‘Big Foot’ and his Cousins -
Known by such names as
Big Foot, the Abominable Snowman, Yeti and Sasquatch, this fascinating legend is based on giant footprints, twice the size of a human’s, and reported sightings of huge, hairy, human-like creatures between 7 and 10 feet tall.

There is only space to give a flavour of the many reported sightings.

The earliest report by a Westerner was made in 1832 by a British representative in Nepal, near the Himalayan mountains. The creature, which had just attacked his servants, was evidently known to the local people as rakshas which means demon. Then in 1951 a mountaineer in the Himalayas photographed giant footprints measuring half a metre long and about 33 centimetres wide.

More vivid reports have come from Canada and America:

Albert Ostman
One dark night in 1924 Albert Ostman, who was prospecting for gold in British Columbia, Canada, was picked up in his sleeping bag and carried into the woods. When he was put down after several hours, he could clearly make out the figures of four large Sasquatches! (The word comes from the Salish Indians of South West British Columbia and means ‘wild man of the woods’)

They appeared to be a mother, father and two children, hairy and about 8 feet tall. Their feet were very large and had padding like a dog’s. They did not harm him and he stayed with them for almost a week. They were very curious and liked to watch Albert as he cooked. When the large male became sick after eating some of Albert’s snuff, he managed to make his escape, firing a shot in the air with his rifle to scare them off as he ran. (1)

CREATURES GREAT
AND SMALL

 
 
'Big-foot hunter' Roger Paterson    
Possibly the most famous Bigfoot encounter was reported in 1967 by Roger Paterson, a self-styled ‘Bigfoot hunter’. He and a friend were on horseback when they saw what seemed to be a female Bigfoot. The horses reared up in fright, Patterson jumped off, grabbing his movie camera, and managed to capture the creature on film as it casually strode away, glancing back over its shoulder.  

In the 1980s there was more excitement when a forest patrolman, Paul Freeman, found some footprints which had dermal ridges - which are to feet what fingerprints are to hands. Several anthropologists were impressed, saying that it would be very difficult to fake these dermal ridges. Many thought that this, at last, was proof that the legendary creature existed.

 
Time to dust down our critical faculties again!

Firstly, it turned out that Freeman had been ‘discovering’ Bigfoot prints and other evidence wherever he went! Other genuine Bigfoot followers, who had been searching for decades with hardly atrack to show for it,not surprisingly became very sceptical.

Eventually Freeman admitted that he had been involved in the faking of Bigfoot tracks.

 

In 1982 another man, Rent Mullins, also confessed to a much earlier hoax. He had carved out two large wooden feet and attached them to his friend’s feet who had then walked around leaving the huge prints.

Ape or man in a costume?
Roger Patterson’s film clip was hotly debated. The problem with the film, however, is that Bigfoot looks so much like someone dressed up as an ape! The scientists to whom Patterson showed his film were not impressed and thought it likely to be a hoax. A Disney film special effects team, however, thought that it would be difficult to walk around so naturally in an ape costume so large; and that if it were a hoax, it was a very good one. (See the Patterson Bigfoot film clip yourself on YouTube)

In 2002, Philip Morris, a Costume maker, claimed to have sold the ape suit to Patterson via mailorder in 1967, thinking it was going to be used in what Patterson described as a "prank". Morris says he was reluctant to expose the hoax earlier for fear of harming his business: giving away a performer's secrets is not done. Morris added that he thought it would not be at all difficult to walk around so naturally in the ape costume(2).

Morris' wife and business partner Amy had vouched for her husband and claims to have helped frame the suit.(2) Morris offered no evidence apart from testimony to support his account.

 
In the 1989 film 2001: A Space Odyssey, most viewers were not aware that the apes shown were actors in costume holding real baby chimpanzees. In the 1989 film Gorillas in the Mist the costumes were even more convincing. (A believer may point out, however, that a genuine Bigfoot does not have to look like an ape. He may very well move more like a human dressed in a costume! Fair point)
 
What about those tracks found in the Himalayan Mountains?
Tracks left in the snow tend to enlarge when exposed to direct sunlight. Could they be ordinary footprints which expanded? Despite hundreds of expeditions to the Himalayas no Yeti bones or burials have been found.    
In 2001, however, some strands of hair were found in the hollow of a tree in Bhutan. Scientists in Oxford, U.K., had earlier sent out an expedition, led by a ‘Yeti hunter’. They were unable to match the hairs to animals such as monkeys, bears, Himalayan goats or pigs, so we have to ask: could they belong to a Yeti? (3)

Later more hairs were found in the mountains of North- East India, after a forester reported seeing a yeti breaking branches off trees and eating their sap.

In August 2008 the results of tests at Oxford Brookes University (USA) again failed to link the hairs with any known species, and they are said to bear "a startling resemblance" to those brought back from the Himalayas by Sir Edmund Hillary half a century ago. (4)

 
 
Before we get too excited by this, intriguing as it is, we need to look at the larger picture.
 
Elusive perhaps, but where are their bones?
Could such large animals as the Yeti in Asia or Bigfoot in America and Canada, avoid detection for so long? They must have been around a very long time, and there would need to be a good number of them in existence to maintain the gene pool, which would be necessary for the survival of the species. They may be good at dodging humans, but dead ones can’t dodge. There ought to be some bones waiting to be stumbled across, unless there is a huge, secret Bigfoot graveyard somewhere. Fame and fortune awaits the intrepid discoverer!

In conclusion, it is of course possible that such creatures exist. There have been other examples of large creatures which have been unknown to science until relatively recently, including the mountain gorilla (1901), the Komodo dragon (1912), the Bonobo chimpanzee (1929) and a 15 foot shark named Megamouth (1976). However, upon weighing up all the arguments and the evidence, most scientists believe that the existence of Bigfoot and his cousins is unlikely.

     
THE LOCH NESS MONSTER    
This is one of the most famous photographs in the world: the dark, blurred image of a long, serpentine neck stretching out of the water. It appears to be gliding majestically along in this most mysterious of all lakes, the Loch Ness.

Known affectionately as ‘Nessie’, the first recorded sighting goes back to 565AD when the Irish priest (who became St. Columba) went to Scotland to convert the Scots to Christianity. According to legend the beast confronted St. Columba but was defeated when the priest made a sign of the cross.

This photo was taken in 1933 by a Harley Street doctor, and caused a sensation when published by the Daily Mail. The photo was followed shortly afterwards by a vivid report of a sighting by John Mackay, who happened to own a hotel by the Loch. Many more sightings and the occasional photograph followed, and the public imagination was alight.

The arguments against
As with Bigfoot and the Yeti, there is a possibility that Nessie exists but, again, when examined scientifically, the problems begin to pop up. To reproduce there would of course need to be more than one of them, preferably a group, or even a herd, but two or more have never been seen together. No material evidence has ever been found, and sophisticated sonar equipment has been used to track the animal, but without luck. In general the likelihood of so large a creature existing in a lake, even one 22.5 miles long, is small.

The myth of Nessie took a harsh blow in 1994 when the Sunday Telegraph printed a front page article with the headline ‘Revealed: the Loch Ness picture hoax’. A scientific analysis of the famous photo showed how the ripples around the neck of the monster were more likely to have been caused by something dropped into the water rather than risen from below, and did not match the bulk of a huge creature. There was also nothing to indicate the size of the animal so it could even have been a close up photo of a small model.

The storm scenes in films are sometimes done using tiny models of boats made to look full-size.

 

 

In recent years there have been reports of similar beasts in lakes in Canada and the USA - not quite as easy to explain away as Nessie. Best known perhaps is Champ, said to live in the depths of Lake Champlain, which stretches about 125 miles from Canada towards New York State. Another famous photo was taken in 1977 by Sandra Mansi, and numerous other sightings have been reported. (5)

Sandra and her fiancé Tony were relaxing by the lake, while her two children from a previous marriage were swimming. Tony saw the head and neck of the monster first and screamed ‘get the kids out of the water!’ The whole sighting lasted between 4 and 7 minutes, before the creature disappeared under the water. The Mansi photograph is probably the best evidence for the existence of ‘Champ’. But how authentic is it?

CHAMP
The Case for Champ
The great majority of the earth’s oceans and seas are unexplored. Is it really so hard to believe that there are creatures that live so far down or in such remote areas that they are rarely seen by humans? Perhaps we still have a long way to go in cataloguing all the animals that dwell in our waters. The giant squid had existed only in myth and legend until corpses of just such a creature were found as recently as October 1977. Crypto zoologists think the creature may be a plesiosaur, a large underwater reptile thought to have lived at the time of the dinosaurs.
 
  • Sandra cannot provide the negative which might show evidence of tampering. (Most people throw negatives away or lose them, but not one of this importance).
  • She can’t provide other photographs from the same film, which is odd. They could have shown the creature from other angles.
  • She can’t locate the site of the photograph, which would have helped to judge the size of the creature.
  • Like the Loch Ness photo it has no other reference points in it, which could help to judge size and distance. (Mind you, this may not have been possible, and would have probably been the last thing on Sandra’s mind anyway!)
    A couple of independent inquiries did conclude, however, that the photograph appeared to be genuine, and that the animal seemed to be of considerable size. But serious question marks remain, and the jury is still out. What do you think?
     
THE COTTINGLEY FAIRIES    
This short section is included not because too many people believe in fairies these days (although we might be surprised how many!) but rather to show how easily even very intelligent people can be taken in by fake evidence.

In Bradford in Yorkshire in 1917, two young cousins, Elsie, 13, and Frances, 10 announced that they had encountered fairies in a place called Cottingley Glen, and even produced photos to prove it. When the photos were published they stimulated much interest throughout the world.

The famous Scottish author, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (see picture), creator of the even more famous Sherlock Holmes, normally rational and level-headed, accepted the story and went to great lengths to promote the existence of fairies, elves and other ‘wee creatures’ whom he believed to be flitting about in the woods. He even took slides made from the Cottingley photos on a lecture tour of America. He simply could not accept that two sweet and innocent young girls could be capable of playing such a prank!

 
Elsie confesses
In 1978 Elsie, the older of the cousins, and by then an elderly woman, admitted that their ‘little joke fell flat on its face right away’ and that if it had not been for Conan Doyle taking up the case, the photos would have remained ‘out of sight in a drawer’ where her father had thrown them.

She elaborated: ‘Surely you know that there cannot be more than one grown up person in every five million who would take our fairies seriously’. (I think she was under-estimating the number of gullible people out there!) Her dad, she added, was most dismayed by the whole thing, and had asked her mum: ‘how could a brilliant man like Conan Doyle believe such a thing?’ (6)

Given our knowledge of photo-technology it is clear today that the photographs are fakes. To give just one example, the fairies themselves and their fluttering butterfly wings are sharply defined. The rapid motion would have required a shutter speed that was far beyond the capabilities of the camera which was used.

It appears that the pictures were prepared by superimposing drawings taken from a popular children’s book, Princess Mary’s Gift Book. At the time such fakery was not so easily spotted, as people were not so used to looking at photographs.

   

QUESTIONS

CONTENTS

CULTS >>