Oct 192009
 

Go back to the Bigfoot Compendium.

The rapid growth and success of Wikipedia has spawned similar endeavors in other, more focused areas of interest. Indeed, one can create a “Wiki” about anything at all. Ideally, the wiki should strive to be as objective and inclusive as possible. This can be very hard to do, especially with subjects that are naturally controversial to begin with.

But the wiki concept has a dark side, too, in that it can act as a way to “spin” nonsense as impartial truth. I suspect that in the future we will see all sorts of marginal and controversial subcultures generate associated wikis in an attempt to legitimize themselves. After all, what better way to promote “fringe” concepts than by claiming a body of information to be “neutral and unbiased”.

Already we see the creation of a Bigfoot wiki; the “Squatchopedia”. Not surprisingly, I find an entry for myself. By and large the entry lives up to its stated claim: Squatchopedia content must always represent views fairly, proportionately and without bias.” First off, it looks like they missed the Wilhelm Reich reference of “orgone” by misspelling “orgone” as “Oregon”…

But more substantively is this passage:

AIBR/TBRC member Melissa Hovey endeavored to replicate Crowley’s described procedures, but was unable to obtain the same results, as described in brief articles here and here.

Let’s take a step back and look at some background on this situation. In October of 2005 I met Melissa Hovey at a Bigfoot conference in Texas. When she asked me to sign her conference t-shirt I recognized a certain groupie behavior which I had seen much of during my time spent as a sideshow performer. Later on that evening her time spent with a “name” Bigfooter at a sponsored dinner reinforced my initial opinion. Though she was not a conference speaker or a long time member of this subculture, she inserted herself into a conference group photograph. It was clear to me that this individual really wanted to participate in this unique subculture.

Melissa Hovey soon established herself online as a strong Bigfoot proponent. At the same time, I was still investigating the nature of the desiccation ridge phenomenon. At one point I publicly suggested that if someone wanted to see these textures for them self they could do so by making plaster of Paris test casts in pumice. Previously I had purchased pumice at Seattle Pottery Supply, which they also label as “volcanic ash”.

By the time I made this suggestion, my own replication of the desiccation ridge phenomenon was so easy I felt confident suggesting that others could do the same thing.

At this point Melissa Hovey decided to participate as well, but in a rather unique way. Instead of obtaining pumice, as I had suggested, she obtained something else entirely, which at one point she claims was Tricalcium sulfate, and at another Tricalcium phosphate.

Houston, we have a problem.

What we have here is a profound misunderstanding of the fundamentals of science. If I say I used Tween 80 in my scientific experiment, and you want to replicate it, you need to use Tween 80 as well. You can’t substitute Coca-Cola and call it science. This is such a basic notion that I’m sort of embarrassed to have to bring it up. At this point I knew that Melissa Hovey was not only a groupie, but was also either an intellectual defective or was playing some sort of pathological social game. I tried to play nice, and explain how science really works, but she would have none of it. Even at this point we were witnessing textbook pseudoscience coming from this individual.

And then things got worse.

Melissa Hovey then began to make the rather interesting claim that selling pumice was illegal. This was an egregious falsehood, and I began to wonder why others weren’t calling her on her bullshit. What exactly did Melissa Hovey think was in a bar of Lava soap?

Then things got downright pathological. Melissa Hovey implied that I was being dishonest about where I had obtained my own samples of volcanic ash. Eventually she transitioned from simply implying to an outright, unambiguous accusation that I was a liar.

“Fact is Tube – your (sic) not being honest and you know it.”

The story then takes a weird twist. Melissa Hovey actually purchases volcanic ash from Seattle Pottery Supply for herself. This is a copy of a document that she herself posted online:

At this point it’s clear beyond a shadow of doubt that Melissa Hovey made a bizarre and false accusation against me. I’ve certainly never received any kind of apology for this pathological accusation.

But time has a way of catching up to people like Melissa Hovey. In early 2008 Melissa Hovey found herself at the center of a bizarre Bigfoot sex scandal.

But perhaps more damning than the sex scandal itself was that it opened the floodgates of people who said they personally discovered that Melissa Hovey was a liar. Thought she had been involved in the subculture for less than 3 years, numerous individuals had now formed strong and negative opinions about her. Sadly, fringe sciences have often attracted morally unstable or intellectually defective individuals, and it became rather clear that Melissa Hovey fit this bill.

So let’s get back to our wiki and examine this claim:

Melissa Hovey endeavored to replicate Crowley’s described procedures.

In a word, No. She did nothing of the sort. Her blatant substitution of volcanic ash for something else is not science, but textbook pseudoscience. This “wikitruth” is a lie and a canard.

The fact is, others HAVE replicated my tests, and gotten just the results I said they would. Brenden Bannon obtained volcanic ash at a pottery supply store, made a test cast, and got exactly the results I suggested he would:

Even more importantly, Jeff Meldrum himself obtained desiccation ridges on test casts YEARS before I was even aware of this issue. Obviously Meldrum cannot be accused of “skeptical bias” as perhaps Bannon and I could. Meldrum also obtained his results in natural soil, not a pure powder obtained from a pottery supply store.

But one series of tests by Melissa Hovey deserve to be discussed, and that was creating test casts in a soil sample from Onion Mountain obtained almost 40 years after the original event. These tests appear to be the cornerstone of the suggestion that the textures on CA-19 and CA-20 may NOT be desiccation ridges. Indeed, I was also sent a sample of this soil and tested it myself. I didn’t obtain desiccation ridges either.

The problem is, the tests with this soil are a moot point, as proof that this process really did occur is seen in the casts themselves. Proof is a strong word to use in science, and I don’t use that word lightly.

If you examine the texture of CA-20, you will see that it is more or less a blob, totally lacking in fine detail. No doubt whatever made the track in the first place was foot shaped, whether it was a genuine Sasquatch or a human hoax. You will note that CA-20 exhibits no toe detail whatsoever. The gross detail of whatever made the track was long gone by the time the track was cast, if the gross detail was even captured in the soil in the first place. If the gross detail is gone, then the fine detail is long gone as well.

But notice the coarse furrow that runs across the “toe” area. Obviously it can’t be a dermal ridge, as you would have to posit the track being made by “Webfoot” instead of Bigfoot. Note too, the desiccation ridges above the 13cm mark on the ruler.

The furrow and ridges on the “toe” area of CA-20 CANNOT be representative of what made the track in the first place, as that texture was long gone by the time that track was cast. Thus the textures CAN ONLY BE spontaneous casting artifacts of some kind.

Yes, this process really did happen, and by now it should be screamingly obvious to anyone who knows what desiccation ridges really look like.

At this point it should be noted that Jeff Meldrum and John Green disagree as to whether these are original casts or copies. That alone is enough to disqualify CA-19 as being strong evidence of Bigfoot’s dermal ridges, as the provenance and custody in this case is flawed at the very root. But whether CA-19 and CA-20 are original casts or copies, they remain the specimens under consideration. If these casts are copies, it remains possible that the desiccation ridge process occurred in the copy process and not in Onion Mountain soil. If they are copies, they were most certainly made in a fine, inorganic substrate, as they exhibit adhered substrate on their surfaces. But the point is, this process DID occur, beyond a shadow of a doubt.

Interestingly, Hovey even obtained a positive result that I didn’t. You can see in her own test with the 2006 soil sample the deep and arched furrows that are often seen as part of the desiccation ridge process. Hovey therefore obtained a partial positive result, but due to her own ineptitude was unable to properly interpret what she was seeing.

The arched furrow is a CLASSIC example of the desiccation ridge phenomenon. The presence of the arched furrow and adjacent band of ridges 9cm anterior of the heel on CA-19 is probably the single most obvious reason why CA-19 exhibits desiccation ridges.

I cannot claim to know why AIBR continues to promote the nonsense of Melissa Hovey as “science”. Perhaps it’s an oblique defense of Jimmy Chilcutt, who is listed as an “advisor” to AIBR. As this essay is written in April 2008, nearly 3 years have passed since the desiccation ridge process was publicized. During this time, Chilcutt has never offered a written rebuttal to my findings, at least that I know of. Chilcutt’s analysis of alleged Bigfoot evidence was further called into question by the discovery that he misidentified the key piece of evidence, CA-19, as being from Blue Creek Mountain, when in fact written on the dorsal surface of the cast is the legend “Onion Mountain”.

If this were a real legal situation, such a blunder would be a major error, but somehow the “rules” of Bigfootery function with a different standard, and this error is ignored.

Chilcutt’s credibility was further eroded with his public pronouncements that textures seen in the Skookum Elk Cast were dermal ridges.

I’d like to take this opportunity to publicly state that I personally like Jimmy Chilcutt, and have had a number of positive encounters with him. He reminds me of my father, and in a good way. Nevertheless, by now it is objectively obvious that mistakes were made, and I suspect that he may now be distancing himself from this particular subculture.

I cannot say the same about Melissa Hovey. I was falsely accused of being a liar, by an individual now widely considered to be a liar herself. She abandoned scientific method (if she ever understood it in the first place) in favor of gaining social status and self promotion. Her public manner is profoundly abrasive, and eventually created seriously negative feedback.

I don’t appreciate my work being trivialized by the suggestion that Melissa Hovey offered some sort of valid criticism. My findings were simply a convenient target for an unstable self-promoter to attempt to discredit. Even there she failed miserably.

Does AIBR or “Squatchopedia” really want to promote or associate with this individual?

In the end, the whole situation is really a sad commentary on the failure of Bigfootery to be able to generate real science, much less a Bigfoot body. With Chilcutt and Hovey we see flawed analysis in the first place coupled with false accusations and pseudoscience in the second. Perhaps one day groups like AIBR and initiatives like “Squatchopedia” will be able to differentiate real science from pseudoscience.

*Postscript*

Shortly after this essay was publicized, The two articles written by Melissa Hovey on the AIBR website appear to have been removed. Perhaps the flawed nature of Hovey’s work was recognized. If so, I’d like to publicly congratulate AIBR for indeed differentiating science from pseudoscience. I wish AIBR the best of luck, and harbor no ill will.

Misinformation on the internet is a given, and when a falsehood starts, it often sticks around especially when it’s in the world of “fringe science”. I still see statements on the Internet questioning how I came to use and obtain volcanic ash as a test media for some of my desiccation ridges tests. In response, I’ve created this page which is a slightly modified version of a post I made on JREF some time back.

 Posted by on 10/19/2009 Bigfoot, Hoaxes

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