material), and the intervention of accumulating agents (porcupines) who consumed the bones, and often dragged them into the preserving karst features.

It's worth considering that G. blacki had an even larger geographic distribution than is currently indicated by the fossil record, as karst doesn't occur everywhere that viable G. blacki habitat occurred, and that accumulating agents like porcupines also didn't occur everywhere that constituted viable G. blacki habitat. Without those two components, G. blacki remains might not have been preserved for later discovery and study.

For these reasons, it is not at all implausible that G. blacki had a larger distribution that we're currently aware of, and might have extended into more temperate montane regions.

Another set of considerations would be that a given clade will produce a radiation of genera, and a given genus will produce a radiation of species. Currently, this sister clade to the orangutan is only represented by two genera; Indopithecus and Gigantopithecus (previously thought to represent the same genus). Within those two genera, only one species each is represented at present; I. giganteus and G. blacki.

It isn't at all likely that these were the only two genera produced by this clade, and it's not at all likely that each genus only produced a single respective species. As such, we can responsibly assume that the Asian wood ape line took many forms over the large temporal and geographic spans that we're currently aware of, and that they likely extended in both time and area.

Moreover, the idea that G. blacki might have extended its distribution into North America (much like other Asian mammals that it was sympatric with) isn't impossible. In fact, it's been described by various authorities as possible and plausible.

G. blacki was also contemporaneous with our ancestor Homo erectus, having co-occurred for at least one million years. One leading expert in G. blacki stated that we must consider the possibility that H. erectus “engaged in the wholesale slaughter” of G. blacki, contributing to their apparent extinction.

Given that data, we can easily accept the possibility that there would have been many more forms of giant Asian apes than we're currently aware of. We can easily accept the possibility that they may have had a much larger distribution than we're currently aware of. We can easily accept the possibility that one of the selection pressures that they might have faced would have been predation upon their populations by the genus Homo.

Those possibilities pose the following relevant questions:


  • What other forms might these apes have taken? 
  • If they were hunted by our ancestors, what adaptations would the survivors (if any) of that specific selection pressure possess?
  • Could there be a large, upright ape genus or species that radiated from these known genera (or from the greater clade) that were selected for avoiding human detection and confrontation? 
  • Could members of that ape line have distributed their populations by following resources across Beringia and into (and across) North America?


If the answers to those questions have any possibility at all of being answered in the affirmative, then we should at least consider that some of the claims and evidence which constitute the corpus of the sasquatch phenomenon have a real biological potential.

If it were entirely impossible for these possibilities to exist, then it would be much easier to dispense with the claims and evidence altogether. Given that these suppositions are quite possible, I choose to evaluate the claims and evidence individually as each being a potential representation of modern-day observations and encounters with surviving members of this line of apes or their sign.

In my opinion, this information serves as an intermediary lens through which to view the sasquatch phenomenon.

Prior to my decision to evaluate the phenomenon, the impetus to pursue the question was an experience consistent with many of the claims that occur within the phenomenon. This experience occurred in 1999, when I was 17 years old. It involved loud vocalizations, branch-breaking, loud percussive sounds, and tree-crashing. I was accompanied by four other individuals, and none of us visually confirmed the identities of the multiple entities making the sounds. We were certain that they weren't bears, deer, and very likely weren't other humans.

As such, my original motivation in seeking information was to explain or illuminate an experience, rather than to pursue an intellectual challenge. I later modified the quest to explain my experience into an endeavor to explain the entire phenomenon.

My pursuit has varied in scope and scale, and I will try to illustrate that chronologically. The first data that I encountered containing testimonies that described experiences similar to my own were sasquatch encounter reports, which I found online in 2002. Despite my initial rejection of the concept of sasquatches, the consistencies with my experience were too similar to dismiss. That constituted the first time that I had ever considered that undiscovered hominoids might exist, and that perhaps my experience was a result of encountering them. That began the search for other references to sasquatches in the region where my experience occurred.

Initially, that information came in the form of historical records (specifically from the southern Appalachian region) related to other claims of observations and encounters with large, hair-covered, upright animals. I searched through archival information under the supposition that, if these animals were real, they should be represented in history. I aggregated over three dozen such reports which had been circulated in regional print media prior to the year 1900.

The next steps that I took were to attempt to find other residents of the area who had either experienced the same or similar events, or who claimed to observe sasquatches directly. I found many, and that prompted more curiosity and further exploration. During this period, I also began reading everything that I could related to the subject; gathering the most highly-touted books published on the topic, and the limited information that existed online at that time.

After seeking out and interviewing local witnesses, I began conducting field surveys of viable southern Appalachian habitat in the search for evidence of the existence of sasquatches. My first trips into these areas started in 2004, and began with visiting the sites of some of the most compelling observation reports I had received in northeastern Georgia. After seeing sasquatch researchers employing elicitation techniques on a TV series called “Mysterious Encounters”, I began emulating sounds attributed to the phenomenon in an attempt to provoke or elicit responses from the phenomenon. This process exposed me to two more experiences with elements characteristic of the phenomenon, but didn't result in a visual observation, nor a clear track find, nor the documentation of evidence that was as compelling as the most highly-regarded evidence attributed to sasquatches thus far. These two unidentifiable experiences emerged out of many days and nights of effort over those two years.

In 2006, I began to make connections with other individuals who were trying to explore the same phenomenon. That process exposed me to a host of other hypotheses, conclusions, assumptions, etc.; many of which were supportive of the reality of the sasquatch, but rooted it in metaphysical, supernatural, or spiritual terms. As I do not personally subscribe to a belief in the existence of the physical, objective reality of any of those realms, I have elected to maintain a course of exploration of the phenomenon as a biological pursuit.

The connections with those diverse individuals helped me to expand my field surveys, and I began spending more time in other areas in the southeastern US (primarily in Tennessee and North Carolina) which yielded encounter reports. One result of that networking and travel was an invitation to join the Bigfoot Field Researchers Organization in May of 2007. The BFRO had the largest online presence of any sasquatch-related entity, and as such, received many encounter reports. As a consequence, I became increasingly exposed to more claims and witnesses.

From 2007 on, I was interviewing witnesses at a much higher rate, and began increasing my areas of study. In 2008 I moved from Georgia to Washington state in an effort to be closer to the bulk of the data, as the majority of claims historically have radiated out of the Pacific Northwest. During those years, I conducted extensive field surveys in the region. I also made numerous trips back to Georgia to follow-up on reports there. I had a small number of somewhat compelling experiences during those years, with two highly compelling experiences in Washington (one in 2009, and one in 2010). None of those experiences yielded a visual observation of a sasquatch, but each event was experienced by multiple individuals, and defied conventional categorization.

In late 2010, I moved to Oklahoma, and began conducting research there. Around this time, the TV series “Finding Bigfoot” began production. The show aired in 2011, and its success exposed a lot of people across the country to the BFRO and its website. I spoke with many more witnesses as a result. I was fielding reports from many places across the continent. There were many days when I would spend hours on the phone speaking with witnesses, taking copious notes, and processing those reports.

In 2012, I moved back to the southeastern US. That summer, I was afforded the opportunity to conduct field efforts in a full-time capacity for one year, with the goal being to obtain clear visual evidence of sasquatches. The effort consisted of hundreds of days and nights in Georgia, South Carolina, and North Carolina in the pursuit of evidence. During that year, I only had three experiences that I could describe as consistent with the phenomenon; one in North Carolina, and two in North Georgia. The North Carolina experience consisted of a large animal exhibiting characteristic behaviors that infiltrated our camp two nights in a row. The Georgia events both primarily consisted of characteristic vocalizations. During that year, I didn't find any clear, unambiguous tracks, nor did I have a visual observation that was consistent with the sasquatch claims.

When that project ended in 2013, I was completely exhausted with the pursuit. I took a hiatus from investigating reports, and eventually resigned from the BFRO altogether.

I also experienced a total paradigm shift. I had gone from full-blown, unbridled optimism and naivety in the early years, to a growing caution and skepticism with each new exposure to claims, and then to utter rejection of the possibility that there was any biological reality behind the phenomenon. After years of being fully engaged in that endeavor, I got progressively burnt out by negative elements of the pursuit. Moreover, I had a series of defeats that I hadn't properly prepared myself for mentally and emotionally. I consequently became bitter, cynical, and resentful of the whole phenomenon.

I can see now that my cynical and resentful stance was an emotional response to being wounded by what I perceived as the failures of my efforts. I had spent many years, had made many sacrifices, and I had nothing to show for it in terms of conclusive data. I subsequently looked at the entire subject cynically as a result.

I questioned my own beliefs, and wondered if I'd just been duping myself all along. For a time, I became fairly convinced that I had been. That is not a very enjoyable thing to put yourself through, and it made me pretty miserable.

Those frustrations were further compounded by my interactions with people on both sides of the skeptic/proponent divide. During each transitionary phase, there were people I interacted with who couldn't accept that a mind could or should change. It was seen as a weakness of character to waver, as if it was wrong to question data, it was wrong to doubt certain claims, and it was wrong to re-evaluate a previously held position.

The unwillingness and/or inability to consider an opposing perspective are ideological pitfalls that get people into trouble. It gives rise to the cynic who can't consider the possibility that an unrecognized ape species could exist. Inversely, it gives rise to the “true believer” who can not, and will not, consider any alternatives to any bit of purported "bigfoot evidence", and for whom every claim is absolutely true.

I had to take about a year away from even thinking about the subject at all to begin to have a fresh perspective. I resigned myself from any involvement with the topic altogether. I started a new life. I focused on my health, on expanding my knowledge base, on my personal growth, etc., and the positive outcome of all of that allowed me to see my previous endeavors related to the phenomenon more clearly.

I chose to engage the subject again from a new perspective; one informed by having inhabited conflicting or opposing positions regarding the final answer to the fundamental question. I would posit that anyone who tries to tackle such a complex subject as this will experience various perspectives in an effort to figure out what they truly think, or know, or believe to be true. However, I don't think that I would have arrived at the perspective that I have today without having gone through that admittedly painful period of deconstruction and reconstruction.

After taking apart all of my thinking and perspectives on the phenomenon, I was left with these issues to contend with:

  • There is a very real possibility that large apes might have made it into North America.
  • There exist many claims of observations and encounters with large hominoids made by people of otherwise unimpeachable character.
  • While many of these claims can be dispensed with, a subset exists that aren't easily dismissible as misidentification, hallucination, or fabrication.
  • Some of these claims are accompanied by physical evidence that isn't easily dismissible.
  • There exists real stimuli that I have personally experienced, albeit rarely, that is consistent with many of these claims.
  • The fundamental question “What is responsible for the sasquatch phenomenon?” has not been conclusively answered to my satisfaction. 

Of course, the biological reality of the sasquatch hinges on the possibility that an ape like this could exist. Without that starting point, the other data is much more difficult to consider. As such, the first thing that I poured my energy into was gathering and reading through all of the available literature about the Asian wood ape line, and the best arguments for their possible distribution into North America. As far as I can tell, the hypothesis that sasquatches (if extant) are the descendants of that line is still the most parsimonious one.

Coming to a point of greater understanding of that hypothesis prompted me to read through all of the sasquatch data again, and to re-evaluate what I perceived to be the most compelling and credible witness claims and physical evidence.

Once I re-evaluated all of the information that I'd aggregated, assessed my own personal experiences, and began confronting and absorbing a lot of new information related to other relevant biological and zoological studies, I decided that I couldn't stay uninvolved any longer. I had to accept the fact that I am inherently and deeply compelled to try to answer this fundamental question. I began my pursuits anew, and began looking into the efforts of people engaged in the endeavor.

I was highly intrigued by the North American Wood Ape Conservancy and their output. Their ranks were composed of individuals who were trained biologists, scientists, and observers; the roster was made up of very credible people. The group was structured in a functional manner, and was devoid of the pitfalls that many other previous efforts had suffered from in their hierarchical organization. I was also impressed by the group's precisely articulated mission, and the application of their efforts into a single area.

In late 2016, I joined the NAWAC as an Associate Member. In 2017, I made two trips to their study site. During my second trip there, I experienced characteristic vocalizations which were also heard by another member.

Since that time, I have devoted of all of my focus on this endeavor to the NAWAC's efforts. Given my exposure to the subject, my intimate familiarity with its history, and my contact with hundreds of people involved (claimants and other researchers), I can confidently say this: The NAWAC constitutes the strongest effort that's ever been made in the history of this subject to conclusively address the possibility of a biological reality at the core of the sasquatch phenomenon. Their mission is to answer the question to the satisfaction of the world, and not to the satisfaction of any single individual. They're adhering to the same standards and operating within the same value structure as the institutions that we entrust to officially recognize new species.

I view the NAWAC as simultaneously the “last hope” of discovering the reality of the subject, but also as the “first hope”, since their effort is truly the first of its kind. I trust what their members have told me about their observations. I trust their analyses of the data that they've collected thus far. I trust their interpretations of those analyses. I trust that they operate truthfully, morally, and ethically. As such, I have entrusted every bit of available energy that I have for this pursuit to them. If I hadn't joined that organization, I would still pursue the phenomenon; likely to only answer the question for myself. Given the quality and scope of their efforts, I am compelled to contribute what I can to their mission, and to attempt to resolve the conundrum to the world at large.

That's where I stand with this endeavor in 2020. I've gone from having never considered engaging this subject, to “true believer”, to doubtful skeptic, to vitriolic cynic, and now to increasingly-informed and optimistic contender. I have interviewed hundreds of witnesses, conducted countless field surveys across the continent, have had a very small handful of experiences that defy conventional explanation, but are consistent with the sasquatch phenomenon. Nonetheless, I still haven't conclusively answered the question.

I personally find meaning and value in this pursuit. There are a great many people who do not, and who think that it isn't a valid use of time or energy. Who could blame them? It's been over sixty years since “Bigfoot” infiltrated the American mainstream, and yet, the subject is still relegated to the fringe and taboo. The claims associated with the phenomenon have only gotten more and more outlandish, and numerous hoaxes have plagued the subject for years. The mainstream media treatment of this subject favors sensationalism, and often the most entertaining, outrageous, and zany personalities dominate any coverage. The “community” of proponents is anything but communal; a large plurality of warring factions and camps devour each other more ruthlessly than any critics ever could. A glance into the online discussion of the topic finds only jabs traded back and forth between tribal groups like the “pro-kill vs. no-kill” camps, the “forest friends vs. killer monsters” camps, and the “paranormal vs. flesh-and-blood” camps, to name a few. After reviewing a few of those exchanges (which probably outnumber any thought-provoking exchanges 1,000 to 1), the cynical position is the easiest one to take. It doesn't require much (if any) deliberation. The unidimensional analysis that “it's all bogus” is the most efficient one to offer.

For me, though, there has been no other intellectual challenge in my life that has compelled me like this one, and as such, I am obligated, if only to myself, to pursue it. That is reason enough for me to justify my involvement with the sasquatch phenomenon. If my optimistic position is correct, perhaps it will serve to help make progress with answering the fundamental question conclusively.

If I am incorrect in my position, then I've met a lot of interesting people, forged some indispensable relationships, experienced a wide range of personal challenges that prompted growth, learned more about the natural world than I would've otherwise, and have seen many beautiful places as a direct result of this pursuit. That wouldn't be too bad in the final analysis.

I've made a lot of mistakes along the way. I have had to learn a lot about human nature, and even more about my own nature. It hasn't all been fun, but I'd say that it has been worth it.

While I have experienced many of the elements of the sasquatch phenomenon, I cannot claim that I have had a clear visual observation of the sort that comprises the most tantalizing elements of the phenomenon. I also cannot claim that the impressions that I have personally discovered were detailed enough to stand up against the best footprints collected thus far. I am still pursuing both of those elements, and have been preparing myself for years to document them, should I encounter them. I've not yet been successful in either experiencing or documenting them, but I'm not ready to give up.

In closing, I do find this to be a defensible pursuit. I do not expect anyone else to. I still haven't seen a sasquatch, and there's no guarantee that I ever will, whether they exist in biological reality, or solely in the realm of fantasy and myth. If I ever do, though, I'll let you know.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Excellent Article by Georgia Researcher Steve Hyde

Folks,

I know that I've not updated this blog in quite some time. There are a number of reasons for that; not the least of which was a exhausting and extensive full-time field research project. After the completion of that project (as well as the completion of several BFRO expeditions that I lead and attended), I decided to take a break from the public side of bigfooting. I stopped investigating reports and organizating expeditions for the BFRO, and I stopped participating in any sort of bigfoot-related activity that would be exposed to public attention.

During that time, I reevaluated a great deal of the information that I'd been gathering since 2002. I began to formulate a new approach to my own discovery process, as well as formulating a new approach to collecting and presenting data related to this fascinating phenomenon. I'll post more on all of that later. For now, I want to share an article that I think has as much relevance now as it did when it was written.

I have been very fortunate in the last many years to have received so many excellent emails and inquiries from new field researchers and enthusiasts asking for information, advice, etc. related to the bigfoot phenomenon. It happens to this very day, and I am grateful for that.

When I am asked where to begin with this particular quest, I always direct them to an article written by a Georgia-based bigfoot researcher named Steve Hyde. I read this article each and every year. It really helps to keep things in perspective. I consider it required reading for both new bigfoot researchers and enthusiasts, as well as for people who've been actively pursuing this subject for many years.

Enjoy.

Six Things a New Bigfoot Researcher Should Think About

By Steve Hyde

1. Before You Do Anything Else, Have A Clear Idea Of Exactly What It Is You Want To Accomplish.

It may seem an odd question, but now is the time to ask it. Just why do you want to go look for Bigfoot? Your answer may be that you simply want to satisfy your own curiosity, that you want to see it for yourself. That's fine. Or you may want to prove that it exists. That's fine too. But you need to ask this of yourself, because your answer will greatly affect how you go about the quest.

If you only want to satisfy yourself, then congratulations! You're the one that will probably have the most fun doing this. Only you know what your standard of proof is and it can be as high or as low as you want. If you're out in the woods and see a strange shadow or hear an odd noise or see that faint mark that just might be a track and it makes your hair stand on end, maybe that's all that needs to happen for you to be convinced. That's great and nobody should have a problem with that. But you need to realize that your experiences are not going to matter to anyone but yourself.

If you're out to prove the existence of Bigfoot to someone other than yourself, I'm afraid you have a much tougher journey ahead of you. It's no longer your own standard of proof that must be met, you must now meet the standard of proof of whomever you're trying to convince. Even if that other person believes in Bigfoot's existence in the same manner as you, he or she may not interpret your evidence or experience the same way
you do.

If you're going to prove the existence of Bigfoot to the world at large, you'll have to meet the standards of proof of the world at large, and the world looks to the mainstream scientific community to set those standards. And science demands concrete physical proof. If you claim to have discovered a previously unknown species of animal, you will have to produce substantial physical proof sufficient to be able to describe and classify it with scientific rigor. The only proof that will accomplish this is a body or a substantial piece of a body. Mainstream science has always demanded this, and it always will. You might as well get used to that fact now because it won't change, no matter how badly you may wish it to be otherwise and no matter how frustrated you may get at not being able to find it. Your only available options are to kill or capture one or look for one that died of other causes. Nothing else will do; not pictures, not casts, not hair, not trace DNA, not tape recordings, not film and not stories. You will discover quite quickly that the Bigfoot "community" is sharply divided between those who convey a willingness to obtain a specimen by deadly force and those who object to harming the animals on moral grounds. Although both sides can present good arguments to support their viewpoint, when it comes to proving the animals exist the researchers willing to kill or capture a specimen are the only ones who will have a reasonable chance of accomplishing their goal. Those who object to this method are left with the option of chance discovery of remains, the possibility of which is extremely remote.


2. Be Wary Of People. You Will Learn More About Human Nature Than You Ever Will About Bigfoot.

This occurs in a number of ways. As with any group of people who interact with each other, there are always the fusses, fights and squabbles, the making and breaking of friendships and alliances. One thing you will learn is that the Bigfoot community is indeed a microcosm of society in general. Human weaknesses abound in this field. You will encounter the typical variety of ordinary folks, intellectuals, nut cases, pricks and morons. But there are some individuals to whom you should be particularly wary. There exists in the world a large group of people who think that anyone who believes in and/or spends time researching Bigfoot (or UFOs or paranormal phenomena) is by definition an idiot. There are a number of people within that group who decide to try and take advantage of the "idiots" by jerking them around psychologically for their own amusement. Look at any of the numerous Internet message boards and you'll see this happening. The most common tactic used is to bait someone into an exchange of personal attacks. This will quickly draw others into the fray, and any ongoing civil discussion degenerates hopelessly. The instigators usually try to portray themselves as believers of some sort, but it becomes apparent pretty quickly that they have little or no real knowledge of the subject. You will also encounter "eyewitnesses" who do the same thing. They will contact you and report a sighting or experience just to mess with you. The best policy is to blatantly ignore them. When they don't succeed in baiting you they will disappear.

There are also a number of people who try to take advantage of the "idiots" by making money off of them. These people generally take great pains to elevate themselves in stature among the believers by constantly extolling their own virtues, exploits and discoveries but never seem to have any evidence to back any of it up. When questioned they become extremely defensive, almost to the point of hysterics in some cases. And they always seem to be trying to sell you something, be it a look, a membership to their organization, equipment, knowledge, merchandise, whatever. And cases of this are becoming more prevalent. Again, ignoring them is the best policy.

As for the cynics (I differentiate them from mere skeptics), know that you will always have the advantage over them. It's very easy to be cynical, especially about a subject as elusive and complex as Bigfoot. Cynics think there is very little risk involved in taking their position, but there is one great risk. It is impossible for them to prove that Bigfoot does NOT exist; there is no practical way for them to do that. It is entirely possible for you TO prove it if it DOES exist, if you find that elusive body. Then you can pull the toilet handle and make them all swirl down into the septic tank of irrelevance, and the last word would be all yours.

3. Be Objective. There Is A Big Difference Between A Theory And A Belief.

People's ideas about Bigfoot are much like people's ideas about God. Each person has his or her own unique concept, and it will range from quite logical to seemingly drug-induced. I'm quite sure you have your own opinions about Bigfoot, but if you're going to be a good researcher you will need to consider your opinions in the light of theory and not of belief. The reason is simple; if you consider your opinions to be a working theory, then you can be flexible and modify or change your theory as necessary to fit the empirical evidence you gather and analyze. If your opinions constitute a heart-felt emotional belief, then you will tend to stick to that belief regardless of any evidence that would contradict it.

At present my own working theory of Bigfoot is that it is a quite normal animal, a species of ape somewhat similar to the great apes we are familiar with. I call it a working theory simply because I conduct my research using assumptions I have made based on my theory. But I'm careful to keep an open mind and to try and be objective. If I were to come across good evidence that Bigfoot is a hominid more closely related to humans than the great apes or something else entirely, like the whole phenomenon is an extraordinary human hoax or some type of mass hysteria, then I wouldn't have much problem changing my working theory. But if I had a deep heart-felt emotional belief that Bigfoot was (for example) a humanlike being with near-human intelligence and I acted accordingly, my belief would constantly cloud my judgment and I could never be an effective researcher, even if my belief in the end proved to be correct.

4. Always Question Your Assumptions.

Remember that all theories and beliefs are based on assumptions, some more valid than others. And it's important to question your basic assumptions occasionally. Most researchers automatically assume that Bigfoot actually does exist and that is always the first assumption in need of challenging, but there are others. For example, there is a popular theory that Bigfoot is (or is a descendant of) the fossil ape species Gigantopithecus Blacki. It's a perfectly logical theory; there is in fact a documented fossil species of large ape that is thought to have lived between 1 million to 300,000 years ago, and scientists have inferred from the fossils certain characteristics that match closely with the more consistent descriptions of Bigfoot. But there are some shaky assumptions involved. G. Blacki is the only fossil species of large ape we know about, but that doesn't mean it was the only species that ever existed. And we only have G. Blacki's jaws and teeth. No cranium or other remains have been found to date. In fact, the only thing we know for sure about G. Blacki is that it was apelike and had big jaws. There is also a popular theory that Bigfoot is a relic animal, an ancient species that somehow managed to survive the Pleistocene epoch and remain in its primitive form. This may indeed be the case, but on the other hand Bigfoot may be a species that has undergone as much or even more evolution in the last million years than we have. It may actually be a form quite advanced from its prehistoric ancestors. We simply don't know. But it shows that we must be mindful of the assumptions we make.

5. Be Skeptical, Objective And Realistic About Evidence And Know Its Limitations.

We all get excited whenever we find evidence, especially if we think it's compelling or of high quality. You must realize that unless your find consists of a body, your evidence will be considered circumstantial. That is, the interpretation of the evidence depends a great deal on the circumstances of its acquisition; where it was found, how it was found, who found it, etc. and the predisposition of the interpreter to accept or reject it. We also have to be realistic about the possible impact the different types of evidence can have regardless of its quality.

Footprint casts. These are probably the most famous pieces of Bigfoot evidence. This type of evidence tends to have very little effect in trying to prove anything because of the possibility of misinterpretation and of forgery. The ones with dermal evidence aren't really much better, since they can only further demonstrate what DIDN"T make the print. You can demonstrate that a human foot or a known ape foot DIDN'T make the impression by noting dermal or anatomical characteristics that are different from those feet, but you cannot adequately describe what DID make it. I personally don't think that footprint casts by themselves really matter much anymore, and I quit casting tracks some time ago. To me tracks are more valuable in context. I'm more concerned now with what they can tell me about where, when and why the animal goes on its travels. As you go in the field, don't be real concerned about bringing plaster with you. Except in very extraordinary circumstances casting tracks is a waste of time. You're better off learning how to study them in the ground.

Photographs and film. Some very well known (to us, anyway) pieces of evidence fall into this category. They also tend to be the most controversial, and their actual value as evidence is hotly debated. You have the same problems here as with footprints since there is always the possibility of misinterpretation and forgery. As with casts, you can at most demonstrate only the possibility that something was indeed recorded on film. The Patterson film and the saga surrounding it should be an abject lesson to all those who think that film evidence by itself can be demonstrable proof of the animal's existence. It's valuable only if the person examining it is already predisposed to believe in the animal's existence. It will never constitute evidence to those who are not. If you are predisposed to accept it, film and video can be valuable. Much was learned about the animal's actual appearance and movement from the Patterson film by those who chose to accept it as genuine. So it is worthwhile to take a camera with you on your trips, just don't expect any real recognition to come from it no matter how good your results may be. The most you can hope for is to perhaps convince someone to pay closer attention to the phenomenon.

Hair and trace DNA. I lumped these two together because they are both analyzed much the same way. They also have the same problems as the first two categories. At most, you can only demonstrate what it is NOT. Hair and DNA can only be tested by comparing them to known control samples. If they don't match to any known samples, then the result will be inconclusive. Think about it. The only way you could positively identify a hair or DNA sample as coming from a Bigfoot is if you had a known, beyond-a-shadow-of-a-doubt sample of Bigfoot hair or DNA to compare it to. If you had such a substantial sample that it was known beyond all doubt to be Bigfoot then you wouldn't have to resort to the DNA analysis. The mystery would already have been solved by conventional means at that point. I always have to shake my head whenever I see or hear of someone chasing the unmatchable trace DNA in bits of hair and feces and the like trying to use it as proof, always to no avail. But I wouldn't tell you not to bother collecting this type of evidence, since it's as close as most of us will ever come to actually holding in our hands a bit of the unknown. If you're the sort who is into UFOs, it's sort of like going to Roswell and finding a sliver of metal in the side of that hill. There's no real way of knowing, but it could be. And that's personally satisfying for a lot of people.

Anecdotal evidence. This includes eyewitness accounts and the second-hand stories that you always hear. Keep in mind that human eyewitnesses are notoriously unreliable, and no two people will describe anything, much less a Bigfoot, in exactly the same way. And since you weren't there when it happened, you not only have to deal with whatever facts the witness can give you but also the witness' own interpretation of those facts. Was it really a Bigfoot he heard screaming, was it really a panther, or was there really even a scream at all? Ultimately the witness might seem pretty sure, but you can never be. Two people may see the same animal at the same range at the same time. One will see a dark-colored animal with prominent ears; one may see a light-colored animal with no visible ears. The difference? Perhaps just the angle of the head and the angle of the ambient light on the hair with respect to each witness, which could be very different. The veracity, abilities and motives of the witness come into play too. For these reasons and many others, eyewitness testimonies and anecdotes are intriguing but not worth much in the way of solid evidence. They are often the only things you as a researcher have to work with, but your interpretation of them is entirely subjective and you alone have to decide how to act on them.

6. The Bigfoot Mystery Is Solvable, And You Can Be The One Who Solves It.

If there is one great thing about the Bigfoot mystery above all other great mysteries, it's that it is within the reasonable capability of any ordinary person to decisively solve it. All it takes is to be at the right place at the right time and to be prepared. Think of all the other mysteries. Unless one crashed in my backyard, my chances of scientifically proving that alien spacecraft are visiting the Earth are pretty slim. I have absolutely no idea how I could go about scientifically proving the existence of a ghost even if I thought I knew where one was. I would have to live close by a large lake reputedly inhabited by a monster for it to be practical for me to try to find it, and even then the cost of the equipment necessary to make a realistic effort would be prohibitive. The sea serpent would be many times worse. I'm pretty sure some people will make the trip to Mars in my lifetime and I'm just as sure I won't be one of them, so I can't research the "structures" on Mars. Most all of the other natural and man-made mysteries always seem to be in exotic far-flung locales that I can't afford to go to, and the paranormal subjects are by their nature not scientifically approachable.

But Bigfoot is different. Bigfoot is the only mystery for which there does exist some objective evidence to support it. That evidence indicates the presence of the phenomenon in places as far apart as Washington State and Georgia. If for the sake of argument we accept that evidence, then it stands to reason that it could be found in at least some areas in between. That means that the mystery is potentially accessible to a great many ordinary people. All they would need to do is think, study and plan logically, and occasionally visit an area that they think could be a viable habitat and be prepared for a possible encounter or to find evidence. Having a camera, tape recorder, sample bags and tweezers along with the normal camping and safety gear would be the only real necessities.

Keep this in mind. There are people who have been actively in the field after Bigfoot for decades working in the best possible areas. What do they have? A few pieces of plaster, a hair or two, a few pictures and a lot of stories. Most of them still haven't seen one. I've been an active field researcher for about seven years. What do I have? A few pieces of plaster, a hair or two, a few pictures and a lot of stories. I do think I've seen one a couple of times, but I'm not really sure. Most all of the witnesses who have encountered Bigfoot weren't even looking for it. They were just out and about one day and there it was. So don't let all this "have to spend a lot of time in the woods and know all the secret knowledge and tricks" nonsense bother you. The real truth is that all that is factually known or reasonably speculated about Bigfoot to date can be learned in a few hours' reading. I don't know exactly what things it takes to find a Bigfoot, but one thing is obvious: sheer time spent in the field and lots of trivial knowledge certainly don't seem to be among them. It doesn't matter how long you have or haven't been looking for Bigfoot; whenever you do go out there, know that you're on the same level as any of us. But above all, you should behave as if you always expect success. That way you will always be prepared.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Truthloader Interview

Howdy, folks! I certainly hope that everyone is having a fantastic 2013 thus far; I know that I am!

I have been neglecting this blog a bit, but for good reason... I've been out in the field more in the last few months than in any other period of time during my nearly nine years of research. As such, I've gathered a tremendous amount of material to discuss in future articles, but for now, I'm staying busy and focused.

I did an interview recently for Truthloader about sasquatch research. This video was released in January, and has already "made the rounds" so to speak, but I thought I'd post here it on my blog for posterity.

Enjoy!


Thursday, August 23, 2012

New Interview with the Bigfoot Field Reporter

Howdy, folks...

I certainly hope it's been a great summer for everyone! My new headquarters in Columbia, South Carolina really lives up to the motto "Famously Hot"! I have seen more snakes within a mile from my house this summer than I have in the last two years combined!


Last night I was the guest on Sharon Lee and Rictor Riolo's Blogtalk Radio show "The Bigfoot Field Reporter". It was a fun interview, and one of the few interviews I've done with other bigfoot enthusiasts. I've done quite a few different Blogtalk shows; typically with paranormal investigators or reporters of esoterica. To get to speak with people who are well-versed in the subject made for a much more conversational and enjoyable experience.

You can listen to the interview HERE, or you can click play on the embedded player below. Thanks for listening, and enjoy what's left of the summer!

Listen to internet radio with sharonlee0827 on Blog Talk Radio

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Recommended Viewing: Enigma Research Group's "Sasquatch Field Research Series: Tracking 1" DVD

The Enigma Research Group is a Georgia-based team of researchers who have been studying the sasquatch phenomenon in various forms for many years. I have known the members of the group for quite a while; in fact, in 2006, Leigh Culver was the first BFRO member that I met, and eventually recruited me into the organization. Through Leigh I met Keith McLain, who has since become a great friend and field partner.

Leigh and I in Northeast Georgia.
Leigh also introduced me to the benefits of the "step-by-step" tracking method, and how to properly apply it to documenting sasquatch tracks and sign on a near-forensic level. In March of 2007, at Leigh's suggestion, I enrolled and participated in a tracking course taught by Joel Hardin Professional Tracking Services in Appomattox, Virginia. I made the trip up to the course with Leigh and another Enigma Research Group member, JT McAvoy. It was an eye-opening experience, and truly helped shape my field research methodologies.

The March, 2007 Joel Hardin class group photo including Leigh, JT, and me.
Later that same year, Leigh and I hosted a tracking course on a private property in Northeast Georgia for BFRO members. There was a "classroom" component that Leigh had created which was essentially an introduction to the step-by-step tracking method and the tenets of using three-person teams to follow trackways. In addition to the classroom-style portion of the course, Leigh and I had laid trackways through various parts of the environment 24 hours earlier, and assisted each team with finding and documenting every single footfall that we made.

The 2007 Northeast Georgia Sasquatch Tracking class group photo.
In 2009, Leigh, JT, and I taught an updated version of that same course to the Utah chapter of the BFRO in a remote area along a beautiful portion of the Duchesne River.

Having a discussion at base camp during the 2009 Utah class.
In 2010, Leigh, JT, Keith, and a newer member Craig Jackson (who attended my 2008 BFRO Georgia Expedition) decided to adapt Leigh's tracking course for a documentary format and release it on DVD. They sent me an early copy of the DVD, and I think it's a fantastic way to learn the tenants of identifying and documenting track and sign without having to travel across the country to attend a course or class.



I highly recommend this DVD for any field researcher hoping to locate and document sasquatch track and sign.  

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

June 2012 Update

All,

I apologize for the lack of posts, updates, etc. here. My computer crashed a few weeks ago, and I have been tediously responding to all emails and blog comments via my phone (which is much less fun than typing on a computer).

I just spent several nights in the field in Northeast Georgia with a few BFRO members, as well as a veteran researcher from Europe.

I will be posting that expedition report, as well as the complete Arkansas BFRO expedition report in the next few weeks.

I deployed the three Reconyx RC60 cameras at a location in Georgia, and investigated a fascinating series of incidents as well.

I'll do my best to complete all three reports and post them on the BFRO site and here as time permits, and as I get access to functional computers!

I hope to have mine repaired and running ASAP.

Best!
Matt

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

New Interview for the Dailysingle Webzine

I was recently contacted by the Dailysingle, a web-based magazine featuring interviews with different unique individuals every day. Today's issue features my interview, along with a few photos.

Read the interview HERE