René Remembered

Posted by: Loren Coleman on April 18th, 2012

One of the greatest hominologists (those who study Sasquatch, Bigfoot, Yeti, and other unknown hominoids) of the modern era died eleven years ago, at 8:40 PM Pacific Daylight Time, on 18 April 2001, in Richmond, British Columbia.

Rene Dahinden

Born in Weggis, Switzerland on August 23, 1930, René Dahinden moved to Canada in 1953. Just a month after he arrived, he heard a radio report about the forthcoming 1954 Daily Mail expedition to the Himalayas to search for the legendary Yeti or Abominable Snowmen. After listening to the CBC news broadcast, Dahinden turned to Wilbur Willich, the Alberta dairy farmer he was working for, and said: “Now wouldn’t that be something, to be on the hunt for that thing?” Dahinden recalled Willich said, “Hell, you don’t have to go that far. They got them things in British Columbia.”

Finding out they had a local name and lengthy lore, Dahinden was bitten by the Sasquatch bug, and within three years was conducting serious research on North America’s unknown hairy hominoids, sometimes with British Columbian researcher and chronicler John Green whom Dahinden first met in 1956.

As it would turn out, during his lifetime, Dahinden conducted numerous field investigations throughout the Pacific Northwest, interviewed many witnesses, and examined apparent physical evidence for the legendary creature. Always living modestly, it became his life’s passion even though Dahinden never saw a Sasquatch.

His only book, written twenty years after he entered the field, Sasquatch (McClelland & Stewart, 1973; republished as Sasquatch/Bigfoot, Firefly, 1993), was written with Don Hunter.

René Dahinden was open, friendly, and entertaining, often visiting researchers from around the globe who came to him or when he went to them. A common image of Dahinden, holding two casts, for example, was taken in November 1971, in London, England. He was on a worldwide trip to the United Kingdom, Sweden, Finland, Switzerland, and Russia, trying to interest scientists in the need for a study of the Sasquatch.

Dahinden was the first to show the Patterson-Gimlin Film (taken on October 20, 1967 at Bluff Creek, California) of a Bigfoot in the former Soviet Union, and he worked hard to see to it that the film got the scientific attention he felt it deserved.

George Haas, René Dahinden, and Archie Buckley, photographed by Loren Coleman, Oakland, California, 1975.

George Haas, Loren Coleman, and Archie Buckley, photographed by René Dahinden, Oakland, California, 1975.

René came to San Francisco, California, to visit me in 1975, and I was touched by his humor, insights, and encyclopedic knowledge of the field. Dahinden and I then traveled together to Oakland to visit George Haas, the editor of the Bigfoot Bulletin and Archie Buckley of the Bay Area Group. Dahinden was a funny and engaging man.

In the Hollywood Bigfoot family movie comedy Harry and the Hendersons (1987), the Sasquatch hunter, a character played by David Suchet (better known to television viewers through his BBC/PBS Mystery series role as Belgian detective Hercule Poirot), was loosely modeled on René Dahinden.

A decade later, in 1997, Dahinden was immortalized in a popular television ad for Kokanee beer. Dahinden’s pursuit of Sasquatch had made him so famous that the brewers of Kokanee beer asked him to play himself in the commercial. Even then he didn’t get to see the Sasquatch. Facing the camera, with the unpretentious mobile home he lived in as background, an off-camera narrator asks if he ever used B.C.-made Kokanee beer to lure a Sasquatch. “Do you think I’m crazy or something?” asks Dahinden, unaware that behind him a Sasquatch is sneaking into his trailer to make off with a case of beer.

Dahinden became established forever as one of the the Four Horsemen of Sasquatchery (along with John Green, Peter Bryne, and Grover Krantz) in the award-winning 1999 documentary, Sasquatch Odyssey. The film is friendly to Dahinden. It permanently gives a living profile of the man, captured from June-September 1998, showing him having no time for fools, equally hating hoaxers, lunatic fringe Bigfooters, and pretentious Ph. Ds (which Dahinden called “Please Help Demented”).

In the years before he died, with Dahinden’s acquiring of the photographic images of the Patterson-Gimlin footage, some of his time was occupied in technical legal and copyright affairs, as well as working with Christopher Murphy who assisted him in disseminating some of his collection. Dahinden would often speak at or attend the growing number of gatherings of Bigfoot hunters, and his outspoken style became as legendary as Sasquatch.

Eleven years after his death, he is still missed by hominologists and cryptozoologists worldwide ~ for the passionate stirrings he always left in his wake. Despite decades of early photographs showing him putting on a serious face for a skeptical media, his enduring legacy of light-heartedness, crustiness, in-fighting, energy-filled pursuit of the quest, and friendly confrontation lives on in our memories of him and vividly in the field. Among the oldtimers, go to any Bigfoot conference being held in North America today, and these people will talk about René Dahinden like he’s still in the room. Meanwhile, others seem to want to take his place as the sharp-edged and opininated critic slapping you on your back. But no one can replace René. They can only honor him with continuing to do as he did, search for Sasquatch with enthusiastic gusto.

René is fading in our memories, but he lives on, nevertheless.

Rene Dahinden

Image courtesy of Sasquatch Odyssey.
Copyright©1999 by Big Hairy Deal Films Inc.


Note: I am saving the original comments sent in six years ago, when I first posted this now slightly revised tribute.

Loren Coleman About Loren Coleman
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.

11 Responses to “René Remembered”

  1. fuzzy responds:

    Nicely written, Kind Sir.

  2. Ole Bub responds:

    Agreed…an admirable commentary on one of the founding fathers of Sasquatchology, a trailblazer who cleared a path for many to follow….may he Rest in Peace….

    How many of the horsemen do you suppose had a “sighting”?

    It would have been and honor to meet him….likewise an honor to meet the rest of you folks….perhaps someday…

    seeing is believing

    ole bub and the Sheba dawg

  3. Loren Coleman responds:

    None of the Four Horsemen of Sasquatchery (Dahinden, Green, Bryne, nor Krantz) had a sighting. The granddaddy of Bigfootery, or some would say the Fifth Horseman of Sasquatchery, Bob Titmus, did have a few sightings of unknown hairy hominoids.

  4. mike2k1 responds:

    Very well written. What an honor it would have been to meet Dahinden. I also consider Titmus the fifth horseman.

  5. Ole Bub responds:

    Interesting….for someone to have that much faith and dedicate so much of their life without a sighting….that’s really sad.

    I thought Sasquatch was probably a hoax with less than a one percent chance of reality….only after a chance encounter did I have the conviction or the intense interest that accompany’s such an event.

    I’m still not sure where I stand on most of this Crypto stuff….though my mind is much more open….

    seeing is knowing…..

    ole bub and the Sheba dawg

  6. Jim McClarin responds:

    Thanks for taking me back to those times, Loren. I have nothing but fond memories of my times with Rene. We all perked up our ears whenever he started to say something because it was always impactful on some level, whether humorous, salty, intense or insightful. I remember his hyper-excited state when we first viewed the Patterson/Gimlin film at Al DeAtley’s house in Yakima in October 1967. Rene was always excited. John Green and Rene together were a study in contrast. John speaks in such an even cadence while Rene spoke in verbal explosions.

    In the movie “Harry and the Hendersons,” I felt the Sasquatch investigator was actually a blend of two characters, Rene and Robert W. Morgan. Morgan was a character in his own right, but, like me, did not keep up the pursuit.

  7. DWA responds:

    He looks like he just wants to put on those dam casts and stomp all over some Please Help Demented scoftic’s %$!$#!! face.

    Even if I finally see a sasquatch one day, I’ll regret never seeing this guy in the flesh.

  8. americanprimate responds:

    I personally miss that cantankerous SOB. As rough around the edges as Rene was, he was both a very serious researcher as well as a friend to those who took the time to get to know him. He was a one-of-a-kind character who told it like it was…and made no apologies for doing so. But beneath his hardened exterior, he had a wonderful sense of humor. The turnout at his memorial spoke volumes about the impact he made and the people whose lives he touched. I was glad to be a part of it and to have had the privilege of calling him my friend.

    Another great “Horseman” rides away into the sunset.

    You are missed Rene.

  9. Kopite responds:

    By chance I watched Sasquatch Odyssey: The Hunt for Bigfoot again last night and then I come onto Crypto this morning and see this item dedicated to Rene. Kind of spooky.

    I would have loved to have met Rene. Can’t believe it’s over a decade since he passed away! Wow.

  10. SCREEN7 responds:

    I corresponded with Rene in the early 70’s, and didn’t meet him for another 25 years. When I showed him the letter he had written me, he not only remembered his response, he remembered my letter to him. Amazing.
    For an “uneducated” man, he was amazingly meticulous in his scientific approach and methodology. His presentation was masterful, and I’ve never seen another to equal it.
    Pig headed, abrupt and nasty if he felt his time was being wasted, Rene was one of those unforgettable people who I couldn’t help but admire. If he’s reading these posts, I know that he’s smiling to himself. Those of us who knew Rene are doing the same, just remembering him.

  11. Assistent responds:

    Rene and Bayanov

    In 1971 (?) Rene visited Dmitry Bayanov and his colleagues in Moscow. He brought them the Patterson-Gimlin film and the film has been thoroughly analyzed by the Russians.
    Later, it seems to have been some problems between Bayanov and Rene…
    because after Rene’s death Bayanov regretted that he had “no[t] made peace with him”.

    Does anyone know what had happened between them? Where can I find Rene’s sons?

Sorry. Comments have been closed.

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