Sunday, December 12, 2010

Bigfoot Research: Intel not Science

                                              Jerry Crew displaying a track cast in 1958
     If you consider yourself a "bigfoot researcher" and hold out hope that one day you will gather the evidence that proves the existence of bigfoot creatures, you may be searching the internet for information and advice that will help you succeed. Well, my advice to you is simple: Give up now and save yourself a lot of wasted time.
     The modern era of bigfoot reaearch began in 1958 when Jerry Crew presented track casts to the Humboldt Times as evidence of mysterious bigfooted creatures.  Since nothing much happened in bigfoot reaearch during the ensuing nine years, most argue that the modern era of research actually began in 1967 with the presentation of the Patterson/Gimlin Footage. Fine. Either way, bigfoot research has been around a while. Amateur American researchers have been at it for either forty or fifty years, and in that half century, every kind of trick, trap, and hunt that could possible be engineered by a single person or team of amateur researchers has been tried.  Heck, I've tried most of them myself.  Granted, that is bit of hyperbole, but you get the point.  Guys with a lot more time and money than you or I have been trying to gather scientifically acceptable evidence for a long time now, and if they haven't succeeded, what makes you think you will?
     While I am saying you'll never collect truly vaild scientific evidence, I'm not saying you should find another hobby. I'm just saying you will not be able to satisfy that rigorous expectation called scientific proof. That's because you cannot do science on an intelligent and elusive being that does not intend to cooperate with our attempts to scientifically document its existence. Even though various items of credible evidence have been gathered over the years, such as the PGF, the Skookum Cast, and more track casts and hair samples than you can shake a bag of plaster at, they all fail the rigors of science in one important regard: they cannot be replicated.
     Science requires replication of any successful scientific result as a necessary aspect of  a correctly applied scientific methodology. Photos are taken and videos are made, and some of them are even genuine, but nobody ever gets a second one at the same place or even anywhere nearby.  Consequently, photographic results like the Patterson-Gimlin footage, however compelling, are summarily rejected.  To an increasing number of observers, this is prima facie evidence that these creatures we are pursuing are more than smart, they're really smart.  They may still make occasional mistakes, but they are smart enough to modify their behavior after one of their kind slips up. I am not sure of much in the bigfoot research game, but I am confident that you won't trick the same creature the same way twice. Ever.
     That doesn't mean you shouldn't continue to conduct your own research, it just means that you are making a mistake by trying to be utterly scientific in your approach.  Instead, you should recognize the difference between science and intelligence gathering, and recognize that it is more pragmatic to settle for collecting intel as opposed to unassailable scientific data. 
     The key shift involves the recognition that we are essentially spies and these things we are spying on are not dumb apes or wild animals.  If they were, we'd have them by now. Overlooking the taxonomic argument that we ourselves are animals and apes, I'm saying the sasquatch have a very misleading appearance. Regardless of their primitive appearance,  they are essentially the nocturnal equivalence of us.  They are very intelligent and they are also adamantly opposed to being 'discovered.'
     Said another way, we should regard them as guerrillas, not gorillas. They're like the Taliban in Afghanistan, the Viet Cong in Viet Nam, or the French Resistance during World War II.  They hide from you as you look for them. They have their sentinels, their disguises, their ruses, and their hideouts. Whenever  you get too close, they 'roll up the sidewalks' and  retreat to those hideouts where you will not find them.
    Bigfoot researchers, then, are like the CIA and the spooks at CIA are not utterly focused on unassailable proof when they evaluate the information they gather. I suspect they take spurious and incomplete data sources because sometimes that's all they can get, and they use them to look for recurring observations that suggest suspected patterns of behavior that might have predictive value.  Everything they gather is a bit uncertain but this does not justify throwing that data away.  It is understood that the quarry is smart enough to cover their tracks.  Indirect and uncertain sources of information are still valued and exploited.
     I'll never forget the poor fellow who piped up recently on one of the more conservative bigfoot research mailing lists with his fairly timid assertion that the bigfoot creatures can see in the dark.  At least one of the quasi-scientific yobos on this list immediately pounced on him with demands for scientific proof of his assertion.  Of course, the fellow had none, and after more back and forth discussion, this fellow finally was forced to qualify his earlier statement by saying he tentatively suspected that they could see in the dark.  My God! Talk about a waste of time.  Of course sasquatches can see in the dark!  I can't prove it, but I am absolutely certain it is true, as I have been approached and even surrounded by nocturnal operators that had all the hallmarks of sasquatch on numerous occasions. I understand that my observations alone do not mean much, but they match the experience of so many others so precisely that I feel they speak to a fairly solid pattern of behavior.
     That's how intel goes. It ain't science, but it ain't worthless, either.  It's all we got and it may someday be useful in designing and executing a truly scientific experiment but we aren't there yet.  Sasquatch research is still in its infancy, but we are gradually developing useful field methods. One such promising method is to seek out isolated ruralites who encounter sasquatch on some kind of regular basis. I, for one, regard such folks as  goldmines of information. Others do not. Granted, there is the possibility that one or another person who claims to be a long term witness may be delusional or a deliberate liar. The CIA is ever mindful of that same scenario when they gather accounts from putative witnesses to rogue enemy activity. And how does the CIA process such possibilities? I would suppose they reject single sources of information that do not fit the patterns unless the reporting party is considered highly reliable based on an track record of verifiable observations.
     Everyone of you out there may not agree, but my position is this: Someday we may be ready to do real science, but not right now.  I wish we could do more science with this subject but you cannot do science with uncooperative experimental subjects that cannot be somehow controlled. When studying the sasquatch, you cannot isolate the experimental variables, you cannot make empirical observations, and you cannot replicate any experiment.  So, we're left with intel,which is potentially useful if it is processed correctly. There are ways to process intel to glean useful informantion and that is what we have to figure out how to do.
     Don't get me wrong.  I'm a science teacher and I'm a big fan of science.  But I'm also very aware of its limitations. And until such time as we can somehow build more trust between humanity, the diurnal hominids, and the sasquatch, the nocturnal hominids, we're going to have to settle for intel instead of science.


  1. A great article Thom. I agree with everything you've said here.

  2. Very well said Thom. I agree with everything.

  3. Unless, that is, someone brings in some bones or a body tomorrow. Then at least we may do anatomy. From that point our attempts at behavioral studies would at least be taken seriously, and there would be more proper funding for endeavors aiming to document how the crafty critters live. If existence were proven, but they were still exceedingly difficult to study in the field, then that *absence* could at least be taken as a proof of extreme intelligent adaptation.
    Oh, and by the way, I'm not saying we should kill one (as if we could!).
    Great start on the blog, Thom!
    Bigfoot Books, Willow Creek

  4. Thom, I enjoyed reading this post. Based on the decades of bigfoot research experience so far, it’s difficult to disagree with your point that it’s looking increasingly like a mistake trying to be strictly scientific in our approach, or maybe it’s just a mistake being conventionally scientific in our approach. Some fairly reliable patterns of behaviour have been experienced so this should, in theory, offer an opportunity for us to develop a response that takes advantage of this. However, you mention how smart they are and they do seem to skirt around any obvious attempts we make to get a specific reaction from them. As you have said, they appear adamantly opposed to being 'discovered', but they sometimes make exceptions and deliberately (and often even accidentally) reveal themselves to an individual. I take it that, like me, you believe a ‘one to one’ relationship (or at least a few humans with a few sasquatch relationship) based on trust seems to me the most obvious route forward. An approach using intuition, intelligence, sensitivity and of course an open mind. I usually avoid using the word ‘paranormal’ in relation to sasquatch, as this often produces a negative reaction from others, and I can understand why because it’s a word that’s used to beat researchers over the head by those who misunderstand and reject the whole bigfoot subject. It shouldn’t. If one takes the word as generally meaning ‘beyond the range of normal experience or scientific explanation’ then this isn’t a bad description of these creatures right now. What is regarded as paranormal now may be more explainable in future. Thanks for your post and hope to read more stuff like this.

  5. Hi Thom...

    Good post....I'm not a bigfoot researcher so much as I am a highly interested observer.

    So in that regard, whatever develops in terms of bringing Bigfoot to the full illumination of science, I will wish to know all the details, but I won't be personally involved in the process. This is because I don’t fully believe we will ever really ‘know’ Bigfoot.

    Your suggestion about 'giving up' the search is well-stated, and I agree that the hottest developments in this field will fall to the guys and gals with the most drive (not to mention the cheddar).

    Also, your point that scientific proof will never truly be achievable is perhaps the most important statement anyone has made in recent years, but I part with you in regard to the reason being based on BF not wishing to cooperate.

    It's a valid point, but I think the real reason is because we are not dealing with a fully-realized, tangible cryptid.

    Your excellent book, 'The Locals' carries some of the best stories in all of Bigfootdom. The Battle Mountain rescue (orig. from BFRO) of an injured BF, along with your follow ups, is worth the price of the book alone, but the accounts you included from Estelle De Voto and 'Ed C.' are the ones that are an undeniable wild card in the big mystery.

    Along with the goodly number other witness accounts in other books that include UFOs or aspects of high strangeness (bigfoots with glowing belts), the game has changed irrevocably.

    To embellish on your own statement at the end of your book, once we accept that even ONE of the hundreds of reports of a paranormal Bigfoot stories is true, then we can never go back to a simple flesh and blood explanation. I cannot see how one could assume that a being capable of literally vanishing at will, an entity that is so immune to death by conventional human hardware (ie., gun-fired bullets), could ever be lumped into a catagory of taxonomy anywhere near that of Great Apes or humans.

    In this blog post, you make an observation that intel, or witness accounts are basically all we really have. That repeatable, empirical evidence is the only way to really define BF existence. The acceptance of intel or information from witnesses is based on trust, or what as been called 'the ring of truth'. A feeling that someone is telling you the truth is not enough. But it is reasonable at some point, after thousands of repeated stories in very similar veins, that we can apply the term 'repeatable' at least. And beyond this, we COULD conclude that, as opposed to something being seen to be believed, our acceptance of Bigfoot may have to be believed before it can be seen.

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