The Legend of Bigfoot

Posted 07 Jan 2012 in Cryptozoology

Bigfoot, also known as sasquatch, is an ape-like cryptid that purportedly inhabits forests, mainly in the Pacific Northwest region of North America. Bigfoot is usually described as a large, hairy, bipedal humanoid. The term "sasquatch" is an anglicized derivative of the word "sésquac" which means "wild man" in a Salish Native American language.

Scientists discount the existence of bigfoot and consider it to be a combination of folklore, misidentification, and hoax, rather than a living animal, in part because of the large numbers thought necessary to maintain a breeding population.   A few scientists, such as Jane Goodal and Jeffrey Meldrum, have expressed interest and belief in the creature, with Meldrum expressing the opinion that evidence collected of alleged Bigfoot encounters warrants further evaluation and testing.  Bigfoot remains one of the more famous examples of a cryptid within cryptozoology, and an enduring legend.

Bigfoot is described in reports as a large hairy ape-like creature, ranging between 6–10 feet (2–3 m) tall, weighing in excess of 500 pounds (230 kg), and covered in dark brown or dark reddish hair. Alleged witnesses have described large eyes, a pronounced brow ridge, and a large, low-set forehead; the top of the head has been described as rounded and crested, similar to the sagittal crest of the male gorilla. Bigfoot is commonly reported to have a strong, unpleasant smell by those who claim to have encountered it.  The enormous footprints for which it is named have been as large as 24 inches (60 cm) long and 8 inches (20 cm) wide.  While most casts have five toes—like all known apes—some casts of alleged bigfoot tracks have had numbers ranging from two to six.  Some have also contained claw marks, making it likely that a portion came from known animals such as bears, which have five toes and claws.   Some proponents have also claimed that bigfoot is omnivorous and mainly nocturnal.

Before 1958

Wildmen stories are found among the indigenous population of the Pacific Northwest. The legends existed prior to a single name for the creature.  They differed in their details both regionally and between families in the same community. Similar stories of wildmen are found on every continent except Antarctica.  Ecologist Robert Michael Pyle argues that most cultures have human-like giants in their folk history: "We have this need for some larger-than-life creature."

Members of the Lummi tell tales about Ts'emekwes, the local version of bigfoot. The stories are similar to each other in terms of the general descriptions of Ts'emekwes, but details about the creature's diet and activities differed between the stories of different families.

Some regional versions contained more nefarious creatures. The stiyaha or kwi-kwiyai were a nocturnal race that children were told not to say the names of lest the monsters hear and come to carry off a person—sometimes to be killed.  In 1847, Paul Kane reported stories by the native people about skoocooms: a race of cannibalistic wild men living on the peak of Mount St. Helens.  The skoocooms appear to have been regarded as supernatural, rather than natural.

Less menacing versions such as the one recorded by Reverend Elkanah Walker exist. In 1840, Walker, a Protestant missionary, recorded stories of giants among the Native Americans living in Spokane, Washington. The Indians claimed that these giants lived on and around the peaks of nearby mountains and stole salmon from the fishermen's nets.

The local legends were combined together by J. W. Burns in a series of Canadian newspaper articles in the 1920s. Each language had its own name for the local version.  Many names meant something along the lines of "wild man" or "hairy man" although other names described common actions it was said to perform (e.g. eating clams).   Burns coined the term Sasquatch, which is from the Halkomelem sásq’ets (IPA: [ˈsæsqʼəts]),  and used it in his articles to describe a hypothetical single type of creature reflected in these various stories.   Burns's articles popularized both the legend and its new name, making it well known in western Canada before it gained popularity in the United States.

After 1958

In 1951, Eric Shipton had photographed what he described as a Yeti footprint.  This photograph generated considerable attention and the story of the Yeti entered into popular consciousness. The notoriety of ape-men grew over the decade, culminating in 1958 when large footprints were found in Del Norte County, California, by bulldozer operator Gerald Crew. Sets of large tracks appeared multiple times around a road-construction site in Bluff Creek. After not being taken seriously about what he was seeing, Crew brought in his friend, Bob Titmus, to cast the prints in plaster. The story was published in the Humboldt Times along with a photo of Crew holding one of the casts.  Locals had been calling the unseen track-maker "Big Foot" since the late summer, which Humboldt Times columnist Andrew Genzoli shortened to "Bigfoot" in his article.  Bigfoot gained international attention when the story was picked up by the Associated Press.  Following the death of Ray Wallace – a local logger – his family attributed the creation of the footprints to him.  The wife of Scoop Beal, the editor of the Humboldt Standard, which later combined with the Humboldt Times, in which Genzoli's story had appeared,  has stated that her husband was in on the hoax with Wallace.

1958 was a watershed year for not just the bigfoot story itself but also the culture that surrounds it. The first bigfoot hunters began following the discovery of footprints at Bluff Creek, California. Within a year, Tom Slick, who had funded searches for Yeti in the Himalayas earlier in the decade, organized searches for bigfoot in the area around Bluff Creek.

As Bigfoot has become better known and a phenomenon in popular culture, sightings have spread throughout North America. In addition to the Pacific Northwest, the Great Lakes region and the Southeastern United States have had many reports of Bigfoot sightings.

 

Source: Wikipedia

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