Baffling Bigfoot Unites Believers
By Bronwyn McLaren, 1997
|One of Moscow's most offbeat offerings on the conference circuit took place Tuesday and Wednesday
at the State Darwin Museum: The International Conference on the Relict Hominoid
The meeting was an attempt by believers in relict hominoid, or yeti, also known as the abominable snowman, bigfoot or Sasquatch, to convince a skeptical world that the elusive, ape-like beast does exist and is part of the hominoid, or superfamily, of primates. The conference was timed to coincide with the 30th anniversary of American anthropologist Roger Patterson's 1967 landmark footage of what he claimed to be yeti, shot in Northern California.
The first day of the conference was devoted to Patterson's 30-second film showing a nervous-looking creature with large female breasts. The purported bigfoot is seen loping away from the camera, putting one foot in front of the other and leaving a straight line of prints, much as a large human would. The footage has been decried by many as a hoax, but a few swear by its authenticity. Among the stalwart defenders is Dmitry Donskoy, 87, a professor of biomechanics at the Central Institute of Physical Culture. "I am fully convinced there is nothing false in this film," he said from a podium he shared with a small stone replica of the beast captured in Patterson's film.
Donskoy, who specializes in the science of movement, gave his expert opinion on whether a creature 2 meters tall and weighing up to 250 kilograms would walk in the style shown in the film. After studying the grainy footage, which was shot from a distance of 30 meters according to Patterson, Donskoy concluded that bigfoot's beeline was completely congruous with his imposing frame. To prove his point, Donskoy re-enacted yeti's stride, slowly pacing across the stage, one foot before the next. An enthralled audience of mostly anthropologists, geologists and other scientists besieged Donskoy with questions. Some were completely tangential, as in the case of a woman who inquired about the relation between a person's walking style and mood.
To heighten public awareness of Patterson's film, former schoolteacher Dmitry Bayanov recommended that it be included in the Guinness Book of World Records as the first bigfoot documentary. He also suggested assigning the Latin name of "Homo troglodytes pattersoni" to the wild primate and to establish a Porshnev World Institute of Hominology, named after a Russian scientist who specialized in the beast to study the creature's role in the evolutionary process.
The Soviet Union, where yeti was known as Snezhni Chelovyek, or Snow Person, was the first country in which the government backed scientific research of yeti in 1958 during the post-Stalin thaw. But an unsuccessful expedition to the Central Asian Pamir Mountains cast doubt on the creature's existence, and during later times, study of the Snow Person, like religion, came to be regarded as superfluous to the Soviet state.
Some 1,000 sightings of bigfoot have been claimed in the former Soviet Union, including one case that suggested interbreeding with humans. Vazghen Karapetian, an army doctor, claimed to have seen a "strange, hairy man" in the Caucasus in 1941. "It was a totally wild creature," he later wrote. "His eyes had an empty, purely animal expression. I extended my hand to him and even said 'Hello,' but he did not respond."
Grover Krantz, a professor of anthropology at Washington State University and one of two foreign scientists in attendance, said that despite the commonly used term "abominable snowman," snow was irrelevant to bigfoot's existence. "There have been unconfirmed sightings in Guatemala and Mexico," he said. Krantz was initially a skeptic, but two footprints, spotted in California in 1975 and 1993, inspired him to write the article "Anatomy of the Sasquatch Foot."
© MOSCOW TIMES, October 23, 1997. Source Peter Nemeroff, St. Petersburg, Russia
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