Friday, December 23, 2011

Still unraveling the ‘Bigfoot’ enigma

(Published Dec. 23, PDI-Entertainment)
By Oliver M. Pulumbarit

“We have been doing Bigfoot expeditions for years,” Matt Moneymaker, president and founder of the Bigfoot Field Researchers Organization, told the Inquirer in a phone interview. “We have been taking people out to places where there had been sightings, and we’re the only ones who still do that.”

In the Animal Planet show “Finding Bigfoot,” the group searches for the elusive titular creature (also known as Sasquatch, Yeti or Abominable Snowman) and goes on a cross-country expedition intended to answer questions posed by the old, baffling mystery.

Investigating what witnesses consider as Sasquatch sightings, Moneymaker and his crew interview locals and examine evidence – activities that bring them to some possible forest habitats in Georgia, Washington, and Alaska, among other places.

“We’re not talking about a single mythical thing/monster figure,” he said. “We’re talking about a species that people have spotted in different places around the world.”

The “biggest worry” of the team is getting injured in the woods at night. “We worry about getting a stick in the eye, which can happen very easily when you’re sneaking around in the woods and chasing things in the dark in a forest. Then the next things obviously are mountain lions, big cats. Big cats are far more dangerous.”

The Bigfoot has long been described as a very tall, hairy creature that partly resembles an ape and has humanlike movements. Sightings have been reported in Malaysia, Northern Vietnam, India and China, aside from the United States. There have also been a couple of hoaxes, according to Moneymaker, but the researcher stated that there are also records of eyewitness accounts dating back to “hundreds of years.”

“It goes back way beyond; the faking didn’t start until the late 1960s, but there are very good descriptions of these things in artwork and stuff going back to the 1800s in the United States.”

Many supposed sightings turn out to be glimpses of bears or other animals, but these don’t dissuade the group from continuing their mission. “That’s what we try to investigate. When we go out, when we talk to witnesses or we go to a location, there are a few things you consider in those situations,” Moneymaker said. “It’s the circumstances and it’s the person. It’s just like what a lawyer would do in court. What you believe you saw, is that what really happened? So we have to analyze it that way and you end up still with a lot of them where there’s no way they could have been looking at a bear.”

Moneymaker added that more people from all over the world now believe in the existence of the enigmatic species. “I think it’s a good thing,” he said. “I guess [it means] they’re hearing, not just that some people in some place [believe] in something, but that some people in some place are saying they’re seeing something. That’s what’s happening here. It’s not a matter of ‘Do a lot of Americans believe they exist?’ No, but the amazing thing is how many Americans claim that they have seen one up close or from a distance. That’s the fascinating thing because it continues to happen. After you have a certain amount of witnesses, then you really have to listen to what they’re saying, if they’re all describing the same thing.”

And if a live Bigfoot were to be discovered, caught and studied, it would significantly affect human beings. “Here’s the analogy: the discovery of King Tut’s tomb by some archaeologists in the 1920s had this very big impact in the West where all of a sudden there was this huge sudden appreciation of the antiquities,” Moneymaker explained. “I think it will definitely create a resurgence of appreciation for the natural world, maybe the ancient world, too. It’s a benefit to you. It’s a very healthy thing and it really makes you appreciate your own land, wherever it is, in a way you wouldn’t have done before because you would never have made the effort to go to some of these wild places if not for these things.”

“Finding Bigfoot” airs Mondays (9 p.m.), Wednesdays (6 p.m.), and Saturdays (10 p.m.) on Animal Planet.

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