Screams in the Night - Page 3

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"You talk to the people up in Del Norte and Humboldt and Siskiyou, and you'll find that five out of 10 are convinced it's out there," Peters said. "But the rational Euro-American mind, which is a kind way of saying white person, doesn't understand things that are metaphysical, things with the ability to come into a physical being and then fade back into a metaphysical world."

In the rational world of science, however, there is rarely room for the metaphysical, and so the few scientists who think Bigfoot is worthy of serious study -- anthropologist Grover Krantz, anatomist Jeff Meldrum, for example -- are kind of a lonely bunch, plodding patiently through decades of sightings and footprints while most of the world scoffs at the phenomenon.

"We're way past the fact that it exists, but the general public is stuck at the level of whether it exists," says John Bindernagel, a Canadian wildlife biologist who has studied Bigfoot since 1963 and has just published a book, "North America's Great Ape: Sasquatch."

"We are really conditioned to see this animal as a hoax or a joke or merely mythical. It has not been a safe thing to do to treat it as a serious topic." Privately, some scientists even worry that their outspoken views on Bigfoot can harm their chances for tenure.

"I accept it as a real animal," says Krantz, who is now 67 and has written about Bigfoot for more than 20 years from his post as professor of anthropology at Washington State University in Pullman. "As to where we are now, we get more sightings, more footprints and more arguments between skeptics and true believers. The logjam will be broken by bringing in a specimen."

Asked if Bigfoot exists, Meldrum, who teaches anatomy and evolutionary morphology at Idaho State University, says, "I don't like to respond to a question about that. I'd rather say that on careful consideration, there is a reasonable probability that this creature does, in fact, exist. It's naive of some of my colleagues to dismiss this out of hand." -- -- --

The real conundrum, Bigfoot people say, is that scientists, who are extremely qualified to examine the mystery more thoroughly, tend to ignore it. The slack is taken up by hundreds of people who are less qualified but far more enthusiastic. The end result, some say, is a lot of wheel-spinning by amateurs.

"The scientific community is not aware of the extent of evidence that has been gathered, and they think it's all nonsense," says ecologist J. Richard Greenwell, secretary of the International Society of Cryptozoology, a Tucson clearinghouse for evidence about purported animals whose existence has never been officially verified. "The scientists don't want to invest the time in it, so they don't inform themselves of the evidence as it comes in. So unfortunately a whole slew of amateurs have taken it on themselves to do this. It's very unscholarly and unscientific, and there's a lot of backstabbing."

"We don't claim it exists," Greenwell says of the creature, "but we are claiming there is sufficient good evidence to warrant scientists investing time and effort."

The problem, however, is convincing scientists that they should be doing this. In 1981, the scholarly journal Current Anthropology surveyed 300 North American physical anthropologists and found that only 12 percent of them believed that Bigfoot was a "living animal, still unknown to science." The rest thought Bigfoot reports came from either sightings of "ordinary animals (that had been) misidentified" or "imagination, hoaxes, myths."

"I don't see any reason to believe that those figures have changed (over the years)," says Matt Cartmill, a Duke University anthropologist who is president of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists. "You really need to have a specimen to believe in the organism. Absence doesn't prove it doesn't exist, but in the absence of living or dead specimens or bones, or something distinctive and not capable of being faked or mistaken, I think most people's attitude in the profession is that there is no need to believe the organism exists."

Nonetheless, there may be some minds opening up in the professional world of science. At Yale, anthropologist David Daegling says: "It's an interesting field, and there are strong personalities on both sides." Daegling has been making a detailed study of the controversial Patterson-Gimlin film taken on Oct. 20, 1967. The film shows a big hairy mammal walking upright across a sandbar. Experts say this few seconds of 16mm film is to the Bigfoot legend what the Abraham Zapruder film of President John F. Kennedy's murder is to assassinations. And some say it is a hoax, although nobody has ever come up with evidence to prove it.

Mission Statement

The mission of the Willow Creek - China Flat Museum is the acquisition, display and custodial care of objects representing the history and legacy of the Klamath-Trinity area of Northwestern California.

Its purpose is to publicly inform, educate and celebrate the area's rich cultural diversity and to also maintain, preserve and publicly display the Bigfoot and Sasquatch collection.