“Featureless presentation” (Bigfoot)


There are dozens of purported cryptids worldwide, from the relatively small Chupacabra to the behemoth Mokele-Mbembe, from benevolent leprechauns to bloodthirsty Jersey Devils, from aesthetically-pleasing mermaids to revolting Skunk Apes.

But no Champys, Batututs, or Manananngals have managed to penetrate the cryptozoology triumvirate of Yeti, the Loch Ness Monster, and Bigfoot. And among this trio, Sasquatch reigns. This says less about the monster than about those seeking him. Nessie is underwater and the abominable snowman resides in the world’s highest mountain range, but with Bigfoot, anyone in North America can get a gander. Mix this desire with preconceptions, then throw in thick vegetation and an upright bear, and you’ve got a sighting to report.

I have dealt with claims from Bigfoot proponents before, so want this time to focus on some of the lesser-known arguments against the notion of Sasquatch.

First are the alleged Bigfoot vocals. Part of Bigfoot lore are the yelps, shrieks, and wails heard by terrified but excited hikers and campers. Yet these reported sounds are too varied to have come from one creature. No one would mistake a howling wolf for a croaking toad, yet wildly varying sounds are all placed under the Bigfoot vocal umbrella.

A second problem is the absence of tracks. Bigfoot aficionados explain away the total lack of roadkill and other corpses by assigning to Bigfoot extreme stealthiness. Yet even if he were a skilled recluse, he would still need to leave tracks, and even Bigfoot’s most-known investigators, such as Jeff Meldrum, have come up empty. Meldrum is an anthropologist, so he would know where to look and what to look for if stalking a North American bipedal ape. After all, rare mammal tracks are found by expert biologists who know where and when to look.

Many alleged tracks have been reported, of course, but this brings us to the third problem. Bigfoot is supposed to live in forests and on mountains, making his way over rocks, ice, sharp ferns, cockle-burs, rushing streams, and thorns. This should produce feet that are rough, scarred, calloused, broken, and torn. Instead the prints are smooth, almost manicured. They should appear consistent with an animal who has adapted for rugged conditions, but instead are featureless. Additionally, a large, lumbering bipedal primate should have toes that splay apart, as they do in wild primates. Instead, the toes seem neatly placed together. This is all strong evidence against the existence of Sasquatch unless we credit the monster with footwear innovation or the ability to fly.

Finally, Bigfoot DNA in the wilderness should be ubiquitous. Melba Ketchum purported to have evidence that Bigfoot was a cross between homo sapiens and an unknown animal. For maximum benefit, she should have had it being a Roswell alien.

Explaining an imaginary animal by invoking another imaginary animal is obviously unsatisfying. And if Bigfoot were real, scientists would regularly encounter DNA consistent with a North American bipedal ape. Yet this has evaded Ketchum, Meldrum, everyone else. Desire, preconceptions, vegetation, and bears can only get you so far.

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