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'Bigfoot' believers converge in California

Tired of the bad press the legendary creature commonly known as “Bigfoot,” “Sasquatch” and “Yeti” has been getting, some 200 believers gathered in northern California to examine the evidence supporting its existence.

Sasquatch authorities traveled from all over the world to attend an international conference held yesterday at Trinity Valley Elementary School in the rural, northern California town of Willow Creek.

The San Francisco Chronicle reports few, if any, hard-core skeptics were on hand for the symposium, which discussed the anatomical and behavioral characteristics of the creature and detailed analyses of still photographs and film that reportedly captured the hairy hominid in action.

“Our goal was to turn the corner on this thing, to change it from the freak show it is now to the academic dialogue it deserves to be,” symposium sponsor Rudy Breuning told the Chronicle. “We have to get beyond the stigma and look at the solid scientific evidence that exists.”

The paper reports researchers discussed at length a 1967 film clip made by Yakima, Wash., residents Roger Patterson and Bob Gimlin, which shows a huge primate bounding through the woods some 35 miles from where the Bigfoot faithful were assembled.

While critics dismiss the film as a hoax, Bigfoot backers consider it key evidence.

Longtime Willow Creek resident Al Hodgson gave an account of the phone call he received from Patterson shortly after the film was shot.

“He said, ‘Al, I got a picture of the son-of-a-buck,'” Hodgson said, adding: “I really don’t think it was a hoax. That film was made 37 years ago, and there weren’t the advances in special effects then that there are now. I don’t think a man in an ape suit could duplicate the body movement you see.”

A producer for the Discovery Channel offered his expertise to similarly debunk the hoax theory. He told the audience recent digital analyses of the film indicated fraud would have been virtually impossible.

Dimitri Bayanov, a hominology investigator with the State Darwin Museum in Moscow, said the film was the turning point for him and his colleagues.

“In Russia, we were convinced about Bigfoot’s existence since 1973, when we concluded a detailed analysis of the Patterson-Gimlin film. We are even more certain now, with the evidence that has accrued since then,” Bayanov stated, according to the Chronicle. “They are not as common as bears, but [other researchers] have concluded that around 2,000 Sasquatch inhabit the forests of the Pacific Northwest.”

In addition to film experts, the symposium also featured crime-scene investigator and latent fingerprint examiner Jimmy Chilcutt with the Monroe, Texas, police department. Chilcutt, who has studied plaster casts purportedly taken from Sasquatch footprints, shared his conclusions. He said the toeprint patterns from some “were completely different from either humans or any of the known great apes.”

“On top of that,” the paper quotes Chilcutt as saying, “one had scars on the dermal ridges that puckered inward as finger or toeprint scars do naturally. It would be extremely hard to duplicate that, assuming you knew that’s what scarring does to prints, which few people do.”

Although most link Bigfoot to the Pacific Northwest, others claim to be hot on its trail in Asia. As WorldNetDaily reported in June, six people – including one radio journalist – reportedly spotted a grayish “mythical ape-like animal,” about five feet tall with shoulder-length black hair in China. They claim to have discovered several footprints about 30 centimeters long after losing sight of the creature, which they described as moving quickly.

WorldNetDaily also reported Japanese explorers, armed with infrared-sensing cameras which can detect the body temperature of living creatures, currently are hunting for the furry, human-like animal in the Himalayan Mountains of Nepal.

Its the second such expedition for group leader Yoshiteru Takahashi, a 60-year-old amateur cryptozoologist from Tokyo. During his 1994 trip, Takahashi says he detected a strong animal smell and what looked like footprints of a human child in a mountain cave some 15,000 feet up Dhaulagiri, the world’s seventh-tallest mountain. He failed to catch any images, though, as his camera had fallen.

“I want to find out what made those footprints. They definitely didn’t belong to a bear,” Takahashi told the Associated Press. “The yeti exists – I just want to figure out what kind of animal it is.”

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