The upcoming Rocky Mountain Bigfoot Rendezvous should be a fun and
entertaining event for the Pocatello Community and guests from near
and far (one pre-registrant hails from England).
It also promises to be an informative event, with presentations by a
selection of individuals who have devoted considerable time and
effort to thoughtfully and objectively explore this intriguing
subject. Whether advocate, skeptic or agnostic, the bottom line is
this, -- beneath the folklore and pop culture, there lays the
persistent straightforward question of whether an unrecognized species
of giant primate inhabitants the wilder corners of this continent.
Repeated criticisms leveled at the subject have alluded to recent and
notorious claims by would-be debunkers. These are directed at two of
the most familiar aspects of the sasquatch question: the ubiquitous
footprints and the most popularized film clip purporting to portray
a Bigfoot, the Patterson-Gimlin film.
A great deal of disinformation surround these claims have been
indiscriminately perpetuated by the popular media and the "skeptics."
The first claim emerged with the death of Ray Wallace who had been
the contractor on a remote road building operation in northern
California in 1958.
During earth-moving operations, giant footprints periodically showed
up near the site. This was certainly not the first time such tracks
had been discovered in the region.
The earliest photo of such a footprint in California is said to date
to 1947 and regional accounts of such enigmatic tracks came from much
earlier. After Wallace's death in his hometown of Toledo, Washington,
members of his surviving family unveiled crudely carved wooden feet
that they claimed were responsible for the footprints not only at the
construction site, but throughout the Pacific Northwest.
They proclaimed that Wallace's antics had given birth to the legend
of Bigfoot and now "Bigfoot" was dead. What seemed to be a simple
solution to a vexing mystery suffered from at least one glaring
drawback -- the carved feet simply don't match the footprints they
were claimed to have made.
Replicas of footprints casts will be on display at the Idaho Museum
of Natural History as part of an exhibit exploring varied ways of
interpreting the phenomenon of Bigfoot.
My research at Idaho State University encompasses human anatomy
associated with walking on two feet, i.e., bipedalism. I have
examined the anatomy of the feet and footprints of humans and
non-human primates, as well as fossil hominids and their tracks, all
of which provide the context for my evaluation of the footprints
attributed to the sasquatch.
In an earlier commentary, I described my initial first-hand encounters
with such footprints, in the Blue Mountains near Walla Walla,
Washington. Two features of these tracks particularly caught my
attention. Some tracks displayed a distinctive pressure ridge across
the midfoot, while yet others were mere half-tracks, lacking a heel
imprint. These traits were characteristic of a flat flexible foot
more similar to a nonhuman ape than a human foot with its rigid arch.
These features, combined with the overall animated appearance of the
tracks prompted me to delve further into the nature of sasquatch
footprints. After assembling and studying a large sample of
footprints attributed to sasquatch, there emerged a consistent but
distinct model of the sasquatch foot that is not only biomechanically
sound for a bipedal ape of purported proportions of a sasquatch, but
elegantly adapted to the texture of the habitat it reportedly
This foot is a natural extension of the anatomical trends evident in
a series of progressively larger and more ground-dwelling primate
from, for example, gibbons, to chimps, to lowland gorillas, to
In this series we observe lengthening and broadening of the heel, a
shortening of the toes and less divergence of the big toe. The
inferred sasquatch foot falls along this very trajectory while notably
retaining the apish characteristic of a flat, flexible midfoot.
Wallace also claimed to have film footage of Bigfoot, which it was now
acknowledged, was actually Mrs. Ray Wallace in a cheesy fur suit.
Naturally, the press equated the Wallace's amateurish film with the
well-known Patterson-Gimlin film, which indeed portrayed a female
Bigfoot. Although initially disclaiming any involvement in the
Patterson-Gimlin incident, the Wallace family soon climbed onto the
media bandwagon and agreeably asserted that indeed their matriarch
was the erstwhile Mrs. Bigfoot, parading briefly in a fur costume in
But hold on now -- she would have to get in line, because the queue of
pretenders for the role had already grown considerably in number.
The latest claimant was one Bob Heironimus, from Patterson's hometown
of Yakima, Washington. Joined by costume fabricator Phillip Morris,
and other collaborators, he avowed that he had done the deed. But yet
another simplistic explanation falls short, in both the case of the
Wallace and Heironimus et al., -- they can't produce a costume that
holds a candle to the supposed costume appearing in the film clip.
The Heironimus affair became embroiled with infighting that produced
lawsuits, but no convincing fur suit.
Setting the drama of the debunkers aside, what is to be made of the
Patterson-Gimlin film itself? After nearly 40 years, repeated claims
of hoaxing have not withstood critical scrutiny, while the film itself
has held up under repeated examination by serious experts in
photograph and human movement and anatomy. The application of
modern digital techniques of image analysis has produced stabilized
enhancements of the film that reveal new details of the subjects
anatomy and its footprints never before apprehended, let alone
Many of these observations are credited to Rick Noll and M.K. Davis,
both slated as speakers at the Bigfoot Rendezvous where they will
discuss their observations in greater detail.
From the narrow perspective of the appearance and dynamics of the foot
of the film subject, and the associated footprints, the case for the
credibility of the Patterson-Gimlin film is quite compelling.
A series of footprints photographed by Lyle Laverty, a U.S. Forest
Service timber cruiser on hand at the scene and later casts made by
Bob Titmus, an investigator from Canada, include examples of midfoot
pressure ridges similar to those I observed in the tracks near Walla
The flexion of the midfoot necessary to produce this artifact in the
print can be readily seen in the film itself. The elongated heel
suggested by the placement of the midfoot joints, in turn based on
the pressure ridge, is attested to by the apparent thick ankles and
protruding heel manifest when the Achilles tendon is slack.
The variations in toe position and flexion crease at the forefoot
present in the casts are correlated with toe length evident in the
film. All these interrelated features attest to a foot designed to
support great weight on two legs, while preserving a large degree of
flexibility and prehension in the toes useful for navigating the
broken terrain of mountainous environments.
These features are hardly the product of rigid whittled plants loosely
harnessed to work boots.
This is but a small sampling of the evidence that bears on the
ultimate question of whether sasquatch exists as a biological entity
or is merely a figurative thread in the tapestry of human experience.
The conference element of the Bigfoot Rendezvous will provide the
opportunity to consider these and other aspects of the question.
Published June, 2006 Idaho State Journal "Insight"
About the Author of this article:
Dr. Jeff Meldrum is a professor of anatomy and anthropology at Idaho
State University, where he teaches human anatomy in the health
professions programs, evolution, and primate studies. His diverse
research interests encompass the evolution of human walking and he
recently co-edited the book, "From Biped to Strider: The Emergence
of Modern Human Walking, Running, and Resource Transport." His
forthcoming book "Sasquatch: Legends Meets Science," published by
Tom Doherty and Associates, under the Forge trademark, will be
released in August.
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