THE BIGFOOT FILES | Chapter Eleven: Chasing Bigfoot: ‘Bigfoot Encounters’

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(Editor’s note: This review contains major spoilers.)

Episode 2 of Chasing Bigfoot: The Quest for Truth is titled “Bigfoot Encounters” and is a mixture of historical accounts of sightings from the past interspersed with interviews of people who say they’ve seen Bigfoot.

Like Episode 1, the historical bits are the best parts. You can read my review of Episode 1 here.

The historical accounts are interesting enough to make Episode 2 worth a watch, including stories of a Bigfoot killing a trapper and a Bigfoot abducting a prospector. However, the interviews of modern Bigfoot witnesses do not add much to the Bigfoot canon.

The historical accounts start with a story in The Antioch Ledger from 1870 when an anonymous correspondent published the story of a Bigfoot encounter near Mount Diablo in California titled “The Wild Man of Crow Canyon.” The correspondent reportedly hid and observed two Bigfoots visiting his camp and wrote: ”It was in the image of man, but it could not have been human.”

In a book published in 1890 titled The Wilderness Hunter, future President Theodore Roosevelt recounts a trapper’s story at a pass near Montana’s Wisdom River. The trapper’s camp was destroyed twice, causing his partner and him to leave. The two split up to gather their traps before leaving, and when the trapper returned, he found his partner dead with a broken neck and fang marks on his throat. The trapper named Bauman reported seeing a strange figure before fleeing the area.

The wildest historical Bigfoot encounter happened in British Columbia, Canada, in 1924. That’s when a prospector named Ostman reported hearing “man-beasts” roaming the woods. Ostman said he was abducted by a Bigfoot. The Bigfoot carried Ostman for three hours before dropping him onto a plateau where he was held captive for six days by a family of Bigfoot. Ostman escaped by feeding snuff to the male Bigfoot, which made it groggy. Ostman did not tell his story to a newspaper until 1957.

Again in British Columbia in October 1955, a highway worker named Roe scouted an area for a future hunt and saw a female Bigfoot covered head to foot in dark brown, silver-tipped hair.

Of course, the most famous of the historical encounters occurred in 1967 near Bluff Creek in California when the iconic Patterson-Gimlin Bigfoot was filmed.

The interviews of recent witnesses are tame and not filled with a lot of details.

Dr. Russ Jones, a Bigfoot researcher and author, said he’s spoken to many Bigfoot witnesses.

“I’ve had witnesses where it was traumatizing, witnesses that had to get counseling for post-traumatic stress, and people that have moved from wilderness areas,” Jones said in the documentary. “Witnesses tell me they think about their experience almost every day.”

Bigfoot investigator Ron Boles said as a young man he saw Bigfoot behind a tree 15 to 20 feet away while walking through the woods near Springfield, Missouri.

“To this day, that still affects my dreams,” Boles said.

Scott Barta, co-founder of Sasquatch Investigations of the Rockies, believes he saw the silhouette of a Bigfoot outside his tent one night when he found a print the next morning.

Bigfoot investigator Marc DeWerth said he came across a Bigfoot in 1997 while in the forests of Ohio.

Perhaps the strangest interview was with Bigfoot hobbyist Shane Carpenter who claims he’s been closely studying a family of Bigfoot since 2013 after he discovered them on a hike in southern Missouri. The documentary shows some of Carpenter’s photographs, but none of the pictures clearly show Bigfoot. Carpenter’s son and a youth pastor friend also claim to have had Bigfoot encounters.

Derek Randles, co-founder of The Olympic Project, said the most common way statistically to encounter Bigfoot is having one cross the road while you’re driving.

What should you do if you encounter Bigfoot? Wildlife researcher Doug Hajicek suggested investigating the area, document any evidence like footprints with photographs, and do not hesitate to report it to the Bigfoot Field Researchers Organization.

NEXT UP: Chapter Twelve: Chasing Bigfoot: The Quest for Truth. I review Episode 3 in the 2015 documentary series Chasing Bigfoot titled “The Bigfoot Phenomenon.”

THE BIGFOOT FILES| Chapter Two: Dweller

Oddly enough, Bigfoot was not the original creature that author Jeff Strand had in mind for his Bram Stoker Award-nominated horror novel Dweller.

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“The concept of ‘the story of a lifetime friendship between a boy and a monster’ came to me before the actual monster,” said Strand in an exclusive interview for The Bigfoot Files. “I’d originally thought it would be a reptilian creature that lived at the bottom of a well. But that was too limiting for a book that covered sixty years, and I wanted the readers to fall in love with Owen, so I switched to Bigfoot. Well, something like Bigfoot. There’s a scene where they watch the Patterson-Gimlin film and try to figure out if Owen is the same type of animal. That gave me the whole forest to play around in and made the monster much more cuddly.”

Of course, since Dweller is a horror novel, Owen the Bigfoot is not as cuddly as Strand would have you believe.

Released in 2010, Dweller is a tragic tale of friendship between one lonely human named Toby and one lonely cryptid that Toby names Owen. What makes Dweller a cut and a slash above the average creature feature is that the novel chronicles a heartfelt relationship between human and beast over a period of six decades, starting with their first encounter in 1953.

Dweller is quite a remarkable feat of storytelling because of the time frame, but also because Strand’s tale is as tender as it is terrifying. Eight-year-old Toby initially encounters the creature (who he later names Owen) in the woods behind his home, but their friendship doesn’t begin until seven years later when Toby is a bullied, socially awkward teenager. Their ensuing encounters spark a relationship that Strand is able to ground in reality.

To me, one of the most poignant aspects of Dweller is why Toby chooses the name Owen for the Bigfoot creature. Strand writes:

“Owen – the human Owen – was the closest Toby had ever come to having a real friend.”

Toby had met a boy named Owen in sixth grade, and for about three months they played together every day until an incident ended their friendship. So, Toby has no friends now. How sad is it that the boy turns to a monster just to have a friend and then names it after the only human friend he ever had?

Owen’s story is even sadder as illustrated in the prologue of Dweller. A runt offspring, Owen is orphaned after watching humans kill his family. Owen runs from the killer humans, and Strand writes:

“When he stopped running, he wept.”

That last line of the prologue always gets to me. Can you imagine a young Bigfoot weeping — not crying, but weeping — after humans kill his family? It’s a heartbreaking moment.

One of the more interesting techniques employed in Dweller is Strand’s use of chapters titled “Glimpses,” which cover years of time in the lives of Toby and Owen in just a few pages. For example, in Chapter Eleven, Strand chronicles 1964 to 1972 in eight pages by describing a moment or two during each year. The glimpses are a surprisingly effective way to show time passing and to develop the characters.

One of my favorite glimpses in the book is when Toby is showing photographs from the iconic Patterson-Gimlin Bigfoot film to Owen. Toby thinks that Bigfoot shares a resemblance to Owen, but Owen disagrees. It’s such a “real” moment.

Dweller is among my top ten favorite novels of any genre, not just horror. I became an instant fan of Strand after reading it and have followed his eclectic career ever since. Known as a master of blending horror and comedy, Strand has written more than forty books, but Dweller remains my favorite (and probably always will). Strangely, his one mainstream romantic comedy Kumquat is my second favorite of his novels followed by the devastatingly dark Pressure.

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Jeff Strand

I asked Strand if he believes in Bigfoot.

“I think the overwhelming majority of Bigfoot sightings are hoaxes or just mistakes,” Strand replied. “When I see a shaky video of an indistinct blur viewed through thick forest and the cameraman is saying, ‘That’s Bigfoot! Oh my God, that’s Bigfoot!’ I have to be skeptical. It’s easy to see what you want to see, and it’s easy to fool people, so I believe that very few Bigfoot sightings are legitimate. But ‘overwhelming majority’ doesn’t mean ‘all.’ As with aliens, I don’t believe or disbelieve either way — I’m open to the possibility. But I have not seen anything to make me say, ‘Yes! They exist!’”

I also asked Strand why he thinks Bigfoot continues to remain so prevalent in pop culture today.

“It’s just a fascinating idea, that there’s a creature living out there that may or may not be real,” Strand explained. “It’s mysterious and a little scary. Bigfoot is credible enough that you don’t have to be a complete whack-nut to think, ‘Well, maybe ….’ There’s way freakier stuff living in the oceans. So, he could be out there, and yet nobody has ever caught one or provided conclusive evidence that they exist. Even if you’re a hardcore skeptic, it’s a fun mystery.”

NEXT UP | Chapter Three: Swamp Monster Massacre. I review the horror novel Swamp Monster Massacre by Hunter Shea, featuring an exclusive interview with the author about how the Bigfoot legend inspired his story and how the book changed his life.

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THE BIGFOOT FILES | Chapter One: The Idea of Bigfoot

 

THE BIGFOOT FILES | Chapter One: The Idea of Bigfoot

The Idea of Bigfoot by Lionel Ray Green

I believe in Bigfoot. Or rather I believe in the idea of Bigfoot.

I’m not an expert on Bigfoot, although I have studied the legend intensely. I’m merely a fan intrigued by how the stubbornly persistent legend has inundated itself into American pop culture, specifically horror film and fiction.

Bigfoot is everywhere. In films. In books. On television in Jack Link’s Beef Jerky commercials and Saturday Night Live. On T-shirts and coffee mugs.

Bigfoot’s everywhere in my life, too.

Bigfoot-shoesMy favorite place to satisfy my sweet tooth is Bigfoot’s Little Donuts, where the cryptid is featured prominently on the sign and in the décor inside the eatery. I plan to attend the First Annual Georgia Bigfoot Conference in Clayton, Georgia the weekend of April 26-28. I have a Bigfoot crossing sign on my door. A Bigfoot keyring keeps my keys secure. My favorite hat displays a silhouette of Bigfoot surrounded by the words “I Believe.” My favorite T-shirt features the legendary silhouette of the creature. I even have my Bigfoot socks and slippers.

So, while I’m not an expert, I’m a diehard fanatic. I love the idea of a legendary monster roaming the wild, instinctively knowing to avoid contact with humans. While humans often portray Bigfoot as a monster in film and fiction, the legendary cryptid seems smart enough to avoid what it thinks are the real monsters of the world: humans. Bigfoot understands discovery means death.

Whether Bigfoot is real or fake never mattered to me because the legend inspires me nearly every day. I remain mesmerized by the definitive Bigfoot moment. Of course, I’m referring to the Patterson-Gimlin film clip that briefly shows a lumbering bipedal creature walking along Bluff Creek in northern California on October 20, 1967. Allegedly.

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It might surprise you that I think the film is a hoax, but an inspired hoax fueled by the idea of Bigfoot. Real or not, the film inspired me to delve deeper into the Bigfoot legend and sparked my imagination like no other pop culture phenomenon. Bigfoot is a top-five inspiration for my fiction writing alongside the books The Lord of the Rings and Boy’s Life and the movies Halloween (1978) and Babe (1995).

The name Bigfoot didn’t appear in the media until a 1958 newspaper article in the Humboldt Times, but stories of hairy bipedal humanoid creatures have been reported in folklore and history throughout the world. The most well-known of these reports are Sasquatch (an anglicized form of a Native American word) and Yeti (a likely Sherpa form of a Tibetan description).

While the 1958 article introduced the name Bigfoot to the American public, the Patterson-Gimlin film brought the legend into pop culture full force — and it has never left. The iconic frame 352 of the Patterson-Gimlin film shows the legendary creature glancing back at the camera. It foreshadowed a future of Bigfoot in the movies, where it remains a fixture in film and fiction.

Usually, Bigfoot is depicted as a savage beast with predatory tendencies who kills humans. Bigfoot is rarely cast as a gentle giant. Harry and the Hendersons (1987) and Smallfoot (2018) are the exceptions, not the rule.

The result? Bigfoot is as much a horror icon in pop culture today as vampires and werewolves. That’s what this column, The Bigfoot Files, will explore. I’ll review the movies, books, and other media where Bigfoot is featured. Thanks for joining this expedition with me. Hopefully, I’ll introduce you to some movies and books about Bigfoot worth watching and reading.

NEXT UP | Chapter Two: Dweller. I review the 2010 horror novel Dweller by Jeff Strand, featuring an exclusive interview with the author about how the Bigfoot legend inspired the Bram Stoker Award-nominated book.