|The Skookum impression, shown here before it was a cast in Sept., 2000, is beneath the board (right of center) that is shielding it from the sun as expedition members await the return of the rest of the group to make the cast. From left to right: Leroy Fish, Alan Terry and Derek Randles talk with Thom Powell (in truck). Note the damp area indicative of the fast-drying puddle around the cast beside the road.|
Several researchers over the years, and most recently Daniel Perez, have maintained that the Skookum cast is an impression of an elk, not a sasquatch, and that the place where the impression was obtained was an 'elk wallow'. Another recent investigation by Dianne Stocking questions the motives of the people who produced the cast. Specifically, she suggests that the expeditioners may have faked the cast, or at least misrepresented it, in their desire to satisfy a documentary film crew that accompanied the expedition.
I was on this expedition, if that's what you want to call it. To me, it felt more like a camping trip with TV cameramen along. In any case, I was the de facto logistical coordinator, which is to say I got the group food and cooking gear together. I also made the recommendation to camp out in the Skookum Meadow area.
Here is what I know: The day before the cast was obtained, the 'elk wallow' was a shallow puddle beside a forest service road. The puddle was in a large turnaround presumably used by log trucks and flat-bed 'lowboy' trucks that transport heavy equipment (see photo above).
A day of cold rain ended on Thursday afternoon and the big puddle began to dry up and disappear, leaving a big patch of damp earth and untracked mud beside a road. When Derek Randles put the fruit in the mud flat, it still had a bit of standing water in it, but it was track-free mud at that point. That's why he chose the spot. Derek placed the 'bait' at around 3 .a.m., while on a errand to assist Rick Noll, whose truck alternator had malfunctions and was broken down. He probably would not have been there to place the fruit if Rick had not broken down.What ever left the impression in the mud did so between 3 a.m. and 8 a.m. on Friday morning.
The interesting events of that night began around 3 a.m. I was sitting with the group around the dying embers of our campfire, trying to stay warm. Noll was driving the roads with one of the film crew, trying to get usable footage with their thermal camera. The rest of the group was in camp. Moneymaker was sound asleep in his tent. I was pretty bleary-eyed, myself when I heard a faint sqwaking noise coming from my pocket. I ignored it at first. Then it dawned on me that it was coming from the two-way radio in the pocket of my down parka. I pulled the radio out and held it to my ear. Someone was saying something (OK, I'm not real bright, nor is my hearing very good). It was Noll. His truck had quit running. He and one of the Aussies were stranded about ten miles away. They needed assistance. We talked it over. Derek offered to go get them. As almost an afterthought, he agreed to leave some of the fruit out on his way to the scene of Rick's breakdown. We loaded him up with a sack of fresh fruit fresh from our home orchards. As he drove by the low-boy turnaround, Derek spied the un-tracked mud flat in his headlights. It looked like a perfect place to get tracks. Bear in mind, everything was about tracks, as in footprint tracks. Everyone was looking for footprints in those days. Well, almost everyone.
Earlier in the evening we were having a spirited discussion around the campfire. I suggested that, since it was late in the expedition and we hadn't gotten anything in the last three nights, we needed to consider some changes in our approach. Up to that point, we had gotten some promising vocalizations in response to our high-volume call playing but that was about it. Rick may have found a track in some moss. We hadn't gotten anything at all with the thermal camera. It is true that the film crew wanted some good shots and they weren't getting them. That is true for every documentary film crew that goes out on a 'bigfoot expedition.'. It would not, however, be fair to say that the film crew was putting any pressure on us, the expeditioners, to give them better material.
As I recall, the film crew was more concerned with surviving. They were very cold. Despite their reputation as rugged Aussies ("too tough for you, just right for us") they did not arrive well prepared for the high-elevation, late season conditions. Their clothes and their sleeping bags were too light. Fortunately for them, Joe Beelart sent along a couple spare sleeping bags and I had one more. By doubling up their sleeping bags, they were able to better endure the bitterly cold nights. They brought no food with them. They thought they would be able to go to nearby restaurants to eat. They were coming from another film shoot and the casual attitude of a production assistant over the phone had me worried. So I made up a menu and handed it to Matt, our presumed leader. He didn't want to spend the money. I insisted and he agreed. At least everyone stayed well fed and the Aussies in particular were very grateful. They acknowledged that they did not realize they would be in such remote, high elevation surroundings.
The point here, is that there was never pressure on us from the film crew to deliver compelling footage. They felt bad because their thermal camera didn't work well. They were counting on it to generate some great material. It seemed Matt had assured them that, if they could provide it, this miraculously high tech device, the thermal camera, that would fool the bigfoots and we would be the owners of fantastic bigfoot footage. Yeah, right. After the second night, it was clear that the thermal camera was a bust. By Thursday night, we were almost out of food. Fortunately, the cold rains had quit and the sky was crystal clear. Since we were high in the Washington Cascades, it was also friggin' COLD. Everyone was huddled around the fire and lacking in ideas for what else to try on the up-coming last day of the outing. The film crew was beginning to talk about some shots they needed. they wanted people to speak into walkie-talkies about bigfoots that weren't really there.
As I said in The Locals, when film crews start to talk about staging shots, it's time to get busy and do something else, quick. So, I went to the campfire and suggested to anyone that would listen that we ought to try a new approach based on the experiences I had gained at the Hoyt's place working the camera traps.
I explained that the residents, Allen and April Hoyt had been reporting a lot of success with leaving things out for their mysterious nocturnal operators. They also said something else that was even more thought provoking: Allen and April insisted that the bigfoot creatures that presumably occupied their woods knew a 'set-up' when they saw one and were smart enough to outmaneuver it. One tactic that they were also claiming to have witnessed personally was that the sasquatch would belly-crawl in close to the house to get a closer view, as opposed to just walking on on two feet. I explained these claims to the assembled group. They politely listened but they did not take the claims too seriously. I even went so far as to suggest that it was possible, based on my experience at the Hoyts', that the sasquatch could be spying on us in our camp. "Heck, they could be listening to us right now," I shrugged. That comment probably didn't help. People rolled their eyes. Rick was especially skeptical. he had visited the Hoyt's homestead and he was not at all convinced that their claims of habituated sasquatches were genuine.
At least they listened, and for lack of any better ideas, the group reluctantly agreed to try to my suggestion that we spend our last night dispersing the fruit that we had brought along as bait, or, as some prefer to call it, "gifts". It was very late and very cold.
The reader should, by now, understand, that the sequence of events that led to the formation of the Skookum impression was completely spontaneous, and heavily influences by a sequence of chance events: the weather, Rick's alternator, the walkie-talkie in my pocket, the dubious experiences of Allen and April, and the selection of this location in the first place were just some of the chance occurrences that converged.
One thing that was not a chance occurrence was the actual discovery of the impression. Rather, Rick, Derek, and Leroy were dispatched the next morning to check on the bait location Derek created the night before. I like to think that Rick might not have even noticed the unusual impression in the mud if I had not brought up the seemingly absurd idea that the sasquatch will belly-crawl into a suspicious situation. I'm certain that LeRoy did not perceive the impression when they first happened upon it because LeRoy's footprint is forever preserved in the Skookum cast (see lower-center of photo, below). I credit Rick with keen observation and the willingness to consider new information when analyzing the unfamiliar marks they found in the mud. Only a day ago, Rick would have been predisposed to look only for footprints. I'm pretty sure of this because of what happened next: As, I was packing my camp gear into my truck, Rick came barreling back into camp in his pick-up (mysteriously, his alternator was now working again). He strode purposefully up to me. I Iknew something was up.
"You were right," he said. "They don't always leave tracks. It sat down in the mud to reach the fruit. Come see what we found!"
Close up of the impression prior to casting, with outline added by Noll to highlight forearm just above thigh impression (center) and heel mark (lower right). Note also finger marks and apple remains (upper right edge of photo).
Off we went to inspect the impression in the mud. I must emphasize mud here, because that speaks very directly to the view that the Skookum cast was taken from an elk wallow. Elk wallows are ponds of water that elk get in to bathe, tear at the ground with their antlers, and bathe some more. An elk wallow is not a shallow puddle and it certainly isn't a mud flat. It's a few feet or more of water that they can get into and partially submerge themselves. If one wants to see it. all one has to do is 'google' "elk wallow" on the internet. Then look again at the YouTube film clips hunters have posted. Compare what you see in these videos to the photo at the top of this blog post. One thing is clear to me: that mud patch behind my truck sure isn't an elk wallow.
As the participants eagerly prepared the scene for casting, I did some videotaping of my own then headed back to town. I must confess now that I was also a bit discouraged by what I saw. Even in the first few hours after it's discovery, there was obvious posturing and positioning underway by some of the participants. They were labeling themselves as discovers, and eagerly awaiting their turn in front of the Aussie's video camera. My motto has always been, 'You can accomplish anything if you don't care who gets the credit for it.' I figured there were plenty of folks around to mug for the camera. My work was done. I went home.
In truth, I've always known that there was a lot more to the story than has been told to date, even though I wrote about it myself in a chapter of 'The Locals'. Here's another amusing detail: The cast was originally called "Skookie". That's what LeRoy started calling it in the opportunities he had to speak about it to the media. Moneymaker called me up one night and expressed concern about the somewhat silly name. I suggested to Matt that they should just call it the 'Skookum Cast.'. The name stuck.
Perhaps the most salient point I have to make about the whole Skookum cast deal is the one that has never been made up to this point: the coincidences and happenstances that led to its acquisition have always disturbed me. Well, not really "disturbed' me as much as 'amused' me. Even as I stood there taping the affair as they began the process of casting it, I was silently amused for reasons that I have never shared until now.
That reason is the "p" word, as in 'paranormal.' i know the cast is an item of concrete physical evidence, but there is also something decidedly paranormal about it; It's the way it all went down. Why did Rick's car die, then start working again? Why was that walkie-talkie still 'on' in my pocket ( I thought I had turned it off)? The formation of the puddle when it did, then its transformation into a mud flat was beyond fortuitous. It was remarkable. We couldn't have asked for a better site for the cast. The amount of hydrocal (plaster) we had on hand was fortuitous in the extreme, yet it was there only because it was being delivered to LeRoy from Rick's inexpensive source in the Seattle area. Then there was that most opportune conversation we had around the campfire about bigfoots reluctance to leave obvious tracks. I have often wondered whether the cast would have even been recognized if that conversation had not happened. LeRoy's fooprint in the cast is a clear indication that it was almost overlooked by the 'discoverers'. But it wasn't. Good going, Rick.
That is why Rick deserves to be permanent custodian of the cast. Even when he didn't agree with my views, he listened and he remembered. And speaking of listening, my favorite image of all is the one I have in my mind of the sasquatches themselves, lying on their stomachs behind a bush, right outside our camp, as I explained the slightly paranormal matters that were being reported to me by Allen and April. I like to think that 'they' heard from behind the bushes what I was saying to the group, and they liked it so much that they decided they would endorse my position by 'throwing us a bone', that is, giving us something we wanted, but also something that would endorse my paranormal position that 'they,' the sasquatches, were a heck of a lot smarter than we were giving them credit for.
I have carried these ideas in my head for ten years. I never dared to express them during the days when the cast was getting all the attention. I didn't want to say anything that would taint the 'physical evidence' value of the cast. Now, I'm not so worried. The cast has been thoroughly examined by experts. It is accepted by many and questioned by a few for two reasons:
a.) it was taken in an elk wallow and
b.) the participants are suspect on the basis of hidden agendas.
I can safely say both those suggestions are not true. It wasn't an elk wallow, it was a mud puddle, and the expedition was too disorganized, the events were too unplanned, and the coincidences too numerous to allow for any kind conspiracy to manufacture the Skookum cast.
Rather, the myriad coincidences that converged are so remarkable, at least to me, that the whole affair takes on the appearance of a synchronicity; that is, a remarkable combination of too many chance events to be dismissed as mere coincidence. Now get this: Synchronicities ar not scientifically explainable. Therefore, synchronicities are, by definition, paranormal. The Skookum cast was, in my view, the result of a synchronicity. Therefore, the Skookum cast, by the rules of syllogism, is paranormal.
Great, so now, while trying to dispell a couple false assumptions about the Skookum cast, I have also raised yet another reason to question the validity of the Skookum cast. It's paranormal.
Does that somehow invalidate the authenticity of the cast? I don't think so. The thing is still physical evidence. It can be examined by any scientist at any time. The Skookum cast is real, and it's physical, so it is real physical evidence. If it is real physical evidence, it does not matter if it was gotten by way of a seance. It's not the cast itself isn't paranormal, it's the circumstances that led to its acquisition that are so strange.
Now that a little time has gone by, here's what the Skookum cast represents to me:
a.) genuine physical evidence of the sasquatch's existence, and
b.) Equally strong evidence that there is something slightly paranormal going on in the realm of the sasquatch.
Even if it isn't paranormal, there sure were a lot of interesting coincidences surrounding the acquisition of the cast. Here's one more. In June of 2008, Joe Beelart, Douglas Trapp, and I were camped right on the edge of Skookum Meadow when who should pull up to our camp but Rick Noll, and in the back of his pick up truck was the Skookum cast. Rick was on his way home from a conference and was driving through the area. He heard we might be up there and decided to try and find us. Another odd coincidence that I shrugged off at the time, yet it was not lost on me: the Skookum Cast had returned to Skookum Meadow for the one and only time, and by some weird coincidence, I happened to be there. Lots of odd coincidences seem to surround the Skookum Cast. The synchronicity continues. Is all of this coincidence?
I'm starting to doubt it.