To Kill or Not to Kill

With the passing of time and the continued skepticism of the scientific community regarding the evidence presented by Krantz and others, many Bigfoot believers have come to the conclusion that the only way to prove the existence of the creature is to kill or capture a specimen. Even photographic evidence, in this digital age, can be easily manipulated. Waiting for another Frozen Man to show up at a sideshow is likewise a hopeless proposition. A specimen is required - not footprints, not eyewitness testimony, not references in folklore, not photographs or videotape, not prehistoric fossils of similar creatures - but a body, either living or dead. Indeed, some have said that, considering the problems inherent in capturing such an unpredictable creature, the researcher must be prepared to kill in lieu of live capture if push comes to shove. If we are dealing with a remnant population, a creature that is obviously endangered, then perhaps one of its number must be killed in order to save the rest.

Such a pragmatic attitude has been criticized by Russian Bigfooter Dmitri Bayanov, and the debate has proven to be a heated one in Bigfoot circles. Bayanov has proposed a method of baiting and habituating the creatures in a way that would allow the researcher to capture solid proof of their existence on film. Others consider this approach naive. For example, long-time Bigfoot researcher John Green has argued that the collection and dissection of a Sasquatch specimen is crucial to the scientific process. Speaking before the 2003 International Bigfoot Symposium, Green noted that once professional scientists get involved,

They will want to study these creatures in every possible way, and some, I expect, will get official permission to collect for dissection not one, but several.

I am, of course, familiar with the argument that we should only study sasquatch the way Dr. Goodall studies chimpanzees, and such methods will certainly be tried. I doubt, however that they will prove to be practical with creatures that are so much more mobile in their home environment than humans, and even if they are practical, they cannot provide all the information that will be wanted.

The anatomy of creatures that walk in much the same way that humans do is going to be studied in detail. To do that effectively will involve dissection, and will require more than one cadaver, because the cuts made while exploring one bodily system destroy the others . . . (Green, as quoted by Craig Woolheater at www. cryptomundo.com)

Green's comments have met with strong disavowals from others in the Bigfoot community. Loren Coleman, for example, responded to Green with the following comments:

The first large unknown hairy hominoid captured will live its life in captivity, no doubt, and there it may be examined internally. MRIs, CAT scans, EKGs, and a whole battery of medical and other procedures may be used to examine it.

It is doubtful the first one will be returned to the wild, so, of course, it will die someday within the reach of future scientific examinations. Then it will be dissected, just as newly discovered animals, including various kinds of humans, have been for further study. But in the meantime, why not study the living animal's captive and adaptive behaviors?

The days of Queen Victoria, when only killing an animal would establish it was real and not folklore, are, indeed, long gone. (www. cryptomundo.com)

Bayanov's reaction to Green and others is equally forceful. He argues that the Sasquatch should not be considered as merely an animal, but as something altogether closer to human and thus worthy of special consideration:

I can imagine young Sasquatches doing very well in a school especially designed for them. If a chimp brought up and taught by humans can acquire a certain vocabulary, I wonder what heights of scholarship can be attained by an aspiring young Sasquatch under human tutorship. If a human child brought up by animals becomes an animal, I wonder what will become of a homi child brought up by humans.

That's one side of the matter. The other is a reversal of roles, with the Sasquatch becoming a teacher of human boy and girl scouts in the art of survival in the wild. With the present day 'Back to Nature' trend I regard such a possibility as quite feasible. In that case we are bound to have parent-teacher conferences with a somewhat different agenda and composition. (www.bigfootencounters.com)

The debate does not seem likely to end anytime soon.

I am Tarzan, stalking the bolgani through heart-of-the-jungle darkness.

My team, under T.J.'s leadership, is hiking through snake-infested waters during a terrible thunderstorm in pitch-black conditions. We are, theoretically, driving the creature into a trap. If all goes according to plan, Tom Biscardi will be able to capture the creature and put an end to the mystery of Bigfoot once and for all.

Though this is an expedition intent on capturing the creature, Biscardi does not rule out killing it if we have to. A regiment of Bigfoot hunters from Arkansas has joined Tom's group for this hunt, all of them carrying rifles. In addition, Tom has placed one of our team in a sniper position. Despite the wind and lightning, a member of the team has climbed to the top of a tall pine tree. He sits there, crouching on a hunter's platform with his rifle at the ready. Assuming he can see well enough in the darkness, he has orders to shoot the creature should it place any one of us in danger, or should it be on the verge of escape. As we move closer to the sniper, T.J. breaks his own rule of silence and radioes our position. He doesn't want one of us to be mistaken for the creature and fall victim to the sniper's bullet. The radio is not working properly, however - he can't raise the gunman in the tree. As an alternative, he radioes our position to the command post and asks them to contact the sniper for us. Without waiting for an answer, we march ahead. The hell with lightning, snakes, and huge hairy beasts - I'm most scared of the guy with the gun, fearing he will mistake us for the resident family of Bigfoot, on our way home to the bunker after a night of foraging and terrorizing the locals.

Fortunately, we all make it back to the command post safely. There have been no sightings of the creature. The weather is just too bad. The Searching for Bigfoot team huddles around our trucks. I pass a flask of bourbon around and watch as one of our guys uses it to wash down a handful of pills.

I decide to call it a night, or a morning since it is only three or four hours to sunrise. I drive the long road back to the hotel, change out of my wet clothes, and crawl into bed. Just as I do, the phone rings. It is Tom Biscardi.

'Greg, you've got to do me a favor. Go next door and wake up the cameraman. Tell him to get back out here as fast as he can. The guys from Arkansas just radioed in. They've got a bitch up a tree and she's throwing rocks. We're going to them now and we need a camera.'

Apparently the cameraman had followed my lead and called it an early night; unlike me, he was not answering his phone. He does answer the door, however.

'Tom needs you and your camera back out in the field,' I tell him. 'The Arkansas boys have radioed that they have a bitch up a tree and she's throwing rocks.'

'What the hell does he want me to do about it?' he asks, 'Stick a camera up her ass? Why don't they just shoot the bitch?' He closes the door and, I assume, goes back to bed. I go to my room and do the same.

The next morning, the news isn't good. Apparently the boys from

Arkansas ran out of bullets before the bitch ran out of rocks. (How did she get rocks up the tree? Are Bigfoot marsupials? Did she carry them up in her pouch?) Other members of her family arrived and began threatening the hunters. They were forced to retreat - without a specimen, a footprint, or a video.

4 THE HELL WITH LIGHTNING, SNAKES, AND HUGE HAIRY BEASTS -I'M MOST SCARED OF THE GUY wITH THE GuN

I saw strange footprints in the north Texas woods. They were as clear as day in the moist soil. They were not bear tracks and they were much too large to be human. They were, I have no doubt, Bigfoot tracks.

Bigfoot tracks are one of the central elements in the story of North America's giant hairy hominid. Since that day in 1958 when Jerry Crew made headlines with his plaster cast of a giant footprint, the case for the existence of Bigfoot has centered around these big prints, found from Washington State to the southern tip of Florida. If these tracks are real, the argument goes, then Bigfoot is real.

Tracks are not the only bit of evidence that has grown up to support the existence of the creatures, of course. There are other things. Evidence is found in folklore, old newspaper stories, and eyewitness accounts. People of sterling background and with excellent reputations swear that they have seen these forest giants. There are photographs of the creatures, and moving pictures. Footprints themselves are subjected to detailed analysis, revealing dermal ridges and pressure points. Some people claim to have examined a carcass encased in ice. Others actively hunt the creature - some to capture, some to kill - all looking for evidence, for proof, that the creature is real. The fossil record has been carefully studied for signs that something like Bigfoot once walked the earth, for if he was once real he might be real now as well.

The hunt for Bigfoot has taken on the trappings of science. Once the footprints were encased in plaster, available for study and analysis, there was no going back. Bigfoot moved from the world of folklore and tall tales to the world of evidence and proof. The tracks are a metaphor for what happened to the stories themselves. It wasn't just the tracks that were captured in plaster and subjected to the microscope, but the legends. Hairy giants became Sasquatch; Sasquatch became Bigfoot; Bigfoot became Giganthopichecus.

But it all goes back to the tracks.

Like the tracks I saw in Texas, the Bigfoot tracks of Paris.

Either the tracks that I saw were really the tracks of some unknown creature with very large, human-like feet, or they were fakes. My rational mind reminds me that the tracks seemed too perfect, that they were found in a location that was far too accessible and open. Dermal ridges or not, they looked like fakes to me.

If they were fakes, then of course we wonder who was responsible for them and what their motives might have been.

It is possible, of course, that Biscardi and company were fooled by a third party, maybe a local resident who thinks it is all very funny. But the tracks looked too good to be just a practical joke. They looked fake to me, but they looked like professional fakes. I suppose that someone else in the Bigfoot community could be responsible. But why would anyone bother? Biscardi claims to find tracks like this all over the country. Surely he is not being followed around by a merry prankster, hiding in the bushes and snickering into his sleeves. (Hmm, Sasquatch is sometimes portrayed as a trickster figure in Native American lore. Perhaps it is a Sasquatch that is following Biscardi with a phony wooden foot, leaving faked footprints in obvious places and then laughing about it all the way back to the bunker.)

The logical explanation is, of course, that Biscardi is somehow involved in the hoax. The question is 'Why?' Biscardi does have a reputation for fakery in some quarters of the Bigfoot community. He is associated with Ivan and Peggy Marx, for example, regarded by some as the producers of some ridiculously camp photographs and video of the creature. He also once claimed on Coast to Coast AM, the paranormal talk-radio show, that he had a creature in captivity. A logical motive might be money, but I have some idea that Biscardi has shelled out a good deal of his own money on this expedition. Some of the guides told me that he paid for them to fly in for the event. The fee he charged me is minimal and it included my hotel room and at least one meal. All things considered, I don't think it possible that he made a lot of money on this, or that he ever makes a lot of money from Bigfoot. It is of course possible that Tom Biscardi and his crew faked the prints for reasons other than money, perhaps simply to impress me and the local news media or to perpetrate some sort of elaborate joke. But this only raises the question of why anyone in his position would want to do this. I know that there are easier ways to get on the local news. I also know that there are easier ways to impress the likes of me. And after fifty years, the joke just isn't that funny anymore.

This is funny, though - funny strange, that is.

When I knelt in the mud and examined the footprints I felt a tingle of excitement. I did not stop to ask myself who faked the prints. I did not even stop to remind myself that they were clearly fakes. These thoughts came later, in moments of reflection.

In that moment when my hand touched the sandy soil, when I gazed out across that primeval lake, when I thought about the night's hunt that was soon to follow, in that moment they were real. It made no difference how they came to be there. They were Bigfoot tracks.

Cryptozoology

A game warden is carefully and forcefully explaining the dangerous conditions we will face if we choose to continue with our plans and spend the night exploring the forest across the lake in an attempt to capture Bigfoot. With every word she speaks I am questioning the wisdom of crossing the lake with this group of people - people that I have only just met, mostly visitors like myself to North Texas, many of whom, unlike me, appear to be heavily armed.

First, she tells us about the snakes. There are water moccasins, which thrive in and around the lakeshore, as well as copperheads and rattlesnakes. A bite from any of these could be painful and potentially deadly. The woods are also the habitat for wild hogs. As large as 400 pounds, these animals are especially dangerous at this time of year because many of them have new litters. Under no circumstances is it a good idea to find oneself in the position of being between a female and her young. In addition to snakes and wild hogs she also cautions us about unexploded munitions. The area had, at one time, been used as a military testing range and is littered with unexploded shells. The warden instructs us not to touch anything that looks suspicious, but instead to find some way to mark the location of the suspected ammunition and report it to the authorities for removal or safe detonation.

Next, the warden gives our group an updated weather forecast. The night will bring strong storms with heavy rain, high winds, and possible hail and tornados. She instructs us to make certain that the boat is sheltered before the storm hits, otherwise it is sure to be swamped by morning. Finally, the warden reminds us that we are an hour from the nearest medical help back in Paris. If we call for help it will be at least two hours before we can be anywhere near a hospital. That, of course, is assuming that our cell phones will work on the opposite side of the lake and that we will be able to cross the lake to reach the ambulance.

That does it for me. Snakes, wild hogs, military explosives, severe weather, and armed strangers are conditions that might be surmountable if there was the possibility of rescue, the possibility of paramedics or Texas Rangers arriving to set things right, just like in those old 1970s TV shows. In an isolated location, however, things could go pretty badly. The smart thing to do would be to stay at base camp and monitor the images from the video camera placed on the other shore earlier in the day. I should be safe as long as I stay at the command post. I call my wife and tell her not to worry. With distant lightning flashes causing the cell phone to crackle, I let her know that I am safe, that I won't get into a boat, and that if the weather gets bad I will head back to town.

Then the shouting starts. Something just moved in front of the camera. Whatever it was, it looked big, certainly bigger than any hog.

'Get a team over there! Now!' Tom Biscardi shouts.

I hear the boat's motor start and feel myself grabbing my backpack and running to join the group that is climbing aboard the small fishing boat. I have to wade out several feet to get to the boat and my boots, purchased for this trip and promising to be waterproof, quickly fill with water. Even here, right by shore, it is already pitch dark. Those of us with flashlights point them toward the front as the boat begins to cross the lake, providing what little extra light we can. Soon we are at the other shore and piling out of the boat. Again, the water rushes into my boots. I clutch my backpack, pull the hood of my poncho tighter and wade ashore through the high reeds and driftwood, thinking now only of the water moccasins, flashing my light in the water, looking for any sign of their cotton-colored mouths. Just as I reach dry ground with the other people in the party I hear the boat begin to pull away. It is going back across to the other side, leaving us to face the snakes, pigs, artillery, and the weather. I only hope that they remember to get the boat out of the water before the storm comes. It will be no good to anybody if it swamps.

As we reach dry ground, I begin to ascertain who my companions are. We all rushed into the boat so quickly, our bodies and heads covered with ponchos, that I could not at first tell who I was with. This seems to be a concern for everyone, because as soon as we find a little shelter from the rain under the forest canopy we stop and huddle together - introducing ourselves and planning our mission. The leaders of our group are experienced Bigfoot trackers named Hondo and Hawk. They will be in charge of the guns. The other four of us are Bigfoot amateurs. Snake Man is a Paris local who has been invited along because of his work as an animal wrangler. When folks have trouble with wild animals, especially snakes, they call him for capture and release. He is equipped with a snake-bite kit and a fair amount of experience in the woods of north Texas. Andy is from New Jersey, a large man without any real outdoor experience. He is a lifelong Bigfoot believer, who says that he has been dreaming of this moment for most of his adult life. He is inexperienced, but seems ready for anything. Tiffany and Jennifer are psychic researchers, along on the expedition to assist in the use of special equipment: night-vision goggles and extra-low-frequency sound receivers designed to pick up the low rumblings used by Bigfoot to communicate with one another. A perfect cast for a low-budget horror movie. Unfortunately, in movies like this, my character is usually the first to get taken out.

We stand in the rainy darkness, waiting for our eyes to adjust to the near total absence of light, waiting for any living things in the woods to become acclimated to our presence, then we begin to move through the woods, looking for any signs of our prey - large mounds of human-like scat, small trees bent so that they crisscross and form the letter 'X', and, of course, footprints. We listen for rustling, for grunts, for low and barely audible sounds, and for the sounds of tree-knocking - a form of communication among the creatures we are hunting.

In addition to the wind, rain, lightning, and thunder, tracking our quarry is made difficult because of the shrewdness of our prey.

'These creatures are excellent mimics,' Hawk informs us. 'They can sound like almost anything: cats, dogs, owls, you name it. Any sound you hear tonight, no matter how normal it may seem, could be a S'quatch.'

I have never heard the term 'S'quatch' before, though I assume it is a contraction of the term 'Sasquatch,' but I do understand the implications of Hawk's remark: our search for Bigfoot is not going to be easy. They could be anywhere.

As if to reinforce this point, a radio message comes in from the command post: the video camera ^ TheY CAN SOUND LIkE

on our side of the lake has just ALMOST ANYTHING: CATS, DOGS, stopped transmitting. Can we OWLS . . . ANY SOUND YOU

check it ouut? As we begin to hear TONIGHT . . . COULD BE A walk slowly toward where we hope the camera is located, a S qUATCH 5

second message comes through.

'The creature is on the move! The creature is on the move!' the radio blares.

Another scouting party is located down the lake from us at a site accessible by land. They have reported that they have been charged by a large bull

S'quatch that is now headed in our direction. We can do nothing but trudge on to check the camera, which we find intact but inoperable. The rain begins to fall in sheets. Lightning flashes. The wind howls. Then another series of messages: the other team has just spotted a tornado, also headed in our direction; the water is too rough for the boat to come and get us; command post is seeking shelter - tents are blowing away - we should find a sheltered spot and hunker down; they will contact us and get us back across the lake just as soon as the weather breaks. But, of course, we don't want to get back when the weather breaks - when the weather breaks we will be fine - we want to get back now!

We find a spot somewhat sheltered from the wind, settle in, and pull our ponchos tight against the rain. Hawk, Hondo, and Snake, amazingly, are able to start a fire despite the steady rain. We all gather around, sharing our food. After what seems like an eternity the rain begins to subside. Our clothes actually begin to dry. In the distance we hear the sound of coyote, or of S'quatch impersonating coyote. Up close there is rustling among the trees. It is now well after midnight and I feel suddenly exhausted, the adrenaline going out of my system and leaving me drained. We begin to talk about where we are from and why we are here, about our own experiences, or lack thereof, with wilderness and Bigfoot and with other things.

'You know,' Hawk tells us, 'Bigfoot is not the only strange thing in these woods. These woods are full of Wendigo.'

I know that word. Some describe it as a Bigfoot-like creature with long pointed ears and dog-like snout, more like a werewolf than a big ape. Some claim that they possess supernatural powers and say that they are shape-shifters, riders on the storm, arriving with a high wind and a clap of thunder, to take their victims screaming into the night. Others say they are simply flesh-and-blood animals, huge bipedal primates, cousins to Bigfoot - with snouts like baboons and slobbering mouths filled with teeth. There is an old horror story about these creatures that I remember reading many years ago. A small hunting party, separated from their camp and the rest of their group by a lake, had encountered the legendary creature . . .

'The storm is over,' someone observes, 'the boat should be able to cross the lake now.'

But, of course, when the radio call is made, the news is bad - the boat has been swamped and they won't be able to get across until morning.

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