(Editor’s note: This review contains major spoilers.)
Episode 3 of Chasing Bigfoot: The Quest for Truth is titled “The Bigfoot Phenomenon” and focuses on how the cryptid became so popular by interviewing investigators, researchers, and people in the business of selling Bigfoot merchandise.
While the first two episodes concentrated more on the actual cryptid, this episode is more about the media that propelled Bigfoot to popularity. You can read my reviews of the first episode here and the second episode here.
While sightings of Bigfoot were first reported in 1811, the phenomenon didn’t take off till the latter half of the 20th century.
“When Bigfoot was brought to TV, it really took off,” said Cliff Barackman, a researcher and a member of Animal Planet’s Finding Bigfoot team. “I think that popular television programs have really played a role in kind of getting the subject out there. There was a surge in the 1970s. In the 1970s you had things like In Search Of …, but really the 1980s kind of shut that surge down.”
What happened in the 1980s? The tabloids turned Bigfoot into fodder for trashy stories.
“The tabloids would blast on the front page ‘Bigfoot ate my baby’ … or all those nonsense things, and we all saw them while waiting in line at the grocery store,” Barackman said.
Today, many in the Bigfoot “business” feel the cryptid is a legitimate mystery.
“I think Bigfoot moved from tabloid … to something the majority of people think there may be something out there,” said Robert Swain, a co-founder of the Arkansas Primate Evidence Society.
Episode 3 mentions TV shows and movies like Bigfoot and Wildboy (1977), The Legend of Boggy Creek (1972), Harry and the Hendersons (1987), The Sasquatch Gang (2006), Fishing Naked (2015), and Willow Creek (2013) for helping popularize the elusive legend.
Of course, with the Internet now, anyone can share an encounter – or a hoax – the moment after it happens.
One of the more interesting parts of Episode 3 is the interviews with the people who have used the phenomenon for business. Consumers can pay to go on Bigfoot hunts, attend conferences, or buy merchandise.
“The number of people interested has grown,” said John Pickering, core member of the Olympic Project. “And with that, you have economic things become involved.”
In Episode 3, you meet Jim Myers who owns The Sasquatch Outpost in Bailey, Colorado, where you can tour a museum and meet Boomer, a seven-foot-tall Bigfoot figure; and Michael Johnson who’s co-founder of Sasquatch Investigations of the Rockies and the Bigfoot, Yowie & Yeti store in Denver, Colorado.
“A lot of people come to our store, and they’re looking for answers,” Johnson said.
Snuffy Destefano, of Pennsylvania, specializes in Bigfoot chainsaw carvings.
“I make a living off carving Bigfoot,” said Destefano while at an Ohio Bigfoot Conference where he was trying to sell his work to the more than 2,000 attendees.
The Bigfoot phenomenon has spawned a community of thousands of investigators and researchers, and many are part of organized associations.
“It’s become quite a hobby looking for more evidence,” Pickering said. “It’s becoming more a social affair.”
“The Bigfoot community at large is like this big dysfunctional family,” said Derek Randles, co-founder of the Olympic Project. “There’s a lot of infighting. There are a lot of politics in Bigfoot research. It would shock you.”
Whether or not Bigfoot is real, the phenomenon certainly is. There’s even a $1 million reward out there for someone who can produce a Bigfoot.
“You’re getting more sightings because now Bigfoot’s mainstream,” said Bigfoot investigator Marc DeWerth of Ohio. “Twenty-five years ago, if you said you saw a Bigfoot, you wouldn’t even tell your own family because nobody would believe you. I think the mystery is going to be solved very soon.”
Perhaps primatologist Esteban Sarmiento summed up the impetus of the Bigfoot phenomenon best.
“If you live long enough, you’ve seen things that you can’t explain.”
NEXT UP: Chapter Thirteen: Chasing Bigfoot: The Quest for Truth. I review Episode 4 in the 2015 documentary series titled “The Bigfoot Adventure Weekend.”
Lionel Ray Green is a horror and fantasy writer, an award-winning newspaper journalist, and a U.S. Army gulf war veteran living in Alabama. Lionel writes a column for HorrorAddicts.net titled The Bigfoot Files. His fiction has appeared in more than two dozen anthologies, magazines, and ezines, and his short story “Scarecrow Road” won the WriterWriter 2018 International Halloween Themed Writing Competition All Hallows’ Prose.