© Probe the Unknown – Commentary
You are driving down a lonely mountain road when you suddenly sight a giant, hairy man-creature crashing off into the forest. What do you do? Rush into the nearest Forest Service headquarters or Sheriff’s Office to report the Bigfoot you just saw?
If you do, don’t expect to be taken seriously. This is the lesson those who have sighted Bigfoot learned early on.
Take, for example, the case of three Fontana, California teenagers. On August 27, 1966, the threesome rushed into the local Sheriff’s Station to report an encounter with a giant ape-man.
Jerri Lou Mendenhall, 16, told officers she and her friends had been driving slowly along a dirt road north of town when the creature suddenly emerged from the bushes and approached the car.
As the creature reach through the driver’s window to grab her, she jammed the accelerator to the floor, the 16-year-old recalled. She then revealed scratches on her neck and said they had been made when the monster’s huge, hairy hand grabbed at her.
All three agreed that the giant was at least eight feet tall and looked like “a gorilla on it’s hind legs.”
As they attempted to describe the frightening event in greater detail, the youths realized that the officers were refusing to take the matter seriously. Near-hysteria turned to anger and shocked disbelief.
Finally, one officer told Miss Mendenhall, “I suppose next you will be telling me that the monster was dressed in a pink bikini and you will expect me to believe that too!”
Miss Mendenhall answered angrily, “Sure, of course, it was wearing a pink bikini!” The shaken teenagers then left the station, their ears ringing with the laughter of the sheriff’s officers.
The press picked up the “pink bikini” angle from the officers and at least one Los Angeles newspaper reported the story that way. Only the fact that numerous other teenagers had apparently encountered the same beast on the local lovers’ lane saved the three from further ridicule.
Though the creature was the topic of conversation among local high school students for some time, law enforcement officials were secure in their knowledge that “there is no such thing as an ape-man.” One officer admitted ” off the record” that he had found an enormous four-toed footprint at the scene, but had never officially reported it.
Scientists have been no more willing to accept the existence of Bigfoot. Consider the case of Roger Patterson’s Bigfoot film. When Patterson emerged from the wilds of Northern California in 1967 with the first film ever taken of the elusive Bigfoot, he was confident he had an item of extreme scientific importance. He assumed authorities from throughout the world would be eager to examine this evidence. He should have known better.
An experienced Bigfoot investigator, Patterson knew that most zoologists and anthropologists had previously refused even to discuss the possible existence of an unknown primate in North America. When Patterson offered to show the film to various scientists, he got no takers.
With the help of author/zoologist Ivan Sanderson, he found a few experts willing to examine the film briefly. Although none actually accused Patterson of fakery, not one of their comments was particularly enthusiastic. Their opinions were apparently influenced by the lack of knowledge supporting the possibility of the creature’s existence.
Patterson finally abandoned his efforts to expose the film to full and proper study, so it sat on a shelf for several years. After his death, Bigfoot hunter Rene Dahinden took the film to Europe. Scientists there received it more enthusiastically than their American Colleagues had.
Interestingly, neither the Russian nor the British Scientists who viewed it detected any of the “questionable elements” which many American experts reportedly had perceived.
Perhaps the most revealing was the attitude of the late Dr. Louis Seymour Bazett Leakey, the archaeologist famous for his significant work at Olduvai Gorge, Tanzania. One would assume that evidence indication that a species similar to our prehuman ancestors might exist today would greatly interest Leakey. One prominent Bigfoot researcher did, erroneously.
During one of Leakey’s American Lecture tours, the investigator telephoned him to invite him to examine evidence of Bigfoot’s existence. Leakey reportedly replied, “It sounds interesting but I don’t have the time.” [L.S.B. Leakey died in 1972.]
Leakey-protégée primatologist Dr. Jane Goodall was hardly more excited by the prospect of surviving “ape-man” species, as A. R. Berry recently reported (“The Voice of Bigfoot,” PROBE, November 1975). Bigfoot investigators sent samples of the evidence supporting belief in the creature’s existence to Dr. Goodall, while she was visiting professor of psychiatry and human biology at Stanford University’s Medical Center in the winter of 1975.
“Before leaving for a year in East Africa, she wrote, “I am fascinated by the phenomenon . . .I wish you the best of luck.”
It seems that scientists are far more concerned with the reactions of their colleagues than they are in maintaining open minds as to the possibility of new and important discoveries.
And of course, any evidence collected and presented by persons lacking formal academic standing is hardly worthy of consideration at all, or so they seem to believe.
Yet heretofore, practically all of the investigation into the Bigfoot mystery has been carried out by nonprofessionals who are filing the vacuum created by scientists unwilling to endanger their reputations. Evidence, fear of ridicule overshadows the importance of the potential discovery. But remember, Edison, Marconi and Henry Ford were once dismissed as “tinkerers.”
The scientific community’s reaction is no more upsetting than those of various agencies at all levels of government. The Fontana officers’ reaction to unusual report is by no means unique. Time and again, people who report encounters with creatures have been ridiculed or ignored.
Admittedly, police officers deal with numerous “screwballs” during their careers, but that does not relieve them of their obligation to investigate each report, which potentially constitutes a danger to public safety.
Ignoring reports – or ridiculing witnesses simply because they involve information outside the officer’s knowledge or experience is an outright neglect of an officer’s sworn duty.
The Forest Service and National Parks Service still claim to have neither knowledge of nor policy concerning Bigfoot type creatures. When asked for possible Bigfoot information from his area, a supervisor of a national forest in California wrote, “some people believe in Santa Claus.”
But the situation is improving. Fewer sighters are getting “the great put down” from science and government as acceptance of the existence of the creature grows among the citizenry.
Dr. John Napier, former director of primate biology for the Smithsonian Institute has publicly stated his belief in the existence of a giant primate species in North America. Washington State University physical anthropologist Dr. Grover Krantz has become deeply involved in the study of the Bigfoot/Sasquatch evidence.
Numerous other anthropologists and zoologists have shown definite – if cautious – interest in the mystery. Even as Forest Service officials are equating belief in the existence of the creature with belief in Santa Claus, forestry employees are revealing “off the record” that they have been ordered to investigate the reports. Many take the matter quite seriously and tell of evidence they have seen or about which they have seen reports.
Over at the offices of the Army Corps of Engineers, Bigfoot received more vindication. In a 1975 report on the Pacific Northwest, the Corps gave a detailed description of the creature and of the available evidence indicating his existence.
A change in attitude by local police agencies has occurred when officers themselves have observed the phenomenon being reported. In the past few years several police officers themselves have seen footprints and other evidence of the ape-man. Since “seeing is believing,” these officers are certainly more likely to take a sympathetic attitude toward citizens who report similar incidents.
In some cases, certain courageous officers have made public statements that have caused considerable embarrassment to their superiors, who have established a policy of ignoring or debunking Bigfoot reports.
On July 26, 1969, Deputy Verlin Herrington of Gray’s Harbor County, Washington reported sighting a 7-foot tall hairy ape woman on a lonely forest road hear Hoquiam.
When his headlights first illuminated the creature, it was standing at the edge of the road he said. Herrington shined his spotlight on it and stopped his car before the creature turned and walked into the forest.
His report received considerable press attention, but was later played down by the sheriff who said the deputy had probably just seen a bear. A talk with county officers sometime later revealed that Herrington, a summer temporary officer, probably would not be rehired the following year due to the embarrassment his report had caused the department.
Some officials don’t put public image above public safety. Police Chief Toby Berger, Murphysboro, Illinois ordered out his entire department to search for the “Murphysboro Monster,” which had terrified residents for several nights in June of 1973. County officials of Skamania County, Washington, passed an ordinance making it a felony to “hunt, kill or molest Sasquatch-type creatures.”
Though the situation has improved, it has not improved that much. So, brace yourself for ridicule or worse, before you rush into the local gendarme headquarters with information about a Bigfoot.
(Author of this article, Ken Coon, is a retired police chief from the Los Angeles Police Department in California. Now residing in Washington State, he devotes his time to investigating Bigfoot reports….)
© PROBE the Unknown, May 1976
Credit: Article courtesy Tom Cousino, California 2001
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