A great mystery is unfolding in the world of cryptozoology that is as interesting as any plot found in your typical thriller novel. It has its unscrupulous villain, its weary protagonist, and a cast of witting and unwitting accomplices. It may even have two dead bodies.
The source of this bubbling cauldron of drama is a long awaited report by Dr. Melba Ketchum on the DNA analysis of an animal that is currently relegated to the world of American myth. It’s been described by tens of thousands of witnesses over the years and has reportedly appeared in thousands of blurry photos and shaky videos. Perhaps it’s best known for the footprints it leaves behind, the first piece of evidence that saddled it with an unfortunate moniker, Bigfoot. It’s a name as ridiculous as the idea of an eight foot, bipedal man/ape roaming the forests of North America.
To many, the suggestion of such a thing is laughable. The skeptics on the subject are as steadfast and obsessive as the believers. They spend countless hours decrying the myth to the point that objective observers may think that they suffer from far worse mental disorders than those who see Bigfoot in every photo with trees. The Bigfoot phenomenon engenders the same kind irrational and passionate discourse that one would expect to see in a political debate.
And that is why the Ketchum report has taken on so much meaning. The rumors have been flying about her paper that she has co-authored with as many as five other individuals and submitted for peer review to an unidentified scientific journal. What does the paper say? Those who know aren’t talking, and those who don’t know are leaking information like a hole in a hot air balloon. In fact, there is more disinformation than information circulating about the Ketchum report. And I do mean disinformation.
It’s been alleged that a man by the name of Tom Biscardi has been purposely planting stories in the blogosphere to discredit the Ketchum report. Biscardi is most famous for hoodwinking the mainstream media in 2008 by attempting to pass off a Bigfoot costume in a freezer with opossum entrails as a real honest to goodness Bigfoot. They bought it hook, line, and sinker until he produced pictures of the obvious hoax at a well-attended press conference.
Biscardi runs his own Bigfoot research organization (Searching For Bigfoot Incorporated) that appears to be inspired more by carnival sideshow techniques than by actual scientific methodology. According to another researcher, Steve Kulls, part of Biscardi’s business plan states, “should someone else find Bigfoot, it would cause a loss of faith in SFBI’s abilities…” The inference is that Biscardi will do anything to be the leading Bigfoot research organization even if that means planting false and inflammatory stories in the mainstream and virtual media about his competition.
In addition to this plot that contains a dysfunctional dose of counter espionage and crypto-intrigue, a blogger by the name of Robert Lindsay has introduced a startling sub-plot. Lindsay has reported that a hunter by the name of Justin Smeja shot and killed an adult female Bigfoot and her offspring. Smeja made the claim on a taxidermy messageboard and was directed to contact a group called the Olympic Project headed by Bigfoot researcher Derek Randles. The incident has been dubbed the Sierra Shooting and numerous versions of the story have surfaced since Lindsay first reported it, but the most astonishing claim from the story has not changed, and that is two Bigfoot were killed in California near the Nevada border.
The story loses focus when one inquires about what happened to the bodies. Smeja claims he and his fellow hunter left them behind because they were scared out of their minds. Yet a substantial tissue sample from the alleged shooting did reportedly end up in Dr. Ketchum’s lab. Smeja’s apparent explanation is that he returned to the area sometime after the shooting and found the tissue sample. Many have pointed out that this explanation doesn’t really make sense when you take into account the changing weather conditions coupled with the number of scavengers in the area that would have consumed or carried off any remains of the bodies.
One is left with several burning questions after hearing the twists and turns of this drama. The most prominent being is any part of it true? All of the major players are only talking through intermediaries so it’s hard to say for sure. The only thing that you could possibly take away from all this is that the people involved in the search for Bigfoot are potentially more interesting than even the very creature they are trying to prove exists. There is such a sense of conflict deeply rooted within the community from both skeptics and believers that one can’t help but get sucked into the fray. It’s truly a fascinating display of human behavior.
Note from author: In the interest of full disclosure – I got involved in the Bigfoot community because of a young adult novel I wrote about the topic. I hope that Bigfoot is an actual creature because the world would be so much cooler with a giant ape/man in my backyard. I await with barely-fettered excitement for the release of the Ketchum report and a complementary documentary by Adrian Erickson that is said to have conclusive footage of the creature.