Monday, April 04, 2005

Bigfoot Critique Part 2

` Now that you are familiar with the kind of tomfoolery that has surrounded the first 'Bigfoot' sightings, and what a so-called 'Sasquatch' was originally supposed to be, I shall continue my exhaustive and obnoxious-sounding post.

` There is an abandoned mining town up here in Washington called Bossburg. Phil and I thought that we had come across it once and were going to actually go there today for a weekend drive. We wound up wandering around Mount Vernon instead, however, because it turns out that neither of us had seen Bossburg; it's actually over towards Idaho. (We must have been looking at Monte Cristo.)

` What does Bossburg have to do with Bigfoot? Well, not Bigfoot, but some very big-news alleged tracks of Bigfoot have been found there. On with the historical timeline, we find ourselves in 1969, shortly after Bigfooter Ivan Marx had moved there. (Now, Ivan had previously went on a very disastrous Bigfoot expedition with a bunch of other Bigfooters, who refer to it as "a comedy of errors and malfunctions.")
` It wasn't long until a whole bunch more tracks (the right-side one being deformed) were found by the town dump in early winter. Marx quickly told all the Bigfoot researchers, and it wasn't long until one of them, Rene Dahinden (whom Marx had gone on the expedition with) showed up. He found one of the tracks to be intact, under a cardboard box, and made a plaster cast of it.
` Totally psyched about the whole thing, Dahinden rented a trailer and moved onto Marx's property where the men searched for any traces of Bigfoot for over a week. Why that long? Because that was when Dahinden had struck... some very suspicious paydirt.
` On a drive from baiting-site to baiting-site, Marx - who was checking for a hit - began hollering to Dahinden, who awaited him in the car; "Bigfoot tracks!" Dahinden continued filling his pipe, waiting for the punchline. When there was none, he immediately figured that this was another hoax, as he had been through those before. Taking down the license plate number of a nearby Jeep, he drove back to get a gun and a camera. (I don't know why those Bigfooters don't just carry cameras around with them!)

` Conveniently, right where Dahinden had checked every day, there were 1,089 more Bigfoot tracks going (strangely) from a highway to a rocky river shore, wandering aimlessly and almost doubling back on themselves. The supposed right foot of the creature appeared to be broken and deformed. There was also a place where it looked like the alleged creature had rested, and another where it had stopped to pee!
` Well, over time, more 'Cripple-Foot' tracks appeared and other Bigfoot Hunters swarmed to the area. They got into spats among themselves, and eventually Dahinden left. After that, a prospector named Joe Metlow just walked into their camp one day, offering to sell them a blond-furred Sasquatch!
` This quickly split the camp into two competing groups: Dahinden's friends versus Roger Patterson's, who soon moved into a hotel. Still, both teams were intensely interested in this Metlow guy, and they actually had stakeouts in order to find the other crew in order to stalk them through the wilderness!
` Nice guys, huh?

` One of Patterson's millionaire backers flew in and offered Metlow a whole lotta dough just for one small hint of where to look. Insane with greed, Dahinden's people followed them to it in an airplane, threatening to shoot down the Patterson team's chopper!
` Joe Metlow was eventually offered 55,000 dollars, though since he was actually making the whole thing up, he backed down. But then, evidently changing his mind, he told them that he could show them a Sasquatch foot he kept in his freezer for only $5,000.
` The Bigfooters readily agreed - but it wasn't long before Metlow said that he'd sent it to his sister. She lived in Oregon, apparently, so Metlow and the Bigfooters bought plane tickets. But ol' Joe wound up slipping on the ice at the airport and said that they should just go on without him - he'd injured his ankle. When he cashed in his ticket for the best painkillers money can buy (i.e. alcohol), it became more obvious than ever that he was simply leading them on a wild goose chase.

` Oh no, they're not obsessed at all!

` And what of the tracks? It would seem that, since Marx had reported the first two sets of tracks, he probably was behind them. Even after everyone had left from embarrassment about the hoax, Ivan kept reporting all kinds of footprints and even handprints around his home!
` Eventually, he told everyone that a tracking dog had led him right to Cripple Foot itself - and he got a movie! Upon hearing this, Patterson's backer returned to Bossburg and offered Marx 25,000 big ones for just a copy of it.
` Other Bigfoot hunters were also quick to offer: Peter Byrne began paying Marx installments of $750 a month - which in today's terms was like $35,000 - just to keep the film in a safety deposit box.
` Very sad.
` When local farm kids showed Byrne where Marx had shot the film, he found that the creature was much smaller than Marx had said it was, that Marx had used different lenses, and so on. Then he learned that just before Ivan had shot the film, he had bought lots of fur pieces...
` Soon after, Marx left, and Byrne discovered that the film he'd been paying to keep in the box was blank! A year later, Marx could be seen on television with a different fake film, although this one was an obvious fake of some guy in a suit - Bigfooters Hunter and Dahinden agree.

` Of course, John Green, the best collector of Bigfoot information in the world, knows about roughly a thousand sets of tracks. That's not a lot. Beginning with this number, another Bigfooter named Grover Krantz (a well-respected anthropologist I mentioned in Part 1), guesstimated that there must be a lot more trackways that Green had missed - over 100,000,000 individual sets of tracks!
` Why? Because, he says, Bigfoot tracks made in remote regions must be only rarely found, and when they are, it is rare that any Bigfoot hunter ever hears of it. He has three conclusions: a) Bigfeet are real, b) there are a hundred thousand pranksters, or c) there is a vast government conspiracy of about "one thousand people, working full-time...." costing "well over a billion dollars..."
` Of course, by making this argument silly, he implies that it is ridiculous not to think that Sasquatch exists - a faulty debate tactic, well-used by perpetuators of nonsense.

` Even with John's thousand known trackways, a lot of those have been planned to be noticed... by hoaxers! Quite often, they are planted at a place where someone is likely to come along and see them.
` Sometimes, a hoaxer may lead friends, co-workers, and even sasquatch hunters to the tracks! And what about sightings in remote areas? Hoaxers have been known to simply go out into the middle of nowhere and fake some footprints! They or their partner then 'discover' the tracks!

` Of course, I have not forgotten that it is a fact that 'Bigfoot' tracks are indeed found. Not all of them have been discovered to be hoaxes, but many of them certainly have, and others are highly suspect.
` Even if there are a few thousand trackways reported, think of how many people there are in the U.S. today - about three-hundred million! Americans get struck by lightning 82 times a year! If that many people faked bigfoot tracks, this would mean that 820 trackways - getting close to a thousand! - would be made every decade!
` Even if one millionth of one percent of Americans faked some tracks each week, that would be enough to account for all the tracks ever found!
` Of course, that's just a statistical thought experiment, but it puts things into perspective; Dr. Krantz is clearly going overboard in his proposals of ridiculousness to account for all the tracks we know (and all of the tracks he imagines!) being fake.
` Keep in mind, he actually believes Sasquatch exists, so it makes sense to him that we would not know about most of the footprints. While not all tracks are particularly suspicious-seeming, I bet there are a lot of people who can't resist trying to pull it off. When I lived in Ohio, I always thought it would be hilarious to do that.
` Now that I'm in 'Bigfoot Country' (though tracks are found everywhere!), I keep thinking to myself how funny it would be to do one of those things myself - I'm pretty good at sculpting! I could make some really nice 'Bigfeet' with some nice toe-prints out of plastic or something... and no matter what they looked like, they would probably look very 'realistic'!

` You see, it should also be noted that 'Sasquatch Tracks' come in all different sizes, from about ten inches to over two feet! They also come in a variety of shapes: The toes vary considerably, from being very long to very short, arranged from human-like to having opposable 'thumbs'; and while five sems to be the usual number, tracks with two, three, four, or six toes are also found!
` As for the rest of the foot, some are flat like a bear's, while others have high arches; some have ridiculously broad or narrow heels, and some prints have no heels, like a dog's!

` In other words, not only is it feasable that a bunch of people who don't even necessarily have to know each other have made all the tracks, but it looks like it too: Either the tracks are from a creature whose feet mutate constantly, or a bunch of people independently make a bunch of different tracks.
` Of course, Bigfooters are well aware that this is what it looks like, though they still contend that a few of these tracks that are found must be real - but which ones? If they don't know what a 'real' bigfoot track is supposed to look like, then how can they tell a 'real' one from a 'fake' one?
` Basically, they just look at which ones seem the most likely to have come from a real, plausible creature, or ones that look the most like 'the one time Wallace didn't fake the tracks,' or something like that.
` They have their idea of what 'real' bigfoot tracks should look like - which many known hoaxers actually admit copying. This copying of Bigfooter ideas - or even that of other hoaxers - is indeed enough to explain why some tracks do indeed fit a certain description.
` In fact, you don't even need to copy from others to 'get it right' - you just need to make human-looking footprints - just very large ones that look like they were carved from wood. (Most do.) As goes the way of the skeptic, this is not to say that one particular type of track could not have actually come from a 'real bigfoot,' but there is seriously no way to tell which footprints could be real, as some of them would have to be. Lack of evidence, you know.

` And just how far have people gone to perpetuate a hoax? Collectively, Bigfoot hoaxers have performed about every conceivable deception possible.
` Commonly, though, a perpetrator will say; "Hey, look at that!" to unsuspecting people who then may believe that the Bigfoot or tracks that they're looking at are real and take pictures or something. A lot of times, the hoaxer will get a highly-respected person to say that they took a picture of theirs or found some type of planted evidence. Or, if the hoaxer can't find anyone else, they can simply say that they 'came across it' themselves. Especially if they had never been known to fake Bigfoot evidence.
` Sasquatch Hunters' reputations suffer terribly because of all the false Bigfeet known - especially when it comes out that someone was putting them on. They are so used to encountering trickery that they have made it a habit to suspect anyone with even a fairly decent-sounding claim.

` This of course, begs the question: Why do so many people - including researchers who know that hoaxes are common, firmly believe that Bigfoot exists?
` I'll write more in tomorrow's entry. That's all for now!

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