Anyone who has known me for a sufficient length of time – let’s say a week – knows that I have more than a passing interest in the Bigfoot phenomenon. But, do I actually believe that an eight foot tall primate stalks the deep forests and valleys of North America? Let’s explore that a bit…
My history with Bigfoot
The earliest memory I have of being introduced to the idea that we might share our planet with undiscovered primates is when I was terrified by the appearance of the Abominable Snowman, aka “Bumble,” during the annual airing of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. The build up to Bumble’s appearance was so effective and scared me so much that I think it was several years before I actually had the nerve to look at him on our giant 24″ black and white television! Which might be more understandable if I didn’t happen to be 15 years old at the time…(just kidding, I was 4 or 5 at the time).
Flash forward a couple of years to a still young me, now out of therapy and able to watch Christmas specials on television again without hiding under the couch, reading the National Wildlife Federation’s April 1968 issue. This issue happened to feature an article on the Bigfoot mystery in Northern California. I could hardly believe my eyes – could such a thing be real? Unfortunately, unlike today where there is a new book or television show produced about Bigfoot just about every week, research resources were scarce in this pre-Google age. It wasn’t until my early teens when I stumbled across John Napier’s book Bigfoot: The Yeti and Sasquatch in Myth and Reality. Napier was one of the first notable scientists to give serious attention to the Bigfoot phenomenon. His book provided some compelling evidence, but no actual conclusion that Bigfoot or the Yeti (the primate said to live in the Himalayas) actually existed.
A squatcher is born
Napier’s book only whetted my appetite for all things squatchy. I devoured anything that I could regarding Sasquatch or the Yeti. I studied any articles I could find, I watched movies, and I watched docudramas like The Legend of Boggy Creek. Heck, even today I’ll watch anything that has Bigfoot, Sasquatch, or Yeti in the title. No matter how good or bad they are (spoiler: most are bad). By the way, I found the 1957 film The Abominable Snowman especially frightening and fascinating when it ran on Saturday or Sunday afternoon TV. Either on Sir Graves Ghastly or Bill Kennedy at the Movies, I’m sure it’s one of those two because Rita Bell’s Prize Movie was on during the week when I was in school. Man, I miss shows like those. The closest thing today to Bill Kennedy at the Movies is TCM. I’m glad they are keeping the tradition of talking a little about the movies before and after the show alive. But, I digress…
Other interests develop
Along with this Bigfoot fascination I developed an interest in world geography. How could a Yeti survive in the harsh conditions of the Himalayas (spoiler – they can’t. Most sightings are actually in the valleys not the peaks of the mountains)? How vast are the forest of North America? Where else have mysterious creatures and monsters been found? I became interested in other things – Mount Everest and wilderness exploration and tales of survival for example. My own passion for the outdoors never let up either. Even today, whenever I’m hiking I try to observe everything. Not only for signs of giant primates but for signs of other things, too.
In short, my curiosity about Bigfoot led me to explore other things about the world we live in. So my seemingly irrational fascination with Bigfoot led to a very rational exploration of nature. Ranae Holland, of Finding Bigfoot fame, in her TED talk explains this type of thing better than I can. You can watch her talk What Bigfoot Can Teach Us About Curiousity on YouTube.
So, back to the question I asked at the beginning of the blog – do I actually believe in Bigfoot? Well, the rational part of me says that the chances of a giant primate roaming the forests and mountains of North America is very slim. However, that same part of me says that it is unlikely that all those foot prints are made by pranksters. More compelling to me, after watching all those movies, is that no one in Hollywood has made a costume that looks like the creature in the famous Patterson-Gimlin film. Were a couple of cowboys really that good at faking a Sasquatch’s proportions?
Do I believe?
I won’t go so far as to say that I definitely think Bigfoot is out there. I will go so far as to say that people are seeing something. Maybe grizzly bears spend more time walking upright than we think, maybe there’s a spore in trees which causes hallucinations, maybe…I don’t know.
But there is one thing I know for sure. I would rather live in a world where the possibility of something like Bigfoot exists than a world where people are so convinced of their own pre-conceived ideas of how things should be that they can’t even entertain the possibility that there are things beyond their comprehension. That the world still holds mystery and wonder. That they could possibly be wrong in their perception of how things are because they are focused on how they want things to be.
Because beyond the limits of what you “know” is where the real adventure begins.
All photos by David P. Wahr unless otherwise noted in which case the original artist retains all rights. Otherwise photos and words @copyright by David P. Wahr