Bigfoot Encounters

Conroe investigator Chilcutt studies Big Foot's prints
Chilcutt will share findings Saturday at Crypto Conference


06/26/2003 Houston Chronicle, Section This Week, Page 03, 2 STAR Edition

Jimmy Chilcutt doesn't use the term "believe." A skeptic by nature, he prefers examining evidence before reaching a conclusion.

And through meticulous analysis, Chilcutt, a 58-year-old fingerprint technician and crime scene investigator with the Conroe Police Department, has built a reputation for his skill in matching fingerprints with suspects.

He has received numerous awards for his ability to search for, collect and remove evidence from a crime scene. And the FBI, Drug Enforcement Administration and DPS Narcotics Task Force have utilized his expertise to solve many cases in the past.

So when he says something is real, people tend to believe him.

Even if it has to do with the existence of Big Foot.

"When people talk to me, most of their reaction is, `If he says it, it must be true,"' Chilcutt said. "Every once in a while, you'll get somebody who looks at you like you're crazy, but in science, you have to take the facts and the physical evidence."

And his facts have shown that something - an unknown species that had never been studied - might exist.

"As a forensics person, I don't believe anything," Chilcutt said. "But the conclusion I came to was that there is, in fact, an animal. I don't know if you call it Big Foot or Sasquatch or what. But it's not a bear or a lion."

Chilcutt will present his evidence, using the skin dermal ridges of footprints as proof, at the second annual Southern Crypto Conference Saturday at the Lone Star Expo Center in Conroe. Chilcutt will speak at 5 p.m., but the conference will include a number of seminars about little-known evidence for hidden animals.

"Jimmy Chilcutt has the best evidence there is," said Chester Moore, the event organizer. "He is very well respected in the field of fingerprinting, and he's the only one who has any knowledge like this."

Chilcutt had heard all the stories about Big Foot and had never cared about the legend's existence one way or another. But when he saw a program broadcast on the Discovery channel in December 1998, his attitude changed.

One night, he was at his home in Montgomery reading when he heard the term "dermal ridges," a term used in analyzing fingerprints. His attention shifted to the television where Dr. Jeff Meldrum of Idaho State University was displaying some Sasquatch castings.

Meldrum had expressed uncertainty about whether the footprints were human or nonhuman.

Having studied more than 1,000 primate prints three years prior for a research project, and millions of human prints for his job, Chilcutt was determined to discover the origin of the footprints.

"I called Dr. Meldrum and told him with my research and expertise, I should be able to determine if those ridges were primate or human," Chilcutt said.

So in April of 1999, Chilcutt traveled to Idaho to examine the prints. He studied in Meldrum's lab for three days examining more than 100 castings. He found that they were actually primate prints, but they belonged to a primate he had never studied in his three years of research, meaning there was an unknown primate in North America.

Though Chilcutt said he has examined some prints that were obvious hoaxes, the prints he deems authentic come from different locations and could not possibly be faked. Two castings were found in Washington and one in California, 15 years and hundreds of miles apart.

Since researching the evidence, Chilcutt has appeared on several TV specials, including one on the Discovery Channel called Sasquatch: Legend Meets Science.

His findings also landed him the job of speaking at the first Crypto Conference last year. This year, Moore decided to make him the main attraction. Tickets are $5 each for the conference.

Moore said he and Chilcutt are not in the business of convincing people that Big Foot does or does not exist. Their purpose is presenting scientific facts.

"We don't believe - that's for religion," he said. "But there is a real, scientific side to this that wasn't getting out there. There is so much tabloid mentality about it, and it's a shame. We're putting a positive spin on it.

"And if there really is some guy in an ape suit making the ape prints, then that's a story in itself."

Houston Chronicle 2003

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