Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Yakima Bigfoot Round-Up Report #4

Dr. Jeff Meldrum was the final scheduled speaker at this event. His presentation, as he clearly stated himself, contained no new findings nor Earth-shattering revelations. It was titled, "The Patterson-Gimlin Film Re-Examined From the Ground Up," and appropriately so. Starting with the footprints, and working his way upwards through the anatomy of the beast, he clearly and concisely outlined much of his research into the reality of the species depicted in the PG Film.

Of special note during Jeff's presentation was his overview of his naming of the species based on ichnological (traces, like footprints in this case) evidence. He commented that by taking this rather bold move, he hopes to open an objective discussion on the ichnological evidence.

He showed slides illustrating his studies of early hominid footprints and how they correlate very nicely with what is observed in sasquatch footprints. Other slides included a photograph that he bought from Roger Patterson himself back in 1968 when Roger was on tour promoting his film. It is significant because it lacked the photographic blemish that has worked its way into most copies of frame 352 that makes Patty appear to be giving an "OK" sign with her right hand. The print bought from Roger contains no such blemish.

Dr. Jeff Meldrum

Dinner was excellent. Lemon chicken, some sort of cow meat, asparagus, salad... The caterers did an excellent job. It also gave me a chance to get to know Paul Cropper from Australia. We had an extended conversation about the yowie and how it compares to the North American bigfoot.

I shared a story with Paul about the time that I ran across his research partner, Tony Healy while Bobo Fay and I were on a bigfooting adventure at Bluff Creek one hot day in August of 2007. We had dropped by Louse Camp to cool off in the creek and relax. While Bobo was taking a dip, a ratty-looking 1970's Chevy van comes rolling into the camp and stops.

If you've never been to Bluff Creek, it's fairly rare to see anyone out there. I've gone four or five days there without running across another soul, so my curiosity was piqued. I approached the van and greeted the man getting out of it. I asked, "What brings you way out here?"

An Australian accent answered, "If I told you, you wouldn't believe me."

"Try me," I answered with a smile. And of course, it ended up being Tony Healy. Bobo and I showed him around Bluff Creek, and even took him to the PG Filmsite. It was quite a fortunate coincidence.

So I was thrilled to finally meet Paul Cropper, the other half of the authorship of The Yowie: In Search of Australia's Bigfoot. Since I already included a photograph of Paul and I eating in a previous blog post, here's a picture from Bluff Creek near the filmsite with Tony and Bobo.

Cliff, Bobo, and Tony at Bluff Creek

After dinner, various folks spoke of their admiration of Bob Gimlin. The air was warm and fuzzy with love as some presenters spoke of their admiration of Bob weathering the storm for 42 years. His family was also in attendance, including various nephews and his granddaughter (who had never been called a "Gimlet" until last weekend). There might have been more Gimlin's running around, but I had the chance to speak to only a few. Either way, there were several family members who spoke of Bob and how he is a model for the community and an inspiration in their lives.

Matt Moneymaker introduced the next presentation, which was the cherry on the proverbial cake as far as I was concerned. I had heard a week or so before the event that my friend Mike Greene had successfully obtained a short piece of thermal video of a sasquatch from North Carolina.

Mike Greene

I have been in the field with Mike on numerous occasions. I initially met him on a bigfoot trip to Florida, but caught up with him in British Columbia and in Washington. He is level headed, not prone to exaggeration, and wonderfully cynical. I know Mike well enough that I trust him completely, both in words and actions.

The video was obtained by acclimating a sasquatch that frequented a specific area to Mike's presence. It took Mike two years of regular visits to get the animal used to him, all the while leaving offerings (some call it "bait", but that's a little disrespectful of the squatch...) on one specific stump. These offerings included food, toys, and other baubles. Sometimes they would be taken, other times not, and very rarely items were left almost as if in trade.

On the night that this video was obtained, Mike took the extraordinary step to leave the campsite when he thought he had company. He left his thermal imager recording on a tripod, and drove to the other side of the campground, returning after two hours. After a half hour of absence, the bigfoot crept in to take the candy bar that was left for it.

The video itself would probably be unremarkable for someone with little or no experience with thermal imagers. It is two and a half minutes of a blobby white thing appearing behind trees and mostly keeping out of sight. It stands up at the end of the video, sways back and forth a bit, and then retreats into the trees.

Having spent a tremendous amount of time using thermal imagers in the quest for visual evidence, I have a different appreciation for Mike's footage. The image shows the creature's arm as it snatches the food bait off the stump. It also shows a dangling arm as it sways back and forth in the tree line. The video was shown on a screen in a fairly well lit tent, so a closer examination is needed to pick out potential details. Even in these less-than-perfect conditions, I was deeply impressed by Mike's accomplishment.

What struck me most was the animal's behavior. Even though it probably knew the camp was unoccupied, it waited a half hour before coming close, and even then it acted like it was trying to avoid being seen. I have long suspected they hide in the dark, probably not realizing that we don't see well in those conditions. I was blown away by the elusive behavior exhibited by the creature. It was almost like it was trying to avoid sniper fire. I have heard another researcher say that a bigfoot's life is like a pilot shot down behind enemy lines, and now I have seen it to be true. No wonder they are not seen very often, and photographed even less.

I have to give extra kudos to Mike. Remember that he removed himself from the campsite. This is a hard thing to do from an ego-standpoint. People talk about themselves filming a sasquatch, but it's hard to take oneself out of the equation. This approach reminds me of what Autumn Williams said in the 2005 Bellingham Conference: let the creatures be in control.

Mike initially didn't want to tell folks how he got the footage. He wanted to use his "secret weapon" to obtain more footage (and still intends to get more using this method), but it later occurred to him that this was counterproductive. Everyone wants there to be more footage, so Mike told the audience his methods in hopes of others repeating them and getting more sasquatch eye-candy. I guarantee I will try my best!

The rest of the night was spent socializing. Tom Yamarone sang bigfoot songs with the help of Paul Graves, and Dr. John Mionczynski played his accordion and jammed on the organ in the corner. Various folks lost themselves in a Joe Cockeresque dancing fit. It was a time to let our medulla-absent hair down and get loose. It was just great.

A highlight for me that night was meeting Dr. Robert Pyle, author of Where Bigfoot Walks: Crossing the Dark Divide. We spoke for literally hours about everything from hypothetical field work questions (if you found a body tomorrow, what would you do?) to the differences between moths and butterflies (apparently butterflies are a small slice of the huge family of moths). Hopefully, we can find time to go into the field together, as we both expressed an interest to do so together.

Dr. Robert Pyle and Cliff

Dr. Pyle and I spoke around the campfire until well after 3:00 am. Eventually, the night ended and I went off to my tent to get what little sleep I could before the nasty Sun spoiled my slumbers.

The next day was a day of goodbyes and smiles. Most folks volunteered their efforts to clean the grounds of any accidental litter, stack chairs and tables, and get in some last minute conversation. Some folks went off to the woods, others to the airport, and others drove home. It was truly a historic weekend full of good cheer and positive vibes.

I think Dr. Meldrum said it best: "Tom set the bar pretty high for the next conference." All in attendance agreed.

Tomorrow I will finish up my report on this event by posting some photographs that I haven't yet used.

1 comment:

  1. According to MK Davis the OK sign in frame 352 is not a blemish but one of a series of deliberate manipulations of the picture to make Patty look more apelike.

    You can clearly see the alterations when comparing the before and after photographs.

    If you havent looked at his research lately, you ought to be aware of what he is saying. It is quite interesting.