where the f*** is bigfoot?!
by: tim cannon
When I decided to write a piece about the search for Bigfoot, including in the Midwest, I knew I had to find someone who had some connection to that community. I use that word community for a reason. I learned that the group of people who are interested in Sasquatch (Bigfoot and Sasquatch are basically interchangeable, from most in the community you hear the word Sasquatch) are very much a distinct community, with a few discernible things that are true in most of their cases. First, they have fun looking for positive evidence for the existence of Sasquatch, they are not scientists for the most part, and don’t spend too much time concerned with evidence that hurts the case for Bigfoot. Secondly, it is important for these folks to enjoy camping and hiking and other outdoor activities. This is because usually you don’t spot a Sasquatch, so if you want to enjoy the trip anyway, you have to enjoy those activities that go along with the search. In talking to a few of these people, the only difference I found between their pass-time and something like reading comic books was that central claim. The claim that Bigfoot is, or might be, real. Not just real somewhere, but in the United States. Usually in the Pacific Northwest, but also the Midwest and elsewhere.
The interesting part of this project for me was not the current pseudo-scientific nature of the endeavor. Instead, for me, it was fun to think about how quickly things would shift if a real Sasquatch specimen was found and brought into a laboratory. While I heard very little discussion of exactly what type of animal Bigfoot might be, if the creature was found, all the interest would swing towards the fossil record, and where this creature fits into the jigsaw puzzle of nature. That is interesting to me because currently there is a community of people out there in the world, many of them scientists, looking for more evidence of a real animal called Gigantopithecus. Interestingly, this animal, although likely exstinct, has all the makings of being a real Sasquatch.
Unfortunately for any Bigfoot and Sasquatch enthusiasts around the world who really want some evidence, hard evidence of the likely-mythical creature has been extremely hard to come by in North America. No scientifically relevant remains of Bigfoot have ever been produced for testing at a credible laboratory. In order to enjoy the footage of Bigfoot that does exist, it requires one to completely ignore the troubling backgrounds of some of the men who produced said footage. Roger Patterson of the famed Patterson-Gimlin footage, which almost all Americans have seen, was a known con man, and served time in jail for offenses related to non-payment of debt. The actual debt was the camera he used at the Bluff Creek Bigfoot site, and his history as a con man is probably more troubling considering the leap of faith it would take to trust anyone telling you they have footage of a Sasquatch.
Gigantopithecus seems to fit many of the benchmarks for being a worthy Bigfoot stand-in. Although no evidence exists yet of the Gigantopithecus genus living in North America, it did live in China, and it’s range has grown quickly with new findings in India, Vietnam, and Indonesia since the discovery of this great ape species. Not only is Gigantopithecus huge, hairy, ape-like, and bi-pedal just like Bigfoot, but the history of the beast’s discovery is just what one might hope for when searching for a nigh-mythical creature. Instead of being discovered in any way that would seem normal, all of the first signs of Gigantopithecus showed up in Chinese apothecary shops. Chinese traditional medicine includes the grinding of ape and gorilla teeth for various different ailments, but in 1935 Ralph von Koenigswald, an anthropologist, recognized one of these teeth as something much larger, and much rarer. In fact, it was a never before seen species, and evidence of the largest and most recently extant species of ape ever found. Once the mandibles began to be recovered in caves later in the century, scientists could be sure it was Bi-pedal, and anyone interested in Bigfoot had to take notice.
The timeline on this Gigantopithecus is maybe the most interesting factor for Bigfoot seekers. It lived alongside not just earlier hominids from one million years ago, but also lived at the same time as our Homosapien ancestors just 100,000 years ago, incredibly recent for a find of this nature. As stated previously, the range for this genus has been growing with time, without any evidence of them in North America to date. However, if we do find out the Gigantopithecus lived alongside humans, in North America, possibly even more recently, then it becomes extremely interesting to posit how these findings might relate to our current understanding of the Bigfoot mythology. Be sure to visit your local apothecary.