Bigfoot Encounters

U.S. News & World Report 
Not so big after all By Lynn Rosellini; January 25,1999

--A shy and reclusive man-beast darts from a remote clearing in the Northern California woods and slips into the forest. But wait--what's that glittering at the creature's waist? A belt buckle? A bottle opener? Is it really Bigfoot, the legendary giant of the north woods, or just a guy in a monkey suit?

Those questions set Bigfoot aficionados scrambling for answers last week, when two researchers went public with their claim that a famous 1967 film--long cited as proof of Bigfoot's existence--is a fraud. The researchers, Cliff Crook and Chris Murphy, reported that computer- enhanced images from the grainy 16-millimeter film show a shiny, bell- shaped object that appears to be cinching the creature's costume.

The film was taken by the late Roger Patterson, who said he and a friend were investigating reports of Sasquatch footprints near the Oregon border when they spotted a Bigfoot running from a streambed. But Crook says that in the enlargement of four frames he can see an object hanging from the fur that resembles metal fasteners used on clothing at the time. "We think when the guy in the suit turned to look at the camera, it snapped loose and dangled from the fur."

The news set off a round of acrimony in the Bigfoot community--the two dozen or so organizations that publish newsletters, operate Web sites, and investigate purported sightings. Rene Dahinden, who shares rights to the film and has been studying Bigfoot since 1956, labels Chris Murphy and Clifford Crook "morons." "It's like looking at clouds," he says of the film enlargements. "You can see anything if you use your imagination."

Bob Gimlin, who was part of the 1967 trip, doesn't believe Patterson tricked him. "If it was a hoax, it was a hoax to me, too. And I'm pretty hard to fool."

Legions of Bigfoot believers remain undeterred. Even Crook, one of the debunkers, says he encountered Bigfoot on a teenage camping trip in 1956 ("He was dark brown, covered with hair, about 7 feet tall. . . .") and is still convinced of the creature's existence. Scientists, long dismissive of the hairy beast, haven't managed to sway believers either.

Bradd Shore, a professor of anthropology at Emory University, says that belief in myths like Bigfoot reflects a desire for a transcendent truth beyond day-to-day reality. "People resist the disconfirmation of these things," he says. "They want them to be true." Which explains why, by the end of the week, both Crook and his critics could still agree on one thing: Somewhere in the deep north woods, Bigfoot is still out there.

Lynn Rosellini, Not so big after all . Vol. 126, U.S. News & World Report, 01-25-1999, pp 61.

Found in the electric library online by Bob Rocker.

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