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Welcome to Bigfootland...

I thought long and hard about writing this short essay. What could I say to benefit the average person investigating the "Sasquatch, Skunkape, Bigfoot" phenomena for the first time? There are so many avenues to explore in this endeavor. I wondered if I should write about personalities (well, that will make you some enemies...very quickly). I thought, " I could profile the different investigative groups (again, see enemies)". It was puzzling.

Finally, I decided on this course of action. It is not so satisfying as the other two, though. In fact, in a way I do you a disservice by not calling names. Believe me - there are some crummy people in this hobby/business. However, there are some truly astounding people, as well.
So, I venture forward with this very brief overview of the world of Bigfoot investigation. I hope you will take this into account when you begin to circulate among the "brethren".


Kill Vs. No-Kill

This is the hottest debate in the continuing history of Sasquatch research. The great majority of "civilians" (or the non-researching world) never even cross this bridge until well into their first year of interest. But, at some point, a researcher will attempt to pin the "newbies"
(a brand new person interested in the phenomena. In addition, a name used derisively toward fellow Bigfoot researchers) opinion down.

The opinion (should Bigfoot be killed or not) will determine the next step in the "newbies" investigative life. This one determination will make them enemies of people that they have never met. Although, they will receive allies from states they have never visited.

The "NO-KILL" groups are generally well intentioned persons. Their main goal is to study the creature in a natural setting (aka Jane Goodall) without disturbing the "Gentle Creature". It is a noble investigative stance. They advocate the friendly contact with these creatures and the protection by governmental entities.

The "KILL" people have the same noble intentions. They feel that a specimen creature should be collected. This specimen would prove the creatures existence. Then, the creatures could be protected. However, there is an element that wishes to retire on the proceeds of a captured or killed Bigfoot creature (e.g. Let's kill a Bigfoot and get a million dollars).

Generally, this is the very first minefield that you will encounter in Bigfootland. Be careful, because it will determine who will speak to you or who will trash you.

Para-Bigfoot Vs. Biological Bigfoot

This is the next sticky subject we must tackle. Is Bigfoot a "real" creature or some other form of paranormal manifestation.

There are a few strong proponents of the "Para-Bigfoot" theory (one in San Francisco - certainly). These people believe that Bigfoot is possibly a manifestation of a spirit. They believe that Bigfoot is a time traveler, a UFO rider, crossing dimensions, etc... Basically, NOT a biological entity roaming the American wilderness.

The tough part for the other side to admit (e.g. the Biological Bigfoot people) is they can't prove the "Para-Bigfoot" people wrong. The only way to do this is to have a specimen. But, if they obtain a specimen - they provoke the "NO-KILL" people.

The "Biological" Bigfoot people believe that this creature is an unknown primate or hominid. They site the fossil record. They go around and gather evidence. They talk endlessly about the capture of the creature. They dislike the "Para-Bigfoot" people and won't talk to them (As an aside, you will see some fairly vicious exchanges between the sides. They will talk about wives, relatives and question each other's parentage. They will cross into open warfare - sending Email bombs, subscribing each other to random lists, making photographs to lampoon the other side, etc...). But, this is a mutual exchange and the "Para" people do the same back.

In the middle, you will find the "Moderates". They generally keep all options open and won't exclude explanations. They will bow out of fights and attempt to keep the peace between the two sides (or is it four sides?).

Holy Relics

The Patterson Film

The Patterson-Gimlin film is the holy grail of Bigfoot evidence. You know it...the famous "Bigfoot looking back into the camera" home movie from the late 1960s. It spawned about a zillion Bigfoot Documentaries in the 1970s (Which is probably why you are here in the first place).
The film is grainy. It is inconclusive. It is fought over like a religious relic.
My advice is to watch it and wonder. Because, you really can't do much else with it.

Footprint casts

These are the bread and butter of the trade. Everyone wants to find a footprint and cast it. The casts are varying in quality. Some casts are outright junk. Others, may just defy explanation.
Let us all reverence them with awe (because, otherwise they are worthless, and just keep the plaster industry in business). The casts are great to impress "civilians" into wonderment, though.


True Believers

This is the most common Bigfoot investigator you'll meet. They are generally in one or two categories: a "Witness" or a "Child Convert".
A. The "Witness" saw or heard something. It was scary and they have wondered since that day what they encountered. Their goal is to understand what happened to them and explain it.
The "Witness" are mostly good people and make up a great majority of research group membership.
B. The "Child Convert" saw the 1970s Bigfoot Documentaries and was scared silly. They read all the paperbacks and became convinced of the phenomena.
The "True Believers" are the best of the best. They have no vested interest in the scene and keep a fun perspective.

The Armchair Researcher

The "Armchair Researcher" runs the Internet "Bigfootland" scene. They make up the great majority of  Bigfoot webmasters (there are exceptions, of course). They have really pretty web sites and attempt to assume an equal stance with anyone in the scene (this is the real joke...someone in New York City running a Bigfoot Web Site).
Beware, they can be very arrogant.
They see the Internet message boards and discussion lists as their personal domain. They will "kick" you off the lists (if you make them appear less than perfect or question their theories).
They are mostly harmless and in a pinch can explain the defect in your "java applet".

Earnest Amateurs

The "Earnest Amateur" is a scientist at heart. They study and read. They read and study. They will work late into the night attempting to understand the phenomena (or find an elusive piece of the puzzle). These people (generally) head the various research groups or are outright independent researchers. These people can make your life easier (get to know an "Earnest Amateur").
They will lurk on the Internet message boards and give good insight into the events.
They are the "nerds" of "Bigfootland" (but, God bless'em).

The Tree Huggers

These people don't want to see Bigfoot touched by human hands. They love the "Big Guy". They deny ANY evidence that depicts Bigfoot as being even remotely aggressive.
They watch "Hairy and the Hendersons" endlessly.
They explain that the Bigfoot is our friend (though, they personally have never met one).
"Tree Huggers" are harmless. However, they will present you with a good tongue lashing about "Mother Gaia Earth" if you oppose their views.
They are alternative lifestyle types (Witches, Hippies) and are located on the west coast (mostly). They have the very best info on "Birkenstocks" and give out really great recipes for trail mix.
They are mostly okay...just don't drive to the investigation with them (see the last thing a Big Game Hunter hears for more info).

The Professionals

One morning these folk wake up and declare, "I will hunt Bigfoot for a living!" Then, they begin a slow spiral toward being a "Mercenary", "Limelighter" or "Maniac". They will eat, speak and breathe Bigfoot. Nothing is important to them except this subject (and making "civilians" aware that they are "Professionals"). The "Professionals" will pull the term "Cryptozoologist" like a pistol...BE CAREFUL!
They are in a transitional phase in the overall scheme of things.
The Professionals get regional news coverage and envy the really big "Limelighters" (see below).

The Big Game Hunters

The "Big Game Hunters" are out for the prize and the money.
They utilize gigantic rifle calibers (African big game stuff - .500 Nitro express, .375 H&H, .300 Win. Mag, etc...), have excellent equipment (night vision, great sound devices) and the best camping stuff.
All big game people aren't so bad, though. They can answer tough equipment questions. They have good taste in boots and clothing.
The "Big Game Hunters" are ex-military, survivalists, opportunists, or deer hunters gone bad.
The down side of the "Big Game Hunter" is for the campers and "Hoaxers".
Generally, these boys get trigger happy and will "pop" anything that remotely resembles a "Hairy, Bipedal Hominid". Unfortunately, most people resemble a "Hairy, Bipedal Hominid" in the gloom of the woods. This is only compounded when a "Hoaxer" runs across the "Target Acquisition Area" in a Gorilla costume. The "Hoaxer" gets either :
A. A quick trip to the local hospital.
B. A quick burial in a Southern swamp.
The last thing a Big Game hunter generally hears on an expedition is, "Boy, you have the right...".

The Hoaxers

The jokesters of the Bigfoot world. The "Hoaxer" has fun making a piece of evidence (film, audio, footprint cast, photograph, etc...) and releasing it to the other "Bigfootland" inhabitants. Then, they sit back and watch the carnage.
The "Limelighters" and "Mercenaries" will immediately attempt to seize the evidence for themselves. They will try and spin the "event" for their own benefit and sell more product.
The "Big Game Hunters" will travel to the location and attempt to kill the "event" or just endlessly drone about going.
The "Professionals" will make grandiose statements about the validity of the "event".
The "Media" will circle like buzzards.
The "Scientists" will hope that they are approached for a "conclusive" scientific declaration.
The "Aristocracy" will moan about how it was done in the "good old days" and be critical.
The "Maniacs" will find problems with the evidence and present opposite viewpoints (they may have some sort of religious service to protect the Bigfoot, too).
The "Earnest Amateurs" will sit and sort all the info as it comes into the Internet message boards (the brave ones will post and have their say).
"True Believers" will believe all the more strongly.
The "Armchair Researchers" will say what they would have done and point out the mistakes (from the safety of their bedroom).
The "Hoaxer" will enjoy all of this and wait for someone to discover the truth. Then, they will watch the denials begin, "I never said that..." or "I knew it was fake the whole time" or " Leave me alone..."
The "Hoaxer" is in a dangerous position, though. It is hard to run in a "monkey" costume and a Buick is most unforgiving.

The Scientists

Generally, we have good scientific people in "Bigfootland". The great ones will work with you (without too much condescension) and take what you say in a serious manner. They have academia to satisfy and cannot get very involved in the exchanges among the "unwashed, common" researchers.

The real problem with most of the "Scientists" is their location. They are mostly located in the Pacific Northwest. This is great for the people there. It is not great for the people in the other parts of the country. It makes getting accurate scientific analysis of evidence a time consuming process and dependent on the whims of a parcel post agency or company.

I can't really criticize the "Scientists". They mostly are gadflies and go where the evidence is... After all, they want to be the one to discover the "Big One".

The "Pioneers" or "Aristocracy"

These are the guys and gals who have been there and done that. Hey, they were there back in '56 when the evidence was real. Shucks, they knew Patterson and Gimlin ("In fact, Patterson still owes me money", they'll say.).
"I was a walking Gooney Goo-Goo (trans. injun for big hairy man) flat when the real old time Bigfoots were around. They were 12 feet tall and threw 300 ton boulders at ya", they will intone.
These particular researchers will be the ones to call you a "newbie". They will tell you that "you young'uns ain't got no sense. You'll never get the kind of Bigfoot evidence we got."
This is generally a true statement. The technology has advanced so rapidly - it becomes increasingly harder to fake evidence. It (the evidence) must actually endure some real scientific scrutiny nowadays...
But, these people are the ones that you'll want to meet. They were there in the 1960s (the heady days of the "Old Republic" - before the "Evil Empire" took over) and were written about in countless paperbacks. These are the ones that set the tone for the whole thing ( wow, thanks...) and made the legends.
There is a sub category of the Aristocracy. We call them "Experts".
An "Expert" may or will have been published. They might have a degree. They will be consulted for media events or shows. They will assume a great "better than you " stance. They will be critical and tell you why you fall far short in the "Bigfootland" scheme of things.
Remember this question for protection from "Experts": "Where is your Bigfoot cadaver?"
That'll shut'em up. Because no one is an expert in "Bigfootland" (no matter what they think or tell you or themselves) - unless they have a body.
Don't get my sarcasm wrong. There are some truly great people in this category. A visit with them is like a trip to a museum. There are, unfortunately, some curmudgeons, as well.

The "Mercenaries"

The Mercenaries are into Bigfoot for a living. They travel the highways and byways of  "Bigfootland" in search of exploitable material to sell. This material can take on many forms...tapes, books, souvenirs, etc... They generally, could care less about the discovery of Bigfoot - that would ruin the business. Instead, they seek out independent researchers and exploit their finds. The name of the game is money.

The "Limelighters"

These people live to talk with the media. Their number one goal is to be seen on the television, heard on radio and/or sell themselves or their product. They make themselves the professional spokespeople of "Bigfootland". They are often a hybrid strain of the "Mercenary/Expert" (see above). They personify the best and worst of the whole thing... They really never do any field work themselves. But, they will steal your work and make a buck.
P.T. Barnum would be proud!

The Media

This is the strangest phenomena in "Bigfootland".
I have watched many researchers line up like lemmings and run into the sea of ridicule - just to be featured by the media.
There is a real "love-hate" relationship between the two sides. The "Media" needs good, light stories to fill the news. The Bigfoot people want someone (anyone) to applaud their efforts and tell them they are not "insane". So, they reach an uneasy truce with the media. The media will occasionally run their stories (with the understanding that you will be made to look both foolish and insane). The Bigfooters will give them something to run - provided they will give them the particular needs they want.
It is a dangerous and sad relationship. Mostly, good people are exploited by "personalities" for the sake of an advertiser. I warn and be careful of the media. They are not your friend (no matter how many lunches you "do").

Madmen and Maniacs

There is no shortage of "Madmen and Maniacs" in the "Bigfootland". They will call your home at 03:30AM to argue about some supposed find. They will attempt to "mind control" you (look up cults and there they are) and get you to do their evil bidding. Be very careful. These guys worship the Bigfoot as a God and will sacrifice you on their "Gooney Goo-Goo" altars.
They can be found everywhere. In both camps, "kill" or "No-kill"; they fit into every description and will seem to be very smart at first.
Their conversation generally will begin with a plausible story (e.g. I saw Bigfoot in Washington State back in 1968). The story will be wonderful. Then, they will add something like, "I knew Bigfoot was a gentle creature. I saw Elvis and him sing a duet in the Blue Mountains."
Run like hell....

The Credentials

The first real academic term you will encounter is "Cryptozoologist". It sounds very fancy. It sounds serious. However, it is meaningless, I know of no university that offers advanced degrees in this discipline. It is sometimes given a dusty hall for a single course ("low tuition this semester. Hey let's make a few bucks by offering this....") and taught by someone who fancies themselves a "Cryptozoologist" (see the "Limelighters" , "Mercenaries" and/or "Experts" sections above).
Now, bow your head, think deep thoughts and repeat after me...
I (your turn) am now officially (you again) a certified (once more) "Cryptozoologist" (say the word lad, say it!). I have made you a "Cryptozoologist". Rejoice and be full of thyself!
I grant you all the rights and privileges of this title. I give you recognition for your achievement and pronounce you made totally whole. You may perform Bigfoot weddings and funerals. You may study unknown animals for recognition. By the power vested in me from the Bigfoot gods - you are ordained.
Now, that is over with, you can start using the title and feel all important.
Beware, there are those (especially in the "Expert" and "Armchair Researcher" section of "Bigfootland" who will question your credentials (Where did you go to college? How many books have you written?).
Hey, ignore them, they were made a "Cryptozoologist" in the very same way.

In the end...

You are on your own. Don't expect to find real help in this quest. The best you can do is find a low-key research group (not led by some "Maniac" or "Professional") and begin your trip.

Don't be put off by the initial people you meet...there are some truly wonderful people out there.

Don't accept that you are "stupid" or a "newbie". Most of the people calling names are "Armchair Researchers"  or the are "Maniacs" ( Ignore both categories of these name callers. They both just envy your willingness to leave the house.).

Some real advice:

1. Do not go on camping trips with totally unknown people. Hey, Aliens are not the only ones that will dish out an anal probe.

2. Don't believe all that you see or read. Trust no one without experience and merit (meaning they have proved themselves TO YOU several times).

3. Don't fall into a swoon over a famous Bigfoot "expert" (see anal probe above). They will get your research and leave you scratching your head.

4. Make your own investigations and save your own information. If you want to share - share. However, make certain that the other party is repaying with like information.

5. Ask. The decent researchers will help you.

6. Do not believe the internet message board hype. Many come onto the message boards and pretend to be what they are not. They revel in making new people look silly. They assume much attitude. Laugh at them, glean what you can and go on.

7. Get you a nice internet based Email account. Now USE it. Do not give your number out (it will bite you in the end - literally).

8. Do not involve yourself in the countless feuds in "Bigfootland". Most of these have been going on for years. You won't solve the problem. You will be ground up like fodder.

9. Go to an outdoor sports store and buy some rubber boots. It will make walking through the **** easier on your feet. No one has developed a cure for the smell...yet.

10. Have fun. Screw the super-serious crew and the horse they rode in on. Go into the woods and have fun. The whole joy of this is being outside and looking. Hey, you might see or photograph something...but, no one will believe you.

I hope this will help you understand the world of "Bigfootland".  I have investigated this phenomena since the middle 1970s. The only conclusion I have reached is this ... I still don't understand it all.

James Akin

P.S. Good luck (you are going to need it)!

[C] Copyright 2001 J.P.Akin All Rights Reserved.