Bigfoot: Monster or Myth?

Throughout history there have been countless sightings and eye-witness accounts of an ape-like creature with human characteristics lurking in remote mountain ranges and forests. Although there is no smoking gun which can conclusively prove or disprove the existence of Bigfoot outright, there's plenty of evidence to support either claim. This article attempts to separate the myth from the reality and determine once and for all whether Bigfoot was, or still is, a living mammal or whether the existence of such a creature is nothing more than a case of mistaken identity, a series of elaborate hoaxes or the figment of overactive human imaginations.

Different names are given to this mythical creature for different regions of the world as follows: Bigfoot (North America), Sasquatch (Canada), Yeti or Abominable Snowman (India, Tibet and Nepal), Almasty (Russia), Yowie (Australia), Mapinguari (Brazil), Maricoxi (South America).

The Bigfoot Field Researchers Organisation is the authority on the frequency and locality of credible Bigfoot sightings. Their statistics show that the United States has far more Bigfoot sightings than any other continent, in particular, the Pacific Northwest states of Washington, California and Oregon are the hot spots. Washington leads the way with 593 sightings on record to date, according to the BFRO.

 

Supporting Evidence of Bigfoot

The biggest supporting evidence for the existence of Bigfoot is quite simply the sheer number of eye-witnesses who are convinced they have seen this creature. Of course, many of the reported sightings are a case of mistaken identity or even hoaxes but there's surely a limit to the number of men or women who are running around the countryside dressed in giant ape suits. The single most infamous and compelling piece of Bigfoot footage is the Patterson and Gimlin film shot on October 20th, 1967 at Bluff Creek, California. This short film shows what appears to be a large ape like creature, presumed to be a female Bigfoot, striding away from the camera into the woodland. Although sceptics have tried to dismiss the film as just another hoax involving a person in a lifelike costume, the film makers still defend its legitimacy and leading scientists have also supported their claims that the footage is genuine. On watching the film closely it's clear that the creature's muscles flex in a way that would not be possible for a human in a costume to replicate. Furthermore, the proportion of the arms, which are much longer than a humans, are much more like those of a large primate than a person. After analysing the video and surrounding features, investigators estimated the creature's height to be at least 6ft 5in, probably closer to 7ft 5in. This again suggests that the creature is either an incredibly tall hoaxer or a non-human. A report by forensic examiner Mr. Jeff Glickman for the North American Science Institute in June 1998 concluded that after three years of rigorous examination, the Patterson and Gimlin footage cannot be demonstrated to be a forgery. In addition to the abundance of eye-witness accounts, there are tons of footprint casts, recordings and other video clips which haven't been explained.

Negating Evidence of Bigfoot

Anyone who isn't a Bigfoot believer will of course point out that because no carcass, bones or DNA have been found thus far, this proves that the Bigfoot theories are false. What's more, unlike with previously extinct animals such as the dinosaurs, no fossils of a Bigfoot have ever been found. Although there's a very high volume of reported sightings of Bigfoot, the majority of them lack credibility. Due to the countless hoaxers and media portrayal of this creature, any supposed sightings are somewhat undermined and tend to be immediately dismissed as another trick, especially with the advances in modern video and camera technology. Tom Biscardi, a film producer and the self-proclaimed 'Real Bigfoot Hunter' has gained media attention as a notorious Bigfoot hoaxer. In 2008, he teamed up with Bigfoot enthusiasts Matt Whitton and Rick Dyer who said they had recovered the carcass of a 7ft 7in Bigfoot and were holding the body in a freezer. After holding a press conference that showed photos of the beast, Whitton and Dyer later admitted it was a rubber costume and, although Biscardi insisted he had been conned by the pair of hoaxers himself, he has little or no credibility as a reliable Bigfoot spotter.

In reality, many of the sightings by trackers and hikers are almost certainly cases of mistaking an animal already known to science, such as bears, elk, gorillas and other primates, for Bigfoot. For example, the black bear is predominantly a four-legged creature but possesses the capacity to stand upright, and even walk for short bursts, on its hind legs, which can increase its height to 7ft. A recent study on hair samples thought to be those from a Bigfoot turned out to have come from an ancient Polar Bear which again shows the difficulty in identifying a species correctly with limited evidence to work with.

Bigfoot is a Neanderthal?

Neanderthals are the closest extinct human relative. It's widely agreed by scientists that Neanderthals and Homo sapiens (modern man) are different species. However, it's thought that 1.5 - 2.1% of DNA from anyone born outside of Africa is Neanderthal which means that they co-existed and interbred with our Homo sapien ancestors approximately 35,000 years ago. Researchers say, the only human ancestors who didn't interbreed with Neanderthals were sub-Saharan Africans. Neanderthals typically lived in Europe and Asia up until approximately 33,000 BC when they are said to have become extinct. They lived during the Ice Age and can be considered as early cave men who are likely to have been covered in hair and had an ape like appearance very similar to the conventional perception of Bigfoot. Their eyes and brains were larger than those of Homo sapiens but they were sophisticated enough to carry tools, make fire and bury their dead. One scientific explanation as to why the Neanderthals died out is climate change, More likely, they were unable to compete with the better adapted early humans who either killed them, took over their land or interbred with them and they were absorbed into our species.

In November 2013, the channel 4 documentary series Bigfoot Files told the story of Zana, a Russian Almasty or supposed Neanderthal, thought to have lived as recently as the 1890's. Zana had the appearance of a hairy 'wild woman'. She was captured in a remote Russian forest before being beaten and imprisoned in the 1870's. Professor Bryan Sykes from the University of Oxford conducted DNA analysis on a tooth taken from one of her sons as well as samples from some of her living descendants. The results showed the astonishing truth that Zana's DNA and ancestry is 100% sub-Saharan African, disproving the theory that she was a surviving Neanderthal. It's thought that Zana was in fact a slave from Africa brought to the region by the Ottoman Empire. The significance of Zana's story is to show that no evidence of a Neanderthal having lived in recent times exists and most scientists accept that they became extinct around 30,000 years ago.

Alternative Bigfoot Theories

Unfortunately, the scientific proof of a unique Bigfoot species doesn't exist. However, science doesn't have all the answers and if history has taught us one thing, it is that what we may believe to be a concrete scientific fact today can be dismissed within the blink of an eye in the future. New studies estimate that 86 per cent of the Earth's species have yet to be fully described. Therefore, although many of these species are insects and small organisms, it's perhaps not so inconceivable that Bigfoot is among the 8.7 million species unknown to science, as opposed to the 1.2 million that are.

Alternative interpretations of what Bigfoot is range from the plausible to the paranormal, including more outlandish theories that Bigfoot is working with UFO's and aliens to beam thoughts and visions into the minds of those it encounters. A Native American ideology believes that Bigfoot are telepathic creatures which would go a long way to explaining why they are rarely ever seen by humans. In the words of an old Chinese proverb, 'the smartest animal on earth is the animal that hasn't been discovered by man'. Elders say their spirit stands on the border between the human and animal consciousness and that they are regarded as a brother or teacher of humans. Perhaps the best way to consider Bigfoot is as part of the human sub-conscious or as a past ancestor watching over the earth and protecting the land that hasn't yet been inhabited, destroyed and overrun by modern human civilisations.

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