Wednesday, December 29, 2010
As was suggested in a previous blog post, bigfoot researchers are basically spies. We wish we could do science, we try to do science, but most of what we end up doing is a lot closer to 'intelligence' gathering. Well, there's one potentially disturbing but well known fact in spy circles: it's spy vs. spy all the way. While you are spying on the rogue elements, who ever they are, they will be most certainly be spying right back. That includes the sasquatch.
It gets better. The biggest surprise of my entire experience in the strange world of bigfoot research was the realization that, while I was attempting to study 'them', they had been studying me. They knew where I lived and they made that fact perfectly clear.
Done laughing yet? Good. Allow me to explain. It all began when I was studying the habituation claims of Allen and April Hoyt at their residence outside Onalaska, Washington. I was the lead researcher but it was a team effort and we at BFRO had cameras and video systems on the site, and I was spending a lot of time working on equipment and just hanging out in the woods at this site some 100 miles from my own home in Oregon.
Once, I spent a particularly long summer night in the Hoyts' woods after a spate of eyeball sightings by the residents. On this particular night, I camped out in their woods until 3 a.m., whacking trees with a bat and listening for responses. Eventually, it became time to face the reality that I was not going to get any response from The Locals that night. Due to my own family obligation, I elected to do a couple hours of red-eye driving so I could be home for a full day the following day. That was a drive I hope I never have to repeat. It was torture. By some miracle, I made it home in one piece just before sunrise and I've never been happier to arrive at the driveway of my own rural homestead. I stepped out of my pick-up, zombie-like, leaned against the fender, and basked in the triumph of making it safely home. At that precise moment, from the deep woods at the far end of my property, came of three sharp, booming tree whacks!
I could not believe what my own ears were hearing. I was also so exhausted that I could not even consider taking a detour into my wood to check thing out. I was too exhausted to do anything but stand there in wonderment. But the remarkable irony of the situation was certainly not lost on me. The noise I was hearing in my own woods was the same three-knock pattern I had been using all night. After spending all night whacking trees a hundred miles from my home, trying to send signals of good will toward 'them', 'they' were now letting me know they heard me, but precisely at the time when I was too exhausted to follow up.
The timing was uncanny. I couldn't help but wonder if this was their idea of a joke. I had just traveled one hundred bleary-eyed miles and there was no denying that the loud, clear knocks were done for my benefit. At that pre-dawn hour, I was the only conscious soul in the vicinity. I had just turned off my car's engine and I was standing outside, alone, and taking a moment to recover from my automotive ordeal.
The implications were nothing short of enormous: not only had 'they' heard my noises at Allen and April's, but they apparently had no intention of answering me there. Yet, they evidently knew where I lived and they somehow were able to follow me there and use my own signal pattern to answer me in my own woods as soon as I arrived home! But how was that possible? I had just driven a hundred miles. I certainly didn't set any speed records but I must have averaged forty miles per hour. Can they also travel that fast? Or could they use some form of communication to contact other, more local bigfoot individuals and tell them that I was heading their way, and it was time to give me a taste of my own noise-making medicine.
Okay, now you can laugh. I know I did, because I got the overwhelming sense that they were back there in the woods laughing at me and slapping each other on the back. I think I turned toward the woods and shouted some sort of expletive, raised my middle finger, then stumbled in to the bed I had been eagerly anticipating for the past few hours.
You better believe I did not relate the incident to my skeptically-minded 'flesh and blood' colleagues at BFRO. Heck, I was as much a part of the 'flesh and blood' mindset as anyone up to that point.
But this was also the first of several events that forced me to re-evaluate my way of regarding the bigfoot phenomenon. This was the very first clearly 'paranormal' event I had personally experienced while conducting my own effort to gather empirical data on the existence of the sasquatch. I had no way of explaining what just happened but I was certain that it happened.
Eventually, a few other equally paranormal events happened to me which would take many more words to relate than I can put into this blog post. To make a long story short, some strange and foreign animal parts appeared on my property, some equally weird circumstances led to the acquisition of interesting video images at Allen and April's, and the application of lessons learned at Allen and April's led to an unexpectedly successful result for the Skookum Expedition during that same year (2000).
Even though I was noticing these puzzling, if not bizarre coincidences as they occurred, I refused to embrace any kind of paranormal interpretation. Only Erik Beckjord did stuff like that in those days. Nor did I tell anyone else. I just kept my mouth shut.
Then someone handed me the book, The Mothman Prophecies, by John Keel. In that book, the author is a Chicago journalist assigned to investigate a cluster of paranormal events in northern West Virginia around the town of Point Pleasant. Eventually, Keel concludes that some sort of extraterrestrial beings are at the core of what is going on and about the time that he makes this realization, the beings themselves endeavor to get in touch with the author and let him know that they have been studying him all the while that he was trying to gather information on them. This brings me to John Keel's two very profound and very troubling ideas about paranormal research that he raises of his book, The Mothman Prophecies.
First key idea John Keel puts forward: In the study of paranormal matters, the phenomenon you are studying changes in response to your study of it. Just like the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle of subatomic physics, you impact the very phenomenon you are studying and it changes in response to your attempts to quantify it. Second, the entities you are studying are sufficiently intelligent and aware of your interest in them that they also study you. Spy vs. spy. In the case of The Mothman Prophecies, the mysterious entities were also considerate enough to let John Keel know that they knew what he was up to.
It's hard to describe the feeling I had when I finished that book. I sat on my sofa and stared at my ceiling for hours, trying to deny that what I just finished reading seemed to have enormous implications for the informal but serious scientific pursuit of sasquatch evidence I had been conducting at Allen and April's for the past two years.
Like most bigfoot researchers, I avoided anything to do with the word 'paranormal,' I did not see my interest in the sasquatch phenomenon as being connected in any way to the ET-based phenomena that John Keel seemed to be writing about, yet the eery similarities were enough that I got up the courage to finally share some my weird experiences and suspicions with others. Much to my surprise, I began to find that at least a few other serious devotees of the sasqutch phenomenon did indeed have experiences that were similar, if not identical to mine.
Some ten years later, several other people in my circle of bigfoot-researcher acquaintances agree that they have noticed subtle indications that the sasquatch they are studying do indeed know where they (the researcher) live, and that the bigfoot creatures seem to know a great deal more about the patterns of comings and goings that the researchers exhibit as they travel to and from their remote camera-bait stations.
I must emphasize that not everyone who studies bigfoot has such suspicions, in fact most do not. I was over at Cliff Barackman's place the other evening and we were talking about this subject that I planned to write a blog post about. Cliff is as serious as any so-called bigfoot researcher I know, but he could not relate to my thoughts at all. He confessed that he had no spooky experiences or events to relate. I told him, "That's okay with me. Just keep your eyes open, especially right around your own place, and notify me if anything changes." Cliff said he would, then he kicked me out.
So there you have it folks: That's the kind of stuff you sometimes get when you try to use 'intel' to assemble patterns that speak to the more subtle aspects of the suspected interaction between the sasquatches and us humans. Obviously, this kind of thing is the reason why intel is not an acceptable avenue for so many bigfoot researchers: it is too vague, too squishy, and much too open to possible misinterpretation. I'm told that everything I am describing here is best explained by coincidence or my own hyperactive imagination. In other words, I'm crazy.
But, since I read John keel's book, I have decided I can live with that. I feel much better knowing that if I'm crazy, so was John Keel (he died recently), and so is a growing body of other researchers I have come upon who invoke very similar experiences.
I will finish this rambling blog entry by saying that this whole line of thought and investigation has had a profound effect on the way I conduct sasquatch research.When someone says, "Hey Thom, are you still looking for bigfoot? " I smile and reply, "No, I don't look for bigfoot, anymore. Bigfoot knows where I live. I let bigfoot find me." We both laugh at the self-important arrogance of my statement . They assume I'm kidding. I'm not. Thanks to The Mothman Prophecies I can now say there is even a bit of a precedent for my egocentric attitude. Besides, there is one other distinct advantage to this new take on bigfoot research:
It's a very liberating point of view. I don't drive hundreds of miles any more to follow up on each and every sighting report I catch wind of. Been there, done that. I think I better understand now the futility of that endeavor. Besides, it's just barely possible that, after 'chasing bigfoot' for years if not decades, the sasquatches know where I live. Perfect. I say, let the bigfoots find me, for a change.
This way, I can have a life. I can spend a lot more time close to home, just hanging out, listening, and appreciating my own nocturnal woods and rural surroundings. And think of the gasoline I'm saving...
Posted by Thom Powell at 11:28 PM
Tuesday, December 21, 2010
If bigfoot research is more intelligence gathering than scientific study, as was suggested in the previous blog post, then what does that suggest about the future of this dubious pursuit? It means we have a few things to learn from the ‘intelligence community’ even though they may not be too interested in sharing anything they know.
I must confess, I have no direct knowledge of what goes on behind closed doors at CIA. All I know is that which I have learned from reading a few books on the subject and being raised on a steady diet of spy movies and t.v. shows as a kid. There are three basic approaches to gathering intelligence: electronic surveillance, inserting trained operatives (spies) into enemy camps, and gathering info from witnesses, captured agents and defectors.
Electronic surveillance is expensive and difficult to install but it produces the most empirical information. Information gathered by our own trained agents is more reliable than the information offered by captives, defectors, or civilian observers, but the latter is much more easily obtained. It also require the most filtering and processing if it is going to provide useful results.
In my own pursuit of bigfoot research, I don’t do the electronic surveillance much anymore. I pursued it enthusiastically in the late 1990’s and into the first decade of the 21st century. Now there are so many other bigfoot enthusiasts out there deploying game cams and video systems that I have decided to leave it up to them. The degree of determination and organization being applied by guys like Randy Harrington and his crew in Oklahoma is very impressive . Guys like Randy seem to have more resources and commitment than I ever had. That means I can move on to the pursuit of other ideas, secure in the knowledge that somebody out there is working the electronic surveillance angle to its maximum. Besides, I think I have contaminated my local area by now. I am absolutely convinced that the bigfoot creatures in my area are completely aware of my persistent but lame attempts to gather information with electronic eavesdropping. I will confess that the electronics are still fun to tinker with, and the companies that manufacture and sell the equipment are certainly grateful for the interest in trail camera deployment as an element of bigfoot research. If nothing else, bigfoot researchers are supporting the economy.
As far as these other approaches, I have yet to come up with a workable plan for how to insert one of our hairless human operatives into the sasquatch community that I assume to exist. Albert Ostman, the putative bigfoot abductee, doesn’t count. His encounter with a sasquatch family wasn’t intentional, nor was he any kind of trained observer. In truth, there may not be any such thing as a trained observer of sasquatch matters. There certainly is a large and growing number of so-called bigfoot researchers, but that title is self-anointed. Patterson and Gimlin set out to gather evidence and that is exactly what they did. Others have set out to do the same, and although most efforts to precipitate an encounter between a sasquatch and field researcher do not succeed, there is a growing list of sasquatch enthusiasts who feel they have accomplished some sort of encounter. More and more, such folks are sharing their results and their methods as well, and this is a big step forward in the sasquatch research game. Things like bait stations, playing of taped calls, and just hanging out in promising locations are producing potentially useful results and information. Now, if we could just do a good job of sharing successes and failures among fellow researchers, we would be getting closer to conducting genuine science, or at least good intelligence gathering.
The final category of intelligence gathering, collecting accounts from eye-witnesses, is the biggest source of information to date, and the most promising source of future information. Specifically, the search for long term witnesses who are willing to share information is, in my view, the shape of things to come. The big hurdle is to find the folks who may be having the contact with sasquatches, and I think they are out there somewhere. They live in rural locations and they seem to understand that the creatures want to stay out of the limelight. Still, not enough effort has been expended to date in seeking out such folks. Up to the present, websites have been the principal means of seeking out long term witnesses to sasquatch activity, and I think there is another way to find them.
The residents of isolated rural homesteads who witness sasquatch activity seem to have at least one thing in common: they invariably raise some sort of livestock, whether it be sheep, goats, chickens, cows, bunnies, game birds, and of course, dogs and cats. This means they make a lot of trips to the local feed store. This, in turn, means that the bulletin board at the feed store is a fantastic place to put up a sign soliciting information on local sasquatch activity. Even though some long term witnesses may prefer to keep their information to themselves, it is the best approach I can think of to put your desire to collect confidential information in front of the folks who are actually experiencing the bigfoot activity.
I direct the reader to the graphic at the top of this blog post, which is Cliff Barackman’s calling card. I recommend fashioning something similar Cliff’s card, and fashioning a sign with an attached pocket full of such cards that interested folks could take from. If everyone who tried such a tactic as is described here were to keep track of the responses they get from signs in the rural feed stores of their immediate area, some interesting statistics could be generated that would speak to the effectiveness of this approach.
While I certainly enjoy walking around the woods trying to generate encounters and find evidence for myself, I really think more information and more detailed information will come from soliciting the contributions of many other potential witnesses through this method. So make up some signs. Spend an afternoon hanging them at rural feed stores near large forested areas. And, by all means, please let the rest of us know whether this tactic produces anything useful.Happy Holidays.
Posted by Thom Powell at 10:26 PM
Sunday, December 12, 2010
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.
Posted by Thom Powell at 11:44 PM
Sunday, December 5, 2010
"When I want to read a good book, I write one."
Benjamin Disraeli, Two term Prime Minister of England, circa 1874
Who hasn't entertained the idea of writing a book? But then, vitrually everyone talks themself out of it: It takes too long. No one cares. Who reads books anymore, anyway?
My message to anyone perched on the horns of this dilemma is: Quit thinking about it so much and get busy. It's easier than ever to write and edit a book and in truth, there is more room for niche literature in today's marketplace than ever before in history. It is also easier to get published than ever before. Heck you can do it yourself. Publishing is the easy part. You just have to spend money, as in $500-$1000, depending on how fancy you want to get. Granted, this is for what is called a "vanity press" but that moniker may be a bit simplistic. You get more than a copy of your own book to hold in your hands. You get a foot in the door on distribution. After that, it really beomes a question of how willing you are to agressively promote your own work once it is published
But first, you have write the dang thing, and that is such a daunting challenge that my first item of advice is not to think about the difficulty and the time commitment involved. Just make an outline of where you want to go with it, then start plugging away. Get yourself one of those mini laptops called netbooks and take it where ever you go. When you have idle time, get a little wiritng done. I do a lot of writing while I am waiting for my kid at basketball practice. Nothing good on TV? Can't sleep? Don't just surf the internet. Write.
You will burn out on it at various times. Fine. Take a break. Back up your files on a thumb drive. The best way to back up your work is to attrach it to an e-mail and send it to yourself. It is now stored safely on the web, and you can open it on anyone's computer and work on it. Keep a few chapters on your machine at work. Write on your lunch hour instead of going out to eat. Skip a few TV shows and write instead.
Pretty soon you will have developed a bit of a habit that will actually feel therapeutic and even relaxing. You will have ideas about what to write at random monents in your day. For me this happens most while walking, driving, or mowing the lawn (I have a big lawn.)
. Meanwhile, you spouse or child will have appropriated you little laptop and you will have to get another one. Hey, no problem. They only cost a couple hundred bucks these days. I recommend the Esus line of laptops. Thee most important feature that they offer is long battery life, like eight or ten hours to a charge. This is huge. Also, buy the expanded memory card that upgrades it to 2gb of memory. That really speeds up the operation of the machine. Throw down for Windows Office 7 or another up-to-date word processing program so your work can be formatted easily when you are ready to publish. Now you're set with all the support and technology you need. Maybe one more thing: a comfortable chair.
There is just no way to describe the simplicity with which one can write on a modern laptop campared to the way writers of yore had to bang it all out on reams of typing paper fed into an Underwood typewriter. Still worse was the Heming-way: by hand on yellow legal pads that some typist hadto transcribe. By comparison, Improvements and corrections to your writing are so easy on computers that modern writing and editing would be viewed as cheating by yersterday's master wordsmiths.
Once you have your laptop, then you have to answer one central question: "What do you want to say?"
In round numbers, a book is 100,000 words. That's a lot to say, so your idea for a book has to be somewhat involved. If your idea is not so well developed, then you end up with an article, not a book. Fine. That's even easier to publish. Get a blog, or contribute to someone elses. But a book is in a whole different league. It is such a lengthy process to undertake that, like I said, you are better off not thinking about it too much. Just get busy and start chipping away at your idea.
Fiction or Non Fiction?
Your call, but I my limited experience, I will offer that you might want to try non-fiction at first, because fiction is waaaay tougher to write. You have to develop some characters, develop a plot, and get all of that written down. That last sentence right there took me over two years to accomplish. The non-fiction work I did previously (see photo up top) was somewhat easier to do, but that still kept me out of the bars for eighteen months, and that's a good thing. Maybe I'm just a non-fiction kinda guy, but writing fiction too much more effort and even some coaching from folks more knowledgeable than I. After tryingto do it, I was humbled by the skill that is manifest in the writing of even mediocre fiction writers.
That observation brings me to my first big secret: The key to writing competently in either the fiction or non-fiction genre is to read other people's stuff, especially the stuff of talented authors. Your mind will automatically assimilate the skillful choice of words, the flow, and style as you read marvelous writing. By doing so, your own style will evlove and improve. And here is another strange but very useful clue that was given to me by author and writing teacher Kirk Sigurdsen: Read poetry!
"Why?" you ask.
Because the economy of words and rarefied thought and feeling that is manifest in good poetry will further
hone you emerging writing style much more than you realize. Don't take my word for it. Ask other writers you know. They will agree, and they will also be impressed that you care about such subtleties, and they will likely offer you much more useful advice. They may even take an interest in your literary direction and provide ongoing encouragement, which you will probably need.
Books are written on how to write, so there is much much more to say than will fit on a blog post, but for now, keep these few ideas in the forefront of your motivation:
*Don't get discouraged. Remind yourself that it's easier than ever to get your writing published. There's also more niche markets than ever before.
*It will take a long time. Don't think about that. Just be patient and keep plugging away.
*When they hear you are writing a book, some people may feel threatened enough by your bold undertaking that they try to deter you, even ridicule you. They may express doubt about your ability to complete the project and be skeptical of it's ultimate artistic value.
Like everywhere else in life, you must rise above the naysayers. This is the cross that the writer shares with artists in every medium. Hiding your literary art from scrutiny before it is finished is not the solutuon. You need criticism of the helpful kind. Your challenge is glean useful, constructive criticism while remaining unswayed by those who would have you believe you cannot succeed.
Every human being would be mentally strengthened by passing their intellect and their ego through the ringer of authorship. Your grasp of the subtleties of talented wiritng and literature will be heightened like never before. You will read literature more perceptively. You will have more respect for good wiritng when you see it, and you will face future challenges in your own life more courageously. Once you've written a book, the thought of taking on other huge projects will never scare you again.
Posted by Thom Powell at 1:38 PM