|"Let's see, where's a good stick for some tree-knocking...?"|
Artwork by Paul Smith
On the Skookum expedition back in 2000, Jim Henick and I sat in the darkened forest on the edge of Skookum Meadow at 2 a.m. Owl hoots emanated from some timber on the opposite side of the meadow. We decided to answer with hoots of our own. To our amazement, the next thing we heard was not another owl call, but two loud, sharp knocks, as if a big stick was being hit against a tree. That was the first indication that we may have indeed put ourselves in the vicinity of a sasquatch. Of course, other things happened on that Skookum Meadow expedition that got all the attention, but I'll never forget how it all began with a few 'tree knocks.' Such knocking sounds are reported quite often by sasquatch researchers during their nocturnal operations. They call it "tree-knocking."
And, after a lot of thought and even more testing, I think I just figured out how the sasquatch do it. It came to me the other night on a woods-walk.
There is considerable discussion among bigfoot researchers as to what the sounds mean. For a long time now, Joe Beelart and I have debated this and one other question: how exactly the sasquatch make these knocks. It seems that most, if not all sasquatch field researchers have encountered this sound at one time or another. Some researchers feel that the number of knocks correspond to the number of humans that are trying to sneak up on the sasquatches. I usually travel alone but it may just be coincidence that I do hear just a single knock in the rare cases when I do hear the knocking sound.In Skookum meadow, there were two of us listening and we heard two closely spaced knocks.
In any case, it has always been assumed by most folks, including me, that the noise we hear is being made by whacking a stout limb against a tree trunk, producing a hollow, penetrating sound that reverberates throughout the forest. The problem with this idea arises only when we began to try to make the same sound ourselves. Sometimes, we want to respond in-kind, other times we were trying to provoke a response by initiating the tree whacking sound.
The probem both Joe and I were having was we just weren't getting the right noise. Sometimes it was because all the stout branches that were lying on the forest floor were too damp and weak to make good whacking-sticks.. In such cases, the limb would crumble when it was struck against a tree trunk, making a soft, anemic sound as the stick disintegrated. In most damp forest around the Pacific Northwest, it is so difficult to find stout stick that was also hard and dry that we began carrying a our own stick that we made at home. Then, we found that a hickory or ash baseball bats were an ideal tool, and we began carrying a bat around in the woods taht we would use for signaling purposes.
Of course, this led us to wonder whether the sasquatch also carry their own, custom tree-knocking stick. It was assumed that a sasquatch must have the same trouble finding a strong, stout stick when one was needed for tree-whacking.
Then there was the other problem: not all trees produce a sharp, crisp noise, even when whacked with the perfect hard, dry, bark-less stick, or even a Louisville Slugger. Sometimes the bark of the tree is too thick. Sometimes the tree is too skinny. Other times the tree that is too big and one fails to get a great noise. I have also found, through careful experimentation, that even trees of the same species and the same diameter produce vastly different sounds when struck. I seems to me that dead or dying trees produce the best noise. A healthy tree that is growing vigorously is heavy with sap and that extra liquid seems to dampen the hollow sound that makes for a nice, loud, resonating tree-whack.
And it doesn't end there. It even makes a difference how you hit the tree. There is one spot on a stick or bat that produces the most power and the best noise. Baseball players call it the sweet spot. On a wood bat, it's the part of the bat that has the "Louisville Slugger" insignia burned into it. Hitting a tree to produce a loud noise is just like hitting a baseball: if you don't contact the 'sweet spot' on the bat, you don't get the desired results.
Making a loud, resonating whack requires a bit of trial and error: the right stick, the right tree, and the right point of contact. Now, you may be starting to see the problem: How do they do it, especially in a dark woods? The whacks you hear are always perfect on the first try. Maybe they're just good at it, because the sasquatch have had years of practice. I guess that's what I have always assumed to be the case. But, on one particular occasion in the Mt. Hood National Forest, the source of the loud whacks we were hearing was moving around, from place to place, yet always making a perfect whack. The creature making the noises, presumably a sasquatch, would have had to be carrying the stick with him or her, and also was somehow able to find the right kind of tree every time and hit it just perfectly.
For all these reasons, Joe and I supposed a long time ago that maybe the creatures were not actually whacking trees at all. There might be another mechanism at work It did seem all too obvious that if wood-like whacks were coming from a forest, then it was because a tree was being hit. But maybe there was another way to make the same noise.
It has been over two years since the last time Joe and I had this conversation, but just the other night, while taking a night time walk in my woods, I came up with another compelling answer.
It was a clear cold night and I was bundled up to ward off the chill. I had a knit hat on my head underneath my hood, and ski gloves on my hands. I was thinking about other ways of making a loud noise that would sound like a tree being whacked, and the answer just came to me in the form of a command:
"Cup both hands hands, and clap them together hard, right in front of your open mouth." I don't know what made me think of this, but I clapped my cupped hands together right in front of my open mouth, and to my amazement, the sound I made was a dead ringer for a stick hitting a hollow log. A perfect "tree knock!"
I took off the ski gloves and tried it with bare hands. No dice. It was not nearly as loud or as hollow-sounding. I put the gloves back on and tried it again. Sure enough, a loud, hollow knock. I have experimented a bit since that evening last week when it first dawned on me that there is a way to make a 'tree-knock' sound with out hitting a tree. It seems to work best when one's mouth is held open in the shape of a tall, narrow "O". It is also important to cup the hands and clap them so that that all the outside edges of both cupped hands meet at the same instant. Clapping very hard also makes a much louder knock. I got the best results when I clapped my hands hands so close to my open mouth that my thumb nails brushed across my open lips. You can try it with bare hands and get a pretty satisfactory noise, but the thicker the gloves, the louder louder the noise. Ski gloves worked better than garden gloves, which worked better than bare hands. Imagine how well the massive muscular hands of a sasquatch would work when clapped in front of a much bigger vocal cavity than ours.
I guess one can never be sure what the sasquatch do unless we witness it ourselves, but I am certain that I happened upon a way of making knocking sounds that will carry very well through the still night air, without carrying around a bat or searching the woods for the right stick. Now, I can instantly make a knocking noise where ever I am. The more I think about it, the more it seems like a perfect mechanism for the sasquatch as well. Their mouth cavity would be larger, they have bigger, fleshier hands than mine are even when I'm wearing ski gloves, and their stronger arms would produce a bigger shock wave that would produce a much louder knock.
Try this with you own bare, cupped hands, the get a pair of ski gloves and try it again. You will be surprised at the difference. It really booms if you clap you hands with a lot of force, while cupping the hands so that all the outside edges of the cupped hands meet at the same instant. One you get the hang of it, you never need to hit a tree with a stick again. This is also good for the trees, because hitting a tree with a stick or a bat also damages to the cambium layer beneath the bark where all the growth happens.
One more interesting account comes to us from James "Bobo" Fay, a dedicated Northern California researcher who has gathered a great deal of Indian lore on the subject. Bobo told me of one Indian who was investigating the sound of gunfire coming from a narrow and isolated ravine. The Indian crept toward the sound, expecting to encounter illegal target shooters. To his amazement, the Indian saw a sasquatch slamming its hands together with tremendous force and producing the sound of a gun shot each time its hands met!