Oct 212011

In 2006 Dr. Jeff Meldrum authored a book entitled Sasquatch: Legend Meets Science (ISBN 0-765-31216-7) which puts forth a variety of arguments for the existence of Bigfoot. An entire chapter is devoted to the analysis of a large cast that was quickly dubbed the “Skookum Body Cast.” Meldrum addresses claims that the most likely candidate other than Bigfoot for the creation of this large impression was an elk. Meldrum first offers this line drawing on page 119 which is captioned “Typical posture of a bedding bull elk, with the resulting pattern of impressions. The darkest regions indicate the position of the hooves.”

Contemporaneous with the publication of Meldrum’s book was an analysis by Dr. Anton Wroblewski, a professional geologist with a background in paleontology and ichnology. Wroblewski created a photomontage that cleanly matched the features found in a wallowing elk to those found in the Skookum Body Cast.

As we can see in Wroblewski’s photomontage, the elk’s hooves are beside the elk, not under it as in Meldrum’s drawing. In addition, an informal written analysis was posted to a popular Bigfoot Internet forum, and later reposted to the James Randi Educational Foundation forum. Needless to say, this caused a firestorm in the Bigfoot community, as the credibility of multiple Bigfoot advocates was called into question. A variety of arguments were advanced by Bigfoot advocates that the cast did not represent an elk. One persistent claim has been about how elk leave hoof prints when rising from a wallow. On page 119 Meldrum writes:

“And finally, and perhaps most telling, when an elk rises from a repose it must place its hooves directly under its weight in order to stand, leaving tracks in the centerline of its imprint, Yet there are no elk tracks located in the center of the Skookum imprint, only deep and clear elk imprints skirting the imprint.”

This claim is in direct opposition to Wroblewski’s analysis:

“Significantly, the lack of hoof prints directly within the outline of the main body print is exactly what is seen in deer, elk, and other ungulate lays (see Elbroch, 2003). Hoof prints found outside the main body outline, but related to the forelegs reveal how the animal stood up.”

Here is a set of screen captures taken from an elk hunter’s video. As we can see from the digital time display, the elk bounds out of the wallow very quickly, within a second. First off, we see from the video that “wallowing” is a dynamic activity, and the elk is in different positions at different times. Here is a screen shot that shows the elk on its side, not on its belly, as in Meldrum’s drawing.

The next still image is just after the elk has been hit with an arrow.

From there we see a quick series of positions, none of which show the elk’s hooves positioned in the main body impression. The elk has explosively heaved itself to the side, not placidly stood up in its own body impression. Remember, Meldrum claimed that an elk must place its hooves directly under its weight in order to stand which is an absolute statement. As such, Meldrum’s absolute claim is factually inaccurate.

It’s possible that Meldrum could have avoided making fundamentally flawed arguments like this if he had first consulted professional ichnologists. As Dr. Wroblewski put it:

“Mark Elbroch, whose book I used as a conveneient, (sic) authoritative, and recent reference in the hopes that BFers would actually take the time to investigate how “real” trackers work, has weighed in and agrees with my interpetation (sic) as well. There is no controversy as to the identity of this particular cast. Anyone with one working eye and an ounce of common sense can see that it’s an elk or large deer trace.”

For further reading, here is another account of Wroblewski’s analysis by Daniel Perez.

 Posted by on 10/21/2011 Bigfoot 4 Responses »
Oct 182011

When Cryptomundo appeared on the Internet several years ago, I was quite interested, as it seemed like a worthwhile resource for news about cryptid animals. As the years went by, things changed. I started noticing lots more ads, in particular audio “pop-up” ads. One onerous message announced “congratulations, you’ve won” automatically when one logged onto Cryptomundo. At that time, I still hoped that this could be fixed and I sent Loren Coleman an e-mail asking that the audio pop-up ads be turned off. I received a response to the effect that “I just work here, you need to talk to the owner.”

For a time several years ago I posted on a crypto message board also moderated by Coleman. I remember writing a long post comparing John Green’s advocacy of a particular trackway to Ivan Sanderson’s advocacy of 15 foot penguins. Coleman refused to publish this entry. I suspect, but don’t know, that it was refused because calling out Sanderson as a crackpot is a no-no for those promoting Cryptozoology as serious science.

As the years went by, the dual themes of pathological advertizing and Coleman’s repetitive censorship would become apparent to many others besides myself. In addition, Cryptomundo began to really go over the edge into the land of bad taste by linking Cryptozoology to 9-11, and repeatedly posting photos of sexy women. What in the hell does 9-11 or sexy women have to do with unknown animals? It was obvious to me this was a shameless attempt to game the search engine rankings of Cryptomundo, and I’m not the only one who believed this.

Coleman’s reputation took a big hit in 2002 regarding the means in which he obtained photographs from Bigfooter Peter Byrne in the late 1990’s. The damning account was published in 2002 in a Northwest newsletter called the Track Record. Similar accounts were published by Daniel Perez in his newsletter Bigfoot Times in the October-November 2005 issue. But now it’s 2011, and these days Coleman doesn’t have to physically obtain photographs to publish them. He simply finds them on the Internet, claims “fair use” then throws them up on Cryptomundo. I’ve had two photographs of mine “scraped” this way. Note that I’ve included screen grabs of Cryptomundo, as Coleman is fond of historical revisionism, either by editing or redacting information.

Coleman’s “fair use” claim is amusing in light of his own claims of copyright on photos he obtained of what is called the Myakka Skunk Ape:

Coleman’s use of my photographs is galling because Cryptomundo is not just a labor of love, but a for-profit business. One that now regularly functions in a morally onerous way. At one point Cryptomundo even published a topless photo of Natasha Henstridge in an article about the Chupacabra! As is Cryptomundo’s style, the photo was quickly redacted. Then came the chronic begging, or as it’s sometimes known on the Internet “bleging.” If Coleman had lost his leg in ‘Nam, I would have some sympathy, but I really have no idea why he does this.

Today we had another little kerfuffle, though it seems that Coleman has redacted his entry once again! As we see in the Cryptomundo caption in my photo, Coleman likes to label his opponents. Today he lashed out at Sharon Hill as a “scoftic.” What makes this incident rather bizarre is that Cryptomundo linked to an obviously satirical blog entry. Coleman is not stupid by any means, so I find it inconceivable that he wouldn’t notice that it was a parody site. Why would he press on, as if it was a genuine thing? Again, I think it all comes down to SEO, or Search Engine Optimization. Here is a screen capture from the yet-to-be-redacted Cryptomundo feed of Bigfoot Forums:

As you can see, we have a large photo of Sharon Hill. I suspect, but cannot prove, that it’s all in the search engine optimization of the photo tags. Here is the result of a simple test I performed today. I entered the term “bigfoot sexy” into the Google Image search. Lo and behold the photo of the sexy woman in the black swimsuit is from Cryptomundo!

How else can one explain why Coleman chose to publish such an asinine blog entry? I’d like to propose that the text around scraped photos of sexy women that appear on Cryptomundo is just so much Loren ipsum…

Coleman has put himself in an untenable position; he wants to be respected and taken seriously as a “Cryptozoology expert” yet at the same time he engages in repetitively pathological moral behavior.

 Posted by on 10/18/2011 Opinion, Pseudoscience 2 Responses »
Oct 162011

Yes, this track is real! It’s a depression in the ground, and as such is a physical fact. But was it made by Sasquatch? That’s the sixty-four dollar question. With virtually all tracks attributed to Sasquatch, we don’t have a film or video record of what actually made the track at the time the track was made. We have to infer what might have made the track after the event.

First off, the track in question was part of a series videotaped by Paul Freeman. An edited portion of this video surfaced some years ago in a TV and DVD documentary entitled Legend Meets Science, produced by Doug Hajicek. The video that this screen grab was taken from was recently uploaded to YouTube, and contains shots of a trackway that appears very ‘Squatchy.

One track in particular caught my eye, and it appears at about 43 seconds into the video. The track contrasts strongly with the surrounding forest litter, as there is very little debris in the track itself. To me it appears to have been excavated rather than created by compression. I came to this conclusion because some years earlier I had made various tests using large prosthetic feet. One test I performed in my front yard. As you can see in my photo, there is plenty of green moss and fine vegetation in both the bottom of the track and the soil surrounding it. I made this track by repeatedly stomping on a Ray Wallace style wooden prosthetic. If you look closely you can see an impression of my own size 12 shoe to the right of the track.

Various details can be gleaned from this simple test, but the obvious one here is that a compressive event, such as a heavy mass pressing into the earth should mash the vegetation in with it, and the vegetation should remain. From this I would conclude that the track seen in the Freeman video was not made by a singular or even multiple compressive event, and as such cannot be attributed to an animal.

I’m not the only person who concluded that Paul Freeman’s tracks were fake. In 2005 a fascinating book entitled Tracker was published by Joel Hardin (ISBN 0-9753460-0-8) which included a chapter entitled Tracks of Bigfoot. Hardin details personally investigating a trackway associated with Paul Freeman in the Mill Creek watershed near Walla Walla, Washington in 1982. Hardin devoted 20 pages to detailing an extensive onsite investigation into this trackway. Unlike me, Hardin is a professional tracker, and perhaps not surprisingly concluded that the trackway was fake. It’s an excellent book, and deserves wider recognition within both the Bigfoot and skeptic communities. After reading Hardin’s book, the notion that an 8 foot tall monster could wander the North American continent and remain impossible to track becomes rather ludicrous.

Despite Hardin’s professional appraisal, the evidence put forth by Freeman has been taken quite seriously by Bigfoot advocate Jeff Meldrum, who devoted a considerable portion of his 2006 book Sasquatch Legend Meets Science (ISBN 0-765-31216-6) to arguing that Freeman’s evidence was real.

 Posted by on 10/16/2011 Bigfoot, Pseudoscience 2 Responses »