Sunday, November 8, 2009
Interview and Discussion with THE BIGFOOT TIMES Editor and Sasquatch Researcher, DANIEL PEREZ
Image above: The Bigfoot Times issue featuring the 2007 PGF Anniversary Celebration, with the Bigfoot Books shop in Willow Creek on the cover. CLICK IMAGES TO ENLARGE AND READ. Click the colored links to explore further.
DANIEL PEREZ: Always nice to do business with you. NOW, how about a letter to the editor of the Bigfoot Times with your thought on our EXCLUSIVE interview with John Green. Best, Daniel.
BIGFOOT BOOKS: Hello Daniel. Here is a letter to the editor for you. I know, it is a little long. I can't help it. Please feel free to use this in your newsletter. If you would consider this the introduction to our proposed interview, perhaps you could just write a response like, "Gee, thanks!" and I'll follow it up with a question or commentary for you to respond to next.
Image below: Daniel Perez in 1985, with his hunting trophy, the Legend of Bigfoot statue outside of Benbow, CA.
DANIEL PEREZ: Hello Steve. That was a rather complimentary review of the newsletter and I certainly appreciate it. I will see if I can fit it in the November edition. As for the proposed interview, sure, I can start that way... "gee, thanks," ...but I expect only HARDBALL questions.
DANIEL PEREZ: There is no question “The Legend of Boggy Creek” had a huge impact on me. I think I was about 10 years old. I remember my brother and sister went to see the movie at the theater when it first came out. I don't know how the movie was selected but perhaps it may have been we just all agreed to go see a monster movie. It is amazing how impressionable you are at a young age, as that movie had a major impact on the direction of my life. Today, there is hardly an hour in my life I don't think about some facet or aspect of the Bigfoot mystery. I am 46 now, so my casual to casually serious to serious full fledged involvement happened over that span. I never thought I would publish a highly successful, industry leading newsletter on the topic, but here we are 10 years later. After studying the subject for so long and making outside research and investigation it became clear to me that there was a real species behind the mystery and not just simple folklore and mythology. So that, to me, is simply fascinating.
Fascinating, too, is the scientific community in North America is blind and deaf when it comes to this topic. Perhaps there is fear as to what your colleague might say or think of you for being interested in this subject. It arouses emotion. I also think and hope we can solve this mystery within my lifetime, but time will tell. Rene Dahinden told me they thought it would be only a matter of months before they went down to northern California before they got one, so that is definitely something to keep in mind. It is meaningful to me as I am sure one day the next generation will look back at my main production, the Bigfoot Times, and realize there was a lot of original work done in those pages.
I think I keep going because I want to know what these animals are. It isn't in the pongid line and it isn't in the hominid line... it is a little like Dr. John Napier pointed out in his 1972 book, a separate line. Bigfoot is kind of like a missing link between the hominids and pongids. So if we get one, via DNA testing, etc. we might be able to see where this fits into the grand scheme of things from a primate point of view. I find the topic simply fascinating and I have no plans to ever retire from the field.
BIGFOOT BOOKS: For me it was seeing a triple feature at the drive-in that my mother used to take us to. It had Bigfoot, then UFO abductions, and then a movie about an infestation of giant mutant cockroaches. I remember being seriously spooked by all that, so much that we had to sleep in our parents' bed that night. I suppose it is, if I may interpolate from what you are saying, that the creature in Boggy Creek was something more than just a made-up movie monster, something more alive and tangible than myth and movies? All of that stuff is fascinating to a kid, but somehow Bigfoot has an appeal beyond the imagination and fantasy, even for adults: it retains the magic of myth and legend due to utter elusiveness, but is also a plausible creature that leaves convincing (if one really looks into it) physical evidence behind.
So, you're only a couple of years older than me. Funny, but when I was still collecting baseball cards you were already becoming a serious Bigfoot researcher. What year did you actually start corresponding with John Green, Rene Dahinden, and any other “elder” bigfooters? What were those early interactions like? How did those relationships evolve over the years? And whom were you most influenced and mentored by?
When I saw “The Legend of Boggy Creek,” my first step after the movie was to go the library, because I didn't believe any of it could be real, so I wanted to double check with what books were available at the time. I don't think I was obsessed with the subject early on but it grew on me as time went on. I am a huge track and field fan and a distance runner from way back, and that took quite a bit of my time as well. I dropped out of Humboldt State University as it became obvious to me in the first few weeks this was not for me. It was like an extension to high school, and I had enough of that. I wanted to do more independent studies, specifically as it related to Bigfoot. When I was at HSU and northern California in general, I think the greatest influence was that the immensity of the woods made it a real possibility to harbor an unknown species within them. I have never been married so haven't had the problem of divorce. Should I get married, I would certainly like to have someone at my side who is sympathetic to the cause. It is more acceptable today, I think, than when Rene was going at it in the late 1950s and 1960s. Then you were a wacko...today people find it interesting and have more knowledge on the topic because of the Internet.
On the topic of ape vs. human, that has never been an issue to me. As I told a newspaper reporter in Ohio, it isn't an ape and it isn't a human, it is what it is. It is somewhat like asking is it a basketball or a football and if you give yourself only those two options it doesn't allow for alternative explanations. Perhaps it is a soccer ball. You must keep your mind open on the 'what is it' topic. Better to answer that one when a body is collected.
BIGFOOT BOOKS: Wow, I wonder what was in those old letters? Can you tell us here? Do you ever think of publishing them? It would be interesting not only for the historical value of what those guys had to say back then, but also to see the young, developing mind of a budding bigfooter.
One can see from what you say and in your writings that for you Bigfoot research is a rational, critical pursuit, certainly not a wacky one. And anyone who has observed Rene in action would clearly have seen that he was not a wacko, but rather a clear-minded, acerbic wit, and a skeptic of much of the evidence and reportage. If anything was wacky about him it was his sense of wry humor. In the “Sasquatch Odyssey” video there is a scene where Rene starts lambasting Krantz while Grover was trying to give his presentation, mocking him from the audience. And then you step to the podium and try to interrupt the conflict. It is highly amusing, but also indicative of the sometimes bitter “Bigfoot Wars” that have gone on for so long. Can you comment on this, and perhaps on the role you may have played as a man kind of in the middle of these battles?
Image above: "Big Footnotes," an extensive, lengthy bibliography on Bigfoot-related publications in book, periodical, film and other venues. This will astonish the uninformed. Very limited quantities are still available, so strike now.
And also, I've noted over the years, you seem to get embroiled yourself in certain controversies. Do you ever feel like an ambassador between negotiating parties? Or perhaps, do you ever feel like you have to play muckraker (in the positive, not the tabloid sense) within these controversial issues? One can see it happening again lately, with the “Massacre Theory,” and certain comments you've made about M. K. Davis and David Paulides. One is bound to take flak for any individualistic position one takes, to the extent that one almost doesn't want to say anything. And yet, you always take a position in the fray and in your newsletter. Do you find this an uncomfortable position, or do you kind of enjoy the argumentative process?
Also, as you mention mentoring, it brings me to another question I wanted to ask later. How do you feel about the widely proliferating new Bigfoot research organizations, now found in most regions of the USA? How do you regard the type of research that has become more or less dominant, the type that goes out into the field at night and does call blasts, wood knocking, and all of that? Do you think this BFRO-style approach is effective, and how do you regard the various evidence they have come up with, such as the Skookum Cast and the Jacobs Photos, or the various thermal ghost-images? It seems to me that this new approach differs from yours, and in some regards is different from the practices of Green and Dahinden. For one, you take a more historical path; and then, those older researchers mainly seemed to record sightings and check them out after the fact in the field. These newer guys are out there actively trying to lure the Sasquatch in, track them down, get them on technological imagers, even living like them, to find them at all costs. How do you feel about these activities and tactics, especially as it still seems that the preponderance of Bigfoot sightings are basically accidental and matters of sheer chance, as in the numerous roadside sightings? And how susceptible are Bigfoot hunters to seeing Bigfoot out there (or in photos) when perhaps it is not there that night (or in that blobsquatch photo), after all?
DANIEL PEREZ: I have postal letters from Dr. Bernard Heuvelmans, Loren Coleman, John Green, Rene Dahinden, Peter Byrne, Dr. Grover Krantz, Dr. David Daegling and many others and there is nothing in there that is earth shaking, just the same type of stuff they have been attributed to and told others as well. Doubtful if I would ever publish them but I have in my physical files letters that go back to the late 1950s addressed to others but somehow, over the years, I got a hold of them. So I can do historical research with documentation at hand. I have a letter here, undated, that says, "Beckjord is heading for trouble as far as I am concerned. He has made a ..." and this was to the late Dennis Gates from Bob Gimlin, with a typewriter.
Image above, Click to Enlarge: A letter to Rich Grumley, California BigFoot Organization (CBFO) from Dr. Geoffrey Bourne of the Yerkes Regional Primate Research Center.
I hate to say it but I have seen and heard all the stuff over the years. I remember around 1984 Mark Keller had seismic sensors for the ground and I went up to see him and I thought it was a neat idea, but he has long disappeared from the scene. I think the trouble with all the newcomers is that nobody asks questions and is looking for advice. They would rather reinvent the wheel rather than go to get free advice.
BIGFOOT BOOKS: It would seem that they are successful (BFRO, et al.), at least in that if you talk to them after expeditions they will tell you some very interesting stories. Like Bart Cutino's thermal sighting: it certainly sounds real--you can see it in his eyes how it affected him as he recounts it--and the image looks convincing, the behaviors described are realistic. Or the Skookum Cast... could you tell us what you think of that one? I could have sworn you were subtly questioning it, suggesting that it was an elk print, up in Yakima. That is when Matt Moneymaker grabbed the microphone to refute skepticism about it. And after that I stumbled into a conversation outside the tent with a bunch of folks trying to debunk that piece of evidence.
Image above: A Special Issue of the then-titled "BigfooTimes," called "Bigfoot at Bluff Creek," it is the standard authoritative text on the film and the events surrounding its making. Get it NOW!
DANIEL PEREZ: LIKE I SAID IN 2000 WHEN THE SKOOKUM CAST CAME TO THE ATTENTION OF THE WORLD, IT ALLOWS FOR VARIOUS EXPLANATIONS, NOT JUST BIGFOOT.
BIGFOOT BOOKS: Still, it was good enough for Jeff Meldrum and John Green; why not the rest of the world? Why won't scientists in general consider this phenomenon?
DANIEL PEREZ: I THINK A LOT OF IT HAS TO DO WITH JOB SECURITY.
BIGFOOT BOOKS: And why, would you say, is there so much competition among the groups trying to find Bigfoot?
DANIEL PEREZ: THERE DOES NOT APPEAR TO BE A SECOND PLACE WHEN IT COMES TO THE BIGFOOT SWEEPSTAKES. IT IS WINNER TAKE ALL.
BIGFOOT BOOKS: Why does it get so bitter sometimes?
DANIEL PEREZ: I THINK EVERYONE WANTS TO BE THE ONE WHO MAKES THE DISCOVERY.
BIGFOOT BOOKS: And couldn't this whole thing work better if we were all co-operating, like scientists, making common databases of sightings and sounds, behaviors and stuff like that?
BIGFOOT BOOKS: And re. the “argument” question: well, you have made certain public statements about a certain researcher implying that he was at least partially “discredited” after he chose to investigate the “Bluff Creek Massacre” idea first proposed by M. K. Davis. I quote, from BF Times 9-09: 'M. K. Davis, sorry to say, has already lost all credibility and now David Paulides isn't very far behind.' Do you think you went too far in making this declaration, especially since, after all, his book (“The Hoopa Project”) is a fine and innovative, very interesting study that won the “Cryptozoology Book of the Year” award?
DANIEL PEREZ: NO, NOT AT ALL.... LOREN COLEMAN HAS SINCE WITHDRAWN ANY ENDORSEMENT FOR DAVID PAULIDES.
BIGFOOT BOOKS: Also, what do you think motivates the generation of such bizarre theories?
DANIEL PEREZ: ATTENTION, PLAIN AND SIMPLE.
BIGFOOT BOOKS: Is it that the lack of proof, the difficulty in finding evidence or having a sighting, drives people over the edge? Is the PGF, then, as you've said before, like the JFK-Zapruder film, breeding conspiracy and other loony theories?
DANIEL PEREZ: ANYONE CAN SEE ANYTHING THEY WANT IN THAT FILM, EVEN A MAN IN A SUIT, SO THE CONSPIRACY IDEAS DON'T SURPRISE ME MUCH.
BIGFOOT BOOKS: And do you regret awarding M. K. Davis your “Bigfooter of the Year” award a few years back?
DANIEL PEREZ: ABSOLUTELY NOT. HE HAD A GOOD YEAR, DID SOME GOOD WORK AND WE RECOGNIZED HIS ACHIEVEMENTS BEFORE THEY WENT TOO COLORFUL.
BIGFOOT BOOKS: Sorry, that is a lot of questions all at once.... I was an English major, and tend to ramble on and theorize.
DANIEL PEREZ: I WOULD JUST GET TO THE QUESTION AND AVOID THE COMMENTARY AS I THINK IT JUST WATERS THINGS DOWN.
BIGFOOT BOOKS: OK, then. Mainly, there is just a LOT I want to talk about or say, but there would be an endless stream of short questions/short answers. I think it is more interesting when one discusses things. And then, there are things in what you say that stimulate new thoughts, and hence a new stream of questioning. Let me make a few brief points just to respond to your answers, and to which you may freely respond, and then I'll move on to the last bunch of questions.
First: In regard to the “spirit being” views, these seem to originate in the Native American culture primarily, before the “New Agers” stepped in. I hear about it all the time from the local Hupas and Yuroks and others. What do you think of the Native American background of Sasquatch, in this light?
Second: In regard to Science, I am told by scientist friends--and of course read about it--that Science today is essentially a collaborative affair, and that things are so complex that there could be no discovery at all without peer review and publication of data. Preliminary results are guarded, partly because one wants to verify them, and settle the issues of uncertainty before one puts one's reputation on the line. In bigfooting, I am arguing, we'd ALL be a lot closer to the real goal if we cooperated and shared. It is the cure for cancer that matters, not winning the Nobel Prize, no? Isn't it more important to FIND and PROVE Bigfoot/Sasquatch than it is WHO finds it? We all want to be proven right—isn't that enough???
Question: You've studied this PGF issue in depth. From what Al Hodgson, Roger Patterson, Bob Gimlin and many others there at the time have said, then and over the years, there are actually SEVERAL apparent stories. Could you comment on WHY there are so many versions of things that happened that day, and how and why do they contradict? Is there a simple, clear timeline and story answer we can give to the world that would make the skeptics shut up?
Image: Cover of the May 2009 The Bigfoot Times, covering the Yakima Bigfoot Round-Up, which Daniel Perez distributed for free to the bigfooting community.
DANIEL PEREZ: You are dreaming if you think certain individuals are to share and cooperate with data. In Bigfooting today, because it is made of an amorphous group of characters, WHO finds it is of paramount importance.
There are not a whole lot of versions from primary sources, Roger and Bob, of what happened that day, just different interpretations. Bob said it smelled a certain way and Roger felt different. Bob said it was a certain height and Roger felt different. There is nothing wrong with the timeline, they got the film, went straight for Willow Creek. Those who have timeline issues are ignorant of the primary sources, namely the living, Bob Gimlin, who states they got the film, then went straight to Willow Creek. It was Al Hodgson who attributed Roger with saying they went over the Bald Hill Road en route to Eureka, which is plainly wrong. You could not do that in the prescribed amount of time. They DID NOT go to Eureka first and it is doubtful they were in the town, but more likely just north of it at the airport.
BIGFOOT BOOKS: You don't wish to comment on the Native American thing? It seems bigfooters want to have the affirmation that First Nations knew of Sasquatch, but don't want usually to buy into what they thought of it as being: magical and mystical, spiritual. Any views?
I believe Gimlin. He clearly states in the 1992 interview that they went straight to town, Willow Creek, where they saw Al. I'll ask Mr. Hodgson about it next time I see him. Bigfooters even now tell me they think Bald Hills was it, and some get angry if I question it. It can't be both ways. This year "Tribal Bigfoot" repeats the Bald Hills error, and by implication questions Roger and Bob, and even the film. Also, Syl McCoy and the guy with the cabin where they supposedly stopped for showers, others, are primary, too, and they say somewhat different things. And then, memories differ greatly, too. Comments, if you'd like?
DANIEL PEREZ: I don't know enough about Native Americans and their association with Bigfoot to have a real opinion. I have dealt with the Hoopa Indians over the years and see they have embodied them with supernatural powers and the ability to shape shift and disappear at will. I just disagree with those ideas, plain and simple.
Image above: The Bigfoot Times' table at the Willow Creek PGF Conference.
The business about the cabin and the shower was covered in the Bigfoot Times and absolutely debunked. The business about the Bald Hills route was investigated, when I went over the identical route, noting such things as mileage and time, and that is impossible. That was also covered in the newsletter.
The Center for Bigfoot Studies is just a holding tank of information, an office in a home. No members, no expeditions. The CBS does produce a monthly product, the Bigfoot Times and we have about 800 members or so. Our numbers are slipping as of late due to a weak economy but I suspect things will be better when we pull out of this recession. No plans for release of the Bigfoot Times in book form but maybe a CD in the future. We have covered a lot of ground, and one look at the index shows exactly the areas we have covered. Some of it, too, is original work, so it is nice not to rehash old stuff.
I was on the phone this evening with artist Steve DeMarco who is doing the illustrative work and we are behind schedule, but we both agreed that would be just the way it goes since we both have to work and schedules can be broken. We are covering all the classics and well known stories, such as Jacko, William Roe, and ending with the Georgia Bigfoot Hoax from 2008. We don't have a publisher, but when we are done, that will not be an issue. It is hard to write for the juvenile reader, because you have to break things down to basics. Short sentences. Easy grammar. It is our first venture in this area and we hope to be successful.
BIGFOOT BOOKS: So, another issue that has arisen lately, due in part to certain things Peter Byrne has said in an article on Bob Titmus published on Bigfoot Encounters on the web: did you know Mr. Titmus, and are any of those accusations of incompetence and possible fraud at all possibly true? These came as a surprise to me, especially as his materials are the basis of the Bigfoot Collection at the museum here in Willow Creek. And also, everyone, from John Green on, seems to have held him in very high regard. But then, I read somewhere that the scat that Titmus had at the Wyatt Motel, which he showed to Tom Slick in 1959 and claimed was from a Bigfoot, actually was shown to be moose droppings. And a similar story now comes out that he was showing moose hair similarly, and had a moose trophy in preparation at his taxidermy shop at the time. Also, just a few months ago, I had an old-time local tell me, in slightly guarded terms, that he knew of some convincing evidence in a taxidermist's shop in Anderson that would really make me think twice if I saw it. When I said, Oh, you mean Bob Titmus? he clammed up and said it was his brother who had seen this evidence and that he himself had been sworn to secrecy about it. Now I am waiting for this brother to come to my shop and tell me about it. It seemed rather convincing to me, and the guy was utterly serious. Do you know anything about this stuff, and what do you think about it all?
Also, what do you make of the old animosity between John Green and Peter Byrne? I've always appreciated Mr. Byrne and his work over the years; but then, I tend to hold Mr. Green as beyond reproach, especially as his pamphlet books are how I first really learned about Bigfoot at the age of ten, reading everything I could from the Paranormal section at the library. Green is like the Moses of bigfooting; and I note that he has been a major influence on you. But Byrne really is every bit as fundamental, having been there from the start, even in the Himalayan Snowman Expeditions. What do you think about this?
The rift between John Green and Peter Byrne is long standing as John has long considered Peter a fraud. There is a whole laundry list of things Peter has stated that simply aren't so. I don't know if he is sloppy or just has a blatant disregard for the truth. He is old now and no longer a factor in Bigfooting, so I wish him well, but the piece about Bob Titmus was just a slander job in my view.
BIGFOOT BOOKS: Yes, I felt when reading that Byrne piece that it had all the hallmarks of a Tall Tale, a joke: the punchline, the scatological references, the being made a fool of, etc. I just didn't believe it. Why would Byrne write such an absurdity?
Often, when receiving reports on Bigfoot sightings and related stories, one has to really utilize one's bullshit detector. It happens to me a lot in my shop, where a certain type of old-timer just loves to see if he can pull someone's leg. As I'm a “city boy” out here, still, I may be a target. But one can normally tell, and one gets rather good at telling after a while, who is joking and who is lying, exaggerating or joking. It isn't just attention-getting that motivates hoaxing—I think it has a lot to do with plain old-fashioned humor and the kind of fun and games bored rural loggers and contractors might play out at the work camp.
Was Byrne just in it for the money, the fame? It's a rather obscure fame, at best, and rather an impecunious pursuit. Who gets rich in bigfooting? What is the most egregious "lie" Byrne has committed? Have you ever dealt with Tom Biscardi, or Ivan Marx, Ray Wallace, Paul Freeman, etc.? What do you think of them?
And Daniel, have YOU ever been the victim of a hoax? And how do you tell if reports you investigate are real or not? What are the standards for evidence and reporting you use?
Also, another brief question tacked on: Have you, to your satisfaction, located the EXACT spot of the P-G film site? I mean, not just the area in general, but the starting and ending points of Patty's TRACKWAY? Is that ground still there on-site, and can one identify and walk the full trackway?
DANIEL PEREZ: I don't know why Peter Byrne would write something about a dead person who cannot defend himself, but I asked Bobbie Short how his submission came about, then called Byrne himself. It was Bobbie who more or less asked him to write something on Titmus. Unless you are writing about Hitler, I don't think it is a good practice to write negative things about dead people who can't speak for themselves. Byrne has done some good work, so he should be recognized for that and he has raised more money to look for Bigfoot than anyone in history. In my opinion, Byrne was there for all three, the money, fame and the real pursuit of Bigfoot. He is no longer being financed and he is still interested in the mystery, so that should say something. I think Byrne's biggest falsehood was publishing the Russian paper in his book when he had no permission to do so. That was a report prepared for Rene Dahinden's book, as it was Dahinden who took the film to Russia, not Byrne.
I have talked with Tom Biscardi by phone and the last time I spoke with him was in 2008. I spent the night at Ivan Marx's home in Burney, California and I have several handwritten letters from Ray Wallace. I met Paul Freeman once, in June 1989 and between the four, in my opinion, I always wonder what 'truth' means to them. I think I have been the victim of a hoax on more than one occasion. I went and saw someone this Summer and it was pretty clear he had a vivid imagination. Bigfoot was showing up on the college campus. I am not sure what motivated him to make these reports. He may have really believed what he said, but I didn't.
Today you cannot locate with an precision the exact pathway where the P-G film subject walked, only the general area, and that was established back in 1967.
BIGFOOT BOOKS: OK, well how about a conclusion? I have had this compound question in the back of my mind. What does Bigfoot mean to you? I mean, if it were somehow proven that Bigfoot did not exist (I know, one can't prove a negative), what would that mean to you and your life? Also, WHY are you after Bigfoot, and not other fascinating things, say, Chupacabras, Loch Ness Monster, Mothman, Faery Folk, or whatever? And if you could speculate, what is the FUTURE of bigfooting?
DANIEL PEREZ: It is just interesting that this species, possibly in the same family as man, has survived all these years on the North American continent. I don't know if there is meaning in that, but that is one of the things it means to me. If it didn't exist, it would still be interesting, as you have this extremely strong myth that continues to perpetuate itself to this day. The why of it is because Bigfoot came first in terms of an introduction. I think the future of Bigfooting will belong to the scientific community and all the hobbyist may go by the wayside. We shall See.
Image above: The type of 16mm camera, a Cine-Kodak K-100, used by Roger Patterson in the PGF.
BIGFOOT BOOKS: OK, thanks so much, Daniel. I hope you've enjoyed this interview as much as I have. I'll say that if any researcher will survive the "discovery" period it will be you, and a few others like Chris Murphy and Loren Coleman, who have an historical basis to their pursuits. You'll be called upon as an expert interpreter, whomever happens to "find" and "prove" the creature. I'm glad you're in the field--you've been highly influential for me. Keep up the fabulous work!
DANIEL PEREZ: Well, time will tell. If the mystery outlives me, well, then so be it. --dp
Completed November 7th 2009