articles appear below:
1 Bigfoot & Nessie...
2 Origin of Monster's Photo
Bigfoot & Nessie: Living Fossils
or Mythical Monsters?
(Investigator 149, 2013
concerned with the elusive quest for mysterious creatures such as
Bigfoot and the Loch Ness Monster (Nessie for short). Many proponents
of this fringe science claim these creatures exist and that there is
sufficient evidence to support this conclusion. Others, however,
maintain that these creatures are nothing more than mythical animals.
The purpose of this article is to determine which conclusion is most
likely to be correct.
AND HIS COUSINS
have been sightings
of a hominid-like creature in a number of different geographical
regions where it is known by a variety of names: Bigfoot (American
northwest), Sasquatch (Canada), Yeti (Himalayas) and Yowie (Australia).
alleged sightings of these animals have occurred in wilderness areas
and from these reports it is possible to describe Bigfoot and his
cousins as hairy man-like beings with large feet that stand 2 to 3
meters tall and weigh in the vicinity of between 225 and 363 kg.
sometimes suggest that these creatures (whom for the purpose of this
essay, I will collectively call beast-men) are living fossils like the
coelacanth — a fish that was thought extinct for millions of years
until a live specimen was caught off south-eastern Africa in 1938.
plausible, lacks the substantiating evidence as with the coelacanth —
namely, a specimen that can be subjected to scientific study.
Unfortunately, all that is offered as proofs for the existence of
beast-men are plaster casts of footprints, film and eyewitness
strange man-like footprints in the Himalayas since 1915 between the
altitudes of 3658 meters and 6707 meters, with the majority at 4573
meters or higher. Probably the most well known example are those found
by Eric Shipton on the Menlang glacier in November 1951, the intense
publicity of which was instrumental in bringing the Yeti myth to the
attention of a world-wide audience. Could these footprints be of an
animal unknown to science?
problem with this
assumption is that footprints of known animals found at the altitudes
mentioned — bears for example — could, under certain conditions, appear
speeds the track [of a bear] is often a composite one, with the fore
and hind foot superimposed; in these circumstances it can give the
appearance of a single track made by a bipedal creature. The outline of
the composite track, particularly in snow that has been subjected to
melting, is at first sight, extraordinarily human-like." (J. Napier:
Bigfoot - The Yeti and Sasquatch in Myth and Reality, page 151.)
The Himalayas and
adjacent ranges are also inhabited by hermits and mystics who are
capable of enduring intense cold and privations, and often wander naked
at high altitudes. Given that tracks of known animals (including man)
can be altered in size and shape by melting, sublimation, and the
effects of high winds and blizzards to resemble those of a hominid
creature, the possibility that footprints attributed to the Yeti are
nothing more than this cannot be ruled out.
Bigfoot have been found in northwest America since the 1920s. Here, the
case for the existence of some unknown creature appears at first glance
stronger than is the case with the Yeti because most footprints have
not been found in snow. However, Bigfoot tracks show a wide range of
variation and that makes the assumption these footprints are from the
same creature, or species of creature, doubtful. Consequently, several
possibilities come to mind — all of the tracks are hoaxes, or some of
the tracks are hoaxes and others genuine. The problem is how can we
distinguish between a clever hoax and a genuine footprint in the
absence of a Bigfoot specimen that can be studied for comparison?
example, the Bigfoot
phenomenon started to gain significant attention in 1958 due to the
activities of Ray L. Wallace (1918-2002) who, according to his son,
Michael Wallace, asked a friend to carve a pair of wooden feet 16
inches long that could be strapped on and used to make prints. When
these footprints were discovered The Humboldt Times (a local newspaper)
ran a front-page story on the find, thereby lending credence to the
idea that a mysterious creature was roaming the forests of Humboldt
County, California. If this admission had not been made, then some
might still consider these footprints genuine.
situation is no better — those footprints that have been discovered and
attributed to the Yowie are of an unconvincing nature, and therefore
more likely to be the products of hoaxers than an unknown animal:
are found, they tend to be unlike anything any plausible animal could
be expected to make, and certainly unlike one another. Feet are a
pretty fundamental part of a species' adaptation to its ecological
niche: a species may have four different hair colours but it simply
cannot have several different types of feet." (M Smith: Bunyips &
Bigfoots — In Search of Australia's Mystery Animals, page 164.)
the most well
known film of Bigfoot is the one shot by Roger Patterson and Bob Gimlin
on 20th October 1967 at Bluff Creek in northern California. However,
when the film is examined the gait of the creature is not consistent
with that of an erect ape-like animal. Rather, it is more consistent
with that of a human being dressed in a monkey suit attempting to
imitate an erect ape-like animal. In the final analysis the film and
photographic evidence is inconclusive for the same reason as the
footprints — namely, the possibility that they are nothing more than
are also inconclusive due to the physiology and psychology of human
perception. For example, according to Benjamin Radford (see
bibliography) even proponents of Bigfoot admit that many sightings
(perhaps up to 80%) turn out to be either hoaxes or misidentification
of known animals or objects. This can be seen in the case of Anthony
Wooldridge, an experienced Himalayan hiker, who photographed what he
thought was a Yeti. The photograph was of a convincing nature, however,
when researchers returned to the scene of the encounter, they
discovered that Wooldridge had photographed a rock outcropping whose
shape gave the impression of a man-like being under the conditions that
prevailed when the picture was taken.
possible that many
sightings of beast-men arise from the psychological phenomena known as
pareidolia — where a vague or obscure stimulus is perceived as
something clear and distinct because the brain attempts to make sense
of ambiguous data by filling in the gaps. The final form the illusion
takes is probably moulded by the conscious and unconscious desires and
beliefs of the percipient — if you are hiking through mountains
rumoured to be inhabited by a hairy monster then, under the right
conditions, that is what you will 'see'. What about the remaining 20% —
can these be considered genuine? Unfortunately, without any
substantiating evidence in the way of physical remains that withstand
scientific scrutiny, little weight can be given to eyewitness
beast-men to survive as a species, there would have to be a fair-size
population — adult males and females, infants and adolescents.
Furthermore, the various groups would also require a considerable
territorial range in order to secure the food, water and shelter
essential to survival. For example, gorillas live in bands of 5 to 15
individuals that include a dominant silverback, one or two subdominant
males, several mature females and young. Adult males can attain a
height of 1.6 meters, weigh up to 181 kg and consume approximately 16
kg of vegetable matter per day. These bands roam within a territory
that ranges up to 40 square km and build makeshift camps in the form of
nests constructed from grass and leaves.
it is reasonable
to assume that beast-men would have similar behaviour patterns and
requirements to those of gorillas. In fact their needs would be greater
due to their larger size and, as a consequence, would leave many traces
of their presence in their environment. Yet no incontrovertible traces
have been found. So, if they exist, then where are they?
on its diet,
the Yeti (if it exists) could theoretically occupy a niche just below
the snow line of the Himalayas, even during winter. On the other hand,
if it is a vegetarian it could survive in the forests of the major
Himalayan river valleys, most of which are largely unexplored.
Possibilities, however, do not equal actualities — although it is
possible that an animal unknown to science could live in these areas,
this cannot be considered proof that it does.
situation with regard
to Bigfoot is slightly different — the forests of the American
northwest are not a rich source of food in winter, so it is difficult
to see how a Bigfoot population could survive during this period.
Furthermore, the area is not as isolated as the Himalayas, as indicated
by the number of people who claim they have seen the creature, and this
highlights the fact that if these animals actually existed (and
remember, even extremely rare and endangered species can be proven to
exist if they are extant), then conclusive proof would not remain so
elusive for so long.
Australia are just as bad — those areas where Yowies have allegedly
been sighted occur in New South Wales and Queensland locations that are
widely separated from each other and have been heavily settled for some
time. Consequently, it is difficult to see how gene flow could occur
between widely separated groups to maintain species viability, and how
such populations in close proximity to human habitation could have
remained unconfirmed since European settlement.
decades of searching there is still no sound evidence for the existence
of any beast-men. No one has ever found any contemporary remains in the
way of bones, carcasses, hair or scat that have withstood scientific
scrutiny. Nor is there any evidence that a community of these creatures
exists in the vicinity of the alleged sightings. Also, there is no
evidence in the fossil record that shows the evolution of such animals,
although some believers have suggested that Gigantopithecus, a large
extinct ape-like creature, is a likely candidate. Unfortunately, the
only fossils of this animal found so far consist of teeth and lower
jaws. Until a more complete skeleton is discovered it is not possible
to determine if Gigantopithecus' stature and gait bears close
resemblance to that ascribed to Bigfoot and the Yeti.
culture has its
menagerie of mythical creatures — mermaids, the Minotaur, werewolves
and other man-animal hybrids. Many of these fabulous beasts may have
arisen from misidentification of known animals, hallucinations or
simply fabrications by hoaxers who derive pleasure from deceiving
others and/or the attention gained by claiming to have found or seen
something unusual. Until we have an actual specimen of a Bigfoot or
Yeti that can be subjected to scientific study to confirm its
authenticity, the only conclusion based on reason is the case for the
existence of beast-men remains unproved.
LOCH NESS MONSTER
Ness is a narrow
lake in northern Scotland. It extends in a north-eastern direction for
about 39 km from Fort Augustus to a point near the city of Inverness,
has an average width of about 2 km, and is about 230 meters at its
monsters are associated with Scottish lakes, and Loch Ness is the most
well known example. However, are people correct when they assume the
Loch Ness Monster is more than just a myth?
of the Loch
Ness Monster claim that this beast has been sighted down through the
centuries and offer this as proof of its existence. According to
believers, the earliest account of the monster is a legend that in
about 565 AD, Saint Columba, who had come to Scotland to convert the
Picts to Christianity, drove off the creature with his mystical powers
when it threatened one of his followers. Is it possible that this and
other ancient sightings are trustworthy accounts?
claims are investigated they are found to be unwarranted. For example,
the encounter between Saint Columba and the beast is recorded in
Adamnan's Vita Sancti Columbae written almost 100 years after
the saint's death. Like all biographies of this kind, it contains
amazing and improbable events that are designed to impress the reader
with the saint's alleged miracle-working abilities — in other words, a
pious fabrication. Consequently, it is a most untrustworthy document
and, furthermore the encounter occurred in the River Ness, an entirely
different body of water. Indeed, the situation with regard to the
alleged historical evidence can best be summarized as follows:
Loch Ness Monster tradition crumbles at the first sceptical probe. It
is simply untrue that the loch has been, as Roy Mackal claims, 'the
site of strange observations for over 1400 years.' No-one began seeing
'monsters' in Loch Ness until the nineteen-thirties." (R Binns: The
Loch Ness Mystery Solved, page 59)
effort to overcome
this problem, believers often claim that it was the inaccessibility of
Loch Ness that prevented the monster being sighted prior to the 1930s.
This claim, however, is also without foundation — during the 19th
century Loch Ness was a very popular tourist destination, with paddle
steamer excursions that took in the entire length of the lake.
Furthermore, access to the area was also possible via the north shore
road as described in the 1906 edition of Ward Locke and Company's 'Red
Guide' to Oban, Fort William and the Western Highlands.
be seen, the Loch
Ness phenomenon is of early 20th century origin, the catalyst of which
was a report in the Inverness Courier (02/05/1933) titled
"Strange Spectacle on Loch Ness." In this report it was claimed that
whilst driving along the north shore road, a husband and wife observed
a whale-like creature disporting itself on the waters of the lake a
quarter mile from shore.
however, was much less dramatic than the media hype: The unnamed couple
in the report was John and Donaldina Mackay, and the anonymous author
of the news item was Alex Campbell who had embroidered the incident to
a considerable degree. The prosaic fact is that Mrs. Mackay saw a
disturbance on the lake — at a range of about 100 yards — that, upon
reflection, appeared to be caused by two ducks fighting (Mr. Mackay saw
nothing as he was too busy driving).
plain truth of the
matter is that the idea of a monster in Loch Ness would probably have
died a natural death if it hadn't been for the actions of Alex
Campbell, a firm believer in the reality of the monster legend prior to
1933, who promoted the idea by drawing his alleged sightings — which
contain many contradictions — and those of others (also of questionable
veracity) to the attention of the often uncritical press. Indeed, when
loss of interest in the monster began to occur in 1934 the number of
sightings fell to barely two per year until 1957 when Constance Whyte's
book More Than a Legend revived interest in the idea.
other evidence can
believers offer to counter the claim that Nessie is nothing more than a
kind of collective delusion? Unfortunately, the only evidence that is
offered as proof is photographs and cine film. The problem with this
kind of evidence is that known objects can, under the right conditions
appear as something startlingly different (more on this later), while
photographs and cine film can be outright hoaxes. For example, the
photograph (probably the most famous) known as the "surgeons photo",
was allegedly taken by Dr. Robert Kenneth Wilson in 1934 and appears to
show the head and neck of a plesiosaur-like animal. Unfortunately, the
object in the photo is actually a model sea serpent attached to a
14-inch toy submarine, a fact admitted by Christian Spurling who was
involved in the hoax along with his stepbrother, Ian Wetherel, the
of images that
may not be hoaxes but are nevertheless inconclusive include the film
shot by Tim Dinsdale in April 1960 that shows something (a boat
perhaps?) moving through the lake's waters, though what it actually is
remains uncertain. In 1970, the American Academy of Applied Science
conducted a study to determine the monster's existence using automatic
cameras and sonar, and in 1972 one of the underwater cameras
photographed what appears to be a flipper 6 to 8 feet in length.
However, its anatomical features are not consistent with an efficient
swimming design, a fact that casts doubt on any claim that it is a
flipper. In 1975 another camera photographed something that could be
interpreted as the face of the beast or, for that matter, a piece of
instances of what
appear to be large moving objects have also been detected under the
waters of the lake through the use of sonar. However, the thermal
gradients and fluctuations in Loch Ness make the interpretation of data
difficult and, once again, the results are inconclusive.
POPULATION AND ORIGIN:
the lack of sound
evidence, believers often attempt to lend credence to their views by
claiming that the beast is a surviving species of plesiosaur — a marine
reptile that dominated the seas of the Mesozoic Era (circa 225 million
years before present). The problem is that there is no evidence in the
fossil record indicating plesiosaurs survived past the Mesozoic and
into the Cenozoic, or age of mammals.
problem with this
idea is that there can't be just one Nessie. In order for the beast to
have existed for so long (as believers claim), there would need to be a
breeding population of them (possibly between 12 and 100 animals).
Given the number of tourists to the area, dedicated cryptozoologists
and scientific expeditions to locate the creature over the last seventy
years, incontrovertible evidence would have shown up by now in the way
of a carcass washed ashore, or the discovery of other contemporary
attempt to overcome
this difficulty some believers claim there is only one monster that,
during the 1930s when young and small, gained egress to the lake via
the river system. The problem with this idea is that if it were true
then the creature would be a saltwater animal and, as such, could not
survive in the fresh water environment of Loch Ness. Furthermore, the
problem of a breeding population still remains — it has merely been
shifted to the oceans, and there is no sound evidence that plesiosaurs,
or creatures very much like them, inhabit the seas of our era.
that, based on the
available data, it is unlikely there is an animal unknown to science
dwelling in Loch Ness, how can the many sightings be explained? The
most likely answer is that these sightings have resulted from a
combination of the following factors:
in the existence of the monster that arose from the promotion of the
idea by people such as Alex Campbell, who appears to have been a
believer from the outset, and mostly uncritical press coverage of the
natural phenomena under less than ideal conditions of visibility, such
as wake-effects of boats, flocks of birds flying close to the surface
of the lake, logs and the mirages that are common to Loch Ness at
morning, a time when chances of observing the creature are considered
with a predisposition to believe in the monster's existence, and the
broad and featureless expanse of the lake's waters, which makes
judgment of size and distance difficult, as well as the air of mystery
created by the landscape, is probably sufficient to account for the
The Loch Ness
Mystery Solved, W.H. Allen & Co., London 1984.
Bigfoot: The yeti and Sasquatch in Myth and Reality, Readers Union
Ltd., Devon, 1974.
B. Bigfoot at
50: Evaluating a Half-Century of Bigfoot Evidence, Skeptical Inquirer,
M. Bunyips &
Bigfoots — In Search of Australia's Mystery Animals, Millennium Books,
Alexandria, Australia, 1996.
M. The World of
the Dinosaurs, Weidenfeld & Nicholson, London, 1977.
ORIGIN OF MONSTER'S PHOTO
to the article by
Kirk Straughen, "Bigfoot and Nessie: Living Fossils or Mythical
story behind the
Surgeon's Photo is quite interesting; in 1933 the London Daily Mail
hired flamboyant movie-maker and big game hunter Marmaduke Wetherell to
find the Loch Ness monster.
Wetherell discovered some large footprints in mud on the shoreline.
Estimating they were from a large creature, some twenty feet in length,
he made plaster casts of the prints and sent them to the London Museum
of Natural History for identification. To his disappointment the Museum
identified them as being those of a hippo, and, since wild hippos are
rare in Scotland, it was assumed someone had used a dried hippo's foot,
(one that had been converted into an umbrella stand), to make the
not known if
Wetherell was actually involved in the hoax, although it is more likely
he was an innocent victim. Nevertheless, the Daily Mail
publicly ridiculed Wetherell and, angry at the attack on his
reputation, he decided to have his revenge.
there were sensational developments when a highly respected British
gynecologist, Robert Kenneth Wilson, released a photo apparently
showing a sea serpent like creature swimming in the loch. Although
disputed by many this particular photo remained the strongest evidence
of the existence of the Loch Ness monster until 1994 when Christian
Spurling, (cited in various sources as being either Wetherell's stepson
or son-in-law), admitted the photo had been a hoax.
claimed that in order
to have revenge on the Daily Mail, Wetherell had asked him to
"monster". He agreed and, using materials obtained by Wetherell's son
Ian Marmaduke, he had moulded plasticine into a monster-like head and
neck which he mounted on a clockwork powered toy submarine purchased
Maurice Chambers (an insurance agent), who had asked Wilson to offer
the pictures to the Daily Mail. This then, was the origin of
the "surgeon's photo" of the Loch Ness monster. Comedienne Wendy Harman
probably best summed up the status of the Loch Ness monster in the
television show "20 – 1 Conspiracies" on Channel 9, on the 19th
September 2006, when she commented, "If there really was a Loch Ness
monster the Japanese would have hunted it down for scientific purposes
by now, don't you think."
examines and answers questions in religion and the paranormal: