Evaluating Bigfoot Evidence

Posted by: Craig Woolheater on February 8th, 2007

Ben Radford, managing editor of Skeptical Inquirer and resident skeptic of all things cryptozoological in nature, has given me permission to repost his article entitled Bigfoot at 50 here on Cryptomundo.

It is a lengthy article, so I have posted excerpts here. The article can read in its entirety at the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry website.

Bigfoot at 50

Evaluating a Half-Century of Bigfoot Evidence

The question of Bigfoot’s existence comes down to the claim that “Where there’s smoke there’s fire.” The evidence suggests that there are enough sources of error that there does not have to be a hidden creature lurking amid the unsubstantiated cases.

Benjamin Radford

Though sightings of the North American Bigfoot date back to the 1830s (Bord 1982), interest in Bigfoot grew rapidly during the second half of the twentieth century. This was spurred on by many magazine articles of the time, most seminally a December 1959 True magazine article describing the discovery of large, mysterious footprints the year before in Bluff Creek, California.

A half century later, the question of Bigfoot’s existence remains open. Bigfoot is still sought, the pursuit kept alive by a steady stream of sightings, occasional photos or footprint finds, and sporadic media coverage. But what evidence has been gathered over the course of fifty years? And what conclusions can we draw from that evidence?

Most Bigfoot investigators favor one theory of Bigfoot’s origin or existence and stake their reputations on it, sniping at others who don’t share their views. Many times, what one investigator sees as clear evidence of Bigfoot another will dismiss out of hand. In July 2000, curious tracks were found on the Lower Hoh Indian Reservation in Washington state. Bigfoot tracker Cliff Crook claimed that the footprints were “for sure a Bigfoot,” though Jeffrey Meldrum, an associate professor of biological sciences at Idaho State University (and member of the Bigfoot Field Research Organization, BFRO) decided that there was not enough evidence to pursue the matter (Big Disagreement Afoot 2000). A set of tracks found in Oregon’s Blue Mountains have also been the source of controversy within the community. Grover Krantz maintains that they constitute among the best evidence for Bigfoot, yet longtime researcher Rene Dahinden claimed that “any village idiot can see [they] are fake, one hundred percent fake” (Dennett 1994).

And while many Bigfoot researchers stand by the famous 16 mm Patterson film (showing a large manlike creature crossing a clearing) as genuine (including Dahinden, who shared the film’s copyright), others including Crook join skeptics in calling it a hoax. In 1999, Crook found what he claims is evidence in the film of a bell-shaped fastener on the hip of the alleged Bigfoot, evidence that he suggests may be holding the ape costume in place (Dahinden claimed the object is matted feces) (Hubbell 1999).

Regardless of which theories researchers subscribe to, the question of Bigfoot’s existence comes down to evidence- and there is plenty of it. Indeed, there are reams of documents about Bigfoot-filing cabinets overflowing with thousands of sighting reports, analyses, and theories. Photographs have been taken of everything from the alleged creature to odd tracks left in snow to twisted branches. Collections exist of dozens or hundreds of footprint casts from all over North America. There is indeed no shortage of evidence.

The important criterion, however, is not the quantity of the evidence, but the quality of it. Lots of poor quality evidence does not add up to strong evidence, just as many cups of weak coffee cannot be combined into a strong cup of coffee.

Bigfoot evidence can be broken down into four general types: eyewitness sightings, footprints, recordings, and somatic samples (hair, blood, etc.). Some researchers (notably Loren Coleman 1999) also place substantial emphasis on folklore and indigenous legends. The theories and controversies within each category are too complex and detailed to go into here. I present merely a brief overview and short discussion of each; anyone interested in the details is encouraged to look further.

1. Eyewitness Accounts

Eyewitness accounts and anecdotes comprise the bulk of Bigfoot evidence. This sort of evidence is also the weakest. Lawyers, judges, and psychologists are well aware that eyewitness testimony is notoriously unreliable. As Ben Roesch, editor of The Cryptozoological Review, noted in an article in Fortean Times, “Cryptozoology is based largely on anecdotal evidence… [W]hile physical phenomena can be tested and systematically evaluated by science, anecdotes cannot, as they are neither physical nor regulated in content or form. Because of this, anecdotes are not reproducible, and are thus untestable; since they cannot be tested, they are not falsifiable and are not part of the scientific process… Also, reports usually take place in uncontrolled settings and are made by untrained, varied observers. People are generally poor eyewitnesses, and can mistake known animals for supposed cryptids [unknown animals] or poorly recall details of their sighting… Simply put, eyewitness testimony is poor evidence” (Roesch 2001).

Bigfoot investigators acknowledge that lay eyewitnesses can be mistaken, but counter that expert testimony should be given much more weight. Consider Coleman’s (1999) passage reflecting on expert eyewitness testimony: “[E]ven those scientists who have seen the creatures with their own eyes have been reluctant to come to terms with their observations in a scientific manner.” As an example he gives the account of “mycologist Gary Samuels” and his brief sighting of a large primate in the forest of Guyana. The implication is that this exacting man of science accurately observed, recalled, and reported his experience. And he may have. But Samuels is a scientific expert on tiny fungi that grow on wood. His expertise is botany, not identifying large primates in poor conditions. Anyone, degreed or not, can be mistaken.

2. Footprints

Bigfoot tracks are the most recognizable evidence; of course, the animal’s very name came from the size of the footprints it leaves behind. Unlike sightings, they are physical evidence: something (known animal, Bigfoot, or man) left the tracks. The real question is what the tracks are evidence of. In many cases, the answer is clear: they are evidence of hoaxing.

Contrary to many Bigfoot enthusiasts’ claims, Bigfoot tracks are not particularly consistent and show a wide range of variation (Dennett 1996). Some tracks have toes that are aligned, others show splayed toes. Most alleged Bigfoot tracks have five toes, but some casts show creatures with two, three, four, or even six toes. Surely all these tracks can’t come from the same unknown creature, or even species of creatures.

3. Recordings

The Patterson Film

The most famous recording of an alleged Bigfoot is the short 16 mm film taken in 1967 by Roger Patterson and Bob Gimlin. Shot in Bluff Creek, California, it shows a Bigfoot striding through a clearing. In many ways the veracity of the Patterson film is crucial, because the casts made from those tracks are as close to a gold standard as one finds in cryptozoology. Many in the Bigfoot community are adamant that the film is not-and, more important-cannot be a hoax. The question of whether the film is in fact a hoax or not is still open, but the claim that the film could not have been faked is demonstrably false.

Grover Krantz, for example, admits that the size of the creature in the film is well within human limits, but argues that the chest width is impossibly large to be human. “I can confidently state that no man of that stature is built that broadly,” he claims (Krantz 1992, 118). This assertion was examined by two anthropologists, David Daegling and Daniel Schmitt (1999), who cite anthropometric literature showing the “impossibly wide” chest is in fact within normal human variation. They also disprove claims that the Patterson creature walks in a manner impossible for a person to duplicate.

The film is suspect for a number of reasons. First, Patterson told people he was going out with the express purpose of capturing a Bigfoot on camera. In the intervening thirty-five years (and despite dramatic advances in technology and wide distribution of handheld camcorders), thousands of people have gone in search of Bigfoot and come back empty-handed (or with little but fuzzy photos). Second, a known Bigfoot track hoaxer claimed to have told Patterson exactly where to go to see the Bigfoot on that day (Dennett 1996). Third, Patterson made quite a profit from the film, including publicity for a book he had written on the subject and an organization he had started.

4. Somatic Samples

Hair and blood samples have been recovered from alleged Bigfoot encounters. As with all the other evidence, the results are remarkable for their inconclusiveness. When a definite conclusion has been reached, the samples have invariably turned out to have prosaic sources-“Bigfoot hair” turns out to be elk, bear, or cow hair, for example, or suspected “Bigfoot blood” is revealed to be transmission fluid. Even advances in genetic technology have proven fruitless. Contrary to popular belief, DNA cannot be derived from hair samples alone; the root (or some blood) must be available.

Hoaxes, the Gold Standard, and the Problem of Experts

Such hoaxes have permanently and irreparably contaminated Bigfoot research. Skeptics have long pointed this out, and many Bigfoot researchers freely admit that their field is rife with fraud. This highlights a basic problem underlying all Bigfoot research: the lack of a standard measure. For example, we know what a bear track looks like; if we find a track that we suspect was left by a bear, we can compare it to one we know was left by a bear. But there are no undisputed Bigfoot specimens by which to compare new evidence. New Bigfoot tracks that don’t look like older samples are generally not taken as proof that one (or both) sets are fakes, but instead that the new tracks are simply from a different Bigfoot, or from a different species or family. This unscientific lack of falsifiability plagues other areas of Bigfoot research as well.

Bigfoot print hoaxing is a time-honored cottage industry. Dozens of people have admitted making Bigfoot prints. One man, Rant Mullens, revealed in 1982 that he and friends had carved giant Bigfoot tracks and used them to fake footprints as far back as 1930 (Dennett 1996). In modern times it is easier to get Bigfoot tracks. With the advent of the World Wide Web and online auctions, anyone in the world can buy a cast of an alleged Bigfoot print and presumably make tracks that would very closely match tracks accepted by some as authentic.

What we have, then, are new tracks, hairs, and other evidence being compared to known hoaxed tracks, hairs, etc. as well as possibly hoaxed tracks, hairs, etc. With sparse hard evidence to go on and no good standard by which to judge new evidence, it is little wonder that the field is in disarray and has trouble proving its theories. In one case, Krantz claimed as one of the gold standards of Bigfoot tracks a print that “passed all my criteria, published and private, that distinguishes sasquatch tracks from human tracks and from fakes” (Krantz 1992). He further agreed that it had all the signs of a living foot, and that no human foot could have made the imprint. Michael R. Dennett, investigating for the Skeptical Inquirer, tracked down the anonymous construction worker who supplied the Bigfoot print. The man admitted faking the tracks himself to see if Krantz could really detect a fake (Dennett 1994).

Smoke and Fire

Bigfoot researchers readily admit that many sightings are misidentifications of normal animals, while others are downright hoaxes. Diane Stocking, a curator for the BFRO, concedes that about 70 percent of sightings turn out to be hoaxes or mistakes (Jasper 2000); Loren Coleman puts the figure even higher, at at least 80 percent (Klosterman 1999). The remaining sightings, that small portion of reports that can’t be explained away, intrigue researchers and keep the pursuit active. The issue is then essentially turned into the claim that “Where there’s smoke there’s fire.”

But is that really true? Does the dictum genuinely hold that, given the mountains of claims and evidence, there must be some validity to the claims? I propose not; the evidence suggests that there are enough sources of error (bad data, flawed methodological assumptions, mistaken identifications, poor memory recall, hoaxing, etc.) that there does not have to be (nor is likely to be) a hidden creature lurking amid the unsubstantiated cases.

The claim also has several inherent assumptions, including the notion that the unsolved claims (or sightings) are qualitatively different from the solved ones. But paranormal research and cryptozoology are littered with cases that were deemed irrefutable evidence of the paranormal, only to fall apart upon further investigation or hoaxer confessions. There will always be cases in which there simply is not enough evidence to prove something one way or the other. To use an analogy borrowed from investigator Joe Nickell, just because a small percentage of homicides remain unsolved doesn’t mean that we invoke a “homicide gremlin”-appearing out of thin air to take victims’ lives-to explain the unsolved crimes. It is not that such cases are unexplainable using known science, just that not enough (naturalistic) information is available to make a final determination.

A lack of information (or negative evidence) cannot be used as positive evidence for a claim. To do so is to engage in the logical fallacy of arguing from ignorance: We don’t know what left the tracks or what the witnesses saw, therefore it must have been Bigfoot. Many Bigfoot sightings report “something big, dark, and hairy.” But Bigfoot is not the only (alleged) creature that matches that vague description.

The Future for Bigfoot

Ultimately, the biggest problem with the argument for the existence of Bigfoot is that no bones or bodies have been discovered. This is really the 800-pound Bigfoot on the researchers’ backs, and no matter how they explain away the lack of other types of evidence, the simple fact remains that, unlike nearly every other serious “scientific” pursuit, they can’t point to a live or dead sample of what they’re studying. If the Bigfoot creatures across the United States are really out there, then each passing day should be one day closer to their discovery. The story we’re being asked to believe is that thousands of giant, hairy, mysterious creatures are constantly eluding capture and discovery and have for a century or more. At some point, a Bigfoot’s luck must run out: one out of the thousands must wander onto a freeway and get killed by a car, or get shot by a hunter, or die of natural causes and be discovered by a hiker. Each passing week and month and year and decade that go by without definite proof of the existence of Bigfoot make its existence less and less likely.

On the other hand, if Bigfoot is instead a self-perpetuating phenomenon with no genuine creature at its core, the stories, sightings, and legends will likely continue unabated for centuries. In this case the believers will have all the evidence they need to keep searching-some of it provided by hoaxers, others perhaps by honest mistakes, all liberally basted with wishful thinking. Either way it’s a fascinating topic. If Bigfoot exist, then the mystery will be solved; if they don’t exist, the mystery will endure. So far it has endured for at least half a century.

Skeptical Inquirer Bigfoot

Cover image of Skeptical Inquirer

There are several other articles of cryptozoological interest in the same issue.

There is an article entitled Cripplefoot Hobbled by David J. Daegling.

Evidence for Bigfoot gains credibility when the possibility of human fabrication can be ruled out. The trackways of a crippled Sasquatch are said to provide such a compelling case, but examination of this claim suggests that hoaxing the footprints may have been a fairly manageable endeavor.

There is also the ‘Mothman’ Solved! article by Joe Nickell.

This may be more giant owl talk by Mr. Nickell.

The issue is available to order at Committee for Skeptical Inquiry website. Click on the cover image aboe to go to the website and purchase your very own copy.

About Craig Woolheater
Co-founder of Cryptomundo in 2005. I have appeared in or contributed to the following TV programs, documentaries and films: OLN's Mysterious Encounters: "Caddo Critter", Southern Fried Bigfoot, Travel Channel's Weird Travels: "Bigfoot", History Channel's MonsterQuest: "Swamp Stalker", The Wild Man of the Navidad, Destination America's Monsters and Mysteries in America: Texas Terror - Lake Worth Monster, Animal Planet's Finding Bigfoot: Return to Boggy Creek and Beast of the Bayou.

72 Responses to “Evaluating Bigfoot Evidence”

  1. Kathy Strain responds:

    Hey DWA – first off, I’m not a cryptozoologist, I’m an anthropologist, so I try to view things through the scientific lens first. I didn’t see anything in that article that dismissed any of my own work in the field, with Native Americans, witnesses that I work with, my own experiences, nor my own husband’s sighting.

    What he is stating is that witnesses can be wrong (which is true); films can be faked (which they can, as you will note with the Kentucky video); footprint aren’t as consistent as you would expect; and other evidence (DNA/hair) never results in anything solid. All that is true. If any one of these elements were strong, we wouldn’t be here debating it. I personally feel very strongly about the Patterson/Gimlin film, but again, even with the enormous amount of analysis completed on the film, it isn’t enough to prove the animals existence to those that hold the keys.

    I know that bigfoot exists because of my own experiences and my husband’s sighting, but while Ben may think I’m the cat’s meow (he does, right??), I know of no species that has been accepted by witness statements alone…and thank god too or else we’d have a whole bunch of false species out there (without getting political, think for a moment about the weight of that statement and the consequences if such were true on National Forests, Everglades, etc.).

  2. Kathy Strain responds:

    Oh, what I should also note is that the burden of proof is on us. Therefore we need to get about the task of ridding ourselves of those that taint the swimming pool and start obtaining evidence that is irrefutable. That’s what I’m concentrating on!

  3. DWA responds:

    Kathy: much to respond to here.

    You say: I didn’t see anything in that article that dismissed any of my own work in the field, with Native Americans, witnesses that I work with, my own experiences, nor my own husband’s sighting.

    I say: Ben dismisses sightings, period, out of hand. Your husband’s included. He calls sightings…well, let’s let him do it:

    Eyewitness accounts and anecdotes comprise the bulk of Bigfoot evidence. This sort of evidence is also the weakest. Lawyers, judges, and psychologists are well aware that eyewitness testimony is notoriously unreliable. As Ben Roesch, editor of The Cryptozoological Review, noted in an article in Fortean Times, “Cryptozoology is based largely on anecdotal evidence… [W]hile physical phenomena can be tested and systematically evaluated by science, anecdotes cannot, as they are neither physical nor regulated in content or form. Because of this, anecdotes are not reproducible, and are thus untestable; since they cannot be tested, they are not falsifiable and are not part of the scientific process… Also, reports usually take place in uncontrolled settings and are made by untrained, varied observers. People are generally poor eyewitnesses, and can mistake known animals for supposed cryptids [unknown animals] or poorly recall details of their sighting… Simply put, eyewitness testimony is poor evidence” (Roesch 2001).


    Well, just because it’s in the Fortean Times doesn’t make it right. Sightings are at the very heart of the scientific process; there can be no science without them.

    To condemn sightings as poor evidence is both to misunderstand what evidence is and to leave science with nothing with which to work. That anecdotes cannot be tested is irrelevant; one does not test the sighting, but rather the proposition that the sighting places before one, e.g., 500 eyewitnesses to an animal in Liberty County places before one the proposition that this animal can be found there, which IS testable.

    “[Anecdotes] are not part of the scientific process…” Come again? Science is anecdotes, backed by advanced degrees. A peer-reviewed paper is a string of anecdotes; we take them for what they are based on faith, really – the faith that the science involved polices its own, and that the scientists involved have the degrees they claim they do and honestly conducted their tests and reported their observations. (And had their work peer-reviewed.) In other words, we presume the honesty of the process. Some of this information is independently verifiable. (And even in that case, in the end you are taking someone’s word for what you’re looking at. Unless you wrote it.) But most of it was the scientists, doing their work, unobserved by the people later reviewing the evidence of the work. We’ve seen more than enough examples of phony research that this can rest without further discussion. Sightings are, in fact, so integrated with science as to be indistinguishable from it. Science IS sightings; we could have no science without them. That scientific evidence and lay sightings of an undocumented animal are different goes without saying. But one never gets the former until the latter happens. If we are waiting for qualified scientists to see a sasquatch before acting on it — well, we have been waiting a very long time.

    A distinction is made between evidence and proof for a reason; the former cannot stand as proof by itself, but needs support. An eyewitness accusation in a murder case can’t convict by itself; nor can five eyewitnesses or even ten. But with a hundred or a thousand, most of us would vote to convict. And the lawyers themselves never dismiss such evidence – indeed, they depend upon it and place it foremost among the points of their case if available – unless other factors (physical/psychological impairment; poor lighting or viewing conditions; likelihood of witness bias; witness history of unreliability) make the validity of the witness’s testimony unreliable. If eyewitness testimony were THAT unreliable, no one would allow it to even be admitted into testimony. If people were generally poor eyewitnesses, their testimony as eyewitnesses would never be called for. On the points for which one seeks substantiation, people are generally good enough, with appropriate caveats. Which caveats are why lawyers back up eyewitness claims with other evidence. There is no lawyer or police officer in the country – in the world – whose ears will not prick up, or whose heart rate will not rise substantially, at the words, we have an eyewitness. It isn’t proof. But boy does it open doors to evidence. “The defendant was seen leaving the scene five minutes after the murder was committed” poses huge problems for the defense. Just those words. If we have a reliable witness, those problems multiply exponentially. It’s not proof. But it is BIG trouble. Or, if the lawyers really believe their client is innocent, maybe it’s good news. Either way, it’s big. Because it potentially – this point is critical – points the way to where proof might lie.

    Although the above “other factors,” and more, undoubtedly apply in numerous sasquatch sightings – as also does dishonesty, with most sighting reports to Bigfoot websites being summarily dismissed as pranks or otherwise unsubstantiable – a significant number of sightings appear to involve sober witnesses, of significant community standing and therefore endangerable reputation, of considerable experience in the outdoors and employed either for work or recreation in activities requiring accuracy of perception and unquestioned integrity. Airline pilots, lawyers, doctors, nurses, hunters, psychologists and scientists – the entire spectrum of American occupations, in fact – are among those who have submitted detailed sasquatch sighting reports. Anyone going to a website with numerous sighting reports will be struck at how few of the reports leave a scrap of doubt as to the likelihood that the witness saw anything but what is being reported – a large, hairy, manlike biped, but not a man, and corresponding to no other animal of which the person is aware.

    Is it possible that they’re mistaken? Sure. Is it possible that they’re accomplished liars with a pathological need to do this? Sure. Is it possible that this was a guy in an ape suit? Sure. That all of these combine to explain every one – or even a significant portion – of the sighting reports I have read? That is a big stretch. To advance it as a reason to discount sighting reports out of hand smacks very strongly of intellectual laziness. It also largely bespeaks extreme unfamiliarity with just how difficult it would be for hoaxers to consistently pull this off in the field. Anyone who has ever worn an ape suit – or has heard a description of the ordeal from someone who has – can relate. Report after report after report depicts an animal that moves with extraordinary speed, athleticism, grace and agility – an animal that astounded the observer with these qualities. None of which qualities I – or you – have ever witnessed in a man wearing an ape suit. Many of the actions described in many sighting reports – running at speeds up to 40 mph; jumps of remarkable distance; graceful movement by an animal that melted from sight – something that almost anyone who has tracked a big wild animal has experienced at least once – would more than likely lead to uproarious laughter (and a very, VERY humorous sighting report by a still-chuckling witness) if they had been attempted by a man in a suit. The Patterson-Gimlin figure moves along a river bar, terrain that anyone who’s done it more than once, particularly carrying a large load, knows is much harder than one would think who has never done it. One thing is certain about the P/G figure: if this is a man in a suit, he is carrying a very large load indeed, one that partially obstructs his breathing and his vision and weighs down his arms and legs. Yet I’ve never seen a person walking a sidewalk to a grocery store whose movement looks more nonchalant. The animal never once even looks down to see where its feet are going. No ape suit I am aware of from the 1960s would have allowed the person in it this kind of movement, even on take 100 of the shoot. If the hoaxers perfected one, they could have made millions in Hollywood. In this context, does hoaxing Patterson and Gimlin – in an area very difficult to reach with the required gear – then vanishing into the mists, taking no credit for the accomplishment, make any sense at all? Someone with a lot of money and many confederates – all of them too dumb to understand how much more money they could be missing out on – could, I suppose, be irrational enough to do this. (Howard Hughes, for example, was more than crazy enough. Emphasis on crazy.) Is this the way to bet? Of course, no one who has taken credit for the P/G hoax has been able to defend the assertion. What’s best to focus on here is that they all had a buck to make, and 15 minutes of fame to cash in on, simply by making the assertion.

    But I stray from the topic.

    In sum: to dismiss sightings as poor evidence is to leave out some of the most compelling evidence. They must be treated with care; they cannot stand as proof, must always be supported by other evidence, and are at best a pointer in the direction to follow; but science frequently begins with a sighting by a layman. It is simply not rational to believe that the sasquatch’s existence is ever likely to be documented – even if it does indeed exist – if sightings are simply dismissed as bad evidence. The record of dealing with film, tracks and other similar evidence over the past half-century should be enough to indicate that the time has long since passed for another approach. That approach will simply never happen if sightings are simply excluded from the process of verification.

    I will ask one more question. Mr. Radford has said that he doesn’t dismiss sightings. What, exactly, then, is it that he proposes be done with them? The simple answer is clear from this article: nothing. In plain English, “dismiss” is what he proposes to do with them. This is why skeptics like to spend so much time on footprint analysis – an irrational choice indeed, as the skeptics themselves make the point that comparing footprints leads nowhere without a holotype to give a type footprint validity. Logic dictates that skeptics should give shorter shrift to footprints than they do to sightings – but again, logic tends to leave the premises when skeptics (and mainstream scientists) are discussing the sasquatch.

    I will give one additional tidbit to chew on: given that sightings are poor evidence, is it or is it not a good idea for all of us – all of us who can see, that is – to do what we do? Which is: to act upon sightings, every day in virtually every act of our lives? Just asking. But I think Oscar Wilde put it best: it is a shallow man indeed who does not judge by appearances.

    In a pretty analogous case, the gorilla came to the attention of the Western world because explorers, deciding maybe the animal wasn’t such a fantastic notion after all, followed up the eyewitness testimony of locals. What’s the difference here?

    OK, that went on too long. But Ben definitely does not think a single thing can be done with sighting reports. This can be deduced simply from his not proposing anything to do with them but call them unreliable.

    Because a witness can be wrong, should we just assume they all are? That’s tantamount to the approach Ben is suggesting. Seems odd to continue fighting over footprints when we could just set up field studies in places where databases show concentrations of sighting reports and trackways that appear to be of good quality.

    That’s what Patterson and Gimlin did.

    One word: Bingo.

    Another thing. Wanna bet that if an expedition funded by something like the World Wildlife Fund or National Geographic or the American Museum of Natural History had come back with the film instead of Patterson and Gimlin, we wouldn’t be having this conversation, but instead wondering whether the six recognized species of sasquatch should all be one species?

    Quite possible. It DOES matter who brings back evidence. But you don’t toss that much bath water without sifting for babies.

    One more thing. As I and at least one other person here have said, the burden of proof is not on us. At least not just on us. That gives the so-called skeptics the pass of sitting on their hands and waiting to cherry-pick from the evidence presented – instead of explaining their outlandish thesis that this is all a concoction.

    Which the burden is on THEM to do. Proponents have provided tons of evidence. Skeptics have to REFUTE it. This they have failed to do.

    So far, I’ve got proponents running on tons of evidence – and…well, they’re not skeptics, they’re True Believers in Nonexistence. Because they’re running on empty when it comes to evidence to back their claims.

  4. sasquatch responds:

    My Grandfather said he saw a mountain lion run across the dirt road he’d take his morning walks on in N. California. NO ONE in our family said; Are you sure it wasn’t a deer or a dog? So, when someone says they saw a bigfoot why do people ALWAYS say; are you sure you didn’t see a bear or a moose? I think people are generally trustworthy in reporting what they see,-it’s just the subject matter that suddenly makes people say the witness is “unreliable”. This talk is laughable to me. I saw a bald eagle flying over the Platte River in Englewood Colorado earlier this week. I’d never seen one before in this area. I’ve seen only a few in my life and usually in much more remote areas. When I told my co-workers, NOT ONE person called me crazy or Unreliable…Why?

  5. mystery_man responds:

    Jeez, I leave this post for a day and look at all the stuff that’s been coming out! Good posts everyone! Sasquatch, I think the reason why people didn’t call these sightings crazy is because they were of a creature that is known to exist. No matter the sightings were made in unusual places, they are still documented animals known by science. That’s why when someone says they saw, say, the Ivory Billed Woodpecker and provide a grainy photo, people will not only accept it, but scientists will actually go out and follow up on such an amazing find. I feel it is a wholly different thing when someone claims to have seen a creature that is known as opposed to a large, undiscovered hairy hominid. People end up linking these kinds of sightings with sightings of little green men and no one is willing to take it seriously. That’s one of the big biases against sightings of Bigfoot. No one is treating these sightings as they would a sighting of a bear, or a mountain lion, or a wolf, or a woodpecker. There is no objectivity and there is the tendency to write them off and it is frustrating because what if they are real? If Bigfoot is ever documented as a real animal, I think you will find people much more willing to believe you saw what you really saw.

    I think Kittenz had a good point to, that people out researching animals in the wild are relaying their own observations which in effect is witness testimony. Granted these are animals that are proven to exist but it shows you that sometimes a person’s observations can be taken at face value. It also reiterates my own veiw that witness reliability is key. If Jane Goodall said she saw a Bigfoot, would anyone be inclined to tell her that she didn’t see what she saw? Now try the same scenario with, say, Tom Biscardi. Witness reliability.

  6. mystery_man responds:

    One more thing that I also think is important to add. Even with field researchers, there is sometimes some corroboration needed especially with very suprising witnessed behavior. When it was first reported that chimps actually would sometimes kill animals and eat meat, people thought it was crazy. I beleive it was the same with the use of tools and whatnot. Then you get a field study going to get repeated observations or some other primatologists out reporting the same thing and it becomes more of an established fact. But still, we are relying a good deal on a person’s observations to lead to the evidence.

  7. JJohnson1 responds:

    I think there is some huge misunderstandings here. No one is saying that eyewitness reports have no value, but as Kathy and Ben have said, they do not constitute proof. Even if the President of the United States saw a bigfoot, the USF&WS wouldn’t make it a species.

    What I think you are all meaning to say is that due to the amount of sightings by very credible people, the government should fund a formal study like they would for any other species, but they don’t, and it’s clearly due to a bias.

  8. DWA responds:

    shill: sightings as science: basically accurate.

    Every procedure you describe is being performed in significant part by eyes. Right? It’s just that – as you note – we bring in more witnesses, and we make sure they’re qualified to verify.

    No matter what you say, it’s gonna be somebody following up to SEE what was done and corroborate, by SEEING it, that we have valid observations. That’s how you remove the bias of the INDIVIDUAL witness.

    Where Ben wants to stop this process is by not even dealing with the bias of the individual witness. Just presume he’s loony or honestly mistaken, no matter the circumstances. Let’s keep looking at footprints and hair. For which we have no type animal as a model yet, so how can we confirm them as real or fake or misidentified? If Ben truly believes we should just wait until a sas decides to spend the night in the back of some hillbilly’s truck, he should just say so. But he can’t say there’s not plenty of data out there to pique science’s interest. Jane Goodall and George Schaller are proof positive of that.

    You say: “Eyewitnesses in court remembering things is different than remembering details when you are surprised, have little light, time, distractions, or a far distance, etc.”

    I say: Read sighting reports. Many people (unless we just want to presume they’re lying) kept their cool and stayed in place to watch the animal, in excellent light, for an extended period. (Several actually stalked or followed an animal that didn’t know they were there.) These people got some of the most detailed descriptions of an animal you will ever read; there is not a question of what they, OK, think they saw.

    You say: “Sadly, violent crime victims frequently misidentify their attacker as proved later by DNA tests. I know if I saw some large hairy thing in the woods, I’d be too truly scared, and have hightailed it out too fast, to rely on what I’ve observed. Emotions count during observations. I recommend “Eyewitness Testimony” by E. Loftus (1996)”.

    I say: Thanks. But, when I’m done the book, I’m still going to think: are we going to follow up on these sightings, or just lump all these people in the “incompetent observer” bin? (But hey, it might be a fun read. :-)) I WOULD, though, recommend a healthy-or-heavier dose of sighting reports to anyone spending a lot of time on observer competence. We got some competent observers. Or some flamin’ great liars. Or people – LOTS OF THEM – on drugs that I, well, WANT.

    And again, you might go nuts and run. I might too. But a lot of people didn’t, apparently. I simply can’t presume, without it being proven to me case by case, that all these folks were mistaken or lying.

    You say: “With a gorilla, the explorers said, “Hmm”, went looking, and eventually found. 30+ years of looking for this creature even with some substantial technology, and we’ve still not come much closer. (Yes, I know, he’s actively hiding from us.) There is still a lot that does not make sense but that does not allow us to assume that we jump across the chasm to “believe”. ”

    I say: I’d be the last one to jump that chasm. “Believe” is no word to use in any discussion of the sasquatch. We say “evidence” in this club. The technology has been insufficiently applied, by too few people, for too short a period. Patterson took a couple weeks with a home movie camera and a horse, and bingo!

    And he remains, to this very day, the only one that has devoted the right effort, in the right place. At the right time.

    Oh. How did he figure that out?

    He followed SIGHTING REPORTS.

  9. mystery_man responds:

    Shill, I am a little confused by your statement that eyewitnesses in court are different because “Eyewitnesses in court remembering things is different than remembering details when you are surprised, have little light, time, distractions, or a far distance, etc.” I’m sorry, but this makes no sense at all. When someone witnesses a crime, these factors are all present. How can you possibly say that they are different for a witness of a crime? That being said, court witness testimony does only go so far, however I recently read about a guy who was pretty much locked away because of one witnesses total assertion that it was him. One witness. Now, DNA has finally proven he is innocent but it goes to show that witness testimony should not be an end all, be all. As for eyewitnesses in science, I never said that sightings equals science. I said that often in the field, the path to those experiments and to the evidence starts with observations by a scientist. In these cases, the observations are accepted as a possible theory and follow up work can be done. I said field observations “leads to the evidence.”

  10. DWA responds:

    Well, I must say, we continue to get some nice posts on this thread.

    Such a refreshing change from that Revolutionary KY Bigfoot Pancake House thread. :-p

    shill: one more thing about your statement: “There is still a lot that does not make sense but that does not allow us to assume that we jump across the chasm to “believe”. ”

    What I see the so-called skeptic camp doing is jumping across a chasm just as wide – the one to “disbelieve.” And remember, we don’t use “believe” here. Not in that do-you-believe-in way. That’s for the Great Pumpkin. We’re talking about something subject to the scientific search-and-identify process here.

    Here is the true skeptic position on the sas, exhibiting all the proper earmarks of true skepticism (which is the best science):


    The pat assumption that the sasquatch is unlikely to exist simply because its evading science to this point appears improbable is an unacceptable presumption.

    Until the evidence is examined and either debunked or followed to a conclusion, there is much more evidence that this animal exists than there is that all of the evidence amounts to lie, hoax or mis-identification.


    There you go. THAT’S skepticism. THAT’S science.

    And as one can plainly see, we’ve turned science on its head when it comes to this critter. Time to put science back on the case. Time and money allowing, right, right, right….

  11. mystery_man responds:

    And JJohnson, that is one thing I think is very true and one thing I’ve been trying to say with my examples of field researchers. There is a bias at work when it comes to Bigfoot. Reliable people have seen this thing and I think we all agree that that is not enough in and of itself. But with known species or species thought to be extinct, the kind of sightings we have associated with Bigfoot would be enough for someone to take notice, put together a scientific team, and investigate further. And by investigate, I mean a formal field study that is scientifically viable and can devote the time that may be needed. And I agree with DWA that beleif is not really something that is relevant here. There is compelling witness testimony, now maybe that can be followed through to evidence, maybe not. Whether you beleive or not is not important, it is how the investigation is done, in as non biased a way as possible. Beleiving in Bigfoot, not beleiving in it, and thinking that there is a possibility for such a creature and that the sightings may lead to something are very different things in my opinion.

  12. DWA responds:

    sasquatch: when people say that extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence (which is the same to me as saying simply, claims require evidence), what you’re talking about is what they’re talking about, I think.

    In some places, maybe not so much anymore, seeing a mountain lion once rated up there with seeing a bigfoot on the have-another-drink scale. It’s just human nature. The lion and the eagle are known from the places you mention, although sightings are rare. The sas, well, isn’t. And the sas has a unique history among North American fauna in the way it’s been treated. It’s never been accepted by either science or the popular mind.

    Until that changes (and the Internet may be changing lots of minds that aren’t going public with that fact, yet), you’ll continue to have this, I think.

    JJohnson1: I think that what you’re saying is right; but I don’t think all of us are having the misunderstang. I think we all know that sightings don’t prove anything, but that following what appear to be good reports could lead to something conclusive.

    I get the feeling that some out there just don’t want that to happen; they just don’t want sighting reports followed up, period. Not sure why; but I think that’s why we keep seeing the argument that because sightings can be off, they should be presumed to be, and not followed up.

  13. springheeledjack responds:

    This has been a reallllly gooooood discussion, and I must say I am more passionate on this front than many others in case you couldn’t tell…

    I think it is important to talk about this openly and extendedly–it gives others things to think about as well as ourselves…what we believe and why…what constitutes evidence and what does not, because ultimately, it is an individual thing forged by each of us.

    Thank you and goodnight!

    SpringHeeled JAck

  14. DWA responds:

    I thought I would add the following.

    I found it on the BFRO website.

    [pause for brickbats]

    Don’t know what’s going on with the BFRO lately (and if the KY video is an indication, it is not so good). But to their credit (I think? Maybe they just stopped paying attention), their website – which I always recommend, with TBRC’s, to anyone wanting education on this topic – has remained largely intact. Whatever tangents some of their gang have gotten on do not mar what was put up on the site by people pretty competent to discuss this matter. Read.


    The use of subjective evaluation is what separates the legal perspective of witness testimony from the scientific perspective. Witness reports are considered “anecdotal evidence” by science, mainly because they are not testable. Yet many scientists are wise enough to understand that anecdotal evidence always precedes and leads to the collection of scientific evidence. In the history of science, scientific evidence has never been collected or even pursued until there has been enough anecdotal or indirect evidence at hand to merit an effort to collect the testable evidence. Thus without the collection and evaluation of anecdotal evidence or indirect evidence, there would be no scientific discoveries at all. This is the intrinsic relationship between the two types of evidence. Sighting reports by themselves are not scientific evidence, but they are what leads us to the scientific evidence. With respect to the pursuit of an unclassified species, the collecting of credible sighting reports is an essential part of the scientific process.

    Sums it up for me.

    Don’t know when this will happen. But barring dumb and undeserved luck, sightings will lead us to whatever-this-is.

  15. mystery_man responds:

    Wow, DWA, nice little excerpt! May end up quoting that at some point if you don’t mind!

  16. DWA responds:

    Hey, mystery_man, I quoted it, and it ain’t mine!

    I’d say “feel free,” but remember we now have Matt Moneymaker to contend with. He may come out with an edict that if you don’t swear to the authenticity of the KY Pancake House video, you can use nothing from the site, even with attribution.

    So, instead I’ll say….use it while you can! 😀

  17. Benjamin Radford responds:

    Finally DWA admits that he agrees with me!

    He states that the passage, which includes:

    “Sighting reports by themselves are not scientific evidence…”

    “sums it up for him”

    Excellent. Glad he finally came around to reality.

    The rest of the quote is “but they are what leads us to the scientific evidence.”

    This is of course where Bigfoot sightings have clearly failed, as they have NOT led to scientific evidence.

  18. DWA responds:


    Some people, you just wonder when they’re gonna sniff the coffee. I’ve been with the reality camp forever now. I have faith Ben will join us someday.

    But he cherrypicks, yet again, taking what he agrees with and disregarding the rest. Which of course you can’t do in science. You have to deal with all of it.

    Ben should know that Realityville, from the scientific perspective, rests in understanding that THE WHOLE PARAGRAPH APPLIES.

    Bigfoot sightings haven’t “failed.” (How does that happen? People fail, not sightings.) Indeed, they lead the way, if science would just follow.

    Which science may not because of another cool quote: “Science is not about the search for evidence. Science is about the search for funding.”

    That the money isn’t flowing that way yet doesn’t make the animal any less likely. The research? Well, yeah.

  19. DWA responds:

    And I should point out here that Ben continues to make the critical logical error of presuming that our inability to clear our schedules to look for an animal – an animal that thousands of people are stumbling across in the simple act of living their lives – means it doesn’t exist.

    Along with the critical error of not understanding the scientific method.

    But I’m sure now we’ll see another argument-from-authority post. Why, you can even hold your breath for it. 😉

  20. DWA responds:


    I see what the problem is.

    Ben really DOES cherrypick, doesn’t he.

    He says this:


    Finally DWA admits that he agrees with me!

    He states that the passage, which includes:

    “Sighting reports by themselves are not scientific evidence…”

    “sums it up for him”

    Excellent. Glad he finally came around to reality.


    On what point have I been in more consistent agreement with, I hope, everyone here, than on that point? Shoot. I PIONEERED that point.

    Of COURSE sightings are not scientific evidence, Ben. Now read the REST of the paragraph! 😀

    And reading my posts is an indispensible aid to anyone who wishes to be carved up by m…sorry, to ARGUE with me.

    I know Ben keeps hoping a sas will spend the night in some hillbilly’s truck and relieve him of the need to do any work. But we skeptics, we like to look at that evidence.

    And DO something with it.

  21. DWA responds:

    Remember this thread?

    Remember my assertion that, essentially, science is sightings, backed by degrees?

    At least a couple people seem to agree. Read this.

  22. DWA responds:

    And if you continue to pick your way through the pages at that link, you find this:


    Indians from the Columbia River region of the north-western United States produced rock carvings that resembled the heads of apes. Anthropologist Grover Krantz (1982, p. 97) showed photographs of the heads to a number of scientists and noted: “Zoologists who did not know their source unanimously declared them to be representative of nonhuman, higher primates; those who knew the source insisted they must be something else!” Whatever the carvings may actually represent, Krantz’s findings are significant. Preconceptions seem to determine what scientists are prepared to see, and one thing most scientists are definitely not prepared to see is apelike creatures in the American Northwest.


    Science is objective. But sometimes scientists aren’t.

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