An interesting post on the Bigfoot Reddit page has caused the hairs to stand up on the back of the necks of Sasquatch believers and skeptics alike. Why? A curious member asked for advice about purchasing a vial labeled “Big Foot Hair” which contains what is purported to be a sample collected from a member of the hirsute cryptid’s family. While the comments are helpful but mostly funny, the question serves to remind us that Bigfoot hair samples have been taken very seriously in the past – including one that caught the attention of the FBI.
“I've seen these things in a lot of museum gift shops. Does anyone know what kind of hair it really is? I ain't buying this if its just someone's pubes in a bottle you know lol.”
Someone’s … or some crypitd’s? Those are just some of the questions being asked – and answered – on the r/bigfoot Reddit page after that comment was posted with a photograph of a bottle of alleged Bigfoot hair. The Daily Star points out that the bottles are sold in many museum gift shops – both Sasquatch museums and the natural history kind – and on the Internet. Sure enough, a vial can be purchased on Etsy for just $4.05 – a small price if it truly is Sasquatch hair which would provide Sasquatch DNA and, if it were, as some suggested, “Bigfoot’s pubes”, could contain the type of samples that could lead to cloning. The seller tells a good story:
“We have secured access to a very large ranch in an undisclosed location in the Pacific Northwest. The ranch is an old cattle ranch established in the early 1800's. The property's approximately 26 mile perimeter is completely surrounded by barbed wire. In the Spring when the Sasquatch are most active, we have our research team walk the fence line and collect the hair which is caught on the barbed wire from the bigfoot crossing back and forth. We take random samples of the hair to have DNA tested so that we can guarantee that the hair is 99.97% pure. We have the technicians who insert the hair into the vials wear protective clothing, and the work is done in a "clean room" so as to prevent cross contaminations during production.”
At that point, the seller’s lawyer steps in and adds, “For entertainment purposes only, of course." That eliminates this from being a viable vial of Bigfoot hair, but it’s not the only alleged sample being sold. In 2012, a lock of suspected Bigfoot hair was sold in Nacogdoches, Texas, for $225 to the Museum of the Weird in Austin by Lufkin, Texas, funeral director Ty Shafer, who claimed it was originally from Skookumchuch Lake in Washington state, which is to the Bigfoot hotspot of the U.S. the owner of the museum promised to have DNA tests run on the hair, but a search of the museum’s site shows the original story but no DNA results. Could that mean it's not from a Sasquatch … or is someone hiding the results? Someone like … oh, how about the FBI?
“In 1976, four men had two sets of Bigfoot sightings over two days in the Mt. Hood National Forest. Hearing of the incidents, I made immediate contact with two of the eye-witnesses, who kindly took me to the place of the incidents. There I found huge, 14 inch, five-toed footprints - to me obviously of a Bigfoot - and also, after some diligent searching, hair and tissue snagged on a tree where the creature had walked. I gathered seventeen strands of the hair and a small piece of the tissue to which they were attached and put them in a sealed plastic bag.”
Peter Byrne is no ordinary Bigfoot hunter. According to his website, his interest in the hairy cryptid goes back to childhood tales regaled by his father as bedtime stories. As a member of the British Royal Air Force, he made his first search for Yeti in India in 1946. Since then, he as investigated Bigfoot, Sasquatch, the Abominable Snowman sightings around the world as the director of the Bigfoot Information Center and Exhibition in Oregon. That includes a sighting in 1976 in Washington state by two biologists employed by the U.S. Forest Service who claimed to have seen a Bigfoot in a forest in the Pacific Northwest. Byrne quickly followed up and obtained hair and tissue samples – a first for the veteran cryptozoologist. Not knowing what else to do, Byrne sent the samples and all pertinent information to FBI Assistant Director Jay Cochran.
“We do not often come across hair which we are unable to identify and the hair that we have now, about 15 hairs attached to a tiny piece of skin, is the first that we have obtained in six years which we feel may be of importance.”
“Will you kindly set the record straight, once and for all, inform us if the FBI has examined hair which might be that of a Bigfoot, when this took place, and if it did take place what the results of the analysis were. Please understand that our research here is serious.”
In two letters to the FBI, Byrne asked for an investigation and for the FBI to share its results. (Copies of the correspondence can be seen here.) That was in 1976. Peter Byrne waited patiently for a response … VERY patiently. He finally got one … in 2019!
"The hairs which you recently delivered to the FBI laboratory, on behalf of the BIGFOOT INFORMATION CENTER, have been examined by transmitted and incident light microscopy. The examination included a study of the morphological characteristics such as root structure, medullary structure and cuticle thickness in addition to scale casts. Also the hairs were compared directly with hairs of known origin under a comparative microscope. It was concluded, as a result of these examinations, that the hairs are of deer family origin."
Byrne’s original letter and the response, which was written in 1977 but apparently never sent, showed up in 2019 as “newly released documents.” Why was this ‘It’s not Bigfoot, it’s a deer’ response kept by the FBI for over 40 years? When interviewed in 2019, Byrne said he suspected it was a honest error caused by an agent putting his sample “in a drawer somewhere in their vast complex of offices in Langley, VA” and forgetting about it.
Of did the FBI do some investigating into Bigfoot hunter Peter Byrne? According to CNBC, Byrne pleaded guilty in August 2013 to defrauding the Social Security Administration, the Oregon Department of Human Services and Medicaid out of more than $78,000 by concealing his travels outside of the United States from 1992 through 2012. Byrne was sentenced to three years of probation and full restitution. Was the government secretly taking out a little extra revenge on Byrne? We’ll probably never know. He certainly couldn’t pay the restitution by selling Bigfoots hair at $4.00 a bottle, since he only had 15 in total.
As of this writing, the samples of alleged Bigfoot hair which have been subjected to DNA testing have turned out to be from common forest animals or ancient bear hybrids. If you come across a bottle for sale on the Internet or in your favorite museum … caveat emptor!