Science: Iowan says Bigfoot Born of Cabin Fever
By BOB MODERSOHN The Des Moines Register
Source: Tulsa World
DES MOINES, Iowa -- Glen Visser waited 26 years to spill the beans: He is the Bigfoot of Marion County, Iowa.
Visser says a case of cabin fever in 1978 led him to grab a pair of snowshoes and embark on an elaborate hoax that drew droves of sightseers, kept the local media busy for weeks, and fooled so- called experts who make it their lives to track the elusive half- man, half-ape whose legend is rivaled only by that of the Loch Ness Monster.
Visser said he made his confession, which appeared in the online edition of the Knoxville (Iowa) Journal-Express, because "there's so much bad news now," and he thought the tale of how one bored guy put an entire town in a tizzy might "lighten things up" a bit.
Visser, 69, still lives in Harvey, Iowa, a little burg east of Knoxville with only a post office and a tavern.
The obvious question -- why did he wait so long to 'fess up?' -- has a simple answer. Visser heard about a similar hoax in California that didn't die until the hoaxer did.
"I didn't want to wait that long," he said.
- Stepping into character -
The winter of 1977-78 was especially wintry. The snow was piled high by late February. Visser had time on his hands and an idea in his head.
He strapped on a pair of military snowshoes he'd gotten from a fishing buddy and took a little walk on the outskirts of Harvey.
Visser, an avid outdoorsman, said he was inspired by a friend who once made bear-shaped feet from plywood, laid down prints to fool folks, then laughed himself to the ground until he cried just thinking about it.
Visser jogged in the snowshoes to create tracks about three feet apart that looked like footprints made by a large, ambling primate.
The trail appeared to cross a tall barbed-wire fence. At the base of a nearby railroad bridge was a packed depression in the snow that looked like a bed where the creature had lain, complete with a smaller dent where he rested his head.
The next day, "a thousand cars" turned up at the site, Visser recalls.
- Choosing to believe -
Harvey's postmaster, Catherine Van Waardhuizen, had seen the tracks on her way home, according to the newspaper. She breathlessly told her son and daughter-in-law, who drove out to see for themselves.
"Does 'Bigfoot' prowl through the woods near Harvey?" was the headline. Then Cliff Worthington said he'd follow the tracks to find out where they led. Then Shirley McCombs said she found a strange tuft of hair on the barbed-wire fence. Visser, who the newspaper called "the most determined tracker," joined the hunt. He even took along his .22-caliber rifle to make it look good.
Cliff Cook, spokesman for Bigfoot Central, a national group that keeps track of tracks, says the hunt continues today, it just "goes on more quietly now."
"It has moved away from the repetitious misinformation plastered all over the Internet's maze of Bigfoot- labeled Web sites," he said this week. "The real search goes on behind the scenes. There are only a handful of people who are actually out there in pursuit. The evidence is still as elusive as ever."
Most scientists agree that the legend of Bigfoot is nothing but a tall tale. No hard evidence, such as bones, has ever been collected for scientific study.
"How could an animal exist for so long without a fossil record?" Russell Ciochon, a prominent paleoanthropologist and professor at the University of Iowa said in an article published last year. "He's an important figure. But I still don't think Bigfoot exists in any form."
Visser knew that all long. And it's not like he hasn't tried to tell people the truth for the past 26 years.
"But people really wanted to believe -- and I think some still do," he said.
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