Book Review: "Bigfoot: The Life and Times of a Legend"

Book Review: “Bigfoot: The Life and Times of a Legend”

lat-bigfoot9_km83uanc20120326140822“Bigfoot:  The Life and Times of a Legend”

  • Paperback: 296 pages
  • Publisher: University Of Chicago Press (September 1, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0226079805
  • Purchase Link

This book could be called “A History of Bigfoot Hoaxes.”  Unfortunately there is no shortage of material.  Joshua Blu Buhs  has done a thorough job of researching the Bigfoot phenomenon from the skeptical scientist’s point of view.  He considers Bigfoot to be an entirely mythical creature, although he does hedge his bets a tiny bit toward the end of the book, saying, “It’s not impossible that an actual wildman may someday be caught.”  However, the bulk of the book makes the argument that all the tracks are fake, Patterson’s movie is a hoax, and every single one of John Green’s thousands of recorded sightings are frauds, tall tales, or mistakes of perception.  Further, Native Americans are just superstitious savages who believe in all sorts of mythical beings, unknown DNA doesn’t prove a thing, fecal samples aren’t worth shit, and the unknown hair strands are all something else.

Blu Buhs spews several chapters of erudite  psychobabble to explain how simple working class people are prone to believe in Bigfoot because it fills their psychological needs.  He strongly infers that peasants who work for a living aren’t smart enough to know any better than to fall for all these hoaxes.  He, of course, is far too intelligent to be taken in by con men, charlatans and raconteurs.

Blu Buhs sets great store by the fact that no hunter has ever killed a Bigfoot.  He does not seem to be aware of the working class folklore that says dogs will not pursue a Bigfoot.  Probably the first Bigfoot story I ever heard back in the early 1960’s was how a group of local bear hunters saw a big hairy ape-like thing run across the logging road ahead of them, but when they turned their dogs loose, the dogs got back in their boxes and wouldn’t come out.  The hunters had never seen their dogs behave like that before and it bothered them as much as the huge human shaped footprint they found in the center of the road .  They were also impressed by the fact that the creature cleared a ten-foot wide logging road with one stride.  After considering the evidence, they decided it was time to go do something else.  These were not timid men or dogs.  Had they seen a bear, they would have chased it down and killed it.  Whatever they saw was no bear and it was certainly no human in a gorilla suit playing pranks in the backwoods.

Author Joshua Blu Buhs

Author of “Life and Times..” Joshua Blu Buhs

Blu Buhs also states that no log truck driver has ever clipped one and dragged  in a dead body.  He is only part right about that.  John Green recounts a story of a log truck driver hitting one and damaging the hood, grill and radiator of his truck, but being too shaken by the experience to risk stopping  until he was five miles away.  Being a simple working class fellow, he probably knew enough about the dangers of wounded animals to stop and get out and see if that giant ape was dead or merely injured.

Blu Buhs dismisses Jane Goodall’s view that unknown apes could exist in North America with a single sentence:  “Jane Goodall offered her support to Bigfoot researchers.”  He doesn’t bother to explain why she has a psychological need to see mythical creatures.

Blu Buhs dismisses John Green as a gullible journalist who is easily fooled by all the hearsay and rumors he collected but he never tries to answer the famous question posed by Green, “Where the annual rainfall is under twenty inches, there are hardly any reports of Sasquatch.  Why mankind’s supposed need to imagine monsters dries up where it doesn’t rain very much, I will leave to someone else to explain.”    Blu Buhs does not even acknowledge this observation, let alone try to explain it.

Blu Buhs also neglects to mention that Roger Patterson passed a lie detector test and that John Chapman denied making the suit  but never tried to quell the rumors that he did because it was good for business..  If Roger Patterson made the suit, he missed his calling.  He should have gone to Hollywood and been a special effects expert.

Blu Buhs goes on at length about how a hoaxer fooled Grover Krantz with a fake cast but he conveniently neglects to mention the findings of a Texas fingerprint expert, Jimmy Chillcutt, who examined Jeff Meldrum’s track collection and found one probable fake with a human fingerprint in a toe, but discovered five more casts, each taken at different times and locations, that revealed print ridges flowing lengthwise along the foot.   “No way do human footprints do that—never, ever.  The skeptic in me had to believe that all of the prints were from the same species of animal,” Chilcutt is reported to have said.   “I believe that this is an animal the Pacific Northwest that we have never documented.”  This happened in 1999 so Blu Bhus should have been aware of it when he published his book ten years later.

Naturalist Robert Michael Pyle

Naturalist Robert Michael Pyle

Blu Buhs mocks the naturalist Robert Michael Pyle for taking Bigfoot seriously by mentioning a few passages from “Where Bigfoot Walks”.  He completely ignores passages that explain why Pyle bothers to actually look for Bigfoot.  Pyle reports that a trusted friend, Jim Fielder, a field biologist with twenty five years of teaching and nature guiding experience and a lifetime list of 1500 birds, saw a Sasquatch while driving at night on State Route 12  near Packwood, Washington.  Of this sighting, he said, “I’m a cynic and a skeptic, Bob, you know that—the last biologist Washington (state) who would believe in Bigfoot.  But that night I went from a Bigfoot agnostic to a Bigfoot born-again in ten seconds.”

Blu Bhus also makes a great deal of the fact that Rene Dahinden never saw a Bigfoot and died a bitter and disillusioned man.  Every picture I have ever seen of Dahinden shows him smoking a pipe.  If he smoked his pipe as he searched, Bigfoot would have smelled him coming miles away.

I am also not the slightest bit surprised that Tom Slick’s expeditions and other groups of hunters have been unsuccessful.  I firmly believe that no group of people will ever sneak up on, surround, or capture a Sasquatch.  Humans are simply too clumsy, too noisy, and too stinky to ever catch Bigfoot.  It is perfectly adapted for survival in the forest and we are not.   When people do encounter a Sasquatch, it is usually an accident and it is probably a young, unsophisticated specimen that is out exploring unfamiliar surroundings looking for a territory of its own, or an elderly specimen whose senses are fading with age.  What the skeptics don’t seem to appreciate is that the creature is not a bear or a moose.  It is a primate and is much more intelligent than game animals.

Any relict hominid that still survives must have a long evolutionary history of avoiding humans.  As large predators, they have to be few and far between, roaming over huge territories.  They cannot stay in any small area for long.  They must be constantly moving around.  By staying on the fringes of civilization and moving at night, they can easily avoid detection by the vast majority of humans.  People who are surprised that none have been caught simply do not appreciate the true nature of the beast.

I can easily agree that a lot of the tracks are fake and a lot of the sightings are mistakes and a lot of the stories are just backwoods yarns and campfire tales.  But I cannot agree that all the sightings, all the tracks, and all the stories are hoaxes.  I once had a cynical old professor who said, “Behind every stereotype is a database.”  In the case of Bigfoot, behind all those legends is a real creature.  There is something out there.  I have heard it a few times over the years and I know it is not a figment of my imagination.  It is much more than a myth.

It seems obvious that Blu Bhus started out with the sure conviction that Bigfoot was a myth and then collected only material that supported his preconception. This is research, for sure, but it is not how scientists are supposed to work. From his lengthy discussion of Bigfoot in the popular media, it seems that he watches a lot of television.  I got the feeling that the author is an urbanite who spends very little time in wild country.  Whenever I meet a skeptic who is sure Bigfoot is nothing more than an imaginary creature, I always ask them how much time they spend in the woods and if they have ever walked alone  in a forest at night without a flashlight. Usually they react as if this is an entirely unthinkable  idea. It is easy to be a skeptic in a crowded city in the daylight, but alone in a dark woodland without artificial light, it is much easier to entertain the notion that there just might be something unknown out there.

If you are interested in the history of Bigfoot hoaxes, this book has much to offer.  If you are trying to learn something about the true nature of the beast , this book is worthless.  The author is completely mistaken about Bigfoot being a totally mythological creature.  There really is something out there and despite all the many hoaxes, there really is evidence of its existence.  This book is worth reading only if you can borrow it from a library.  It is not worth buying at any price.


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