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:
Raw Footage Shot by Paul Freeman
Posted by Thom Powell at 3:29 PM