Thursday, 8 October 2009

Is talking about Bigfoot boring?


Texas Bigfoot Conference more boring than you would think

Sunday, October 04, 2009.

TYLER — Janine Melnitz: 'Do you believe in UFOs, astral projections, mental telepathy, ESP, clairvoyance, spirit photography, telekinetic movement, full trance mediums, the Loch Ness monster and the theory of Atlantis?'

Winston Zeddemore: 'Ah, if there's a steady paycheck in it, I'll believe anything you say.'

— 'Ghostbusters'

Bigfoot is boring.

Correction. Bigfoot conferences are boring.Bigfoot could not be boring if the conference speakers weren't so dull. Heck, most of them were barely breathing.I went to the 2009 Texas Bigfoot Conference expecting people in gorilla suits milling about among semi-crazed gangs of gonzo, tattooed, barrel-chested beandips. I found instead only a polite, older crowd of mildly sleepy true believers who only came alive at the mention of the TV show "MonsterQuest" or the movie "The Legend of Boggy Creek." I thought surely someone would be selling BLT — Bigfoot, lettuce and tomato — sandwiches and Abominable Snowman cones during the lunch break, but there were only Cokes and Subway sandwiches. Trying not to sound breathlessly moronic and relentlessly off kilter must be hard work. The stream of people calling themselves Bigfoot researchers — an astounding number of them PhDs, college professors and scientists from any number of fields — droned on all day, talking about satellite imagery, global rainfall patterns, Bigfoot territorial behaviors and specialty field work searching for Bigfoot signs. Even the crowd of believers was nodding off by the afternoon. I was asleep and drooling down the front of my shirt. The discussion was arcane, jargon-laden and focused often on something they call cryptozoology — basically, the study of animals not yet proven to exist. And I guess that's what the conference was all about, attempts to prove that Bigfoot, or Sasquatch if you prefer, does live some place other than in legend. Actually, what they're trying to do is get mainstream science to admit that all the misshapen plaster casts, bad photographs and over-dramatic TV shows are evidence that the creature lives in Texas and other states. There certainly have been sightings in other states, among them Oklahoma, Louisiana and Arkansas. There's the Fouke Monster, made famous by the Boggy Creek movie. There's the Lake Worth Monster, a Fort Worth phenomenon since proven to be false. There's the Skunk Ape, Yeti and the Honey Island Swamp Monster, named for a wet, muggy region near New Orleans. It was the latter that lured David and Carlene Fontenot from their home in Lake Charles, La., back to the Bigfoot conference for a second year. I approached them in the parking lot at lunch. "I've always been curious about it," David Fontenot said. "(Relatives) reported seeing them and smelling them in the swamps when I was a kid. I've never seen one, but a lot of cultures all report having a creature like (Bigfoot)." Carlene Fontenot said she was open to the possibility of a Bigfoot creature living somewhere in North America. She even drew a picture during one of the discussions depicting Bigfoot as he's portrayed in legend, "but I'd have to see a body," she said. That would be a six-foot, seven-foot, eight-foot or even nine-foot long body, weighing upward of 500 pounds. The size depends on which eyewitness account we choose to believe because no actual Bigfoot ever has been located, dead or alive. And therein lies John Bindernagel's problem. Bindernagel has a doctorate and is known for having written a book famous — among believers — for its accuracy about Bigfoot/Sasquatch. He spoke at the conference, too. "My book didn't generate any scientific dialogue," Bindernagel lamented. He was shocked. "The papers I've submitted have been routinely rejected. It's my subject. I had described the anatomy, etc., of an animal not yet discovered." That could put a chill on any response. And it raises this question: If it's yet to be discovered, how could he describe what it looked like and what it ate? Or its breeding habits or where it lives? John Mionczynski, who works for something called the North American Ape Project at Idaho State University and the most chillingly boring of the conference speakers, said this: "At this point, what we have is a phenomenon ... but no tangible evidence." I can't even begin to go into all the reasons — twisted trees, sounds in the brush, scary noises — for why people believe in Bigfoot. Most of them could be described by noting if they hadn't believed it, they wouldn't have seen it with their own eyes. I don't believe it's real so the unknown "encounters" I've had in Alaska and Africa and South America I write off as simply unknown, not as Bigfoot. It could be the Tooth Fairy. And just as likely. I just don't know.

But I do know there's no such thing as Bigfoot. And by the way, Elvis is dead.

Oh dear. Perhaps they should have sent a journalist who had an interest in the subject. Not everyone can be an entertaining speaker….but you would think their passion about the subject would have been conveyed to the audience. Maybe the journalist just didn’t want to be there. I have only attended a handful of crypto zoology conferences in the UK but have always found them fascinating. Mainly because of the characters you encounter, I love eccentric people, but also because of the passion people have for their subject. I am giving a talk on my experiences at Loch Ness at the next years Weird Weekend for CFZ. I will endeavour not to put people to sleep if possible. Plus after many years of being a lecturer I find there are many ways to poke people back into wakefulness if they should start to glaze over… have been warned lol.

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