Over the years, Grover
Krantz would sometimes climb into his car at night and go for long, lonely
rides into the woods of the Pacific Northwest. Creeping along the back
roads at 25 mph with a rifle and spotlight at his side, he desperately
hoped his elusive quarry, a Sasquatch, would show itself.
But it never did. Not once in more than 30 years of looking.
Krantz, considered one of the world's foremost authorities on the supposed
apelike denizen of the Northwest's forests, died Feb. 14 of pancreatic
cancer in Port Angeles, Wash. He was 70. Krantz was unique because of
his credentials. A longtime physical anthropologist at Washington State
University in Pullman, he approached Bigfoot not as a joke but as a scientific
problem that needed to be solved -- even if it meant shooting one down.
What perplexed and even maddened colleagues but delighted Bigfoot enthusiasts
was that Krantz was a legitimate academic. He was a respected lecturer
and expert on human evolution, with dozens of peer-reviewed papers to
his credit, as well as a book titled Big Footprints: A Scientific Inquiry
into the Reality of Sasquatch.
"I think the more criticism he got on [Bigfoot], the harder he dug
in his heels," said Don Tyler, a former student of Krantz's and the
head of the anthropology department at the University of Idaho.
"He thought he was approaching this thing in the correct way, as
a scientific problem. But many professors considered it a topic that was
not appropriate to be studied."
Krantz was born in 1931 in Salt Lake City, and as a child became fascinated
with the skeletal remains of animals he found. His interests led him to
the field of anthropology, a subject he began teaching at Washington State
Although Krantz had heard the story of Bigfoot as a teen-ager, he remained
skeptical until he was called in 1970 to look at alleged Bigfoot tracks
in northeast Washington. Expecting to find an obvious hoax, Krantz thought
the footprints were too sophisticated to be fake because one of the feet
showed a crippling bone injury.
As the years passed, Krantz interviewed hundreds of people who said they
had encountered a Bigfoot in the region. He also did a frame-by-frame
analysis of the famous short film, allegedly of a Bigfoot, made by Roger
Patterson in 1967 in Northern California.
Krantz thought the images were legitimate. Others thought they were the
product of an uninspired stunt featuring a man in a monkey suit.
Using casts of footprints, films, witness encounters and his knowledge
of human evolution, Krantz developed an elaborate natural history of the
In his view, there were about 2,000 still living in North America. An
adult male stood about 8 feet, weighed 800 pounds and had feet twice the
size of a human foot. They had probably migrated over the Bering Land
Strait to the continent. They were nocturnal and shy. As with bears, their
diets consisted of carrion, berries and vegetation.
When asked by a magazine writer why Sasquatch remains were never found,
Krantz replied: "Well, that's the annoying part. Although we found
jaws and teeth in China from what I guess to be Sasquatch's ancestor,
we have nothing in North America. But this is probably because, first,
it's a rare animal and, second, it has no natural predators, so they die
slowly and creep off and hide. Bears do this. Practically the only bear
specimens we have in museums had to be shot by somebody."
Krantz, not surprisingly, was eagerly sought by reporters because of his
willingness to talk on the record about a creature more apt to be seen
in the National Enquirer than National Geographic.
In recent years, he was frequently quoted as being an avid supporter of
shooting a Bigfoot -- he felt a body was needed to prove Sasquatch was
real. Besides the usual trouble such talk stirred up at Washington State,
even local environmentalists took umbrage at Krantz for advocating the
killing of what was presumably an endangered species. Bill Lipe, a professor
emeritus of anthropology at Washington State, was a longtime colleague
"He was a person who liked to take on controversial issues in his
own field of physical anthropology, and he was willing to look at things
that other people in his field wouldn't look at," said Lipe. "He
wrote an early paper on the influence of language on human evolution that
was way ahead of its time. He said he liked to take on an underdog hypothesis
and make it credible, and, of course, the Sasquatch hypothesis is an underdog."
Although his Sasquatch work was largely dismissed by academics, Krantz
was embraced by those who believed in Bigfoot and others who simply liked
the idea that such a large species could persist in the modern world.
This was particularly true in Willow Creek, a tiny village in the Trinity
Alps range of Northern California. The Patterson film apparently was shot
nearby, and the town has a Bigfoot museum and an annual Bigfoot festival.
Al Hodgson, 78, has lived in the area since 1933 and works at the museum.
He says Krantz's legacy is the ability to cast aside preconceived notions
and believe in something that so many find unbelievable.
"I know about a dozen people who have seen a Bigfoot up here but
are so afraid they're going to be laughed at they don't do anything,"
Hodgson said. "But Grover and others really helped legitimize Bigfoot,
while the people who tried to do otherwise have really failed miserably."
Salt Lake City Tribune
March 5, 2002
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