Tuesday, June 3, 2014

What Constitutes a Bigfoot-Sasquatch Encounter?

Experiences, under the Microscope....

(This is an archival post from 2010, here selected from a longer old one and republished. Some views of mine seen here may be outdated now. A few small edits have been made.)

"Twenty-four hours a day I have doubts--it drives me crazy. But the Sasquatch business is so intriguing that I can't give it up, come hell or high water. I've sunk so much time and effort in it now that I must go on searching. Besides, above all else, I want to know the answer. In the Sasquatch business you have to be crazy or dedicated. On one side you have all the big scientists in the world, the game biologists, the press and all the so-called sane people. And on the other side you have a nut like me. But look at it this way--once upon a time scientists didn't believe the world was round or that man would get to the moon."
--Rene Dahinden, BF Researcher, 1973 (from a newspaper article, recently posted on bigfoottimes.net)

“They’re shaking their heads at me, and I’m shakin’ my head at them. It’s REAL, end of story.”
--James "Bobo" Fay, California BF Researcher, BFRO Member

For those of us who have not had an undeniable, irrefutable, face-to-face sighting of the large, hairy, cryptid hominoid, it is sometimes difficult to be utterly and absolutely sure of ourselves when it comes to Bigfoot. We ourselves, despite all of this time looking into the phenomenon, and hearing endless reports from witnesses, there is always the nagging possibility that we or they are, perhaps, just crazy after all. Why believe in something that we cannot absolutely prove, something we can't just go out and necessarily find if we want to? Could it be that this whole thing was born from a joke, and perhaps has continued all of these decades simply as a congregate collection of misperceptions and hallucinations combining with myth and legend generated by the popular media? Well, we think maybe not; but we strive endlessly to be sure of things as we proceed as we ever do off into the realms of the unknown and the great Mysteries of the world, of the mind, of being itself. 

What follows are some preliminary thoughts we hope will lead to a larger paper on Blobsquatching. We'll look at our own possible Bigfoot encounters, from the obviously false fleeting visions to more suggestive and convincing experiences that cannot just be explained away.

Recently someone we know fairly well claimed a face-to-face encounter with a Bigfoot up in the Trinity County mountains. At a distance of about 30 feet he stood before one and even says he spoke to it. The encounter lasted about two minutes before the creature (described as being much more like a man-like Neanderthal than an ape) turned and retreated back into the woods. Now, we wish we could have such an extended encounter. It would provide so many answers, as it has for this witness who no longer feels the need to prove that the Sasquatch exists. However, how can we, personally, know for sure? Maybe it was a tall tale, a lie, a self-delusion? None of these options seem, to us, very likely, considering the man reporting it. The witness seems very sincere and sane. But, despite it all, the lingering questions of the human mind and perception and individual differences and motivations persist.

Even if we see such a thing ourselves, are there not some doubts that can remain about our own perceptual processes? Many who have seen a Bigfoot report a confusion of their previous reality systems, some even questioning their own minds and sanity. Sometimes there is even a feeling of having been somehow cursed or hexed--so great is the shock to the psychological system--a phenomenon especially notable in the old Native American recountings (see the book, Raincoast Sasquatch for examples). Others become serious true believers and advocates for the cause of Bigfoot, and spend their lives in pursuit of another encounter.

Not to get too close to issues of "multi-dimensionality" and mystical propositions (which are better left alone when one is trying to prove something), we think it can clearly be said that there is something powerfully strange about Bigfoot encounters, that somehow they exist outside of not only our known sense of the world, but also trigger a part of the mind with which we are fairly unfamiliar. Sighting encounters are not usually "normal" in the sense in which we see an elk or a bear. There is something odd about them, it seems, that triggers not only our vision but also something in the mind that is ambiguous, unclear, and yet deeply powerful. Confusion and conviction can occur at once, throwing the normal control we have over our own minds and reality somewhat into doubt. Also, how do we account for the differences in perceptions, even within the category of "Class A" sightings? How can one person see an ape, and another see some kind of proto-human cave man? And what is the real difference? Obviously, our perceptions are based not only on raw input, but in large part are formed of individual perspectives and interpretive biases.

Before we get into our own experiences, we'd like to note the classification system devised by the BFRO. BFRO uses "Class A," "Class B," and "Class C" categories to divide the most convincing reports from those that are merely suggestive, second hand or historical. To summarize, we quote in part:
"Class A reports involve clear sightings in circumstances where misinterpretation or misidentification of other animals can be ruled out with greater confidence. ... Incidents where a possible sasquatch was observed at a great distance or in poor lighting conditions and incidents in any other circumstance that did not afford a clear view of the subject are considered Class B reports. ... Most second-hand reports, and any third-hand reports, or stories with an untraceable sources, are considered Class C, because of the high potential for inaccuracy."

To these we would like to add our own somewhat humorous classes: "Class D" and "Class F," as well as "Class X." In our proposed Class D category would fit any indeterminate experience that though not fully known could have been a Bigfoot encounter. Often, an experience in this realm can FEEL like a Class A encounter to the experiencer; but because that thing falling to the forest floor could have been an acorn falling from a tree, and not something thrown by a Sasquatch, we have to be circumspect in our assumptions and reactions. This would also have to apply to unidentified animal calls heard out in the spooky hills at night. Though we have pretty convincing sound recordings that we think might be Bigfoot-originated, we just can't say they are so without some corollary evidence such as footprints or a sighting of the creature actually vocalizing or wood-knocking.

In Class F we would group all of those that are obvious hallucinations, products of inner mental problems of the witness, or hoaxes (such as anything seen in the presence of Tom Biscardi). In Class X we would group all experiences that are just plain "weird," that seemed perhaps hyper-real to the witness, but may include unknown factors of reality and perception that would otherwise be termed "metaphysical" or "paranormal." We distinguish these from the sequential lettering simply because we in no way would like to deny that they happen and that they may be "real" in a way we just cannot currently comprehend. Many things we now consider as having the "X-factor" may indeed someday be proven scientifically, and may become part of our ordinary reality. For current science, proceeding as it does by incremental induction, experiment and hypothesis, these things are just simply out-of-category. They do not help to prove anything, and there is little if anything in them that is verifiable or repeatable for analysis. That does not mean they are not happening, and in some way "real." (And that does not mean there is anything wrong with science--that is the way it is supposed to work.)

It might be helpful at this point to quote Arthur C. Clarke's three "laws" of prediction, from his essay, "Hazards of Prophecy: The Failure of Imagination":

1.When a distinguished but elderly scientist states that something is possible, he is almost certainly right. When he states that something is impossible, he is probably wrong.
2.The only way of discovering the limits of the possible is to venture a little way past them into the impossible.
3.Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.

Or, as Sci-Fi writer, Larry Niven, put it in corollary to the last point, "Any sufficiently advanced magic is indistinguishable from technology."

We have seen "Bigfoot," along with a whole lot of other strange monsters, many times. That is, while driving for 12 hours through the night--one's mind and eyes tend to grow tired or bored, and strange forms begin to appear. Once we thought we saw a man in a white shirt walking in the highway--it turned out to be a plastic grocery bag blowing in the wind. We've "seen" many a Bigfoot standing in the tree-line, or moving in the shadows, or even in the middle of the road. We've also seen demons, aliens and very large white rabbits. Obviously, all of these are almost certainly "Class F" in nature. Though one could have been a Bigfoot, we seriously doubt any were. And it does little good for us to say or assume so, besides.

A few times we have gone out into the woods with people from out of town, and we found that sometimes just a nut falling from a tree or a deer moving in the brush is enough to raise the pulse and get these folks believing that Bigfoot are everywhere. This is a known condition: SQUATCH-ON-THE-BRAIN; or as we term it,"Squatchlucination," where the desire to see a Bigfoot overrides the natural perceptual and interpretive skepticism and gives rise to monsters from the Goblin Universe (as Dr. John Napier termed it). 

If one lives in a natural, forested area long enough one learns just how many strange noises and creatures are out there in the night. When we first moved to Willow Creek we found ourselves hearing the horrible shrieks of demons in the hills at night. These turned out to be foxes, however horrifying within the imagination. One night the most horrible screams were heard, complete with horrid thrashing about in the brush. Though it was one of the most deeply terrifying sounds we've ever heard come from an animal, it turned out to be two raccoons fighting (or mating?). Go figure. There are owls, doves, squirrels, coyotes, deer, bear, woodpeckers, and so many other beings that make noises that could be construed as Bigfoot. One has to learn to rule these out. Now when we hear such sounds while outside on our porch we don't even jump; though we do listen closely, if not to see Bigfoot then to understand what interesting things are living out there, or maybe to see a mountain lion or a bear. We have seen both of the latter on our own dirt road recently. However, there are other things that just don't fit into these "Class D" boxes.

There are much better cases that are very  convincing, even though they fall just short of an actual sighting. Here is how we wrote about our own very close, non-sighting "encounter" with something big and wild in our very own backyard, June, 2008. We can't explain it at all, save with the Sasquatch hypothesis (though we have to admit it could just as easily have been a Purple People Eater). We live at the top of [excised for personal security after threats of violence against this blogger, July 3, 2011], in a [excision] at the dead end of the road, near the top of the [excision] Ridge which is [excision] from Brush Mountain Lookout's ridge and Friday Ridge Road to the [excision]. There have been numerous recent Bigfoot incidents reported out there lately....

"In the dark of late night/early morning something came down the hillside up from my cabin. Sitting smoking out on my enclosed porch I thought at first it was just another deer coming to eat my lettuce and chili peppers. I heard what sounded like a tripping sound in the brush, some big thing making a crack and crunch in the underbrush, followed by three distinct bipedal "whump, whump, WHUMP" footfalls. These were very heavy, thunderous things, to the degree that I could feel the concrete under my feet on the porch firmly vibrate about 30 yards away from the creature. This was followed by a heavy crash of something falling into the brush below. This was no bear, sure wasn’t a deer—I’ve seen and heard these critters up on my road. And if human it would have had to have been an incredibly big or obese man. And why would a big human be out walking around in the dark, dead end, dirt road mountainside, middle-of-nowhere woods at nearly three in the morning? I tried to observe it, but it crept back into the woods a little ways beyond the porch light, and then did not move at all. It did not flee farther. 
My flashlight was inadequate in power and batteries to pursue or see it. I stood there at the edge of the woods for about 15 minutes waiting for any sound or sign. None. I didn't want to pursue and scare it off, or get eaten by whatever it was. Then I decided to duck back into the cabin where I could continue listening and looking without being seen. I knew it was still out there. Once inside for a few moments I heard movement, as the thing went down into the neighboring vacant house’s yard. Through the open window I heard two under-the-breath grunting sounds, something like a bear’s growl crossed with a pig’s snort. Quickly outside I was once again unable to spot anything. The next day I saw a depression in the weeds where the thing had fallen down. There were two further depressions in the plants that looked a lot like big footprints. I could see some metal pipe and wooden construction debris under the herbage where the thing had apparently gotten hung up. Whatever it was I cannot say; and whatever it was it was very big, and incredibly sly. It escaped into the dark of night without another trace, but its impact upon the ground and upon me was undeniable. For what it’s worth, it FELT like a sasquatch.”

As is often said: Examine the Witness, not just what was witnessed. Examine yourself and your own perceptions and thoughts.

Here is a clip of ourselves on the FINDING BIGFOOT show, talking about our own experience. Of course, it's been highly edited. They took out, for instance, the part where we said, "I don't know what it was." Oh well....

Angry Bigfoot SHALL return
Angry Bigfoot SHALL return.