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Bigfoot: The Reclusive Celebrity With A Giant Profile

The towering creature of legend, Bigfoot, is near impossible to spot.  That hasn’t hurt its popularity, though.  While early exposure included plaster foot-casts and grainy film footage, Bigfoot today is on TV, countless books and websites, and even has an action figure.

KLCC’s Brian Bull measures the creature’s cultural footprint. 

BULL: “So I’m pretty high up here, in the Mt. Hood wilderness area, navigating some pretty crude roads.  You gotta watch out for big rocks, and potholes, and logs.  But I’m getting close to the site of a group of people with the BFRO…Bigfoot Field Researchers Organization…where roughly two dozen people are assembled to try to find signs of the elusive Sasquatch.”

“It’s a glorified camping trip, or camping with a purpose you could say,” says Cindy Rose Caddell. 

The BFRO was founded in 1995.  Caddell organized its latest Oregon expedition.  With some heaving and shoving…she shows off one of their high-tech tools for tracking Bigfoot.

Credit Brian Bull
BFRO organizer Cindy Rose Caddell, with Thermal Eye device.

“They call it Thermal-Eye, it picks up all the heat signatures in the woods," says Caddell.

"So if you see nothing else, its’ kinda fun to see elk and deer, and even mice…we have a monitor in the truck, and we view it from the back seat.  It’s actually used from the army, and they used to put them on the bottom of planes.” 

Such hardware sells for about $10,000. Hardcore Bigfoot hunter Joe Beelart says he’s made major investments in his quest. 

“Certainly over $20,000, probably in the neighborhood of $30,000, when you include some specialized camera equipment.  If you get good photographs of Bigfoot and control them, you will easily make a million dollars.” 

Beelarts still working on that.  But Bigfoot's already a moneymaker through movies, including 1987’s “Harry and the Hendersons".

HarryHendersonsClip: (Growl) “Sit!” (Growls, CRASH) “That’s great!  You taught him how to sit!?” (Growl) 

And the creature just appeared in an original play, “The Bigfoot Letters”, which opened in Cleveland last month…

BigFootLettersClip01: “….ROOARRRAARRAArraarr!  (Hot damn, that’s impressive! What does that mean?) (It’s a distress call, particularly between a mated couple.” )

Credit Andy Dudik, Blank Canvas Theatre.
"Cubby" -- an orphaned Bigfoot -- mourns the wounding of Stella, in the Blank Canvas Theatre production, "The Bigfoot Letters".

And it’s the elusive reality-TV star of Animal Planet’s “Finding Bigfoot."

FindBigfootClip: “And that’s when I hear big footsteps coming just inside the treeline to my right…” 

“What the title of that show really ought to be, is “NOT Finding Bigfoot,” says Robert Thompson, a pop culture professor at Syracuse University. 

Bigfoot’s following intrigues him, given the lack of definitive proof every show. 

“This would’ve been the equivalent of back in the early 1980s, they would have never told us who shot JR. They would have put us through that incredible cliffhanger, went on season after season, and they would never find out the answer.” 

This hasn’t hurt “Finding Bigfoot”.  It’s been renewed for a ninth season…surely something to howl about.

“OOooooOOoooooo…” howls an audio file from Cliff Barackman's website.

Barackman of Portland is a self-described Bigfoot nerd and co-star of “Finding Bigfoot".  He gathers odd forest sounds from across the continent, which he says could be the creature.

“The most compelling evidence for Sasquatch is, in my opinion, the congruency of all the available evidence," says Barackman.  "The whistling, the howling, that sort of thing.  When I look at historical newspaper accounts dating back to the 1800s or even earlier, they’re reporting the same behaviors.  They’re reporting the same physical descriptions and locations, as we find today.” 

But Joe Nickell of the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry says existing evidence is shoddy, fraudulent, or just not there.

“All of the paranormal…flying saucers, ghosts, psychics, all of it…is based on a logical fallacy called an argument for ignorance," explains Nickell.  " ‘We don’t know, therefore we do know’.  We don’t what left these tracks, we don’t know what that bright light in the sky was, we don’t know what made the noise in the old house, therefore we have Bigfoot, an extraterrestrial craft, and a ghost.” 

Nickell says the majority of supposed Bigfoot sightings are actually….

Credit Flickr.com's Cesar Astudillo.
At least one skeptic thinks most Bigfoot sightings are actually people seeing bears, especially when they are standing upright.

“The 'Bigfoot Bear'. And by that, I mean any bear.”

The debate will go on, as will Bigfoot's cultural status...one pitch at a time, if you’re a baseball fan in Oregon's second largest city…

“We are at the Eugene Emeralds’ Sasquatch Awareness night!” proclaims Gunnar Monson.  He's a “Bigfootologist” who owns the Sasquatch Coffee company in Garibaldi.  He mans a table covered with plaster footcasts, Bigfoot toys, and coffee pouches. 

It complements the Emeralds’ Bigfoot statue near the restrooms, and the creature’s likeness on jerseys, pennants, and baseball diamond. 

Credit Brian Bull
Gunnar Monson shows off Bigfoot paraphernalia for guests at PK Park during the Eugene Emerald's "Sasquatch Awareness Night".

Monson says believers and skeptics alike should keep an open mind, and make the most of any expedition.

“More often than not, when you go out looking, something doesn't happen," he says. "So you go Bigfooting with friends, and enjoy their company.”

Meanwhile, Bigfoot nerd Cliff Barackman says shows like “Finding Bigfoot" -as well as the internet and social media -- have finally given believers a supportive community.  He thinks this is essential, for when the fateful day comes when a Bigfoot is either hunted down or accidentally killed.

“And when that day happens, that's the first day they need protection," says Barackman.  "They need protection from us.

"So I want people to love Bigfoots for whatever they think they are right now. I want an army of Bigfoot lovers, ready to mobilize to protect them and their habitat.” 

So Bigfoot, if you’re listening…there are legions of fans who’ve got your elusive, hairy back.

[music tail: “Living In A Bigfoot World” by Jim Kocher]

Brian Bull joined the KLCC News Team in June 2016. In his 25+ years as a public media journalist, he's worked at NPR, Twin Cities Public Television, South Dakota Public Broadcasting, Wisconsin Public Radio, and ideastream in Cleveland. His reporting has netted dozens of accolades, including four national Edward R. Murrow Awards (22 regional), the Ohio Associated Press' Best Reporter Award, Best Radio Reporter from the Native American Journalists Association, and the PRNDI/NEFE Award for Excellence in Consumer Finance Reporting.
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