Sasquatch Coffee

Bigfoot Expeditions: Commercial Adventures or Field Investigations?

Posted by: Loren Coleman on April 30th, 2012

The Joplin (Missouri) Globe of April 28, 2012, carried a long article entitled, “Bigfoot sightings common in Four-State Area” by Josh Letner. He created the article, in large part, after doing an in-depth interview with me. Below is part of the news item with my quotes and the historical material I shared with him.


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Woolly corners of Kansas, Missouri, Arkansas and Oklahoma may support more than just black bears, mountain lions and wild hogs, according to one group of researchers. They believe the region also could hide a population of the legendary sasquatch.

They cite dozens of unexplained encounters in the Four States going back 150 years. But their search for a 7-foot tall beast has run up against more obstacles than bigfoot’s shy nature.

‘Old Sheff’

Loren Coleman, founder of the International Museum of Cryptozoology in Portland, Maine, says some of the earliest reports of sasquatch sightings in the country came from Missouri and Arkansas.

Coleman says there are reports of a “monstrous wild man” in the swamps of the Missouri Bootheel dating to the 1840s. A decade later, hunters in Arkansas reported seeing a creature that was “gigantic in stature, hairy, and having footprints that measured at least 14 inches long.”

“What we have to look for in terms of old reports are people talking about hairy wild men and there are many, many of those coming out of the Ozarks. It was a real hotbed for reports of these creatures in the 1850s,” he said.

A similar report emerged out of Crawford County, Kan., just after the Civil War.

“We of the Arcadia Valley, in the southern part of Crawford County, are having a new sensation, which may lead to some new disclosures in nature history, if investigated as it should be. It is nothing less than the discovery of a wild man or a gorilla, or ‘what is it,’” stated a report that first appeared in the Journal Free Press of Osage City, Kan., in 1869, and was soon reprinted in the St. Louis Democrat. “It has so near a resemblance to the human form that the men are unwilling to shoot it. It is difficult to give a description of this wild man or animal. It has a stooping gait, very long arms with immense hands or claw; generally walks on its hind legs but sometimes on all fours.

“The settlers, not knowing what to call it, have christened it ‘Old Sheff.’

“It cannot be caught and nobody is willing to shoot it.”

The letter was signed by M.S. Trimble.

SOUTHWEST CITY

Since then, there have been more than 200 reports of Bigfoot encounters out of Kansas, Oklahoma, Missouri and Arkansas, according to the Bigfoot Field Research Organization.

Ron Boles, who lives in Springfield and is senior regional investigator for BFRO, said they are a volunteer group that catalogues, investigates, and rates Bigfoot encounters across the nation. A Class C encounter, for example, is non-visual evidence, such as a track; a Class B encounter may involve a vague or blurry sighting; the rarer Class A sighting, said Boles, involves a sober-as-Sunday-morning contact.

One such encounter occurred in Southwest City the morning of Sept. 6, 2010, according to Boles and BFRO.

It was Labor Day, and three fishermen were driving home at about 12:50 a.m. when they allegedly spotted a large creature hiding behind a trash can on the north end of Main Street. When they approached in their vehicle, the creature stood on its hind legs and fled. The fishermen pursued briefly before it escaped into the night.

The incident was reported by the driver to the BFRO and Boles says he investigated it, along with Larry Newman, a current candidate for sheriff in Jasper County.

“I was never more convinced of a Class A sighting than that one,” Boles said.

“Never in my life was I prepared for what I saw,” the witness told investigators. “It had long hair about 5 or 6 inches long and turned and looked at us twice to see if we were on his tail, I guess. This was a face-to-face encounter with this thing. He had his head in a trash can eating something. That’s how we got so close, he didn’t see us coming. He left a footprint behind and the police took a picture of it.”

Boles says the driver willingly gave his account but the others were reluctant to talk.

“I trust apprehensive witnesses a lot more than I do willing ones,” Boles said. “In some rural areas, people would rather go to their graves than lose face.”

Newman and Boles, who conducted their investigation six days later, described the witness as “genuinely frightened” by the experience.

“The footprint was 16 inches long and 8 inches wide,” Newman’s investigative report states. “They described a creature about 6 1/2 to 7 feet tall with a shoulder width of about 3 feet. Very heavy muscular legs, arms and body. The face had a wide flat nose, black around the eye area and small ears. The hair (not fur) was a reddish-brown color and not messy and matted as often described. The face was black.

“After this lengthy and detailed interview we believe this to be a close contact Class A sighting,” Newman wrote.

Boles and Newman said they did not want to release the name of the witness, citing the stigma surrounding those who claim to have sighted Bigfoot.

Newman has conducted other investigations for BFRO, and says he was contacted by the group because of his experience in law enforcement. He says he has investigated several reported sightings in the region. He says some seem legitimate while others are clearly false.

Newman says he has never seen a sasquatch himself, so he remains unconvinced of their existence. Boles says it is good for investigators to have a healthy dose of skepticism..

“We have been taught to be more skeptical of these reports than anybody,” he said. “If we’re not the most skeptical people out there, then that takes away the integrity of our research.”

***snip***

SCIENCE OR FICTION

…Coleman says there is still much in the world that remains undiscovered. The growing field of cryptozoology, derived from the Greek word “krypto” meaning hidden, is the study of creatures that are not known to science, but are hypothesized to exist.

While some people might scoff at the notion of cryptozoology, new species are still being discovered. He points to a new species of monkey discovered in Burma, giant lizards in the Philippines, and giant squid in the Pacific Ocean, which were first photographed only a few years ago.

“In our society today everything is instant, but people forget that it took 67 years to find the giant panda in the 1930s. It took over 50 years to find the mountain gorilla in Africa in a concentrated search area,” he said.

Coleman says he believes it is possible that a sasquatch could survive in the Ozarks. He says, although the area’s population has grown, it has become more concentrated in towns and cities.

“We go from one place to another on these strips of asphalt and we are increasingly ignoring the places that are green,” he said. “There are a lot of animals out there that people are absolutely ignoring.”

Boles says there is currently more forested land in the United States than at any point in the last century. He also points to skyrocketing populations of deer, turkey and feral hogs as a potential food source for sasquatch.

But Coleman says he is concerned that a recent activity — charging to search for sasquatch —  could undermine the scientific integrity of the quest to document cryptids.

A WALK IN THE WOODS

In late February, the BFRO ran afoul of the National Park Service after an expedition of more than 30 Bigfoot enthusiasts — who had each paid $300 to attend — was stopped by park rangers in the Buffalo National River south of Harrison, Ark. The group was fined for leading an expedition without receiving a vendor’s permit.

Chief Ranger Karen Bradford said the group was acting as a concessionaire without the proper permits. She said that even if the group had applied for a permit, it is unlikely that the Park Service would have approved of a Bigfoot expedition because there was “no evidence of any Bigfoot, sasquatch, or yeti living in the Buffalo National River.”

Boles said the issue the Park Service was “an oversight, nothing more, nothing less.”

He says he is alarmed to hear that the BFRO would not be granted a permit in the future. He says the Park Service allows guided ghost tours at its Civil War battlefields, so why not Bigfoot expeditions in the wilderness?

“The Park Service is willing to acknowledge the possible existence of Civil War ghosts, but not an undiscovered primate?” argued Boles.

He also said the BFRO doesn’t guarantee that participants will have an encounter, but it does provide “the potential to have an encounter.”

“We offer an opportunity for people to come together to learn the signs that we look for and the things we do to draw them in,” he said. “You can’t go looking for them and hope to find one; you have to draw them in. You have to become the bait. You’ve to peak their curiosity and have them come to you.”

Coleman says BFRO guides have encouraged expedition participants to beat on trees and set off fireworks in an attempt to attract the reclusive creatures.

“The most wrong-headed ideas are coming out of the BFRO,” he said. “You’re just not going to find animals like this primate if you go into an area with 30 to 50 people looking for it. The noise and the camping activities will scare these creatures to the next valley.”

Coleman says the expeditions are “commercial adventures” that do not follow scientific method.

While Coleman is critical of the weekend expeditions, he has praise for the field investigations conducted by the BFRO of reported sightings.

“If you’re talking about the group and the weekend events, that’s much different than their individual investigators who also have a credible background in law enforcement. Those people are doing good research and good science.”

Boles says he is confident that there are many unknowns in this world that are yet to be discovered.

“I think there are a lot more mysteries left on this Earth than modern science will ever admit to,” he said. “Just because they don’t recognize it doesn’t mean it isn’t there. Scientists haven’t been able to prove the spooklight in Joplin, but are you going to tell me that it isn’t there?”

For details on the four-state area’s sightings and more, see here.

About Loren Coleman
Loren Coleman is one of the world’s leading cryptozoologists, some say “the” leading. Certainly, he is acknowledged as the current living American researcher and writer who has most popularized cryptozoology in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. Starting his fieldwork and investigations in 1960, after traveling and trekking extensively in pursuit of cryptozoological mysteries, Coleman began writing to share his experiences in 1969. An honorary member of Ivan T. Sanderson’s Society for the Investigation of the Unexplained in the 1970s, Coleman has been bestowed with similar honorary memberships of the North Idaho College Cryptozoology Club in 1983, and in subsequent years, that of the British Columbia Scientific Cryptozoology Club, CryptoSafari International, and other international organizations. He was also a Life Member and Benefactor of the International Society of Cryptozoology (now-defunct). Loren Coleman’s daily blog, as a member of the Cryptomundo Team, served as an ongoing avenue of communication for the ever-growing body of cryptozoo news from 2005 through 2013.


11 Responses to “Bigfoot Expeditions: Commercial Adventures or Field Investigations?”

  1. dharkheart responds:

    I have to agree with Loren. Those “expeditions” are commercial ventures. Huge fees for what? Unless all meals, travel and accommodations are included, $25.00 per person for a walk/tour of an area should be sufficient. Scientific investigation, as stated in the above article, cannot be seriously undertaken with a great number of people trampling about in the woods.

    Membership fees, or dues, should be modest to allow a broader base of people to belong to a group; $25-$50 is more reasonable to cover newsletter mailings and discount prices for lectures, etc.

  2. mandors responds:

    I honestly don’t see the big deal. The New England Aquarium runs whale watches every day. The money is used at least in part for “real” research. People go on safari all the time, often the proceeds are diverted to conservation and research. So if the BFRO want to run Bigfoot camping trips to help fund itself, who cares?

  3. DWA responds:

    Nice article, coming from a mainstream source.

    Maybe the news media will prod scientists to start taking a more open stance on this topic.

    Were I a scientist, I would consider it telling that nineteenth-century reports are describing an animal that people are still seeing. How are the current sighters “copycatting”? Diligent historical-archive searches? Seances? Come on.

    And kudos to Loren for nailing the necessary distinction between the BFRO’s touron excursions (bad, if you ask me) and its database and followup (an evidence linchpin). They can coexist, you know. Although, obviously, not very comfortably.

    And major kudos on nailing the fundamental problem with modern Americans’ ability to understand cryptid evidence: We travel along corridors of civilization, leaving large expanses relatively untouched.

  4. Loren Coleman responds:

    Mandors is off-the-mark here.

    Comparing the NE Aquarium “whale watching” to a Bigfoot organization’s “Bigfoot hunting” is not a good equation.

    “Bigfoot hunting” enjoys the romantic promise of searching for and finding an unknown, unverified probable new primate species. “Whale watching” involves the observation in a known habitat of a remarkably well-known species. “Bigfoot hunting” has as part of the quest, the hidden hint of promised interactions and discovery. “Whale watching” is about looking and photography.

    I hate to do say it, but a more comparable alignment would be to say that the specifically commercial versions of “Bigfoot hunting” are more like putting a fiscal value on the “snipe hunting” exercises practiced in some parts of North America. It is neither science nor biology, but it is entertainment and a social event. I have nothing against that, but I am not for calling it strictly good cryptozoology.

  5. Desertdweller responds:

    I think Loren’s point is well-taken. If a group were to seriously search for Bigfoot, I would think the last thing one would want to do would be assemble a large group of people and make as much noise as possible.

    If a group of would-be Bigfoot hunters want to try their luck in a National Park, I suggest the following:

    1. Don’t charge a fee to participate. Don’t even present yourselves as an organized group. Everyone is there on their own, paying their fees as individuals to the park.

    2. Pick a time and location where BFRO is not holding a fund-raiser disguised as a scientific expedition.

    3. Obey all park rules. Keep on the marked trails.

    4. Keep the noise down. Bigfoots have survived this long by avoiding being shot. They will not be attracted by fireworks. Remember, there will be campers who may actually be trying to sleep and enjoy the outdoor experience. If you feel you must knock on a tree, try to use restraint. You may attract campers who do not appreciate your noise, or who may want to shoot a tree-knocking Bigfoot.

    5. Go out in groups of two or three, and keep aware of each group’s location. Regroup at a pre-arranged location and time.

    I think these rules would greatly increase you chances of actually finding a Bigfoot.

  6. Old Dog responds:

    For myself, it comes down to this. If you are charging a set fee for something, that’s a commercial enterprise. If BFRO were to file the needed papers for a non-profit and only ask for donations, and all proceeds go towards research with no one lining their pockets, then they could call themselves a non commercial entity. Otherwise, just pay the permit fee and get on with your for profit business. At least the NE Aquarium patrons get to actually see and photograph the whales, and not every little splash of water is claimed to be definitive proof of a whale.

  7. dharkheart responds:

    There are many specialized tours, aimed at entertaining, educating and perhaps scaring people, all around the country. Examples would be the ghost, zombie and vampire tours, in the French Quarter of New Orleans, which my wife and I have taken several times because we love the ambiance and theatrics; the tours are based upon facts and legends but are wholly entertaining and well worth the $20 per each tour.

    I think, a savvy, Bigfoot researcher (with all applicable permits in hand) who knows the countryside and does not promise anything other than a hiking/camping tour of the Bigfoot habitat, covering food sources, and local sighting history while only charging $25.00 per person might do very well for himself/herself.

  8. mastiff responds:

    “an expedition of more than 30 Bigfoot enthusiasts”. Just how in the hell are you suppose to see a supposed elusive, shy retiring and rare animal with such a rabble?! It would smell and hear you a mile away. The bfro is creaming in the cash with people suckered in with the hope of seeing a myth? Thats why they milk all these bigfoot sightings as it brings in the bucks. Just like their tv show does

  9. windigo responds:

    Loren, when you state, “The most wrong-headed ideas are coming out of the BFRO,” he said. “You’re just not going to find animals like this primate if you go into an area with 30 to 50 people looking for it. The noise and the camping activities will scare these creatures to the next valley”, I somewhat agree with you. Clearly, the level of human saturation that a group of 30-50 people can produce upon the environment could clearly be construed as threatening by these creatures. Particularly, activities such as the use of fireworks (don’t ask me whose idea that was), and other less subdued methods of of approach, are ill advised.

    If I may, I wish to clarify a couple of assumptions that people have have regarding BRFO practices. First, while there have been expeditions with attendees raging from 30-50 people, the majority of them consist of substantially less than that, averaging somewhere around 20-30 individuals. Of the people in attendance, some will chose to stay at base camp, while others often prefer to camp away from the others in a remote setting. This can greatly reduce the human imprint on a particular parcel of land, in not having to large a contingent of individuals in any one given area. During nighttime operations the entirety of the group will be split in several smaller parties, and given specific areas to venture into. These areas are quite often significant distances from each other, and once again serves to lessen the presence of the expeditions effects upon any one given area. In years prior, this approach has produced many encounters with these creatures for both attendees and investigators, and I find little fault with this particular approach. Would an entire group consisting of 5-10 individuals be more conducive towards enticing and creating encounters with these creatures? Absolutely. However, given the organizations success in recent years, I feel as if condemning the organizations approach in it’s entirely may be a bit excessive. In the end, more important than possibly the size of the group, is the behavior of the group. These creatures have traditionally shown a genuine curiosity about us and a willingness, in the right situations, to engage us. The key has always been to make yourself accessible to them without appearing threatening in any manner. Simply put, during expeditions, I dissuade anyone from conducting themselves in overstated way when choosing their activities, and explain the value of restraint and passivity. With that said, I’ll be leaving the fireworks at home during my next foray into the woods.

  10. fuzzy responds:

    Commenters suggesting that the BFRO should mount their Field Forays at a lower participation Fee muct have short memories:
    Matt Pruitt’s lengthly disclosure of the costs involved in assembling an Expedition (http://cryptomundo.com/bigfoot-report/leader-of-bigfoot-expedition-cited-for-permit-violation-2/) shows clearly that the fee structure in use is realistic and fair, and that charging anything less just wouldn’t work.

    Let’s get real, Cryptomundians – look at that post with a calculator in hand, and see if YOU would go thru all that effort for anything less than Matt’s final sum. Nobody works for zero bucks, and why should they? If you wouldn’t pay a couple hundred bucks to get out there with eager, experienced fellow Bigfooters who know what they’re doing, then put together your own Field Expedition!

    Use Matt’s list, and do everything he did, altho you’ll have to do it without BFRO’s creds. Yeah, get 15 or 20 suckers to pay you, say, $25 bucks apiece – that’s 500 dollars, and I’m sure that will pay for everything… won’t it? HUH?? Won’t it?

  11. Loren Coleman responds:

    Let’s not get Fuzzy (pun intended) about the foundation of this article. It was a review of the scientific value vs social value of Bigfoot groups’ planned excursions. It is not about their fiscal value. I’m certain people can justify the financial costs, but that’s not what I was talking about to the reporter.



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