The study of cryptozoology, or the search for undiscovered, unknown animals, is populated by both well-meaning people seeking answers and also its fair share of charlatans, scammers, and frauds. One of the greatest, most outrageous, and most far-reaching hoaxes in the history of cryptozoology began in 2008, when a car salesman named Rick Dyer and his friend, police officer Matthew Whitton, suddenly stepped forward from obscurity to hold a press conference they claimed would change the world as we know it. What they came out with was beyond amazing, as they told eager reporters and the world that they had obtained irrefutable physical proof of the existence of Sasquatch in the form of what every Bigfoot hunter dreams about- a body.
Dyer and Whitton boldly asserted that as they had been out hiking in the remote mountains of northern Georgia they had been startled to come across the immense, 8-foot tall, 500-lbs creature already dead. Realizing the importance of their weird discovery, they explained that Whitton had stayed with the body by himself overnight while Dyer had gone to get help, eventually recruiting six others to haul away the massive beast. Things got more dramatic still when they claimed that as they trudged through the wilderness with their find, at least three other Bigfoot could be seen lurking through the trees, following them and perhaps even stalking them, which they even say they had gotten video footage of.
Upon getting the heavy body out of the forest, they said that they had then put it on ice, and would reveal it to the world when the time was right. As a sort of taste of what they said was to come, they showed some grainy footage of the alleged body, which was enough to spur a great amount of excitement at the time. The news was covered in many major national outlets, going international in no time, and even Bigfoot skeptics were holding their breath wondering if this could possibly be the real deal and that a legendary mystery that had eluded understanding for decades was about to be closed in spectacular fashion. In the meantime, Dyer and Whitton gave exclusive interviews on their find to a Steve Kulls, of the radio show Squatch Detective, and allowed some reporters to get a look at the body, which was still completely encased in ice but had very realistic details like entrails hanging out of its body and blood upon it, although no one was allowed to get too close. The whole thing was a complete media circus, and all eyes were on what Dyer and Whitton would do next.
It was Kulls who would introduce them to people in the cryptozoology field, including one Tom Biscardi. This probably should set off some warning bells, as Biscardi has already made a name for himself by being involved with hoaxed evidence, but on this occasion he claimed to have actually touched the body and measured it, explaining this all with such infectious enthusiasm and earnestness that it was difficult not to get taken in by it all. Dyer and Whitton were also still lauding the authenticity of their find, constantly promising that scientific analysis would be forthcoming, and it hadn’t really sunk in yet for the public that despite all of this no official scientists had actually been allowed to examine the body yet, and even Biscardi, who was one of the only people allowed to see it up close, was forbidden from taking any DNA sample himself.
With all of the circulation of the photos and videos of the mysterious corpse it is probably only natural that people would start to point out how, well, sort of fake it looked, and there was even an Internet Halloween costumer retailer that came forward to say that it looked exactly like one of the Bigfoot suits they sold. Yet even in the face of this increasing dissent there were plenty of people who truly believed it to be possibly genuine, and Dyer and Whitton insisted that an analysis would prove all the haters wrong. Despite increasingly raising eyebrows there was still a lot of hopeful optimism that there was something to this all. Eventually, however, the ice began to melt, and this is where it would all begin to unravel for Dyer and Whitton.
It was Steve Kulls himself, who at first had genuinely thought of all of this as very real but had begun to have his doubts, who first uncovered the ruse, when he burned some hairs from it and they melted in a very strange way, after which a break in the ice at the foot of the creature allowed him to reach out and touch it to find that it was merely fashioned of rubber. Word quickly got out that it was a fake, but even then Dyer remained defiant, saying that there had totally, for real been an actual body, but that it had been confiscated by a shadowy organization, before finally coming clean and admitting it was all a sham. The “Bigfoot body” was indeed a costume ordered off the Internet, which Dyer and Whitton had stuffed full of possum roadkill, entrails, and slaughterhouse leftovers to lend it a realistic look. The two seemed flabbergasted that their prank had taken off to such heights, saying that it had just started as a practical joke that had taken on a life of its own and gotten out of hand. They even had the audacity to blame the public for buying the whole thing, and that everyone should have realized it was all a hoax. Yeah, the public, right? What a bunch of maroons! This obviously did not ingratiate them to anyone, and the whole thing turned into a complete debacle.
The aftermath of the hoax would see Whitton fired, Dyer disgraced, and several threats of legal action brought against them, notably from Kulls and Biscardi, who had been completely duped by the scam and made to look like idiots, although there is much speculation that Biscardi had a role to play in the whole sham. But at least they learned their lesson right? Well, not exactly. Dyer would drop off the radar for a while, before going on to sort of reinvent himself as a Bigfoot tracker, and at one point had his own site called Bigfoot Tracker. In 2012 he then made the news again when he claimed to have managed to lure a Bigfoot out of the woods in the wilds near San Antonio, Texas, using good ole barbecue pork ribs from Walmart doused in deer urine that had been nailed to the trees. Once the Bigfoot had come out of hiding to chow down on those yummy deer piss ribs, Dyer had then shot and killed it, so again he had a body. Totally for real, no joke this time!
To bolster his credibility, in his official statement, Dyer said that the Bigfoot, affectionately called “Hank,” had been thorougly tested by scientists at a university in Washington and determined to be a new species, but he was very vague and evasive on which university it was or who had done the actual analysis. A Bigfoot skeptic by the name of Allen Issleb also vouched for the discovery, saying that he had personally seen the carcass and that it was very real. Although there was still a sour taste in everyone’s mouth over Dyer’s previous stunt, there were still those who took this all to be real, and when he took the body on a tour of the United States plenty of paying customers showed up to see it, to the tune of a grand total of around $500,000, not bad for a guy who had perpetrated one of the biggest Bigfoot hoaxes of recent memory just a few years before.
Throughout all of this Dyer assured the media that DNA tests, scans, and autopsies were being done on the carcass, although he was always tightlipped on what this actually entailed or who was doing it, and skepticism began to run high. In the end, it was indeed found to be yet another hoax, and that Hank had been a prop constructed of foam and latex, all covered in camel hair, which Dyer had contracted a Washington based Halloween costume company called Twisted Toybox to make for him. The company’s owner, Chriss Russell, who received much negative backlash and even death threats for his involvement, would later publicly state that he had had no part in any intentional hoax, and had thought that he had been creating a prop for a movie about Bigfoot. In response to having his second hoax outed, Dyer made a statement on his Facebook page saying:
From this moment on, I will speak the truth! No more lies, tall tales or wild goose chases to mess with the haters. I never treated anyone bad, I’m a joker, I play around, that’s just me. Coming clean about everything is necessary for a new start. From this moment on I will speak the truth! No more lies, tall tales or wild goose chases to mess with the haters!
So what does that mean exactly? Does it mean that next time he comes up with a body of Bigfoot it is totally, for sure, for realsies this time you guys? The fact that so many people fell for it all and Dyer made so much damn money off of the whole fiasco is a bad sign for cryptozoology, and a worrying indication of how gullible and easily manipulated people can be. As long as there are suckers willing to cough up cash for this nonsense it is bound to go on, and get ever more elaborate as it goes on, as well as totally ruining what little credibility cryptozoology already has. This is unfortunately a field that draws to it pranksters, hucksters, and scam artists like moths to a flame, and the next major Bigfoot hoax is likely just around the corner. It is unfortunate but just remember that such evidence would be the discovery of a century, an incredible find the likes of which zoology has rarely seen and make the finder famous and rich if they could show it, so if someone offers to show it to you for money something is fishy indeed. While entertaining in retrospect, these hoaxes are dangerous to serious studies into these matters, so keep an open mind, but don’t fall for it.