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View Bigfoot Hoaxes

Type: Legend.
Summary: The legend of the existence of a giant ape native to North America has inspired numerous hoaxes.


As early as the 1830s European settlers reported seeing a large, hairy biped roaming the Pacific northwest. Even before that Native-American legends told of a “Sasquatch” (meaning a “hairy giant”) that lived in the region. However, no concrete evidence exists to suggest such an animal exists—“concrete” here meaning tangible physical proof such as a body, or body part.

If a Bigfoot species did exist, it would seem likely that at some point one of them would die and leave a skeleton, or get run over by a car. But that apparently has never happened. What we have instead is a mountain of anecdotal evidence: eyewitness accounts, blurry photos, recordings of strange noises, and footprints. The problem with this anecdotal evidence is that much of it could have been faked. Even the most ardent Bigfoot believers admit that some of it was. Whatever wasn’t deliberately faked might be chalked up to wishful thinking.

Below are a few of the more notable hoaxes (or suspected hoaxes) associated with Bigfoot.


July 4, 1884: The British Columbia Daily Colonist reported that a gorilla-type creature had been captured by railway workers and was being held in a local jail. It was given the nickname “Jacko.” However, the entire thing turned out to be a hoax, as the hundreds of people who visited the jail and tried to view Jacko discovered, since Jacko was nonexistent. This story languished in obscurity until the 1950s when a reporter came across a reference to it (unaware it had turned out to be a newspaper hoax) and publicized it as an early example of a Sasquatch sighting.

Sasquatch Homicide

1908: Two miners, Frank and Willie McLeod, were found dead in the remote Nahanni Valley of Northwest Canada. Their heads had been torn off and were never found, on which slender thread of evidence their deaths were attributed to a Sasquatch attack. But the reality is that the brothers probably either died of cold, or were shot by the man traveling with them, Bobbie Weir. The heads then must have been scavenged by animals during the months before the discovery of the bodies. The scene of the deaths is now known as Headless Valley.

Attack in Ape Canyon

July 1924: Five miners in the woods near Mount Saint Helens (in southwest Washington) reported hearing strange pounding and whistling noises and then spotted a Sasquatch, which they fired upon. The miners retreated to their log cabin, but the Sasquatch (and some friends) gave pursuit. Throughout the night the Sasquatch continued their attack, rolling stones down onto the cabin and trying to force their way through the door. The story of this encounter was told over forty years later by one of the miners, Fred Beck, in a book he wrote with the help of his son, I Fought the Apemen of Mt. St. Helens. But fifteen years after that, in 1982, another man, Rant Mullens, told a Canadian newspaper that the entire attack had been an elaborate prank he and his uncle had played on the miners. He claimed they had simply rolled a few stones onto the roof of the cabin occupied by the miners, and that the miners then expanded this incident into a tale about an extended Sasquatch attack. Mullens also claimed that for years he had used wooden feet to leave Sasquatch prints out in the wilderness. Since neither Beck nor Mullens are entirely credible (especially given the length of time they waited before telling their stories), it’s quite likely they were both telling tall tales.

Abducted by Sasquatch

Albert Ostman
1924: Albert Ostman claimed that while he was prospecting for gold in British Columbia, he was abducted by a sasquatch and forced to live with the creature’s family for six days before he finally escaped. The implication was that the sasquatch had taken him prisoner for breeding purposes. On the face of it, Ostman’s story was absurd. It was made even more unbelievable by the fact that Ostman waited thirty-three years before he told it to the world. Most experts dismiss his abduction story as a wild tall tale.

How Bigfoot Got His Name

Jerry Crew
August 27, 1958: While working on a construction site in northwest California, a tractor operator named Jerry Crew found a series of massive, 16-inch footprints tracked through the mud. Due to the size of the prints, the media began referring to the creature that created them as “Bigfoot.” The name stuck, eventually replacing Sasquatch in the popular imagination as the name for North America’s legendary ape-man. It was long suspected that Crew’s prank-loving boss, Ray Wallace, had created the prints by strapping carved wooden feet to his boots and stomping around in the mud. This was confirmed when Wallace died in 2002 and his family came clean with the whole story. (Bigfoot believers, however, continue to insist the prints were legitimate Sasquatch tracks.)

The Patterson-Gimlin Film

October 20, 1967: Roger Patterson and Bob Gimlin travelled on horseback into the Six Rivers National Forest of northern California, carrying with them a 16mm camera, determined to get some footage of Bigfoot. Near Bluff Creek they spotted what appeared to be a female Bigfoot (shown in the thumbnail) striding along a riverbank. Patterson managed to record 952 frames of film before the creature disappeared into the forest. The footage he took remains, by far, the most famous evidence of Bigfoot’s existence. But rumors abound that Patterson and Gimlin were either victims of a hoax, or perpetrators of one. One theory is that the creature filmed by Patterson/Gimlin was the creation of John Chambers, lead make-up artist on the Planet of the Apes (filmed in 1967). More recently, a man named Bob Heironimus has come forward who claims he was hired by Gimlin to wear an ape suit and pretend to be Bigfoot for their film. Other witnesses have corroborated the details of Heironimus’s story.

The Minnesota Iceman

1968: During the late 1960s showman Frank Hansen began to exhibit a bigfoot-like creature frozen in a block of ice at carnivals throughout the Midwest. It appeared to be some kind of neanderthal man. In 1968 the creature came to the attention of two cryptozoologists, Ivan Sanderson and Dr. Bernard Heuvelmans, who became convinced that the creature was real. Through their interest in the Iceman, it came to the attention of a wider audience. There were a number of competing theories about the origin of the creature. Hansen himself claimed that it had been discovered by fishermen off the coast of Siberia. Heuvelmans speculated that it was a Neanderthal killed in Vietnam. A woman named Helen Westring claimed it was a creature that had attacked and raped her in the woods of Minnesota in 1966 before she killed it by shooting in through the eye. As pressure mounted on Hansen to allow scientists to examine the creature, he admitted he was showing a latex replica created by Hollywood special effects artists. The original body, he claimed, had been shipped back to its owner in Asia (an anonymous millionaire). The smart money says the Iceman was a latex replica all along.

Bride of Bigfoot

May, 1976: Cherie Darvell was a member of a film crew searching for Bigfoot in the woods outside Eureka, California. Unfortunately for her, she found Bigfoot and he abducted her. Or so she claimed. Humboldt County organized a search party to find her, but without success. (Total cost for the search: $11,613. Humboldt County tried to sue Shasta County to make them pay a portion of the cost, but a judge struck down their suit, ruling that the search for Bigfoot had been an “exercise in futility.”) A few days later, Darvell walked into a nearby resort, looking none the worse for wear, despite her experience as a Bride of Bigfoot. When reporters tried to ask her questions about her ordeal, her only response was to scream. Her fellow filmmakers, Ed Bush and Terry Gaston, later released a movie showing her being carried away by Bigfoot. It crossed the minds of a few people that the “abduction” had been simply an elaborate publicity stunt.



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