By Rebecca Seidel
Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
We’ve all journeyed down those internet wormholes before. A few clicks on some mildly inviting links, and you’re suddenly in a shadowy corner of the digital world with no escape in sight.
If you travel far enough down a certain one of these paths, you might find a large, lumbering, bipedal humanoid lurking just out of reach.
The quest to track down the elusive Bigfoot, also known as Sasquatch, dates back centuries. Some footprints (fake) and some now-famous film footage (probably also fake) brought Bigfoot into popular consciousness in the 1950s. To this day, a steady sprinkling of reported sightings has kept the legend alive–even though most scientists dismiss the notion of the creature’s existence.
Despite pretty convincing arguments that Bigfoot is a hoax, and that “sightings” of the creature are generally just misidentifications of some other animal, some diehard believers insist that the case is not closed. The Bigfoot Field Researchers Association (BFRO) is a select team of scientists, journalists, and other researchers that is set on getting to the bottom of the mystery.
Led by Matt Moneymaker, the BFRO claims to be the most legitimate resource out there for those on Bigfoot’s trail. “As a result of the education and experience of its members and the quality of their efforts, the BFRO is widely considered as the most credible and respected investigative network involved in the study of this subject,” their website states.
Members of the BFRO not only document all reported Bigfoot sightings; they also scavenge the sites themselves for evidence, interview witnesses, and follow up with reports of their findings. The Animal Planet series, Finding Bigfoot, now in its fifth season, follows a core team of BFRO investigators through this process. Complete with “harrowing tales of run-ins,” intense footage of their expeditions, and dramatic music, Finding Bigfoot goes to great lengths to capture the BFRO’s earnestness–while also tapping into its entertainment value.
But to understand how intense the BFRO really is, the TV show isn’t going to cut it. One must turn instead to the organization’s website, where they keep a vast database of all their investigations. They update this database all the time with the newest reports of sightings and follow-up expeditions–all of which are organized by state and county. (Washington State takes the lead with 584 reports.)
Because the accounts submitted to the BFRO range from vivid firsthand sightings to vague and indirect reports, each case is classified into one of three categories–Class A, B, or C–based on “potential for misinterpretation of what was observed or heard.” Clearly, this is no amateur Bigfoot research database.
No matter how skeptical you are about Bigfoot, it’s easy to get pulled into the treasure trove of stories, analysis, and discussion that lives on this site. Most reports include the witness’s full story of the sighting, details about the location, and a BFRO researcher’s thorough follow-up. Although people’s anecdotes range from compelling to ridiculous, they’re invariably fun to read–especially the overdramatic ones.
“We know our animals. This was not a bear,” insists the witness in Report #41704 (Class A), who observed a “large, upright bipedal animal covered in dark-brown or black hair” in Tillamook County, Oregon.
BFRO Investigator Geoff Robinson follows up on this report by recounting his camping expedition to Tillamook County. The wordy detective language used in this report (as in all the others) turns out to be really entertaining, for some reason: “The log measured 35″ in diameter…With that measurement and review of the witnesses’ account, I estimate the subject to be approximately 7 feet in height.”
You’d think these reports would get old fast, especially if you have no faith in Bigfoot’s existence whatsoever. But don’t be surprised when you find yourself clicking through every Class A report in your home state, or skimming through people’s long-winded anecdotes for a moment of beautiful language (“just the faintest glimmer of movement,” “the ground was bare and there was no sign of our midnight visitor”).
It’s not like the stories become more believable as they go along, but at a certain point, fact and fiction stop mattering. It’s the best kind of internet wormhole: you have no idea what you’re doing there or why, but that’s kind of the point.
Thanks to a handy report submission form, anyone who thinks they’ve spotted Sasquatch can share their story with the BFRO, and depending on how legitimate it seems, they might look further into it.
If you’re not heading to a woodsy area sometime soon, though, consider their existing database an adventure just as thrilling as seeking out Bigfoot yourself.