Bigfoot Encounters

Trail Ends For Legendary Bigfoot Researcher
René Dahinden (August 22, 1930 April 18, 2001)
By Mark Hume and Eff Vinnick - The National Post

The photo on the right was taken of Rene on his birthday August 22 2000 by his son Martin. It remains the last photo taken of Rene with the floral arrangement I sent him with birthday wishes; Rene was 71 ...Bobbie Short -- >

April 27, 2001 -
VANCOUVER - René Dahinden, the world's leading authority on Sasquatch, has died after spending nearly 50 years searching for the legendary beast. He never saw one, but right to the end he believed an ape-like hominoid was haunting the forests of British Columbia -- even though a few doubts had started to creep into his mind.  

Mr. Dahinden, who was 71, collected hundreds of footprint casts and traipsed all over the Pacific Northwest investigating sightings and interviewing everyone who had a breathless story to tell about a hairy encounter with Bigfoot. He spent "years and years" in the bush by himself, trying to find one piece of solid evidence that would convince the scientific community to take the legend of Sasquatch seriously...  

"His quest, his mission, was to have the government put some money into research and to convince the scientific community to do something about finding it and protecting it," Christopher Murphy, a friend of Mr. Dahinden's, said yesterday. "It never came about, because nobody ever found any proof, other than footprints. He thought most of the footprints were fake, the vast majority, but he believed in some of them. He put faith in the footprints because he said, 'They couldn't be left by the imagination.'  

His pursuit of Sasquatch made him so famous that a few years ago the brewers of Kokanee beer asked him to play himself in a television commercial. Even then he didn't get to see the Sasquatch. Facing the camera, with the modest trailer he lived in as a backdrop, an off-camera voice asks if he ever used B.C.-made Kokanee beer to lure a Sasquatch.  

"Do you think I'm crazy or something?" asks Mr. Dahinden, unaware that behind him a Sasquatch is sneaking into his trailer to make off with a case of beer. If it had happened as depicted, you can be sure Mr. Dahinden would have poured a puddle of plaster goop on the ground to make a cast of the footprint. Wherever he travelled, Mr. Dahinden had a collection of footprints with him. They were his touchstone to reality in a world where people armed with little more than absolute faith try to prove the existence of a mythical creature.  

Dmitri Bayanov, in his book, America's Bigfoot: Fact, Not Fiction, writes that in a 1971 visit to Moscow, Mr. Dahinden was challenged at a public meeting to produce evidence. "Dahinden held up a weighty plaster cast of a huge footprint and quipped: 'If anyone finds this kind of evidence immaterial, let me strike his head with it'." The Russian author and Sasquatch hunter wrote that Mr. Dahinden had a considerable impact in Moscow, where he presented a film that purportedly shows a Sasquatch running into the woods near Bluff Creek, Washington.  

The film, shot by Sasquatch hunters Roger Patterson and Bob Gimlin in 1967, was called a fake by many. But Mr. Dahinden, who bought the rights to some of the footage shortly after it was shot, believed in it. In Moscow, he showed the film in the board room of Izvestia, the national newspaper, to the Union of Writers of the USSR and to the Central Scientific Research Institute of Prosthetics and Artificial Limb Construction.  

"As the meeting at the Institute began, over one hundred scientists and technicians, wearing white coats, assembled to watch the film. In Dahinden's words, 'the whole joint came to a standstill,' " wrote Mr. Bayanov. Mr. Murphy, who is writing a book about the film titled Circumstantial Evidence, said Mr. Dahinden was skeptical of many Sasquatch sightings, but he defended the film, even after it was widely dismissed as a hoax.  

"For a long time I was never really able to nail him down on his view of the film. But towards the end he said: 'It's definitely real,' " said Mr. Murphy. Mr. Dahinden sold rights to the film several times to television producers, and used stills to produce Sasquatch posters, but he never made much money. To support his Sasquatch expeditions, Mr. Dahinden worked on the grounds of the Vancouver Gun Club, where he collected lead shot from spent shotgun shells.  

"He worked really hard," said Mr. Murphy. "He'd go out and salvage the lead. He'd clean it off. He'd end up with hundreds of pounds of lead. He worked with his bare hands ... I don't think it could have been too healthy. He'd put it in bags and sell it back to the people who manufacture shotgun shells."  

Mr. Dahinden was born in Switzerland, but immigrated to Canada in 1953. Just a month after he arrived, he heard a radio report about a Daily Mail expedition to the Himalayas to search for the legendary Yeti, a hairy beast that supposedly wanders the mountain wilderness, high above the tree line.  

Don Hunter, who in 1973 co-wrote the book Sasquatch, said that on hearing the report, Mr. Dahinden turned to the Alberta farmer he was working for, and said: " 'Now wouldn't that be something; to be on the hunt for that thing?' And he said, 'Hell, you don't have to go that far; they got them things in British Columbia.' "  

And so the mission began. He promptly moved to B.C. and began his life's quest.  

Mr. Hunter said Mr. Dahinden "investigated with an exhaustive thoroughness countless stories of Sasquatch sightings, thousands of footprints -- and not a few Sasquatch hunters themselves. He has badgered every branch of science in North America that could possibly relate to the existence of a hairy bipedal giant hominoid, with little success. For the most part he has met with responses that ranged from vague expressions of 'cautious interest' to the attitude of: 'It can't exist, therefore it doesn't exist.' ... He has never seen a Sasquatch; he is not easily persuaded by those who say they have seen one ... He says: 'Something is making those goddamn footprints and I'm going to find out what it is.' "  

He never did find out -- but his unwavering belief inspired others to take up the cause.  

"He got calls from absolutely everywhere," said Mr. Murphy. "And he went everywhere. He spent years and years in the bush," he said. "He never, ever found anything when he was out on his own. But when he responded to others, to reports, he'd scout the area, and he'd find footprints. He'd take statements from people, he'd interview everyone.  

"His passion overwhelmed him. But one day he said to me: 'You know, I've spent over 40 years -- and I didn't find it. I guess that's got to say something.' "  

That's as close as he ever came to admitting defeat.

Mr. Dahinden died last week after a two year battle with prostate cancer. His memorial will be held at the Vancouver Gun Club, in Richmond, tomorrow.

Dahinden, René (August 22, 1930 April 18, 2001) and Don Hunter Sasquatch, The Search For North America's Incredible Creature, personal discussions, phone conversations and correspondence 1997 to his death in 2001.

Clayton Mack's Bella Coola stories related on tape from Dahinden in 1999. In the short four years that I knew René, I learned more from his ability to remember the tiniest of details, his philosophy and his knowledge than from any other combined resource in the homin research field. A third of the notes I scribbled during lengthy two and three-hour phone calls are published here. René lost a two-year battle with prostate cancer on April 18th, 2001 at 8:40pm in Vancouver, BC. His recollections, wisdom, his raucous laughter and constant encouragement will be remembered. ....Bobbie Short, 2001

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