He may be the best-known - and most elusive - of all cryptozoological creatures in North America. How good is the evidence for the existence of Bigfoot?
North America has its own monster. While Scotland has its Loch Ness sea serpent and the Himalayas has its Abominable Snowman or Yeti, North America lays claim to Sasquatch or, as he has been nicknamed, Bigfoot. Sasquatch - a 7- to 8-foot-tall man/ape - has been sighted in North America for centuries. Before the European invasion, Native Americans were very familiar this "hairy giant" that lived in the wilderness.
One of the earliest recorded sightings of Sasquatch by a white man occurred in 1811 near what is now Jasper, Alberta by a fur trader named David Thompson. Since then there have been many sightings of the creature in Western Canada, and in many states of the U.S., especially the Pacific Northwest, Ohio, and even as far south as Florida, where the swamp-dwelling beast is known as the Skunk Ape.
Is Sasquatch mere legend or a remarkably elusive reality? What's the evidence? Personal accounts of sightings are plentiful and deserve weight because of their numbers. Physical evidence, such as footprints and hair samples, is rarer, and recordings on film and video rarer still. Here's a look at some of the best - and always controversial - evidence for the existence of Sasquatch.
He isn't called Bigfoot for nothing. There have been more than 900 footprints attributed to Bigfoot collected over the years, having an average length of 15.6 inches. The average width is 7.2 inches. That's one big foot. By comparison, the foot of a 7-foot, 3-inch basketball player - a rarity, to say the least - is 16.5 inches long but only 5.5 inches wide.
Through 1958 and 1959, Bob Titmus and others found numerous Bigfoot tracks in the area of Bluff Creek where the famous Patterson/Gimlin film was shot several years later.
In 1988, wildlife biologist John Bindernagel of Vancouver Island found massive footprints in the snow and heard a "whoo-whoo whooop" call in the woods. His evidence includes 16-inch, human-like footprints found in Strathcona provincial park while hiking. In addition, Bindernagel said he heard a strange, ape-like call at a friend's cabin near Comox Lake in 1992. Bindernagel said he knows of no other creature in North America that makes such a call, and he believes it was a Sasquatch trying to communicate with its own kind.
DWELLINGS AND GRAVES
Although by no means verified or authenticated, there have been claims of discoveries of Sasquatch dwellings and even burial sites:
Dallas Gilbert says he has had several encounters with Bigfoot, but his most controversial claim is for that of a possible Bigfoot community and burial site. Gilbert's story is weakened by his reluctance to disclose the exact location of the site. However, he has told The Daily Times of Portsmith, Ohio, "There are places where you can see territorial markings and snaps that the creature has made in the trees. There are even canopies and bows made of trees for him to sleep under." The burial site is marked by a stone, according to Gilbert. "It looks like a tombstone almost," Gilbert said. "You can see the outlines of the creature's eyes, head and his teeth." No corpses or other remains have been recovered from the area, so all we have is Gilbert's word on these claims.
In 1995, Terry Endres and two friends were researching an area known for Bigfoot sightings for a local cable TV show. They chanced upon a large, dome-shaped structure constructed of branches and brush. It was large enough for three full-grown men to sit in and was obviously not a natural occurrence.
Not many people have heard the lonely, chilling cries and howls of Bigfoot. But those who have, and know the sounds of the wilderness, say it's an unforgettable sound like no other.
Outdoorsman Bill Monroe, a writer for the Portland Oregonian, recounted his experience in an article for the newspaper. Monroe was elk hunting when the stillness of the late afternoon was broken by an eerie sound. "The deafening screaming, choking, belching moan from the ridge was chilling." he wrote. "The kind of scream that sends mothers scurrying to find their children. The kind of scream no cougar or bear could ever squeeze from their throat... unless it was their last. Piercing, echoing, guttural; a single, horrible high-pitched-yet-throaty, inhuman, unnatural creation of Steven Spielberg that makes your skin crawl."
In 1984, Bruce Hoffman was prospecting for gold near the Clackamas River. He told investigator Greg Long this story: "I had to park a couple hundred feet from the river, and I had to walk a little ways back towards the small stream that was running into the river. And just before I got to the small tributary, I would say from one-eighth of a mile to a quarter of a mile away, down in the woods I started hearing this yell, or a call. The sound had a base tone, a muscular sound to it, and the sound got loud. You could hear how it went up through the trees and up to the sky. The sound traveled about three to four miles to the ridge of the mountains. You could hear the sound hit the mountain."
Invariably, the sighting of a Sasquatch is accompanied by a very strong, very foul odor.
In June, 1988, Sean Fries was camping on the north fork of California's Feather River. "I climbed into my tent and lay down on my bedroll. I let my dogs run around because they always stay close to camp. I started to dose off when suddenly I woke up. It was dead quiet - no crickets, nothing, and my dogs came running into my tent shaking. I grabbed my rifle and flashlight and stepped outside the tent. I couldn't see anything, but I had that sensation of being watched. Then I heard some very heavy footsteps right behind me in the trees. There was also a very strange odor, almost like a cross between a skunk and something dead. This thing circled my camp site all night long."
Next page: Sightings, Hair Samples, and Photos