Bigfoot Encounters

Believers, Skeptics Examine the Many Legends of Bigfoot
and Different Versions of Mythical Creatures Found Around the World

1997 -- VANCOUVER, B.C. -- John Bindernagel, Ph.D., has just completed his opening presentation for the fifth annual International Sasquatch Symposium, a gathering of believers and skeptics devoted to the Northwest's most famous mystery beast.

Everything has gone smoothly. His slides of native carvings depicting the Dzunoqua, a wild woman of the woods who, legend has it, would steal children from native villages, show clear human traits.

Bindernagel has explained at length the striking similarities between the carvings and primates like chimpanzees: the rounded mouth, the prominent lips, the receding brow, all of them leading him to his hypothesis that a great ape, commonly known as Bigfoot, lurks in the forests of the Pacific Northwest.

Bindernagel has examined scores of reports of its behavioral and eating habits and has compiled sightings, descriptions, footprints, photographs, videotapes, and tufts of hair. He has observed mounds of excrement that he says could not have been produced by any known beast. Bindernagel, a wildlife biologist with more than 30 years of field experience, believes.

Does Bigfoot really exist? But now, the question period.

The first comes from a slight man with an aggressively receding hairline and thick glasses. He invites Bindernagel to accompany him into the woods, and, using native techniques, to contact the Sasquatch telepathically. Bindernagel shrugs. Half-stifled laughter escapes from the audience of roughly 50 people, some experts, some witnesses, but mostly curious onlookers.

Next question: "I wonder if the reason we have such a hard time finding a Sasquatch is because of its shape-changing abilities?'' More giggles. Bindernagel looks like a deer caught in the high beams along a dark and untraveled side road. "Well, maybe ...'' he says, cocking his head to the side, looking for another question.

Later, as the screen goes dark, the lights come on, and the opening presentation of the Sasquatch Symposium comes to a close, Bindernagel reflects.

"I try to remain open, but I'm an old-time biologist. I think mythology can be very strong metaphorically, but I don't think we have to take it quite so literally. We can take a conservative approach that this really is just an ape.''

Mythical creatures everywhere. But it's not easy taking a pragmatic approach to so heavily mythologized a creature as the Sasquatch.

The general public regards it with the same bemused skepticism as the Loch Ness Monster.

Legends of ape-like creatures that walk like a man through the wild are common worldwide. There is the yeti of the Himalayas, and the "Wild Man'' of the Caucasus Mountains in Russia.

Stories from Guatemala, China, Burma and Zaire mirror each other closely, but more consistent than any of the myths is one simple fact: No iron-clad proof of the creature's existence has ever been produced. Add in the reality that there is no evidence of any primate -- except for man, of course -- ever having lived in North America, and the road to credibility becomes a very steep uphill slope indeed. But then, a researcher would point to the sightings, dozens of which continue to roll in each year. Countless tales of fleeting glances at enormous, hairy figures disappearing into thick brush permeate Sasquatch lore.

Heavily blurred photographs are common, as are hoaxes, and even the famous film, taken by Roger Patterson on Oct. 20, 1967, is subject to scrutiny, despite countless experts unable to explain away the nearly two minutes of clear footage of an upright, ape-like creature striding like a human through a clearing in the woods.

From the Miami Sun Herald
Sunday, June 15, 1997 - by Murray White, of THE SEATTLE TIMES

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