Also commonly referred to as Sasquatch, is a large and hairy human-like mythical creature purported to inhabit forests in North America, particularly in the Pacific Northwest.
Enthusiasts of the subject have offered various forms of dubious evidence to prove Bigfoot's existence, including anecdotal claims of sightings, as well as alleged photographs, video and audio recordings, hair samples, and casts of large footprints. Most of this evidence has since been identified as hoaxes or misidentification. The majority of scientists do not find any of the remaining evidence compelling, and instead generally consider it to be the result of a combination of folklore, misidentification, and hoax, rather than a living animal.
Folklorists trace the phenomenon of Bigfoot to a combination of factors and sources, including indigenous cultures, the European wild man figure, and folk tales. Wishful thinking, a cultural increase in environmental concerns, and overall societal awareness of the subject have been cited as additional factors.
Tales of wild, hair-covered humanoids exist throughout the world, such as the Skunk ape of the southeastern United States, the Almas, Yeren, and Yeti in Asia, the Australian Yowie, and creatures in the mythologies of indigenous people. Bigfoot is an enduring element of popular culture and an icon within the pseudoscience and subculture of cryptozoology.
According to Live Science, there have been over 10,000 reported Bigfoot sightings in the continental United States, with reports from every state except the island of Hawaii. About one-third of all claims of Bigfoot sightings are located in the Pacific Northwest, with the remaining reports spread throughout the rest of North America. Most reports are considered mistakes or hoaxes, even by those researchers who claim Bigfoot exists.
Sightings predominantly occur in the northwestern region of Washington state, Oregon, Northern California, and British Columbia. According to data collected from the Bigfoot Field Researchers Organization's (BFRO) Bigfoot sightings database in 2019, Washington has over 2,000 reported sightings, California over 1,600, Pennsylvania over 1,300, New York and Oregon over 1,000, and Texas has just over 800. The debate over the legitimacy of Bigfoot sightings reached a peak in the 1970s, and Bigfoot has been regarded as the first widely popularized example of pseudoscience in American culture.
Origin of the "Bigfoot" Name
Jerry Crew and Andrew Genzoli
In 1958, Jerry Crew, bulldozer operator for a logging company in Humboldt County, California, discovered a set of large, 16 inches (410 mm) human-like footprints sunk deep within the mud in the Six Rivers National Forest. Upon informing his coworkers, many claimed to have seen similar tracks on previous job sites as well as telling of odd incidents such as an oil drum weighing 450 pounds (200 kg) having been moved without explanation. The logging company men soon began utilizing "Bigfoot" to describe the apparent culprit. Crew initially believed someone was playing a prank on them.
After observing more of these massive footprints, he contacted reporter Andrew Genzoli of the Humboldt Times newspaper. Genzoli interviewed lumber workers and wrote articles about the mysterious footprints, introducing the name "Bigfoot" in relation to the tracks and the local tales of large, hairy wild men.
A plaster cast was made of the footprints and Crew appeared, holding one of the casts, on the front page of the newspaper on October 6, 1958. The story spread rapidly as Genzoli began to receive correspondence from major media outlets including the New York Times and Los Angeles Times. As a result, the term Bigfoot became widespread as a reference to an apparently large, unknown creature leaving massive footprints in Northern California. As a result, Willow Creek and Humboldt County are considered by some to be the "Bigfoot Capital of the World".
Ray Wallace and Rant Mullens
In 2002, the family of Jerry Crew's deceased coworker Ray Wallace revealed a collection of large, carved wooden feet stored in his basement. They stated that Wallace had been secretly making the footprints and was responsible for the tracks discovered by Crew. Wallace was inspired by another hoaxer, Rant Mullens, who revealed information about his hoaxes in 1982.
In the 1930s in Toledo, Washington, Mullens and a group of other foresters carved pairs of large feet made of wood and used them to create footprints in the mud to scare huckleberry pickers in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest. The group would also claim to be responsible for hoaxing the alleged Ape Canyon incident in 1924. Mullens and the group of foresters began referring to themselves as the St. Helens Apes, and would later have a cave dedicated to them.
Wallace, also from Toledo, knew Mullens and stated he collaborated with him to obtain a pair of the large wooden feet and subsequently used them to create footprints on the 1958 construction site as a means to scare away potential thieves.