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The Strange Global Giant Hairy Monster Myth

By James Donahue

In North America most people refer to the creature as "Big Foot." Elsewhere in the world he is called Sasquatch, Yeti, Abominable Snowman and a variety of other cultural oriented names.

There have been documented cases of encounters with this creature, but they have all been seriously questioned as hoaxes. The best known are the movie shot in California in 1967 by Roger Patterson and Robert Gimlin, which contains a few brief frames of what appears to be a large hairy creature walking upright through distant trees and brush. Then there were the images and documentation of large beast-like footprints found by explorer Eric Shipton on Mount Everest in the 1950s.

During my years as a news reporter in various parts of Michigan I encountered at least two different cases where people claimed to have seen or at least had some kind of personal encounter with such creatures.

The first occurred in Cass County, near Dowagiac, Michigan, in 1964 when I was working as a cub reporter on the state desk at the old News-Palladium newspaper at nearby Benton Harbor. People in and around Sister Lake began calling the local sheriff’s department to report sightings of large hairy creatures with large glowing eyes prowling around in their yards in the night, or dashing across highways in front of their cars. Deputies spent hours tracking this creature and one report said they found footprints that were carefully measured and photographed. Most people thought it was all a hoax but it caused enough of a stir in the area that I wrote numerous stories about the alleged Dowagiac Monster.

My second recorded event occurred a few years later while I was working as a bureau reporter in Sanilac County for the Times Herald, a newspaper in Port Huron, Michigan. People in a rural area near Croswell told county deputies they thought they saw a bear on their property. A police search turned up no evidence of such a creature, which would have been very far out of its normal habitat to be wandering in that part of Michigan. But then, a young woman in that neighborhood told a horrifying story of going into a barn in the night and when reaching for a light cord, touched a warm hairy creature that seemed to tower over her. It growled as she ran screaming to the house. She said she never saw the creature but reasoned that it wasn’t a bear at all, but possibly a bigfoot. My story on that event ended up copied word-for-word in one of the sensational tabloids that used to hang near the check-out counters of the local A&P stores.

I suppose it was because of these events that I have always maintained an active interest in the giant hairy wilderness creatures of the world. And I have discovered that while none have ever been captured or their dead carcasses found, the mythology about them seems to exist in almost every culture.

In Russia the creature is known as Sasquatch. He is Yeti in the Himalayas, or more commonly referred to there as the Abominable Snowman because his fur is said to be white which makes him blend in with the mountain snow and be virtually invisible to hunters. In Australia the creature is called Yowie. In Malaysia it is Orang Minvak. And in South America the people fear the Mapinguari. I suspect there are more names that have escaped this list.

The Bigfoot stories appear to have a few things in common. They all involve a hair covered giant ape-like creature that walks upright, stands an estimated seven feet in height, makes strange guttural sounds and stinks to high heaven when it is nearby.

The mythology surrounding this creature has been so well accepted that a lot of people believe in its existence. In fact special research groups have been formed by the "believers" to collect data and try to hunt one of them down just to prove to the world that they exist. To this date, none have ever been captured.

I knew a man who once found the purchased a hairy beast costume that would have appeared like a bigfoot if he had worn it. He was a practical joker and said he planned to make special giant shoes and make a few public appearances as a joke on the neighborhood. I strongly urged him not to do this. As a local newspaper reporter, I said it would be impossible for me to report such stories objectively if I knew what he was up to. As far as I know, the costume never got out of its box.

We might write off some of the stories as hoaxes, but the existence of the same mythology among so many different cultures . . . some in remote corners of the world . . makes us wonder how they all came into existence and why they all have that same common thread.

In a recent article on this subject, writer Natalie Wolchover wrote: "The existence of so many separate ‘wild man’ myths don’t necessarily count as mounting evidence that we really do have feral cousins out there in the woods. Instead, the myths may all stem from the same aspect of the human psyche: the desire for and fascination with an ‘other.’"

This the bigfoot myth goes on the shelf with all of the other unsolved mysteries of the world that include the Loch Ness Monster, UFOs, cattle mutilations and crop circles. We are sure they all exist but nobody can figure out what they really are and how it is all happening.