Monday, August 27, 2018

Althea Photo Hoaxer Exposed In Record Time Thanks to Remarkable Team Work!

The verdict is totally in. When confronted with facts, the hoaxer confessed ( and it wasn't me!)   While it is on the one hand, disappointing, it is also gratifying that there is such a strong pool of experience and analytical thinking in this collection of individuals called the sasquatch research community.
    It only took 18 hours for the collaborative efforts of alert readers to assemble three principal reasons to doubt the authenticity of the photo. One person texted me and pointed out the lack of time stamp on the photo.  While my early days with camera traps got me used to not having time stamps, especially back when we loaded actual film into the camera traps, times have changed and any more modern camera trap should show time, date, and manufacturer of the camera on every digital photo.  "Why is that important?" you ask. Because it means that the photo was taken on a phone or digital camera but not a camera trap.  Dave E., the guy who gave me the photo, was under the impression that the photo was taken on a camera trap.  At least, that is what he was told. This, of course, suggests that someone is not being truthful.
     That alone is not a huge deal, but it was the first reason to take another look.  More helpfully, a reader using the moniker “Digby” helpfully submitted the observation that he was seeing a certain similarity to a Sasquatch costume sold at Party City, a large costume chain, and the features seen in the photo. My good friend Suzanne then involved her engineer/husband Bernie Ferencak,, to do a little photo-shopping using Digby’s observation as a basis.  Boom. Here is what Bernie came up with:
The inserted photo on the right is Bernie's copy from of a  costume (photo provided by Adam Bonkers Bird), and of course, it is a really close match to the photo.  Indeed, the photo Bernie lifted may even be the same image that was used to contrive the photo I was given.  I then sent the pair of images Bernie created to Dave and suggested he confront his friend who was claiming to have personally obtained the photo. To his credit , Dave was very prompt and candid in his reply:
     "Wow, I just talked to him and he finally admitted that he got this off Instagram. Needless to say, I am very pissed and very disappointed. I apologize to you for defending this, but I truly trusted him and the location matched his perfectly. This probably ruined my relationship with him but this doesn't explain my other friend seeing the same being since they don't know each other and she had never seen the photo until she shared her sighting with me. Again, I am indeed sorry, Thom. I really thought I could trust him. Thank you for making me get to the truth with him."
     So, it seems, my acquaintance was conflicted in the usual way: He had other valid experiences that indicated that there was a reality to the sasquatch phenomenon, but then his view was challenged by another friend who had no problem with being a liar. Unfortunately for Dave, he did not have access to the analytical minds that I do.
    First let me also offer my own apology for generating excitement and interest that did not pan out.  Second, may I express gratitude that my circle of fellow researchers is so deep.  I am especially grateful to Higby, Suzanne and Bernie Ferencak, Adam Bonkers Bird, Doug Hajicek, Daniel Perez, Thomas Wilson, Richard Soule, Ron Morehead, and whomever else I am neglecting to mention.  Between the lot of us, it took us less than 18 hours to get to the bottom of the ruse.  Considering the fact that some historic hoaxes went on for years before being day-lighted, it represents some remarkable teamwork. Thank you all.
     Now lets look at what I learned:
     I sat on the photo for three weeks before publishing it, and shared it privately with many folks. The consensus seem to be that it had merit. I was certainly hopeful and positive, based on my interaction with Dave E, and gratified that no one wanted money or attention.  I was a bit concerned that the ultimate source did not want to be known, but it seemed reasonable, so I "went to press" and published on this blog.  What is most impressive is how collegial everyone was in offering not just opinions, but facts and observations based on countless years of experience.  It does seem that the community of sasquatch researchers has matured greatly since the days of the Four Horsemen.  Nastiness and vituperation are gone; replaced by analytical thinking and raw experience. While I am also embarrassed, as is Dave, to find that my initial endorsement was wrong, I cannot help but be gratified by the collegiality and team work that ultimately exposed the truth of the matter.
     Allow me to also reiterate one point I made in yesterday's post that seems to be supported here:
The sasquatch do know about cameras and they do not want to be photographed.  The biggest problem I had with the photo is the fact that I knew this in my heart of hearts, yet the photos seemed to suggest otherwise. I wanted the photo to be genuine, even though I had a strong reason to doubt that a sasquatch would allow itself to be photographed. True, Patty was filmed and the Patterson-Gimlin footage of 1967 IS the real deal, but since that fateful day, the sasquatches themselves seems to (in my humble opinion) have learned a lesson and become more averse than ever to being photographed or filmed. In light of this, the picture in my possession seemed too good to be true, and guess what? It was.
     I, for one, stopped deploying camera traps a long time ago.  Still, I do not disparage or discourage others who still put them out in the woods.  Heck, I hope they succeed, even as I inwardly doubt that they will. But who am I to rain on someone else's parade?
     Anyway, it has been an interesting week.  My sense of embarrassment is offset by my renewed faith in the sasquatch researcher community.  This experience has greatly heightened my opinion of my fellow sasquatch researchers. I am a lot smarter than I was a few days or weeks ago, and I hope others are, too, and I am also prouder than ever before to be a part of this thing called the sasquatch research community.  I will also sleep a bit better, secure in the knowledge that my fellow researchers "got my back".

Sunday, August 26, 2018

Althea (Caution! Information in this post has been refuted by a more recent post. See above!)

     As bigfoot photos go, ya gotta admit, this one's pretty good.  Far better than average. It also has what I consider to be a pretty good pedigree. Some folks , like my friends Suzanne Ferencak in Ohio and Barbara Bangs in Palo Alto, feel that it looks to be a female, perhaps even a pregnant one.  Consequently, Suzanne and I dubbed the subject of this photo "Althea" since we are both Grateful Dead fans, and "Althea" is a well-known Dead tune.
     My familiarity with this photo began with an appearance at a bigfoot conference hosted by my friend Patrick in Kingston, Washington, way up on the Kitsap Peninsula, which adjoins the Olympic Peninsula, in the far northwest corner of that state. Kingston is a pretty small town just north of the larger town of Poulsbo, which is north of the still larger Navy town of Bremerton, WA.  In any event, I was asked to speak at this conference in mid-August, and while I was manning my table in the corner and peddling my array of paranormal literature (The Locals, Shady Neighbors, and Edges of Science), I was approached by a congenial fellow named Dave.  As bigfoot devotees are inclined to do, Dave E. pulls out his smart phone and asks if I want to see a bigfoot picture.  (As if he had to ask.)

      Then Dave presents me with this photo:
The original photo, completely unmodifed.
     "Wow, Dave, that's pretty decent, especially compared to the usual 'blobsquatch' photos."
     Dave went on to explain that the photo was obtained by his friend who lives near Poulsbo, WA.  This friend was setting game cameras (also known as trail cams or wildlife cameras) on his property in hopes of locating deer hang outs.  The guy has absolutely no interest in bigfoot, Dave hastened to add.  He was just looking for deer to hunt. But, much to this fellow's surprise, one morning, he found this photo on his trail cam and shared it with Dave, whom he knew to be a 'bigfoot believer'.  Dave, in turn, shared it with me at the conference.  Dave also offered that, by way of scale, the grass in front of the subject was measured by his buddy to be four feet high, making the subject behind the grass roughly seven feet in height, maybe more.
     I explained to Dave that even though the photo was pretty respectable, any putative bigfoot photo is invariably assumed to be a fake, especially since most people still assume that the whole bigfoot phenomenon is fake in the first place.  Therefore, the best move that one could make, so as to dismantle the allegations of fakery, is to share the photo freely and generously, with no attempt to monetize or copyright it.  Any bid for fame or fortune by the owner of the photo would bolster the suspicion that the photo was faked for a presumed profit motive.
     "No problem," Dave agreed. "The guy who got the photo isn't even a follower of the bigfoot subject. Heck, he doesn't believe in bigfoot, and he doesn't want fame. "He doesn't even want his name associated with the photo," Dave explained. "He's just a deer hunter and a friend."
     "That's perfect,": I said. "Can I share it around?"
     "Sure," Dave agreed. "I hope it helps."
     So there it is, folks. A photo of what appears to be a bigfoot, although neither the owner of the photo, or his friend Dave, are totally convinced that it is a sasquatch in the photo.  All that they feel is that it is a photo of what appears to be a bigfoot, and they would both be interested in knowing if there was a consensus, one way or the other, among the bigfoot researcher community, as to what exactly that is in the photo. Experienced camera trap users may wonder why there is no time stamp on the photo.  I must confess that I did not notice that missing item at the time I was given the photo. I guess it isn't super important but it does suggest that, if it was a conventional game cam that was used, it was an older model. I will offer that I have hundreds of game cam photos that have no time stamp on them.  Newer units display time and manufacturer info on every photo, but older models did not do that.
     As an aside, it is my considered opinion that bigfoots are smarter than most people give them credit for being, that they definitely understand what cameras are all about, and they absolutely hate having their picture taken.  It may even be a sort of rule in sasquatch culture that getting your picture taken is a bit of a screw up, maybe even a big screw up. While I actually endorse this highly controversial view, it cannot be denied that screw-ups do happen and sasquatches sometimes do get photographed, even if they are trying to remain in the shadows.  It that is true, then this photo seems to be one of those happy bits of luck, this time for to a guy who happens to live in a perfect location (rural Washington) state and who diligently worked his camera traps.  Clearly then  the old saying rings true: "Luck is really just meeting opportunity with preparation."  Perhaps the fact that Dave's friend was not a sasquatch enthusiast improved his chances of 'getting lucky.'
    Anyway, I know better than to jump in with both feet and declare it to be the undeniably real deal. Faking and misinterpretation both occur.  Time will tell, but, dang, that image looks really good to me.  Further, I'm saying that the potential validity of the photo is bolstered by the circumstances surrounding the acquisition of this photo, not to mention the open and unselfish sharing that has been demonstrated along the chain of custody of this photo. I would be very interested in the opinion of others, even in disagreement.  To me, the overall circumstances support the view that this photo is an image of a sasquatch that was caught off-guard by a totally honest and unsuspecting rural resident and hunter.  And with such open sharing being demonstrated by Dave E. and his nameless friend, I feel it is my duty to similarly share it around free of any charge and free of copyright restriction, just like the Grateful Dead have done with all of their music, including the song, Althea.
     And call me paranormal, "woo", or even crazy, but I also feel that this is the way the sasquatch would want it. The profit motive is the absolute bane of our human existence and, along with overpopulation, the root cause of all environmental destruction. And while the profit motive is probably here to stay, at least for the time being, that doesn't mean we all have to live by it all the time.
     So there you have it, friends.  A pretty decent photograph of a probable sasquatch that I am cautiously calling legitimate.  And, just like your Grateful Dead music, copy it as often as you like and share it where ever you like, but not for money or profit, please. And when you're copying it, please consider including the message that I have captioned to the photo below, because I'm told it is a message that the sasquatch are eager to deliver to humanity.  Even if I'm wrong about that, it's still good advice.




     "I told Althea I'm a roving son, and I was born to be a bachelor.
      Althea told me, okay that's fine, so now I'm trying to catch her.
      Can't talk to you about talking to me, we're guilty of the same old thing,
      Been talking a lot about less and less, and forgetting the love we bring."
                                                                       -from Althea, by the Grateful Dead