Linguists Battle Over Bigfoot Language

Posted by: Guy Edwards on July 25th, 2013

Bigfoot Lunch Club

Does Bigfoot have defined phonemes? Phonemes are distinct units of sound, like vowel sounds.

“The vocalizations are an amateur impression of how a proto-language might sound if it evolved from non-human primates” — Karen Stollznow of Scientific American on the Morehead/Berry tapes.

Ms. Stollznow has a Ph.D. in linguistics from the University of New England and seems to be critical of Scott Nelson’s credentials. To catch you up, Scott Nelson retired from the Navy after a 17-year career as a crypto-linguist, intercepting Russian communications and decoding them. While his son was listening to the Morehead and Berry Bigfoot audio recordings (a/k/a Sierra Sounds) he detected patterns and perhaps even language.

After Karen introduces the general public on types of Sasquatch evidence she dives right into the possibility of Bigfoot language and the Morehead/Berry Tapes:

A fascinating category of evidence involves claims of a Bigfoot language. Eyewitnesses report hearing howls, whoops, growls, screams, mumbles, whistles and other strange vocalizations in the wild, and attribute these to Bigfoot. Variant forms of Bigfoot are found across cultures, and the Sasquatch, Himalayan Yeti, Australian Yowie and other alleged creatures are similarly believed to produce vocalizations. Other Bigfoot communication includes the mimicry of wildlife and forest sounds, wood-knocking, rock-knocking and rock-throwing. Bigfoot is also thought to form patterns with sticks and rocks as a kind of writing system. In wilder claims about wild men, Bigfoot are believed to have the ability to communicate telepathically, and use their large feet to send infra-sound communication over long distances. Bigfoot are also claimed to speak and understand human languages, and to have their own Bigfoot language.

There is little evidence to support these claims, other than the anecdotal kind. The Sierra Sound recordings, also known as the Berry/Morehead tapes, are touted as the gold-standard of evidence for a Bigfoot language. During a number of expeditions to the Sierra Nevada Mountains between the years 1972-1975, Alan Berry, Ronald Morehead and their crew captured audio recordings of alleged Bigfoot encounters. They recorded a total of 90 minutes of Bigfoot language and vocalizations using a microphone dangled from a tree branch attached to a reel-to-reel recorder. Over the years they also found 18-inch footprints of Bigfoot, and experienced many sightings…just not during the recordings!

Morehead and Berry (until his death in 2012) staunchly deny that the recordings are a prank. However, for a number of reasons, it is highly probable that the recordings are a hoax, or that the crew were hoaxed. The expeditions were undertaken specifically to hunt for Bigfoot. “Bigfoot” was heard but never seen when the recordings were made. It is obvious that other animals made some of the sounds, such as bears. The wood knocks are easy to re-create, while the “language” itself is unconvincing. The vocalizations are an amateur impression of how a proto-language might sound if it evolved from non-human primates. This “Bigfoot” is likely human, and the Sierra Sounds a combination of hoax and misidentification, like all of the other evidence for Bigfoot.Karen Stollznow

Read the rest of Ms. Stollznow’s critiques and our response at Bigfoot Lunch Club.

Guy Edwards About Guy Edwards
Psychology reduces to biology, all biology to chemistry, chemistry to physics, and finally physics to mathematical logic. Guy Edwards is host of the Portland, OR event

9 Responses to “Linguists Battle Over Bigfoot Language”

  1. Goodfoot responds:

    Ms. Stollznow, I note, is a Linguistics Ph.D and not a crypto-linguist. How many language intercepts has Ms. Stoliznow had under the “cans”, over the decades?

    What I’m suggesting is that the vast difference here is between linguist and crypto-linguist. How much wilderness field work has Ms. Stoliznow done, exactly? Because Scott Nelson has done the DO.

    I have heard Bigfoot language before. Once, but it made a huge imprint upon my consciousness. Only several years later did I hear the Sierra Sounds CD’s, and they corresponded perfectly with what I heard.

    I would suggest that Ms. Stoliznow study Nelson’s career and expertise in its entirely, and not be a cherry-picking DA debunker….

  2. Goodfoot responds:

    And somebody show me a talking bear, PLEASE, because I’ll make MILLIONS. Better yet, show me a bear who can ask a question, as per what I heard, at close range, which I phoneticize as “reet-ZAH?”

    And this woman’s facts are distorted, with key facts withheld. The site in question is extremely remote, at over 8000 feet, and the trail ends approximately 8 miles from the site. It’s a treacherous trail, with drop-offs of a thousand feet on one side, if not more. At times it is less than 12 inches wide. Hoax probability in a 1-100 scale? Probably 3% generously. For someone to hoax you, first they have to know you’ve gone somewhere. Then they have to find out where.

  3. hoodoorocket responds:

    @Goodfoot, sounds like you have a dog in this fight…

    I’d like to get your take on the ontario bigfoot recordings. The ones where the guy puts the presents on the tree.

    I’ll be honest, after hearing them, I derided them as a poorly done hoax, but that’s just me talking out my ass. I have no frame of reference one way or the other.

    I’d like to hear from you, what do you think of them? Sounds like you have some experience the rest of us lack, so your input should carry some weight on this particular topic.


  4. corrick responds:

    Karen Stollznow has a Ph.D. in linguistics from the University of New England.

    Scott Nelson is just a retired Navy crypto-linguist. While that might sound impressive being a military crypto-linguist requires nothing more than a G.E.D., no felony convictions and about 12 months training.

    Bigfoot believers always whine that academics never look at Bigfoot “evidence.” Here’s an example where one did. But since you don’t like the conclusions…Attack the messenger,

    Typical. Open-minded thinker. But only for information that confirms Bigfoot’s existence.

  5. MattPriceTime responds:

    Is one really that much more valid of a source over the other. One has to have more education but lacks much know-how into investigating something unknown. The other lacks as much education on known language but is able to be better at gauging what could be a language.

    I really wouldn’t think either would be able to paint a clear picture on what may or may not (and might very well be not) a bigfoot language.

    Maybe they should Oh gasp work together? Teamwork? Harmony? All the fun stuff we humans should be doing instead of arguing like… well…. errm… common primates?

  6. Goodfoot responds:


    Simply put, I’m on the proverbial fence about them. I certainly can’t dismiss them, but I do have a few doubts.

    corrick: Experience wins. Nelson has spent many thousands of hours under the cans, deciphering noisy, interference-laden language intercepts. He is fluent in Russian, Persian, Spanish and French, and one day aims to be fluent in Sasquatch, or at least the version a particular group of them speak. It seems to me Ms. Stollsnow is talking before even listening; there is no evidence presented that she has ever studies the Sierra Sounds recordings. If you have any such evidence she has, it seems to me we would have heard from you about it.

    Here’s your big chance to embarrass me, pal!

  7. volmar responds:

    The site lists Mapinguary as the same animal as Bigfoot. Only if sloths are equal to gorillas. That kind of BS of “exporting” Bigfoot all over the world is ludicrous. Mapinguary is a Giant Sloth, not an unknown primate. I wonder how long will people keep this farce? All the hoaxes, the UFO related reports, the bodies preserved on ice, the “I shot Bigfoot” guys, damage the fact there is an unknown primate living in the Pacific Northwest área.

  8. norman-uk responds:

    Ms Stollznow may have scientific credentials but behind this mask her article is highly unscientific and most of it is a one sided diatribe from a practiced and closed minded sceptic. In that respect she has form in the 6 years since she was qualified.

    She appears to believe in the scientific status quo and lacks the ability to deal with something extraordinary like the sasquatch phenomenon, challenging the present paradigms.

    She doesn’t know if the sierra sounds are or are not genuine sasquatch but a reasonable person would quite reasonably think that they are very interesting and potentially the real thing.

    Doesn’t seem too smart a thing to state all the evidence for bigfoot is a combination of hoax or misidentification, like all the other evidence!

    How scientific or sensible is her statement that the vocalizations are how an amateur impression of a proto language might sound if it evolved from non-human primates, Not very!

  9. cryptokellie responds:

    While having no expertise in this area, I won’t be taking sides but I think one point should be considered. There are now quite a few recording of supposed Bigfoot vocalizations and perhaps “languages”. Yet none of them actually sound similar in that they would have been made by the same type of living being.

    The human voice has a quality that can be recognizable almost no matter what particular language or dialect is being used. Case in point; human voices at a sports stadium – the general vocal noise, cheers and other vocalizations all are discernible as being human no matter what the world location of the venue, language being used (sometimes different for opposite teams) or sport for that matter. Foley editors in the film industry know this and use it to their advantage while providing background and fill audio for movies. I’m sure I haven’t heard all the alleged samples of Bigfoot vocalizations but most of the ones I’ve heard range from pure animal whooping to gibberish gobbledygook. Is it wrong to expect that if Bigfoot is a species of related primates that they then might tend to sound alike overall no matter what dialect of Bigfoot is being used. If we can assume that just one of these Bigfoot vocalizations is authentic, a very large assumption I grant you, then the others are probably not authentic – read; honest mistakes, misidentifications and hoaxes. What I’m trying to say is that perhaps the first two samples collected from different ranges of supposed Bigfoot habitat and from different investigating camps, that actually match in terms vocal compatibility, might the key samples to focus on…Trying to form a linguistic reality from an as yet unrecognized – in fact, unproven, species might just be putting the cart before horse, so to speak.

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