Tag Archives: Bigfoot

Why Does Anyone Still Believe In The Loch Ness Monster?

By The Conversation via science20

big-foot-loch-nessPeople are fascinated by the unknown, by the possibility that there are things out there that are yet to be discovered.

We think that most of our planet has been mapped by satellites and continents have been thoroughly explored. Although scientists estimate that millions of species are yet to be discovered, these are mostly assumed to be very small animals, especially invertebrates.

Long gone are the days of famous explorers, when the borders of uncharted lands were marked with warnings such as “here be dragons”. And yet, many of us, still hope that some amazing, unexpected creatures may be hiding somewhere.

These creatures are the so-called “cryptids”, animals such as the Himalayan Yeti, north American Bigfoot or Australia’s own Yowie.

Perhaps the most famous is the Loch Ness monster, which has been back in the news recently, thanks to the discovery of a nine-meter long object at the Scottish lake.

Engineers prepare to tow Munin, an intelligent marine robot, on Loch Ness in search for the mysterious monster. REUTERS/Russell Cheyne

Engineers prepare to tow Munin, an intelligent marine robot, on Loch Ness in search for the mysterious monster. REUTERS/Russell Cheyne

A team of Norwegian researchers found what was initially thought to be evidence for the existence of the monster, informally known as “Nessie”.

But this evidence later turned out to be just a prop from the 1970 movie The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes, which sank after its buoyant humps were removed.

This team of researchers was using some advanced sonar technology in the hope of unveiling the mystery of Loch Ness once and for all. But the prop is all they have found so far.

Certainly, many people were disappointed. But from a scientific perspective, what are the odds that a prehistoric reptile actually inhabits the depths of Loch Ness?

Continue Reading @ science20 – – –

Spooky Science: Paranormal Beliefs Linked to Fearful Worldview

By Elizabeth Palermo via LiveScience.com

ghostly_173People who believe in ghosts may be more afraid of actual, real-world dangers — things like violent crimes or nuclear war — than are people who don’t hold paranormal beliefs, a new survey finds.

The Survey of American Fear asked people in the United States to divulge the terrors that keep them up at night. For the survey, nearly 1,500 participants responded to questions about 88 different fears and anxieties, ranging from commonplace phobias (like fear of heights) to less tangible concerns (like fear of government corruption). The survey also asked participants about their beliefs concerning paranormal and mythical things, like ghosts, Bigfoot and ancient aliens.

An inforgraphic demonstrating the paranormal beliefs included in the Fear Survey. Credit: Chapman University

An inforgraphic demonstrating the paranormal beliefs included in the Fear Survey.
Credit: Chapman University

“The reason we ask [about paranormal things] on the survey is that we’re interested in finding out what kind of clusters of beliefs tend to be associated with fear,” Christopher Bader, a professor of sociology at Chapman University in California and leader of the second annual Fear Survey, told Live Science.

ouija-board-gifLast year in the survey, researchers asked questions that gauged the respondents’ scientific reasoning. This was done to find out how the individuals’ knowledge of scientific ideas (how electricity works, why the sun sets in the west, etc.) related to those respondents’ fears. But this year, the focus was on supernatural beliefs, not scientific ones.

Bader and his colleagues found that quite a few Americans hold paranormal beliefs. The most common of these is the belief that spirits can haunt particular places; 41.4 percent of the demographically representative group of participants said they held this belief. A lot of Americans (26.5 percent) also think that the living and the dead can communicate with each other in some way, the survey found.

Many survey participants said  .  .  .

Continue Reading at LiveScience.com – – –

The Skookum Cast

The first “full body cast” of an alleged Bigfoot left many experts with a different impression.

skeptoid eyeby Blake Smith via skeptoid
Read transcript below or listen here

It’s not as famous outside of the Bigfoot research community as the other alleged evidence. The shaky films and blurry photographs appear in more documentaries, and the giant plaster foot castings are more widely recognized. But in September 2000, Patterson_bigfoota team of investigators from the Bigfoot Field Research Organization (BFRO) emerged from the woods near Skookum Meadows in Washington state with 15 square feet of plaster and Hydrocal® that they claim results from a full body impression of the mysterious man-like animal known as Bigfoot. Was this the best new evidence supporting the existence of Bigfoot since the Patterson Gimlin film? Or was it something else?

Before we dig into the question of whether or not the Skookum Cast is evidence for the existence of Bigfoot, let’s take a look at how the cast came to be taken in the first place. bigfoot-2In late 2000, the Australian television show Animal X was filming its second season. As part of a planned Bigfoot special, they sent a film crew to Washington state to meet with team members of the BFRO to look for Bigfoot evidence in the Pacific Northwest. An expedition was mounted in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest. The expedition included Matt Moneymaker, Thom Powell, Rick Noll, Dr. Leroy Fish, the film crew from Animal X and several other BFRO members. For six days the team had been blasting recordings of alleged Bigfoot vocalizations, experimenting with pheromone lures, and using thermal cameras. In many ways, they were doing the same kinds of activities that would become the basis for the television show Finding Bigfoot. On the evening of the expedition’s sixth day, the team placed fruit bait near a muddy patch by the road in the hope that it might lure a Bigfoot and provide some good physical evidence. On the seventh day, September 22, the team discovered the large animal impression that would become known as the Skookum Cast.

The Skookum cast is a plaster cast often claimed to be an imprint of the body of Bigfoot, although it is more typically regarded as that of an elk (Wikipedia). Some bigfoot enthusiasts believe the cast shows the imprints of bigfoot body parts (above right).

The expedition members used 200 pounds of casting material and some tent poles to make a record of the large impression. But where were the footprints? Clearly a large animal had made the shape in the mud, but there were none of the signature tracks that have made Bigfoot so famous – and from which it gets its name. There was much discussion and finally a scenario emerged that the BFRO suggests explains the situation: A lone Bigfoot was attracted to the bait, but did not want to leave its tracks so it carefully crawled to the fruit. It then reclined on the ground in the mud while it ate the fruit, before departing in a similar trackless mode. With this theory and their 200 pounds of alleged Bigfoot evidence, team members transported the cast to an indoor location where it could be studied by scientific experts.

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Dyatlov Pass and Mass Murdering Yeti?

bigfoot right there

A Closer Look at Russian Yeti: The Killer Lives

Benjamin RadfordBy Benjamin Radford via Doubtful News

A new two-hour Discovery Channel “documentary,” Russian Yeti: The Killer Lives, revisits the curious case of nine Russian skiers who died under unclear circumstances in the Ural mountains. It is packed with dramatic “found footage” recreations, dubious derring-do, a pulse-pounding score, and piles of speculation.

Here’s the premise, based on a press release for the show:

“On February 2, 1959, nine college students hiked up the icy slopes of the Ural Mountains in the heart of Russia but never made it out alive.  Investigators have never been able to give a definitive answer behind who – or what – caused the bizarre crime scene.  hiking 753_225pxFifty-five years later, American explorer Mike Libecki reinvestigates the mystery—known as The Dyatlov Pass incident—but what he uncovers is truly horrifying…. Based on diary accounts, forensic evidence and files that have just recently been released, Mike pieces together the graphic stories in search of what really happened that evening.  According to the investigators at the time, the demise of the group was due to a ‘compelling natural force.’ The students’ slashed tent was discovered first with most of their clothing and equipment still inside.  Next, the students’ bodies were found scattered across the campsite in three distinct groups, some partially naked and with strange injuries including crushed ribs, a fractured skull, and one hiker mutilated with her eyes gouged out and tongue removed… Mike first heard about the Dyatlov Pass incident on a climbing expedition in 2011 and since then has become obsessed with the case… Determined to find answers, Mike hires Russian translator Maria Klenokova to join him.  Together, they set out to one of the most remote and inhospitable places on Earth.  However, nothing prepared them for what they were about to discover.  Following the trail of evidence, Mike finds proof that the hikers were not alone—a photograph, taken by one of the hikers a day before they died that suggests that they encountered a Yeti.  But just how far will they go to find the answers?”

tentFocusing on the undisputed facts in this case, we know that after nearly a week of skiing the group led by Igor Dyatlov, at some point on the night of February 1-2, 1959, cut slits in their tent and left through the cut for the safety of the wooded area below, most of them wearing their underwear or a few scraps of clothing. After they failed to return, a rescue party was sent, and tracks were followed from the tent to the woods, where all the skiers were found, some of them many months later. According to the autopsy, the cause of death for all of them was hypothermia, or freezing to death; four of the nine also had internal injuries, and one of them, Ludmila Dubinina, was missing a tongue and had additional injuries to her eyes. The biggest mysteries are why the group abandoned their tent (with their supplies and clothes inside), apparently in a hurry through a cut in the fabric; and what caused their injuries.

There are many elements and claims to the Dyatlov Pass story, and many theories including UFOs, top-secret government conspiracies, and unusual natural phenomena. I won’t be addressing those claims (in fact as we will see there’s really no need to invoke those anyway), but instead focusing on the plausibility of the newest theory as promoted in the new Discovery Channel show: That a Yeti was responsible for the mass murder of nine Russians in 1959.

The Group’s Injuries

hiking 754_225pxRussian Yeti: The Killer Lives begins with the premise that the injuries sustained by the skiers were so grave and extraordinary that could only have been inflicted by an inhumanly strong creature. The shows says that according to the autopsy, the hikers suffered “horrific injuries” including fractured ribs and a fractured skull attributed to a “compelling natural force” (in other words, some sort of blunt force trauma such as a fall or being crushed).

Unfortunately for the show, photographs of the dead hikers undermine most of the sensational claims. The photographs are crystal clear: the bodies were not “mutilated”. They were actually in fairly good shape for a party who had skied into the remote area, froze to death, and were discovered months later after exposure to the elements. Those who had cracked ribs were found at the bottom of a 13-foot ravine, and could have sustained the injuries falling into it, or at some point after their death during the months before they were found when buried by an avalanche or the weight of wet snow crushed them.

While a fractured skull might be considered “horrific” depending on your comfort with bodily trauma, according to the Mayo Clinic  .  .  .

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discovery channel_150pxAs of this writing, the Discovery Channel schedule shows the following broadcast dates and times for Russian Yeti: The Killer Lives:

  • 6/8/2014 @ 8:00 pm
  • 6/9/2014 @ 12:00 am
  • 6/9/2014 @ 3:00 am

Bigfoot Hoax – How Far Will It Go?

H/T:

steven_novellaBy via NeuroLogica Blog

I admit I am curious to see how this will ultimately play out. Rick Dyer is at it again. In 2008 Dyer claimed to have found a dead bigfoot. He claimed that scientific analysis was coming, he had the body for investigation, he held a press conference promising evidence.

finding-bigfoot_250pxIt was soon discovered that the bigfoot body was simply a rubber suit – the whole thing was a crude hoax, surprising only the most gullible bigfoot believers.

Amazingly, Dyer is now at it again. He claims to have shot and killed a bigfoot, that he has the body, that the BBC has footage of the whole thing, and that a team of scientists have thoroughly examined the body.

If his claims are true, then Dyer has the smoking gun evidence that bigfoot is real. Of course, at this point no nerd can resist quoting that Klingon saying, “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.”

Does Dyer honestly expect anyone to believe that a proven bigfoot hoaxer really caught bigfoot this time? Where so many have failed before, a hoaxer alone has struck gold.

Screen Shot 2014-01-29 at 9.00.01 PM_250pxAgain we see the same pattern – the promise of stunning evidence, but only tidbits of unconvincing evidence so far. Dyer is showing only a short grainy video he took with his cellphone, and a couple of closeup photos of a furry face and back. You can see these images here as part of this local news interview.

In the interview Dyer is full of the expected excuses. He has promised a press conference, but he is having difficulty organizing everyone’s schedule. You see, if you are the scientist to have performed the first anatomical analysis of a bigfoot, you have to schedule the press conference around your daughter’s soccer game.

He promises that the BBC has stunning video – but they are not going to show it, or even acknowledge it, until their movie comes out.

The scientists are not talking because they all signed non-disclosure agreements.

He says he has the body back now, the scientific analysis being complete, and it is standing in the next room – but his video camera does not reach. I guess he didn’t consider that anyone might want to see it during the video interview.

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I’m Not Making This Up: Why I’m Skeptical of Eyewitnesses

Sharon_hill_80pxBy via The Huffington Post

One of the major disconnects between those who practice effective skepticism and those who believe in paranormal possibilities (or are emotionally invested in unexplained mysteries) is over the topic of anecdotes and witnesses’ testimony.

tape recorder brain_300pxIf there is one fact that I wish we could all accept early in life, I would vote for drumming in the idea that memory is not like a tape recorder. If we learn this truth about the human mind, we could avoid so much trouble.

Memory is constructed. Pause a moment and let that sink in.

Memory is not objective, it is constructed by our own brains. It is not burned, or ingrained, or seared into it, as much as we would like to think that is the case. The truth is less precise, uncertain, and disturbing.

Most of us rely on our short- and long-term memories nearly every moment of the day. For the most part, our recollections are simple and good enough to get us through situations and day-to-day activities without much trouble, but false memories are ubiquitous.

I don’t trust my memory at all. I’ve seen it fail epically. That’s why I try to keep logs and records of what happened and when. I’ll take pictures of things I want to remember and write copious notes.

I’ve had a journal since I was 7. There have been times when I looked back on events and was dumbfounded at the dispute between what I thought had happened and what I wrote happened in my journal. For a moment, I doubt my journal! But that’s incorrect. My current memory had evolved into what I wanted it to be for my state right now. It had been reconstructed each time I accessed it in the intervening years.

memory falseI’d bet many of you think you have a great memory — that you can relate your observations clearly and accurately. But you’re wrong, too. Don’t feel bad about this! We are all imperfect when it comes to observing and remembering. Our brains are incredible things but they function mostly for self-preservation and propagation of the species, and only moderately well as an accurate memory collector.

Several paranormal subjects such as hauntings, UFO sightings, and Bigfoot reports rely solely on witnesses’ recollections. Sometimes years or decades pass, but the memory is still taken as credible and true because the people seem sincere. I’ve lost count of how many times the argument has been put to me that the eyewitness reports for Bigfoot are so compelling and voluminous that there must be something to them. Frequently, they present the really poor argument that if this was a court of law, Bigfoot would be ruled genuine. It’s more complicated than that.

Not only are our memories generally far from perfect, perception is poor too.

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Bigfoot Files: Science, Skepticism and the True Believers

bigfoot right there
Sharon_hill_80pxBy Sharon Hill via The Committee for Skeptical Inquiry – CSI

There is a small, elite group of skeptics who know their Bigfootery. That’s right, the Bigfoot skeptics.

bigfoot-2Scoff if you will, but skeptical advocacy through talking about Bigfoot and other cryptozoological creatures is an important job. Those who joke about Bigfoot and how we are wasting our time researching and discussing it must have missed the Internet and popular TV shows lately. Bigfoot is booming.

Thanks to pop culture making this a hot topic, the public finds it more acceptable—people are talking about it, it has its own TV shows, there must be something to it.

Bigfoot is arguably one of the more plausible cryptids out there. While he tends to behave a bit supernaturally at times (can’t catch the bugger in real life or even on camera), a hairy hominoid is not an impossibility—just REALLY unlikely.

I thought it was time to update what has happened in the Bigfoot drum circles in the past year since Melba Ketchum released her astoundingly disappointing and inept study of Bigfoot DNA. You can read the chronology here. It’s quite a story, interesting for reason far beyond that of genetics and a new species (a claim which is not justified based on this one highly questionable set of tests).

finding-bigfoot_250pxKetchum’s credibility faded fast upon the reveal, even though she kept promoting more and more ridiculous events, like the “Matilda, the Sleeping Bigfoot” press conference. If the Ketchum team had sought assistance and advice from knowledgeable scientists, they would have been told in no uncertain terms this is the absolute worst way to appear trustworthy. Science should not be done by press conference, especially if your Bigfoot looks an awful lot like a Wookie (from Star Wars).

I have digressed. Back to the science of Bigfoot. Yes, there is some, it can be done.

All eyes and hopes in the Bigfoot world turned to Dr. Bryan Sykes of Oxford University in the U.K. who was well underway with the Oxford Lausanne Collateral Hominid Project. Sykes accepted samples of what was suspected to be an unknown hominid from around the world. Using his special technique to remove contamination and analyze the inner core of a single hair, he has reached results that have garnered far more weight that the Ketchum results.

Why? Because he had credibility to begin with. Sykes is genuinely interested in the answer, not hung up on a pre-existing conclusion. He has not been deceptive, or continually feeding us a whiney train of gripes about how the world is out to get him. There were no conspiracies mongered in this case. There were tests and there were results. It was objective science.

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Dragon Video

steven_novellaby Steven Novella via Skepticblog

These make for light-hearted posts, but occasionally it’s fun to deconstruct viral videos purporting to show something fantastical on the internet. Most such videos are one of the big three – ghosts, UFOs or Bigfoot (or some other cryptozoological creature).

dragon_250pxThe current video is in the cryptozoological category – a video purporting to show a dragon flying through the skies of Truro England.

Obviously the prior-probability here is vanishingly small, and so it would take a very compelling video to have any chance of being taken seriously, and this video does not come close. Before I take a close look at the video itself, let’s explore the plausibility of the claim.

Dragons are gigantic flying predators, at least in their current Western cultural image. Such creatures if they existed would be voracious. Flying is a high-energy activity and animals pay for the benefits of flight by needing to eat incredible amounts of calories. Bald eagles, for example, eat about 10% of their body weight per day. If we extrapolate that to a dragon, even if light for its size so it can fly, would require hundreds of pounds of food per day.

Each dragon would require a large hunting territory. If there is even a minimal breeding population of dragons, they would frequently be seen in the skies hunting for prey or carrion. Saying they live underground or are stealthy hunters, first is an argument from ignorance to explain a lack of evidence. green_dragon-20112027Further, it is not plausible such creatures could survive under ground (and why would they fly), and you can only be so stealthy when you are that size.

There are also the usual objective to cryptozoological creatures – why are there no specimens of such creatures, no bones, no carcasses, no nests, scat, or remains of their eating? We can invent a special reason why each bit of evidence is lacking, but Occam favors the conclusion that these creatures just don’t exist.

We also have the historical record of dragons, meaning their existence in culture, as a guide. We can clearly see the image of dragons evolve over time, going in different directions in different cultures. Real creatures have a more stable representation in art over time – the artistic style may evolve, but a lion is always a lion. (Here, of course, I am talking about historical time frames of hundreds of years, not evolutionary time scales.)

The Video

It is reasonable to conclude from existing evidence that dragons probably do not exist (as cool as it would be if they did), but let’s take a look at the video with an open, but critical, mind.

MORE . . . (video) . . .

Superstitious Beliefs Getting More Common

by Emily Sohn via Discovery News

THE GIST

ghost 820_250px

  • Believing in the paranormal is actually more normal than you might think and may be growing more common.
  • Contrary to common stereotypes, there is no single profile of a person who accepts the paranormal.
  • It might be in our nature to look for patterns and meaning in strange and random events.

It’s that time of year again. Ghosts, goblins and other spooky characters come out from the shadows and into our everyday lives.

For most people, the thrill lasts for a few weeks each October. But for true believers, the paranormal is an everyday fact, not just a holiday joke.

To understand what drives some people to truly believe, two sociologists visited psychic fairs, spent nights in haunted houses, trekked with Bigfoot hunters, sat in on support groups for people who had been abducted by aliens, and conducted two nationwide surveys.

Contrary to common stereotypes, the research revealed no single profile of a person who accepts the paranormal. Believers ranged from free-spirited types with low incomes and little education to high-powered businessmen. Some were drifters; others were brain surgeons.

paranormal_america_book_300pxWhy people believed also varied, the researchers report in a new book, called “Paranormal America: Ghost Encounters, UFO Sightings, Bigfoot Hunts, and Other Curiosities in Religion and Culture.”

For some, the paranormal served as just another way of explaining the world. For others, extraordinary phenomena offered opportunities to chase mysteries, experience thrills and even achieve celebrity status, if they could actually find proof.

“It’s almost like an adult way to get that kidlike need for adventure and exploration,” said co-author Christopher Bader, of Baylor University in Waco, Texas. “Other people are sitting at home and renting videos, but you’re sitting in a haunted house that is infested with demons.”

“These guys who are hunting Bigfoot are out chasing a monster,” he added. “I could see the real appeal in going out for weekend and never knowing what you might find.”

There is no hard data on how common it is to believe in the paranormal, which Bader and co-author Carson Mencken define as beliefs or experiences that are not fully accepted by science or religion.

But trends in television programming offer a sense that there is a widespread interest in . . .

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5 Thing I’ve noticed about… Cryptids

By via The Soap Box

Cryptids.

Creatures that are often times so elusive that there is no physical proof of their existence, and has lead most people to believe that they don’t exist at all.

Now despite the fact that there is actually no proof that any cryptids exist, there are certain things that I have noticed about them, and have narrowed down to five things.

So here are five things I’ve noticed about cryptids:

5. They are masters at Hide & Go Seek.

finding-bigfoot_250pxIf a cryptid was to ever enter a hide & go seek contest, they would probably win it, because they are masters at hiding.

Despite the fact that many of the areas of the world where various cryptids are known to live are actually very well explored, no one can actually seem to capture a living or dead cryptid.

A couple of good examples of this would be the search for the Loch Ness Monster and the search for Bigfoot.

Despite the fact that there have been multiple explorations of where Bigfoot is suppose to live (which is apparently everywhere now) or the use of motion sensor triggered trail cameras where they are suppose to roam, no one has ever been able to produce any solid proof that Bigfoot exists, other then a few grainy photos taken by people whom weren’t even looking for the creature and could easily be something else entirely, and some photos and videos and footprints that are clear, but have either been found out to be hoaxes, or are strongly suspected of being hoaxes.

As for the Loch Ness Monster, that creature is so good at hiding scientists couldn’t even find it after all of Loch Ness was scanned with sonar devices.

4. They’re big business

ccc

Mothman is a legendary creature first reportedly seen in the Point Pleasant area of West Virginia from 15 November 1966 to 15 December 1967. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mothman)

Cryptids have made people a lot of money.

There have been many popular TV shows dedicated to finding cryptids, or has a cryptid as one of the characters. There have also been multiple products that feature cryptids as well (including shirts and toys). You can even pay people to take you on expeditions into these places where these cryptids are suppose to inhabit, and the sites where some of these creatures are suppose to live (such as Loch Ness) have become huge tourist attractions, attracting thousands of wannabe monster hunters every year hoping to catch a glimpse of one of these elusive creatures.

Of course lets not forget the millions of dollars spent on high tech equipment to try to find these alleged creatures.

Plus, who here can honestly say that the creation of the Star Wars character Chewbacca wasn’t in some ways inspired by the descriptions of Bigfoot.

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Judging Paranormal Claims: Group-think Is Not a Good Thing

Sharon_hill_80pxBy via The Huffingtonpost

When I do interviews for paranormal-themed podcasts or radio-shows, I find myself stressing the difference between my skeptical approach and the paranormalist approach. It’s worlds apart, starting with the core questions we ask. The paranormalist will ask, “Can we find evidence of paranormal activity here?” I start out with, “What, if anything, happened?” I have not begun with the assumption that paranormal activity has played any role in this situation whatsoever. If you do assume that, you are biased from square one. You are far less likely to come to a sound conclusion.

ElmerGhost02_250pxThe paranormal researcher, I have found, often is interested in their subject area because of a personal experience. These experiences are emotional and confusing and probably highly disturbing to the individual. Once a person has this type of personal experience and believes it was of a paranormal nature (a haunting, seeing a UFO, or encountering Bigfoot, for example), it is impossible for anyone to reason them out of that interpretation. The memory becomes ingrained as a paranormal experience. It’s unlikely they will change that interpretation as their life progresses. Paranormal belief can be reinforced by positive feedback from social aspects, such as acceptability of the belief in pop culture or a social group of others who feel the same. Thus, we have diehard fans of paranormal reality TV and members of amateur paranormal research groups all over the place.

group think_150pxThe emotion and time people invest in their paranormal interest is not unlike a church or even a skeptics society — we feel a deep comfort in being around like minds and having our ideas bolstered.

However, being surrounded only by those who see things the same as you do is a severe roadblock to fair assessment of paranormal claims. We end up mired in group think with no innovative thoughts (which is why I also engage with pro-paranormal people). In order to get the best answer, we must put our ideas up for deliberation, engage in critical thought, and eliminate the subjective bias in the approach.

Many of us have grown up believing in the paranormal. We read all the expert’s books. We listened to the gurus and believed the eyewitnesses. Not too many of that crowd picked up the skeptical literature that addressed the flaws in those beloved paranormal ideas. There are good reasons why we tend only to hear what we want to here.

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The Patterson-Gimlin Bigfoot Film

The true history behind the iconic Bigfoot film that launched the legend.

Brian DunningBy Brian Dunning via skeptoid

Read podcast transcript below or listen here

You’ve seen it a hundred times: the iconic picture of Bigfoot striding heavily through the clearing, arms swinging, head and shoulders turned slightly toward the camera. Bigfoot 815This famous image is frame 352 of a 16mm silent color film shot in 1967 in northern California by rancher Roger Patterson, accompanied by his friend, Bob Gimlin. The impact that this film has had on Bigfoot mythology is inestimable; and correspondingly, so has its impact upon paranormal, cryptozoological, and pop culture mythologies in general. I might well not be doing the Skeptoid podcast today if the 1967 Patterson-Gimlin film had not turned legend and fancy into concrete, tangible, see-it-with-your-own-eyes reality.

Whether or not Bigfoot exists is one question — the answer to which has not exactly whitened the knuckles of science — but the authenticity of the Patterson-Gimlin film is something else. If Bigfoot were known to be a real animal, an investigation into the authenticity of the film would make sense. If Bigfoot were known to not exist, then it would be logically moot to study the film at all; it must be a fake.

Roger Patterson and Robert Gimlin

Roger Patterson and Robert Gimlin

But for today’s purpose, we’re going to brush aside the larger question (which should never be done in real science) and focus only on this detail. We’ll assume that the existence of Bigfoot is an open question (a big assumption), and just for fun, let’s see what we can determine on whether this famous film clip is a deliberate hoax, or whether it shows a real animal, or whether there might be some other explanation. Maybe it’s a misidentification, or an elaborate film flaw, or an unknown third party hoaxing Patterson and Gimlin. There are many possibilities.

Roger Patterson died of cancer only a few years after the film was shot, and never offered any clue other than that the film was genuine. Bob Gimlin remained silent for 25 years, and ever since he began speaking about it in the 1990s he has firmly stated that he was unaware of any hoax, but allowed for the possibility that he may have been hoaxed himself. Nobody else is known to have participated, and so the only two people whom we can say for certain were present when the film was shot are both stonewalls. So we must look elsewhere.

The original film no longer exists (only copies), and there is no record of anyone ever having possessed the original print. We don’t know why, but we’re left without the original film’s leader, which would have included the date when it was developed. Thus, we have only Patterson’s word for when it was developed, so we can’t verify that the film was shot and developed on the days he claims it was. The original also would have included any other shots that were taken, such as possible alternate takes. If these were ever seen, we’d know for a fact that it was faked. So that’s one more line of evidence that is unavailable to us.

No one has ever produced documentation like receipts showing when and where the film was developed. We know when and where Patterson rented the camera, but that’s not really in dispute. He had it in his possession for plenty of time before and after the alleged date of the filming. So that’s yet another dead end. Patterson covered his tracks very effectively (no Bigfoot pun intended).

He was quite a character, and had always been. He’d been . . .

. . . MORE . . .

Spike TV show features nine teams of Bigfoot hunters

Via UPI.com

finding-bigfoot_250pxLOS ANGELES, July 24 (UPI) — Nine teams will compete for $10 million in an effort to determine if Bigfoot actually exists in the United States, Spike TV announced Wednesday.

The show, “10 Million Dollar Bigfoot Bounty,” premieres in January, TV Guide reported. The show will be hosted by Dean Cain, star of “Lois & Clark,” who is described as “team leader.”

Bigfoot or sasquatch is a so-far mythical, ape-like animal said to live somewhere in the woods of North America. While the Pacific Northwest is the most fertile area for sasquatch sightings, there have been tales from other parts of the country, including Pennsylvania.

Photos and film of the creature have mostly proved to be hoaxes or wishful thinking.

Spike said the show will feature different Bigfoot “hot spots” every week. The prize is being underwritten by Lloyd’s of London.

[END]

via UPI.com

How the attempt to sequence “Bigfoot’s genome” went badly off track

bigfoot right there
Humans interbred with an unknown hominin in Europe, then crossed the Bering Sea — say what?

by via Ars Technica

finding-bigfoot_250pxWhen we first looked at the report of the bigfoot genome, it was an odd mixture of things: standard methods and reasonable looking data thrown in with unusual approaches and data that should have raised warning flags for any biologist. We just couldn’t figure out the logic of why certain things were done or the reasoning behind some of the conclusions the authors reached. So, we spent some time working with the reported genome sequences themselves and talked with the woman who helped put the analysis together, Dr. Melba Ketchum. While it didn’t answer all of our questions, it gave us a clearer picture of how the work came to be.

The biggest clarification made was what the team behind the results considered their scientific reasoning, which makes sense of how they ran past warning signs that they were badly off track. It provided an indication of what motivated them to push the results into a publication that they knew would cause them grief.

Melba Ketchum and the bigfoot genome

The public face of the bigfoot genome has been Melba Ketchum, a Texas-based forensic scientist. It was Ketchum who first announced that a genome was in the works, and she was the lead author of the paper that eventually described it. That paper became the one and only publication of the online journal De Novo; it’s still the only one to appear there.

The paper itself is an odd mix of things. There’s a variety of fairly standard molecular techniques mixed in with a bit of folklore and a link to a YouTube video that reportedly shows a sleeping Sasquatch. In some ways, the conclusions of the paper are even odder than the video. They suggest that bigfeet aren’t actually an unidentified species of ape as you might have assumed. Instead, the paper claims that bigfeet are hybrids, the product of humans interbreeding with a still unknown species of hominin.

bigfoot_200pxAs evidence, it presents two genomes that purportedly came from bigfoot samples. The mitochondrial genome, a small loop of DNA that’s inherited exclusively from mothers, is human. The nuclear genome, which they’ve only sequenced a small portion of, is a mix of human and other sequences. Some are closely related, others quite distant.

But my initial analysis suggested that the “genome sequence” was an artifact, the product of a combination of contamination, degradation, and poor assembly methods. And every other biologist I showed it to reached the same conclusion. Ketchum couldn’t disagree more. “We’ve done everything in our power to make sure the paper was absolutely above-board and well done,” she told Ars. “I don’t know what else we could have done short of spending another few years working on the genome. But all we wanted to do was prove they existed, and I think we did that.”

How do you get one group of people who looks at the evidence and sees contamination, while another decides “The data conclusively prove that the Sasquatch exists”? To find out, we went through the paper’s data carefully, then talked to Ketchum to understand the reasoning behind the work.

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Man believes he found fossilized Bigfoot head

facepalm 827Here is a story about a man and a rock. He takes his rock with him everywhere he goes. He believes his rock is special. After you read this story you will think HE is special.

*FacePalm*

Mason I. Bilderberg (MIB)


By Mark Saal via Standard-Examiner

OGDEN — “I found a fossilized Bigfoot skull.”

A journalist can go his or her entire life waiting to hear those six magic words. And yet, on a recent weekday afternoon, that very thing happened.

Todd May holds a rock.

Todd May, of Ogden, dropped by the offices of the Standard-Examiner to see if someone would be interested in a story about a fairly impressive fossil find. After showing off a couple of digital photos, May offered six even more compelling words — “Do you want to see it?” — followed by the motherlode of sentences: “It’s out in the trunk of my car.”

In the trunk of your car? Do I want to see it? Does Bigfoot make in the woods?

May proceeded out to his car, where he popped the hatchback on his Nissan 300 ZX. Peeling back an American flag draped across the cargo area of the vehicle, he hefted a black piece of luggage that resembled an oversized bowling-ball bag, lowering it to the asphalt of the parking lot with a clunk. He struggled to pull a noggin-sized, seemingly ordinary rock out of the bag, held it up and turned it over.

A face.

The rock looks vaguely like a smaller version of one of those Easter Island heads. Pronounced forehead. Large, flattened nose. What could only be described as a chiseled chin and jaw line.

It’s been about six weeks since May found the rock near the mouth of Ogden Canyon.

“I was looking for some fossils,” the 49-year-old “semi-retired” private investigator explains, “and I was kind of drawn to something in the ground.”

It was a rock, sticking up out of the dirt.

“So I went and dug it out, and you couldn’t tell what it was ’cause the head was face down; all you could see was the back of it,” he said. “But when I dug it out you could see the face, perfect.”

May believes his weighty prize — it tips the scales at 70 pounds — is a fossilized Bigfoot skull. What compels him to make such a claim? Because he says he has seen a couple of the nonfossilized, live skulls — attached to their monstrous, hairy bodies — in recent years.

“I’ve been tracking and watching for Bigfoot,” May said. “I’m very curious, interested in that, and wanted to get footage on it ’cause I’ve ran across him a couple of times.”

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Supernatural Creep: The Slippery Slope to Unfalsifiability

Sharon_hill_80pxBy Sharon Hill via The Committee for Skeptical Inquiry (CSI) – Sounds Sciencey

I’m taking a step beyond sciencey with the following topic. What happens when science doesn’t cooperate with your subject area? Researchers of unexplained events may get frustrated and disenchanted with the scientific process when the eyewitness accounts they collect are too weird to explain via conventional means. They go unconventional.

hill-supernatural-creep-1Captain Jean-Baptiste Duhamel led the hunt for a beast that was attacking and devouring victims in the Gevaudan, France, in 1794. He had a problem. He could not catch and kill the man-eating monster. Being a proud man, he had to justify why he could not conquer this particular foe. Since the option that he was an inadequate huntsman was not acceptable, the creature must be supernatural in its abilities to escape his capture. The characteristics of the beast were exaggerated—it was huge, cunning, and not just an ordinary wolf. Captain Duhamel left defeated by what must truly be an extraordinary beast.

Captain Jean-Baptiste Duhamel led the hunt for a beast that was attacking and devouring victims in the Gevaudan, France, in 1794. He had a problem. He could not catch and kill the man-eating monster. Being a proud man, he had to justify why he could not conquer this particular foe. Since the option that he was an inadequate huntsman was not acceptable, the creature must be supernatural in its abilities to escape his capture. The characteristics of the beast were exaggerated—it was huge, cunning, and not just an ordinary wolf. Captain Duhamel left defeated by what must truly be an extraordinary beast.

The cognitive dissonance experienced by the French captain is reflected today by those who can’t capture Bigfoot. When normal processes and causes fail to satisfactorily explain events or answers to questions, then the reasoning slips beyond nature, into super nature, beyond the testable claims of science.

I call this “supernatural creep.” Although, I swear I’m not the first one to name it as such. I searched to find where I have seen this referenced before. (If anyone knows, please email me so I can give the originator due credit.) Once I noticed this kind of reasoning, I saw it frequently. Wherever I come across this concept, it reveals a bit about human nature:

If you have to choose between the belief or a rational explanation, the rational explanation may be that which gets rejected.

hill-supernatural-creep-2_200pxThe effect of supernatural creep can be seen with UFOs, anomalous natural phenomena (Fortean topics), and in bizarre stories categorized as “high strangeness” (which I’ll explain a bit further on in this piece). A perfect example is that of “black dogs” whose appearance is spectral or demonic and is associated with either protection from or nearness of bad spirits. Could it be just a big black dog? Witnesses perceive that it’s more than that. When the circumstances feel uncanny, we slip into thoughts of the supernatural. An enjoyable book that illustrates supernatural creep quite nicely is Three Men Seeking Monsters by Nick Redfern. Fun stuff.

With phantom black dogs, there is a connection to local legends and ghost stories. A modern example of the dispute about supernatural creep is evident in the Bigfoot/Sasquatch community.

Bigfoot proponents generally fall into two camps: those who search for a real animal that functions as nature intended (called ‘apers’) and those who entertain the option that the entity is not natural (paranormalists).

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Mystery, Mayhem, and Quantum Physics: The Bermuda Triangle and the Hutchinson Effect

bermudatri
By via Lucid Dreams and Saturn Skies

Well, it was inevitable. Anyone who writes about the weird stuff that happens in this world has to, at some point, tackle two topics: Bigfoot, and the Bermuda Triangle. Not that the two are in anyway related; rather, they’re both arguably the most popular paranormal subjects out there. Usually I try to find more exotic fare for the blog, but when a friend mentioned the Bermuda Triangle in conjunction with something called the Hutchinson Effect, I decided I’d dive in since it was a two-fer.

The Bermuda Triangle is such a facet of pop culture at this point that I won’t spend a ton of time describing it. It is described as a big slice of ocean (between half a million and 1.5 million square miles) that forms, big shock here, a triangle, with the vertices centered in Bermuda, Miami, and San Juan. The Triangle is alleged to be the site of strange phenomena: metallic fogs, strange magnetic disturbances, freak storms, and unexplained lights in the sky. Believers claim that the Triangle swallows ships and planes whole, leaving not a trace for befuddled rescuers to recover.

Believers posit various reasons for the phenomena. Perhaps Atlantis sank beneath the waves under the Triangle, or there’s an alien colony on the sea floor abducting people for nefarious purposes. Since those of us who don’t regularly sport tinfoil hats can easily discount those two, let’s move on to a third, more entertaining option: the Hutchinson Effect.

Known was the H-Effect, it was allegedly discovered by an eccentric inventor named John Hutchinson, who was monkeying around with the various electronic gizmos that he packed his apartment with over the years when, lo and behold,  something (it’s never said what) whacked him in the shoulder! Turns out whatever it was had started levitating due to…something. Something that can also cause unlike materials (metal and wood, for example) to meld together, metals to melt without heat, and other strange phenomena, including metallic fogs similar to those allegedly reported above the Bermuda Triangle.. The best explanation that supporters can come up with for the alleged effect is that scalar waves tap into zero point energy, thus producing the phenomena observed. How exactly that happens, they have no explanation.

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Weird Word Salad: The Terminology of the Unexplained

Sharon_hill_80px via The Huffington Post

Paranormal investigators say they look for evidence of paranormal activity. That phrase always confounded me. I don’t quite get it. What does it mean when someone says they have evidence of “paranormal activity”? And, how do you know it’s not normal activity that you just couldn’t ferret out?

ElmerGhost02_250pxThere is a problem with how the word paranormal is used because it is often utilized in a way that is perhaps not consistent with the original intent.

Language evolves. Let me take a shot at unpacking some of these definitions about unexplained phenomena. See if it makes sense.

“Paranormal” and other terms for strange goings-on have changed over time. The word paranormal was coined around 1920. It means “beside, above or beyond normal.” Therefore, it’s anything that isn’t “normal” — or, more precisely, it is used as a label for any phenomenon that appears to defy scientific understanding. Ok, right there is a tripping point. Whose scientific understanding? The observer who is calling it “paranormal”? If so, that is problematic as a theoretical physicist sees things a lot differently than a dentist or a police officer. So, it appears too subjective to be precise. Each person may have their own idea of what constitutes “paranormal activity”.

The term “paranormal” used to just mean extrasensory perception and psychic power but, since the 1970s in particular — thanks to TV shows and proliferation of the subject in popular culture — the term expanded in scope to include all mysterious phenomena seemingly shunned by standard scientific study. It was a convenient way to bring many similarly peculiar topics under one heading for ease of marketing. So today, it can include everything that sounds mysterious: UFOs, hauntings, monster sightings, strange disappearances, anomalous natural phenomena, coincidences, as well as psychic powers.

images.jpgUFONot everyone agrees that fields of study such as UFOlogy or cryptozoology (Bigfoot, Loch Ness Monster and the like) should be considered paranormal but, if we think about the fact that after all this time, we have yet to document what these things actually are, that is beyond normal. Therefore, paranormal (arguably).

What appears as paranormal could essentially one day become normal. This has happened before with meteorites and still mysterious but likely explainable earthquakes lights and ball lightning. Or, we might not have developed the right technology or made the philosophical breakthrough yet to provide an explanation for some seemingly paranormal events. Perhaps we may find an instrument that can measure whatever it is that results in “hauntings” of a particular type. (Notice that I didn’t say an instrument that detects ghosts — an important distinction.)

Contrasted with paranormal is “supernatural.” To say something is supernatural is to conclude that the phenomenon operates outside the existing laws of nature. We would call such phenomena . . .

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The Internet: A Superhighway of Paranormal Hoaxes and Fakelore

Sharon_hill_80pxBy Sharon Hill via The Huffington Post

It’s been a hot time for hoaxing thanks to the Internet. With Photoshop, citizen journalism sites, YouTube, and postboards for the latest photo leaks, it is way too easy to send a lie half way around the world before the truth can pull its shoes on.

This iconic image of the Lock Ness monster was hoaxed by Hugh Gray in 1933. (source)

In this post, I wrote about a busy week in paranormal-themed news. In chatting with a correspondent — Jeb Card, Visiting Assistant Professor in the Anthropology Department of Miami University — over a shared interest in the state of the paranormal today or “occulture,” we got to talking about the state of hoaxing.

Make no mistake, hoaxing has always been around. Hoaxers have been trying to fool people by displaying their special skills (scams) or stupendous stories since the beginning of civilization, I think. But there is a particular history of hoaxing in occulture. Lately, it has gotten more frequent (or we sure notice it more), more absurd (to outdo the last one) and more involved (because the payout can be big while the scrutiny greater).

There are many famous hoaxes from this scene. It’s hard to say if it’s more common now than in the past. Some of the hoaxes, notes Jeb, have been very influential in the creation of popular folklore. Big ones have defined UFOlogy: Roswell and the Men in Black. Not everyone would conclude these are deliberate hoaxes — there is a grain of truth to them — but they went way out of control and now there are hoaxed videos, documents and tales based on these events that never happened the way the lore says it did. Stories like that, which have taken on a life of their own as if they were true, are called “fakelore.”

bigfoot-2The Bigfoot field is trampled over with fake footprints, stories, casts, photos and videos. It can’t be denied that the majority of Bigfoot stories are unbelievable, without supporting evidence, or obvious hoaxes. Every new bit of Bigfoot “evidence” these days makes us roll our eyes and say “SERIOUSLY!?” This reputation is damaging to those who truly believe something is out there to be found. The credibility of Bigfoot researchers scrapes the bottom of the barrel. The history of hoaxes colors this topic deeply when we realize that the seminal story of “Bigfoot,” Ray Wallace’s trackway, was revealed to be a hoax.

Actually, the same can be said for the Loch Ness Monster. The iconic Nessie photo — the long-neck arching out of the rippling water — was hoaxed.

A longtime follower of the occulture fields, Jeb says he can’t think of a time when these communities weren’t awash with . . .

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Foiled Again: Lake Monster, Bigfoot Body and Alien Humanoid All in One Week

Sharon_hill_80pxBy Sharon Hill via The Huffington Post

It’s been a busy week in the world of the weird. Not a good one for those who hope to see the dawn of new worldviews or a shift in the paradigm. In one week, three stories topped the abnormal news headlines — all three hyped stories fell apart.

While the stories are still unfolding, it’s clear that they turned out to be nothing as promised.

Click image to view the fake monster video.

Click image to view the faked monster hump video.

First, there was this video of a lake creature swimming among boaters supposedly in Lough Foyle in Ireland. The video, taken by students one of which has the suggestive name Conall Melarkey, shows a hump moving rapidly through the water. The story gained widespread attention. The problem is that no animal can swim this way, no animal looks like this and, in consideration of the circumstances, the best explanation is that someone is towing a hump through the water. In all respects, this video is unbelievable. That is, it appears to be faked.

This second story is a bit more “inside baseball.” Many people will remember the Georgia Bigfoot Hoax of 2008 when two men, including Rick Dyer, teamed up with Bigfoot tracker Tom Biscardi to announce to the world they had a Bigfoot body in a freezer. There was even a press conference where Tom was adamant this was not a hoax, it was “the real deal.” Well, it was a hoax. Hard to fathom how a rubber suit with animal entrails would fool anyone for very long.

Rick has been telling anyone who will listen yet again that he has another Bigfoot body. This beast he supposedly shot during filming of a documentary called Shooting Bigfoot. The majority of Bigfoot enthusiasts did not buy it — once bitten, twice shy — and berated Dyer for his claims and his pay-per-view antics. The movie has come out and… there’s no body. But ever the profiteer, Dyer is still looking for money even though he says he is quitting the ‘footer world.’ Bye. Don’t let the door hit you on the way out.

alien603 836This week was the Citizens Hearing on Disclosure, an unofficial governmental hearing that provided a forum for testimony from believers in the reality of UFOs and alien visitation. It was nothing we haven’t heard before (and been unimpressed by). But, one very interesting aspect of this tale was about a six-inch, strange-looking mummified body, human-like but not quite right. The ribs, the head, the bone growth was strange. DNA testing showed it was human and of local Chilean origin where it was said to have been found in the Atacama desert. The Atacama humanoid was featured in the new movie “Sirius,” also about extraterrestrial visitation to Earth.

Study of the specimen’s bones by one expert delivered a shocking conclusion: the being was six to eight-years-old. Either the bone conclusions are wrong or we have a very bizarre find here.

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Inside Source Claims “Shooting Bigfoot” Documentary Climax is Just a Big Hoax

By Greg Newkirk via Who Forted? Magazine

Jeff, a squatter who appears prominently in the film as a “weird homeless guy”, but as it turns out.. was actually part of the crew, says "I can tell you right now, all the shooting and stuff like that is staged.”

“I can tell you right now, all the shooting and stuff like that is staged.”

Since the Sasquatch hunting documentary Shooting Bigfoot premiered at Toronto’s “Hot Docs” festival this week, the cryptozoological community has been buzzing with widespread allegations that the film wasn’t so much a documentary as it was science fiction, but all they had to base their opinions on were a few broken promises, previous hoaxes, and inconclusive footage.. until now.

Thanks to the investigative prowess of J.R. Bob Dobbs Jr, a man involved in the filming of the movie has come forward claiming that infamous Bigfoot hunter (and hoaxer) Rick Dyer and director Morgan Matthews coordinated an elaborate hoax for the film’s climactic scene, a tense moment during which Dyer has long claimed to have actually shot and killed a Sasquatch.

Dobbs met up with Jeff, a squatter who appears prominently in the film as a “weird homeless guy”, but as it turns out.. was actually part of the crew tasked with being a “lookout” during the pivotal “Bigfoot killing” scene.

“They had me right on that hill back there watching for people… they radioed in letting me know before they did anything, so I knew what was going on,”  he tells Dobbs, adding that he had to walk in and out of the camp all night, and there wasn’t a Squatch in sight.

dyershooting_250pxDobbs’ offscreen partner tells Jeff that internet commentators were picking apart the film’s final scene, saying, “at the end you see some sort of scuffle and Rick with his gun, and then Morgan Matthews, the director, gets knocked over by something.. can’t really tell what’s going on, and then at the end he’s in a hospital. Doesn’t really explain what happened to him.”

“Did you see him beat up or anything like that?” she asked.

“He actually walked out of here just fine, got in the truck, put everything away – he was carrying at least 80 pounds of gear, at least… I can tell you right now, all the shooting and stuff like that is staged.”

Jeff went on to mention that the money shot was actually filmed multiple times and that Dyer’s gun wasn’t even firing live ammunition, a fact that would certainly make it hard to kill a Bigfoot, unless they’re just sensitive to loud noises.

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