Bigfoot Encounters

Bigfoot Rendezvous here seeks to inform, entertain public
by Dr. Jeff Meldrum, Ph.D.
...November 2006 updated Meldrum articles are located HERE

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 resides in.

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
mountain gorillas.

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 Patterson's film.

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 appreciated.

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 Walla, Washington.

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.
- ---

Back to Bigfoot Encounters Main page
Back to Newspaper & Magazine Articles
Back to Bigfoot Encounters "What's New" page

Portions of this website are reprinted and sometimes edited to fit the standards of this website
under the Fair Use Doctrine of International Copyright Law
as educational material without benefit of financial gain.
This proviso is applicable throughout the entire Bigfoot Encounters Website.