Posted by: Loren Coleman on February 26th, 2007
Bigfooter Roger Knights wanted to post his counter-argument to my recent posts on the Wallace tracks being in the mix here, and I have allowed him to do so. Below, you will find his essay, as he sent it in, unedited.
Roger asked to post this with his third revised title, “What Trickster Would Tramp a Terrible Trackway?” That’s too long for a blog listing, but that’s what he is calling it. It serves as a little break from the anti-Wallace-fakes-in-the-record camp. Here’s Roger with his point of view.
John Green pointed out that a hoaxer needs to make an outstanding statement: “A built-in pitfall for people with fake stories is that they have to make them sound too good. Reports of ordinary sightings are a dime a dozen. They don’t attract the kind of attention that would justify bothering to make them up.” (Sasquatch: The Apes Among Us, p. 182)
This applies to footprints too. A photo of a faint or blurred or partial print won’t wind up in the local newspaper. (Imagine the media’s indifference if Jerry Crew had had only a half-print to show the camera.) Nor would a cast of such an item be featured in a museum’s collection or a Bigfooter’s book. So a hoaxer wouldn’t plant fuzzy or fragmented prints at a site. (Aside perhaps from a few as substantiating elements or accidentals at a full-track site.)
And yet most footprint sites DO contain nothing but marginal “3F” prints (Fuzzy, Faint, or Fragmented). For instance, T. A Wilson wrote, “The striking thing about the tracks was that ninety-nine out of a hundred people would have overlooked them.” (In Pursuit of a Legend, p. 35) And John Green wrote in 1973, “In the past five years … I haven’t seen a good, fresh, unmistakable Sasquatch track anywhere.” (The Sasquatch File, p. 48) Therefore few of them were hoaxed. Therefore many were authentic. (Putting aside a few “blob-prints” that were wishfully imagined to be more foot-like than they were.)
(It might be objected that faint, fuzzy prints would have resulted from the “snowshoe effect.” And yet all hoaxers would first have made test-prints in their backyards before trying to “make an impression” elsewhere. And, if they’d found they couldn’t make clear test-prints, they’d have used a heavy hammer to pound them in, or restricted their track-hoaxing to mud or soft sand (near bodies of water), or to snow. (Prints in snow are the easiest to hoax and the most likely to be noticed; therefore their rarity—only 25% or so of total track-finds—indirectly supports the proposition that print-hoaxing is rare.))
This is a neat paradox. The unremarkable cases (many, anyway), seen in this new perspective, suddenly become the remarkable ones. It’s like looking at an optical illusion in which, when one shifts ones attention, the “field” swaps places with the “figure” and becomes the significant element.
It’s characteristic of us Westerners to focus our attention on things that stand out, like “good” footprints: Salience = Significance. (According to Richard Nisbett’s book The Geography of Thought—e.g., pp. 90 & 109.) It rarely occurs to us to shift gears mentally and consider that the “good” prints might be the worst (the most likely to have been hoaxed) and the “bad” prints might be the best (unlikely to have been hoaxed). Only rarely do we see that insignificance or non-salience might be highly significant. Exceptions: Holmes—“Only one important thing has happened in the last three days, and that is that nothing has happened”; Luke—“Sometimes nothing is a real cool hand.”
(This off-centered viewpoint is, however, characteristic of East Asians. They’re too polite to say so, but maybe everything we know is wrong. (Whee!))
PS: Reports of Bigfoot encounters also “shade off” in a similar fashion. There are a few good sightings, then a multitude of marginal sightings, and then an even larger number of near-encounters: cries, noises in the bush, smells, disturbances in the environment, etc. Here again, the “good” cases, precisely because they’d attract attention, are the ones a hoaxer (or hysteric) would be most likely to have created, and the unremarkable, undramatic cases, considered as a whole, are the least likely. The unremarkable cases in turn give some support to (most of) the good cases, because if Bigfoot is real then there should be a humdrum matrix of fleeting or fuzzy encounters from which they emerge. If encounters were the work of hoaxers in ape-suits looking to make an impact or attention-seeking witnesses, there’d be far fewer “marginals” among the reports. – Roger Knights, February 25, 2007.
I think, for example, half-print hoaxes exist within the record, as the people running alongside the roads, being pulled behind the trucks, stamping around deep in the forests, and using other methods to create fake trackways or individual prints do make less than perfect imprints sometimes. After all, well, the fakers are only human.
During points in Roger’s essay, some of his arguments confused me, and I asked if he had any specific tracks in mind (based somewhat on an earlier title he was thinking of using)? He answered:
I’m glad you can find a spot for this. I wasn’t thinking of any particular print, I was just thinking “globally”– inspired by reading “The Geography of Thought.” I haven’t really got into the details of footprints because I know so little about tracking, foot physiology, casting, etc. – Roger Knights, February 25, 2007.
For me, from looking at the tracks for almost five decades and now at the tools we know were used, I see hoaxes in the midst of a majority of footprints that appear to be genuine Bigfoot tracks. Among the apparent faked imprints, I do not see just perfect hoaxed tracks, however, but a variety of representations of the tools used. I would expect this of a human using alder-wooden fakes. My thinking and view of all of this does not work in absolutes.
Loren Coleman is one of the world’s leading cryptozoologists, some say “the” leading living cryptozoologist. 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. He returned as an infrequent contributor beginning Halloween week of 2015. Coleman is the founder in 2003, and current director of the International Cryptozoology Museum in Portland, Maine.