Professor: Bigfoot exists, and science should care

Posted by: Craig Woolheater on April 15th, 2016

This 1958 photo taken by Eureka Newspapers photographer Neil Hulbert shows Humboldt Standard reporter Bill Chambers (left), Ed Schillinger (center), and W.R. “Shorty” Wallace (right) measuring an alleged Bigfoot track that was sprinkled with flour. Schillinger was reported by the Humboldt Standard to have found the tracks in the upper Bluff Creek area in October 1958. File photo — The Times-Standard


WHAT: Dr. Richard Stepp lecture on “Why Bigfoot Exists”
WHEN: 7 p.m. Friday
WHERE: Freshwater Grange, 49 Grange Road, Eureka
EVENT DETAILS: Lecture is free. Doors open at 6 p.m. for optional soup potluck, bring your own bowls. Donations accepted.

Whether the large, hairy hominid known as Bigfoot truly roams the wilderness of Humboldt County hasn’t deterred scores of enthusiasts and a television series from joining a nearly 60-year quest to find signs and footprints of the ever-elusive creature.

But one local scientist and professor says the search for Bigfoot opens a larger discussion about what the science world deems worthy of research and what happens to those fields that fall into what he calls “the crackpot realm.”

At a free event this Friday at the Freshwater Grange in Eureka, Humboldt State University physics professor emeritus Richard Stepp is set to discuss and answer questions as to why he thinks Bigfoot exists and why the science world should take a serious look at the subject.

“People have to understand so that if they come into the talk and make assumptions that scientists have looked into this in a big way and found nothing and therefore very likely there is nothing to find, they would be making a mistake,” Stepp said in an interview with the Times-Standard. “Science has not gone into this in a big way.”

The legend of Bigfoot began in Bluff Creek off the Klamath River in 1958, where the story goes that Jerry Crew and his road construction crew found tracks of a Sasquatch. A plaster cast of the impressions were made by the crew and brought into the Humboldt Times newspaper. Times columnist Andrew Genzoli wrote an article on the find at the time, coining the name “Big Foot” as the name of the beast.

More articles began to emerge from both the Times and its sister paper, The Humboldt Standard, about whether the footprints were an elaborate hoax, with construction worker Ray Wallace — who is the supposed hoaxer — vehemently denying the allegations in the press.

In the end, Wallace’s family members state that Wallace later confessed to them it was all a hoax, as explained by the 2008 Times-Standard article “Birth of Bigfoot.”

Even more, both the Humboldt Times and Humboldt Standard were said by the wife of a former Times editor to have been in on the hoax as well.

But even these pieces of evidence have done nothing to stem the interest in Bigfoot, with multiple television series on Animal Planet and The History Channel purporting to show evidence of Bigfoot dwellings and sightings.

To figure out why Stepp’s interest in Bigfoot emerged, you have to talk about Christopher Columbus.

Stepp said he grew up with a fascination of boats while living in Ohio near Lake Eerie. His research of Viking ships made him question what he’d been taught in school: That explorer Christopher Columbus was the first to reach North America by crossing the Atlantic Ocean.

“If you look at Viking ships, they could have gone anywhere on earth,” Stepp said. “They didn’t sail as well as later ships, but they had oars. Yet, previous any crossings before Columbus … were considered to be crackpot.”

Evidence later discovered in 1960 led historians to believe Vikings had indeed crossed the Atlantic Ocean and settled in North America for a time nearly 500 years before Columbus, according to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History.

Later on in life while studying physics graduate student, Stepp recalled how a professor gave a lecture on what type of magnetic field would be required to completely stop an electron from moving through a copper wire from a half-mile away. The idea for the lecture came from an alleged UFO sighting in Texas, which was purported to have shut down every car within a half-mile radius. During the lecture, Stepp said he began to look at around at his fellow classmates.

“It finally hit me that they were making fun of him,” Stepp said. “Finally it occurred to me that it must be taboo for a physicist to talk about UFOs and I just couldn’t believe it at first. I spent that whole summer reading about UFOs. I figured that if science is going to look away from these things, then who knows what might actually be there.”

When he was hired by HSU in 1973 to teach physics, Stepp said he heard about the Bigfoot phenomena and found it to be a perfect example to teach students about the boundaries of science and why some projects get the grant funds while others lose out.

“It was a perfect example of where the edges of science were and why those were the edges,” Stepp said. “Because I’m a physicist, it wasn’t really damaging to my career.”

Recent wolverine sightings in the North Coast would likely fall under the same critique , Stepp said.

As to why the Freshwater Grange is hosting the event is part of its own history, said grange volunteer Steve D’Agati. Since its origin as a dance hall and saloon in 1870 to the first Kinetoscope moving picture show in the early 20th century, D’Agati said the grange has been a platform for interesting ideas to be shared with the local community.

“I am very interested in what Dr. Stepp has to say because we’re talking about a very mystical elusive creature,” he said.

The Freshwater Grange is run by an all volunteer staff.


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 “Professor: Bigfoot exists, and science should care”

  1. Becho responds:

    If a wildlife expert said he had seen a wolverine where they are suppose to be extinct, he would be taken seriously. But, if that same person said he or she saw a Bigfoot that person would be labeled, by a large part of the population, as a crackpot. That sums up the human belief system and how it works.
    I might agree to the crackpot label if that person was the only one who had ever seen a Sasquatch. But the overwhelming amount of sightings, interactions, photo’s and videos can’t possibly all be hoaxes. It just doesn’t make sense, if you are objective.
    You have to ask yourself who these hoaxers are and why so few have been exposed when the hoaxing is so widespread and constant.
    I have met and talked to many of the local eye witnesses who claim to have seen Sasquatch. For the most part these people don’t talk about it much and I’ve even had them talk in hushed tones before, as if they fear of being overheard. One person told me she didn’t talk about it because “I don’t like being laughed at.” Only one that I’ve talked to reported her encounter.
    When I first started reading about the subject I had already had an interaction with a Bigfoot, but I didn’t recognize it as such. So there are a lot of encounters that happen without a person even realizing it.
    As I studied the subject I realized that there was a good chance that they did exist simply because there was so much historical material and many of these witnesses didn’t even think about Bigfoot before their encounter, just as I hadn’t thought about them before I became interested in the subject.
    I’ve seen them on six different occasions now. I used to want people to believe me. Now I don’t really give a damn. I carry my recording device, but rarely take it out of my pocket unless it’s something really compelling. Why do I keep going out there? Because it’s fun and they are fascinating. It’s no longer about anything else.
    Humans are social animals subject to peer pressure and that is just the way it is. So this subject will linger in the crackpot category until a body is secured. I am not in a hurry for that.

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