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Bigfoot.  Sasquatch.  There are many names used to describe this mysterious creature.  But what is it - or is it merely a series of unrelated hoaxes and practical jokes?

With references to a Bigfoot type creature dating back hundreds of years, and with some consistent points of commonality across sightings, all over North America, can all the differing reports be fakes or mistakes?

Might there be something truly out there?

If there is, then the chances are that it is to be found in the Pacific Northwest.

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All About Bigfoot in the Pacific Northwest

A mysterious creature or a mythical creation?

One of the best known images of a possible Bigfoot; this is from a movie taken in Bluff Creek, CA, in October 1967 - frame 352 from the Patterson-Gimlin film.

Part one of a four part series on Bigfoot; see also :

1.  All about Bigfoot in the Pacific Northwest
2.  Where and When to Find Bigfoot
3.  How to Search for Bigfoot
4.  Some suggested Bigfoot touring around Seattle



If you live in, or plan on visiting the Pacific Northwest, you're in the heart of Bigfoot territory - assuming that such a creature actually exists, of course, and that's an assumption that is difficult to prove, either positively or negatively.

Although Bigfoot sightings span every state in the US (except Hawaii) and most Canadian provinces, there's a clear concentration of sightings on the west coast, with Washington state having the largest number of all.

A History of Bigfoot or Sasquatch

The generic concept of large mysterious animals that are rarely seen is commonly shared across many cultures and countries, and dates back with varying degrees of vagueness way into history.

More formal reporting of these creatures evolved with the advent of better methods of communication, with shared information about sightings seeming to grow a continuing and increasing interest in these mysterious creatures.

The first work that attempted to tie together what had formerly been independent and unconnected regional folklore appeared as a series of syndicated newspaper articles in the 1920s in some Canadian newspapers in which author J W Burns collated information about regional traditions and tales.

The origin of the term Sasquatch

However, the major contribution for which Burns is most remembered these days was to replace the past practice whereby each local tradition featured its own name for the creature involved (typically in a local dialect of the local Indian tribe) with a broader name which he used for all such phenomena.  This name, anglicized from a British Columbian Indian word, was Sasquatch.

As a result of his articles, the concept of the Sasquatch became more widely known in western Canada, and it became increasingly understood in the US in the years that followed.

The origin of the the term Bigfoot

After an earlier footprint photo in 1951, Sasquatch finally made it into the big time in 1958, when large footprints were seen, photographed, and made into plaster casts, around the Bluff Creek area in Humboldt County, California.

An article in the local Humboldt Times was titled 'Bigfoot', due to the 16" size of the footprints, and the new name proved popular.  Although a seminal event in Bigfoot lore, many years later the footprints have become to now generally considered to have been a hoax.

Is there a difference between a Sasquatch and a Bigfoot

These days the two terms Bigfoot and Sasquatch can be considered interchangeable, and it seems to be a local preference for which term is more commonly used.

Possibly Sasquatch is used more frequently in Canada, and Bigfoot more frequently in the US.  Prior to the evolution of these terms, other general terms such as 'woodland ape' and 'wild man' (or 'wild men') had also been used.

Searching for Bigfoot becomes an active organized activity

Prior to the 1958 Bluff Creek footprints, there was little organized activity or formal groups of people actively searching for Bigfoot.

The publicity and interest in the footprints in 1958 lead to the formation of various groups, and organized searches for Bigfoot (Bigfoots?  Bigfeet?) became increasingly common, in the Bluff Creek area and more generally elsewhere in the US and Canada too.

Naturally the development of the internet has given rise to a whole new level of information sharing and has allowed for much more Bigfoot data to be collated and presented as an integrated totality.  Many websites are dedicated to the topic, and organizations such as the Bigfoot Field Researchers Organization share their findings and data with everyone who cares to visit their site.

Other prominent websites include North American Bigfoot Search and Oregon Bigfoot.

Is Bigfoot Real?

That's a question I can't (and won't) definitively answer.  You'll have to form your own opinion.

There are three schools of thought about Bigfoot.  The first says they do exist, and that they are simply what they seem to be - large ape like creatures.  This theory includes various layers of explanation for their reclusiveness and why there has been so little 'hard' evidence of their existence, and accepts that mixed in with genuine data is a regrettable amount of hoaxing and fraud.

The second school of thought is equally simple, and holds that they don't exist.  This approach treats all the Bigfoot 'evidence' as hoaxing, fraud, jokes, or innocent things that have been misinterpreted.

The third approach suggests there are mysterious creatures out there, but says they are not necessarily flesh and blood creatures such as ourselves and other animals.  Instead, this theory ascribes supernatural or perhaps otherworldly powers to Bigfoot, perhaps considering them as spirit beings or sometimes linking them in with UFOs and other strange phenomena.

Fact - at least some Bigfoot claims are false

It is true that many of the Bigfoot 'sightings' in the past have ended up being debunked and shown to be untrue.  But should all such sightings and related Bigfoot phenomena be tarred by the same brush?

Does the fact that some people predictably get fun out of playing a practical joke on credulous friends and society in general, and that some people seek ways to fraudulently profit from such things, mean that we should therefore disparage every other Bigfoot phenomenon too?

We feel it is fair and sensible to approach Bigfoot claims with a degree of skepticism - possibly even a degree of cynicism.  We can understand the school of thought that says there is some sort of primal need deep within our souls to believe in the existence of larger creatures than ourselves - this is used to explain the presence of such creatures in ancient and perhaps more fanciful legend, and all around the world, as well as more specific and more recent Bigfoot events.

Lack of dead bodies or bones

One troubling aspect of Bigfoot is the lack of dead bodies, or, at the very least, bones and other remains.  In a situation where there is still an abundance of dinosaur bones being unearthed, why have we never found any evidence of former Bigfoot creatures?

Bigfoot advocates have gone as far as to suggest that maybe the creatures observe some sort of ritual that involves accelerating the decay of dead carcasses.  We find this to be a bit of a stretch to accept, but not an impossibility.

The lack of any incontrovertible evidence - which almost unavoidably has to take the shame of a live or dead Bigfoot - is an obstacle to accepting the existence of these creatures, but it certainly isn't conclusive 'proof' that they don't exist.

Conjecture - Bigfoot is certainly a scientific possibility

On the other hand, there's no obvious reason why the existence of a Bigfoot type creature is entirely impossible, and from a physiological and medical point of view, there do not seem to be any overwhelming impossibilities present in terms of such a creature existing.

If such a creature is reclusive and somewhat intelligent, and if there are only small colonies of these creatures, living by choice in out of the way parts of forests where humans are seldom if ever found, then it is entirely possible that all we ever come across are occasional brief glimpses and traces of their existence.

As for the possibility that Bigfoot is some sort of inter-dimensional or spiritual or UFO type creature, these are of course somewhat more fanciful concepts, and perhaps require a greater degree of caution because they require us to accept something beyond that which current scientific understanding and our world-experience to date would accept.

We feel it is appropriate to keep an open mind and to evaluate Bigfoot sightings and claims on their merits without too much prejudging of matters beforehand, while giving preference to explanations that suggest less other-worldly powers to any possible Bigfoot sightings.

What percentage of Bigfoot sightings might be real or fake?

This is a relevant question, but impossible to answer, because various reporting organizations apply varying degrees of validation before advising of a possible Bigfoot related sighting.

A credible organization such as the Bigfoot Field Researcher's Organization provides some degree of validation of the reports it publishes (but in reality their validation is probably less rigorous than they claim it to be), and also categorizes their reports into three categories based upon the value and credibility of each report.

On the other hand, some of the highest profile Bigfoot encounters - encounters which at the time have been accepted as credible - have subsequently been disproven, perhaps due to one of the conspirators subsequently confessing.  But even such confessions are sometimes no more convincing than a suggestion that the event was real - there have been inconsistencies in some of the confessions which suggest that, just like the police suffer from people who strangely choose to confess to crimes they never committed, so too do some people want to enjoy some undeserved notoriety as a Bigfoot faker when in fact they are not.

So nothing is guaranteed as true, and equally, very little is guaranteed as false.  And, clearly, just because some encounters and 'evidence' has subsequently been disproven does not mean that all the thousands of sightings over the last 100 or so years are equally fraudulent.

What is (a) Bigfoot or Sasquatch

A Bigfoot or Sasquatch can be described as a cryptid - ie, a member of a species of creature that may or may not exist, with no clear confirmation either of their existence or of their non-existence (it being, of course, very hard to prove a negative).  The 'science' of the study of such creatures is referred to as cryptozoology.

If we concentrate on the concept of Bigfoot being a 'normal' rather than supernatural being then the 'classic' description of a Bigfoot is of a hairy upright mammal, ranging in height from an extreme low of about 6' up to an extreme high of about 10', with the more common height range being perhaps 6'6" up to 8'.

Footprints have been found ranging in size up to 24" long and 8" wide.  Generally the footprints show the creature to have five toes (in common with humans and all known apes) but some alleged footprints have six toes and others show as few as two.

Bigfoot's hair is usually described as dark brown or dark red in color.  The weight of the animal is harder to establish, but based on size and footprint impression depths, is thought to generally be in excess of 500lbs.

The creature is described as having a strong and unpleasant smell associated with it.  It has a short neck, flattish face, large eyes, and a large low-set forehead, with a rounded and crested top of the head.  Its arms are longer, as a proportion of its body length, than human arms.

Bigfoot is believed to be omnivorous.  It has been seen variously eating berries, fish, and small creatures.  It is thought to be more active at night than during the day, and sightings are often in places close to a water source.

Most sightings are of a single creature, rather than a family group or tribe (herd? pack?).

Other Similar Creatures Elsewhere in the World

Although Bigfoot may be - by definition - native to North America, there are tales of similar creatures being found on every other continent (except for, of course, Antarctica).

Perhaps the best known similar creature would be the Abominable Snowman or Yeti, reputed to exist in the Himalayas, and with recorded reports dating back to 1821.

Here is an extensive list of various other cryptid creatures around the world.

Where Bigfoot is Most Prevalent in North America

The largest number of sightings of Bigfoot have been in Washington state.  This is followed by California then Oregon.  This fascinating map (link broken) shows the count of sightings by state and province for the US and Canada.

As the map shows, sightings are concentrated on the west coast, although there is an apparently anomalous smaller concentration of sightings in Ohio.

As can also be seen, every US state (except HI) and most Canadian provinces have at least one or more sightings.

Clearly Bigfoot is a bush/forest dweller - sightings are concentrated in areas with reasonably lush vegetation.

Bigfoot in the Pacific Northwest

Here in the Pacific Northwest we are blessed (?) with a high level of Bigfoot sightings.

Although Oregon shows a smaller number of sightings than Washington, this might simply mean there are more remote areas for tribes of Bigfoot to conceal themselves within, and with high numbers of sightings both in Washington (north of Oregon) and in central and northern California (to the south of Oregon) it seems likely there's a spread of the creatures starting from British Columbia and ranging down to central and inland California.

The range of Bigfoot sightings does not necessarily imply the underlying density of Bigfoot population numbers.  It reflects more on the density of population in general and people who visit the area for recreational purposes.  Clearly there'll be no Bigfoot sightings in an area where no people visit.

There have been sightings not too distant from major population centers, and in areas that are not impossibly remote or difficult to access, making it feasible for the casual Bigfoot follower to go into 'Bigfoot country'.

In addition to the Bigfoot, Washington claims to be home of another even more bizarre creature, the tree octopus (a claim to be treated with a healthy dose of salt).

Bigfoot Sightseeing

Although some organizations offer formal expeditions into areas known for higher than normal levels of Bigfoot sighting, neither they nor we can give you an itinerary that will take you to places where you'll for sure see a Bigfoot.  Sightings are far and few between, even for the formal expedition members.

But we can direct you to places where there have been Bigfoot experiences, and provide more information on that in the next three parts of this article.

Part one of a four part series on Bigfoot; see also :

1.  All about Bigfoot in the Pacific Northwest
2.  Where and When to Find Bigfoot
3.  How to Search for Bigfoot
4.  Some suggested Bigfoot touring around Seattle

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Originally published 24 April 2009, last update 30 May 2021

You may freely reproduce or distribute this article for noncommercial purposes as long as you give credit to me as original writer.

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