Bob Welch: Tall, tall tales equal Bigfoot
March 28, 2002
ONE OF THE more fascinating parts of being a journalist is finding yourself listening to a man tell you how he was parked with his fiancee on a suburban street late one night when a large, furry creature suddenly bounded from curb to curb in five steps.
"We both knew what we'd seen," the 20-year-old Kirkland, Wash., resident said in 1988," a Sasquatch."
I thought of that incident recently after seeing the March/April issue of the Skeptical Inquirer - the cover story is on "Bigfoot at 50: Evaluating a Half-Century of Bigfoot Evidence."
Ever since writing a magazine article on Bigfoot back in the late '80s, I've had a certain fascination with the idea of its existence. To talk to people, face to face, who claim they've seen one ... to interview the so-called experts ... to read of the sightings - it begs you to believe.
Because so many of the hundreds of sightings have come in the Northwest, there's this touch of regional provincialism that suggests you should believe. And you're enough of a dreamer that you actually want to believe.
But you can't.
Why not? Because the idea is so bizarre? Nope. Bizarreness shouldn't preclude belief in something. People believe in all sorts of bizarre concepts, from God to gravity to Oregon's home football uniforms.
No, the real reason you can't believe is because most of the "water-tight" evidence leaks like your 25-year-old gutters. To wit:
Eyewitness accounts. I've talked to a handful of people who say they've seen a Sasquatch, among them a woman who swore she saw one late at night in a Sears parking lot.
More Sasquatches have been sighted than "Chicken Soup for the Soul" books have been published. But as Benjamin Radford writes in Skeptical Inquirer, "the important criterion ... is not the quantity of the evidence but the quality of it. Lots of poor quality evidence does not add up to strong evidence, just as many cups of weak coffee cannot be combined into a strong cup of coffee."
I wonder why you never get reports of the same sighting from two individuals who don't know each other. And why, when you study the evidence, so many of the sightings are made by Bigfoot buffs who have a particular interest in seeing one. (Example: The famous 1967 "Patterson" film of an alleged Bigfoot in Northern California was taken by a guy who told people beforehand he was heading out to capture a Bigfoot on film. Wow, what are the chances!?)
Finally, given that Sasquatches have been sighted since at least 1830, isn't it a tad odd that not a single body has been found?
Footprints. The main problem here is the inconsistency; such prints indicate everything from two toes to six. Some show toes that are aligned, others spread like a wide-open hand. Those who attempt these hoaxes - and dozens have admitted to such - should regulate their plaster casts, which, by the way, are now available on the Web.
Recordings. When your marquee film, the Patterson footage, can't pass muster you're in trouble. John Napier, in his book "Bigfoot," says "there's little doubt that the scientific evidence taken collectively points to a hoax of some kind" - this from an anatomist and anthropologist who served as the Smithsonian Institution's director of primate biology. In other words, a guy who can spot a guy in an ape suit.
And as for the CD called "The Bigfoot Recordings: The Edge of Discovery," which purports to be vocalizations among a Bigfoot family? The Skeptical Inquirer points out that the self-described credentials of the so-called "expert" who defends the CD's grunts, growls and howls as Sasquatchian "include playing the flute, speaking several languages and having a `Russian friend who thinks I'm Russian.' "
Not surprising, then, that she also surmises that agitated grunts from the supposed creatures when a plane flies overhead are, most likely, "Sasquatch swear words." (The jaded assumption, of course, being that Bigfoot is a potty mouth!)
Hair and blood samples. Unless Bigfoot has synthetic hair and bleeds transmission fluid, this evidence isn't doing much to help the pro-Bigfoot cause.
Bottom line, I believe there are honest, well-intentioned people who believe they've seen something they haven't. (Example: the Himalayan hiker who was convinced he'd seen a Yeti - Himalayan Bigfoot - until researchers proved he'd seen a rock.) (....Refers to the Anthony B. Wooldridge Story which ultimately turned out to be a case of mistaken identity...embarrassing, but not a deliberate hoax. It's uploaded here: http://www.bigfootencounters.com/articles/wooldridge.htm )
I believe there are Bigfoot enthusiasts who are so eager to believe in the creature that, in Shakespearean terms, "thinking makes it so."
Finally, I believe in Bigfoot - but do so in the spirit of Santa, the Tooth Fairy and no-wait trips to the men's bathroom at Mac Court: Because wishing's half the fun.
Welch can be reached by phone at 338-2354 or by e-mail....
Interactions with Bigfoot
Bob Welch's March 28 column, "Tall, tall tales equal Bigfoot," unfortunately reinforces many pieces of misinformation that serve only to communicate an unfavorable picture of the serious scientific research in the field of cryptozoology and hominology.
Welch sets up his essay with a straw argument: "...the real reason you can't believe is because most of the 'water-tight' evidence leaks like your 25-year-old gutters." "Belief" is in the realm of religion, not science. I don't "believe" in Bigfoot, but I accept that certain evidence should keep our minds open.
Welch's column, however, has to be faulted for trying to be funny and instead just being illogical. He pens this one: "I wonder why you never get reports of the same sighting from two individuals who don't know each other." This is not true, of course, but facts don't get in the way of Welch's attempts at humor.
I've been in the field for 42 years, and this is just only the most remarkable of some of Welch's even sillier "points." For example, his statement that "so many of the sightings are made by Bigfoot buffs who have a particular interest in seeing one" ranks just as false as the other one.
Obviously, Welch merely wishes to visit upon us his unsupported "belief" systems, which have much less basis in fact than the combined evidence of 300 years of native traditions of Sasquatch and more than five decades of modern interactions with Bigfoot.
There is no humor in this article, and its educational value to students is nil...