Bigfoot Encounters

RAMBLER TO THE TIMES  … Let the Bigfoot Record Show!
Photographs of the Paul Freeman 1980 & 1985 bigfoot tracks on this page...

By the late Vance Orchard (As originally published in The Times of Waitsburg, Washington Sept 2004)

WALLA WALLA --- I guess it was a blurb on the Internet, but wherever I saw it, the promo piece for a new bigfoot book made me “bite” and order it up from my book seller, Dave Cosby, at Earthlight Books.

The blurb  promised I’d find the book, “Meet the Sasquatch,” to be…a milestone in the publication of sasquatch information.  So, wanting to keep informed on this most fascinating of subjects, I had Dave get it. Further, the promo boasted that:

“Never before have so many resources been researched and consulted on the phenomenon, nor have so many associated photographs been published under one cover.”

Well and good, that having been said, I would have to agree with the author, Christopher Murphy, to the above wordage.

But, not with these:  “While the last chapter on sasquatch has yet to be written, here is the full story of what we know about the creature to date.”Listed as associates of his in publishing the book are veteran bigfoot tracker, John Green, and another who has been active in the field, Thomas Steenburg.

Even with these two sasquatch-savvy  stalwarts aiding and abetting him, Murphy would find it real hard to come up with the “full” story.

In my perusal of the  book … mighty fine in all the points stated above, too! … I found it lacking in some key parts to this whole bigfoot enigma.  There are so many gaps, actually as to make it far from the “full” story.

One of those big gaps is the lack of information about the many years of work done by the late Paul Freeman in providing a lot of what we know about the creature in question. But, Freeman is not only left out of the book, his work is utterly cast aside as being fabrications, according to Murphy. The author observes (in what he terms “a specific irreconcilable situation) the following:

“Many researchers do not  give any credibility to findings by both Ivan Marx and Paul Freeman. In other words, the researchers consider such findings hoaxed or fabricated. Without doubt, Ivan Marx was a notorious practical joker and Freeman’s ‘luck’ in finding sasquatch footprints and handprints goes far beyond reason.”

In a section of his book devoted to John Green, Murphy says he has found Green “exceedingly critical and accepts absolutely nothing at face value. John is very careful where doubt is involved  with people and sasquatch related evidence. He is highly uncomfortable with all findings by Ivan Marx and Paul Freeman. It is only through my insistence that some material provided by these individuals is included in this work.”

Murphy does not list these “researchers” but does have sketches of several in his otherwise fine book. There are many notables who are missing, however, and to my mind that of Paul Freeman is the most glaring. I’d like to offer some defense of the man and his many contributions to the sasquatch/bigfoot matter, a defense mostly offered by researchers. And, most of them Murphy could just as well have interviewed for his book, since he was attempting to make of it a tome which would “tell the full story of what we know about the creature…”

I’d like to refer back a few lines to where Murphy commented on the “luck” of Paul Freeman in finding so many footprints.

In one of the more definitive bigfoot books, “The Big Footprints,”  the late Grover Krantz, longtime anthropology professor at Washington State University, has this revealing paragraph in a discussion of tracks found and cast by Freeman in 1984 in the mountains near Walla Walla. The tracks were unusual in that they had dermal ridges (same as fingerprints in one’s hands) a feature he felt unlikely to be there  if tracks were made by a hoaxer. Here’s what Krantz had to say:

“Anyone who might have faked these tracks faced the usual problems of getting to the sites unobserved, with the equipment that not only made the footprints but also impressed them so deeply (in most cases), made each of the prints unique and showing flexible foot movements, and left no evidence of his own presence. That faker also was an expert at dermatoglyphics who was able to include the appropriate amount of absolutely accurate friction-skin detail on a reasonable number of footprints. In spite of all this, some skeptics still think that Paul Freeman was able to accomplish this feat. I think not, and raise just one more point. We might ask a simple question, if he has somehow been faking these tracks, why has never again matched the quality of the specimens that appeared in 1982?”

Several qualified researchers of the sasquatch came forward in my book, “The Walla Walla Bigfoot,” to offer further defense that Paul Freeman was not the major hoaxer some were saying, according to Murphy’s book. One of those was Henner Fahrenbach, primate reasearch biologist of Beaverton. He closes his remarks in the book with this:

“Some of the castings collected by Paul contain anatomical details that only an anatomist can appreciate after study, but not one that a layman would conjure up and convincingly introduce into fabrications. Paul may slide a bit in his recounting of specific events but that happens to everybody and that constitutes no grounds for according him the universal disdain he has been receiving. Frequency of sightings indicates that you are hanging out in the right area, which he did for years.”

Fahrenbach also came to further defense of Paul Freeman in an address at this year’s Bigfoot Symposium, held in Willow Creek, California.

Dr. Jeffrey Meldrum, a professor of anthropology at Idaho State University, who now wears the mantle of Grover Krantz in the bigfoot research in the eyes of many, had some cogent words about the matter in my book. I cite the following:

“The body of evidence (emerging from investigations of reputable researchers) includes repeat  appearances of identifiable individuals over successive years.

“Examples of footprints that appear to preserve fine dermatographic details have been regarded very seriously by a number of professional fingerprint examiners.”

In this accounting of Paul Freeman and his bigfoot contributions, it should be mentioned two incidents which his detractors are pretty likely to bring up. Long before he came to Walla Walla to work for the Forest Service, Paul was living in Camas, Washington. Here, he whittled out two big feet and stomped around the neighborhood to confound the neighbors. It was a prank he acknowledged in the years following his 1982 sighting of a bigfoot in the Blue Mountains. There is also the story that he was involved in a man in a monkey suit, an incident I could easily put down as another prank or the work of a man “fed up “ with detractors.

Then, let me take you back to 1982 when a horde of investigators of all stamps was found in Walla Walla at the Forest Service offices and up in the mountains. Spokesman for the Forest Service was Wayne Long, fire management officer for the Walla Walla District of the Umatilla National Forest. Long is now  retired. I featured him and a pertinent quote in my U-B outdoors column for July 4, 1982. Long was commenting on his meeting with John Green and Bob Titmus following the report by Freeman that he had seen a bigfoot. Here is the comment:

“Wayne Long, fire management officer of the Walla Walla District, talked at length with the two men when they were here. He spoke highly of their objectivity.

“ They obviously came here to examine the Bigfoot issue; not pro- or anti-Bigfoot, just came here to examine the material and to ask questions. Both had seen hoaxes before about the Bigfoot thing.

“ They both talked to freeman and both seemed to think Freeman truly had seen something.’ “

In a personal offering  for Paul’s defense is the following incident that I recall when he and I did some mushroom hunting on a seldom-used mountain roadway. I met Paul back in June of 1982 when he presented his report of coming almost face to face with a bigfoot a day or two earlier. I followed his lifetime since then, reporting most of his sightings. The story of how this effort of his had affected his life is told in my first bigfoot book, “Bigfoot of the Blues.”

Since we both had a liking for the mushrooms of the Blue Mountains, from the luscious morels to the cauliflowers and calves brains varieties, Paul and I headed into the hills one day in his pickup. As we purred along the roadway at a snail’s pace, he would scan his side of the road and I the other. Suddenly, I shouted: “Stop, Paul, I see a big track!”

Sure enough, when we got out to look, there on the right side of the road was a huge human-like track … real fresh, too! And two more as it crossed the road in long strides and disappeared into the brush which dropped off into a little canyon.

Inspection of the tracks revealed they evidently had been made just seconds before we rounded the curve to them. They were shiny appearing and real close scrutiny revealed dirt particles dropping.

And, I know d---d well Paul Freeman sure did not make those tracks!

In closing, the Murphy book is a great addition to the bigfoot chronicles but I feel he was quite remiss in ignoring Paul Freeman, his obvious sizable efforts in behalf of solving this puzzle, and the Blue Mountains, which must rate as one of the finest habitats for the creature.

And, many researchers of repute have said as much.

© Vance Orchard, Walla Walla, Washington September 15, 2004 for Bigfoot Encounters

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