A while back, I discussed the differing perspectives of researchers and witnesses toward the bigfoot phenomenon. You can read about that here, and please do if you haven’t, because it will set the context for today’s topic.
In a nutshell, one reason researchers and witnesses (long-term ones especially) approach this subject differently is because of differing levels of personal experience. To researchers, many of whom have little to no face-to-face personal experience with Sasquatch, the subject of bigfoot is primarily an intellectual pursuit, devoid of emotion. To witnesses, particularly long-term witnesses but also incidental witnesses who can be deeply affected by a single sighting, their involvement in this subject tends to be much more emotionally-oriented. Researchers may say that those who are emotionally involved in this subject cannot be “objective”. But, in my mind, the question really comes down to this: What is one’s objective?
In other words, an additional difference waits in the wings, waiting to trip up witnesses and researchers who would attempt to communicate with one another. And that is intent. Objective.
The questions asked by researchers and witnesses are different. Researchers generally are focused on attempting to prove the existence of Sasquatch. “There is no point in asking what they are when we haven’t even proven that they exist.”
Witnesses, on the other hand, care little for proof as a general rule. Especially long-term witnesses. Why would they need to prove to the world what (or whom) they’ve seen or interacted with? In my experience, the more experiences a witness has had, the less interest they show in proof. An incidental witness who has a brief road crossing sighting and finds himself ridiculed by friends or co-workers is subsequently much more likely to want to prove the existence of Sasquatch than a long-term witness who has had multiple, close interactions with a particular individual or group of individuals. A researcher who has had NO sighting or close interaction is the most likely to wish to prove Bigfoot’s existence – they have little to no emotional investment in the phenomenon (aside from whatever ego they may have risked with their involvement in the subject).
And therein lies the rub. Researchers, while they claim to focus solely on proving whether or not Sasquatches exist, are often quick to tell us what they think Sasquatches are or are not, (usually based upon other primate research or upon reading eyewitness reports – usually those of incidental witnesses who can only tell you what a Sasquatch looks like crossing a road). Long-term witnesses, on the other hand, will tell you what they understand Sasquatches to be based upon their personal experience, which is sometimes claimed to be extensive.
It gets interesting when witnesses – ones who claim similar experiences, who don’t know one another and haven’t had their experiences published, mind you – are in agreement on many details. This happens remarkably often in my work with long-term witnesses and is one of the reasons I’ve focused on them for so many years. It also goes a long way toward explaining why I feel I’ve learned so much from long-term witnesses over the years and so little from researchers. It might not be a pleasant truth, but there it is.
All things equal, who would you listen to? Someone who claims to know but has no firsthand experience? Or someone who claims to know, claims firsthand experience and those experiences match others’? (This is the point I’ve been trying to make to the research community since I was ridiculed on the IVBC in the 90’s for working with long-term witnesses.)
Researchers are bent on proving that Sasquatches exist. Long-term witnesses know that the behaviors necessary to do so are counter-productive to the very continuing contact that might allow one to get close enough to do so. Witnesses don’t care, because they’re not out to prove it. Their only intentions are to understand them better and protect them if at all possible. I can’t think of a single long-term witness I know who doesn’t share this philosophy.
Long-term witnesses simply want to interact with Sasquatches. They soon learn that interaction must be mutual if it is to occur. The very act of trying to prove that something exists is not a mutual endeavor – mutual, that is, between the “prover” (the researcher) and the “provee”. (the Sasquatch). I realize that provee is not a word, but I don’t care. *grin* The word mutual, I’ve come to learn, is more important than I can possibly emphasize…
Witnesses generally have similar perspectives on the focus, intent and actions of researchers, and those perspectives speak volumes about the “emotionally logical” place that witnesses come from based upon their experiences – and not only what they feel they’ve learned from those experiences but the feelings they have about the beings they’ve interacted with.
The following is from a discussion I had with a long-term witness who was concerned about a report of a research organization shooting a sasquatch. While you may agree or disagree with either the research organization or witness’ take on this, I believe that you may find it an interesting look at two very disparate perspectives; those of a research organization and those of a long-term witness who claims multiple, up-close encounters. The comments in bold are from the TBRC website, documenting the attempt to take a “specimen”. The comments following each section are from the witness.
From Spring 2006 to Summer 2011, the Texas Bigfoot Research Conservancy (TBRC) carried out a plan to keep arrays of camera traps running continuously to increase the odds of documenting wildlife.
A witness’ perspective: “Well, for one thing, they’re not wildlife. To me, that’s entrapment. They’re trying to ‘lure’ them. Why do humans normally set cameras up? What are they used for? They’re used to locate something and to hunt it. To spy on it. They want to know where these [animals are] so they can go out and hunt them. They want to kill them. How would you react to being hunted? You’re dealing with a sentient being. A being that has language. That was what was said: ‘Camera traps.’ It would be like spying on a family somewhere. Gathering information on that family that can be used to hunt/hurt that family. If someone came into your home and put a surveillance camera up to watch every move you make, there would be an outcry against that. We get so angry about the government spying on us… to me, this is no different. All they want is to live their lives, just like Americans want to, without any intrusions into our lives, to manipulate our lives. Why wouldn’t they deserve the same respect we do?”
Although no photographs of the target species were obtained, much was learned through these efforts.
A witness’ perspective: “What was learned? Exactly what? It was learned that they will avoid game cams at all costs. It’s a game for them. They take those cameras and twist them around. Audio is recorded just out of sight of video surveillance cameras. They stay out of the line of sight deliberately. The only people I know who have any kind of images of them are people who have good interaction with them. And those aren’t aren’t released publicly because people don’t trust the research community, because they have an ulterior motive when they come on to your place. They want to take what you have and use it to study and exploit them and further their own standing in the research community. Landowners are harassed and intimidated because they won’t share with them.”
The premise for Operation Endurance was based on evaluations of previous experiences indicating that prolonged stays in an area occupied by one or more sasquatch creatures could result in expressions of animal behavior of a more overt nature than shorter visits of, say, one to three days.
A witness’ perspective: “Good grief. This whole thing sounds like they’re going out to fight some monster who is taking over things. Most of the reports that come in about any kind of bad relationship between Sasquatch and humans are because of a misunderstanding of their behavior. With long-term witnesses, there is not this need to control the behavior of the Sasquatch. And you can’t anyway, because their behavior is individual… it is subject to the behavior of the human who is interacting with them. 99% of the time, we’re the ones who dictate the kind of behavior that’s going come from them.”
From 4 June to 20 August 2011, teams of two to five members of the Texas Bigfoot Research Conservancy spent from several days to weeks in a near continuous visitation within a location thought to represent occupied sasquatch habitat. Generally speaking, teams went in for one-week periods, at which point another team relieved them. Twenty-three members took part in the operation.
A witness’ perspective: “What did those 23 people accomplish in understanding anything about the Sasquatch? Their methods don’t work yet they continue to do this time after time, when others who are not out trying to control or manipulate the situation have “class A’ encounters (to give them back a ‘research’ term). The research community tends to think they are the only ones who can prove this without a doubt. Long-term witnesses chances are much greater that they are going to have quality interaction. People who just go into the woods with no ulterior motive have a much greater chance of having a quality interaction! This is happening to hundreds of people. They’re not coming forth with evidence because most people who are having quality interaction aren’t looking for evidence. They’re looking for experience. And the very act of trying to obtain evidence changes the environment in which close interaction would happen. There’s nothing wrong with taking photos of what’s left behind, the physical signs that they are there, but how you go about that is the key. A researcher once told me, regarding call-blasting, ‘we go out and get a response and that’s scientific proof’. I asked him, ‘Do you know that was a sasquatch?’ But more than that, that’s all they’re getting. He doesn’t know what that response is. You don’t know if you may have offended them, frightened them, upset them… and you’re not getting anything more than that. Call-blasting is like going into another country and picking out a word and screaming it out of context to the people who speak the language.
Research is like fishing. You stand on riverbank and cast out your line. You get a nibble. And you cut bait and go home, patting yourself on the back because you’re the best fisherman in the world. Because you got a nibble. And all the other fisherman pat you on the back.
Meanwhile, long-term witnesses are sitting down nightly to a delicious fish dinner as the researchers tell them they don’t know how to fish.”
Purported sasquatch sightings and related phenomena have been reported from the study site and the general locale for years. Based on assessments of such reports, TBRC members were reasonably confident sufficient reasons existed to suggest the probable ongoing presence of sasquatches; however, no member of the TBRC had ever seen a sasquatch in the area.
A witness’ perspective: “That’s because witnesses have sightings. Researchers rarely have sightings. If you took a poll of those in the research community, the percentage of those who have had an actual quality sighting would be very low. And they’re trying.”
Initial analyses of these logs indicated what appeared to be a possible pattern of activity levels, with low or intermittent intensities of possible behaviors, such as distant wood knock sounds, building to more intense records of closer and more varied events every few days.
A witness’ perspective: “Boy, they played with those guys… if the researchers had gone in there in a different frame of mind, the possibilities would have been greatly increased that there would have been more interaction. They probably would have come right up to camp and hung around, because they’re so curious about us. And then, if the behavior of the humans would have facilitated it, you could have expected them to come up close enough to watch the humans because they like to do that. But those researchers proved by what they were doing in the woods that their intention was to trap them, to find them, to hunt them. All they had to do was be there without that agenda and all of the equipment and they would have come to them.”
The dense overhead canopy greatly limited nighttime vision, and the thick vegetation surrounding the cabins served to severely restrict lines of sight. This made it nearly impossible to detect sound sources sometimes originating mere yards from the main cabin. The terrain and dense foliage made daytime observations from other vantage points difficult as well. This situation forced teams to depend upon camera traps to keep constant watch in places where, it was hoped, sasquatches might show up.
A witness’ perspective: “What they’re doing is making excuses why they didn’t get anything. The real reason they didn’t is because of what they went in there to do. The Sasquatches probably watched them the whole time. They knew what was going on. The real reason had nothing to do with trees and bushes. It had to do with the researchers’ behavior. The Sasquatches were obviously around. They weren’t ‘showing up’ because they didn’t trust the people. They know what a game cam is. How do they know? EXPERIENCE. Hunters put up game cams in areas where animals are harvested. How hard is it to put those two together?”
The sounds were generally produced at night, but quite a few were also heard during daylight hours during the second half of Operation Endurance. On numerous occasions they appeared to originate from close to the location of the observers, within fifty to one hundred yards. Sometimes the sounds came from several locations within a matter of seconds in an apparent display of response to other knocks.
A witness’ perspective: “All these Sasquatches are probably out of sight, tree-knocking and laughing their heads off. They play with people like that. They use wood knocking, yes. For locating, for sending a message… some of these wood knocks are in a different tone. All people hear is that it’s a wood knock. But just like a drum head, where you hit it will produce a slightly different sound.”
Rock throwing was also noted by each of the teams on numerous occasions. Although the TBRC observers noted the occasional drop of hickory nuts, they also observed the sharper and much louder bangs of rocks striking the cabins. One cabin in particular, situated near the base of a mountain, seemed to be a favorite target. Team members repeatedly cleared the roof of rocks during the operation and checked regularly for new rocks. On at least one-half dozen occasions during the following weeks, what observers interpreted as rock impacts during the night were confirmed the following morning with the discovery of new rocks on the roof.
A witness’ perspective: “How many times in your life have you thrown rocks at something just to play? Most of the time it’s juveniles messing with someone. Getting attention. Trying to get a reaction out of the humans. How many of them went outside to see what was going on? When you’re at a zoo and the animals are just sitting there doing nothing (like people in a cabin), you might throw a rock at it, make a funny noise, to see if you get a reaction. The funny thing is, the humans were thinking that they were observing bigfoot behavior, when in reality, the Sasquatches were the ones trying to get a reaction so they could observe the humans” behavior.”
The TBRC observers heard other forms of behaviors such as a variety of bizarre and distinctive vocalizations and apparent nocturnal stalking and harassment activities they could not ascribe to known species. Sounds resembling heavy running footfalls were noted by several members in association with other events, as when investigating a wood knock sound, checking for the source of a building being repeatedly struck, or after flushing animals during the night that retreated unseen through the thick vegetation or up the steep mountainside.
A witness’ perspective: “They are masters at the game. We’re in their home, their element. It’s like playing hide and seek in the dark in your own house with someone who’s never been there. You don’t trip over the coffee table.”
The Delta team brought a Marantz audio recorder with a Sennheiser microphone; it was used one night to document sounds and it produced some extremely interesting results, including vocalizations resembling some of those captured decades earlier in northern California, the so-called Sierra Sounds.
A witness’ perspective: “Audio recorders aren’t obtrusive. They don’t seem to have a problem with them. ”
The high summer temperatures may have played a role in this failure to obtain photos.
A witness’ perspective: “Again, they’re making excuses for why the cameras didn’t work. They spent all this money on all this equipment, all these hours, trying to produce evidence. It doesn’t work.”
In spite of the failures of the cameras, team members made two daytime observations of sasquatches during the second month of Operation Endurance…. The first creature, observed on 3 July 2011 at approximately 7:15 PM, was described by the TBRC observer as a smoothly walking brown-colored upright figure approximately 6.5 feet tall or taller. The observation lasted about two or three seconds and was made at a distance of about thirty yards…. The TBRC investigator fired upon the animal with an auto-loading shotgun in an attempt to collect a specimen.
A witness’ perspective: “They had a sighting, and what’s the first thing they did? These people tried to kill it. They tried to, in their words, ‘harvest a specimen’. If I were in the place of that Sasquatch, it would definitely have been proof to me that these were people who could not be trusted. This shooting happened at the end of the research project. So the researchers were beginning to have some limited interaction with them. They came close enough in the daylight to have a sighting in the daylight at 30 yards! And what did the humans do? They betrayed their trust in the worst possible way. Their trust is already so fragile with us. They observe us, because they know that we are individuals. Some of us can be trusted and some cannot. They don’t look at us as specimens. They observe us and see us as individuals. They recognize us individually and remember us. So when an individual does something untrustworthy, they react to the individual human and the people who are associated with them.”
In his opinion, the coloring, sparse distribution and drop pattern of the blood evidence was not indicative of a mortally, or even significantly, wounded animal.
A witness’ perspective: “Even if he wasn’t significantly wounded, his trust was destroyed. Their distrust of us was proven legitimate once again, because people act like this time and time again. No wonder it takes them so long to warm up to us. No wonder they observe us so carefully. Their survival depends on it.”
Events experienced by team members produced an overall perception that the creatures were extremely intelligent, wary yet curious. For example, by all appearances, sasquatches definitely take notice of the presence of cameras, approaching with circumspection, if they approach at all. Such behavior is not at all far-fetched; indeed, wildlife biologists have recently noted similar cautious behavior among alpha coyotes in relation to camera traps (Sequin, Brussard, Jaeger, & Barrett, 2003). Members believe we have come very close to obtaining images; we will continue to employ cameras for documentation purposes, in spite of the noted limitations.
A witness’ perspective: “They didn’t learn a thing. Researchers continue to use the same methods over and over again that produce next to nothing. It will produce a little bit, but it’s nothing that is of any quality compared to the experiences that are possible when humans go into the woods without an agenda other than to experience them on a level that most researchers can never even fathom. The thing that the researcher community doesn’t realize is that there are dozens of people who are having quality interaction and have HARD evidence to show that this is happening. But they are unwilling to share these things because of how the witnesses are treated by the research community and how the sasquatches would be treated. They’re trying to get scientific proof in ways that aren’t working when others – witnesses – ARE gathering scientific proof without purposely trying or harming the Bigfoot in the process or doing it with an ulterior motive. I personally know several long-term witnesses who have submitted numerous samples for scientific study because they hope it will bring them protection. The reason that most people haven’t heard about these witnesses is because they’re not out trying to make a name for themselves. They care about protection only.”
A huge thank you to the witness who was willing to share this perspective with us.
Personally, I firmly oppose any attempt to exploit, harass or harm a Sasquatch or take a “specimen” and I fully support witnesses who are willing to speak out and share their experiences and desire for protection. I realize that my position as an advocate for both witnesses and Sasquatch doesn’t make me terribly popular in the the research community, despite the fact that I still have a great many friends who call themselves researchers and approach this from a research perspective. That’s okay. I can still like people and disagree with them, and my friends are mature enough to do that, too. But my involvement in this subject isn’t about popularity. It’s about speaking what I consider to be my truth… not just looking for “the” truth and damn the consequences. It’s about ethics, compassion, consideration for those “beings” I saw when I was a kid, for the people who have interacted with them and been affected by them as I have. Our quest for scientific understanding is all fine and dandy, but when we stop caring about the effects of our study on that which we study – or the people who are offering their personal, private experiences in an attempt to help us understand, for that matter – what does it say about us? When do we stop and study ourselves?
When you have a sighting, the experience changes your perspective. I can say that to folks who haven’t seen a Sasquatch all day long, but it won’t make a difference. But, just for kicks, let me say it again: Personal experience changes perspective. Witnesses understand that from the inside-out. Those who haven’t had a sighting find it difficult to appreciate how much it changes perspective. Heck, “cancer” is a scary word no matter who you are… but you sure hear it differently after you or someone you love has been diagnosed.
Incidentally, some grumble about the lack of “evidence” brought forth by long-term witnesses. They question the veracity of the claims made by witnesses and will bully, ridicule and subsequently discredit the witnesses if they don’t just hand over whatever they have. I will say this: I’ve seen evidence from long-term witnesses – physical evidence, audio evidence, photographic evidence, video evidence – and a lot of it. I share some of it privately with the members of the OB community when I have the witness’ permission. A lot of it I don’t share at all because I’ve been asked not to. But what I’ve seen is enough to satisfy me that these folks are worth listening to. And, for what it’s worth, they were willing to share it because I did listen.
Sometimes you have to give trust to get trust. Sometimes it works. Sometimes it doesn’t, depending on the individual you’re trusting. But I’ve found that if you’re less concerned about your “credibility” (popularity) in an arbitrary online community than you are about your openness and willingness to learn, you end up with a lot more information to work with and you learn a lot more along the way.