The Ketchum DNA Study: One Year Later

Today marks the one-year anniversary of the release of Melba Ketchum’s Sasquatch DNA study, “Novel North American Hominins, Next Generation Sequencing of Three Whole Genomes and Associated Studies.” While some researchers have embraced her findings, many more have dismissed them, based on an insufficient grasp of the data or a neglect of the data altogether. I would like to observe this occasion by exploring several aspects of the case.

1) Month after month, many have threatened to produce evidence of some sort of “data fraud,” but after a year, no such exposé has materialized, nor has a single shred of credible evidence. The entire Ketchum study, in addition to much supplemental material, can be seen and freely downloaded at, and Dr. Ketchum has invited scientists worldwide to pore over it and offer responsible feedback. The most high-profile taker thus far has been Dr. Todd Disotell, who has built his brand over the years as a professional debunker of what he labels pseudoscience. “It’s just a joke,” he loudly proclaimed of the study, “junk science. She is a laughing stock.”

But let’s look behind the scenes. Disotell was given the opportunity to test one of the 111 samples used in the Ketchum study, a blood sample obtained by the Erickson Project at its Kentucky habituation site and provided to Disotell directly by Adrian Erickson himself. Disotell proceeded to sequence only the mitochondrial DNA (the vestige of the maternal line only), found it to be a 100% match with modern human, interpreted this result to mean that human “contamination” must be involved, and then summarily disposed of the sample without investigating the far richer territory of the nuclear DNA (which encodes the entire history of maternal and paternal genetic contributions over millennia).


a) his results only served to confirm Ketchum’s findings, the entire point of which is that Sasquatch is a surviving hybrid of an ancient pairing of human females and males of an unknown primate species; and

b) the Ketchum paper details at length the rigorous methods employed in the study to rule out contamination.

During an appearance on “The Joe Rogan Show,” Disotell admitted, “I can’t follow ¾ of that paper.” This is because, Ketchum explains, “Disotell specializes in evolution using mitochondrial DNA. He is not qualified to comment on the genomics or other disciplines in this study.”

2) It’s not hard to understand, of course, why so many in the mainstream media and the general public would accept at face value the words of a dynamic, self-assured debunker as he apparently “shoots down” a study whose implications are so profoundly challenging to conventional wisdom, so far outside our collective comfort zone. But why are so many serious Sasquatch researchers also willing to blindly accept this kind of groundless attack? Because it relieves them of having to question their deeply entrenched views on the subject. As Thomas Kuhn famously observed, “During revolutions in science the discovery of anomalies leads to a whole new paradigm that changes the rules of the game and the ‘map’ directing new research.”(The Structure of Scientific Revolutions); however, Kuhn also demonstrated the fierce tenacity with which science will cling to its outmoded paradigms even in the face of fresh, disconfirming data.

In the case of Sasquatch research, the founding fathers (such as John Green and Grover Krantz) operated under the fixed assumption that what they were dealing with was a type of ape. This paradigm has continued in force to this day, currently embodied most prominently by Dr. Jeff Meldrum, who rejects wholesale any suggestion to the contrary, especially eyewitness testimony by habituators who have actually interacted with this species and come to know their nature and intelligence first hand—not merely analyzed their feet. (250 of pages of my book, Sasquatch Rising 2013, are devoted to habituation experiences.) Matthew Moneymaker, too, holds this view; appearing on the “CBS Early Show” in 2012, he was asked, “Bigfoot, man or animal?” and answered conclusively, “Oh, animal. They’re not anything related to humans.”

Consider, then, what a vast leap is required to escape the gravity of such certainty in order to sincerely entertain the proposition that not only is Sasquatch somehow “related to humans” but moreover that when they originally arose, they were no less than half human, and that today, though much farther removed from us genetically than in that first generation, they remain a fellow member of the genus Homo and therefore our zoological next of kin.

Now add to this resistance the fact that the insiders’ club of Establishment Science is made up of academics, who naturally look down their noses at one such as Dr. Ketchum, an independent researcher, not part of any recognized institution, a “mere” veterinarian (DVM) rather than a PhD— never mind her twenty years of experience in genetic testing and her scientific papers published in peer-reviewed journals (her CV can be seen on the website). Her background in forensics, too, flies in the face of the officially sanctioned approach to evolutionary biology.

Some enjoy piling on further with ad hominem blows, a notoriously weak mode of debate, including insults to her personality and to her accounts of having now seen individual Sasquatch in person. Some also present as damning evidence her willingness to speculate upon supposedly supernatural elements of the subject. (Eclipses and lightning were once considered “supernatural” as well, until natural science expanded to incorporate them.)

Whatever one may think of any of these putative “red flags,” they all have one thing in common—their utter irrelevance to the bothersome issue of the genetic data themselves, in all their richness and consistency.

3) Speaking of which, you will not hear the detractors mentioning the two independent outside laboratories, SeqWright and Family Tree DNA, that the study employed to blindly test samples, and that corroborated Ketchum’s results 100%, even though they had not been told what organism these samples were taken from. Nor will you hear them breathe a word about the study’s nine highly credible co-authors, precisely because not one of them has come forward to repudiate the study’s methodology and results, or even to distance himself from it to the slightest degree, which would naturally be the safest professional move, given that their names and positions are now publicly associated with the study.

    Ray Shoulders, Ryan Smith—DNA Diagnostics, Nacogdoches, TX
    Patrick W. Wojtkiewicz—North Louisiana Criminalistics Laboratory, Shreveport, LA
    Aliece B. Watts—Integrated Forensic Laboratories, Inc., Euless, TX
    David W. Spence—Southwestern Institute of Forensic Sciences, Dallas, TX
    Andreas K. Holzenburg—Texas A&M University, Microscopy & Imaging Center, Department of Biology and Department of Biochemistry & Biophysics, College Station, TX
    Douglas G. Toler—Huguley Pathology Consultants, P.A., Ft. Worth, TX
    Thomas M. Prychitko—Helix Biological Laboratory, Detroit, MI
    Fan Zhang—UNT Center for Human Identification, University of North Texas Health Science Center, Fort Worth, TX

This ringing silence speaks volumes as a clear, implicit endorsement. By the same token, of course, none of the co-authors has gone on record in support of the study, though in view of its worldly reception, can you quite blame them? Bigfoot usually still equals professional suicide.

4) In closing, let us return to Dr. Disotell. In the same Joe Rogan interview, he dismissed Ketchum’s hybridization hypothesis with the sweeping assertion that human females could not possibly have reproduced with males of an unknown primate species some 15,000 years ago because “There is no evidence that another undiscovered primate was living at the time in order to mate with human females.”

My first response is to agree that yes, we are very likely to lack evidence for anything “undiscovered.” We have barely scratched the surface when it comes to learning just who was around back then, within the genus Homo. Traces of the various participants in the proto-human evolutionary sweepstakes are so sparse and patchy that each new study of ancient DNA seems, thanks to rapidly improving modes of analysis, to reveal a new player or players. As Lyall Watson has written, “The fossils that decorate our family tree are so scarce that there are still more scientists than specimens. The remarkable fact is that all of the physical evidence we have for human evolution can still be placed, with room to spare, inside a single coffin.”

My second response to Disotell’s statement is to point out that since we are now beginning to pull back the curtain more successfully on this complex prehistoric drama, a surprising history of shared DNA is emerging.

Writing for, Ewen Calloway reports that

Updated genome sequences from two extinct relatives of modern humans suggest that these “archaic” groups bred with humans and with each other more extensively than was previously known.

The ancient genomes, one from a Neanderthal and one from a member of an archaic human group called the Denisovans, were presented on 18 November [2013] at a meeting on ancient DNA at the Royal Society in London. The results suggest that interbreeding went on between the members of several ancient human-like groups in Europe and Asia more than 30,000 years ago, including an as-yet-unknown human ancestor from Asia.

“What it begins to suggest is that we’re looking at a Lord of the Rings-type world—that there were many hominid populations,” says Mark Thomas, an evolutionary geneticist at University College London.

The first published Neanderthal and Denisovan genome sequences revolutionized the study of ancient human history, not least because they showed that these groups bred with anatomically modern humans, contributing to the genetic diversity of many people alive today.

Whether or not this “as-yet-unknown human ancestor” has anything to do with Sasquatch is unclear, but the relevance for our topic is plain. Ketchum herself articulated them well on her Facebook page:

After reading the new Nature article about humans cross-breeding with other hominins, I just can’t understand why there is such an aversion to our study. Our findings are just like for humans with a percentage of Neanderthal DNA, only they show the novel Sasquatch DNA to be predominant in the genomes, with the human component being the lesser contributor. In other words, Sasquatch are Sasquatch, with a little human remaining in them from the original crossbreeding long ago. It is really simple to understand.

Ketchum’s critics, especially Drs. Disotell and Meldrum, have smugly rejected the very notion that a new hybrid population could arise and thrive within “only” 15,000 years. Well, consider just a single instance of cross-breeding between, say, a Homo sapiens and a Denisovan: This would produce a half-and-half hybrid in nine months. Now, broaden the picture to include tens of thousands of such offspring during a lengthy regime of inter-species reproduction, a regular paleolithic Peyton Place, that yields a dizzying array of combinations among ancient Homo species, 99% of whom eventually died out. Aside from us, those that did not die out became Sasquatch and its surviving cousins worldwide. The original hybrid ancestor of the Sasquatch we find around us today was, so to speak, a proto-Sasquatch, a creature that was later purified and strengthened, over more than a thousand generations, by breeding within its own ranks, not anymore with puny Homo sapiens.


Christopher Noël About Christopher Noël
Christopher Noël is the author of Sasquatch Rising 2013 and editor of the newly released anthology How Sasquatch Matters: Writers Respond to the New Natural Order. Christopher Noël holds a Master’s degree in Philosophy from Yale. Noël is a freelance editor ( and lives with his daughter in Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom.

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  1. Thank you C. Noel finally some objective observation on this controversial subject. The human belief system is very hard to penetrate once a mind is made up. People who have a tendency not to believe will listen to the Dr. Disotell’s and Dr. Meldrum’s of the world without taking a careful look at the evidence that would show those scientists to be wrong.

    This post is a summary, of what I’ve observed concerning the controversy of Dr. Ketchum’s study, people ignoring the supporting data and the methodology because it doesn’t fit with their pre-conceived notions. So they listen to those who have credentials but are still subject to the bazaar human belief system.

    I have personal experience with these, our cousins and I have been continually surprised at the level of intellect they show. They are very sophisticated and I can’t see any gorilla interacting with such a degree of complexity. They are almost us, but bigger and with a lot of hair and they are REAL!

  2. I have never understood the persistence of the ape theory, either. There have been no New World apes. There have been and are, however, New World Humanoids, albeit ones that migrated here from Asia, and originated in Africa.

  3. Neither here nor there, really, but have we really all reached a stage in our sociological evolution that EVERYONE just wants to wear a costume? This guy Disotell…does he just harbor a living fantasy of going through life as Uncas? Do we get to consider him a clown for that reason, and that reason alone? I think I do. We are all cartoon people now, I think. Not an ad hominem attack, really. I can’t get past the clownish appearance of this guy long enough to attack him. You wonder if sometimes people are deliberately trying to say to you, “Nothing I say should be taken seriously.” Well, you got it, if so.

  4. Well:

    1. Not so fast on Disotell’s DNA look. He didn’t “confirm” anything; he found human DNA which, given that we really know nothing about what, precisely, the samples came from, other than what People With Agendas are telling us, points to contamination as the first likelihood (unless one is trying just to win the Forest People argument, which, unfortunately, Ketchum seems to have been, just from all her preamble about Hanging Out With Same, mind).

    2. Not sure how many times I need to keep saying this. But what, precisely, do you have if you cannot point to The Big Guy Over There that the sample came from? That’s how the sciences work; and here we see precisely why.

    3. The evidence – prominent in which is thousands of people saying that what they saw was not human – argues that what they saw was, well, not human.

    4. We don’t know anything about the possible variety in the prehistory of our own species, let alone among temperate-zone hairy hominoids the society seems bent on denying. Even if this is legitimate science, who says that what provided the samples is a “Patty”? Yet another reason science demands a body.

    5. Ketchum has mainly herself to blame for her reception; that presentation flat stunk. And now she has taken her ball and moved on to Forest People Novelizing and Oblong-Headed Aliens of Peru. Oh. OK.

    Unless one is bent on just winning an argument, the cleaving to Ketchum simply makes no sense. She presented and defended her results very badly. If she did legitimate science it’s a shame; but it’s justice, even if of a rough sort.

  5. Well said about Dr. Disotell yet, he gets to sit next to and interact with Natalia Reagan.

    There is no justice in this world.

  6. And boy do I hold no brief for this.

    In the case of Sasquatch research, the founding fathers (such as John Green and Grover Krantz) operated under the fixed assumption that what they were dealing with was a type of ape. This paradigm has continued in force to this day, currently embodied most prominently by Dr. Jeff Meldrum, who rejects wholesale any suggestion to the contrary, especially eyewitness testimony by habituators who have actually interacted with this species and come to know their nature and intelligence first hand—not merely analyzed their feet. (250 of pages of my book, Sasquatch Rising 2013, are devoted to habituation experiences.) Matthew Moneymaker, too, holds this view; appearing on the “CBS Early Show” in 2012, he was asked, “Bigfoot, man or animal?” and answered conclusively, “Oh, animal. They’re not anything related to humans.”

    The ‘founding fathers’ – scientists, you know, in directly relevant fields – have analyzed all that, you know, evidence I referred to earlier. They have contributed additional points from their own familiarity with extant and fossil primates. Against this Noel arrays scanty (a book is essentially a single wordy sighting report) eyewitness testimony that not only is contradicted by the vast bulk of same but is “contributed” by people who from every appearance should be able to substantiate their claims…and provide nothing. (Impossible Visits has a human and nothing else on its cover. Typical.) Nothing, that is, but subjective ‘analyses’ of That Look In Its Eyes or It Understands Gifts! or We Violate Them With Pictures or…hey gang, if you are going to slander people that I see doing science you better back up yer tales, or that’s all they are, and they are outweighed and outgunned by the bulk of the evidence and that is that. And isn’t Noel peddling a BOOK through all this. Whoa. Two. Dooly noted.

    Sometimes, Moneymaker looks absolutely lucid. Not good when I say that.

  7. “I don’t understand 3/4 of it, it’s a bunch of hogwash.”. He admittedly is not qualified to scientifically evaluate 3/4 of it. Seems to me that’s an awfully close minded attitude for a guy that portrays himself as some sort of new age hipster scientist… more like an old dog who only has one trick. Debunkers have so little imagination that they engage in pseudoscience as often as those that they debunk.

  8. if she had the proof as she claims, this all would have been presented in the proper way… WITHOUT the circus show… the “wookie” costumes and videos.

    but think about this… if they bred with some type of humans, as did other types, why are bigfoots SO DIFFERENT looking?

    where are all the others who cross bred? are they just humans like the rest of us? how would you recognize them?

  9. I hope we are not about to abandon the ape theory because the forest people have telepathically communicated with bigfoot and Melba produced some inconclusive results (Lemur DNA?). If all these people are havng close range communications then where is the proof ?

    Throwing rocks, shaking trees, long range calls, omitting an awul stench from apocrine scent gland is all ape behavior and the most common reported bigfoot behavior.

  10. A note regarding “samples”. Unless one can confirm that said samples are from an actual Bigfoot, they are in fact inconclusive as to be useless. There is no provable database for Bigfoot samples and any DNA conclusions extracted from same can only be inferred. Add to this the extreme likelihood that many, if not the majority of said collected samples have become contaminated by handling, preservation, transportation and other inevitable variables. The idea that Bigfoot existence will be proven by DNA culled from undocumented frontier samples is highly unlikely.

    Purported Bigfoot hair, steaks, poop (apologies to Hotttie Reagan and her punk coiffured colleague) are not going to get the actual job done. A finger, toe or tooth would do nicely.

    Any of those would also settle the ape versus human argument as well.

    Personally, I find the ape comparison less compelling than the hominid of some kind explanation.

    Mr. Joshua has apparently not long been a member of any men’s sports team if he feels that “throwing rocks, shaking trees, long range calls and emitting (not omitting) awful stenches” are exclusive simian behavior.

  11. cryptokellie: can get pretty frustrating saying the same dam thing over and over and over, can’t it?

    I’m just not seeing how anyone is missing the basic issue here: DNA CAN’T TELL US WHAT SOMETHING IS UNLESS WE HAVE THAT SOMETHING ALREADY. It can only fill in blanks on something we already have.

    It can’t put you at a crime scene if you are not known to exist. (No. Your DNA has gotta be on file somewhere.) It can’t tell us what an animal is. It can give us information about that animal IF WE ALREADY KNOW that animal exists. Does your DNA sum you up? No. Do readings from a hunk of hair tell us anything conclusive about an animal? No.

    (Why would I take anyone’s word for it that the subject of the Patterson film contains my species’ DNA, when thousands who have seen something similar agree with me that that ain’t human?)

    Until there is a documented sasquatch, not poop or hair or spit or blood or whatever, no test can be anything but intriguing, and can certainly not be taken for proof by the scientific community, because the question will always exist, without a body for reference, how the results happened. If a body is there, the results can be expected to provide information consistent with the body.

    That’s it.

    (Show me a body, then we can talk about how much of my DNA is in it.)

    The only reason we are even talking about this is that this whole issue has become about winning an argument and not about learning more about the world.