Sasquatch/Bigfoot and the Mystery of the Wildman: Cryptozoology and Mythology in the Pacific Northwest
By Jean-Paul Debenat PhD
Published by Hancock House, British Columbia, Canada, 2009
Translated from: Sasquatch et le mystere des hommes sauvages
Purchase Link – Retail $29.99
Jean-Paul Debenat is a French academic who has searched for wild men from the libraries of Europe to the forests of the Pacific Northwest. He brings a refreshingly cosmopolitan view to the subject of the Sasquatch in this 428 page volume covering the last ten years of his quest.
In Part One, he recounts several well known cases for his French audience, including the full text of Albert Ostman’s account of his abduction, the William Roe affidavit, the Ape-man siege on Mount Saint Helens, the Tom Slick Expeditions and of course the Patterson Gimlin film. There is nothing new here for the well-read student of Bigfoot lore but it is a good introduction to the subject for beginners.
Part Two is a travelogue, a charming view of the Pacific Northwest through European eyes. He is an astute observer and gets his geographical, geological and historical facts right as he sets the stage for readers who are not familiar with this part of the world.
Things really get interesting in Part Three: Wild Men and Men of Science. Debenat introduces Grover Krantz and his Gigantopithecus theory of Sasquatch evolution. The binomials fly thick and fast as hominid phylogeny is discussed in great detail. The author has clearly done extensive research trying to figure out what the fragmentary evidence of the fossil record reveals about primate evolution. Because all the fossils known of our earliest ancestors could fit in a very small coffin, there is plenty of room for controversy and debate about just what really happened over the millions of years of hominid evolution.
Things get really interesting when Debanet’s discusses the “theory of original bipedalism” which postulates that quadrapedal primates descended from bipedal ancestors! This is relevant because it would explain why, if Sasquatch is a relict Gigantopithecus, it is fully bipedal and has such a human shaped foot instead of the foot shape of modern apes.
We get to some startling new (to me at least) information when Debenat discusses Zana the Ogress, the wild woman or Alma captured in the eastern Caucasus Mountains in the early 1900’s. Zana bore several hybrid children, some of which survived. Debanet has found a photograph of Khwit, a son, who died in 1954. He also has a photograph of the Russian anthropologist Igor Bourtsev exhuming and examining Kkwit’s skull at the grave site. Debenat speculates that Zana was a Neanderthal, close enough to modern humans to hybridize. He does not say whether Zana’s son or daughter ever had children of their own. Maybe some Soviet scientist will figure out if they were sterile hybrids or if Zana’s grandchildren exist.
I also found some new information in the discussion of the Minnesota Ice Man partially examined by Ivan T. Sanderson and Bernard Heuvelmans in the late 1960’s. I first read about this in Argosy magazine when I was a teen ager and have wondered about it ever since. Debenat suggests some clues to its actual origin, identity, and plausible reasons the person who displayed it might have had for evading the truth about it. Supposedly, the original body decomposed so badly that it was replaced with a fake. Skeptics say it was a fake all along. I have always wondered if it was real, what happened to the skeleton? So far, the bones of the Iceman do not seem to exist. I can see no reason not to display them at this late date. Unfortunately, Debenat offers no new clues for this part of the Iceman story.
The book concludes in Part Four with an extensive discussion of Sasquatch and the World of Mythology. Unlike the skeptics who deny the possibility of Sasquatch, Debanet spent a great deal of time actually seeking out and respectfully interviewing many Native Americans about a variety of mythical beings. These rambles are supplemented with numerous detailed accounts from European mythology of wild hairy men in art and literature.
Debanet’s work is well written, thoroughly researched and lavishly illustrated with many color plates as well as black and white photos. The text includes an extensive bibliography and useful index. The book retails for $29.95 in paperback, a bit steep but a valuable contribution to the literature of Bigfoot.