It is known by many names; Seeahtik, Seeahtkoh, Sásq'ets, and Oh-Mah are just a few. However, since the 1920s the creatures referred to in the cultural traditions of many First Nations groups have been known by another name: Sasquatch.
Over the weekend, I finally had the opportunity to catch up on listening to Laura Krantz's excellent podcast series, Wild Thing, which explores the modern debate over the existence of Sasquatch. The lack of physical evidence that supports a breeding population of large, ape-like bipeds in the Pacific Northwest has always been troubling; getting down to brass tacks, there is little more to go off of than the purported castings of their footprints, which skeptics often argue can be easily faked. Apart from this, there is little that would successfully persuade biologists, chemists, or others who work in areas of the physical sciences.
There have been exceptions, of course. Arguably the most notable had been Grover Krantz (who shares more than just a name with Laura Krantz of the Wild Thing podcast; it was her discovery that Grover was actually a cousin that helped inspire the series). Krantz was a career anthropologist who, after some initial skepticism, became enamored with some of the unique characteristics several of the purported Sasquatch castings displayed.
“I don’t even call myself a believer,” Krantz was known to have said on many occasions. “It’s not a belief. I’m absolutely convinced the sasquatch exists.
“The Bossburg tracks made me a believer, hoaxers would have to be smarter than me to have faked the bone-structure of the crippled tracks.” The Bossburg tracks, which Krantz had been a staunch advocate of, are also sometimes called the “cripple foot” castings, due to an anomaly located on the outer midfoot region on one of the sets of tracks (representing one of the alleged creature’s feet), in the general area where the cuboid bone is located on a human foot.
Krantz was not the only scientist to ever weigh in on the heavy questions about Sasquatch's existence (and, as I'll address at the end of this post, I am interested in hearing from others, on or off the record, who may share similar interests... but more on that in a bit). Jeffery Meldrum, Ph.D. of Idaho State University is arguably the most well-known academic to have become involved in the study in recent years, which has often put him at odds with other members of the faculty and staff at his institution. On Laura Krantz's podcast, Meldrum recounts how the acting chair at his university had once said, "Meldrum will never be promoted to a professor as long as I'm here." After going through a grievance process, he finally was able to achieve promotion, but still receives a lot of pushback from his academic peers.
"It revealed a very unseemly underbelly of the academic community," Meldrum told Krantz. "You know that ivory tower is oftentimes rather tarnished. The ideals of objective scientific--just the pure quest for knowledge--is anything but."
After all, why wouldn't the academic community be critical toward the idea of something like Sasquatch? Despite the presence of the footprint castings (and those who remain advocates for their authenticity), every scientific analysis that has been conducted with hair samples or any other biological remains has turned up negative results (Todd Disotell, a professor of biological anthropology at New York University and an expert on genomics and DNA sequencing, has bemoaned the number of samples of bear feces that has been sent to his lab over the years).
And yet, as other experts in the past have argued, the non-physical evidence, anecdotal though it is, must account for something. The late John Bindernagel, Ph.D, certainly felt so, as did the renowned primatologist John Napier, who made a similar argument in his 1972 book Bigfoot, where he wrote:
Eyewitness reports which provide strictly circumstantial evidence are very persuasive, and the more direct evidence of footprints is quite impossible to dismiss in all instances.
I am convinced that the Sasquatch exists, but whether it is all that it is cracked up to be is another matter altogether. There must be something in north-west America that needs explaining, and that something leaves manlike footprints. The evidence I have adduced in favour of the reality of the Sasquatch is not hard evidence; few physicists, biologists or chemists would accept it, but nevertheless it is evidence and cannot be ignored.
Ignored it remains though, for the most part. But despite this, there are a few professionals out there who maintain an interest in the subject, even if they feel that they have to keep their interests under wraps. In the seventh episode of Wild Thing, Laura Krantz interviews a scientist who is identified only as "DeepFoot," who requested that his name be withheld, and his voice changed before he would appear on the podcast.
"I still have a position where credibility on scientific issues is important," DeepFoot told Krantz during their interview. "I work in a field where there is considerable political efforts to undermine the scientific conclusions."
"We all have things that intrigue us that we don't go around and talk to other people about," the unnamed scientist says. "Because of what we anticipate the responses to be. If you want to maintain some professional credibility in certain circles, this is not a subject you want to wave a flag over and ask difficult questions about."
DeepFoot is by no means the only professional who keeps a low profile, but nonetheless maintains an interest in the subject of Sasquatch. With little doubt, there are probably untold numbers of disciplined, skeptically-minded professionals in different areas of science who maintain a private--albeit a passionate--interest in the subject. After all, how could something even so seemingly unlikely as the existence of a massive, bipedal ape still have so much in the way of anecdotal evidence in its corner? It's a mixed bag, and one that still leaves us with a lot of unanswered questions.
Which brings us to you guys... the unspoken heroes in the scientific community who, while remaining behind the scenes, nonetheless maintain a serious interest in the subject. I am always interested in hearing from those in the scientific community who share an interest in this subject, and skeptical though I remain in my approach, the accumulation of data seems to suggest there is something worth studying. So I would like to hear from you: if you are an academic or a career professional with a background in science who has an interest in, or who are actively involved in field studies pertaining to this subject, I can be reached via email here, or you can also reach out via Twitter or Facebook, which are linked in my bio below.
Advancements in areas of genetics and DNA sequencing, as well as things like mapping technologies, LIDAR, and a host of other related applications will help to institute new and innovative methods of study in the coming years. With any luck, these may help us to crack the long-standing and ever perplexing mystery that is the North American Sasquatch, if there is indeed any more to this story than purely a modern myth in the making.