Bigfoot Encounters

The Believers and the Skeptics

Paper By Dr. Hans Biedermann, Graz, Austria



Biedermann casts doubt in his short essay, on the Sasquatch and other hominid studies. His contention is that they are images that are emanated from the human subconscious, and become quite real to those who report them. We have no doubt that many accounts can be dismissed in this manner, but not all. Even Biedermann agrees that Sasquatch hunters should continue--just in case. His dismissal of John Green's footprint evidence is clearly his weakest point. Some prints may have been faked, but not all of them. His assertion that snow prints can become enlarged is correct, but he may be unaware that all of the tracks in Green's collection were from mud or dirt--none in snow. Further, while bears do overlap front and hind prints "at times," these prints do not resemble human ones, and most certainly do not lead in the opposite direction--the toes still point forward. Beiderman's excludes the Patterson-Gimlin film analysis as well. Still, his presentation is a different point of view uploaded here to stimulate interest and provoke thought.

"I have dealt with the whole complex of legendary and anthropological basic material for a rather long time, and published some essays in scientific magazines (Biedermann 1965; 1966).

In these articles I first tried to show that all the traditions dealing with hairy, ape-like monsters are not at all new; at least not as new as it may seem to the innocent reader who is informed of Yeti and Mihgyur sightings in Central Asia, where the "Abominable Snowman" was somehow encountered--or not encountered--by early period explorers and tourists. The names used for that fabulous creature are Yeti or Ye-Teh, Tshutshunaa, Mihgyur or Migho, Metoh-kangmi, Mi-bompo, Mi-Tshempo, Bilanguli, Tshung Mu, Dzuh-Teh, Thelma, Almas, Almasti, Dremo and Ragshi-Bompo.

A few of these names from different Central Asian languages seem to designate the Langur Monkey (Semnopithecus, Trachypithecus); others apply to legendary beings who love alcoholic beverages as well as human wives. Sometimes these beings in the traditional legends behave exactly like the "supernatural bear" of the ancient Asiatic folk belief.

He is said to in fact be a fur-clad human or superhuman creature that is able to beget human children when he mates with human females. (Let us not forget the important complexities of the bear myths, as the bear is important for further thoughts about our topic.)

While the trails leading to ancient bear myths and ceremonies are easy to detect, there is also the other characteristic detail that at first glance looks as if first-hand reports were cited. The Nepalese Yeti can be caught if a kettle containing the beer-like "Chang" is placed in his area, which he drinks until he falls down as if dead. Desmond Doig and E. Hillary (1963) and Rene von Nebesky-Wojkowitz (1955) had retold this same story, which is reminiscent of very similar tales of Wilhelm Van Ruysbroek who lived approximately AD 1210-1270.

According to him the inhabitants of eastern Cathay (China) catch hairy creatures with a man-like appearance in order to draw off their blood with which they made a red dye. Beer is poured into grooves in the earth; the wild creatures drink until they become unconscious. Just in the same way European folk tales report on wild forest people--the wild men of the Alps--which are caught by pouring liquor into wells (Zingerie 1976).

All these creatures, sexy and alcohol loving, remind us of the ancient legends of the Satyr and Silenoi, as well as of the Roman Faunus. Silenos, son of the nature god Pan, was found totally drunk by King Midas, who had poured wine into a fountain in order to catch Silenos (apparently because he had hoped to learn some supernatural mysteries from his captive) who then reverently sent him back to his master, god Dionysus. To the expert in the field of classical mythology, the modern tales of women-stealing, shaggy, forest monsters--who also are hard drinkers whenever access to alcoholic beverages is possible--seem to be quite well known actors on the same stage.

Hans P. Duerr, a German ethnologist, in 1978 published his book "Traumzeit--Uber die Grenze Zwischen Wildnis und Zivilisation" (Translates: Dreamtime: On the Border between Savageness and Civilization). Duerr reminds us of the berserkers of the Scandinavian tradition: fur-clad brutes who served as warriors for Viking raiders. He also writes of juvenile gangs of Central Europe in the early Middle Ages that were allowed to commit lascivious deeds. This was believed to be a learning experience to enable gang members to find out about the savage roots of their personalities; to first live as wolves in order to subsequently lead decent lives.

In fact, we know very little about "savage" confederations of male young people, and most such evidence may derive from mock savageness in folk customs. The theory could bring the classical and the folkloristic traditions of savage, animal-like creatures quite near to each other. In 1980, I published my own book Wunderwesen-Wunderwelten, Oder die Erlebbarkeit des Irrealen (Fabulous Beings and Fabulous Worlds. or the Experience of Irreality). There I have mentioned the ancient Mesopotamian legend of the shaggy Enkidu, friend of the hero Gilgamesh, and the "Shaggy Ones" (Se'Irim) of the Biblical world as well as the Yeti-like creatures of the Turkish middle-age picture album of master "Siyah Qalem" in Istanbul's museum Topkapi Sarayi.

As I see the whole range of phenomena, there is a continuous chain of images, legends and reports; always centered around the same nucleus: that there exist man-like beings, shaggy and obscene, brutish and powerful, that are subhuman in one respect but envied by civilized man in the other. Do they represent a subconscious image in the human soul, an archetype that represents the archaic sphere within us?

Let us now mention the problem of the extremely large footprints that Yeti, and the other Asiatic savages, as well as Bigfoot and Sasquatch, are said to have left. John Green in Canada has collected quite a number of plaster casts representing the touchable remains of a legend. Led by the sincere wish to find out what exists in the forests of British Columbia and elsewhere, he may sometimes have been the victim of hoaxes.

Footprints are often greatly enlarged by evaporation of snow, a fact that can be attested to by wanderers of the perpetual snow in the Alps. Also, it is quite well-known that bears place their hind feet partially over the tracks of their forefeet at times, thereby leaving a very large footprint resembling that of a human foot, although leading to the opposite direction.

Along the same lines, it should be mentioned that, according to Russian Yeti-Almasti hunters, the hairy creatures of the folk traditions sometimes have inverted feet, with the toes to the backside and the heels to the front.

In Sikkim giants with reversed feet are also said to exist, is this mere coincidence? Alleged Yeti furs, upon investigation by zoologists, turned out to be those of certain Tibetan bears (Ursus arctos pruinosus). Heinrich Harrer (1978), famous expert on Tibet in the time before the Chinese occupation, showed pictures of bears with a bright fur to Tibetans who immediately declared: "Yes, that is the Dremo" (since for them only bears with dark fur were real bears).

Let us remember that for the ancient hunting tribes the bear was not just an animal but a supernatural being, treated with fear and reverence. Traditions of Asiatic tribes and North American Indians are very much alike in this respect.

We should take into account that the "mortal bears," even huge Kodiak bears, are not-according to that view--the real prototypes of the pertinent traditions but rather their archetypical savage, man-like, but at the same time subhuman, images that seem to be deeply rooted in the subconscious of our personality.

If we compare the "satyriac" wild creatures of classical tradition with the tale of a certain Miss Helen Westring (cited by Angus Hall in his book Monsters and Mythic Beasts, 1975, London) who was raped by a ferocious snowman in the forest near Bemidji, Minnesota--and if we think of the fictional giant ape, King Kong, in an old movie who tried to elope with a blond girl--then apparently we touch the roots of a very ancient complex.

Space here does not permit me to mention the whole range of legends, traditions, misunderstandings and possible facts that ought to be mentioned. According to my opinion, the Yeti-Sasquatch is so important a psychic image, though based upon some material evidence, that it sometimes may become "almost real" to the innocent spectator. In that respect it resembles the UFOs (which, like the Sasquatch, can somehow be photographed and seem to lead a shadowy life on the borders of reality).

Therefore, when somebody relates an encounter with a great, ape-like monster, it is quite possible that he is not simply telling lies but is manifesting what comes out of the depth of his subconscious.

Either visionary or hallucinatory, they still share a very ancient way of psychic experience that may also be responsible for the antique experience of many gods and spirits that were not simply "fiction." In other words, I think that Yeti and Sasquatch are dwellers of another kind of reality than our normal one.

Otherwise, it would be strange that, despite the efforts of wildlife research experts, no indisputable trace of that creature could be gained. But, of course, we never can be certain in this respect. Honestly, it would be fun for many of us to learn that there exists, in hard reality, some being whose existence was denied by the majority of "decent adult academic people!"

"I personally believe that my opinion is based upon good evidence; but the Sasquatch hunters should by no means desist from carrying on the hunt. Although I think that all the laws of probability are on my side."

I recall a saying of Voltaire: "Le vrai n'est pas toujours le vraisemblable," [translated] "Probability should not be taken for truth!"

References Cited:

Hans Biedermann 1965. Schneemensch und Bäenmythik, Mitteilungen der Anthropologischen Gesellschaft XCV: 101-105, Vienna.
1966. Die Sage vom Schneemenschen--ein umgeformter Bärenmythus? Quartä 17:141-152.
1980. Wunderwesen-Wunderwelten, oder die Erlebbarkeit des Irrealen.
Graz: Verlag fur Sammler.

Doig, Desmond und E. Hillary 1963. Schneemensch. Und Gipfelstürmer, Die Hillary-Himalaya-Expedition 1960/61. Wiesbaden:Verlag Brockhaus.

The author, Hans Biedermann, is an anthropologist for the Graz University Press "Akademische Druk-u. Verlagsanstalt," was born in Vienna in 1930, and has a Ph.D.,(Anthropology and Natural Sciences) from the Vienna University. He took part in scientific expeditions to South East Africa and the Western Sahara, and visited archaeological sites in Mexico and Brittany and the caves of southern France. He was president of the "Institutum Canarium," vice-president of GISAF, Society of Interdisciplinary Saharan Research.

Biedermann wrote many articles on mythology, anthropology, and books on Mexican manuscripts, medieval magic and superstition, legendary lands and prehistoric symbols, especially in connection with rock art. He was decorated with the orders "Aguila Azteca" (Mexico) and the "Encomienda del Merito Civil" (Spain). He also wrote Wunderwesen-Wunderwelton (Graz 1980) where the first chapter deals with Yeti and other hairy beings. His most recent book is Traces of the Ancient Canarians: An Introduction to Cultural Anthropology of the Aboriginal Canary Islanders (Hallein 1982). Dr. Hans Biedermann, Takominiplatz 15/16, A-801D Graz, Austria.

© Dr. Hans Beidermann

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