Feb 3, 2011

The problem with the prehistory of bigfoot

Those interested in bigfoot almost always deny that the legend started in ’58 and ’67with the tracks and the film, citing Native American accounts of an “Oh-Man” or a “Sasquatch.” Their understanding of those accounts seems highly suspect, though, as they read them in naive, presentist ways, taking tales of monsters and boogey men out of their cultural contexts.

This predating also seems overwhelmingly motivated by a desire to separate bigfoot from the modern media environment in which he exists.

If there is a pre-history of bigfoot, a bigfoot legend that predates ’58 and ’67 and could contextualize those alleged discoveries, it’s the reports of Yeti footprints in Nepal. Those accounts, however, are still squarely within the context of our modern, mass media environment.

The reports in the ‘20s were used to promote and attract attention for British explorations. A number of well-publicized reports in the early ‘50s involved or were connected to the famed British explorer, Sir Edmund Hillary, who grabbed headlines wherever he went. One Yeti-hunting expedition in ’54 was sponsored by the British newspaper, The Daily Mail. In ’57 and through the ‘60s, Tom Slick, a wealthy heir of a Texas oil fortune, invested his time and money in the search for yeti, reportedly with the support and encouragement of American actor Jimmy Stewart.

At least some of the Yeti reports were widely known at the time of the bigfoot legend's beginnings, and the ’58 find of tracks mirrors, in many ways, the explorers’ much-reported Yeti footprint discoveries in Nepal.

The “prehistory” of bigfoot seems wrong to me. These modern monsters are completely co-existent with mass media.