Oct 192009

Go back to the Bigfoot Compendium.

This essay was originally published in the journal Northwest Science, Vol. 62, No. 3, 1988 pages 129 and 130. A PDF version of the article is found here:

I’ve taken the liberty to re-post it here, to put into HTML. The original illustration is not included here. A short discussion of mine follows Bodley’s essay.

Sasquatch Footprints: Can Dermal Ridges be Faked?

John H. Bodley, Department of Anthropology

Washington State University Pullman Washington 99164-4910


In May 1987 six very fresh giant human-like footprints (approximately 45 x 15 cm) were discovered in the

Blue Mountains of southeastern

Washington State by myself and a student. These

tracks resembled those that have been reported

throughout the Pacific Northwest and which

some attribute to the Sasquatch, or Bigfoot, a

legendary, bipedal, human-like creature (Green

1978). With the exception of a single scuff mark,

and one print over a bent shrub, each footprint

was a complete, very clear impression, approximately one centimeter deep in the firm damp

soil of the trail, or somewhat deeper in the softer

soil beside the trail. These particular tracks were

of special interest because they were extremely

fresh and because upon close inspection they

were found to contain distinct impressions of dermal ridges. Dermal ridges are the tiny swirls or

concentric ridges on palms and digits of hands and feet that leave “finger prints” or “toe prints.”

Such friction skin is found only in primates.

Given the presence of the ridges, the general

crispness of the footprints, and the fact that it

had been raining lightly during the afternoon the

prints were found, it seemed likely that the prints

were perhaps only a half-hour old when first

found. Unfortunately, the ridges did not transfer

to plaster of Paris castings that were made the

following day. These casts were made by Paul

Freeman who, unlike us, had the necessary

materials with him.

However, several years earlier, in June of

1982, plaster casts made by Paul Freeman, then

a U.S. Forest Service patrolman, from similar

tracks in the same general region did yield

distinct dermal ridge impressions.

Casts of these

earlier tracks were analyzed by several dermatoglyphic experts (including Douglas M. Monsoor, a Colorado

criminologist; Robert D. Olsen,

with the Kansas Bureau of Investigation, and Edward Palma and Benny Kling, with Wyoming law

enforcement offices) who all concluded that

it would be extremely difficult, if not impossible,

for someone wishing to make fraudulent

“Sasquatch” tracks to also produce such fine detail

as these ridges (Krantz l983). They all found the

pattern consistent with foot arrangements, and not

patched together from several hand impressions.

Even though Krantz’s analysis of the 1982 casts

led him to discount the possibility of deliberate

faking in that case, the circumstances of the 1987

tracks led me to test the feasibility of artificially

producing prints of dermal ridges. I was especially puzzled by the remarkable perfection of the

tracks and their distribution along the trail.

Although the tracks were randomly distributed

along a quarter-mile stretch of trail over basically

uniform ground, only a single pair of sequential

left-right prints were found. The other associated

print was a single scuff mark found 10 meters

up the trail from a print very deeply pressed in-

to the center of the trail. It was difficult to ex-

plain why so few tracks were found on so much

available soft soil. The possibility that they had

been artificially planted could not be ruled out,

but it was necessary

to account for the presence

of the detailed dermal ridge impressions.

Krantz (1983:72) reported that some critics

had speculated that dermal ridges could be produced using rubber castings. He also observed

that the wind-blown loess topsoil of southeastern

Washington was fine enough to hold the imprint

of dermal ridges and demonstrated

with his own

thumbprint that ridges could be transferred from

skin-to-soil and then to a plaster cast. I was interested to see if entire footprints could be produced, complete

with such ridges. The purpose

of this experiment was to determine if dermal ridges could in fact be produced in a deliberately faked footprint.


In order to produce dermal ridges, a mold of a

44 cm Sasquatch-like footprint was shaped from

modeling clay. I then carefully rolled my bare

big toe in the soft clay to leave clear dermal ridge


I rolled my heel across the heel of

the mold, and imprinted my forehead on the

center of the clay footprint. Additionally, impressions of hand and feet skin were made with

Elmer’s glue and dried pieces of glue pressed

into the clay. Plaster of Paris was then poured

into the mold and allowed to harden. Upon removal, impressions of dermal ridges were clearly

visible in the resulting cast. An outline of the

track was then traced on the damp ground, the

soil beneath was loosened with a screw-driver,

and the plaster cast was pressed firmly into this

prepared soil, In order to make a good impression, it was necessary to stamp on the cast. (The

cast was broken in the process, but this seemed

not to affect the impression). Fresh plaster was

then poured into the impression in the soil, and

the second cast was examined. It also faithfully

reproduced the dermal ridges that were imprinted into the original clay mold.


Under the right soil conditions, impressions of dermal ridges can easily be transferred from skin-

to-clay, from clay-to-plaster, from plaster-to-soil

and finally from soil back into plaster. Even more

remarkable was the transfer from first skin-to-

glue and then into the same transfer sequence:

clay to plaster to soil and into plaster again,

although the resulting cast in this case was a

“negative” print.

Krantz (personal communication) readily

recognized that the resulting cast I produced was

a clumsy fake because of the crudely-shaped toes,

and seven dermatoglyphic experts (certified latent

print examiners in Washington, Oregon, and

California, and another visitor from Scotland

Yard) readily determined that the ridges were not

correctly situated.

Dermal ridges can be faked in footprints with

relative ease, at least under certain soil conditions. This experiment certainly does not prove

that the specific tracks examined in May 1987

were fakes, but it does suggest that any purported

sasquatch prints containing impressions of dermal ridges need to be carefully evaluated for the

possible presence of patching or other irregularities throughout the entire footprint.


The author was accompanied in the field by

Lonnie Somer, a graduate student anthropology at Washington State University.

Grover S. Krantz provided the contacts that made

this field investigation possible, and showed my

creation to the fingerprinters. My son, Brett

Bodley. prepared the glue skin impression.

Literature Cited

Green,John. 1978. Sasquatch: The Apes Among Us. Seattle:

Hancock House.

Krantz, Grover S. 1983. Anatomy and Dermatoglyphics of

Three Sasquatch Footprints. Cryptozoology 2:53-81.

Received 2 January 1988

Accepted. 15 February 1988

I discovered this essay only recently, after having done my own tests to see if textures as fine as dermal ridges could really be captured in natural substrates, and then in cement casts. Indeed, one test I did with my own foot impressed into ordinary potters clay led to a spectacular capture of my own dermal ridges:

A close up photo clearly shows my own dermal ridges. I never did follow through and impress this cast into natural soil as Bodley did. Casting cements such as Ultracal and Hydrocal are significantly stronger than ordinary plaster of Paris. It might be interesting to see if casts made with these higher strength casting compounds would resist breakage better than plaster of Paris.

Screeds and Essays

 Posted by on 10/19/2009 Bigfoot, Hoaxes

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