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Realm of the Blobsquatch: Paranormal Monsters or Pareidolia?

How often have you come across purported photographs of Bigfoot or other strange creatures, but upon examining what some allege to be a clearly discernible “monster,” you find yourself still uncertain as to what you’ve actually seen? For all you or I may know, some of the best “evidence” of strange monsters floating around out there in cyberspace could actually be merely a) bundles of sticks, b) illusions of light, or c) a scantly clad camper attempting to evade a strange man stomping through the forest with a camera… but just don’t tell the latter of the two that we said so!

I must admit, I’ve been on a steadily growing cryptozoology kick the last few days. Maybe this has something to do with the fact that I’m working on a brand new book that will deal in depth with my concept of “Fortean Folk Devils.” This, in essence, is a working hypothesis of mine that seeks to understand some of the folkloric and sociological elements that are often overlooked in reports of strange beings and cryptid monsters, ranging from the truly bizarre (i.e. reports of Bigfoot literally vanishing into thin air as though zapped by a particle ray) to the mildly mundane; perhaps there is no better example of the mundane in cryptozoology than the curiosity surrounding the so-called Blobsquatch phenomenon.

If you’re unfamiliar with this term, think back to our example from earlier, where one man’s treasure–or in this case, an alleged Sasquatch caught on film–could be another man’s trash (or even more simply, the bundle of sticks or naked camper we tossed out there a moment ago). Quite often, it seems, there are slightly overzealous researchers who will take photos of random patterns of weeds and brush, which on later inspection appear to reveal the grinning (or grimacing) faces of troglodytes that were hiding in the wood. Quite literally, the “blobs” that are so often misinterpreted as being beasts of the brush are the byproduct of what is called pareidolia, which is the act of assigning meaning or significance to something (often an image or sound) when none may actually exist. Think of seeing animals or other shapes in moving clouds, for example. Much the same, if one looks hard enough at the random undergrowth of heavily wooded areas, especially when such an area has become further-fuzzied by the grain of a camera’s lens, sometimes vague shapes begin to emerge that are reminiscent of people… or other things that resemble humans. Hence, our beloved little Blobsquatches are born.

Some of my favorite experiences dealing with these so-called “Blobsquatch” images had to do with those often touted by the late Jon Erik Beckjord. A very prolific and famous researcher of the unexplained, Beckjord had been featured on programs ranging from Coast to Coast AM to The David Letterman Show discussing his research, which often dealt with far-out claims of interdimensional and alien presences being mistaken for indigenous “wild men” like Bigfoot. Needless to say, much of the photographic “evidence” Beckjord provided to back up his claims fell within the boundaries of our present Blobsquatchery. The following segment is excerpted from Beckjord’s Wikipedia page; note that I’m not quick to use Wikipedia for direct quotes, but this one does make the case rather nicely:

Beckjord accumulated a large collection of enlarged photographs that he says show, among other things, “half-Bigfoots” and “invisible Bigfoots”, or possible aliens. The forms are often found in situations where the camera picked up images not seen by the witnesses, often due to distance. According to Beckjord, the images show primates, carnivores and beings not readily identified within known zoological classifications that resemble descriptions of aliens submitted to investigators.

It seems that logic would dictate to us that an “invisible Bigfoot” would be difficult to capture on film (though I certainly suppose that this might explain why nothing was visible at the time the photo was taken, right?). It should also be noted, however, that Beckjord was considered to be quite crazy in his own right–and I speak comfortably from experience in making this point. In fact, I recollect having a number of fleeting email exchanges with Beckjord over the years, and though sometimes he was quick to offer helpful articles and interesting insights, there were many times when he could be curt, cynical, and downright strange, too.

I fondly recall one such incident, during which I emailed Beckjord late at night requesting to interview him for a piece I was writing on the stranger elements associated with Bigfoot. Only days beforehand, I recall how Loren Coleman had warned me that I should “beware having anything to do with Beckjord” if I hoped to maintain any credibility; I didn’t doubt this, as a result of my past experiences. Still, in order to be fair (a hellish necessity when you’re aiming to maintain some degree of objectivity by presenting opposing viewpoints), my gut told me to try contacting him anyway. Much to my surprise, even at the late hour I had decided to email him, Beckjord responded almost immediately to my interview request with the following:

Yes.

I was grateful, though a bit perplexed by the brevity of his dispatch. Needless to say, I’d need to set up a proper time for the interview, and fired off a quick follow-up asking when would be good for him. His reply was:

Right now.

This one had me really guessing, as I had no phone number or other information by which to contact him, other than via email. Again, I was faced with having to seek further clarification, to which Mr. Beckjord again replied with steadfast swiftness:

Stop being weird.

I gave up trying to interview Beckjord after that final exchange… sadly, little did I know at the time that “stop being weird” would be the last thing he would ever share with me. Beckjord later revealed that he had been battling prostate cancer, which had been determined by doctors to be terminal. He passed away in 2008 at the age of 69.

Nonetheless, I’ll always cherish those slightly zany correspondences, and even the mild feelings of fear and panic that would surge through me at the realization that an email from Beckjord had appeared in my inbox. And without a doubt, his contributions to Blobsquatchery may be among the finest present anywhere… or maybe not. A quick search online reveals that most (if not all) of Beckjord’s sites appear to be down, hence I’d have to dig to try and locate some of his classic imagery. They’d be well worth it, of course, since among these various Blobs of his own device, Beckjord also included analysis of the famous Patterson Gimlin footage as well, in which he claimed an object was visible protruding from the creature’s neither regions. Among his rather weird assertions about the film, he noted that the “object” he managed to discern that extended from between Sassy’s legs was either “an antennae, a piece of energy, or a tampon she may have swiped from a nearby campground.” Trust me, I couldn’t make this stuff up… and for Beckjord, it often seemed that the weirder it got, the better… this was so much the case that I often wondered if he wasn’t actually just a clever satirist poking fun at all the “serious” cryptozoologists out there. Who knows… maybe he got the last laugh, after all.

In the meantime, for those of you looking for a more recent example of a “Blobsquatch”, I discovered this excellent example from April of 2010, purporting to show a “sneering Bigfoot” hiding in the bushes near Baker’s Creek, Tennessee. Though I can’t speak to the veracity of the object seen in the clip below (many argue that a face is indeed visible), it certainly could be interpreted as being something… what do you see?

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G5_ngj2d3CQ[/youtube]

 

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Micah Hanks is a writer, podcaster, and researcher whose interests cover a variety of subjects. His areas of focus include history, science, philosophy, current events, cultural studies, technology, unexplained phenomena, and ways the future of humankind may be influenced by science and innovation in the coming decades. In addition to writing, Micah hosts the Middle Theory and Gralien Report podcasts.
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