Book Review by the late Dr. Grover S. Krantz, Ph.D.
"Manlike Monsters on Trial" Early Records and Modern Evidence
By Marjorie Halpin and Michael M. Ames University of British Columbia Press, Vancouver, 1980. 336 pp.
In May 1978, a conference on "manlike monsters" was held at the University of British Columbia. This constituted a major milestone along the road to serious scientific treatment of this subject because it brought together many competent scholars who had been studying these so-called "monsters." In addition, many nonscientists who had studied the same subject were there, mainly to see who the scientists were, and what they had learned that might support their own beliefs.
The major virtue of this conference was that it brought so many scholars out of relative obscurity to meet one another, and to find out that they were far from alone in their interests and opinions. A somewhat less desirable result was that many of these scholars presented papers that had little or no bearing on the central subject of the conference, but received attention and publication nonetheless. Even less desirable was the presence of many "true believers"--amateurs who often had little scientific knowledge, but were convinced that Sasquatch was real and should be generally accepted. Worst among these was one individual who exhibited a large amount of data that were unverifiable, inconsequential, or false--an effort that was perhaps deliberately calculated to make the entire investigation appear to lose credibility.
The ultimate result of the conference, however, was that it helped to move the investigation of bipedal "monsters" such as Sasquatch into the realm of science, and out of the hands of the lunatic fringe.
Marjorie Halpin and Michael Ames deserve much applause and respect, not only for the work of setting up the conference, but for having had the courage to attempt it at all. And to top it off, they saw through to publication the volume that recorded much of what transpired there.
Manlike Monsters on Trial includes 14 lead-in pages, 20 plates, and 336 numbered pages. Within this, there are 333 pages of substantive text. This text consists of 24 items--a preface, an epilogue, a specialized bibliography, and 21 papers from among the conference presentations.
Many of the presented
papers were not included in the book, and this created some ill-feeling
on the part of those whose works were excluded. They had worked under
the impression that all accepted conference papers would be published.
Perhaps the most conspicuous omissions were the late Carleton Coon's keynote
address, the impromptu (but recorded) debate on the pros and cons of killing
one of these hominoid creatures, and the discussion that accompanied the
showing of the Patterson-Gimlin movie film.
Of those indicating
a favorable opinion, the most explicit is clearly John Green. He is Canadian
and nonacademic, yet is one of the best-known authorities in the field.
A measure of Green's prestige is reflected in the number of times his
work was mentioned in other articles--40 times, compared with 24 times
for the next highest, an academic person.
It is interesting to note that the "favorable" articles are short--averaging only two-thirds as many pages as the "neutral" and "skeptical" articles. One gets the impression that certain authors are free to come straight to the point, while others are obliged to verbally dance around the subject at greater length. Maybe the nature of their material requires this difference, but I doubt it-the contrast in lengths is too consistent.
No comparable figures are available for all the papers that did not appear in this book. From my observation at the conference, and from later reviewing many of these papers, I would judge that the omitted works are far more in favor of Sasquatch reality. It is often not clear whether these papers were rejected for their quality (sometimes poor), or for the opinions of their authors.
It is not surprising that many contributors failed to make clear, affirmative indications of their opinions as to the reality of the Sasquatch. If anything, it is surprising that so many did come out in favor of its existence. To assert such an opinion can be dangerous to one's academic career; I can state this from personal experience. There is a justified fear that employment might not be continued, raises and promotions may be denied or delayed, and working conditions otherwise affected in an adverse manner.
Most of the scientific
establishment will have nothing to do with problems like Sasquatch. This
is only partly because of the lack of definitive evidence. It is also
because of the negative public reputation that Sasquatch hunting has already
acquired. This results from the wild tales of the enthusiasts, and the
ill-informed support by the "true believers." Many open-minded
scientists prefer to remain silent or neutral rather than risk being equated
with this rather vocal "lunatic fringe." Some of my colleagues
who are critical of my interest are quite unaware of the careful investigations
that have been made. Instead, they base their opinions on the more public,
and often absurd, pronouncements of this "lunatic fringe." As
a result of the Vancouver conference, and the volume Manlike Monsters
on Trial which followed, this problem should now become somewhat relieved.
By page count, less than one-third of the book dealt directly with the subject, and almost one-half of it had no apparent relevance at all. This selection for publication does not represent the emphasis at the conference itself; the rejected articles were generally more related to the central theme. This editorial selection clearly was from the point of view of properly presented and written material, often disregarding its pertinence. The articles that were omitted may have been more to the point, but they were, it must be admitted, mostly of lesser literary quality. One might suspect that this form of selection is related to the previously noted selection against papers in which the authors expressed belief in the reality of the creatures. I personally suspect this was not just a literary selection, but one that also tends to make the entire work less controversial. In the present climate of opinion, it was necessary to present a somewhat conservative or orthodox profile.
Had the book represented the actual distributions of favorable opinions and pertinence of material, it might have run some risk of being classed with the literature of the "lunatic fringe."
Some brief comment on those ten most pertinent articles is in order here:
1. Halpin and Ames give a preface that fairly introduces the subject and the conference. They play the correctly neutral role of noting the diversity of opinion and the lack of definitive arguments for either side on the question of physical reality.
2. Ron Westrum writes on the reporting of scientific anomalies. In a nutshell, an anomaly is a phenomenon that is "socially unacceptable," so the scientist has the problem of whether or not to report such observations. An apt analogy is the abrupt acceptance, just a century ago, of the physical reality of meteorites.
3. Roderick Sprague describes and illustrates some aboriginal stone carvings from the Columbia River area that look like ape-like heads. Zoologists who did not know their source unanimously declared them to be representations of nonhuman, higher primates; those who knew the source insisted they must be something else!
4. John Green asks and answers: "What is the Sasquatch?" From his extensive files of reports, he summarizes them as large, solitary, hairy, of human proportions, bull-necked, omnivorous, nocturnal, less active in winter, and often swimmers. Also, he notes some consistent absences, such as no speech, no accurate throwing of objects, no use of fire, no tools, no "home" (even caves), and no fear of guns. He concludes that the Sasquatch is (1) not human, (2) not normally dangerous, and (3) not endangered. These conclusions are at variance with those of some of the enthusiasts.
5. Wayne Suttles investigates the "Testimony of Tradition" among Northwest Coast Indians. Their "myths" neither prove nor disprove physical reality, but this is not an irrelevant point. If there really is a Sasquatch, then our understanding of the origin of certain stories will have to be re-examined.
6. John Colarusso gives "Ethnographic Information on a Wildman of the Caucasus" from native informants, now far removed from the source. The picture is of a half man-half animal, one that does not fit the fully animal, and much larger, creature reported from North America.
7. George Gill reports a possible "Population Cline ..." of Sasquatch body sizes that correlates with latitude. His data show increasing size to the north, following Bergmann's Rule, but John Green's data do not seem to support this conclusion. More study is suggested for this point.
8. R. L. Kirlin and Lasse Hertel submit their analysis of the Alan Berry sound recording that is purported to be of Sasquatch origin. They conclude that, if the tape is legitimate, there are two voices, and one would seem to have a vocal tract far longer than is normally encountered in humans. They do not rule out the possibility of prerecording, but consider it unlikely. (See my comments below.)
9. Vaughn Bryant and B. Trevor-Deutsch discuss some analyses of hair and fecal samples. They are unable to make positive (Sasquatch) identifications for any specimens they have examined. In their opinion, hair analysis is the more promising of the two kinds of evidence.
10. The book ends with a bibliography by L. G. M. Ruus, covering the whole field of "manlike monsters," with some emphasis on Sasquatchery. Any researcher in this area will find this extremely valuable for background material about previous studies and speculations.
These ten articles are really the meat of the book, and, incidentally, they include the five in which the authors indicate a favorable opinion about the creatures' existence. The impact of some of the less directly pertinent articles will be discussed shortly.
It should be noted
here that the Kirlin-Hertel analysis is based on a tape of very questionable
origin. While at the conference, I was approached by the two men who had
taken Alan Berry to their hunting camp in the Sierras of California, where
the tape was made. They wanted to show me photographs of the camp, and
have further discussions in their rooms. John Green and Carleton Coon
joined me for this visit. Their description was of a virtually inaccessible,
totally undiscoverable camp; the pictures showed giant footprints in the
snow all over the area. Unfortunately, the footprints were of a blatantly
fake design that I've encountered before. When I pointed this out, the
discussion became somewhat strained, and was soon terminated. Perhaps
I should not have been so hasty, and thereby found out what kind of game
they were up to. This does not prove that Berry's recording is not real,
but it certainly takes away much of the "ring of authenticity"
that it once seemed to have.
I cannot resist the temptation here to comment on two of these non-Sasquatch monsters. The Witigo (or Windigo) of the Algonquians of Eastern Canada are supposedly men who have once eaten human flesh, and have ' now turned into semi-human creatures living solitary lives. This sounds like no more than a myth that tends to discourage cannibalism; no matter how much individuals may be tempted in their difficult lives. The idea (however unlikely) to these people is that such an act leads to the most undesirable, and irreversible results.
The Stoneclad giants of eastern U.S. mythology are not really subhuman, just different. They sound more like distorted versions of Scandinavian armed men (the powerful finger representing a sword) who were once encountered by a few North American natives. Such descriptions could spread and become the physical referent that serves as background for stories of more immediate cultural importance.
Another general observation follows from these Indian accounts, and from others around the world as well. A common thread in most of these is that something exists to fill the intellectual gap between man and animal. Perhaps this serves to close this gap and make us feel not quite so alone, and so relieve the anxiety of this isolation. Western peoples show the same tendency, as in their recent enthusiasm over the reported human-like intelligence of dolphins and chimpanzees. Whether these intelligent behaviors are real or not, is not the point, but rather that they are so readily believed with such little evidence.
Similarly, John Green has long noted a North American tendency to attribute human or semi-human characteristics to Sasquatch. In reality, the straight accounts of encounters include only animal behavior--nothing human at all, except perhaps in anatomy. It is only in the interpretations, and in second- and third-hand reports, that human-like qualities appear. Many people simply want them to be more than just animals, perhaps in order to close this intellectual gap between us and the rest of the natural order.
Reports of semi-human behavior by these "manlike monsters" does not automatically mean they were invented, but it does indicate that something probably has been exaggerated or distorted. (While this rule-of-thumb seems to apply to North American monsters, it does not necessarily apply to those from other parts of the world.)
"Manlike Monsters on Trial " published only part of what was presented in Vancouver in the Spring of 1978. The conference itself tapped only some aspects of the whole problem. Exactly how big the problem is, and what subjects are pertinent, remain to be established. Whether the Sasquatch is a biological reality is still unproven and it remains to be seen how important this reality (or nonreality) will turn out to be.
One of these shortfalls will soon be corrected with the publication of many of the Vancouver conference papers that were omitted. Vladimir Markotic and I have gathered these, and some original papers, for a new book with the tentative title of Unknown Hominoids. (As the reader may have already guessed, both Markotic and I presented papers for the conference, which were not included in the subsequent volume.)
That the conference was less than perfect is hardly a valid criticism--it happened, and it was the first. There has been some discussion about a possible second conference, but nothing has been decided yet. One of the problems is how to avoid incompetent presentations that tend to discredit scientific investigations.
The remaining problems, concerning the true range of the subject and the physical reality of the "monsters," remain unsolved, and with no presently obvious means of settling them.
Review by the late
Dr. Grover S. Krantz, Ph.D.
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