Mar 212015

Previously on this website I’ve recounted how Ivan Sanderson investigated large anomalous tracks in Florida claiming they were made by a 15 foot tall penguin. Sanderson was also known as a proponent of the biological reality of the sideshow exhibit known as the “Minnesota Iceman.” My impression from these two incidents was that Sanderson was excessively credulous.

Recently on Facebook I encountered a number of comments about Sanderson from Ron Pine. With his permission I’ve reprinted those comments, which suggest a deeper problem with Sanderson than simple credulity. I asked Dr. Pine to introduce himself.

My background is as follows: I am a mammalogist whose primary interest is taxonomy. I have also had a lifelong interest in cryptozoology and various other “fringe areas” (as an out-and-out skeptic). My BA is from the University of Kansas, my MS from the University of Michigan, and my Ph.D from Texas A&M. I have conducted field work in 20 countries, sometimes as an expedition leader, for various natural history museums, and named a number of new species of mammals. I went on my first, official, scientific expedition, which was to Mexico, when I was 19. At 22, with only my bachelor’s degree, I led an expedition to Kenya, for the American Museum of Natural History in New York. My youth and lack of degrees must have set a still-standing record for one given such a role. At the time that I was being made aware of what was going on with John Napier, Ivan T. Sanderson, and J. Edgar Hoover, I was a curator of mammals in the Smithsonian Institution.

Here’s a story that I don’t think has ever found its way into the annals of Bigfoot lore, although I’d like to see it picked up somewhere. I have previously written a bit about this in a Facebook thread of Jay BizarreZoo Cooney’s. Back when John Napier and I were at the Smithsonian, the “Minnesota Iceman” was getting a lot of play in the media. The “Iceman” had been manufactured in such a way that it appeared to have suffered one or more bullet wounds. Amazing as it may seem, J. Edgar Hoover, the legendary director of the FBI, which was then located just across the street from the Smithsonian’s natural history museum, where we worked, thought that an actual human homicide might have played a part in the “Iceman” exhibit, and asked us what we thought. Napier, as the museum’s primatologist, got the job of replying. Because Ivan T. Sanderson and Bernard Heuvelmans had examined that “Iceman,” but only through the ice, of course (hmmm, I wonder why the exhibitor didn’t take it out of the ice so that people could see it better), Sanderson was asked to supply what information he could about the thing. Heuvelmans had named it as a new species, Homo pongoides. Sanderson wrote a letter to Napier and Hoover, saying that the “Iceman” was a fake and that, among other things, some partially decomposed dog tissue had been involved in its construction, to give it the realistic odor of an actual dead thing. (For the mammalian taxonomist, this would make Homo pongoides a nomenclatural “junior synonym” of Canis familiaris.) Sanderson never admitted any of this in any of his published writings, which is one reason that I regard him as a charlatan. I know about all of this because Napier shared with me all the correspondence between him and Hoover and Sanderson. The account of all this, as given in Napier’s book “Bigfoot” is totally different from what you have just read. I assume that this is because it would have been a very bad idea to portray the very, very powerful Hoover as being credulous and because Napier didn’t want to write anything critical of Sanderson, who he seemed to regard as a friend and for whom he had more respect than Sanderson deserved. Also, the correspondence was all supposed to be confidential. Wikipedia also gives a somewhat different account

In Sanderson’s autobiographical book “Animal Treasure,” which took place in West Africa, he reported seeing an eagle-sized, black, batlike animal flying with its mouth open and revealing a semicircular row of teeth. The local, tribal people were represented as being terrified and fled when he mentioned having seen this apparition. No such animal exists. In the same book, he reported a skink (that is to say, a kind of lizard), that produced an unearthly, eerie whistle, “I have never met a louder sound caused by an animal” he wrote, and he likened this sound to “a really powerful fog-horn.” The lizard exists, but it is mute. In one chapter, he reports an extended period he supposedly spent one evening, watching a steady parade of myriad kinds of forest rats and mice, gamboling, and playing with one another in the most delightful fashion. As one who has spent his career in large part devoted to studies on tropical rats and mice, including such work in West Africa, and who knows that one will seldom be so lucky as to see even the streak of a running mouse, it’s quite clear that this was a fabricated story. There are also some things I could mention in his later books on the times he spent in the field, but he had apparently caught on by that time that you shouldn’t lay it on too thick, so they are less egregious.

It made me sad when I got to be old enough and had had enough field experience myself to catch Sanderson at his prevarications, because, as a young kid, I regarded him as the person I’d most like to emulate in my own career, as a result of reading his books about his animal collecting in the tropics, “Animal Treasure,” “Living Treasure,” and “Caribbean Treasure.”

 Posted by on 03/21/2015 Bigfoot, Hoaxes, Personal History Tagged with:  Comments Off on Ivan Sanderson the Charlatan
Nov 112013

We commonly believe that “testing” is an intentional process. In fact, we think of the most carefully designed tests as “scientific” tests. Within the commonplace notion of “scientific testing” there is a tacit assumption that it’s intentional. Consider the spectacular success of finding a predicted subatomic particle, the Higgs boson. A giant machine had to be built, the Large Hadron Collider, and it had to be operated by educated people with highly specialized technical knowledge. The intention of the tests at the LHC is to find subatomic particles.

The kind of testing that Mythbusters does is also scientific testing, but with a much lower budget. There again, it’s intentional testing, as unique devices are often built to test the claims that they often erroneously refer to as “myths.”

There are tests that occur which are unintentional, which is why they are non-obvious. Consider Russian dashboard cameras, or “dash-cams.” Their designed function, their intention, is to capture traffic events such as collisions, to guard against fraudulent insurance claims. In a surprising turn of events, Russian dash cams videos were used to help calculate the trajectory of the Chelyabinsk meteor. The unintentional data was valid and scientifically useful. In addition, seismic sensors designed to detect nuclear detonations also provided data that was used to assess the Chelyabinsk event. Again, these seismic sensors were unintentionally testing for events besides nuclear blasts.

There are other “tests” which are as non-obvious and unintentional as dash-cam videos. Consider the question “is there a population of panthers in Florida?” The answer is yes. How do we know this? Well, a variety of reasons, one of them is the sad reality that some members of this population are hit and killed by cars. Roadkill is an unintentional sort of “test” for the presence of animals in an area.

How might this notion apply to skepticism? Consider the central claim of young earth creationism, that the planet is no more than 10,000 years old, and that all species on earth were created spontaneously at one time. If this was the case, there would be tangible evidence of this. This question was settled decades ago, but consider that even now the claim is unintentionally tested on a daily basis. Science learns novel things within branches of science relevant to evolution on a daily basis. If creationism were real, “normal science” as Thomas Kuhn calls it, would be encountering anomalies that suggest creationism EVERY DAY. This does not happen. It does not happen because creationism is false.

The culture of skepticism is often “reactive” in the sense that those who assert extraordinary claims act first and skeptics follow by analyzing or testing those claims. I’ve personally done this in the somewhat reviled area known as “Bigfoot skepticism.” Extraordinary claims were made that certain textures on a putative Bigfoot footprint cast represented “dermal ridges.” I involved myself with testing this claim.

Bigfootery is not seen by most skeptics as being as socially corrosive as creationism, and I would agree with this. Yet even most “Bigfoot skeptics” don’t conceive of Bigfootery as being as intellectually bankrupt as creationism.

I no longer think this way about the subject, and I now conceive of Bigfootery as being as intellectually bankrupt as creationism. Why? Because the Bigfoot proposition, like creationism, is tested on a daily basis. It has failed on a daily basis, and has failed on a daily failed for decades.

How specifically is the Bigfoot proposition tested on a daily basis? First off, as mentioned earlier, roadkill. Bigfoot is asserted to be a real animal, whose range is the entire North American continent. For decades now, drivers travel literally billions of miles on those roads each year. Traffic is constant. Animals of all kinds both common and rare, like Florida panthers, are killed. Not a single Sasquatch. Hikers traverse the wilderness daily, including the alleged habitation areas of Bigfoot. Humans by nature are curious, and anomalous details stand out. A human shaped skull the size of a basketball would stand out, as would virtually ANY part of a humanoid carcass. The natural curiosity of hikers is an unintentional test for all sorts of anomalies, such as aircraft debris occasionally found in the wilderness. No Bigfoot carcass has ever been found in North America. Geologists, road engineers, paleontologists, and others dig and move earth on a daily basis in North America. Though most are not intentionally looking for Bigfoot fossils, anomalous fossils would be noticed, as would all sorts of anomalies. Wildlife photographers capture high resolution, unambiguous photographs of all sorts of animals, including very rare ones, on a daily basis. In 50 years of Bigfootery, the number of clear and unambiguous photographs or motion pictures of Sasquatch produced by non-Bigfoot advocates is zero.

The claim by Bigfoot advocates that Bigfootery is a legitimate scientific question continues to function as effective propaganda because the notion of unintentional testing is non-obvious.

For many years now, creationists have tried to argue that creationism is a legitimate scientific question. “Teach the Controversy” they argue. It’s a subtle form of propaganda. Creationists attempt to stage public “debates” with top scientists. In this way, creationists are subtly attempting to persuade by suggesting the issue is a legitimate controversy, and that the creationist’s argument and evidence is equivalent to that offered by legitimate scientists. Bigfoot advocates engage in a similar form of propaganda, though I suspect that they do so unconsciously.

By causing “Bigfoot skeptics” to continually respond to putative evidence, Bigfoot advocates tacitly position the Bigfoot proposition as a valid scientific question. Furthermore, this obscures the damning flaw of Bigfootery, which is that the Bigfoot proposition is unintentionally tested daily, and fails daily.

 Posted by on 11/11/2013 Bigfoot, Pseudoscience, Science Comments Off on The Notion of Unintentional Testing
Feb 202012

There is a sort of “asymmetric warfare” that occurs with arguments in the world of pseudoscience. The idea is that there are stubborn facts that refute and therefore undermine the whole edifice of the opposition’s argument.

I remember encountering such an argument when I was a high school student in the 1970’s. I remember picking up a religious tract at the county fair, a notorious missive by Jack T. Chick entitled “Big Daddy.” As time went on I found other creationist literature that contained one of the famous and much repeated canards against evolution, namely that evolution violates the second law of thermodynamics.

The science of evolution is enormous, and is becoming even more refined with current advances in genomics and molecular biology. Thus to its opponents it’s a sort of edifice. If you propose that a particular “fact” refutes the entire edifice, that “fact” would be asymmetric in its power. In my opinion this is why creationists like Duane T. Gish promote such fallacies, as they allow an opinion to be formed without having to look at a huge body of work in geology, biology, genetics, and other allied sciences.

The converse of a destructive argument is also possible; the niggling “fact” that MAKES IT ALL TRUE. Some time back an individual named Kevin Buresh aka “Sweaty Yeti” began posting images from the Patterson – Gimlin purported Bigfoot film on various internet forums, including JREF. One GIF image purported to show movement of the film subject’s fingers. The implication is that an actor inside a costume would be incapable of duplicating this feat. Allegedly the arms of the film subject are too long for a human to move the fingers of a costume. This is a form of “asymmetric” argumentation in that if the film subject’s fingers bend and a human actor cannot do this, then it cannot be a human actor in a costume. If it’s not a human actor in a costume, then it can only be Bigfoot. If the Patterson – Gimlin film subject was a real Bigfoot it cannot be the only one, as there must be a population to survive as a species. VOILA! THE FINGERS MOVE, THEREFORE IT’S ALL TRUE!!! Bigfoot is real!

As skeptics do, this assertion was met with a variety of rebuttals. One of the more cogent was a GIF animation created by a man posting as “Dfoot.” It clearly demonstrates that fingers can move, and rather spectacularly so, while wearing a prosthetic glove.

I experimented for myself the very same thing, using a bear skin glove. A glove provides the illusion of a longer arm. One does not need to have fingers all the way inside the glove to cause the fingers to move. It’s obvious that bending fingers are seen with this hirsute glove.

Recently a JREF poster named “Tontar” posted a GIF animation of his own, which suggests that Buresh’s original animation was flawed from the outset by improper arm alignment. Click on the large side-by-side image of the film subject on this page to animate. The GIF animation may load slowly.

Buresh’s arguments are obviously crackpot, yet it’s doubtful that we will see the end of them. Cryptozoologist Loren Coleman went so far as to promote them on his Cryptomundo blog.

After 50 years of Bigfootery with no bones, no road kill, no teeth, a certain quasi-religious desperation is sinking in, with asinine arguments like “Bigfoot’s bending fingers” substituting for real science.

 Posted by on 02/20/2012 Bigfoot, Pseudoscience 4 Responses »
Feb 082012

Updated Response to Meldrum’s Sasquatch: Legend Meets Science

One of the main pieces of evidence for the claim that Bigfoot tracks exhibit dermal ridges is the “Onion Mountain” footprint, a thirteen-inch cast made by researcher John Green in August 1967. An additional set of tracks, the “Wrinkle Foot” casts, allegedly also display dermal ridges. The Wrinkle Foot set of prints were discovered by Paul Freeman. Photographs of the Onion Mountain and Wrinkle Foot casts appear on opposite pages (256 and 257) of Meldrum’s book, and so allow for an easy comparison. The gross morphological difference between the two casts is striking. Were these both made by individuals from the same species?

On May 29, 2005, I spoke at a Sasquatch conference in Bellingham, Washington, claiming that the unique surface textures of the Onion Mountain cast had a prosaic explanation. I argued they were “casting artifacts”, or as I now refer to them “desiccation ridges”, a term coined by a geologist and ichnologist, Dr. Anton Wroblewski. Basically, textures that closely resemble dermal ridges can sometimes spontaneously form on cement casts when the casts are made in very fine, dry soils, like those in which John Green found his tracks. The ridges that spontaneously form somewhat resemble the sand patterns that form on shallow beaches after the tide has gone out.

In a surprising turn of events, Meldrum himself publicly proclaimed this hypothesis a “slam dunk” during the question and answer session that followed my presentation. Unknown to me at the time, Meldrum had previously made test casts in fine Idaho loess soil that also exhibited desiccation ridges.

Perhaps not surprisingly, Meldrum’s treatment of the Onion Mountain cast in his book Sasquatch: Legend Meets Science is something of a retrenchment from his “slam dunk” proclamation. If the desiccation ridge hypothesis is correct, then dermal ridges expert Jimmy Chilcutt’s claim that the textures must represent Bigfoot’s dermal ridges is wrong, and rather spectacularly so. Indeed, Chilcutt previously set the stakes for himself very high, when he claimed (on the 2003 “Sasquatch: Legend Meets Science” TV and DVD documentary) that he would “stake his reputation” on his dermal ridge interpretation.

The provenance and chain of custody issue of the Onion Mountain cast is even more fundamentally damning for Meldrum’s current position. What Meldrum claims is the original cast has clearly written “Onion Mountain” in ink on the cast itself.

Yet until presented with evidence in the form of an e-mail from John Green, Chilcutt maintained that the cast had come instead from Northern California’s Blue Creek Mountain. Chilcutt had also previously characterized this critical piece of evidence in an interview as originating on “Blue Creek Mountain.”

It is not clear that Chilcutt even examined the cast that Meldrum claims is the original. If he did, why didn’t he use the unique, unambiguous nomenclature of “CA-19” especially when multiple casts were made of that trackway? This would seemly be an obvious procedure for a veteran crime scene investigator such as Chilcutt.

Unfortunately for Bigfoot advocates, the situation is even more chaotic. John Green claims the original cast is lost. Thus the very provenance and chain of custody of a cast which Chilcutt has previously referred to as “the best one with the clearest dermal ridges” is in dispute.

If this sort of “scientific evidence” was used in a legal trial, police detectives would be laughed out of court with such sloppy science and careless protocols. Yet this is typical of the evidence Meldrum and others proffer for Bigfoot.

Incredibly, a recent claim by Bigfoot advocate Rick Noll casts further doubt on the situation. Noll claims that John Green and Bob Titmus regularly scrubbed “surface imperfections” off of their casts with wire brushes. If so, thus calls into question the wisdom of Meldrum’s advocacy of yet another dermal ridge cast, one made by Bob Titmus in 1963.

As forensic or scientific evidence for Bigfoot’s dermal ridges, the Onion Mountain cast is tainted at the very root and so falls short of even minimum standards of what is considered scientific evidence. Because Meldrum selectively presents his experts and evidence, there is no hint in Sasquatch of the many problems associated with the dermal “evidence.” In view of Meldrum’s familiarity with – and acceptance of – my experiments demonstrating serious problems with a cornerstone of dermal ridge evidence, his chapter on this topic is inexplicable.

Though Meldrum was well aware of my findings on desiccation ridges when his book was written, only two sentences are devoted to it:

(Page 257) “Questions still remain concerning the possible occurrence of pouring artifact under hot, exceptionally dry conditions, and further experimentation is needed. This challenge has been taken on by an amature (sic) investigator, Matt Crowley, whose preliminary results raise questions specifically about the interpretation of the Onion Mountain cast features as dermatoglyphics.”

I actually spent several years investigating this process, and have created a series of webpages that argue in minute detail why CA-19 does not exhibit “Bigfoot’s dermal ridges.”

Not surprisingly, Meldrum makes no mention in his dermatoglyphics chapter of the fact that the very trackway that the Onion Mountain cast came from is now strongly associated with known hoaxer Ray Wallace’s wooden prosthetic feet. This illustrates a common theme with Meldrum, and Bigfootery in general, which is to completely ignore the wider context, or “back story” of the evidence offered.
As an addendum to advocating CA-19 as exhibiting Bigfoot’s dermal ridges, Meldrum introduces the reader to another cast from the same trackway:

I later identified an additional 13-inch cast in Krantz’s collection from the same site. Upon examining it, Chilcutt confirmed that it likewise displayed similar coarse ridge detail, although fainter, probably due to inundation by settling dust prior to casting. This observation affirmed his conclusion that these represented natural dermatoglyphics rather than pouring artifacts, or else one might expect the clarity of the ridge detail to be comparble (sic) in so far as the pouring technique was similar” (Page 256-257)

Though Grover Krantz carefully assigned clear serial numbers to the casts in this series, and wrote them in ink on the dorsal surfaces of these casts, Meldrum fails to tell us which cast he’s actually talking about! We can only guess which cast this is, though I’m privileged to have examined and photographed them in person myself. My best guess is that Meldrum is referring to CA-6, another 13” cast which indeed exhibits ridge detail. I’ve created an entire webpage of analysis on this particular cast.

Not only are the ridges on CA-6 entirely consistent with the morphology and distribution of known desiccation ridges, they also appear to be occurring on a patch of plaster overflow, and thus cannot represent the texture of whatever made the track in the first place.

But Until Meldrum decides to specify which cast this is, critical analysis is at a standstill. It’s kind of like that point in an argument when someone backs up their claim by saying “well, this one guy told me so”…
On page 251, Meldrum argues that detail as fine as sweat pores can be seen in certain purported Sasquatch casts:

“Dr Grover Krantz was the first to draw widespread attention to the presence of ridge detail in several sasquatch footprint casts from the Blue Mountains of southeastern Washington in 1982. In some instances the preserved resolution of detail was such that individual sweat pores were apparent and could be distinguished from artifacts caused by trapped air bubbles in the plaster”

There are several issues in this claim that Meldrum fails to identify. First off, the casts mentioned were brought forth by Paul Freeman, considered by many within the Bigfoot community as a hoaxer, and who in fact admitted on television that he had previously hoaxed tracks.

Another fundamental issue not addressed by Meldrum is whether details as fine as sweat pores are even physically capable of being transferred to natural soils, and then to plaster casts.
In 1989 Freeland and Rowe published a study entitled “Examination of Alleged Pore Structure Found in Sasquatch (Big Foot) Footprints:

“Upon first encountering news reports of the finding of sweat pores and dermal ridges on casts of Sasquatch footprints, we were skeptical that a medium as coarse as the typical soil could faithfully duplicate primate dermatoglyphics. We were also skeptical that the details of primate dermatoglyphics could be replicated in plaster casts, because of the tendency of plaster when mixed to the proper consistency for casting impressions to entrain masses of bubbles.”

Freeland and Rowe set about to duplicate Krantz’ methodology.

Several pounds of loess were obtained from the geology department of Eastern Washington University in Cheney, Washington. A representative sub sample was obtained by repeated coning and quartering of the loess. The subsample was placed in a container and dampened with water. An impression of the right foot of one of the authors was made in the dampened loess; a cast of this impression was made in dental stone (sold by Ransom and Randolph Company, Maumee, Ohio). This dental stone is a highly refined plaster of paris; it is the material supplied by the U.S. Army to its investigators for the casting of tiretracks and shoeprints at the scenes of crimes.
The original footprint was examined under a stereomicroscope at magnifications from 10x to 70x. Although in many areas impressions of the dermal ridges were visible, no impressions of sweat pores could be identified. (Bolding Mine)

This is a critical point, as it suggests that features as fine as human sweat pores are simply too small to be captured in a natural substrate like that in which Freeman’s cast was made.
Indeed, if the sweat pore impressions were not captured by the substrate in the first place, the only reasonable conclusion is that the “sweat pores” are entrained air bubbles after all.

Freeland and Rowe’s conclusion:

In light of the foregoing, we feel that the “pores” observed on the dermal ridges of the casts of Sasquatch footprints are probably artifacts of the casting process and are not replications of primate sweat pores.

source: Freeland, D., and W. Rowe. 1989. Alleged pore structure in Sasquatch (Bigfoot) footprints. Skeptical Inquirer 13(3), Spring: 273-276.

In 2005, I had also become interested in whether or not detail as fine as sweat pores could be captured in plaster casts. At the time, I was not aware of Freeland and Rowe’s study. Unlike Freeland and Rowe, I was trying to find out if the casting medium itself rather than the soil substrate could capture detail that fine. I had learned (ironically from Jimmy Chilcutt himself) that Silly Putty was a medium that could capture detail as fine as human sweat pores. I went to Walmart and purchased a bunch of Silly Putty. I washed my hands thoroughly with Dr. Bronner’s liquid soap. I pressed my thumb into a virgin blob of Silly Putty. Using a 14x loupe, I was indeed able to see the sweat pores on the ridge peaks of my dermal ridges. These appeared as little bumps in little valleys, due to the reversal of the impressing process. So indeed, given an ideal substrate, it is possible to capture detail as fine as human sweat pores.
I proceeded to cast the impression with Ultracal 30. In an attempt to reduce the possibility of methodological error, I repeated this experiment twice, using the same protocol. I stirred the cement slurry very carefully, in an attempt to minimize entrained air bubbles. Though my own dermal ridges are quite obvious on these casts, examination with the 14x loupe revealed a complete lack of sweat pore detail. This suggests that conventional cementitious casting media like plaster of Paris, dental stone, Hydrocal, or Ultracal are simply too coarse to capture this level of detail.

Unfortunately Meldrum’s treatment of both the dermal issue and the “sweat pore” issue is lacking in the critical scientific parameter of metrology. How big are these features in the first place? None of the photographs included in the dermatoglyphics chapter include a metric (ruler) and Meldrum fails to mention the size of these features in the text.

If these alleged Sasquatch dermal ridges are larger than human dermal ridges by an amount that would enable a plaster cast made in natural soil to capture sweat pores, why aren’t we told this? If they are that big, are they commensurate with known primate dermal ridges?

As an ironic side note, I was actually chided by Meldrum at the Bellingham conference in 2005 for failing to make use of forensic rulers in my own study of desiccation ridges. I quickly purchased a set of rulers, and often utilize them when photographing fine features.

While the tests performed by Freeland, Rowe, and myself cannot be claimed as proof that detail as fine as human sweat pores are incapable of being captured in cementitious casts made in natural soils, it does demonstrate that Krantz and Meldrum’s claims are indeed extraordinary. Meldrum lists no prior science in defense that such techniques are reasonable, nor lists any tests he’s done himself that support his claim.

As touched on by Mike Dennett in his review, Meldrum’s entire “sweat pore” argument is probably moot, as the casts originally mentioned by Krantz are probably exhibiting human dermal ridges after all!
Besides unreasonably small features like “sweat pores”, some of the textures on casts claimed to contain “Bigfoot’s dermal ridges” are much larger than human dermal ridges.

This is a photo of the lateral margin of CA-19, the side opposite that which exhibits textures claimed to be dermal ridges. As you can see, some of these ridges are highly irregular in morphology, and approach 1-2mm in width. But as we have seen, there is a great deal of cherry picking going on with these casts, and textures which look nothing like known dermal are simply ignored.

In another cast which Meldrum argues exhibits dermal ridges, we see textures MUCH larger than those of know human or primate dermal ridges. Not only are the textures of Paul Freeman’s “Wrinkle Foot” casts quite large, they are highly irregular, as seen in the following photograph. I’ve intentionally included my own fingers in the photograph to act as a size reference. Yet Meldrum coolly introduces them as dermal ridges with no caveat whatsoever:

Dr. Krantz had previously referred to these casts as “Wrinkle Foot” due to the extensive indications of coarse dermatoglyphics. (Page 255)

Honestly, I’m hard pressed to understand how this is any kind of reasonable interpretation of these textures. It brings up a fundamental point about the entire class of evidence proposed to be “Bigfoot’s dermal ridges”; if you have no living or dead specimen to act as a reference, Bigfoot’s dermal ridges can be whatever you want them to be. Perhaps Bigfoot’s dermal ridges actually look like something Jackson Pollock created…

Compare this texture with another cast associated with Paul Freeman, also claimed to exhibit dermal ridges. This is a close-up of the 1982 so-called “Elk Wallow“ cast:

Both textures are said to be “Bigfoot’s dermal ridges”, yet they are grossly and obviously dissimilar.
But one particular patch of texture on “Wrinkle Foot” is claimed by Jimmy Chilcutt to be a “healed scar”

Again, I have purposely included my own finger in this photo as a simple reference to judge how large this texture really is.

But more importantly, is the skin texture of Bigfoot the only way that such a “scar” feature can develop on a cement cast? Some time ago a researcher named Brenden Bannon made a test cast using a rubber “monster” foot stamped into mud. The resulting cast exhibited a patch of texture that exhibits a similar morphology, i.e. small lines that radiate away from a main fissure.

According to Bannon, who made the cast, the “scar” texture is simply due to a suction effect between the mud and the rubber prosthetic.

While this cannot be seen as a “debunking” of “Wrinkle Foot’s scar”, it does illustrate how Meldrum continuously fails to investigate how other mechanisms may have produced the textures seen on some of the purported Sasquatch casts. Further information about Bannon’s cast can be found here.

Meldrum’s chapter concludes with an analysis of the so-called “Elkins” cast, made in 1997. Again, Meldrum defers to the analysis of Jimmy Chilcutt. In possibly the only written analysis of any of his interpretations of purported Sasquatch casts that Chilcutt has so far put forth, Chilcutt argues that the textures seen on the Elkins cast are dermal ridges:

Once again, Meldrum declines to provide any provenance about this track find. In an article written by Samuel Rich, details are included about the officer who actually made the cast, James Akin, who had a less than favorable opinion about the man on whose property the track was found:

The story of this cast begins earlier in the 90′s, at the home of a gentleman whom like Dr. Krantz is now deceased. For the sake of this article and for the privacy of his family he shall be referred to as Mr. “W”. I first learned of Mr. “W” and his experiences from James Akin, the man who would go on to cast what has come to be known as the Elkins Creek Cast.

“Mr. W was considered a nuisance caller at the Sheriff’s office”, writes Akin. “He often called and reported someone hitting the side of his mobile home. He related that person(s) unknown were ‘F—ing with him’ and would come on various nights after midnight and annoy him and his menagerie of canines. His complaints and this activity were legend and these events had occurred for several years. The general problem with this scenario was the responding officers’ inability to stop the activity or catch the perpetrators. It seemed almost magical the way the activity would cease on police arrival and restart within an hour of departure.”

Indeed, some within the sheriff’s department considered the anonymous individual associated with this remarkable piece of Bigfoot evidence might be mentally ill. Per officer Akin:

“My initial contact with this gentleman concerned these disturbances. I was informed that this guy might be a problem. Others claimed that he was probably mental ill and that I should be prepared for his antics.”

It’s telling that the individual associated with this remarkable cast remained anonymous, was thought by some to be mentally ill, and whose chronic pattern of behavior seemed to be a need for attention.
This of course does not invalidate Chilcutt’s interpretations, but raises a large “red flag” about the entire situation.
Additional analysis of the Elkins cast raises further questions as to how and when humans were involved. First off, Chilcutt himself claims that the cast contains human dermal ridges:

Area “D” is located in the center of the foot and shows lateral ridges of the animal and ridges that I believe were applied accidentally by the person making the cast.”

Unfortunately Chilcutt does explain how he came to conclude they were made by “the person making the cast.”

Examination of the cast itself leaves no doubt of one thing: Going by the massive size alone (19” long by 8.5” wide) there is no ambiguity that what we see is either the real thing (a Sasquatch track) or a human hoax. This is no bear overstep, or a smeared boot print.

Curiously Chilcutt’s report fails to mention two unusual textures on the cast. The first is found on the ball of the foot, just below the big toe and toward the center of the cast:

As you can see, something rod-like about a centimeter wide is protruding from the surface of the cast. Another, more subtle, feature is found about 20 degrees clockwise from the one parallel with the one centimeter boundary lines of the ruler. Obviously these textures are distinctly non-biological in nature, and suggest the hand of man. But in fact these textures most likely have a prosaic explanation; Officer James Akin, who made the cast, incorporated wooden dowels as reinforcement when making the cast (Personal communication).

A second and more anomalous texture is found approximately 15cm anterior of the heel on the medial side of the cast. It appears as a regular cross-hatching of some sort:

Again, it has a distinctly non-biological regularity about it, suggesting some sort of human agency was responsible. What might produce such a texture?
Brenden Bannon was the first to suggest that this texture may represent burlap reinforcement within the cast. But it wouldn’t be the cast that Akin made, as Akin used ONLY wooden dowels. (Personal communication).
If indeed the Elkins track is fake, and was made by human agency , whatever impressioning tool that was used would not have required a great deal of force to simply displace mud. Thus a Ray Wallace style wooden fake foot would not have been necessary. It’s possible that a plaster cast itself could have been used as an impressioning tool. While such a scenario must be admitted as speculative, a rather surprisingly strong match is seen between this patch of texture on the Elkins cast and ordinary burlap:

Again with both Chilcutt and Meldrum, we see a chronic lack of willingness to examine the “back story” of these tracks and casts, and to consider possible alternative explanations for the multiple textures found on the casts.

While not included in the Dermatoglyphics chapter, an analysis is offered of the textures found on the Skookum cast. Meldrum writes on page 117:

Of particular interest to me was what could only be interpreted as a distinct heel impression. As I meticulously removed the encrusting soil, it appeared that the heel bore skin ridge detail. Once the heel was thoroughly cleaned, a thin latex peel was made of the skin detail. Consultations over the apparent dermatoglyphics, or skin ridges, were had with latent fingerprint examiner Officer Jimmy Chilcutt. He found them to be consistent in texture and appearance with other specimens of purported sasquatch tracks exhibiting such skin ridge detail (more will be said on this matter in chapter 14)

To be as generous as possible, Meldrum’s book went to press before Dr. Anton Wroblewski’s damning and cogent analysis of the Skookum cast as that of an elk.

In the case of CA-19, the so-called “Onion Mountain” cast, by his own admission Chilcutt was unfamiliar with the desiccation ridge phenomenon prior to my investigations. So to misinterpret a completely novel phenomenon allows for some sympathy toward the person making that mistake. But placing dermal ridges on an elk cast is, to say the least, a rather profound mistake.

How could misinterpretations of this magnitude occur, especially with a respected latent fingerprint examiner? Clearly one reason is that in the case of humans, we have literally millions of known examples of fingerprints with which to study. There is even a small database of known primate dermal ridges with which to study. But there is NO Bigfoot body to act as a known example. We know as much about Bigfoot’s dermal ridges as we know about Leprechaun dermal ridges.

Something has long puzzled me about the entire class of dermal ridge claims. If we see fine textures like dermal ridges, or very fine textures like “sweat pores” on these casts, why don’t we see the kind of coarser textures that know ape (and some human) feet exhibit? Ape feet have characteristically deep flexion creases, which corresponds to their more “hinged” foot and thick foot pad. This is the foot of an orangutan which is covered with deep flexion creases that are much coarser than the dermal ridges.

(Photo credit: Kathy Weaver)

Most humans wear shoes. Those who spend a great deal of time walking barefoot sometimes develop deep cracks in the sole or other parts of the foot.

This amazing photograph of a Nepalese porter’s foot was taken by Bigfooter Peter Byrne in 1958. An entire Flickr pool is devoted to documenting the kind of extreme wear that habitually unshod humans can exhibit.

It’s safe to assume that if Bigfoot is real, he doesn’t wear shoes. Why don’t we see these kinds of coarse fissures, cracks, or flexion creases in the casts that are claimed to exhibit fine features like dermal ridges or “sweat pores”?

After studying the claims of the dermal ridge advocates for some time, I’m of the opinion that all of the casts that are claimed to exhibit dermal ridges could simply be misinterpretations of prosaic phenomena and/or human hoaxing. The wide variety of sizes and textures that are claimed to be “dermal ridges” leaves open a huge vista for those who set about to intentionally hoax Bigfoot evidence. By a series of rather chance encounters, I discovered that addition of a small amount of surfactant into a cementitious slurry and poured over a desiccant substrate spontaneously produced this remarkable texture:

It could be argued that this feature mimics or even represents an arch, or possibly a tented arch. Imagine if this texture had appeared on a cast put forth by Paul Freeman, or the anonymous “Mr.W”. As you might have gathered by now, I am not of the opinion that creating fake “dermal” textures is beyond the reach of a motivated hoaxer, or that fingerprint experts can’t be fooled.

The time to take the claims of “Bigfoot’s dermal ridges” seriously is when we have an actual body to examine.

The complete set of web pages that addresses the issue of desiccation ridges is found within the Bigfoot Compendium.

 Posted by on 02/08/2012 Bigfoot, Science 1 Response »
Jan 112012

With the publication of Greg Long’s book The Making of Bigfoot in 2004, a great deal of damning information came out about Roger Patterson. A clear picture emerges of a swindler and a con man, one who wrote bad checks and was even arrested for failing to pay the rental charges on the movie camera he used at Bluff Creek.

Not surprisingly Bigfoot advocates shot back, claiming that these accusations were about a dead man who could not defend himself, that they were personal attacks that has no bearing on what was seen in his film, and even that he was broke because of medical bills and more or less had to write bad checks!

The following images are intended to demonstrate that Patterson was unequivocally engaged in Bigfoot related fraud before he made his famous film. These images obviously have nothing to do with writing bad checks.

The individual credited with discovering these images posts on various internet forums as “Kitakaze.” I find it rather surprising that it wasn’t until well into the 21st Century that this was discovered, though the magazines and books have been around since the mid 1960’s.

The first montage includes an illustration by Mort Künstler, and appeared in the December 1959 issue of True Magazine. The illustration accompanied the essay entitled “The Strange Story of America’s Abominable Snowman”… by Ivan Sanderson. Beneath is the drawing Patterson plagiarized which appeared in his 1966 book Do Abominable Snowmen of America Really Exist?

The second montage includes an image by artist Louis S. Glanzman, and appeared in another True Magazine article written by Ivan Sanderson, this one from March 1960 issue entitled A New Look At America’s Mystery Giant. The lower drawing is again from Patterson’s book.

 Posted by on 01/11/2012 Bigfoot 7 Responses »