Wednesday, December 28, 2011

The Mysteries of the Paul Freeman Footage



     Even among sasquatch researchers, most do not realize just how enigmatic the above footage, shot by ultimate field man Paul Freeman, truly is. There are several mysteries that surround this genuine video footage of a sasquatch, taken in 1984. The first mystery is just who owns the legal rights to the footage.  
     With the death of Freeman in 2003, it is assumed that rights to the Freeman footage reverted to his widow, Nancy.  But all my attempts to locate her and verify this have proven futile. Paul lived in the eastern Washington town of Walla Walla,  prior to his death. he also kept a cabin on the Washington coast around Long Beach. None of the Freemans I contacted in those towns claim any connection to Paul or even knew of him. Meanwhile, two separate individuals, one representing a TV show, have approached me in hopes of finding Nancy Freeman, or whoever else currently holds rights to this famed footage. And so I issue this appeal to hear from anyone who might know who currently hods the rights to the Freeman footage.
     This question of ownership is a far easier one to answer than the questions and mysteries that are inherent in the video clip itself. Authenticity of the clip is  one big question in the minds of some, but not for me.  Just prior to his death, Paul and Nancy Freeman came to my house in Oregon to do an interview for a British TV production. An informed and competent interviewer quizzed Paul on numerous aspect of his field work in general and the video in particular.  As his wife sat facing him only ten feet distant, Paul insisted that the footage was authentic. That's good enough for me. I don't think there are too many souls who, staring their own  mortality in the face, not to mention their life-long spouse, would sit there and tell lies. But beyond  circumstantial evidence and personal assurances, the video itself, especially when the whole raw footage is viewed, bespeaks an authenticity that is not as evident when the much the shorter clip taht is usually found on internet sources is viewed. 
     Prior to filming the subject of interest, the footage made on Paul's camcorder shows a trackway that Paul found near Deduck Springs. On t he video, he competently documents the trackway which he credits to a juvenile sasquatch. Then he makes multiple plaster casts, measurements, and of course, video documentation. What most may not realize is that Freeman had been schooled by Dr. Grover Krantz in how to cast and measure trackways.  
     Freeman's detailed knowledge of the remote Blue Mountains and his keen sense of animal tracking was valued by Dr. Krantz, who saw Freeman as the most experienced and competent field man in the area surrounding Pullman, Washington, where Krantz was a professor at Washington State.  Freeman was so prolific at uncovering bigfoot evidence that some, like Dahinden and Byrne, doubted his honesty, and they said so on multiple occasions.  It is my considered opinion that their statements stemmed from a combination of ego and narrow range of experience that prevented these high-profile researchers from accepting the fact that Freeman was far more capable and successful at gathering the much sought evidence than they would ever be. 
     Yet for all his savvy as a field man, Freeman lived an austere life in which money was always tight. While some suppose that money was the root motivation for fakery, I would point out that on such limited means, Freeman could not have pulled off the costuming ruse on his video that is alleged by some.  And, the raw footage clearly shows the work of a diligent and well-trained field man.  What is not seen on the video footage is a short clip between the casting of a trackway and the creature segment.  Between these to segments was a short clip of a child's birthday party at a restaurant. I removed the segment out of privacy concerns but its existence on the original camcorder tape illustrates to my satisfaction that Freeman was using his one and only camcorder for anything and everything of intereste in his life that was worth documenting on video tape. While the sasquatch research was the reason for the camcorder;'s existence, Freeman was just a regular guy with a regular life including relatives' birthday party in between trips to the Blue Mountains in search of sasquatch evidence. 
     But there is yet another, more compelling reason why I am absolutely certain that Freeman didn't fake anything: He could not have possibly done so. I direct the viewer's attention to the time stamp on the video as seen on the YouTube-posted segment. At time 4:08, just as Freeman utters, "Oh, there he goes!" the subject steps behind what looks to be a grand fir tree trunk that is between 12 and 18 inches in diameter.  And remarkably, an instant later, the creature steps out from behind another, still smaller tree, that looks to be about a foot distant of the first tree. Yet, the subject is never seen to cross what appears to be an open gap between the two trees!  The quality of the video and the distance to the subject makes it difficult to be absolutely certain of the gap between the two trees but, to the best of my ability to discriminate, it does appear that there is a gap between the two trees. To the extent that  folks like to post replies to these blog posts, I invite them to offer their own opinions of this question in the comments box at the bottom of this post.
     The very first time I ever watched this video, this anomaly jumped off the screen at me, yet it seems that this oddity is not perceived by most who view this clip. One person who did notice it was Dar Addington, a long time friend of Freeman's.  I recently spoke with Dar while trying to locate Freeman's widow, Nancy. Dar reflected on the many evenings that she, Wes Summerlin, and Vance Orchard spent in Paul's basement, viewing the footage over and over again, trying to resolve that very question of just what was going with respect to the subject of the vieo and the two trees. Between them, the group just could not come up with an answer for just what the video shows. Nor can I, but it kinda looks paranormal.  
     Some suppose that the subject passed behind the first tree, ducked down, crossed the gap between the trees, then stood back up to emerge from behind the second tree. Of course, it makes no sense whatsoever that, if concealment was the purpose, the subject would stand back up and proceed on its merry way in plain sight. On the other end of the spectrum of possibilities, I know of persons who seriously postulate that something truly paranormal in nature has been dutifully documented by Freeman's eighties-era camcorder. Indeed, I know of other witnesses who insist they saw a sasquatch step behind a tree that was too narrow to conceal its broad and bulky form, then disappear. (see pg.169, The Locals, author: moi). I hesitate to get all paranormal in a post like this that is read by every Tom, Dick, and Harriet sasquatch researcher on six continents, but I'll do it anyway because the mystery seems to be right there on the tape. Most will say that there is not really a gap of empty space between the trees. That seems likely, but that isn't the way it appears to me. Just sayin'
     Now for the next mystery: At time stamp 4:13 on the video, the subject gives a very quick glance toward the videographer (Freeman).  This is huge for two reasons. First, it defies the view that a costumed person is the subject.  The flick of the head is so rapid that a head inside a costume hood would spin independently of the mask.  No person is an costume would risk such a move unless the hood was glued to their head.  Sorry skeptics, but that flick of the head say one thing to me that isd loud and clear: That ain't no mask! And here is the second problem: that very same move defies everything that is assumed to be true about the sasquatch creatures based on study of the Patterson-Gimlin footage (PGF). 
     Even a narrowly experienced armchair researcher seems know that "Patty," the subject in the PGF turns her entire upper torso in order to asses the cameraman's (Patterson's) intent. The way the whole upper torso pivots is seen as an indication that the subject is indeed a 'great ape,' and that is how great apes, with thick upper necks, have to move in order to look back. Well, that may be fine for the subject in the PGF, but the subject in the Freeman footage moves exactly like a person would. The upper torso barely pivots. It give a quick flick of the head and all the motion is taken up in the neck. If apes have to rotate their upper torso, this ain't no ape! 
     Some see this as an indication of fakery, but I would argue that they are overly committed to a point of view that is based on one prior data set, and that is the PGF.  If Freeman was involved in fakery, he had over a decade to study the PGF before he made his video.  Wouldn't he have his confederate in the costume  replicate the movements seen in the PGF for purposes of consistency?  Speaking of consistency, what's with the pot belly on the subject of the Freeman footage? Either it's a pregnant female or a somewhat rotund creature of either gender. Why would fakers add that feature and display more contradictions to the view that sasquatches are robust and agile creatures? Just as with the breasts on Patty, st seems to be a risky addition to a costuming ruse if believability is the goal.
      The next item is the better yet.   At 4:15, (just as Freeman exclaims, "Jeezus!") the subject steps behind a ten-or-so-year-old Douglas fir tree and stops cold. Freeman lowers the camcorder (presumably to secure his footing,) then raises it again.  Based on some rapid camera movements, he seems to be experiencing difficulty locating the now-motionless subject that is hiding behind the young tree.  The astuteness of this move by the video subject cannot be overstated. Until the subject moves again, it is utterly indistinguishable from the tree in front of it.  At least to me, this speaks volumes of the subjects knowledge of camouflage and concealment.  Whatever the subject is, that thing knew exactly how to use its adaptive coloration and profile in conjunction with the native foliage to utterly conceal itself in plain sight. How many times has the armchair researcher read eyewitness accounts that describe a creature that concealed itself in plain sight by remaining completely motionless.  That is exactly what we see here, and in that respect, the degree of savvy displayed by the subject surpasses anything we see on the PGF.  Despite its inferior image quality, the Freeman footage is actually more informative than the PGF in this respect. It gives us much more information about creature cleverness and concealment in response to human presence. 
     And the mysteries do not end there. Another huge question in my mind is where the subject ultimately went. Freeman puzzles over this matter audibly on the video tape.   Unfortunately, Paul took his camera off the subject for a brief instant as he secured his footing, and never saw it again.  He can be heard to utter, "There's two of 'em" but it is never clear what makes him say this.  One must assume he heard "brush popping from two separate locations. "Where'd he go?" Paul asks as he scans the forest through the viewfinder.
     In my view, there are only three possible answers to this question. The first one is that the subject hid behind another bush. Or, it dropped to the ground and stayed there. There are witnesses who describe a sasquatch belly-crawling on the ground to avoid detection. This move does have precedent in the annals of eyewitness sasquatch sighting reports. The problem is that Freeman was so close to it. As he continued to approach the place where the subject was last seem,  it seems like Freeman would have stepped on it if it was lying on the ground, and seen it if it was hiding behind a bush.   Then there's the third possibility that is sure to be rejected out-of-hand by any flesh-and-blood bigfooters. I'll say it anyway because it has to be considered, especially since it's what the camcorder shows. The dang thing disappeared!  Sorry, but there is also precedent for this idea.
     Paul Freeman was as flesh-and-blood as they come, but ,to his dying day, Freeman could not resolve the question of where that thing went in the moment he took his camera off of it. One thing we have definitely learned from the freeman footage is , if you ever get your lens on a sasquatch, don't take it off for any reason. I spoke with Freeman about this when he came to my house.  I didn't raise any paranormal possibilities with him but I certainly entertained them in my own mind, having already collected a number of accounts (See The Locals, Chap. 9, ibid)  One witness even claimed to have witnessed a shimmer of light as the subject of his  sighting disappeared from view in the middle an open clear cut in broad daylight.  Freeman's situation, on the other hand, is a bit more nebulous, owing to the fact that he took the camera off his subject and his visibility was significantly restricted by forest vegetation.
     Of one thing I feel certain: No hoaxer would end a hoaxed video in this way.  If Freeman and some confederate had gone to the trouble of procuring a suit, they would most surely try to construct a scene that was as credible as they could possibly make it, and that would mean having the creature shamble off over the hill, getting smaller and farther away all the while.  No hoaxer would cast aspersions on an already dubious scenario by have their costumed apparition dematerialize at close range. Yet, this seems to be one solid interpretation of what the video shows. 
     Could Paul Freeman's video clip actually be credible evidence that the sasquatch creature do indeed possess paranormal attributes? Like I said, Freeman himself certainly did not want to go there.  I, on the other hand, am not afraid to, especially since I have other accounts to support it. In any case, like it or not, it seems to be what the video shows. I reject the idea that the subject is lying on the ground, even though I considered it thoroughly.  Freeman was no dummy and he was too close to the thing to overlook it if that's what it was doing.  Heck, I expect he would have tripped over it as he attempted to follow its direction of travel.  I invite readers to weigh in on this question in the comment box below, although I cringe at the thought of what kind of vitriolic exchange this could precipitate. All I ask is that responders stick to the issue and remain civil. 
     A few conclusions can be drawn from careful study of the Paul Freeman footage. The first one is the most speculative to some but not to me: The Freeman footage is the real deal. I knew Paul well enough to know he did not and could not have faked that video.  Not only is his integrity secure in my view, but there are just too many peculiar aspects to that video that were beyond Paul's understanding, not to mention his ability to fake. 
   Another conclusion that I endorse, at the risk of enraging others, is that there is definitely something paranormal going on in that video. Even if one does not buy the bit about the creature crossing an open gap between trees, the manner in which the subject cleared the area instantaneously and at close range is extremely suspicious. A third conclusion is that the neck mobility shown in that video invalidates not only simple costuming as an explanation, but it also invalidates the idea that the subject is a lower form of primate that, like the subject in the PGF, is said to have limited neck mobility. The video clearly shows something else, and that is the same neck mobility as any person. 
     Indeed, the biggest problem with the Freeman footage is that, despite its brevity and poor resolution, it shows too much.  Upon careful examination,  it raises some deeply troubling issues, especially in the mind of those who wish to maintain an utterly flesh-and-blood interpretation of the whole sasquatch phenomenon. Of course, there is a simple way to maintain a flesh-and-blood perspective in the face of the data supplied by the Freeman footage: call it a fake.  Sorry folks, but I, for one, am not buying that,  I did my best in this essay to explain  the reasons why I don't think that works. 
    In a recent blog entry entitled, "To be or not to be..."   writer Melissa Hovey. asks,  "Are the opinions of the “paranormal crowd” so weak, they can’t withstand some questions or the scrutiny of the “flesh and blood community"?"   Scientific evidence of paranormal events seems to be a bit of a contradiction in terms but, O.K., here is it: the Freeman footage.  I'd call it evidence, but not proof.  Like it or not, I think the Freeman footage is some of the best evidence of paranormal activity you can find.  In the end, that's why the video is so damn important. But you have to look at it and look carefully, then be willing to ask some questions that don't have easy answers.  
     As Freeman himself said in the interviews I posted here, it has never been shown to be a fake, but I doubt it will seal the deal in the minds of Ms, Hovey nor to mention the Ben Radford-style skeptics. But it's still there and, based on my own investigations and interviews with Freeman himself, I'm saying it's the real deal. Now, if I could just figure out who owns the dang thing?

Friday, November 11, 2011

'The Times' They Are A-Changin'

Actress Lily Rabe scrambles a ridge above the remote and scenic Illinois River in a scene from Christopher Munch's classic of sasquatch cinema, 'Letters From the Big Man.'

     Big news! Not only has the New York Times just published a review of a 'bigfoot movie,' but they reviewed the flick in absolutely glowing terms!  Editors gave a remarkable amount of 'ink' (space on the page) to the November 10th review of "Letters From the Big Man", a brand new film by Christopher Munch. The review, by Manohla Dargis, praises Christopher's eccentric bit of film-making that advances the previously wacky premise that humans can and do interact with the very same sasquatches that most Americans do not even take seriously.
     Of course, those of us who have been in the 'bigfoot biz' for a while know that credible accounts of 'habituation' between humans and sasquatches do indeed exist, despite the lack of concrete evidence.  Becasue of this lack of evidence, such claims are not even taken seriously most bigfoot researchers, who adhere to the decades-old dogma that while sasquatches do exist, they are wild apes incapable of higher thought, language, and culture. If most bigfoot researchers don't even buy it, you can forget about suggesting such ideas seriously to the general public through popular media, right?  Enter Christopher Munch.
     Now background for newbies: As the new century turned, I published a book that lent credence to this and several other previously unexplored ideas that existed only on the lunatic fringe of sasquatch research.  In "The Locals", I went way out on a limb and stated that claims of habituation, a mutually amicable relationship between a sasquatch and a human, were indeed factually-based.  Naturally, I was vilified by those who felt that I was besmirching the good name of sasquatch researchers everywhere by giving serious consideration to such lunacy. But the times were about to change, and "The Locals" helped change them.  My left-field take on the sasquatch phenomenon resonated with an increasing number of other field researchers who were also encountering events and witnesses of their own that did not jibe with the conventional thinking that prevailed in the insular word of 'sasquatch researchers.' Bigfoot devotees still favored a more conventional view that sasquatches were wild apes; a radical view in it's own rite when it was first pioneered by journalist John Green in the 1950's and later endorsed by scientist Grover Krantz in the 1970's..
     One day, after 'The Locals' has been out for a couple years and only about six copies had been sold, I got a call from an obscure independent film-maker named Christopher Munch.  He share with me his idea for a very different cinematic portrayal of a sasquatch.  Christopher seemed to be looking for reassurance that his desire to portray habituation between a human and a sasquatch actually has some possible basis in fact.  I assured him that, based on my dubious research, it did. Christopher journeyed up to Portland, we talked, and I showed him some local areas that might make good film locations. I vividly recall one particular meeting with Christopher and Kirk Sigurdsen, another local Portland writer and devotee of paranormal pursuits. Over dinner at the Stonecliff Inn in Carver, Oregon, Kirk and I regaled Christopher with so many stories of bizarre and remarkable interactions between humans and sasquatches that, by the time Christopher left the restaurant, he was more-confident than ever that his radical concept of sasquatch/human interaction was as valid and as it was cinematically ground-breaking.
     A couple years later, "Letters from the Big Man" was completed, and now it gone even farther: it has captured much-deserved attention on a pretty big stage.  It may not be evidence, but Chris' film is imagery that enables viewers to visualize habituation,in very vivid, literal terms.  In making this film, Christopher Munch has done the cinematic equivalent of building a bridge across the Grand Canyon. He has portrayed friendly human/sasquatch interaction, an idea seen until now as absurdly fantastic, as not just genuine, but touching and profound. An idea had been previously relegated to realm of the lunacy, even among already crazy sasquatch researchers, can now be discussed much more seriously.  
    Like many others who take sasquatch seriously, I'm thrilled to witness Christopher's recognition, not only for his sake, but for our own. Christopher has done all he can to earn much-needed credibility not just for me, but others like Janis Coy, Autumn Williams, and Mary Green  who championed this radical idea ten years ago.  I hope everyone who pursues this quirky endeavor called 'sasquatch research' gets to see this fine film. I was fortunate enough to witness its inception and to get to provide some encouragement when it was needed. In return, I got to view a copy of the film as it was being edited and again when it was completed. I loved it, but I am biased. Now, we learn that New York Times reviewer Manohla Dargis loves it, too.  This is more remarkable than it sounds.  It wasn't very many years ago that The Times, like all newspapers regularly lampooned the ridiculous notion that  the sasquatch even existed. They exploited the subject with shoddy journalism such as that one notorious piece by Seattle Times hack-reporter Bob Young.  In 2003, Young's bit of shoddy journalism set serious treatment of the sasquatch subject back an entire decade.  Now, after much heavy lifting by guys like Christopher and gals like Autumn Williams and now Manohla Dargis, we have battled back, and incredibly, even the ever-intransigent New York Times has significantly changed their tune.  Through the work of Christopher Much, Manohla Dargis and The New York Times has given movie-goers and readers reason to think again about the widely held view that bigfoot is nothing but a joke! Thank you, Christopher.
     To quote Bob Dylan, " 'The Times,' they are a changin' "
   Click here to view the NYT Review of 'Letters From the Big Man"

Sunday, November 6, 2011

New York Times Goes Sasquatch

Brilliant make-up and costuming transforms Isaac Singleton into the best cinematic sasquatch ever portrayed.

    It's rare indeed that distinguished (and sometimes stuffy) publications like the New York Times will treat such fringe topics as the sasquatch with dignity and respect.  But that is precisely what they have done this Sunday in the Movies section of The Times.  The reason for the positive treatment is to recognize the cinematic accomplishment of the sasquatchs' best friend in Hollywood, Christopher Munch.
     As previously mentioned on this blog, Christopher has crafted the best and more factually correct cinematic presentation of the sasquatch phenomenon ever attempted in a fictional film. If you click on the link provided here you will be taken to the surprisingly lengthy treatment of the film and Christopher's utterly contemporary, even forward-thinking, view of the subject that he so capably presented in this landmark film.
     I hope everyone with an interest in the subject gets a chance to see this film someday. It is decidedly 'indie' and therefore, not an easy film to find in local movie houses. I suggest that interested souls appeal to the operators of your local theater to consider a screening of this fine flick. Credit also goes to reporter Dennis Lim for his courageous departure from the typical media skepticism and lampooning that the sasquatch topic usually gets, as well as the willingness of Dennis' editor, Manohla Dargis, who resisted the temptation to take the article in a more disdainful direction.  Also, Christopher tells me that Manohla Dargis is planning a review of "Letters from the Big Man" that will appear in The Times later this week.  Watch for that one folks. Meanwhile, click and enjoy one of the most positive presentations of the sasquatch subject you will EVER see in a major American daily newspaper. 
      Could the sasquatch subject finally be earning some much overdue credibility.  If so, we all owe a huge thanks to the work of the brilliant director, Christopher Munch. In case you missed the link to the Times piece above, here it is again:
http://www.nytimes.com/2011/11/06/movies/letters-from-the-big-man-starring-lily-rabe.html?pagewanted=1&_r=1
Director Chris Munch scouts film locations on the Clackamas

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Surprise State Department Memo Confirms Yeti's Existence


   Veteran researcher Bobbie Short has passed along something truly amazing.  Ms. Short forwarded a 1959 letter written by a U.S. diplomat in Nepal that appears to verify the existence of the yeti in that Asian country. The unclassified document was accidentally discovered by U.S. News and World Report columnist Paul Bedard and his associate, Lauren Fox.
     As one can plainly see by perusing the one-page Foreign Service memo (above), it matter-of-fact-ly directs embassy personnel to explain the three rules of yeti-hunting to any Americans (like members of the 1959 Tom Slick's expedition) who might show up in Nepal in search of the yeti.  Essentially, the rules state that there is a fee to pay to Nepal's government in order to get your yeti-hunting permit, that any photographs or physical remains that might be found are property of the Nepalese government, and yeti-hunters must  not  share photos or evidence of yetis with any news media. The most surprising statement in the memo is the specific directive that yetis "must not be killed or shot at except in an emergency arising out of self-defence."
     Talk about a smoking gun, there can be no doubt that this memo acknowledges the existence of the creatures that are so plainly discussed.  The more one knows about how State Department memos are generated, the more significant this document becomes. Memos circulated to U.S. Embassies reflect official government positions that are developed as a result of high-level meetings inside the U.S. Government (usually Cabinet-level,) and after more meetings with high level members of the foreign governments that they concern. Memos like this one are the practical directions to embassy personnel that reflect policy matters that are established at these high levels meetings.  First come the meetings,  the policy emerges,  then the memos are issued that direct the lower-level State Department personnel as to what was decided.  All such memos would reflect the policy that was mutually agreeable to not only our government but also the other governments, which in this case is the government of Nepal. That's just the way the State Department operates.
     In the late 1950's, when this memo was generated, Texas oil man Tom Slick was mounting a series of expeditions to the Himalayas in search of the Yeti. Obviously, these plans caught the attention of  U.S. and Nepalese officials. It was likely the Slick expeditions that prompted the need to develop an official policy about yeti-hunting. Closed-door meetings certainly ensued or this memo would not have been written to explain the policy. If U.S. officials did have any doubts about the existence of the Yetis that Slick was pursuing, the Nepalese representatives at such a meeting would have straightened them out.  "Hell, yes, they exist..." is my guess as to what the Nepalese officials would have said to any skeptical U.S. officials if there indeed were any.  I doubt there was any skepticism on the part of U.S. officials if they had access to military sources of information.  Extensive military intelligence about the region was gathered during and after World War II, and something as significant as the yeti would not have been overlooked by the uber-thorough military intelligence operatives that existed then as well as now.
     One wonders why the path of secrecy was chosen in the event that yeti-hunters like Tom Slick did manage to gather photos or physical remains of the yeti. Perhaps the Nepalese government wanted to take all the credit for such an important scientific discovery. I doubt it. Perhaps the Nepalese revered the yeti so highly that they did not want these mystical or sacred beings to be 'outed', or even hassled.  Or, perhaps our own government knew a good deal more about the yeti than we ever realized and there is some higher secret to these creatures that warranted high levels of government and military secrecy. We may never know, but what is clear is that secrecy was imposed as a matter of official policy, and the existence of these beings was essentially a  foregone conclusion.
     Could the memo be a fake? I don't think so. It was not discovered by some eager-beaver bigfoot researcher like myself or even the sharper-eyed Bobbie Short.  It just doesn't have the look of a prank like Biscardi's stupid bigfoot-in-a-bathtub shenanigans of a few years back. The letter was discovered by Paul Bedard, a Washington D.C. columnist for U.S. News and World Report who wasn't even looking for it,  and who had absolutely no interest in yetis or bigfoots.
     So, who was Ernest Fisk, author of the memo? Can his existence be verified. Yes. Ernest Fisk was indeed a real person in American diplomatic circles. The details of his professional and academic life can be read on the Archives website for Fisk's  Alma mater, Oberlin College.  Fisk graduated from Oberlin College in Ohio in 1928, he was a reporter in Ohio before WWII, and after the war he was a twenty-year career diplomat in Pakistan, India, and then Nepal.  Just as the letter indicates, Fisk was indeed the Counselor of Embassy in Katmandu, Nepal from 1959 to 1962 according to Oberlin College archives. Fisk died in 1992.
     I'm no detective but I'm calling this memo legit. I just wonder whether its discovery was entirely accidental or whether this memo might have been leaked to the press.  Why would existence of the yeti be leaked to the press at this point in history?  Because the tight lid that has been kept on the whole sasquatch/bigfoot/yeti question is about to blow off and the government knows it.
     The train has already left the station. The existence of undiscovered hominids is about to become common knowledge world-wide, if it hasn't already. And when the bigfoot scat finally hits the fan, the reaction of the scientific community is very predictable because it has been observed so many times before. Whether it's the platypus, the mountain gorilla, the Coelocanth, or any of a host of other scientific discoveries, it always unfolds the same way. For decades, scientists will vehemently deny the validity of the subject and even ridicule the very idea that it could be true. ("If it was true, we would know!")  Then they ignore the subject as well as all the heretics who continue to insist it is true. But when the discovery can no longer be denied, the official story suddenly changes. That is when science, and the government, declare that, yes, the new discovery does indeed exist and, by the way, they knew it all along.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

The Ultimate Field Man


     It was almost ten years ago that I was visited by Paul Freeman and his wife, Nancy.  The occasion  was an interview for a TV show that was being produced by a documentary crew from Manchester, England. Part of my contribution to this project was to bring Paul Freeman to my place for a taped interview.  Later,  the crew would pack up and head into Portland for the next interview with Henner Fahrenbach in my middle school classroom.
     The English production crew was kind enough to allow me to tape both interviews 'over their shoulder' so to speak, using my own home camcorder.  Only a few short clips form these two extended interviews were ever televised in their show.  The rest of the interviews ended up on the cutting room floor.  My copy of the interviews, on VHS tapes, just sat in a drawer for then next ten years, along with my tape of the discovery of the Skookum Cast.
     The other day I finally got around to reformatting these old tapes to a digital format.  Despite the generally poor sound quality of my tapes (my fault) I was amazed by value of  reflections and recollections that were offered by both interviewees, Paul Freeman and Henner Fahrenbach. The material on these tapes was as useful as it was ten years ago.   I put the tapes up on Youtube because it struck me that anyone who ever has tried or will someday try to gather 'bigfoot evidence' needs to hear every word of these interviews.  There is a huge amount of personal experience and 'hard gotten gains' presented in these old tapes.
     The Freeman interview is perhaps the most interesting one for a few reasons.  First, Paul Freeman died just a year after this interview was taped. So this interview, unbeknownst to me at the time, would be his last, and maybe the longest taped  interview of his life. What adds still more interest to the Freeman interview is the fact that controversy swirled around Freeman's name and reputation over the twenty or so years that Freeman was associated with sasquatch matters. But the biggest reason why I feel the Freeman interview is so important is that, if one wants to benefit from somebody else's lifetime of field research,  Paul Freeman is your guy. Paul Freeman may be dead but for my money, Paul Freeman is, and always will be the ultimate 'bigfoot field researcher.'
     While the term "bigfoot field researcher" is a vague and even sort of a self-anointed title, anyone who ever  aspires to be a 'bigfoot field researcher' would do well to click on the links at the end of this essay and listen to every word of these poorly recorded but fascinating video segments.
     One interesting element of these tapes is the fact that the English reporter who interviews Freeman has really done his homework.  He knew the controversies that Paul was embroiled in and he did his best to get Paul Freeman to articulate his position on the accusations of hoaxing that swirled  back in the 1990's. The biggest flap surrounded comments made by Freeman on a "Good Morning America" appearance. he  acknowledged "trying to make" a set of  fake footprints. Freeman explained to me as we chatted at my house before the interview that his remarks were taken out of context. He wanted to create a  set of deliberate fakes for comparison purposes. He never tried to portray the his fakes as anything but an experiment.   But by acknowledging on camera that he had 'tried' to make  fake footprins, he created a dust-up that many would seize upon to cast doubt on any and all evidence ever gather by this remarkably dedicated field researcher.
     As he explains on the interview, Paul Freeman dedicated fifteen years of his life to gathering evidence out of one particular area, the Blue Mountains, and specifically the Mill Creek Watershed, that straddles the border between Washington and Oregon within the Blue Mountains. During this fifteen or so years, Paul Freeman collected what seemed at the time to be and impossible number of  and variety of casts.  Nobody, it was contended by competing researchers like Dahinden and Byrne, could possibly have that many encounters with such rare and elusive creatures.  Freeman was also claiming a handful of eyeball sightings, and then, a brief video clip of a sasquatch.
     From the more sophisticated perspective we enjoy today,  it's laughable to suggest that Freeman must have been hoaxing his evidence simply because he had so much of it. There are numerous other examples today of people with the kind of multiple encounters that only Freeman was claiming two or three decades ago.  The concept of 'habituation' did not even exist in the lexicon of the subject back then, and while it remains highly controversial today, I can state unequivocally from my personal perspective that long term, repeat encounters with sasquatches certainly do occur.  Further, we know now that there are most definitely places where the sasquach activity is more overt and concentrated than int the rest of the world, and from everything I think I know, Freeman was indeed onto such a 'hot spot'. It was mostly the competing researchers of the time, particularly Dahinden, who felt there was no way Freeman could be onto such a hot spot.
     Rene Dahinden was wrong.  There are lots of other hot spots we know of today.  By today's standard, there is nothing remarkable about the claims of Paul Freeman, especially in light of that fantastic spot that Freeman was working on a regular basis: remote, vast in size, and off-limits to the general public, owing to it's role as a municipal drinking water collection watershed. I would further contend that Paul Freeman was fortunate enough to to be hunting  for evidence not only in the perfect place, but at the perfect time.  Never before had anyone attempted to gather evidence in that particular large expanse of wilderness that Freeman knew so well from his work as a caretaker of the watershed.  This made it much easier to for Freeman to find evidence and even to approach the creatures themselves.  We know today that the presence of other researchers definitely contaminates an area.  Paul Freeman, owing to his experience, to the time period, and to the remoteness of the area he was working, did not have the 'researcher contamination' problem we face today.
     Then there's the video.  Freeman explains the circumstances in the three-part interview I posted on Youtube, so I will forgo detailed discussion of that.  After listening to Freeman's descriptions again, I see nothing implausible about the circumstances  that led to obtaining his brief video.  Further, much discussion has been generated over the way Freeman reacts to the sighting on the video tape.  Apparently, he wasn't excited enough on the video and this was supposedly indicative of some bad acting that was trying to sell the viewer on a hoaxed 'encounter.'  That is patently ridiculous, in my view, for two reasons.  First, Freeman was sufficiently experience that I would not expect the same level of excitement to come from him as might emanate from someone who bumped into a creature that they didn't even know existed.  Freeman was hunting for a sasquatch with his camcorder that day and to his surprise, he found one right where he expected it to be, precisely the way Patterson and Gimlin happened across one that they managed to film with a 16mm movie camera.  But beyond all this, it is clear to me after watching the raw video footage Freeman made, that he is very excited, as well as winded, and a little bit scared.
     Most importantly, I have studied the Freeman footage carefully and after overlaying it atop everything I think I know about the sasquatch, I can unequivocally state that the Paul Freeman footage is the real deal.  I direct anyone who questions this to several specifics that are generally overlooked by viewers of Paul Freeman's footage:

1.) The subject of the Freeman footage is atypical in appearance.  It either has a big belly or it is a pregnant female. He shows two sets of tracks on the video, one being smaller and presumably belonging to a juvenile.  Freeman speculates that he is tracking a pregnant female with a young one in tow.  I doubt that a hoaxer would add such embellishments for fear that they would cast further doubt on an already questionable image.

2.) The subject of the footage does something strange. Just as Freeman utters his comment, "There he goes!," the subject steps behind one tree, then emerges from behind another tree about three feet distant, yet one never sees the creature's outline cross the gap between these two trees. Some have supposed that the creature bent down then stood back up, but I see no sign of this in the video.  Others suggest that the gap between the two trees actually is occupied by another tree.  I think I'm seeming an open space between the trees, but I admit I am uncertain on this point. Call me paranormal, but it looks like something really strange is going on in that little segment of the footage.
3.)There's nothing paranormal about the quick look the subject throws toward the camera around the 3:13 mark in the footage. It's a really quick flick of the head toward the camera and that look tells me loud and clear that it's not a guy in a suit. A move that fast would send a costume mask spinning apart from the head inside the mask. That doesn't happen. The video clearly shows a quick flick of a real head by a very coordinated being.
4.) A couple seconds later, Freeman utters, "Jeezus!" as the subject steps behind a small grand fir tree and stops. The subject perfectly positions itself behind the small tree, and then stops moving, rendering it indistinguishable from the tree in front of it. During the couple seconds when the subject is behind the tree, it cannot be seen at all until it begins to move again. This speaks volumes about the subject and the veracity of Freeman's footage.  It reveals a real creature that know exactly how to conceal itself in plain sight by stepping behind a bush then standing completely still.   It moves, presumably because it understood that Freeman was continuing to approach its location. More than anything else about the Freeman footage, I find this element of the footage to be an impressive display of behavior and intelligence that speaks volumes about how these beings are able to conceal themselves in plain sight.
     Call me a sucker, but I'm convinced that Paul Freeman's video clip is absolutely genuine, and it is second only to the Patterson-Gimlin footage (PGF) in terms of image quality.  The freeman footage may actually be superior to the PGF in terms of providing us a window on one certain important behaviors, specifically the way that a sasquatch can use the available foliage to instantly conceal itself. 
     Then there's the interview.  Freeman presents, in my view, a very relaxed and highly credible persona.  He articulates his position, he speaks with a casual yet confident demeanor that bespeaks a man who is firmly in possesses a lifetime of  woodsman experience. He dismisses his detractors without a hint of animosity, and he matter-of-fact-ly issues an open invitation for anyone to show where and why his video footage is fake. He acknowledges that the body of evidence he has gathered is not utterly compelling but he stands by the veracity and integrity of everything he has collected.
     I wasn't sure what to expect when I was setting up the interview with Paul Freeman, but I came away impressed.  But two other events that are not seen in the taped interview I posted on YouTube removed all doubt in my mind about the truthfulness and integrity of Paul Freeman.
     First, Paul's wife Nancy sat there on the sofa in my living room sofa face-to-face during the entire interview.  When he described in the interview the way his wife ("the boss") forbid him from putting a bigfoot scat in the oven to dry it, he's looking right at her. That spoke volumes about the man's credibility. If a guy is going to sit there and tell lies, I don't think he would do so with his wife sitting there in the same room, looking him square in the eye.
     Even more amazing, when the interview was over, Paul gathered up all the track casts and the handprint cast and handed them to me. "Here," he said.  "I want you to have these."
     I though I misunderstood him.  "Do you want to sell me these things?" I asked.
     "No. I want you to have them." 
     "But these are worth a lot of money...," I stammered
     " I don't want money."
      "Shouldn't they at least be a part of some scientific collection?"
      "I sent a trailer full of stuff to Dr. Meldrum. There's plenty of my stuff in scientific collections.  You're a science teacher.  I'm going to die soon. After I'm gone, I just want some of this stuff to be shown around to kids. Will you do that for me?"
      How can one not be impressed by that?
     Fifteen months later, Paul Freeman did die. I've tried to keep my end of the bargain, so every year I show the 8th graders the artifacts Paul collected. Since bigfoot isn't really an accepted part of Portland's official science curriculum, I show it on the day before Spring Break, when a third of the class has already left for Hawaii.   We talk about standards of evidence and what constitutes scientific proof of undocumented species. Like grown-ups, most kids dismiss Paul's evidence as fake.  I understand the need to keep the concept of 'bigfoot' at a distance, especially in the minds of kids.  I don't push it and I don't tell them everything I know.
    And another thing I don't push is my feeling that Paul Freeman IS the genuine article; the ultimate bigfoot field researcher.  His video is real and it shows a real creature.   It is my view that Paul Freeman made as big a contribution to our current understanding of the bigfoot phenomenon as anyone, ever.  So, I posted the 'lost tapes' of his interview on Youtube in the hope that other aspiring field researchers the world over can learn as much as I learned from the legacy of Paul Freeman, The Ultimate Field Man.

Paul Freeman's Interview is posted in three 10-minute segments:
Segment #1
Segment #2
Segment #3
Raw Footage Shot by Paul Freeman

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Getting on Their Good Side




Randy Harrington checks camera traps in the
Kiamichi National Forest of SE Oklahoma

     While the general public demands definitive proof of sasquatch existence, some of us who actively pursue the subject (but not necessarily the creatures themselves) contend that the sasquatch are too intelligent to be stalked successfully like wild game. There are even indications that the sasquatch do not wish to cooperate with our pursuit of proof.  Such claims by delusional bigfoot researchers like me are sumarily dismissed as feeble attempts to explain away the lack of good evidence, and avoid the painful reality that the whole subject is ridiculously fake.
      Meanwhile, there exists a cadre of researchers who prefer to avoid getting bogged down in this search for definitive evidencen not because the suject is fake, but because it is my considered opinion that there is much more we can learn about these beings if we respect their wishes to be left alone.  So, I am both supportive of those who seek better evidence, and not interested in seeking better evidence myself.
      Instead, my interest is in trying to quantify, and understand, the intelligence level of the sasquatch. It also seems that evidence addressing this question is more readily available than evidence for simple existence, even though this evidence is even more vague and uncertain than the evidence that argues for simple existence.
     However uncertain, the evidence I'm referring to, almost all of which is annecdotal, tells me that we are dealing with not just intelligent creatures, but creatures of superior intellect. This is both a troubling and a humbling conclusion, and therefore one that is a very tough sell, even to most die-hard sasquatch enthusiasts. As usual, it would be easy to get bogged down in discussion about proving such far-fetched claims. And again, I chose to bypass this discussion and focus instead on the implications of this thought.
     The most important logical consequence of assuming that the sasquatch are at least as intelligent as we are is that it implies they must be capable of sophisticated communication, like us.  So, how does this communcation work? Is it possible to tap into it?  Trying a few things myself and comparing notes with other researchers who are also willing to be branded 'paranormal' or 'delusional' actually renders a pretty consistent little picture.
     First of all, it isn't very 'paranormal' to assert in this day and age that the sasquatch definitely posess spoken language. Sasquatch language is a fact. As previously stated, the evidence for this is actually better than the evidence for simple sasquatch existence.  Scott Nelson's very scientific analysis of the well-known audio tapes collected by Ron Morehead and Al Berry verifies sasquatch language.  The rest of the world can quibble about this for the next decade, but I'm moving on. 
     I am also satisfied that there are other forms of communication available to the sasquatch.  Specifically, some form of telepathy is being used by the sasquatch.  It is available to us as well, and has been studied thoroughly by science. It is not uniformly available to all humans so it lacks a measure of scientific verifiablity, but I feel it is naive in this day and age to dismiss telepathy as purely imaginary.   In a previous post,  I dubbed telepathic communication the 'coconut telegraph.'  Jimmy Buffet used that phrase as an album title thirty years ago but he didn't invent the phrase. It references a kind of telepathic communication that is well-known to aboriginal human populations in Australia, South America, and Africa.
     How ever flaky the pursuit of such ideas is regarded by mainstream science, it does seem to yield a few  interesting messages. I make no claims to success in direct communication with the sasquatch myself, but I know of several people who feel thay have communicated with a sasquatch. Perhaps the most well-know member of the 'researcher community' to make such claims is Kewaunee Lapseritis of Duvall, Washington. Lapseritis claims frequent telepathic contact over a thirty year period.  The messages he claims to recieve also have a certain consistency that seems to be borne out by others.  Kewaunee tells us that the sasquatch revere the Earth and implore us to do the same.  We are told by Kewaunee that the earth is seen by the sasquatch as a jewell of the heavens.  We are also told that our survival as a species is inextricably tied to the well-being of our fragile planet.
     I have been aware of this whole line of thinking for many years. Unverifiable, as usual, but still, nothing new. What is new, and what actually may support Kewaunee's claims,  is an event that happened to me in Oklahoma while attending the sasquatch Honobia festival and symposium in 2009.
    On the spur of the moment, I took Randy Harrington up on an offer to take a night-time tour his camera sets in a remote part of the Kiamichi National Forest. The following excerpt from an article, written by Mike Hall, describes the events of this interesting evening.  Mike Hall writes:
A stack of rocks with an empty water bottle
atop it was found in the jeep trail as we
travelled the forest in the wee hours.
  "That night, while riding the trails with Thom, Randy Harrington, Professor Marvin Leeper and myself, we found two things of great interest. 1st in the middle of the trail, was a flat rock with a plastic bag on top being held down by another flat rock, Thom and the rest of us quickly said that someone was messing with us and simply threw the rocks to the side and stuck the plastic bag back into the Polaris Ranger...that seats 6 by the way!
     We drove for several miles back into an area where there was a camera trap and bait station the Randy had set up just before the rains had come in, with the film crew to document, and then had to race down as the rains, just poured. ...we wanted to see if the VISUAL / AUDIO bait station was working, all four of us left the trail and walked up the mountain in the dark to check things.....I have to say with giving away anything , it did look really cool, and I'm sure that a Sasquatch would find it very interesting.


After unstacing a pile of rocks in the middle of the jeep trail,
a radio lost elsewhere in the woods was uncovered

     As we climbed back onto the Polaris, I asked Thom if he wanted to turn around there or just keep going. This is an important question as what we found next is incredible...Thom stated he wanted to just keep going.....about a quarter of a mile later we came upon another rock/stone structure with a plastic bottle on top held in place by 2 rocks on either side. we again felt as if someone was playing around with us, Thom even stated that if it were another research group trying to make an offering to a Sasquatch that it was really a poor effort on their part, and we started to dismantle the structure....when we got all the way to the bottom , Randy Harrington nearly died.....I have to go back now in time to Monday afternoon....MABRC had arrived early in the afternoon on that day.....unloaded their gear and ATV's on another mountain and set up a camp, then went riding the trails over there, Roy Mcclish placed one of the 2 new radios he had bought for this trip in his coat pocket and away they went, upon returning to camp he learned that the radio had fallen out of his pocket somewhere along the trail. also Mr. Dave Ganote also with MABRC had several photos in his upper jacket pocket that he had forgotten were there , from a trip he had taken his grandchildren on , and found that a couple of those had also been lost along the many trail‘s.      Now lets get back to Thom , Randy , Marvin and myself on Thursday night , on a different trail in a different area....digging to the bottom of a stone structure that was sitting in the middle of the trail.....and at the bottom.......The missing radio!
     Now I know that sounds fantastic, But as we rode back to camp, it became clear no one would believe us ...until Thom said to have the camera crew, that was at the conference to film a documentary episode, turn on their cameras before I show Roy the radio and then have Roy confirm that we had indeed found his missing radio.....Then show Roy the pictures that we took and tell how we found it."
AMAZING NIGHT!....that's all I can say....but it continues.
     Friday morning the 1st day of the conference, Randy Harrington drove his Polaris up in front of the Conference Center and prepared to set it up to play some music as people are coming into the building....Randy noticed the plastic bag that we had found the night before and was about to just throw it into one of the trash barrels on the grounds, when he noticed there was something in the bag....he reached in and pulled out....one...just one, of the missing pictures from Dave Ganote.
     Take from all of that what you will but , I wanted to make sure ....I hunted down the Film Students that Randy had taken up early Thursday Afternoon to that same spot ,before the rains came in and ask them if there had been anything in the jeep road....they confirmed that there had been no structures of any kind on the mountain when they were up there Thursday afternoon, and after they had come down during the storm , all the MABRC folks and Texla were in the Conference Center setting up , Randy and Darren Lee had left to go to Talihina to pick up Thom and Jeff Meldrum in Darren's wife’s Mini Van...and it was after they returned that we all went up on the Mountain....and that the events of the night unfolded. WOW, I'm out of breath just typing all of that."


     There's nothing paranormal in Mike Hall's description but it did seem that something mysterious had taken place. It was the considered opinion of Mike Hall and Randy Harrington that there was no simple explanation for how the lost walkie talkie and the lost photograph were moved to the middle of the jeep trail from where they were lost much deeper in the forest. The objects were lost by the crew while travelling to and from well-hidden camera locations.  No one else on earth  knew where the camera stations were, and how to travel to them.  Could it be that the sasquatch (known to be in the area) found the lost objects and moved them to the middle of the jeep trail where the research team would be better able to find them upon their return?  There seemed to be no other plausible explanation.
     Understand that these researchers are as 'flesh and blood' as any bigfoot researchers you can find, yet  the circumstances still led them to the inescapable conclusion that the sasquatch were moving lost posessions around, implying that the sasquatch were much smarter and more observant than they originally supposed.. These implicaitons were rather difficult to for MIke and Randy to accept:  The locals sasquatches were letting them know that they (the researchers) were being closely watched while they set up their 'hidden' camera station.  It occurred to me later that there also might be another message here. Between the water bottle, the radio, the photograph and the plastic sack, all piled in the middle of the jeep trail, the other message seemed to be something along the lines of, "Pick up your trash!"
     This thought was a bit easier for me to accept becasue I had seen something like this before. A similar event happened to a local Oregon researcher named Russ Taylor.  While searching the extremely remote Roaring River Wilderness for signs of sasquatch, Russ took a tumble and, he later realized, lost a valuable pistol.  Travel through this trail-less canyon is very difficult and Russ didn't have time that day to back-track and search for the lost gun. Instead, Russ returned to the Roaring River a few days later and retraced his steps in hopes of finding the expensive sidearm before it started to rust.  He reasoned that the gun probably fell out of the holster when he fell off a log so he set out to find that very same log.  He eventually did find the offending long and, to Russ's amazement, he also found his gun,  lying in plain sight and carefully balanced atop the very log Russ had fallen from.  Russ was certain that the gun could not have landed on the log.  It should have been on the ground where he made a hard landing. He is certain he would have seen the gun when he picked himself up if it was just lying atop the log he fell from.  As with Randy in Oklahoma, Russ was forced to consider the outrageous idea that a sasquatch found the gun and put it where Russ could find it.  Russ felt certain that no human being cound have found the gun in that remote spot, just a few days after it was lost, then left it out in plain sight in anticipation of Russ' return.  Knowing  the forbidding nature of the Roaring River Wilderness like I do, I would definitely agree that no one else could have found Russ' gun in such a steep, wild, and trail-less wilderness.
      Around my own rural home, I sometimes find pieces of litter prominently placed on my travel routes.  I travel these routes often and in some cases I happen across items of litter were not there the day before. Like Russ, I feel quite certain that these bits of trash were not left there by the public, since I 'm not travelling on trails. It seemd that these items are being conspicuously placed for my benefit, like the walkie-talkie in Oklahoma, and Russ' pistol in the Roaring  River.  When I find such trash in my travels, I always carry it out, just so I didn't have to look at the trash next time I happened by the same location.. Only after the Oklahoma events did it occur to me that there might be a pattern to the litter I was finding, and even a message behind it.  This message might be a variation on the same basic message that Kewaunee Lapseritis has been espousing for years.  The message is beautiful in it's simplicity and its consistency: "Pick up your trash!"
     Some people set cameras in the woods in hopes of getting a photo of a sasquatch.  Others, like Russ Taylor, just hike and watch and listen and also hope to someday see a sasquatch.  Others jog, walk the dog,  paint a scene, collect mushrooms, or meditate as a means of projecting an image of peace and harmony that they hope will elicit a sasquatch sighting. 
     In light of everything I have heard from others and that which I have witnessed myself, I think I know another way to get on the good side of the local sasquatches. As Lapseritis has always said, you're trying to project an image of respect and harmony with the natural world, as the sasquatches themselves advocate. And,  maybe the best way to do that is do one of the simplest things you can do.  As you walk along in your favorite bit of nature, carry a trash sack and pick up trash.
     If there happen to be any sasquatches in that particular woods, they will probably notice what you are doing.  I can't guarantee that this will lead to a sighting but based on the pattern I think I'm seeing, picking up litter in the woods is a great way to get on their good side.







 


Sunday, April 10, 2011

"Thank you for Not Killing Elvis."


     The origin of the novel Shady Neighbors by Thom Powell began long before the idea of writing this book ever occurred to me.  I always lived in cities and suburbs, but always felt drawn to the woods for relaxation and recreation.  I finally made the move from Portland to rural Clackamas County in the late 1980’s. During this time, I used the bigfoot phenomenon every year in my science classroom as an example of pseudoscience.   Unbeknownst to me, I relocated to the county with the most bigfoot sightings in the state, and it wasn’t long before I met people who were claiming sightings that they had never reported to any website.  
     The first one was Bill Reed, a neighbor who described a vivid encounter near Bagby Hot Spring in the Mount Hood National Forest.  Later, I noticed a sign on a bulletin board outside the nearby county store advertising for sighting reports. I decided to initiate an informal scientific investigation of my own.  By responding to this advertisement, I met local Estacada researcher Frank Kaneaster, who generously shared with me the results of his decade-long information gathering effort.
     Meanwhile, emerging computer and internet technologies in the early 1990’s paved the way for a vast increase in available information on every subject imaginable, including bigfoot.  In fact, no subject seems to have benefitted more from internet technologies than that dubious pursuit we call ‘bigfoot research.’ 
     By 1998, slick search engines like Netscape Navigator enabled me to use the internet to gather information on the use of trail cameras in my quest for answers to the bigfoot mystery.  In my search for bigfoot hotspots, I aligned myself with the Bigfoot Field Research Organization shortly after its formation.  It was there that I noticed an amazing consistency to the admittedly unverifiable sighting reports.  It became increasingly clear from a purely statistical point of view that the phenomenon had some basis in reality. The camera work I conducted never produced the high quality photographic data I sought, but it did put me in touch with people and places where bigfoot activity happened on a very consistent basis. To my surprise, many of those places were near my own home.
     By 2001, I had accumulated so much unique and sometimes surprising information that it seemed like a good idea to put it all down in a book, even if nobody ever read it.  At the time, the field of sasquatch research was dominated by strong personalities who advocated the simplistic concept that wild apes were at the heart of the bigfoot phenomenon.  The bigfoot subject, even back then, was saturated with books that were very uniform nature: dry litanies of sighting reports that went on and on with very little insight or interpretation.  
     There were a few exceptions. Kewaunee Lapseritis, in Wasington,  Peter Guitilla in California, and Robert W. Morgan, in Ohio published books that suggested a very different interpretation of the sasquatch phenomenon.  These books were dismissed by the armchair researchers of the time as rants from the lunatic fringe.   It didn’t help that one particularly strong personality, Erik Beckjord, seemed to be doing everything in his power to foster internecine squabbling within the ‘bigfoot community.’.   Beckjord had many unique insights but his contentious personality marginalized, even invalidated his contributions to field research.  Guys like Henry Franzoni who had just as much insight and experience as anyone were keeping a very low profile during this time when the actual research took a back seat to clashes of titanic egos.
     Even while I was noticing strange events like cameras being dismantled, ultrasound, and telepathic contacts, Beckjord’s contentious personality had almost singlehandedly rendered ‘paranormal’ into a dirty word. To me, this represented a golden opportunity. It meant that the bigfoot field was still wide open for a certain revisionism if I could only articulate these new ideas more tactfully than Beckjord.  In The Locals, I undertook to bring a bunch of new ideas to light, even though they  were not really that new to other experienced but low-profile researchers like Franzoni and Lapseritis.
         Like most scientific ideas that break with the accepted dogma,  The Locals was not well received when it was published in 2003.  It didn’t help that a few other books appeared at the same time that claimed to thoroughly debunk the phenomenon. In the face of strong public skepticism,  The Locals was not widely read when it was released. The fact that it was well-written and featured many new sighting reports, rather than the familiar Bluff Creek, Ape Canyon, Albert Ostman stuff, meant that it did slowly but steadily find favor with those who were looking for new information and new ideas.
      As bigfoot field research steadily increased between 2000 and 2010, a growing number of researchers were gathering sightings and even personal experiences that contradicted the conventional wisdom that sasquatches were apes. As the thinking changed, The Locals was right there to bridge the gap between the now untenable position that bigfoots were apes and the even more troubling view that sasquatches may bear some kind of connection to extraterrestrial matters.
     To this extent, it is often said that The Locals revolutionized sasquatch research.  While this may be true, this quiet revolution occurred only within the insular and inbred world of ‘bigfoot research.’ What The Locals did not do was break out of that realm to gain any kind of wider audience outside the small world of bigfoot researchers.  The bigfoot topic just wasn't of interest to a wider public.
     Beginning in 2007, a fictional story began to coalesce in my mind that might serve to advocate for the genuine existence of sasquatch creatures in a way that was not as tedious to read as the typical non-fiction bigfoot book.  People like a story, and a good story can be powerful medicine if it entertains the reader while it also informs them.  There are already many fictional stories with a bigfoot theme,  but most of them rely heavily on weaponry and violent encounters with hairy monsters to make their plots interesting. It seemed that there was still a wide open niche for a different kind of bigfoot story that portrayed bigfoot in a more honest, less sensational manner.  But the story also had to be good.
     Shady Neighbors is my attempt to build the same kind of bridge in the world of bigfoot fiction that The Locals built in the realm of non-fiction bigfoot books. It’s kind of an ambitious goal: to construct a plot that speaks to the true nature of the phenomenon, but one that might also find favor among those who never had any interest in the whole bigfoot thing.
     In practical terms, presenting the subject to a wider audience means first ridiculing it, because, face it, that’s the overwhelming tendency of the general public when first confronted with the bigfoot topic. Later in the story, one can take things in a different direction, once the stroy has validated the readers' initial tendency to think of bigfoot as baloney.  You construct a straw man, only to tear it apart, but you do it amidst other plot twists.  Too much focus on the bigfoot angle alone is a fatal error.  The tale has to be balanced and varied. Something else has to happen, lest the book be seen as singular in focus, doing nothing but presenting the hackneyed theme that bigfoots are real. 
      That’s the basic idea behind Shady Neighbors: present a user-friendly concept of bigfoot that is accessible to a wider audience. Start with a main character who is a skeptic and a non-believer.  Drag him or her, kicking and screaming, into a wider realization that their own scientific concept of reality is incomplete and flawed. Work in some of the new information that we have gained through serious study of habituation cases.  Raise some of the new ideas in bigfoot research but make them  work as plot twists.  One interesting item that I gleaned from habituation cases was the fact that the children of rural families are the often first ones to become aware of the bigfoot creatures that  inhabit the surrounding woods.  Now there’s an idea that a writer can have some fun with! 
     But rule number one must remain: Don’t oversell bigfoot.   The book has to be about something else.  The shelves are already full of bigfoot stories that fail to explore themes of relevance to a wider audience.  Greed, jealousy, pettiness, ambition, and love are emotions and motivations that resonate with everyone. Beyond that, cultural touchstones like, popular music, sports, television, cell phones, classrooms, and science ought to have a place in any literary effort that is intended to find favor in a wider readership.
     Stitching all these other elements together into a coherent plot containing life lessons for all of us really was the challenge I took on.  As a matter of necessity, bigfoot took a back seat in this story for the sake of the plot and the readership, but also because, I feel that is the true nature of the phenomenon.  Even when they are there, don’t expect a bigfoot to step out of the shadows and shake your hand. The big reason they’ve been so hard to scientifically verify for so long is that they do such a wonderful job of keeping to the shadows.  To portray the phenomenon any other way, then, would just be untrue.
     One final trick that makes fictional plots more vivid and realistic is to put real place names into the story.  Experienced fiction writers also know that this tactic is employed by less experienced fiction writers (such as myself) who are challenged by the daunting task of creating all those scenes and characters from pure imagination. This is a bit of a literary short-cut, but it can have the benefit of creating interest in the real places that bear these same names.  In the case of Shady Neighbors,  the places used are all located in an economically depressed area that could probably use a little more recognition of its unique attributes. In truth, the place names I used are also places where the bigfoot phenomenon really does exist, even while it remains in the shadows.  And, after reading the story, if you decide to go find Squaw Meadow and see what’s really there, you won’t be disappointed, even if a bigfoot doesn’t step out of the shadows to greet you. If you go there, say, ten separate times, I’d bet something unusual will happen that will leave you wondering for a long time.  It’s a great spot.
      Which brings us to phrase used to entitle of this blog post. A few reviews of Shady Neighbors have surfaced so far, but my favorite comment was one posted on my Facebook wall so I used it for the title of this blog post.
      Writing a book of any kind is a tedious process but the fun of writing fiction is that you can create any character or situation you want.  In fiction writing, you are not hamstrung by fact or truth.  It should work for the plot or it doesn’t belong in the story, but that still leaves the author with considerable leeway.  You own the characters like slaves. You can turn a character into a transvestite or an axe-murderer and there’s nothing they can do about it.  If I want to kill Elvis, I will. But I didn’t, and one particular reader of Shady Neighbors was grateful that I didn’t, even though I could have.  Yep, in this story, Elvis lives.
     If you don’t get the joke, it’s because you haven’t read Shady Neighbors yet.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

First Review of Thom Powell's 'Shady Neighbors'

"Bombs away!"

     No, it's not what the reviewers are saying about Thom Powell's new book Shady Neighbors...at least not to my face. But it did seem like a cute way to introduce the subject of critcal review.  The real reason for this photo of antique war birds will be explained a few paragraphs further down.
    But first, in just over a week since Shady Neighbors was released, Joe Beelart, author, editor, and literary critic from West Linn, Oregon has already managed to read it and write the first review.  So, if you are still on the fence about whether to invest your hard-earned cash on this book, maybe Joe's review will be of some use. If any other readers out there want to write a review, I will be happy to post it. So will Amazon. Meanwhile, this is what Joe Beelart has to say:

     "The boys of summer come big, hairy, and silent in Thom Powell’s new novel about baseball, Bigfoot, and life on the edge of Oregon’s Cascade Mountains.  Thrown into the mix of edge-of-the-forest characters is a beady-eyed land developer who will stop at nothing to carve a mountain resort out of a pristine field of dreams … oh the heartless greedy scum!  Riding hard to the rescue is our hero, Sam, a mild mannered science school teacher with genes drained straight from Genghis Kahn, and his son, major-league-pitcher-to-be-someday, Jack.

A cosmic grade conservation battle begins when young ball player turned herpetologist Jack serendipitously pockets an uncooperative snake we later find may be unknown to science!  Enter the university troglodytes’ intent on slapping their names on the new species.  But, the women graduate students sent to inquire into the new beastie turn out to be not such bad folk, what with their Porche, vans,  youthful bodies, propensity toward excessive intakes of wine around a campfire, and Elvis, an erstwhile heroic dog with a inclination to chase things that walk silently in the night.

So, just how do Our Barefoot Friends work into the mix?  Based largely on true events now novelized, from his forest hiding place, one hairy, never-to-be seen fan tosses a long lost baseball back into Jack’s practice field.  Jack thinks it fun and begins a regular hit-in, toss-out practice, much to his father Sam’s chagrin when he discovers what’s going on.  Then, back to our supple graduate students studying things wild up the hill … they are well-noticed by one of The Locals.  Oh, so much fun … girls, baseball, Bigfoots, and a nefarious businessman.  What better summer reading?

Shady Neighbors is available through Amazon.com and a few quality local bookstores.  For a signed copy, please contact the author through his e-mail: thom.powell@yahoo.com ."   

     Of course, Joe is being kind.  He sidesteps every opportunity to be as scathing as reviewers are expected to be. He could have, for example, said that the characters could use more development.  While this could be said for most novels written by inexperienced writers like me, lots of character development, a la Charles Dickens, adds greatly to the volume of reading.   I made a conscious decision to keep the story 'plot driven' rather than 'character-driven.' This keeps the story moving, and it keep the total number of words below a hundred thousand (I came in at 98,600).  I'm told the story reads like a movie. I'll take that.
     As a bigfoot enthusiast himself, 'Joe the Reviewer' could have also objected to the fact that bigfoot didn't get many lines nor a lot of on-screen action. One might ask, "Where's the violent confrontation between the bigfoot and the big game hunter that's a staple in every bigfoot novel ever written? C'mon, Thom!  It's just words on a page. It doesn't cost any more to write in a clan of avenging sasquatches who maraud the landscape, eventually pulling the arms off the story's villian." 
     Instead, the author in question (moi) decided to make the sasquatch a more low-key, keep-to-the-shadows character that's only one of several plot elements.  The idea here is to make a story that will hopefully find a wider audience that just us bigfoot devotees.  Face it folks, the market for bigfoot books is pretty saturated, and the number of bigfoot enthusiasts who also have fifteen bucks to spare for yet another book is not huge.
       This book, whatever it is, has to appeal to a wider audience, not only for the sake of sales, but to 'get the word out'.  Many of us who follow the bigfoot topic do not want to see the creatures themselves bothered by prying human eyes, but we would like to see a wider public recognition of the fact that humanity does indeed share the planet with a race of beings that are as potentially powerful as they are poorly understood.  I see the bigfoot mystery as Nature's biggest secret.  I created a story that tries to advance the credibility of this mystery in the mind of the public by working in dimensions that might resonate with folks outside the small circle of folks who already know that the creatures exist. 
     And so, 'Bigfoot the Monster' was not invited to this plot. Instead, an image of bigfoot is concocted that serves as a role model for the kind of planetary stewardship that we ourselves should aspire to. The Shady Neighbors sasquatch forces us to be introspective. It also embodies the idea that one can accomplish anything if you don't care who gets the credit.  Bigfoot pulls the strings in this story but prefers to do it from behind the scenes, serving as an example to us all who would pursue goals, or the creatures themselves, in pursuit of personal glory or vindication. Bigfoot is the role model in this story and the human 'hero' by comparison, is a self-absorbed idiot who begins to sees the light only around the end of the story. Like I said, the characters could stand to develop a bit more. 
     Like the sasquatch in this story who wants none of the credit for all its' accomplishments, Joe Beelart donated an enormous chunk of his time to sharpening and improving the Shady Neighbors story.  Several other kind souls also edited, corrected, and improved what I attempted to write.  Sally Sheppard, Autumn Williams' mom, was scathingly brutal and fantastically helpful in sharpening my unfocused literary style. I shudder to think what I would have ended up with if she had not donated her time and intellect to this project. The list doesn't end there. Christopher Munch, Tom Yamarone, Kirk Sigurdsen, Toby Johnson, Alicia Bateman, Sarah Ross, Randy Schimmel, and Guy Edwards all contributed their considerable editing and artisitc skills to the Shady Neighbors project. I will be forever grateful to all of them.  
     Writing is such an isolating, introverted experience that one can easily forget to reach out for help from the talented linguists that surround all of us. Reaching out to these people for editorial help was the best move I made. I'm still not sure how good the Shady Neighbors product is, but I know it is vastly better than it would have been if I had not been helped by these generous and articulate souls. 
     If you buy the book you will see that it is dedicated to' Lucky'. With so much editing help to acknowledge, who, people ask, is Lucky? 
     Lucky was a bomber pilot in World War II. He flew B-24 Liberators as shown above. Lucky has to be the best nickname you could possibly have in a war, and Lucky earned that name because he was always really lucky.  In thirty-five missions over hostile territory, with planes dropping out of the sky all around him, Lucky somehow always managed drop his load of bombs and then make a perfect landing back at the base. No one ever bled on Lucky's plane. That alone is a remarkable statistic in light of the gruesome carnage that was a constant presence on those flying deathtraps. Lucky was the first one on his particular  base in England to complete thirty-five mission and qualify to go home alive and uninjured. That's what I call really lucky.
     Lucky isn't alive anymore, but if it wasn't for Lucky, I wouldn't be alive now. Lucky was my dad. Thanks, Lucky. This book's for you.