A Legend In The Making: The Early Years of Grover Krantz

Posted by: Craig Woolheater on July 2nd, 2018

By Krissy Eliot
California Magazine

Yesterday, we posted the first part of our profile on Grover Krantz, a UC Berkeley grad and the first credentialed scientist to publicly dedicate himself to the search for Sasquatch. Today, we take a big, bipedal step further to investigate Krantz’s earlier life—examining what shaped the man who left tracks on the field of anthropology unlike anyone before him.

Anthropologist Grover Krantz, who died in 2002, is remembered as the academic who devoted himself to the search for Sasquatch. (Read all about Krantz and his Bigfoot research here.) Though his obsession with Bigfoot and other anomalous primates didn’t start until later, his fascination with anatomy and physiology began early, as well as his tendency to flaunt his knowledge.

Krantz’s widow, Diane Horton, tells the story of the time Grover and his cousins, all preteens, went to a movie theater. Because they were all so tall, the clerk wanted to charge them the teen rate. Krantz, precocious child that he was, leaned over the counter, pointed into his open mouth and said, “Look at our teeth! You can tell we’re only 12!” For many years he toted around a small, black and white photograph of mouse entrails and later in college joyously wrote in his journal, “Beheaded a cat, then ate BIG turkey dinner.”

It was at around age 8 or 9 that Krantz really became engrossed in science and began rejecting his strict Mormon upbringing. His parents, Victor and Ester Krantz, immigrated to the U.S. from Sweden and, during Krantz’s upbringing, were pious members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Salt Lake City, Utah. While his mother disliked Krantz’s open aversion to religion, they remained close her throughout her life. The same could not be said of Krantz and his father, who died when he was still in grade school.

The day after his father’s funeral, Krantz returned to school, surprising his teachers. When they told young Krantz he should be home grieving, he responded, “Not for him.”

“His dad was sort of pompous,” Horton said. “He was always right. He wasn’t really a father, but more of a dictator.” She said that when Krantz was about five years old, his father made him and his two older brothers, Victor and Eugene, stare at a blank piece of paper for 10 minutes, then asked them what they saw. Confused, they said they saw nothing, to which he responded, “No, you dummies! It’s a blank sheet of paper!”

Krantz didn’t remain terribly close to his brothers, mostly because they were independent men leading separate lives, but Horton said that when they spent time together, they always got along. Victor became a photographer at the Smithsonian and Eugene a military pilot who later worked in government affairs. His brothers both remained Mormon, but Krantz walked away and never looked back.

As it happens, Mormonism is the only religion that references Bigfoot as a Biblical figure. According to one famous tale, church apostle David W. Patten was attacked by a Bigfoot on a dark backroad in 19th century Tennessee. While the beast was accosting him, it also managed to lure Patten into an enticing conversation about his soul. Patten concluded that this creature was the Biblical Cain, doomed to roam the earth after betraying Abel. To this day it’s unclear if Krantz knew the story, but if he did, he didn’t care enough to indulge it.

“He got to a point—after looking at the hypocrisy of religion and how religion rejected evolution—and really moved on from it,” said author and cryptozoologist Loren Coleman, a friend of Krantz. “It wasn’t even worth arguing about or talking about.”

After graduating from high school, Krantz went to the University of Utah in 1949 but took a break from academia to join the Air National Guard as a member of the 191st Fighter Bomber Squadron. It was after this stint that he wound up at UC Berkeley, and during that time he first became interested in reports of a “giant man-like creature” in Western North America. Slowly and somewhat secretly, he began collecting data on the subject, but his interest in Bigfoot seemed an afterthought while he was earning his B.A. and M.A. in anthropology at Cal. In addition to his studies, he may have been distracted by other exploits often important to guys in their 20s—babes and booze.

Krantz was 32 years old when he bought his first Irish Wolfhound, Clyde. He was living in Berkeley, broke and working at the Lowie. As Krantz described it, his life consisted of nothing but “a part-time job and nearly full-time drinking.” He was depressed and he needed a change, so he drove down to Southern California in a beat-up sedan, met up with an old lady, and dropped all of his savings on a puppy. It was the best investment he ever made.

Clyde lived just 10 years. “During that time he was the most important influence on my life,” Krantz wrote in Only A Dog, his memoir and tribute to Clyde. “This is not intended to underrate the influence of my last wife [Evelyn Einstein] or the beginning of my career as an anthropology professor, but it is dubious that either of them would have happened if he hadn’t been with me.”

Even though Clyde was very much a canine, to Krantz his personality made him seem “nearly human,” something that captivated him. Once, when Krantz came home wasted, he cuddled up with Clyde on his dog bed (a double sleeping bag on the floor) and soon passed out, only to find Clyde chillaxing on the human bed the next morning. “He never got another chance to pull that trick,” Krantz wrote.

When Clyde died in 1973, Krantz buried the dog next to his driveway with the intention of preserving his remains and examining his bones after he decomposed. Krantz had other dogs before Clyde and would adopt more after, but none would ever compare. When it came time to exhume the corpse, Krantz downed a gallon of liquid courage and dug him up. As he washed and brushed off the bones, the unbearableness of the experience seemed to cripple him emotionally. “Flesh of my flesh,” he murmured while scraping the remains. “I could more easily have cleaned off the skeleton of my own father.”

Still, Krantz refused to part with Clyde’s remains. When Krantz was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2002, he coordinated with the Smithsonian museum to have his body donated to the Physical Anthropology Division, on one condition: “You have to keep my dogs with me.” An agreement was reached, and the museum acquired his bones and those of his many dogs, along with other materials including his research papers, Bigfoot casts, etc. When he died eight months later, there was no funeral (per Krantz’s request), and his corpse was shipped to the University of Tennessee body farm (a.k.a. Forensic Anthropology Center), where researchers study human decomposition in action.

Krantz’s bones, and those of his dogs, then sat in a drawer at the Smithsonian until 2009, when he and Clyde’s full skeletons were placed on exhibit in the National Museum of Natural History. Inside a glass case Krantz’s 6’ 3” skeleton stands together with Clyde’s—the dog posed on hind legs, paws on his owner’s chest. The installation is still on view today.

And so Krantz’s legend lives on…display.

“I’ve been a teacher all my life,” Krantz said when he was asked to donate his body to the Smithsonian. “I might as well be a teacher after my death.”

Grover Krantz is hardly the only person to believe in Sasquatch. The gigantic, hairy beast has existed in Native American folklore for centuries, and there are entire communities and organizations dedicated to the search for the creature. Check out our other stories on Sasquatch, where we examine what makes people believe in mythical creatures like Bigfoot—and talk to Berkeley experts about whether such beliefs should be paid any heed.

Read the rest of the article here.

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.


One Response to “A Legend In The Making: The Early Years of Grover Krantz”

  1. airforce47 responds:

    Grover and I emailed a couple of times before his death. He was as someone once said a “crusty old scientist” but I find his writings very interesting and a reflection of his times and knowledge.




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