FABRICATING SASQUATCH FOOTPRINTS
By Don Baird
Readers of this journal need no introduction to the Sasquatch (Bigfoot), an elusive large, bipedal primate that is said to haunt the woods of the northwestern United States, neighboring Canada and elsewhere. Most of the evidence that has been advanced to prove the existence of such a creature-sighting reports, still and motion pictures, hair and fecal samples--is either insufficiently documented, dubious, irrelevant, or spurious.
The legitimate investigators of the phenomenon concede the inadequacy of such testimonials, but they point to what they consider hard evidence in the form of giant footprints, observed in situ and preserved by plaster-casting. Some such footprints, which have been most carefully documented by Dr. Grover S. Krantz in 1983, display what all competent observers agree to be genuine dermatoglyphic "fingerprint" patterns and sweat pores of the type found in higher primates.
Proponents further assert that it would be impossible to fake such footprints. This assertion, I submit, is mistaken. To make an impressively convincing Sasquatch track by enlarging a human footprint is not a difficult trick, nor is it a new trick. I learned the enlargement technique in 1939 from its inventor, staff artist Ottmar F. von Fuehrer, of the Carnegie Museum in Pittsburgh, who published it that same year in Museum News (Fuehrer 1939). Paleontological applications of the method were later published by me (Baird 1951, 1974).
The technique was also mentioned on page 393 of the Handbook of Paleontological Techniques (Kummel and Raup 1965); thus, it is hardly a trade secret, at least among paleontologists. The present paper is intended for anthropologists and cryptozoologists who may not be aware of it.
Let it be clearly understood that, in presenting this information, I cast no aspersion on any person, nor do I presume to judge (without first-hand examination) the genuineness or otherwise of footprints that have been attributed to the Sasquatch. I merely wish to describe how such footprints can be fabricated by anyone who has such an inclination.
The following materials are what are needed:
1. A pair of human
feet to serve as models.
The latex-molding compound required is a thick (about 72% solid) suspension of prevulcanized latex particles in water, having about the consistency of cold cream. In small quantities (1 quart to 1 gallon), it has been sold by jobbers at different times and places under a variety of names, including "Von Fuehrer Compound," "Perma-mold Latex Molding Compound,'' and "E & R Latex Mold Rubber." In seeking a local supplier, one should describe the product and specify that one wants "sweet latex" that is only slightly alkaline. Note that this is a very different product from the so-called "sculptors' latex," a watery compound that pours like restaurant maple syrup and reeks of ammonia. I cannot recommend the latter product for any purpose, except, perhaps, for pouring down bee-nests in the garden.
Molding compound is applied to the model in thin layers with a brush or with fingers, taking special care in the first application to work the compound well into the surface and eliminate air bubbles. Each coat needs several hours to dry, though this may be speeded-up by applying mild heat (as from a light bulb) or a breeze (as from an electric fan). A thickness of two to three millimeters will require four to six coats. Obviously, this will not do for duplicating the soles of a human subject (other than a medical cadaver or a hospital patient in traction), so the first impression of the feet should be taken in a tray of plaster of Paris. Heat generated by the plaster as it sets may cause some discomfort, and the subject may need to be reassured that plaster is very different from cement. The feet can be withdrawn after 20 minutes or so, and the plaster should be allowed to dry thoroughly. Molding compound can then be applied to the impressions as described above, producing rubber casts of the soles.
Now comes the trick. A latex mold or cast, when treated with kerosene or some similar light oil, will swell and expand by 40% to 50% of its original linear dimensions while retaining its surface detail. As the oil-treated rubber loses its tensile strength and elasticity, only a single plaster casting can be made from it; the rubber will disintegrate as it is pulled off. When the plaster is quite dry, a second and larger rubber cast can be made as before, and, if further enlargement is desired, this cast can be oil-treated like the first. The process can be repeated indefinitely.
In the late 1930's, von Fuehrer used to impress the audiences at his Carnegie Museum lectures by holding up the wing of a dragonfly, then an enlarged rubber replica of it, then another, and another, each half again the size of the last, each showing plainly the venation and other surface features of the original. Finally, to delighted applause, he would reach down into his bag and haul out a rubber dragonfly wing nearly two meters long!
In making that series
of enlarged replicas, the oil had been applied uniformly to the rubber
so that no distortion of shape resulted. However, as von Fuehrer discovered,
it is possible to induce distortion deliberately by applying varying amounts
of oil to different parts of the cast. In the case of a footprint, one
could differentially increase the width or the length, widen the splay
of the toes, or lengthen some toes relative to the others. Through all
this manipulation, the dermatoglyphic pattern of the toes and sole will
be faithfully reproduced in enlargement, along with sweat-pores, wrinkles,
and other surface features.
Once the desired size and shape have been achieved, one can then make a pair of soles, left and right, with which to imprint track ways in the field. To make footprints with rigid plaster casts would be crude and unsubtle; it would be better to cast the soles in flexible rubber. For this purpose, one could use the same latex as a casting medium, building it up in successive coats with layers of cheesecloth incorporated as a filler and stiffener. It would be simpler and more satisfactory to cast the soles in silicone rubber, which can be poured to the desired thickness (about 1 cm) in one operation.
To duplicate the long (1.2 m) stride and the deep impressions of a Sasquatch track way, it is not necessary to fasten the rubber soles to one's feet and go leaping through the wilderness while wearing several hundred pounds of handicapping weights--as advocates of the Sasquatch claim a faker would have to do. Instead, one may simply lay the soles on the ground in the appropriate sequence and tamp them down, in turn, with a mallet and stake. By differential pounding in different areas of the sole, one can make the footprints deeper in the heel area, or the toe area, or in between.
Also, while performing these shenanigans, one will want to bag one's own feet with padding so as not to leave Small foot tracks alongside those of the Bigfoot.
1974 Latex Vormen in de Palaeontologie. Museologia, No. 2-V: 41--43. Fuehrer, Ottmar F. yon
1939 Liquid Rubber as an Enlarging Medium. Museum News, Vol. 16(14): 8.
Krantz, Grover S. 1983 Anatomy and Dermatoglyphics of Three Sasquatch Footprints. Cryptozoology, Vol. 2: 53-81
Kurureel, Bernhard, and David Raup - 1965 Handbook of Paleontological Techniques. San Francisco: W. H. Freeman.
Paper is © Don
Baird, -Museum of Natural History Princeton University, Princeton, N.J.
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