The Sasquatch Swindle

You’ve all heard about Bigfoot, also known as Sasquatch, the large and hairy human-like mythical creature purported to inhabit forests in North America. As many as 16% of the people in the U.S. are said to believe in Bigfoot. But is it really real?

Many people might not know the history behind the Sasquatch. “The name Sasquatch comes from the Salish Sasquits, while the Algonquin of the north-central region of the continent refers to a Witiko or Wendigo. The Ojibway of the Northern Plains believed the Rugaru appeared in times of danger, and other nations agreed that the hairy apparition was a messenger of warning, telling the man to change his ways.” Yet ever since North American settlers started reporting sightings during the late 1800s and into the 1900s, sometimes finding footprints, sporadic encounters, and even a few photos and videos adding to the mystery, people were fascinated to find out more about the Bigfoot.

In 1958, Roger Patterson found an 18-inch cast of an alleged Bigfoot footprint in Bluff Creek, Northern California. The most famous piece of evidence came not some long after, in 1967, with the Patterson-Gimlin Film, a short home movie depicting a bewildered-looking ape-man. After hearing numerous reports of tracks found in the region, Roger Patterson and Bob Gimlin headed to Bluff Creek, North America. Halfway through their journey, when they approached the river, something spooked Patterson’s horse, and Patterson ended up falling off it. But when Patterson saw what it was that his horse saw, he pulled out his camera and began filming instantly. Patterson filmed a 59-second clip about a mysterious creature they had never seen before. They think it might be Bigfoot. This clip became one of the most famous reels in history. The footage has been scrutinized by many ever since it came out, and it is a hoax just like the original Bluff Creek footprints, which were revealed in 2002 after his death that it was a prank on his co-worker, using a 16-model of a human foot. His children said it had all been “just a joke.” Exactly how the film captured Bob Heironimus in a Bigfoot suit, costume manufacturer Philip Morris claimed he gave talks about how he sold Patterson worn in the film. Bob Heironimus also passed a lie detector test on national tv, calming he wore the suit. All this shows how the film is fake, discrediting the most popular evidence of Bigfoot.

On June 5th, 2019, the U.S. government released Bigfoot’s FBI file, which contained only a few news clippings as well as a few formal letters exchanged between Peter Byrne, a professional hunter who had been trying to track and find sasquatches in the 1970s. In 1976, Byrne had asked the FBI to look into a sample of 15 hairs and some skin that he believed came from a Bigfoot. The FBI did test the hairs and concluded that the hairs were “of deer family origin,” not from a Bigfoot.

But why do people continue to believe in Bigfoot if there is insufficient evidence that Bigfoot is real, especially with false information and hoaxes? A UC Berkeley grad and professor of anthropology and communication at USC said it is a common tendency among humans. “People want a belief system that is comprehensive and consistent, and if something in our belief system is inconsistent, we get cognitive dissonance—it bugs us,” Thompson says. “Because of this, we try to make sense of the seemingly fantastical by weaving it into our currently held perspective.” Other people believe In Bigfoot because of the culture surrounding them. Studies show that a person is more likely to believe in fringe or paranormal ideas if they’re a West Coast resident—with California largely being known as Bigfoot country. The West Coast often has Sasquatch festivals and Bigfoot statues. As said by Todd Verna, “It’s almost like you should believe in Bigfoot, at least a little bit if you live that area … like cultural pride or patriotism.” Probably the most robust component of most people’s beliefs is folk belief. Indigenous people across the globe have had relationships with these creatures for hundreds of years and often associate them with natural or spiritual phenomena. The legendary Oklahoma Bigfoot served as the chief figure in a fantastic tale with a cast consisting mainly of Northwestern evil men, for whom Bigfoot seems to have become something of a folk hero. 

All in all, Bigfoot is a well-known large, hairy mythical creature. Many people tend to believe it, yet no valid evidence proves its existence, making it a myth. All of the evidence was proved to be fake, such as the 1958 footprints, the 1967 film, and the “Bigfoot” DNA in the 1970s. What do you believe? Is it a swindle?

Aya El Bissati – University of Chicago Laboratory School – DMSF Class of 2027