The Missing Link

21 Feb

Stories about Bigfoot have been in circulation for centuries. The Salish First Nations tribe of British Columbia called the creature ‘Sasquatch’, meaning ‘wild man of the woods’. In northern California the Huppa tribe called them ‘Oh-mah-ah’, while in the Cascades they are known as ‘Seeahtiks’. The notion of colonies of monsters living quietly in the modern USA and Canada admittedly sounds absurd; but this is partly because few people grasp the sheer size of the North American coniferous forests – thousands of square miles of totally uninhabited woodland, some still unexplored, where it would be possible to hide a herd of dinosaurs. Who knows what big surprise might be waiting if you go down to the woods one day?

The first recorded story of a Sasquatch footprint dates back to 1811. The explorer and trader David Thompson was crossing the Rockies towards the mouth of the Columbia river when, at the site of modern Jasper, Alberta, he came upon a footprint 14 inches by 8 inches, with four toes and claw marks. What convinced Thompson that it was not simply a grizzly bear was the fact that bears have five toes and rarely leave behind 14-inch footprints. The legend acquired a touch of horror in 1910, when Bigfoot was blamed for two headless corpses found near Great Slave Lake in the Northwest Territories – even though it was far more likely that the murderer was human. Later that year the Seattle Times contained a report about ‘mountain devils’ who attacked a prospector at Mount St Lawrence. The attackers were described as half human and half monster, between seven and eight feet tall. To the Clallam and Quinault Native American tribes the creatures were known as Seeahtiks – the missing link between men and beasts.

It was only in the 1960s that a truly convincing piece of evidence appeared after centuries of rumours, hearsay and uncorroborated witness statements. In October 1967 two young men called Roger Patterson and Bob Gimlin were in Bluff Creek in Del Norte country, northern California, when they were thrown from their horses as they rounded the bend in the Creek. About a hundred feet ahead, on the other side of the Creek bed, there was a huge, hairy creature that walked like a man. Although the creature lost them when they tried to follow it, Patterson did manage to film it on his video camera. The film – which has become famous – shows a large, heavy creature with a fur-covered face and a conical shape to the top of its head. As it strides past it turns its head and looks straight at the camera, apparently unafraid. Inevitably, there were many scientists who dismissed the film as a hoax, claiming that the creature was a man dressed in a monkey suit. But if it was a hoax, does that mean that it is one that has been perpetrated for centuries and, if so, to what end?

The Asian version of Bigfoot is the Yeti, also known as the Abominable Snowman. Ever since European travellers began to explore Tibet they had reported legends of a huge, ape-like creature called the Metohkangmi, which roughly translates as ‘abominable snowman’. The stories cover a huge area, from the Caucasus to the Himalayas, from the Pamirs, through Mongolia, to the far eastern tip of Russia. In central Asia they are called Yetis, while the tribes of eastern Asia refer to them as Almas. The earliest references to them in the West seem to date from the mid-19th century. It was in 1921 that an expedition led by Colonel Howard-Bury, making a first attempt on the north face of Everest, saw in the distance a number of large, dark creatures moving against the snow and were told by their Tibetan porters that these were Yetis. In 1925 a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society almost managed to get a photograph of a naked, upright creature on the Zemu Glacier, but it had vanished by the time that he had sighted the camera. And so the legends and the sightings continued to leak back to civilization, always with that slight element of doubt which made it possible for scientists to dismiss them as lies or mistakes. Then, in 1951, Eric Shipton’s photograph of a line of huge Yeti footprints caused a sensation, mostly because it was taken by a member of a serious scientific expedition, who could have no possible motive for stretching the facts. Besides, the photograph spoke for him!

To summarize: the evidence for the existence of the Yeti, or Alma, or Sasquatch, or Bigfoot, is very strong indeed; hundreds of sightings make it unlikely that it is an invention. If, then, we assume for a moment that it really exists, what is it? One theory is that it is a remnant of the race that preceded modern man – Neanderthal man. He first appeared on earth about a hundred thousand years ago and was smaller and more ape-like than modern man, with the well-known receding forehead and simian jaw. Our ancestor, Cro-Magnon man, came on earth about fifty thousand years ago and, over the next twenty thousand years or so, Neanderthal man vanished completely. The mystery of his disappearance has never been solved, although the general view is that he was exterminated by Cro-Magnon man – a view that was famously fictionalized in William Golding’s novel The Inheritors. Another view is that it seems reasonable to suppose that Neanderthal man may have survived, driven into the wilder and less hospitable places of the earthy by his conqueror, and that this is what accounts for the persistent reports of Bigfoot-like creatures across the globe. One writer who was inspired by stories of Abominable Snowmen was E F Benson, whose grisly tale The Horror-Horn (click to read!) adds a terrifying new slant to the legend.

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7 Responses to “The Missing Link”

  1. Patrick February 22, 2012 at 2:11 am #

    Why couldn’t you have posted this before my humble little blog topic about far-fetched topics and creatures? 🙂 It would have been very helpful. Thanks for visiting my blog!

  2. wildninja February 22, 2012 at 5:13 am #

    Anil, great post as usual. Here in the Northwest there are a lot of us who tend to believe Sasquatch is real, especially because of credible eyewitness accounts.

    Washington State-based novelist Frank Peretti wrote a fascinating book about a woman who is abducted by a family of Sasquatches called Monster. I heard it was being made into a movie but am not sure of the status of that. He made their reported behaviors make a lot of sense in this story.

    On a lighter note, I thought I saw Bigfoot once… even though it had to have a more rational explanation, eerily, no one has ever been able to explain what on earth I did see: http://wildninja.wordpress.com/2011/05/27/bigfoot-in-never-never-land/

    • anilbalan February 22, 2012 at 8:24 am #

      That’s cool! Thanks 🙂

  3. Ralph February 29, 2012 at 3:47 pm #

    Reblogged this on Pikes Peak Regional Cryptozoological Research.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. The Missing Link « Pikes Peak Regional Cryptozoological Research - February 29, 2012

    […] Stories about Bigfoot have been in circulation for centuries. The Salish First Nations tribe of British Columbia called the creature ‘Sasquatch’, meaning ‘wild man of the woods’. In northern California the Huppa tribe called them ‘Oh-mah-ah’, while in the Cascades they are known as ‘Seeahtiks’. The notion of colonies of monsters living quietly in the modern USA and Canada admittedly sounds absurd; but this is partly because few people grasp the sheer size of the North American coniferous forests – … Reblogged from Ghost Cities […]

  2. The Missing Link « Pikes Peak Regional Cryptozoological Research - February 29, 2012

    […] Reblogged from Ghost Cities […]

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