While I am personally convinced that the vast majority of people who report encounters of the Bigfoot variety are entirely honest when it comes to talking about their experiences, there's always some joker who wants to pull the wool over our eyes, muddy the waters, or engage in an outrageous hoax. And although many researchers of the Fortean variety are more than content to ignore such cases, I don't...
Rather, my view is that it's important we not only highlight such cases, but that we learn from them as well. And, certainly, one of the strangest of all Bigfoot hoaxes occurred in England, back in March 2006, when monster-based hysteria was at its height deep in the heart of the nation's Cannock Chase woods.
Utterly relishing the opportunity to relate to its readers a tale of proportions that easily surpassed the surreal, the local Chase Post newspaper began its reporting on the affair in fine fashion: "Police chiefs have hit out at the dangers posed by the spoof 'Bigfoot' craze after a teenager almost lost her baby when a joker clad in a gorilla suit jumped in front of her car. And the concerns have been echoed by a leading councilor and conservationist, who fears the 'irresponsible idiots' are causing harm to wildlife as well as people."
No, it was not April Fools’ Day; although many might have been forgiven for thinking it was exactly that! It was barely sixty minutes before the witching-hour struck when a 19-year-old pregnant girl and her parents were driving through the picturesque village of Brocton, having had a Saturday night out in a restaurant in nearby Milford.
When questioned later by police, the girl said: "We noticed a BMW parked in the road. Suddenly it flashed its lights. Just then, out of nowhere, this person dressed in a gorilla suit jumped out in front of our car, flailing their arms like mad. Then they started running at the car like mad. It was terrifying."
She continued: "Looking back it was obviously a fake suit, but late at night, in an isolated area like that, it was a very scary experience. In broad daylight, I suppose it could be quite funny, but this was 11 o’clock at night with no-one around. It’s very lonely there. If that had been someone with a heart condition, they could’ve had a heart attack. I screamed so loud. It was a real scare. It left me with fears that the trauma of it could have fatally harmed my baby."
The girl’s irate dad was up in arms and told the Chase Post: "If I’d have caught the idiots, I’d have pasted them."
The local police weren’t exactly laughing either. When contacted by the newspaper for comment on the matter, a spokesperson for Staffordshire Police HQ replied in stern tones: "We take it very seriously because it may result in a Public Order Offence. The person [in the gorilla suit] may very well be in high spirits, but this would be viewed as a criminal offence."
And councillor John Burnett commented on the matter, too: "This is the behaviour of an irresponsible idiot. At this time of year, there are all manner of ground-nesting birds in that area; the partridge, the pheasant, woodlarks, skylarks – many rare birds whose habitat and nesting could be destroyed by this kind of activity."
While the Cannock Chase of 2006 event was never resolved, and the culprits never identified, this case does serve to demonstrate that when it comes to Bigfoot, yes, hoaxing does occur. But, when it does, the onus is upon us - the Fortean community - to reveal those cases for what they are. But, there's something else we need to stress: Yes, hoaxes do occur, but, that should never detract from the fact that this does not negate the large body of credible data that is about as far away from hoaxing as it's possible to imagine.