Cantankerous, iconoclastic, and one of the so-called “Four Horsemen” of Sasquatch studies, Rene Dahinden was a model researcher for some, and an absolute pain in the neck for others.
Born in 1930 in Switzerland, Dahinden emigrated to Canada in the fall of 1953. It wasn’t long after he arrived that he became interested in legends about hairy giants in the Canadian wilderness that had first been popularized in a 1929 article by J.W. Burns, and once stories about “Bigfoot” began to appear in the popular press after 1958, Dahinden became one of the few almost full-time members of the research effort.
Following the appearance of Roger Patterson and Bob Gimlin’s purported film of a Sasquatch made at Bluff Creek, California in 1967, Dahinden became one of its greatest champions. The film would travel with Dahinden to viewings before scientists throughout Europe, and even further East to Russia where he displayed it for researchers there who, upon seeing it, had been convinced that it proved that wild men existed. Yet despite spending most of his life in pursuit of the creatures, Dahinden never found hard proof of the existence of Sasquatch.
“I have my doubts all the time about what I’m doing. I’ve always had them,” Dahinden once said. “It’s a lonely place to be, on one side of the fence with the rest of the world on the other side. But it’s where I have to stay.”
“For all of their hard work, none of the Bigfooters who died around the turn of the twenty-first century had the satisfaction of seeing Bigfoot’s existence proved definitively,” wrote independent scholar Joshua Blu Buhs in his book Bigfoot: The Life and Times of a Legend. “Markotic, Krantz, Dahinden, and Green never even had the satisfaction of seeing the beast,” he added, noting that “In fact, Dahinden never once found tracks on his own.”
“That should tell you something!” Dahinden once said of his few rewards after having been involved in the search for decades. However, there was at least one instance where Dahinden did play a significant role in the discovery of a set of tracks which, to this day, remain both championed by Sasquatch seekers, and controversial on account of the circumstances surrounding their appearance.
In November 1969, a series of strange—and very large—humanlike footprints appeared around the town dump in Bossburg, Washington. Dahinden, accompanied by taxidermist and Sasquatch seeker Bob Titmus, had been among the first to arrive on the scene, and soon afterward others would join the search that included Bossburg resident Ivan Marx. Dahinden searched for nearly two weeks for additional evidence and finally found it in the company of Marx on December 13 when they came upon a long track line that stomped off in the direction of a river near Lake Roosevelt.
So who, exactly, found these tracks? Had Dahinden made a footprint discovery after all?
“In the Bossburg case, I asked Rene, ‘did [Marx] lead you to where the tracks were?’,” says Thomas Steenburg, a veteran Canadian researcher, and author who knew Dahinden and worked with him over the years. “He said ‘no, I’m the one that said let’s go down and look here. [Marx] was on the other side of the road. I’m the one that found those tracks going over that fence and crossing the power lines. And I called him over to look at them’.”
According to Steenburg, Dahinden did actually find the tracks that turned up in December of that year, despite them often having been associated with Ivan Marx who, sometime later, would also become associated with several hoaxes, including a number of terribly clownish films depicting a cone-headed creature ambling around in the forest, and in one instance even attacking Marx:
Marx not only claimed to be the most suspiciously successful individual to have ever claimed to capture footage of the creature but the only one that was allegedly attacked while doing so. The hoaxes did little to lend any support to the footprints that had begun to appear around Bossburg in 1969, depicting a curious disfigurement of one of the alleged creature’s feet which garnered it the nickname “cripplefoot.”
Because of their unique physical characteristics, the Bossburg prints remain a curiosity. Scientists like anthropologist Grover Krantz, and later Dr. Jeffrey Meldrum of Idaho State University would note the anatomical consistency between castings of the footprints from Bossburg, and how the bone displacement of a large, extremely heavy creature possessing such an injury would likely have appeared. Yet despite the compelling nature of the prints discovered at Bossburg, their association with Marx makes it difficult to rule out the possibility of trickery.
Whether or not the famed and controversial Bossburg prints were authentic, the discovery of prints by Dahinden in December 1969 remains the closest that the famed tracker ever came to recovering solid evidence of the creature: a purported hairy giant whose existence he would both champion at times, and also doubt throughout his many decades in its pursuit.