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The Bigfoot Science Conference

Posted by: Craig Woolheater on September 8th, 2006

In mid-June the city of Pocatello, Idaho, hosted the Bigfoot Rendezvous, a conference that included a film festival, storytelling, live entertainment, an exhibit at the Idaho Museum of Natural History on how people "know" about the Sasquatch, and a symposium described as "featuring regional experts and eye-witnesses as well as nationally known figures in the search for North America’s great ape." About 100 participants attended.

Speakers included wildlife biologist John Mionczynski, who retold stories of investigating Bigfoot encounters; US Forest Service archeologist Kathy Moskowitz-Strain, who spoke on the Hairy Man pictograph; and Uganda National Parks’ former park warden, Owen Caddy, who analyzed the famous shaky Patterson-Gimlin film, allegedly of the Sasquatch.

Normally, news of a non-peer reviewed Bigfoot conference wouldn’t grace these pages. But the Bigfoot Rendezvous ran into controversy when it was billed as a "scientific symposium", in part due to its attendance by Jeffrey Meldrum, who has a PhD in physical anthropology from State University of New York at Stony Brook and is currently an associate professor at Idaho State University in Pocatello. However, local critics felt this didn’t justify a "scientific" label. Nonetheless, Meldrun thinks there’s something to alleged Bigfoot footprints.

"In 1996, I was shown some [Bigfoot] tracks outside of Walla Walla in Washington," says Meldrum, "and I literally got knocked back on my heels." Meldrum says he became convinced the tracks were "living" and bear resemblance to primate foot anatomy. He has been collecting similar tracks ever since, racking up a collection of about 200 examples. It was because of this work that Meldrum was invited to speak at the Bigfoot Rendezvous, an otherwise amateur conference, as its only appointed academic.

Meldrum says the museum exhibit seemed the most popular part of the conference. Meldrum’s high point was a panel of Native Americans from the Shoshone-Bannock tribes, which shared their cultural insights on the Bigfoot. Plus, "there where costumes, funny movies, and all sort of Bigfoot paraphernalia," says Meldrum.

The conference also sparked a controversy. For Martin Hackworth, a senior lecturer in the physics department at Idaho State University who was asked to help the museum put together its exhibit, Meldrum’s presence at the Bigfoot Rendezvous didn’t turn it into a scientific conference. Hackworth, who writes an anti-junk science column for the local newspaper, emerged as the leading critic of the scientific aspirations of the event. "I originally wrote a letter to the local newspaper saying I think a Bigfoot conference is fine … but that it can’t be billed as a scientific conference," says Hackworth. "This started a furor." Numerous letters were exchanged in the local newspaper, and it became quite heated, says Hackworth.

Meldrum says that although he had no control over the billing, "it was never suggested that [the Bigfoot Rendezvous] was on par with a scientific society that would put on a peer-reviewed event." Although the people invited to speak had professional credentials, Meldrum admits that he wouldn’t call all the talks scientific and that some put forth far-out ideas. "This is an aspect of the Bigfoot phenomenon that is unavoidable," he says. But, Meldrum adds that he doesn’t think science needs to be carried out by a PhD. To him, "science is just one way of knowing." As might be expected, Hackworth disagrees.

Meldrum is now getting ready to head back into the field in Wyoming. He says this fieldwork, which he hopes will find some evidence of Bigfoot, is funded from a private backer he’d identify only as "an academic who is the custodian of a private fund."

Hackworth is happy to take a critical look at any data that may arise. He adds that the controversy over the scientific billing of the Bigfoot Rendezvous was a little unfortunate, in light of his belief in academic freedom. "I particularly think its ok for people that I really disagree with to be involved with these things," he says, "but, while it’s not a physical improbability that Bigfoot exists, it’s a pretty low order of magnitude and in science I think that is how we do business."

Source: The Scientist

Your humble scribe attended the event. It was covered here on Cryptomundo. It was advertised as a scientific symposium, and there were scientists speaking at this event. I don’t know if that qualifies as a scientific sysmposium or not.

Craig Woolheater – has written 2523 posts on this site.
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.


6 Responses to “The Bigfoot Science Conference”

  1. Loren Coleman responds:

    Unfortunately what is being left out of this reexamination of the events by the paper are all the difficulties that Professor Hackworth caused. This media flashback has ignored some important details.

    For example,

    1) Hackwork is a professor in the physics department. He knows nothing about Bigfoot.

    2) His actions caused the university to withdraw materials on the Skookum cast from their website.

    3) He used ridicule and stupid remarks to dismiss the meeting, to wit, saying:

    “If one wishes to believe in the highly unlikely existence of a tall, hairy, anthrophobic hominid that dines on luminiferous ether, produces no confirmed scat or sign, poses only for grainy 8 mm films (in which it sometimes is seen sporting a belt buckle) and buries itself after it dies, I say knock yourself out. I think it’s fine that Brandon Tennant has the energy and zeal to organize an event which I think will be a economic boon for the community. No one is forcing anyone to attend, and it’s way better than a casino as a mechanism for extracting money from willing volunteers. Bigfoot, Yeti, Sasquatch, et. al. are interesting from a mythological point of view and downright funny as a sociological phenomenon, but what little in the line of science that has been offered up by the Bigfoot community in support of this creature is so poorly done as to be inadvertently humorous. The balanced ‘scientific’ view of Bigfoot is that this creature simply does not exist. ”

    One only needs to examine Hackworth’s comments about ether, no scat, and belt buckles to see he just doesn’t know what he’s talking about.

    If I had the chance, from one ex-professor to another whom I hope retires soon, I would tell him: “Frankly, Professor Hackworth, you should be ashamed of yourself and what you said.”

  2. planettom responds:

    Conference, Symposium, Science or Scientific Symposium or Conference, they are all pretty much inter-changeable. It matters only slightly who the speakers were and the topic, and since it appears that science was a topic and discussed amongst a scientific and lay crowd, I think it qualifies as being called a “scientific conference”. I believe it to be a simple matter of opinion.

  3. Ole Bub responds:

    Thanks Craig, for the Idaho update….

    I doubt there will be much agreement amongst the ivory tower folks…til an over the road trucker named…Bubba drags a roadkilled carcass in…JMHO

    A question for Jim Mioncynzski…When the Big Man was just beyond your campfire’s light…tossing pine cones….did you toss any of them back?

    Dr. Jeff Meldrum…appears to be an articulate spokesman for scientific inquiry and research of the Big Folks…I wish him all the best.

    seeing is believing…

    ole bub and the dawgs

  4. Sunrise responds:

    Too many reports of sightings to invalidate bigfoot. Are all sightings by wackos? Listen to this.

    One early morning in the spring of 1999 I was passing through Skamania County, WA, adjacent to the Columbia River. I was enroute to Klickitat County to go turkey hunting. I observed a dark colored animal by the side of the road on my left side. I slowed my vehicle and observed something I did not expect to see. I had expected to see either a bear or dog but as I passed by I clearly saw an ape-like animal no longer crouching by the side of the road but standing on two feet. It was not a bear. It was about 4 and 1/2 feet tall now walking away on two legs. I came to a stop and turned around but the animal had disappeared into the underbrush. I watched from my vehicle for about 15 minutes but the animal never reappeared. I choose not to thrash around in the brush looking for it because about ten years prior I had a 30 minute stand off between myself and an Alaskan brown bear sow and her cubs that ended peacefully but was not alot of fun.

    I never reported it because I had no proof and wished to avoid the wacko label. I know what I saw that morning was some type of ape-like creature. I believe it to be an immature bigfoot. Everytime I pass the spot I reiterate my sighting to my passengers and the response is always the same. Unbelievers! I am willing to bet that only about one in ten sightings are ever reported. That’s a lot of sightings and believers that are out there.

  5. kittenz responds:

    I am very skeptical about Bigfoot sightings, and I think it’s very odd than no Bigfoot bodies or skeletons have ever been found, or at least none have been found and scientifically examined & reported. But I keep an open mind, because even though 99% of sightings are easily explained, there are some very credible accounts that cannot be explained away so easily.

    I saw something, late one night along the Mountain Parkway in eastern Kentucky. I was driving east from Lexington to Pikeville, about 2am, and near the Red River Gorge area at Slade, SOMETHING came out of the underbrush on the other side of the highway, across the median. I only caught a glimpse because I was driving at highway speed. It was very dark, and when I first glimpsed the movement I thought it was a deer, but it was not a deer. Whatever the animal was, it was a dark color. I got the distinct impression of something on two legs, running. I was past it in an instant, but it was very odd. It wasn’t a person, and I thought it would be very unlikely that it was a bear but I suppose it is possible, but bears don’t usually run on two legs. Whatever it was, its eyes gleamed, and it seemed to be about as tall as a person or maybe a little taller. My mind was shouting “Werewolf” but that was just because it gave that impression. I turned to my son who was riding with me, but he had fallen asleep & did not see it. I don’t know what it was. Maybe it WAS a bear. I just don’t know.

    That was about three years ago. Every time I drive that road now, especially at night, I watch for it, but I haven’t seen anything since then except deer and a coyote.

  6. Jeremy_Wells responds:

    kittenz,

    What time of year was it?

    Not that I doubt you saw something, as I know that part of the country, but if it were me seeing that around this time of year or a little later I’d be inclined to think “late night marijuana harvesting” (or stealing someone else’s crop).

    That said the same characteristics that make that area good for growing Kentucky’s number 1 cash crop (remote, not easily accessible, highly forested) would also make it good habitat for BF to hide.

    With that parkway there aren’t really too many on and off ramps outside of towns, so it isn’t likely it would be a person out there unless they were up to something illicit.

    Interesting story. Thanks for sharing.



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