The Origin of the Bigfoot Legend


Wood Whistler

via Today I Found Out

Stories of a giant, hairy creature that appears half man and half ape have existed in various parts of the world for many centuries. In fact, the only continent not to have stories of “wild men” is Antarctica. In the Himalayas, it’s the Yeti. In Canada, it’s the Sasquatch. And in the northwest United States, it’s Bigfoot. Bigfoot is described by believers as being between six and eight feet tall with a large forehead and pronounced brow, like a cave man’s, and a rounded, crested head like a gorilla’s. He is covered in brown or red hair and has enormous feet that are his namesake, with the biggest estimation at a whopping two feet long by eight inches wide. Some “witnesses” claim that the five-toed Bigfoot prints they saw on the ground were accompanied by claw marks (not unlike a five-toed, clawed paw print of a bear—but rational explanations aren’t as fun).

Stories of a “wild man” existed among the Native Americans of the Pacific Northwest long before white colonists moved in. Versions of Bigfoot ranged from harmless giants who stole fish from fishermen’s nets, to cannibalistic monsters living on mountain peaks. These stories varied from tribe to tribe, and even from family to family, which meant that Bigfoot had a lot of different names. In the 1920s, J.W. Burns compiled the local legends for a series for a Canadian newspaper, coining the term “Sasquatch” in the process.

It wasn’t until 1958 that the Bigfoot legend really started to kick off in the United States. That year, a man named Gerald Crew found a set of large footprints at a construction site where he worked in California. He had his friend make plaster casts of the prints. The story gained a lot of attention after being published in the Humboldt Times, and was picked up by the Associated Press, drawing international attention.

Turns out, the footprints were a hoax (surprise, surprise). After the death of a man named Ray Wallace—the brother of the man in charge of the construction site where the prints were found—his family stepped forward to say that he was responsible for faking the prints. Scoop Beal, the editor of the Humboldt Times, is also said to have been involved. Nevertheless, the 1958 prints find brought the first “Bigfoot Hunters” to the area.

In 1967, the “Patterson-Gimlin film” was captured. The film shows a tall, hairy “Bigfoot” walking through the forest. Believers in Big Foot note the creature’s inhuman way of walking is a major point toward the film being real. Patterson also claimed to have taken the film to a group of people working in the special effects department at Universal Studios who supposedly said,

We could try (faking it), but we would have to create a completely new system of artificial muscles and find an actor who could be trained to walk like that. It might be done, but we would have to say that it would be almost impossible.

However, a number of factors lead to skeptics believing it’s a hoax: people who knew Patterson have described him, frankly, as a liar; Patterson’s version of events—including an estimate of how tall “Bigfoot” was— also changed and escalated over time.  More to the point, a man named Bob Heironimus claimed to have worn the Bigfoot costume for the making of the film. Most likely, and not too surprisingly, the film was a hoax.

The most common explanation for Bigfoot sightings is that people are playing pranks. There was even once a thriving market for “Bigfoot feet” to create your own prints to trick your family and friends. People still even dress up in ape costumes and ghillie suits in order to perpetuate the legend.

Some sightings are also simply misidentified animals. In 2007, a photo was snapped in Pennsylvania using an automatically triggered camera hanging from a tree. While believers claimed the blurry photo—showing a large, hairy creature standing on all-fours—was that of a “juvenile sasquatch,” the Pennsylvania Game Commission said the creature was most likely “a bear with an extreme case of mange.”  Looking at the picture, it could also just as easily been a human in a suit.


  • Ted Heistman

    Pretty hard core skeptic viewpoint. The fact is Libraries of books could be written on Sasquatch from Indian lore.

    • echar

      The only way Sasquatch make sense to me is that they are on a differing wavelength than most humans, and that sometimes the wavelength is broken through from either side.

      • Monkey See Monkey Do

        That’s my thinking too. I think this track describes it well, vocals starting at 1:15.

        • echar

          I’ve not heard this one before. All I have from them is their 2008 album, Twisted. Thanks for sharing.

  • Apathesis

    I want Bigfoot to be real. So many people have had frighteningly close encounters with bi-pedal creatures they couldn’t identify.

  • Anarchy Pony

    Bob Heironimous has also been described as a liar, and his story has also changed multiple times. Many people have come forward as the alleged “man in the costume”. And they all come up as nothing. And while Patterson may have been considered somewhat sketchy, Bob Gimlin is not, and he has remained adamant through the years that the film was legitimate. Patterson is dead, he died of cancer not too long after the film was released, never making any confessions on his deathbed, only Gimlin knows the truth now, and if he dies without a revelation, the truth about the film will never be known.

  • Anarchy Pony

    Who the hell ever came up with this spam template? It’s not like it is ever accurate.

  • Ted Heistman

    Native Americans are apparently inherently untrustworthy in their accounts, this writer seems to be saying. I like this gem: “THE FOOTPRINTS were a hoax (surprise surprise)” Whew! Well I guess that clears it up then! As if only one set of footprints has ever been seen.

    Here is an interesting account of Native American descriptions of Sasquatch from around the turn of the Century:

    Allen Chenois, a local Indian, told the following story to the writer regarding the Tyapish Indians:

    “My uncle, old man Chenois, told me once that he found a party of other Indians while out hunting some years ago and came upon a band of the Tyapish Indians during their evening meal in Baker’s Slough on the Willapa Bay. The giant Tyapish seemed to be talking to the others in queer animal sounds, which my uncle could not make out. The Tyapish licked his greasy paws, then wiped them on his naked sides. Crouched around him on their hams [thighs] were several others.”

    “In appearance they were much the same. They were tall, narrow-hipped and had crooked legs, and at the same time were deep-chested with heavy arms and enormous hands. They were covered with thick hair and had large breasts. Their heads were matted with uncut hair and black glittering eyes like the eyes of birds. Their jaws were massive. At one side of them partly devoured lay the carcass of a deer. It was a clear starlight night and we could make them out very plainly, but they were so ferocious looking my uncle said that we did not stay very long.”

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  • Steve Stark

    There are about 5 people claim to have been inside the suit – 4 of them must be wrong. Always amazes me how quickly skeptics become wide-eyed believers as soon as someone claims to have faked something. Like Doug and Dave, who apparently made all the complex crop circles in England (even though they couldn’t demonstrate a simple circle very well) in time off from carving the face on Mars.