Bigfoot Encounters

Tracker Hot on the Trail of Bigfoot

Walla Walla, Washington Union Bulletin October 15, 1987 by Terry McConn

After thirty years of scouring mountains and valleys looking for bigfoot, tracker Rene Dahinden still isn’t totally convinced the legendary creature exists.

But since he’s devoting most of his life to the search, he quipped, “I hope I’m not wasting my time.”

The 57-year-old Richmond, British Columbia author and researcher believes he’s hot on the trail of bigfoot in the Walla Walla area. He’s come here for at least a month to search in the foothills and rugged terrain of the Blue Mountains because “people report lots of tracks here and they’re not any place else at the present time.”

Bigfoot or sasquatch sightings have been reported for years. The creature is described as six to ten feet tall, manlike in shape, walking upright but stooped over. Witnesses claim the beast is covered with hair, has tremendous bulk and weight and moves quickly, with large steps. Most say it is very shy and not aggressive or violent.

Even though he first heard of bigfoot in early 1950’s and started searching for is in 1956, Dahinden has traveled extensively for about
six months every year since 1967. He travels to California, Oregon, Washington, Montana, Alberta, British Columbia – anywhere he’s likely to reach his goal. He wants to prove that bigfoot really exists.

“My life is organized around the sasquatch. This thing is not a hobby with me. Working as a lead pellet miner six months out of the year is
a hobby. I do it to finance my trips.”

Speaking with an accent from his native Switzerland -- in language peppered with four- letter words -- Dahinden can talk for hours about his preoccupation with bigfoot. “It’s a big story, this search,” he said with pride. “The implications are so far-reaching – it’s mind-boggling.”

Even though Dahinden has contagious energy and enthusiasm, he isn’t a wild-eyed fanatic who believes everything that moves in the forest is a bigfoot, far from it. He fiercely protects his credibility and reputation. And he’s spend most of the past twenty years trying to prove that the only film of sasquatch ever taken is a fake.

On October 20, 1967 in the Bluff Creek area of Northern California, the late Roger Patterson of Yakima, Washington captured a one-minute encounter with a hairy beast on 24 feet of 16-millimeter film.

“This is the key cord of the whole bigfoot thing,” he said. “I thought to myself – I’ll take this film, the people who made it and the footprints as my investigation and I set out to prove it’s a fake.”

After twenty years, he’s still trying. Dahinden said he used techniques of investigative reporters and put the film and its photographer through intense scrutiny.

”I talked to Patterson, to people who knew him and who know about film, movement, fur suits. I went to the site seven times and made a thorough analysis of every frame of the movie. I studied the heights and dimensions of the creature.”

Even after having acquired the rights to the film, he’s still talking to anyone who could disprove its authenticity.

“I’ve slowly come to the conclusion probably the film is real – the smoothness, animal grace and tremendous muscles of the creature… but I’m still not one hundred percent sure sasquatch exists,” he said. “I’ve never seen one and never found tracks on my own.”

But he continues the search because the mystery pervades his life and “I want proof for myself.”

If Bigfoot doesn’t exist, modern day reports of the creature probably stem from mythology, Dahinden said. “Indians must have brought the myths with them when they came from Siberia. Then colonists brought their own wild man traditions, the two intermingled and what you have today is sasquatch.

But on the other hand, Dahinden said myths could actually be historical evidence. That he said, added to the thousands of tracks found over much of North America, eyewitness accounts of the legendary beast and the Patterson film “clearly point in all probability there are sasquatches.” I say that very reluctantly. It’s hard to say “Yes they’re there,” unless you see them.”

He’s not disappointed his quest has been unsuccessful so far. But even though he loves what he’s doing, he said, “Sometimes I’ve almost thrown in the towel. You meet liars, con men and some rather odd people doing this.”

And he speaks strongly against those for whom he has no respect. Scientists, just to name one group.

“Our dear-beloved Ph.D’s in universities don’t know a thing about bigfoot but they five opinions,” Dahinden said.” Here we have the Patterson movie which could possibly be a sasquatch and twenty years later it’s still ignored.

“If you’re a scientist you should say let’s investigate it – but they don’t. It’s taboo. It’s not acceptable. But yet they continue themselves to teach theory and speculation every day. I never read another book by an anthropologist. They are like trained seals.”

Dahinden said there have been fewer bigfoot sightings in the past five to seven years than there previously
were. But people reports lots of tracks here, like recent finds in the Black Mountain area south of Tollgate. So he gathered his van, trail bike and cameras and headed south.

In 1982, U.S. Forest Service Patrol rider Paul Freeman came face to face with what he says was a bigfoot about 25 miles southeast of Walla Walla near the top of Tiger Canyon. Dahinden said he’s studied that report and any skepticism he had about it is “melting away” because of the numerous independent discoveries of tracks in the same area.

His visit here in Walla Walla will gain national attention on the ABC-TV later this month. A crew from “Good Morning America” was in town this week to interview Dahinden and film the local area. The broadcast is tentatively scheduled for October 27 th. Dahinden hunts for bigfoot with two cameras – not a gun.

“For years I thought if I saw a sasquatch I would shoot it but I’ve changed my mind. In the U.S. there would e uproar so bad from conservationist and the public, right now I’m interested in taking photographs of it and reinforcing my views there probably are such creatures.

Dahinden loves his life.

“I have everything I want. I have an interest in something fascinating, freedom, and all the material things I want…what else is there of such fascination?

The biggest mystery there is in North America, maybe the world and I’m in the midst of it.”

(Rene, born August 1930 passed away April 18 2001 at 8:40pm from prostate cancer...he was 71
The file photo of Rene is courtesy Daniel Perez... )

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