24 February 2009

Physical evidence: finding tracks in winter conditions

Winter conditions provide some of our best opportunities for finding physical evidence of BF creatures.

During the warmer months, compacted clay or rocky ground does not yield good track impressions. Yet tracks are readily made and preserved in the snow.

The image shown here is a detail photograph showing one of the snow tracks found by Rene Dahinden near Bossburg, Washington in December 1969. This individual creature left a track line totaling 1,089 tracks in the snow-- alternating right foot and left foot impressions-- in the vicinity of the garbage pit at Bossburg, Washington along the Columbia River. The track series crossed railroad tracks, a roadway, climbed a steep hill and stepped back and forth over a 43-inch fence row.

Beyond the rarity of finding tracks left by these creatures, it is indeed a challenge for investigators to document the existence of physical evidence found in snow. The evidence does not last long and must be documented quickly-- snow tracks easily melt and the details distort in direct sunlight. Plus, making a footprint cast of such impressions requires advanced casting techniques and different materials.

Some of the best track casts ever which reveal skin detail (namely, dermal ridges) have been found in wet pliable clay along stream banks. Perhaps the second best circumstance I've seen is that of a warm-blooded track impression melted into the surface of ice.

On the 23rd of January in 2005, Illinois investigator, Stan Courtney, found an unusual track impression melted into surface of a frozen creek in the woods. He was able to show the track to some folks who were skeptical about the presence of BF creatures in this vicinity and documented the find with photographs and measurements.

The "hourglass" shaped footprint measured over 13 inches long and some 6 inches wide. Toe details can be seen along the front edge of the track. Apparently the warmth of the creature's foot melted into the frozen surface. Though much of the track is "flat-footed," the contours where its toes melted the ice are preserved. It is clearly not the impression of a barefoot human.

It is unknown how long the creature must have stood at this spot for the warmth from the bottom of its foot to melt the ice in this manner.

I am unwilling to stand barefoot on ice to find out.

Other photographs taken of this particular "ice" cast are found in Stan's portfolio posted at http://www.stancourtney.com/portfolio/bigfoot.php

In January 2009, ranch owners in Saskatchewan, Canada found the above long track line in the snow crossing their property.

The gait distance (measured from step to step) varies between 4 and 8 feet. The track line began at a fenceline on one end of the property, crosses the field and is lost among multiple deer tracks at a game trail on the other end of the property.

The ranch owners became alert to the presence of a BF creature in the vicinity following a daytime sighting last spring. Hair samples-- one found snagged on a nail near a shed and the other on metal fencing-- have been tested and found to be red fox and black bear, respectively. This track line is neither fox nor bear.

The ranch owners are posting blog entries on their ongoing investigation work at http://saskencounters.blogspot.com/

Creatures which hunt and forage under the cover of darkness may remain undetected at other times of the year-- but nothing crosses the snow without leaving evidence.

11 August 2008

How will the government respond when BF creatures are proven to exist?

As a matter of record, this is not a theoretical question. An official press release was issued by the Federal government in 1977 which addresses such a situation when it arises.

The following is excerpted from this U.S. Department of Interior, Fish and Wildlife Service document permanently found posted in its entirety at http://permanent.access.gpo.gov/websites/fwsgov/news.fws.gov/historic/1977/19771221.pdf.

Discussion about cryptid lake creatures is removed from the quote below as it is not germane to the focus of our interests here.

Are We Ready for “Bigfoot” or the Loch Ness Monster?

Dept. of the Interior, Fish and Wildlife Service news release
December 21, 1977

What if they really did find the Loch Ness monster or the legendary Bigfoot of the Pacific Northwest?

Most scientists doubt that these creatures exist, but thoughts of the discovery of a new species that might be the closest living relative to man, or the possibility of finding a leftover dinosaur, excite the imagination of scientist and nonscientist alike. It also poses another question: Would such a creature be subjected to the same kind of exploitation as the giant movie ape, King Kong?

Scientists generally believe there are still many species of birds and mammals that have not been discovered because they live in remote areas and their populations are limited. After all, the gorilla and giant panda were only legends until the late 19th century when their actual existence was first confirmed by scientists. The komodo dragon, a 10-foot-long lizard, wasn’t known to science until 1912. The coelacanth, a deep-water prehistoric fish, was known only from 65 million-year-old fossils until 1938 when a specimen was caught alive off the Madagascar coast.

Just last year a Navy torpedo recovery vessel dropped a sea anchor into 500 feet of water off Hawaii. But instead of a torpedo, it hauled up a 15-foot representative of a new species of shark. The dead shark, named megamouth after its bathtub-shaped lower jaw, had an enormous, short-snouted head and 484 vestigial teeth.

To be sure, no remains of today’s legendary “monsters” have ever been found. There are no living specimens in zoos or dead ones in museums. Most certainly, many “sightings” of these creatures are exaggerated or misinterpreted reports, and some are downright hoaxes.

But finding a Loch Ness monster or Bigfoot is still a possibility, and the discovery would be one of the most important in modern history. As items of scientific and public interest they would surely command more attention than the moon rocks. Millions of curiosity seekers and thousands of zoologists and anthropologists throughout the world would be eager to “get at” the creatures to examine, protect, capture, or just look at them.

What would the United States Government do?

Keith Schreiner is Associate Director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The service is the Government agency with responsibility for protecting endangered and threatened species. Schreiner says “At least, we have the laws and regulations on the books to deal with newly discovered species.”

Schreiner acknowledged, however, that a good deal of international cooperation would be needed if extremely rare species were found abroad. And finding one on U.S. soil would pose serious problems too, Service officials agree.

Undisputed proof of a Bigfoot might cause an immediate, short-term problem no law could handle. Word of its discovery would be flashed around the world within hours, Hysteria, fear, or panic might accompany the news in the area where the creature was located. The throngs of curiosity seekers, would-be captors, and others wishing to find Bigfoot would not only create a serious threat to the animal itself, but to public safety as well. Some officials doubt whether any State or Federal action short of calling out the National Guard could keep order in the area within the first few hours or days of the creature’s discovery. This could be essential until a team of scientists could do the necessary things to ensure the creature’s survival.

The key law in preservation of a species is the Endangered Species Act, which pledges the United States to conserve species of plants and animals facing extinction. This broad, complex law protects endangered species from killing, harassment, and other forms of exploitation. The Act prohibits the import and export of, and interstate commerce in, endangered species. American citizens cannot engage in commercial traffic in endangered species between nations, even when the United States is not involved. Scientists wishing to study endangered species are required to have a permit issued by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

But before a creature can receive protection under the Endangered Species Act, a number of actions normally must occur which involve recommendations from the public, scientists, and State and foreign governments where the species exists.

The first of these would he the species’ formal description and naming in a recognized scientific publication. In addition, if it were a U.S. species, the Governor of the State where it was found would be contacted, as would the officials of foreign governments if it were found outside the United States. Only after much information was collected could the Service make a formal determination as to whether the species should be afforded endangered or threatened status...

Bigfoot, also known as Sasquatch, is purported to be an 8-foot, 900-pound humanoid that roams the forest and wilderness areas of the Pacific Northwest. One “eyewitness” described an obviously female Sasquatch as a “tall, long-legged, gorilla-like animal covered with dark hair and endowed with a pendulous pair of breasts.” It, too, has been described in publications and given a scientific name. In fact, so many people were stalking Bigfoot with high-powered rifles and cameras that Skamania County, Washington, is prepared to impose a fine of $10,000 and a 5-year jail term on anyone who kills a Bigfoot. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers even lists Bigfoot as one of the native species in its Environmental Atlas for Washington. This year the Florida and Oregon legislatures also considered bills protecting “Bigfoot” type creatures. A Bureau of Indian Affairs policeman has 18-inch plaster cast footprints of the “McLaughlin monster,” a Bigfoot-type creature he saw last month in South Dakota.

Under U.S. Law, the Secretary of the Interior is empowered to list as threatened or endangered a species for 120 days on an emergency basis. For endangered species in the United States, the Secretary can also designate habitat that is critical to their survival. No Federal agency could then authorize, fund, or carry out any activities which would adversely modify that habitat.

So long-term Federal protection of Nessie or Bigfoot would basically be a matter of following the same regulatory mechanisms already used in protecting whooping cranes and tigers.

“Under normal situations,” Schreiner said, “we must know a great deal about a species before we list it. How big is the population? Does it occur anywhere else? Is the population in danger of decline? Is its habitat secure? Is the species being exploited? What is its reproductive rate? Obviously, if a Bigfoot really were found we could use emergency provisions of the Act to protect it immediately..."

03 August 2008

Finding the right role for skepticism

Discussions on many different issues concerning BF creatures can be broken down along "us versus them" lines with skeptics on one side and believers on the other. This is the case whether the question is the fact that BF creatures exist in the first place or on questions such as whether they spend part of their lives underground or communicate using a spoken language. All of us believe some facts up to a certain point and are skeptical of facts beyond that.

What then is the appropriate role for skepticism?

We all have beliefs and convictions. Most but not all beliefs and convictions are founded on defensible and documented facts. Skepticism is that measure of doubt which provides the basis on which we change our minds as our beliefs and convictions move closer to truth.

Something we consider to be a belief or conviction that leaves no wiggle room for the process of skepticism at work becomes a dead end unto itself-- such a thing is best described as superstition.

My approach to facts then is to be skeptical. Skepticism is the method by which I learn. All facts must be tested and verified from a position of doubt to separate the false from the true.

However, some folks regard skepticism itself as being the ultimate goal. They regard the role of skepticism as being the end instead of the means. They stake out a certain position and by the virtue of being a skeptic on that position will reject consideration of any facts otherwise. Such a self-defined skeptic remains immutable, unteachable and suppresses the consideration of ideas, observations or information which lead toward truth.

When it comes to considering, accepting and understanding facts about BF creatures, each of us are at one stage or another along the continuum of working theories which form the basis for what we believe.

At the far end of this "scale of belief" is apathy. Most everyone begins at this point in which they don't necessarily care whether BF creature exist.

The next stage along this continuum is for those who actively deny or reject the notion that BF creatures exist. My personal opinion is that I regard this as being one step closer to moving in the direction of truth.

Next would come the realization that BF creatures might exist but at some far away location or may have existed at some distant time in the past.

The tipping point occurs when one confronts facts which demonstrate that BF creatures exist here and now. Until we recover "habeas corpus" proof (that is, a body for study), these facts are presently limited to all manners of other physical evidence such as sightings, recordings (visual and audio), hair, scat, tracks and other signs.

The "scale of belief" then moves on to theories concerning the nature and abilities of such creatures. What do they eat? Where do they live? How do they communicate with each other? What is their social structure? A critical distinction that has yet to be resolved is whether BF creatures represent an animal species or something human which lives like an animal.

Divisions now occur among those who accept the existence of BF creatures along the lines of the answers to such questions. I recommend that the community of BF investigators agrees to disagree on the nuances of each other's working theories for the time being. Such speculation will only be answered by field surveillance of wild and free creatures in their habitat. Our common and primary goal should be working in unity for the enforcement of laws which prohibit the harassment, hunting, captivity or killing of BF creatures. Failing that, the future of wild and free creatures to be observed for generations to come would be a moot point.

All of us must balance our beliefs with our doubts (skepticism) as we grow in learning and understanding the truth concerning BF creatures.
"Sit down before fact as a little child, be prepared to give up every preconceived notion, follow humbly wherever and to whatever abyss nature leads, or you shall learn nothing."
Thomas Henry Huxley

29 July 2008

How do we convince the public that these creatures are not the "monsters" of our imagination?

Folks who have had sightings and encounters in both past generations and recent years describe sights, sounds, smells and activities of real flesh-and-blood creatures, so it should not come as a surprise to us that the day would come when somebody would stumble across physical remains. This had been one of the skeptic's strongest arguments against the existence of these creatures.

Considering the recent news of a "bigfoot body on ice" from Clay County, Georgia, we may well be on the eve of such physical evidence being made public.

With revelation day slated for September 1 (or has it been set back to October 1?), the serious BF community has several weeks remaining to establish our position statement for the court of public opinion. When the focus of the media attention turns to BF investigators for answers concerning the presence and proximity of these creatures in wooded and wetland habitat areas across North America, what message do we want them to hear?

Is it that these creatures are "monsters" to be hunted down and exterminated? Do we let B-grade horror films such as "The Legend of Boggy Creek" and scary stories told around campfires define the public's image and reaction to the reality of the existence of these creatures?

PHOTO CREDIT: Tahlequah Daily News, Cherokee County, OK (2004)

Or do we rally around the position that these represent one or more species of native primates on this continent which have eluded detection and escaped extinction to the modern day? These are North America's great apes which ought to be protected and observed and better understood. The facts demonstrate that these creatures do not pose a danger to human beings when left alone. For the continued protection of people, legislation should be written and passed which prohibit the hunting, harrassment, capturing or killing these creatures.

Our success in getting this message across depends upon integrity, trust, cooperation and unity among the community of BF investigators. We will have no such platform if the public limelight finds us bickering and squabbling amongst ourselves. Divided we fail.

Public proof that these creatures exist can either lead to a wide scale "monster" hunt or the study and conservation of these creatures.

What will it be?

22 July 2008

Bigfoot: widely popular but not credible

Actors wearing what appear to be "Bigfoot" or "Sasquatch" or "Wookie" costumes have made these creatures among the most recognized images in modern society. Similar to how Santa Claus is perenially portrayed by scores of actors wearing what pass for "Santa Claus" outfits, the popular conception is that Bigfoot is also a singular and imaginary being. When people see Bigfoot (always a singular noun) then everyone else automatically processes and interprets this information into meaning that he or she apparently saw somebody wearing a costume designed to look like such a creature. For like Santa Claus, "everybody" presumably knows that Bigfoot does not exist.

That these creatures are a viable species of primates with exceptional survival traits inhabiting forested and wetland locations where they have so far eluded both scientific acknowledgement and extinction into modern times is a concept beyond the scope of reality for the media, general public and most everyone holding positions in government and science.

Modern society's perceptions about Bigfoot creatures are readily apparent on the Internet. Just Google-search the words "Bigfoot" or "Sasquatch" and see what comes up. Besides the original monster truck with over-sized tires of the same name, Bigfoot as an icon of pop culture enjoys a level of name recognition on the North American continent which exceeds nearly everyone running for elected office this year. Bigfoot is widely popular but not credible.

The old adage says "Any publicity is good publicity." But for BF researchers and investigators, such a high public image does not help our cause. YouTube is littered with costumed hoaxes and pranks-- some with higher production values than others. The "Messin' with Sasquatch" ad campaign is an entertaining and successful vehicle for marketing beef jerky to the target audience for Jack Links. Bigfoot or Sasquatch have made appearances in board games, as action toys, in roles in television and movies and as sports mascots over the past 50 years. Try mentioning "Bigfoot" or "Sasquatch" in general conversation and see whether folks take you seriously.

Only after you have your own sighting or personal experience with one or more of these creatures, then you must decide whether to cling to the popular belief that such creatures don't exist-- or accept the fact that they do. Much like faith, this is a personal decision. It is futile trying to persuade anyone else to accept the presence and proximity of such creatures until he or she is ready to believe.

19 July 2008

Unidentified vocalization recorded on 12-Jul-2008

Wooded brush east of the house as seen an hour before the unidentified noise occured

Please listen to this inexplicable sound recorded during an on-site investigation in southern Illinois on Saturday, 12-Jul-2008. A recording is currently posted at http://www.stancourtney.com/sounds/07.12.08_1.mp3.

This audio clip is edited from near the end of a recording that lasted over 2 hours. The other investigator and homeowner are the first two voices being heard in this audio clip as they react to this noise which broke the silence that evening. They were perhaps up to 100 yards from the source location of the noise in an overgrown and wooded lot east of the homeowner's property. The end of the audio clip includes our initial reactions as the other investigator, homeowner and I share our observations and try to understand what we had just heard. Mine is the third person's voice you hear speaking near the end of the audio clip.

When this noise occured, my family and I had just come out of the homeowner's house and were walking out to our car. The events in the audio clip occured at 9:20pm, around an hour after sunset. The other investigator, the homeowner, my youngest daughter and I had been outside talking and touring the vicinity around the house since 7:00pm. At sunset, we hiked about one-third mile east through the woods which run behind the homeowner's house, stayed put and talked until 9:00pm when the moon was bright and started heading back to the house. My daughter and I walked on ahead (needing to get back and use the restroom). The other investigator and the homeowner were still on the trail back in the woods when my family and I came out of the house. As the 6 of us we were standing within the circle of light from the house's front porch, this loud sound erupted from the lot east of the house in the direction where I expected the other investigator and homeowner to have been.

From our position, the noise was much louder than it sounds on the audio clip. I was feeling the amplified pulse of each grating hiss and popping squeak striking my body as if we were standing too close to the percussive bang of an M-80 firecracker. Yet we did not see any fire, pyrotechnic light or sparks. I had to raise my voice and shout to assure my family that the noise was either fireworks or something being blasted over a loudspeaker. As it was happening, my guess was that either the other investigator or homeowner were broadcasting a recorded sound over a megaphone to see what kind of response was returned. (I hadn't been around another investigator who did "sound blasting" before so it seemed the simplest explanation at the time.)

When the three of us met immediately after the loud noise, I learned that the only equipment they had with them was the recorder and microphone being used to capture this recording. This had not been a "sound blasted" noise as I originally thought. From their vantage point, the source location of the noise was up to 100 yards south in the direction of the house. From our vantage point at the front of the house, my family and I heard it coming from very close range to the northeast in their direction back in the woods on the trail. This pinpointed whatever it was that had made the sound as being located in the wooded brush of the lot east of the homeowner's house (this lot is pictured at the beginning of this entry). They were looking south from the north end of this lot, we were looking northeast from the south end and none of us saw any lights, flashes or sparks associated with fireworks. Nor did we hear any movement in the brush. Otherwise it was too dark to have seen anything.

We've been reviewing the audio clip for a week and so far have been unable to identify with any certainty whatever it is that made this sound. We had eight people witness the noise-- myself, my wife, my four children, the other investigator and the homeowner. My wife described the noise as sounding like somebody playing with a Mr. Microphone toy on high volume. Our unanimous consensus is that it was not fireworks.

The repeated pattern does bear similarities to one of the calls made by southern leopard frogs which are common in these woods-- except for the sheer volume of the noise and that popping squeak at the end of each grating hiss. The one theory that makes more sense than anything else is that the noise then is actually an imitation or mimicry of the frog call being made by something capable of mimicking other animal vocalizations with this demonstration of both volume and lung power.

Rolling field and distant woods as seen looking south from the house

The reason for our visit that evening is the history of sighting reports and other suspicious observations made by the couple living in this home spanning the past year and a half. It was the wife who actually was the first to see a grey lanky figure standing in the bushes just west of the house as she drove home after working second shift a year and a half ago. When her 6-foot tall husband stood in the same location, she said the figure she saw was easily a foot or two taller than he was. Subsequent sightings (including descriptions of other individual figures of different hair color, physique and size), unusual noises and tracks were observed on and off through last fall. New observations were reported for the first time this year beginning a couple weeks ago-- as it appears a clan of individuals is again visiting this vicinity.

Branches in the homeowner's backyard are thick and woven together to block access

The homeowner is unable to enter the brush in the back half of his lot adjacent to the woods. When he first moved here five years ago, he had plans to clear this land. During these five years, he has not even been able to walk on this portion of his property. Adjacent lots have a similar jungle of undergrowth (refer again to the first photograph showing the lot east of his house). When we asked him why he was piling up branches in his backyard, he said he wasn't. Not all of the windfall branches are from nearby trees. Some of these branches seem to have been brought in from elsewhere.

One of the reasons cited by the homeowner for inviting the other investigator and me to visit his house last weekend was that a green apple had been thrown at him while he was in his backyard from within this jungle of branches and brush. Something like that had not happened during the previous year and a half of suspicious activity on and around his property.

The investigation of reports from this location which began a year and a half ago is ongoing. The unidentified audio recording made on 12-July-2008 is among the first pieces of physical evidence to be documented by someone other than the couple living in this house.

21 March 2008

Just kids at play

Many sightings reports are either made by children themselves or by adults who witness a creature watching their children. Something about human children is certainly attractive to BF creatures.
And what better playmate could there be for a human child living on the outskirts of civilization than a juvenile BF creature?

Noted Bigfoot researcher Ivan Sanderson recounts the following account:

Then there has been another most peculiar business in this [Klamath] area. It transpired that nearby, certain persons who are [Caucasian] family folk, live in rather expensive houses sometimes of the split-level ranch type, on blacktop roads around which school buses parade daily to take their offspring to be educated. In many cases they own houses which stand in several acres of land backed up against solid forest that has not been touched except for logging of large timber a century ago. They had something most unpleasant to report. These people live not more than 30 miles from a large and bustling modern city. They stated, in confidence and off the record, to certain locals for whose veracity I will vouch, that they had long experienced a problem.

This was simply that their kids - i.e. under 7-year-olds - had been found to be playing in the back fields up by the borders of the forest with certain fairly small hairy ones, who, when alarmed by the approach of human adults, allegedly took to the trees.

Said human kids, on reaching the age of reason, turned out not to want to talk about this abomination, while the parents most definitely did not and do not want it talked about. Nonetheless, they have talked a bit, and I pass it on to you for what it is worth.

Ivan T. Sanderson, Abominable Snowmen: Legend Come to Life,
published by Chilton of Philadelphia, PA, 1961, page 139

Daryl Colyer, investigator with the Texas Bigfoot Research Conservancy, shares a similar account.

This investigation was conducted as a result of an incident that allegedly occurred in Rusk County, Texas in 1983.

The witness remembers the experience vividly and was quite open and candid during the interview. The witness described the event as happening while he was playing with toy cars on the floor of his grandmother's living room. His grandfather, the victim of a very recent automobile accident, was sleeping on the sofa. The front door was open and the witness could see onto the front porch and into the front yard through the screen door.

The witness remembered seeing, as dusk fell, just on the other side of the screen door on the front porch, a curious creature that resembled "a small ape - stocky but bipedal," with "reddish-brown hair." Thinking back, the witness reckoned that the height of the subject was "no more than three or four feet." The subject stood there watching the witness as he played with his toy cars. The witness did not remember being cognizant of anything relating to gender, but did remember that its face seemed "like an ape," and that it had "expressive eyes." He went on to say, "As far as I could tell, it was a kid."

After a few seconds had passed, the witness stood up and walked over to the screen door. He now stood within an arm's length from the subject; it seemed to be more curious about the car that the witness held in his hand than with anything else. The witness remembered no discernible odor, except perhaps a subtle, "animal smell" (much like a dog or cat) and he had no memory of notable, pervasive feelings during the experience other than curiosity.

After a few seconds of studying the subject through the screen door (the whole encounter lasting perhaps 30 seconds), the witness ran into the kitchen with the hope of bringing his grandmother into the living room. When the witness returned to the living room with his grandmother, the subject had departed. The witness's grandmother did not believe him and admonished him not to "tell stories." He tried to convince her of what he had seen, while grandfather slept deeply on the sofa, but the grandmother would not accept it.

The next day, having a feeling of generosity and wanting to share his toys, the witness took the toy car with which he played when he first encountered the creature, and left it in the yard - as a gift and gesture of friendship. He never saw the little toy again, and believed that the "small bigfoot" absconded with it. The witness went on to say that he has no memory of tracks or any other physical evidence and that he was simply too young to have thought of such things.

Despite the hidden and elusive nature of these creatures, for whatever reason there are times or circumstances when they allow their own young to approach and interact with human children. No doubt such interactions are taking place under the watchful eye of a nearby parent or caretaker.

Looking at the same situation with the tables turned, what better playmate could there be for one of these juvenile hairy creatures than a hairless human child who lives on the edge of their woodland or wetland habitat area?

29 February 2008

BF researchers are lay people practicing "vigilante science"

The University of California at Berkeley is currently hosting a gallery exhibit at its Hearst Museum containing plaster casts and other evidence donated by Professor Grover S. Krantz, noted Bigfoot researcher and one-time Berkeley graduate student.

The exhibit includes casts of the so-called Bossburg cripple. This individual creature left a track line totaling 1,089 tracks in the snow in December 1969 near the garbage pit at Bossburg, Washington along the Columbia River. The tracks were investigated and plaster casts were collected by Rene Dahinden and Ivan Marx. These casts are back on public exhibit for the first time in over a decade. The track series of the Bossburg cripple crossed railroad tracks, a roadway, climbed a steep hill and stepped back and forth over a 43-inch fence row. These tracks are unique in that the creature's right foot reveals deformities consistent with an anatomical foot structure including a mid-tarsal joint.

The Bossburg cripple's 17-inch track casts now on exhbit at University of California - Berkeley

Barry Bergman, public affairs director for Berkeley, wrote the following article published in the Berkleyan:

Sherrilyn Roush, an associate professor of philosophy at Berkeley and author of the recently published Tracking Truth: Knowledge, Evidence and Science, contributed the text entries for the new exhibit.

Speaking Friday at the gallery, Roush noted that scientists once refused to credit the claims of lay people who reported seeing meteorites falling from the sky. Drawing the analogy to the numerous eyewitness accounts of Bigfoot, many of them from Native Americans, she suggested scientists have been unduly dismissive of “marginal science.”

“Up to the early 19th century, the study of meteorites was considered marginal science,” she said, explaining that trained scientists were loath to make the connection between meteors, which many had seen with their own eyes, and the rocks that civilians reported falling into their backyards from the heavens and insisted were meteorites. “There was a long period in which scientists recognized the existence of one of these and not the other,” she said. “And it may surprise you that the one they recognized was not the one we had physical evidence for.”

As with Bigfoot, the scientific establishment “argued that meteorites were impossible,” Roush said. And, as with meteorites, “it’s certainly not impossible for a species that’s a hominid in-between human beings and apes to be living in the Northwest Territories. That’s not impossible at all.”

Just the same, she allowed, scouring every inch of the forests to prove the falsity of Bigfoot’s existence, while theoretically possible, is highly impractical. For science to advance, practitioners must employ their limited resources in ways most likely to lead to progress.

“In fact,” said Roush, “some people have remarked that this is the difference between philosophy and science. Philosophers consider all logical possibilities, and that may be why it looks like it doesn’t progress — we find it necessary to start from scratch every time.”

Still, scientists’ need to make assumptions about what’s plausible and what’s not, she added, shouldn’t deter ordinary citizens from practicing what she dubbed “vigilante science,” the “investigation by unauthorized lay people” of events and objects overlooked by the scientific establishment — just as birdwatchers and amateur astronomers already do.

“People should feel more entitled to go out and investigate things that scientists might say don’t exist,” declared Roush, citing “the broader purpose of science to find out what’s going on in the world.…What I’m saying is that the lay public can actually help science, and has a right, even a responsibility, to do so.”

In contrast to the dismissive attitude of most scientists toward Bigfoot and other such “anomalous events and objects,” Roush cited primatologist Jane Goodall, who recently told NPR of her confidence in the vast number of eyewitness accounts of Bigfoot encounters by Native Americans and others in the Northwest. Goodall also admitted to being “a romantic,” and said, “I always have wanted [Bigfoot] to exist.”

That, said Roush, is “an extremely mature attitude.”

I echo Professor Roush in encouraging BF researchers to practice "vigilante science." Similar to what amateur birdwatchers and astronomers are already doing, those of us who are pursuing observations of BF creatures are in the void of "marginal science." We are lay people working in a grey area that is being overlooked by the majority of government, university and institutional research scientists. We have the right, yes, even the responsibility, to search for explanations to anomalous events and entities whose existence has been dismissed by traditional science.

Let it be our mission to "boldly go where no man as gone before" and our goal to work on establishing data observation and collection techniques that results in physical evidence documenting the existence of BF creatures.

24 January 2008

Are these creatures physical or paranormal?

As I am reading about and researching these creatures called Bigfoot, Sasquatch or Shadow Folk, I sometimes run across such things as aliens and UFOs and strange lights and ghosts slipped into the witness observations and encounter reports. At first I was tempted to discard or set aside such accounts since they have no place in my working theory that these creatures are flesh-and-blood animals. It was easier to focus on those incident reports which fit my expectation about the nature of these creatures.

Yesterday I responded to a PM from a California lady. She said she had gotten into bigfoot investigations as a member of a paranormal research group. She reported that either the folks in that group were making things up trying to outdo each other or they had some seriously disturbing things going on. She believed bigfoot was an animal but couldn't equate that fact with all the supernatural things they were reporting. Her PM asked me point blank, "Are bigfoot physical or paranormal?

I recently had a similar conversation with my daughters when they asked me whether ghosts were real. In that case, I related how some folks considered our local woods along Cole Hollow and California Roads to be haunted due to the strange things we've witnessed there such as the barking vocalizations, wood knocks and rock clacking. Or how a fellow investigator heard apelike whoops or had a rock thrown at his car at night. People can misinterpret the activities of a real animal and blame it on ghosts.

Last year I spoke with an "open minded" investigator who confided with me that poltergeist experiences started happening around and in his home as he became more interested and active in BF research. This struck a chord in me as I recalled first-person "ghost stories" reported by my relatives. I will not detail either his or my family's private anecdotes here, but I doubt that we are unique in having such accounts.

How do I explain such a world where "paranormal" manifestations ranging from UFOs to ghosts are a reality? I have come to an understanding that some folks are unwittingly dabbling in supernatural matters they directly or indirectly brought upon themselves.

I ground my foundational view of the universe and all within it by what God reveals to us in the Bible. As I read the Bible, I find that it describes a supernatural realm populated with angels and demons that are every bit as real as the natural world we experience with our 5 senses. For the most part, the supernatural realm remains unseen. Yet we are called to "walk by faith and not by sight." Ephesians 6:12 says, "For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places."

Since the dawn of creation, Satan and his demons will do anything and everything to distract and mislead folks from believing in Jesus and the Bible. Some of the things people attribute to ghosts, aliens, UFOs and the like may actually be the activities of real beings the Bible calls demons. I hope other folks involved in bigfoot research reading this are helped by this explanation. I've been praying for my fellow investigator who told me about the poltergeist activity he's been experiencing since he started researching bigfoot creatures. I hope he reads this blog. Any other people out there experiencing similar things also need to find out what's really going on.

When somebody seeks out the "paranormal" and stuff starts happening then I think they may very well be fraternizing with these supernatural beings, most likely demons who at times masquerade as angels (or vice versa, in that the ulterior motive of such beings is bent on entertaining and misleading people).

So on one hand, I believe these creatures we are investigating represent one or more species of flesh-and-blood animals created and gifted by God with amazing survival skills which explain how they have managed to elude us and extinction to the present day. On the other hand, I also believe that some of the experiences and observations reported by folks may in fact be the activity of equally real supernatural beings.

Take comfort in knowing that throughout all the circumstances and events of our lives, God remains sovereign. Even supernatural beings can only do as much as God allows them to do. If an individual person is wholly intent on seeking out and dabbling with such beings as they pursue "paranormal" experiences, God allows this to happen. God reigns supreme and the end of the conflict is certain. If you are fearful or oppressed by the "paranormal," seek God and the shelter of His gracious and merciful love through His Son, Jesus Christ.

Paranormal investigators and ordinary folk alike may very well experience and report observations which they mistakenly attribute as being associated with BF creatures. As for me, my understanding of both the physical and supernatural realities at work makes the most sense as I sift through so many sighting and encounter reports-- some of which include "paranormal" elements.

26 December 2007

What happens when folks "discover" that Bigfoot creatures exist?

Being considered a figment of somebody else's imagination is among the best defenses working to protect these creatures. Bigfoot is only considered real by a very small minority of folks who have made personal observations or had experiences that defy any other explanation.

It isn't very difficult to imagine how the general public will react to breaking information about the presence and proximity of Bigfoot creatures. Just consider what has happened during the past generation any time a rash of sightings or encounters makes news. Human nature is somewhat predictable; thus history tends to repeat itself.

For example, consider how the media and public responded to a series of incidents here in central Illinois. Over a period of a few months in 1972, a handful of credible eyewitness sightings of a single creature occuring here in the wooded ravines near my home in Tazewell County, Illinois (the creature was named CoHoMo by local reporters, short for Cole Hollow Monster) led to an organized sweep of Cole Hollow woods by dozens of armed citizens and law enforcement officers-- similar to what would be staged in the quest of a presumably dangerous fugitive. (For a summary of the 1972 reports, see http://www.geocities.com/bigfootman2320/cohomo.html).

Cole Hollow Woods occupies a series of steep ravines along Cole Creek with coal mine shafts (some once productive but now closed, some shut down before the laws were enacted requiring the entrances to be safely closed and others little more than exploratory holes) dug during the century preceding WWII. The effort was called off by the local sheriff's office when one of the participants was wounded by an accidental firearem discharge.

This was not some redneck "monster hunt" motivated by fear as described by some journalists, but rather it was a grassroots volunteer action by concerned neighbors trying to get to the bottom of whatever it was that was being sighted in these woods. Given what we now know about the elusive abilities of these creatures, I doubt whether any of the CoHoMo searchers in the summer of 1972 would have observed any evidence of the subject of their quest. But as a timely response to a local sighting report, it remains as one of the most ambitious Bigfoot search efforts when ranked by the number of participants (or "boots on the ground" in military terms).

When the Interstate 474 bypass was constructed in the late 1970s, Cole Hollow Woods became isolated from the network of wooded ridges along the east bluff of the Illinois River Valley. For the past decade or so, these woods have more or less become a playground for adults riding ATVs. These particular woods are no longer the same remote and inaccessible habitat area for woodland animals as they would have been back in 1972.

History will document the official re-discovery of Bigfoot as happening when somebody documents credible and verifiable evidence of the existence of these animals. The best evidence would of course be a body, but perhaps a high-quality video recording that shows one or more creatures in action doing something beyond the scope of human ability might be persuasive to many people.

When such a "discovery" takes place, we must anticipate the inevitable increase in fear of what is unknown among the general public, media, government agencies and leaders. Reporters will flock to outspoken Bigfoot investigators ranging from Eric B. to Tom B. and Matt M. for interviews and answers.

The survival of Bigfoot animals as a species will depend on how quickly fact can be sorted from fiction concerning these creatures.

21 November 2007

Hiking solo at my favorite research area on November 18

This past Sunday (Nov. 18) during the last couple hours of deer hunting season here in Illinois, I hiked alone into my favorite "research area." It is a densely wooded area on public property so I thought I would find where the deer were hiding out from the hunters.

It was late afternoon on a gray foggy day with a light rain. As I suspected, due to the inclement weather nobody else was parked along the dead-end access road so I had the woods to myself. My plan was to hike some 20 minutes east to the edge of the public property where it borders a private hunting club. My destination was where my kids and I were standing this past July 22 when we heard a series of wood knocks coming from the private hunting club area.

With most of the leaves down, visibility was now much better in the woods and I hoped to see and photograph deer along the way. I really enjoy hiking in the woods during a light rain and don't seem to get the opportunity often enough. As soon as I got out of my car, I started hearing the noise of a barking dog far off in the direction I was going to hike. I've heard a barking dog in these woods before but have not seen any dog tracks or a loose dog running around. I hoped the sound was coming from much farther away and was only carrying well across the quiet woods.

I discovered that the rain had softened the fallen leaves and that if I stepped carefully I couldn't even hear myself walking. As far as photographing any deer, it was a bust. I had seen none driving along the dead-end access road, and I found none hiding in these woods that afternoon.

About halfway back to my destination, I heard a single whack or clack to my right (south). I stood still for a long time waiting to hear anything else. All I could hear was the rain falling on the leaves. I eventually convinced myself that I must have imagined the sharp noise. I reached my destination on the bluff above a flowing creek and could see a long distance into the woods on the adjacent private hunting club. From my vantage point, I looked for tracks in the muddy banks of the creek. I saw nothing unusual and heard nothing more than the light rain and the water flowing in the creek below.

I returned to where I parked by continuing to follow the trail loop around. Halfway back to my car, I again heard a single whack or clack to my right (north this time). Both of the sharp noises had come from the denser and deeply ravined area encircled by the trail loop. It was now getting noticeably darker as I made it back to my car. At this point I heard 3 gunshots from the direction of the private hunting club-- somebody taking their last shots during the closing minutes of the deer season that day.

Thinking about this afterwards, I'm wondering whether the noise of a barking dog I had heard when I first got out of my car was a signal from a sentry creature up in a tree which either saw me or heard me close my car door. The first sharp noise (which I ignored and kept on hiking) could have been an alarm when I crossed into an area being defended and the second sharp noise could have signalled me leaving the area.

The absence of any deer, birds or even small animals throughout my hike should have also been a clue at the time. Usually when I hike in the woods during a light rain I get to see a lot more wildlife. (One time I witnessed a rabbit playfully jumping back and forth over a water puddle-- I wouldn't have believed it if I hadn't seen it for myself.)

I now realize that the increased visibility in the woods works both ways. Whereas I thought it gave me an advantage of seeing a longer distance into the brush, likewise these creatures could keep track of where I was and stayed out of sight. I should have anticipated that they would have taken up temporary residence in the woods on public property while hunters were prowling around the private hunting club. They were probably keeping an eye on me the whole time.

I am glad I wasn't wearing "blaze orange" and carrying a rifle-- from the reports of hunters in such situations I may have been confronted or escorted out of the woods.

15 November 2007

Recent Bigfoot encounters in Illinois (of all places)

Whoever says Bigfoot creatures don't exist must ignore or discredit each of the witnesses who are encountering these animals.

Hairy hominid creatures matching the description of a Sasquatch or Bigfoot (whatever name you choose) are being encountered here in my home state of Illinois. Though not considered to be a "hotbed" of activity, folks are continuing to report encounters here in primarily rural areas. People from different walks of life who previously had no interest in such matters are coming forth with encounter reports. Nobody stands to gain by publicly admitting these experiences and if anything he or she risks being called a liar or considered crazy by their peers, authorities, the media and general public.

This is a summarized chronology of Illinois sighting reports during the past few years:

September 2007 - McLean County semi driver startled by sight and vocalization made by a pair of walking upright ape-like animals while fishing north of Mansfield; leaving his fishing gear behind. He directed a hunter friend to go back armed and retrieve his gear (see http://www.stancourtney.com/phpBB2/viewtopic.php?t=1088)

January 2007 - Cass County horse rancher witnesses a silverback (black with gray highlights) upright ape walking through the yard at 10pm when she turns her outdoor lights on to see why her horses are upset (see http://www.stancourtney.com/phpBB2/viewtopic.php?t=346)

October 2006 through September 2007 - Madison County couple report a series of sightings since June 2006 in the woods and fields around their rural home (see http://www.stancourtney.com/phpBB2/viewtopic.php?t=56, http://www.stancourtney.com/phpBB2/viewtopic.php?t=237 and http://www.stancourtney.com/phpBB2/viewtopic.php?t=957)

October 2006 - Livingston County truck driver reports seeing a tall creature running on two legs crossing I-55 at night near mile marker 218 (near Dwight) (see http://www.stancourtney.com/phpBB2/viewtopic.php?t=142)

July 2006 - Williamson County man reports sighting at Lake of Egypt near the Shawnee National Forest (see http://www.bfro.net/GDB/show_report.asp?id=15393)

June 2006 - Kendall County couple report a howling creature that damages their fence in rural Yorkville (http://www.bfro.net/GDB/show_report.asp?id=15019)

November 2005 - LaSalle County workers up on 300 foot cell phone tower report daylight sighting of tall creature crossing road in wooded rural area south of I-80 (see http://www.stancourtney.com/phpBB2/viewtopic.php?t=143)

November 2005 - Saline County deer hunter has pre-dawn encounter en route to his deer stand (http://www.bfro.net/GDB/show_report.asp?id=13070)

October 2005 - Tazewell County homeowner reports strange vocalizations and large tracks in backyard (see http://www.bfro.net/GDB/show_report.asp?id=12836)

October 2005 - Vermilion County fisherman reports suspicious observations in Kickapoo State Park (http://www.bfro.net/GDB/show_report.asp?id=15844)

June through October 2005 - McLean County father and son report a series of sightings of two creatures in the woods along old Route 66 (http://www.stancourtney.com/phpBB2/viewtopic.php?t=158)

June 2005 - Grundy County snake hunter reports a daylight sighting of a large creature in a wooded marshland near the Illinois River (http://www.bfro.net/GDB/show_report.asp?id=11831)

June 2005 - Grundy County men have daylight sighting of two creatures in the woods near the Illinois River (http://www.bfro.net/GDB/show_report.asp?id=12439). A sketch drawn by one of the men is shown above.

September 2004 - McDonough County homeowner has daylight sighting of a dark brownish gray ape running upright across the pasture adjacent to her home (http://www.bfro.net/GDB/show_report.asp?id=15007).

February 2004 - Madison County man reports seeing two "black naked apes" in the woods near his home (http://www.bigfootencounters.com/sbs/il.html).

One common thread woven among these recent sighting reports in Illinois is their proximity to a wooded habitat with fresh flowing water which both hides and sustains these creatures. The eyewitnesses are seeing creatures with a range of physical descriptions (size, weight and hair color) and in a few instances more than one creature is witnessed at the same time. The dates and geographic distribution of reports suggest that Illinois is home to several clans or packs of creatures living in certain vicinities on a year-round basis.

The same resources that sustained a large number of native American tribes for centuries in this region (and prior to that the primitive mound building people) are no longer being harvested by modern society. Edible roots, bark, twigs and fruit abound in the woodlands, grasslands and marshes that remain in the large stretches of untenable real estate along Illinois riverways. Thanks to clean water initiatives began 30 years ago, our rivers are thriving again with fishes and freshwater mussels. The populations of deer, wild turkey and other animals, both game and non-game, are rebounding.

Perhaps the population of these North American apes are likewise on the rebound.