Tracking the Legend of Bigfoot

Cast of Bigfoot Footprint (alleged), northern California, 1967

Cast of Alleged Bigfoot Footprint
Footprint found by Roger Patterson, Bluff Creek, northern California, 1967
Length: 18.0 in. (45.7 cm.), Width: 9.2 in. (23.3 cm.),
Plaster cast made by John W. Olsen in 1979 at Arizona State Museum from a cast that was obtained from Grover Krantz
(ASM Catalog No. 2011-470-1a)


 

Text by Dr. John A. McClelland, retired Osteology Lab Manager and NAGPRA Coordinator, October 2011

Legends of wild humanoid creatures are as old as human history and span the globe. Names and other details vary, but common traits of these undocumented animals are bipedalism, gigantic size, hair-covered bodies, and a potential to cause harm. A Native American tradition in the Pacific Northwest tells of a giant hair-covered ogre named Tsonoqua who steals children and food. This is likely the origin of the Sasquatch or Bigfoot legend.

Bigfoot was popularized in 1958, when news media picked up a story about Ray Wallace, a road contractor working in northern California, who made plaster casts of giant footprints that he found near his worksite. Hundreds of similar footprints and a few handprints have now been reported; some were clearly made by bears, some are fraudulent (one of Ray Wallace’s relatives later found carved wooden feet matching some of the footprint casts), and many others remain unexplained.

This footprint cast is associated with the most celebrated Bigfoot sighting of modern times. In October 1967 Roger Patterson and Bob Gimlin ventured into the woods in search of Bigfoot near where Wallace found his Bigfoot tracks. In Bluff Creek, they sighted a creature strolling through a clearing and they managed to film a short sequence from a reported distance of about 80 feet. The resulting movie is grainy and difficult to interpret, but clearly shows something unlike any animal known to inhabit the region. To some this is incontestable proof that Bigfoot lives among us, but to others it is merely a man or a woman in a gorilla suit.

Cast of Alleged Bigfoot Handprint. Handprint found by Ivan Marx, north of Colville, Washington, summer 1970. Length: 12.7 in. (32.3 cm.), Width: 10.4 in. (26.5 cm.). Plaster cast made by John W. Olsen in 1979 at Arizona State Museum from a cast obtained from Grover Krantz. (ASM Catalog No. 2011-470-2d)

This handprint cast is a copy of the original made by Ivan Marx. Grover Krantz, a physical anthropologist who studied the anatomy of Bigfoot hand and foot impressions, found many details in this impression that he thought were too difficult to fake. Others were not convinced; the original museum catalogue card for this item has the note: “This ‘handprint’ is almost certainly NOT genuine!”

Despite many eyewitness accounts, blurry photos or films, and the many footprints, conclusive physical evidence of the creature itself remains elusive. Replica casts such as these may now be purchased online, but the fact that these were obtained during the heyday of the Bigfoot phenomenon makes them important historical artifacts regardless of their authenticity.

The search for Bigfoot and other undocumented species falls under the quasi-scientific discipline of cryptozoology. Some have suggested the possibility that an extinct giant ape named Gigantopithecus may be the ultimate origin of the legends. This ape has been identified from fossils found in southeast Asia and it is possible that early humans and Gigantopithecus were contemporaries.


 

Links

Printing this page will display URLs for these links.

Bigfoot on Wikipedia

Patterson film on You Tube

Cryptozoology: The Centre for Fortean Zoology

Top

References

Bindernagel, John A.

  • 2004 The Sasquatch: an unwelcome and premature discovery? Journal of Scientific Exploration 18:53-64.

Byrne, Peter

  • 1975 The Search for Bigfoot: Monster, Myth or Man? Acropolis, Washington, D.C.

Ciochon, Russell, John Olsen, and Jamie James

  • 1990 Other Origins: The Search for the Giant Ape in Prehistory. Bantam Books, New York.

Cohen, Daniel

  • 1970A Modern Look at Monsters. Dodd, Mead & Company, New York.

Daegling, David J.

  • 2004 Bigfoot Exposed: An Anthropologist Examines America's Enduring Legend. Altamira Press, Walnut Creek, California.

Dennett, Michael

  • 2008 Science and FootprintsSkeptical Inquirer 32:47-51.

Gilmore, David D.

  • 2003 Monsters: Evil beings, Mythical Beasts, and All Manner of Imaginary Terrors. University of Pennsylvania Press, Philadelphia.

Heuvelmans, Bernard

  • 1995On the Track of Unknown Animals. Translated by R. Garn. Kegan Paul International, London.

Krantz, Grover S.

  • 1992 Big Footprints: A Scientific Inquiry into the Reality of Sasquatch. Johnson Books, Boulder, Colorado.

Lozier, J. D., P. Aniello and M. J. Hickerson

  • 2009 Predicting the distribution of Sasquatch in western North America: anything goes with ecological niche modelling. Journal of Biogeography 36:1623-1627.

Meldrum, D. Jeffrey

  • 2004 Midfoot flexibility, fossil footprints, and Sasquatch steps: new perspectives on the evolution of bipedalism. Journal of Scientific Exploration 18:65-79.

Milinkovitch, Michel C., Adalgisa Caccone and George Amato

  • 2004 Molecular phylogenetic analyses indicate extensive morphological convergence between the "Yeti" and primates. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 31:1-3.

Napier, John

  • 1973 Bigfoot: The Yeti and Sasquatch in Myth and Reality. E.P. Dutton, New York.

Radford, Benjamin, Michael R. Dennett, Matt Crowley and David J. Daegling

  • 2007 The nonsense and non-science of Sasquatch. Skeptical Inquirer 31(3):58-61.

Sanderson, Ivan T.

  • 1961 Abominable Snowmen: Legend Come to Life; The Story of Sub-Humans on Five Continents from the Early Ice Age Until Today. Chilton Co., Philadelphia.

Shackley, Myra

  • 1983 Still Living? Yeti, Sasquatch and the Neanderthal Enigma. Thames and Hudson, New York.