Dr KARL SHUKER

Zoologist, media consultant, and science writer, Dr Karl Shuker is also one of the best known cryptozoologists in the world. Author of such seminal works as Mystery Cats of the World (1989), The Lost Ark: New and Rediscovered Animals of the 20th Century (1993; greatly expanded in 2012 as The Encyclopaedia of New and Rediscovered Animals), In Search of Prehistoric Survivors (1995), and more recently Extraordinary Animals Revisited (2007), Dr Shuker's Casebook (2008), Karl Shuker's Alien Zoo: From the Pages of Fortean Times (2010), Cats of Magic, Mythology, and Mystery (2012), and Mirabilis: A Carnival of Cryptozoology and Unnatural History (2013), his many fans have been badgering him to join the blogosphere for years. The CFZ Blog Network is proud to have finally persuaded him to do so.

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Friday, 23 January 2009

BIGFOOT BEGINNINGS

The pictures here are by the immensely talented Bill Rebsamen.

Prior to the famous if controversial film of an alleged bigfoot striding into a forest at Bluff Creek, California, which was taken on 20 October 1967 by rancher Roger Patterson, few people outside America had ever heard of this mystifying cryptozoological entity. In reality, however, stories supporting its existence date back centuries, as revealed by the following selection of bigfoot-related tales from the traditional folklore of the early European settlers and native American Indians.

THE WOOD DEVILS OF NEW HAMPSHIRE

According to the settlers inhabiting Coos County in New Hampshire, the deep woodlands of this New England state harboured elusive, fleet-footed beings known as wood devils. Although superficially humanoid in appearance, they were very tall, hairy, and thin, with grey skin. They were able to emit piercing screams, and their faces were not those of humans at all. Occasionally, a human would unexpectedly encounter one of these mysterious man-beasts, but if a wood devil became aware of a human's approach, it would conceal itself by standing upright and perfectly still against a tree, moving slightly to one side if necessary in order to keep the tree's trunk between itself and the oncoming person. All of these details are consistent with modern-day reports of the bigfoot.

ARULATAQ - AN ESKIMO BIGFOOT

Even as far north as Alaska, traditional belief in bigfoot-like entities is strong. The Yupik Eskimos, for instance, still speak of the arulataq - whose name translates as a creature that makes a bellowing cry. The Yupik affirm that the arulataq is an exceedingly tall, hairy, man-like being, loftier than a 9-ft or even 10-ft-tall spruce tree, but with such lengthy arms that even when standing upright it could touch the ground next to its large feet with its hands. Similarly, current reports of the bigfoot often state that it has unusually long arms. Although the arulataq is not predatory and actually seems quite curious about humans (again like the bigfoot), people seeing one would run away in fear, because of its formidable appearance.

HAIRY MAN-EATING GIANTS

A more common image in traditional American folklore, however, is that of the shaggy-furred, man-eating giant. According to an early Pueblo tale from Taos County, New Mexico, an old man once encountered one of these terrifying creatures, which killed him and took his body away to its cave. When he did not return home that evening, his family and friends set out in a party to search for him. After spying the hairy giant's huge footprints, they trailed them back to a huge cave, where they discovered the old man's bones and skull - all that remained after the giant had eaten him. They also found the skeletons of some of its earlier human victims. So, vowing to avenge their dead Pueblo kinfolk, they decided to smoke the monster out of its cave and kill it. When the enraged giant finally emerged, coughing loudly, they shot many arrows at it, but their weapons did not seem to harm it, and it ran away.


According to their description, the giant had big hands, feet, head, and mouth, very muscular arms, and a burly body covered in long hair. Eventually, after being chased by the Pueblos across the Lucero River, the giant was struck by lightning, and after retreating, fatally wounded, inside another cave, it died.

It is interesting to note not only that the giant's description compares closely with that of today's bigfoot but also that many present-day eyewitness reports of bigfoot encounters claim that the creature does not seem to be harmed by weapons, not even by bullets.

Intriguingly, according to an early Taos legend, as long ago as the 12th Century a tribe of Pueblos travelled southwards to the Rio Colorado's canyon, about 10 miles from Taos itself. Here they built a stone village, but were attacked by giants, forcing them to flee south.

The Kwakiutl Indians of British Columbia, Canada, also speak of forest-inhabiting giants with a taste for human flesh. In one such tale, a group of small children met a huge hairy man-beast, far taller than any human, and also readily distinguished from humans by its face, whose skin was rough and whose eyes were sunk deep in its face. This is a common, recurrent trait in Amerindian stories of hairy giants - and is one that just so happens to be a characteristic consistently occurring in modern-day descriptions of the bigfoot too.

This frightening being soon caught the helpless youngsters and carried them away in a large basket on its back, but one boy managed to escape from the basket without being seen by the giant and ran back to his village to alert the adults. Swiftly forming a hunting party, the village's men followed the trail left behind by the giant, as pointed out to them by the boy, and eventually they found themselves outside a large cave. Peering inside, they could see the giant and his wife, tying up the children in front of a large fire.

In this particular folktale, the men and the giants spoke the same language, conveniently enabling them to ask the giant what he intended to do with their children. Not surprisingly, they were horrified when he confirmed that he and his wife planned to smoke them over the fire, then eat them for dinner. Happily, however, fate lent a helping hand, when the giant unexpectedly confessed to the men that he was curious as to why their faces were smoother and their eyes more attractive than his. Thinking quickly, the men promised him that if he released the children, they would make his skin and eyes like theirs. The vain giant agreed, so once the children were safely out of harm's way, the men told him to fetch a large flat rock and a sharp pointed rock, and they would begin his beautifying treatment immediately.

When they had been given the two rocks, the men instructed the giant to lie on the ground, use the flat rock as a pillow to support his head, then close his eyes tightly, and keep them closed for the next four days, after which the treatment would be complete. This he did, but once his eyes were closed, the men hit him between his eyes with the sharp rock, slaying him instantly. When his giantess wife came to see what was happening, the men coolly informed her that he needed to lie there for four days, undisturbed, in order for the treatment to work. Little suspecting the truth, she allowed the men to leave the cave, which they did with all speed, until it was soon lost to sight in the far distance.

CRYPTO-CONCLUSIONS

Needless to say, such tales as these could easily be dismissed as entirely mythical, with no basis whatsoever in reality. After all, stories of man-eating giants are commonplace in mythology worldwide. So too, however, are modern-day reports of hairy man-beasts. Is it possible that these creatures do indeed exist - relics of more primitive, larger primate species, such as Gigantopithecus, known from fossils but not thought to have survived to the present day - and have been transformed by vivid human imagination from shy, inoffensive beings into bloodthirsty cannibals? There is a notable precedent for this hypothesis.

For centuries, travellers returning home to Europe from Africa recalled lurid native legends of huge, hairy, man-eating giants. Scientists, however, refused to believe such stories, until the existence of a certain species of extremely large, hairy, African primate was confirmed in 1847 - since when science has shown that it is really a placid vegetarian.

Today, we call this once-discounted giant the gorilla - and tomorrow, we may finally become acquainted with another officially-discounted giant, the bigfoot.

9 comments:

  1. The SkinWalker, Wendingo, Wechuge and the Kwakiutl Man-Eater are the representations of the dark side of humanity which can arise to destroy others in a time of severe hunger, rather than descriptions of actual animals.

    I would certainly be willing to describe Albert Fish or Jeffrey Dahmer as a Wendingo, but to view them as potential large hominids rustling about in the woods simply strains all credulity.

    Sign me as one devoted fan since the greatly missed Strange Magazine...

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  2. Hi there, Thanks for your comment. Yes, I agree that the early bigfoot reports are inextricably intertwined with myth and folklore. My thoughts are, however, that perhaps some of the legendary North American humanoid entities may have been based originally upon sightings of bigfoots and have subsequently been exaggerated and mythified, converting them into the magical, supernatural entities variously known today as the wendigo, skinwalker, etc. Of course, ultimately it is all speculation, but fascinating nonetheless. All the best, and thanks so much for your support for my blog, Karl

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  3. That Indian tale of slaying the giant reminds me of something out of a Scandanavian legend about trolls. I wonder if there's a connection there somehow.

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  4. watch the movie the 13th warrior. its based on a book by michael crighton-the eaters of the dead, which in turn is based on the diary of a midevil turk who journeyed with the vikings. the english poem "beowulf" is the same story but from a different perspective. grendel-wyndol-wendigo not hard to see how the names are connected and the small stone statues of a pregnant female body with no head have been found the world over. all in all pretty thought provoking if u look at it from many perspectives.

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  5. Ah, yes, Bigfoot.

    I wonder if someday, when Bigfoot is discovered, there might be a Diane Fossey among the Sasquatch. Maybe me?

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  6. Karl-Great Blog, if any doubts the facts surrounding these names, read "Missing 411", by David Paulides of North America Bigfoot Search. One of the best books I've read that deals with people who have disappeared in the woods of North America. Paulides doesn't make any allegations, just lays out facts that an insider to this issue can easily understand.

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  7. Who's to say they don't eat humans, or at least maybe they did in the past. After all if they are related to humans, we know our history... I mean, they do have foreward facing eyes, can'[t they be omnivorous predators like we are?

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  8. Well the diet of Gigantopithecus has shown to be like that of a chimpanzee, which is an omnivore that at times is a predator to other mammals. This is just speculation, but maybe Gigantopithecus did kill Native Americans that intruded into their territory or may have eaten humans when food was scarce. Now they may have just stopped this behavior due to our advanced weapons of today, like guns.

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