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
May 022011

Way back in 2007 I had my first sighting. It was a bright, sunny day and I was walking on the footpath around Seward Park here in Seattle. Suddenly I saw it; a serpentine form sticking its slimy neck out of the water! Thankfully I had my camera with me and was able to capture this remarkable image:

I didn’t know what to do exactly; was there some sort of Lake Monster reporting center where I could log my encounter? Would they think I was a crypto-crank, a crackpot, a wanker, a chain-yanker, and mock my slithering serpent sighting? This beast was no beaver, or even an otter as some scoffing skeptics have suggested. No, it was the real deal, whatever it was.

But time moved on, and I began to doubt that I could ever see the Seward Park serpent ever again. But the fickle finger of fate has a way of appeasing the prepared, and lo! I saw it again! This time I was even closer, and managed to get off this quick pic:

I know it’s going to take a specimen on a slab for the skeptical scientists to take this seriously, but until that time I’m going to give it the tentative title of “Sewardsaurus.” Note that the second specimen seems to sport some sort of muzzle, or perhaps it’s licking a Frappuccino from a Starbucks cup. Though it’s no Ogopogo, a perfect palindrome like Aja, Aoxomoxoa, or Satanoscillatemymetallicsonatas, we see that “Sewardsaurus” is at least alliterative, like “Dover Demon” or “Fence Fiend.”

 Posted by on 05/02/2011 Culture, Hoaxes, Pseudoscience Comments Off on Second Sewardsaurus Sighting!
Oct 212009

Use this page to navigate through all the Bigfoot Links:

  1. Wallace’s Wooden Feet
  2. Fake Feet and Monolithic Margins
  3. Pressure Releases and Scalloped Margins
  4. Ridges and Furrows
  5. Arched Furrows
  6. Fixatives
  7. Flat Ridge Peaks
  8. Ridge Flow Pattern
  9. Testing Silica
  10. The Holy Grail; The Original Cast
  11. More CA-19 photos
  12. CA-6
  13. CA-20
  14. Conclusion
  15. Sex, Lies, and Pseudoscience
  16. What’s All This About Volcanic Ash?
  17. The Solid Science of Sam Rich
  18. The Testimony of Perry Tuttle of US Gypsum
  19. An Experimentally Produced Desiccation Ridge That Mimics an Arch

 Posted by on 10/21/2009 Bigfoot, Hoaxes Comments Off on Bigfoot Compendium
Oct 192009

Go back to the Bigfoot Compendium.

The following montage originally appeared on the JREF Forum:

The original image without the stacked feet between the front and side views of “Patty” appears in Chris Murphy’s book Meet the Sasquatch. The digital representation of “Patty” was created by Doug Hajicek and Reuben Steindorf. Unfortunately, analysis of the proportions of the digital model yields a strange outcome. This was the reason that the feet are included in the JREF montage. As measured by the claimed length of the film subject’s feet, the resulting height is anomalously short.

Being skeptical I decided to double check the math. I measured the actual image from page 94 of Chris Murphy’s Meet the Sasquatch. For the length of the foot I measure 41mm:

For the height I measure 188mm:

Dividing 188 by 41 I get 4.585. Multiplying 4.585 by 14.5 inches ( the length of what is asserted to be Patty’s foot) gives me 66.48 or 66.5 inches. 66.5 inches is 5 foot six and one half inches or 5’7″.

The proportions of Steindorf’s digital model of “Patty”, the subject of the Patterson-Gimlin film, suggest a height of about 5’7″!

Now you might think this is a victory for the dreaded “scoftics”, that what is claimed to be an element of “Bigfoot Science” is deeply flawed, almost bordering on “pseudoscience”. But no, I feel that this is an advocate opportunity, because it can be used to show how “inhuman” Patty really is. Earlier in Murphy’s book, we are introduced to Jeff Glickman who came to the scientific conclusion that “Patty” weighs 1,957 pounds (page 81). This is good news for Sasquatch advocates. If Patty is 5’7″ and weighs 1,957 pounds then her density surely approaches that of depleted uranium, a most “inhuman” characteristic if there ever was one.

I propose that this newly discovered characteristic, inhuman density, be added other claims about the film subject, such as the “inhuman gait”

 Posted by on 10/19/2009 Bigfoot, Hoaxes Comments Off on Is Patty 5’7″?
Oct 192009

Go back to the Bigfoot Compendium.

In the spring of 2005 I was helping out the Seattle Museum of the Mysteries by manning a table they had set up at the annual science fiction convention. The table had various books for sale, including some published by Hancock House. I had also set out several early plaster test casts that displayed desiccation ridges. I got into an interesting conversation with a man who did plaster casting of figurines. As I spoke to him, a woman came up and began to look through Chris Murphy’s re-issue of Roger Patterson’s book, now re-titled The Bigfoot Film Controversy.

When I ended my conversation with this man, this woman suddenly spoke up. Mind you, she initiated the conversation, and I had no idea who this woman was. She opened the book to page 88, and pointed out this photograph to me:

For those who have not read the book, the photo on page 88 is of Roger Patterson, allegedly taken in Ape Canyon, which is on the south side of Mt. St. Helens in Washington. This was the site of a classic Bigfoot encounter in 1924.

Out of nowhere she tells me that the picture is a fake, and that she was there when the picture was taken! I was so taken aback that I asked her to write down what she had told me. Note that she puts Ape Canyon in California, probably due to our subsequent conversation about Patterson’s Bluff Creek California film.

Her note reads (with personal information redacted)

“Bobbie H. 509-***-****

p. 88 Bigfoot Film Controversy

I was there when picture was taken — South Fork of Ahtanum 20 miles west of Yakima. My mom threw gas on fire to make it flare up. NOT taken in California.

Niece of Jerry Merritt”

The Niece of Jerry Merrit! If true, it suggests Patterson engaged in Bigfoot related fraud before his Bluff Creek film.

I had always assumed that Bob Gimlin took the photo. At the Bellingham conference in late May 2005 I asked Bob Gimlin about going to Ape Canyon with Patterson. Surprisingly, Gimlin told me that he was not in Ape Canyon with Patterson! He told me he went to Spirit Lake with Patterson, but Spirit Lake was on the NORTH side of the mountain, and quite a distance from Ape Canyon.

So who took the picture???

Personally, I’ve always been more interested in physical evidence than anecdotal evidence. It’s possible that this gal is mistaken or is being deceitful. But part of the reason that I bring this little tidbit forward is to counter the claim that Greg Long set out to find witnesses that had a negative opinion of Roger Patterson. This information was VOLUNTEERED to me, and I asked no “leading questions” at all. This gal’s testimony is totally consistent with what the other witnesses in Long’s book relate about Patterson, and further it goes beyond what Patterson apologists claim about Patterson’s deceit, that it was not Bigfoot related.

I understand Dave Murphy (no relation to Chris Murphy) has been working on a pro-Patterson book. I advised Murphy of this woman’s story. We will have to wait and see if Murphy follows up on it.

UPDATE: July 14, 2010. It has been pointed out to me that the testimony of Bobbie H.’s mother, Florence Showman (née Merritt) is also recorded in Long’s book on pages 131 and 132.

From page 132: “I also remember taking pictures of Roger sitting around a campfire at Tampico. He was going to use them in his book or whatever. I took pictures of him in his western outfit sitting on his horse.”

I don’t know my Yakima geography, but I assume That Florence and Bobbie are referring to the same place and the same event.

Also, it’s been five years, and still no pro-Patterson book from Dave Murphy, as far as I know.

 Posted by on 10/19/2009 Bigfoot, Hoaxes Comments Off on Did Roger Patterson Stage His “Ape Canyon” Photograph?