Crypto Zoological Breathren: An unlikely obsession with Bigfoot

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The question must be asked. How on earth does a man born and raised on the north-west coast of England develop an obsession with the crypto zoological “myth” that is Bigfoot? The story is more complex than you might at first assume, and it starts way back in childhood.

As a boy I was drawn to anything mythological, supernatural, paranormal. My bookshelf was stacked full of mysteries and urban legends. I loved the slightly scary element of Roald Dahl’s tales, especially The Witches, and craved a good ghost story, or anything on TV involving monsters or creatures unrecognized by science in our daily subsistence. Labyrinth, starring the rather alarmingly revealing David Bowie as Jareth, the Goblin King (his tights have become stuff of legend in adulthood), was my absolute favourite movie early on without competition. The cast of wonderfully eclectic and often monstrous misfits appealed to my slightly off-kilter character.  I also loved The Never Ending Story, chiefly for my fascination with Falkor, the luck-dragon who helps Atreyu on his fantastical quests. I spent many an evening before sleep imagining starlight rides on his back far above the world. Science fiction fantasy Krull also bewitched me; it seems so tacky now in terms of special effects, but the ‘Widow of the Web’, Cyclops and the Beast have resonated in my psyche long into adulthood.

A defining moment, however, came when I was eight years old. A boy called Mark who lived across the street (sadly neglected by his parents – he was left to do as he pleased, much to my mother’s distress), invited me over to play ‘Rockfall’ on the old Amstrad tape-deck computer. We are talking late 80’s. My parents didn’t like me going over to Mark’s house because his Dad was a drunk and had been spotted on several occasions in a state of inebriation pissing in the street. They also knew that the house was a smoke choked mess, and my Mum took particularly unkindly to my clothes and hair stinking of cheap cigars. There were also rumours that the older brother was a ‘druggy’, which was huge news in our quiet suburban neighbourhood. When I arrived at his rundown abode early that Saturday morning (having used the usual excuse – “Just going to the penny sweet shop, Mum!”), he put on Bruce Campbell’s Evil Dead, which part thrilled me, part horrified me. At the time there was no spoof involved; it was pure horror for my eight year old eyes.

I went home that day a different boy; utterly affected, one might say. I knew something for sure though – that thrill of the unknown, and the sickly sweet feeling of being scared was a sensation I really liked. From that day forward I craved horror movies and would search out Stephen King novels in the charity shops, devouring them one by one until I had no option but to read them again. I had two school friends, Andy and Michael, who were equally as curious about all things scary, and we would raid the local video rental for all the classics: Halloween, Night Of The Living Dead, The Exorcist, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and the particularly disturbing Cannibal Holocaust.

white angel figurine on tree branch

This went on most of the way through my teens until, by complete coincidence, I saw the infamous Patterson/Gimlin film of the suspected, elusive Bigfoot striding across Bluff Creek, California, in 1967. If my memory serves me right it was on some tacky strange but true documentary that I barely recall. I was absolutely entranced by this revelation. The thought that there could be a species of undiscovered bipedal hominoids roaming the forests of the world captivated my imagination. I researched this legendary video – by far the clearest supposed footage of a Sasquatch (North American name for our beloved Bigfoot) ever recorded, even up until this day – and found myself entrenched in literature about it. All sorts of conspiracy theories have been formulated; a man in a suit is the most popular. It was interesting to me that, solely from the footage itself, the possibility that this creature could be real had been impossible to disprove. The footage has been analysed to death to this day, frame by frame, shot by shot, but still there isn’t any conclusive proof that this is a fraudulent portrayal of a fictional monster.

As YouTube and other such technological advances in social media started to explode and colonise our subconscious, I found myself scouring the internet regularly for Bigfoot footage (‘Bigfootage’ as I like to refer to it) and related documentaries. One of my favourites is the Missing 411 podcast featuring the stories of Bigfoot researcher David Paulides, who alludes to our scarily mysterious suspect, Bigfoot, in relation to thousands of National Park disappearances in the US. Listening to this late at night became my go-to habit, and it sparked a general interest in crypto zoology that would also lead me to read widely about the Loch Ness Monster, Chupacabra, Mokele-mbembe and the Giant Squid.

Of course, in the region that I was born and raised (slightly North of Liverpool, in a seaside town confusingly named Southport) there are no forests. Our tiny island doesn’t lend itself to these cryptids very well since we don’t have masses of unexplored territory. The best I could manage as a kid was the local pinewoods leading onto the sand dunes of the Northwest coast. I managed to see a young couple having sex, a local environmentalist we called ‘Swampy’ smoking joints in his tent, and a group of scouts doing field research – but no Bigfoot.

Such is the nature of our species, Bigfoot is considered a myth in scientific circles and nothing more. I have watched documentary after documentary where scientists, terrified of blotting their copybook by even suggesting the possibility, trample on the notion of this creature through their predictable get-out-clause: evidence. Scientists want bones. They want teeth, and brains, and hair, and carcasses. They want confirmation in their hands. What they don’t want to admit is that the bodies of bears, and mountain lions, and practically everything else that exists in the wilderness are completely devoured and emaciated within hours of death. Predators and scavengers are in their element when the meat doesn’t fight back.

Admittedly, this still doesn’t completely justify why at least one body hasn’t been found. I get that. It is all very hard believe when there is no concrete proof at all. Plaster-cast footprints can be easily faked, this is indisputable. However, the lack of concrete evidence could simply be down to the fact that Sasquatch populations are tiny in comparison to other species. It also fails to take into account that this creature may be super intelligent, and therefore fully aware and in complete control of its own invisibility. There are also the conspiracists that insist that this undiscovered species is extraterrestrial; a farfetched but not wholly impossible theory. Not in my mind anyway. Look around you. Everything that exists is extraterrestrial; it’s just that the wind and the rain and the trees and the sky and everything else we see and come into contact with has become our normal, our everyday, our reality. We live on a really wacky revolving piece of rock in the middle of a colossal universe that is, quite simply, immeasurable.

Recently I took part in a podcast, hosted by the super-sharp Radio DJ, Cameron Maerevoet, in which we discussed the Bigfoot conundrum. During the show he asks:

“Are we saying [Bigfoot is] this one thing, or are there many of them?”

“Oh no, there’s not just one,” I respond, remarkably confidently.

“There’s not just one?”

“No, it’s a species,” I assert.

“That seems to me how it’s projected though,” Cameron reasons, “like the Loch Ness monster is one …”

It’s at this point in the broadcast that I interrupt to lay it all on the line and proceed with my most profound take on the Bigfoot saga yet:

“Well, really, they should have thought about plural by now … it’s Bigfeet, not Bigfoot. I mean, could you be arsed going looking for one of them?”

I’d like to revisit the notion of crypto zoology. It may seem unfathomable now, but the Mountain Gorilla was considered a mythical beast until 1902, when first officially discovered by German Officer, Captain Robert Von Beringe. The Platypus was considered a practical joke – and let’s face it, rarely has there been a creature that looks more like a hoax – until 1797. The Giant Panda, which is embedded in our social conscience as the cutest of all the bears, was nothing but a fable until its formal discovery in China in 1927. Yes, that’s right, we have only known that the Giant Panda really exists for less than one hundred years! And then, most recently, is the debacle over the Giant Squid – the ‘Kraken’ in folklore – that leggy horror that wraps itself around pirate ships, pulling them down to their watery graves. Landlubbers refused to believe such nonsense. In 2004 researchers in Japan took the first ever confirmed footage of the Giant Squid, and in 2006 a 24-foot female was captured by Japanese scientists. The largest ever Giant Squid found to date was 59-feet in length and weighed nearly a ton. Terrifying.

So, there is my dig at the uptight, non-believing establishment. We are not so far on in the cultivation of this planet that we know everything about everything. It is perfectly plausible that undiscovered creatures exist, however unlikely that may seem. I also wonder what the reaction must have been of the first humans to see a giraffe come striding through the trees, or an elephant crashing through the jungle, or a Great White Shark slicing through the waves. Surely they must have been paralysed with fear; they are all monstrous and unusual creatures to behold. We know that dinosaurs existed. Imagine bumping into an Aregentinosaurus (all 50-100 tons of it), or a T-Rex standing at 20-feet high, or looking up to see a Quetzalcoatlus (with a wingspan of 7-metres) gliding over your head. Spare a thought for those who may have seen a blue whale emerge from the ocean for the first time, or a Grizzly Bear come to confront them, or a Saltwater Crocodile snap its jaws, or even an Ostrich legging it to wherever Ostrich’s leg it to. I mean, an Ostrich! God help you if you suffer from Ornithophobia.

So, yes, I believe. I’ve never been to any of the hotspots on planet earth for Bigfoot sightings. I’m talking about the Pacific Northwest region of the US, as well as the Ohio River Valley, central Florida, the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range or the Mississippi River Valley. I’m talking about the Himalayan regions spanning Bhutan, India, Nepal, China, and Russia (Siberia). I’ve never had my own experiences or encounters with Bigfoot, or Sasquatch, or Yeti, Skunk Ape, Yeren, Yowie, Mande Barung, Orang Pendek, Almas or Barmanou. I may have come close in KFC or McDonalds from time to time, but nothing ‘concrete’. In all honesty, I have absolutely no justification whatsoever to believe in this creature other than my own innate lust for salacious mystery. I just know that deep down in my heart I want it to exist, and really believe it could.

Gigantopithecus is my final trump card. This was a known species, and the largest primate that ever lived, standing up to 3-metres tall, and weighing as much as 600kg. The primate fossil record suggests that this species could have been in existence up until one hundred thousand years ago, prominent in the regions that are now India, Vietnam, China and Indonesia. The first remains of Gigantopithecus were found by anthropologist, Ralph von Koenigswald, would you believe it, in a Chinese apothecary shop in 1935. This gargantuan creature is, essentially, the Bigfoot that so many of us dream exists. Is it totally implausible to think that a community of these elusive primates may have survived the climate change of the Pleistocene era and continued to reproduce in the shadows of modern day existence? I’m no scientist, but I don’t think, on the basis of so many sightings, experiences and encounters down the years that this is impossible. Imagine bumping into that as you’re walking your dog?

green-leafed trees

I’d like to think that Bigfoot would be discovered during my lifetime. It would be pretty inconvenient if they found it after I was gone. Regardless, it has filled my days with moments of wondrous curiosity. I hope one day to visit the Pacific Northwest region of the US and badger the locals in remote forest towns for their stories about the legend. In the age of camera phones some more captivating footage may still emerge, who knows? I only know that, in my mind, Bigfoot is as real as the territories it lives in; I just hope it’s not me that gets those heavy handed raps on the window at night because the curtains are staying well and truly shut.

Parts of this article were previously published in Acclamation Point, 2019.

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