Thursday, April 1, 2010
Reading THE HOOPA PROJECT: A Study in Contrasts and Confusion
After Paulides came out as being in support of the "Bluff Creek Massacre Theory" (blogged about earlier by us HERE and HERE, and the MK interview HERE and HERE) we really had to revisit those misgivings. We decided to go back and do a review. What follows is a close reading of the book's first 51 pages, with an eye bent to ascertaining fact, fiction, and error in the book. The sightings reports which constitute the majority of the book are best left for later. Despite minor errors and glitches of methodology and assumption in this later part of the book, the reports are still good, and need to be appreciated for what they are--personal stories, anecdotal evidence, and at least suggestive of certain traits of the Creature and of a particular Native American culture in Northwestern California. We particularly appreciate this part of the book, despite misgivings about the introductory part, as we, too, live in the same region, and we receive the same kinds of reports from locals constantly.
Introduction. On pp. 9-12 we find out how Paulides got his start hunting Bigfoot: in logical error and imaginative leaps. He tells of going out with his father into the mountains in Lassen County. They find a fire down in a creekbed, "made of fifteen to twenty small twigs broken into equal pieces approximately one foot long... placed on the sand in the shape of a teepee." Now, what this is doing in a Bigfoot book is a mystery, as there has never been a convincing report of these creatures utilizing fire. He notes that there were no footprints around the fire in the sand. If so, how could it have been a Bigfoot? Why assume it was made by a Bigfoot? He then acknowledges that this is odd, and admits that he doesn't really think it was a Bigfoot. OK, so will he say it? Maybe it was a pot grower? A hobo? No, he then proposes an even more extreme idea: maybe, he says, it was one of the "Little People" spoken of by Natives. But Dave, you then say they live in caves and underground, and that they only come out at night. And if there were no signs of footprints at all, what made the fire, a levitating elf? Occam's Razor would say that he should, logically, propose the simplest solution, not go from one presumptuous assumption to an even more wild presupposition. This may have intrigued Paulides about Bigfoot, or whatever; but as the first section of the book all it does is convince us that he is a guy who is prone to leaping to odd conclusions first, rather than the simplest and most rational ones. This, then, sets the logical tone of the book.
On pp. 12-14 he speaks of the "Whistler incident," up in B.C., Canada, in 2002. What happened? Nothing. He went to Canada, hired a guide to take him fishing, and then the guide told him a story about a roadside sighting of Bigfoot, told to him after Paulides asked him a leading question about "strange, outdoor wildlife experiences." Dave says he was "mesmerized," as if he had never heard of Bigfoot before; but just a page earlier he is talking about hearing about it way back in his childhood. Why would anyone be so entranced by the most common kind of Bigfoot story: "it walked across the road"? We've all heard this a million times on TV and elsewhere. Also, later on in the book, he himself devalues such sightings as being not substantial enough.
On page 14 he mentions that he then "read everything" he could about Bigfoot. If so, then why does he not give ANY credit to previous researchers on the pages that follow throughout his own book? If one is conducting professional research and scholarship and publishes a book or monograph one is ACCOUNTABLE to the field and other scholars that have gone before one, and one is required to give citation of their works and conclusions. Rather, Paulides goes on to claim nearly all of the following pages' contents as solely his own, as if they arose only from his own original "experienced police" investigation; but he has already admitted that they did not. As we shall show, he takes credit for other's work as if these were new discoveries, effectively stealing their ideas. Plagiarism is not just the exact quoting of someone else's written words; rather, in a scholarly sense, it is the lifting and appropriation of ideas and theories, without due credit given, as well. To follow such shoddy scholarship with public arrogance and grandiose statements is even less palatable.
The ordinance specifically states,
"Whereas, publicity attendant upon such real or imagined sightings has resulted in an influx of scientific investigators as well as casual hunters, many armed with lethal weapons, and... Whereas, the absence of specific laws covering the taking of specimens encourages laxity in the use of firearms and other deadly devices and poses a clear and present threat to the safety and well-being of persons living and traveling within the boundaries of Skamania County as well as to the creatures themselves...".
An amendment to it from 1984 also states, "Should the Skamania County Coroner determine any victim/creatures to have been humanoid the Prosecuting Attorney shall pursue the case under the existing laws pertaining to homicide." Isn't it clear? This ordinance has been set down to hopefully prevent murder of humans, and is NOT a clear recognition of there actually being such a creature as Bigfoot out there. Rather, it only says that IF the creature exists, then the killing of one will not be considered to be murder, and will be subject to a fine. By "Victim" they obviously mean "human," so if someone is shot (i.e., Homo sapiens) during a Bigfoot hunt, then it will be considered to be murder. Clearly, the focus is on homicide, and discouraging it, not the acknowledgement of a Creature out there. All that the ordinance says is that it is "possible," that it is "possibly" out there in the hills--hardly a bold declaration of belief and support. We bigfooters believe, sure, but Skamania County is obviously hedging their bets and playing it safely.
Images: NABS/ public commercial product promotional images, found on Amazon.com.
The book brings up the Environmental Atlas for Washington, or “Provisional U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Environmental Reconnaissance Inventory of the State of Washington,” published by the Army Corps of Engineers in 1975. A lot is made of this publication, as if it proves official government recognition of the Sasquatch as a real animal. Rather, it can be taken as a slightly tongue-in-cheek presentation, but also seriously as a declaration that the creature has been REPORTED to be in Washington. The Atlas does not present this topic mockingly, and does indeed take it as a possibility that there could be something to all of the reports. It is clear, however, that the “very existence of Sasquatch… is hotly disputed,” as the Atlas states. From this point it refers repeatedly only to ALLEGED Bigfoot hair, “alleged sightings, tracks and other experiences.” It says these reports CONJURE UP the image of Bigfoot, implying a phantasm. It does not come out and SAY that the creature is actually KNOWN to be 8-12 feet tall, and so on. It is a PROVISIONAL statement. Other qualifying words used throughout this report include, “reported,” “apparently,” “if” and “generally considered.” It is also clearly reporting on what is, to the author, generally considered to be folk mythology or cultural belief particular to the region, which MIGHT have some basis in fact—might, only, is what they are saying: “If Sasquatch is purely legendary, the legend is likely to be a long time dying…. Legendary or actual, Sasquatch excites a great popular interest in Washington.” See, this Atlas includes cultural dimensions, and not just environmental facts. Also, this Atlas is not an official production of the entire USA government, nor a statement of official governmental or institutional policy. It is a regional side-project, done by a certain and limited agency of the government only. It is no more official policy than a particular wildlife study or environmental impact report done by someone working for the government.
• Furthermore, speaking of the filming (pg. 31), Paulides says they were using a 35mm camera, but it was a 16mm camera.
• Speaking of the Creature he says experts have determined that she was 7-foot, 3-inches and over 700 pounds, but ACTUALLY, no one has really been able to finally agree on or conclusively prove these measurements, and there are many theories out there that differ pretty widely. There are whole books written about this subject, but which Paulides has simply not bothered to read and absorb.
• He speaks of muscles moving in the right thigh and right shoulder of the Creature. In fact, muscles can be seen moving ALL OVER the Bigfoot in the film, especially in the back and buttocks. This is why it looks real upon close inspection. Why does he select only two limited spots? Odd.
• He speaks of the creature "on tape," but actually, it was on FILM, from a real movie camera, not a video tape machine (which did not exist in the consumer market at the time). He also states that the film has been declared by "professors" and "experts" to be impossible to fake; but the sad fact is that way more such figures think that it IS a hoax. The film has never been finally or credibly debunked, but Paulides should say that there is still much disagreement on that topic.
• He speaks of Willow Creek’s Bigfoot Days as being “a huge event that draws university professors, professional Bigfoot hunters and a variety of amateur explorers.” Has he ever BEEN to this event? It is not some kind of academic conference. In fact, it is a small community parade with a festival of vendors and a car show down in the park. It has very little serious Bigfoot content, mostly consisting of gorilla suits, or knick-knack sellers hawking novelty goods.
• He says Willow Creek area itself has “relatively few” sightings “compared with other regions in Northern California,” but in fact, as evidenced by reports in the Bigfoot Books store and around town there are MANY sightings right around this area, every bit as much as on the Hoopa Reservation. This stuff is in the historical records and books, and even gets reported in Paulides' sequel, Tribal Bigfoot. Living here in Willow Creek, we ourselves pass by a large number of Bigfoot sighting areas every single day, and new ones continue to be told to us.
• He says (pg. 32) there are no public campgrounds anywhere in the Hoopa region, but in fact Tish Tang Creek, which he mentions, DOES have a public camping site. In fact, he MENTIONS “Tish Tang Campgrounds” on the very same page, in his sightings chart.
• Astonishingly (pg. 33), he says that “the Hoopa Valley has been an area with significant human habitation for over 250 years.” In another place he says "almost 200 years." IN FACT, the Hupa people claim residence in the area for over 4,000 years! And this is just what they remember. Archaeology probably proves or will prove an even more ancient occupancy--we need to look into this further. (See the Wikipedia HUPA article.)
• He speaks of a finding of an animal bed, and then another instance where some scientists found some bedding material. Apparently they found it slightly odd, and found some deer bones near by it. Paulides leaps to the conclusion that it simply must have been Bigfoot, as what other animal would make a bed and leave bones around? This is NOT proof of Bigfoot, but just proof that some bones and a bed were found. A-hem! As Ray Crowe used to say, "Keep your Skepticals on."
Getting the picture yet??? Well, that was JUST A FEW PAGES of the book! Read on for more.
The next section, "By The Numbers" (pg. 34-45) is a somewhat lengthy attempt at statistical accumulation and analysis. It is interesting, but it almost exactly replicates (WITHOUT credit given) the same work that John Green has done over the decades. Green was the first Bigfoot researcher we know of to attempt serious data accumulation and systemization, and to put it into a properly constructed computer database. This was back when computers still had the green, text-only screens, folks. Anyway, the conclusions Paulides comes up with completely mirror Green's in terms of the conclusion that Sasquatch/Bigfoot creatures generally tend to live in moist, rain-prone, forested and mountainous regions. Nothing new there!
He'd already decided to study the west coast, so he immediately excludes sightings hotspots such as Ohio, Florida, Texas, Pennsylvania, and northern Michigan and Wisconsin. This is unfortunate, but understandable--after all, he wanted to do his research in Northern California, fairly close to his home, right? So, his sightings research is initially biased in that he only searched for sightings in the far western, coastal states.
These latter type of sources do NOT live up to the criteria Paulides lays out on pg. 35, where he says that he eliminated all reports that did not have enough information: "In order to be considered significant, a sighting had to include information other than just 'Bigfoot sighted, Highway 37, 9 a.m., 1966.' I looked for dates and times, a narrative describing the circumstances, a description of the creature, and possibly the chance that the sighting was investigated to some degree." Fine, Dave, but really, nearly all Bigfoot sightings are like this stuff you want to rule out. The really good ones are all the more rare than the already rare fleeting ones. Now, when trying to accumulate raw data about a creature's distribution, it is NOT an effective method to just willy-nilly exclude sightings that do not live up to an arbitrary standard. For raw data you want... DATA! That means any credible sighting should be counted. If, however, you are seeking later to define what the best source sightings for a description of the creature are, then fine, use the best; but do not exclude data at the start--that is called BIAS.
So, whatever the results of his ten pages of analysis, we can say that at the start the data was corrupted by his bias for Northern California and Hoopa in particular. Also, some of his sources are good, but the others are simply bad or non-existent. Basically, he must have data-mined the BFRO database at that time, with a sprinkling of Bigfoot Encounters backgrounding. This would explain Matt Moneymaker's displeasure at Bigfoot Books' stocking of the NABS Bigfoot Sightings Map in our shop. A quick check encouraged by Matt revealed a huge data piracy from the BFRO site, though at least the map gives credit to the BFRO.
Paulides has gone to great lengths in this selection to at least read all of the sightings he could find in his limited selection of sources, and then to assemble it into graphs. This is a good idea, but as it is deeply flawed initially and in methodology in its selection bias, we're not sure what in it can be counted on to be reliable. Though it demonstrates clearly what was already widely known about Bigfoot and Sasquatch habitat in sightings, it fails to establish firm grounds outside of bias. He admits that there are problems, as Bigfoot is seen all over the country, and is reported to survive in some quite unlikely places which don't fit his assumptions, such as Arizona. Rather than trying to reconcile this, he just rules out the entire USA that does not fit into his presumptions. He then arbitrarily rules out any sightings or reports from before 1940. Then he declares that he only wants first-hand reports, even though a huge number of Bigfoot reports in the books and records are second and third- hand. He shows no stable criteria for his selection or de-selection of sightings, as if it is just up to how he feels about a report. This is not scientific. Then he goes even further, this time entering full illogic: "A Bigfoot incident in this book (for affidavit reasons) constitutes an occurrence that can be directly related to accepted and known Bigfoot behavior." So, we take it from this, only those reports that correspond with David Paulides' ASSUMPTIONS about what Bigfoot is like or how it acts will fit in to his modeling. In this regard, if one thinks Bigfoot is "human," then one will SEE Bigfoot as such, and it will turn up in one's reportage and forensic illustrations. This does not make sense. Bigfoot is NOT an established creature yet, though many have seen it or seen signs that may have been made by it. Bigfoot is a cryptid thus far because we DO NOT yet know all of the facts about it. Sure, patterns of behavior and size and shape arise, but they have not been absolutely verified. Therefore, it stands to reason that we should remain open-minded about what a Bigfoot is and what it can do. We assume that they are bipedal; so should we rule out ALL quadrupedal reports? They are supposed to be brown in color; so should we rule out any that are grey or silvery in color?
In the end he selects Humboldt County, CA, which should have been obvious to begin with; but then he chooses Hoopa for nearly completely arbitrary reasons. "Hoopa seemed to be a natural location to set up my office and hang a shingle as it was set in a valley with all the amenities of home." So, after all of this work trying to find where Bigfoot lives, he opts for comfort. Then he repeats his false presumption that Hupa heritage goes back "almost two hundred years," when in fact it goes back thousands. He mentions the climate of Hoopa, but just about anywhere in Humboldt has that climate, with rain, a body of water, mountains, wilderness and parks. He even mentions that the "Bigfoot capital of the world," Willow Creek, is right nearby, as is Bluff Creek, where the PGF was shot. So, why not set up shop in Willow Creek, or Orleans? It is clear from what he says here: The area (Hoopa) also comes with an interesting history, a reservation, and a region that is almost completely surrounded by wilderness areas. So we see, rather clearly, that the selection that was the basis and foundation of this whole research and book project was based upon personal interest in this particular Native American reservation, and also upon the convenience of the researcher. This is bias, pure and simple, and hardly follows logically or necessarily from the preceding statistical analysis. Hence, we can call the whole process a distortion or a sham. His “Decision” was in fact no more scientific or credible than if we were to just up and say, hey, let’s go camp at Mount Shasta and look for UFOs and Lemurians!
Paulides goes on to talk briefly about the local Natives' "Sacred High Country." He puts it "by coincidence... directly in the middle of the Bluff Creek region, but in fact it is to the north and west of Bluff Creek. He speaks of "tribal elders" making the trek into this high, mountain peak area, but in fact it is mainly reserved only for the tribal groups' medicine men or shamans to make this pilgrimage. He rather superficially describes this quest, in what we feel are fairly ethnocentric terms, saying they go there to "pray to their gods." This is the general dismissal that old anthropologists always made to describe the "strange beliefs" that people they did not understand practiced and followed. In fact, this point demonstrates what is perhaps the greatest deficiency in The Hoopa Project--that of true ethnographic exploration. There is almost no real description of this cultural background so vital to understanding these people, and nearly all of the conversations are with younger tribal members, non-elders, dealing with events of the day, not the deep and rich reality that would give substance to any book about these issues. Despite all of his time spent in the Hoopa Valley, among the Hupa, here (pg 49) Paulides goes to "court documents" go get to the idea that this area was the "center of the Indians' universe." OK, but what does it MEAN? We get no real insight into this realm from this book, sadly.
Images: Above and below, the Bigfoot Mural at the Early Bird "Bigfoot Burger" restaurant. Photos by Steven Streufert.
Odd parasites have been claimed to have been found in some crap that was supposedly from a Bigfoot, but no one knows if Bigfoot made that pile of scat, and no one has to our knowledge actually seen Bigfoot take a dump. Despite this, Dave seems to know that Bigfoot scat looks like "a giant human scat, very large." He speaks of the more recent analyses of footprints done by Jeff Meldrum and Jimmy Chilcutt, but he fails to credit them in particular, and rather just proceeds to use general terms that exaggerate the number of academics and scientists who have looked into the issue and found the evidence to be convincing. In actuality, very few scientists find the evidence credible. This is what makes Meldrum special, and he should really be named and cited here, not just vaguely alluded to. He speaks of the Skookum cast, which may very well be an imprint of a Bigfoot butt, but he totally disregards the fact that there is still hot dispute over this artifact, with many claiming that it is clearly an impression made by an elk. Despite this inconclusive status, Paulides is ready to make the leap into self-validation: "This cast has validated much of the information about the physical aspects (size, weight, body structure, etc.) of Bigfoot." In fact, it really does not do this, but it is still a very interesting piece of possible evidence.
We will continue with this project on The Hoopa Project sometime in the future. Up to this point we have covered the major section of the book preceding the sightings reports. These reports are good, but soon our critical axe will fall in their direction, too. Look for our Part Two coming soon!
BIGFOOT'S BLOG interviewed David Paulides of NABS in 2009, when they released Ray Crowe's newsletter THE TRACK RECORD on CD.
Read that here:
DAVID PAULIDES, of NORTH AMERICA BIGFOOT SEARCH, Interview and Discussion with Bigfoot Books