Posted by: Craig Woolheater on July 28th, 2007
David Raygoza shows pictures taken while searching for Bigfoot. (Joe Proudman/The Sentinel)
David Raygoza has heard it all: The sniggers, the jokes, the “crackpot” comments.
It doesn’t much faze the high school principal from Fresno as he pursues the passion that has consumed much of his free time for years: Tracking Bigfoot, a purportedly ape-like creature reputed to live in the remote mountains east of Kings County.
Raygoza is taking his findings, and the stories he’s collected over the years, to a Bigfoot symposium he’s holding in Hanford Tuesday night — surely the town’s first ever.
Raygoza said he’s prepared for the skepticism.
“Usually, my response is, I go with it. There’s no need to get into a confrontation,” he said.
The 49-year-old principal is more interested in finding people who can provide visual or other evidence of a creature he claims to have seen three times.
“Generally, what I say is, ‘you’ve got to open your eyes to what’s out there,’” he said.
Others have opened their eyes and seen nothing, despite the hundreds of reported sightings of the creature and moldings taken of its footprints.
Many put the Bigfoot phenomenon in the category of popular folklore, alongside stories of UFOs, alien abductions and ghosts.
“With the thousands of dollars of cameras (these people) lug around with them, why don’t they have a picture? You know, we need a body, we need some DNA, we need bones,” said Brian Dunning, founder of www.skeptoid.com, a Web site that critically analyzes pop culture.
National forest officials, for their part, say they have no knowledge of any kind of unidentified primate that could qualify as a Bigfoot.
“I’ve been working on this forest for 20 years and I’ve never seen or heard of a sighting of a Bigfoot … or traces of a Bigfoot,” said Denize Alonzo, spokeswoman for three ranger districts in Sequoia National Forest.
Raygoza concedes that what’s needed is unambiguous proof.
“I would say to the (skeptics), you are absolutely right, that nothing’s been found. But there are just too many eyewitness accounts out there,” Raygoza said.
Sightings of Bigfoot-like creatures have been reported around the world for hundreds of years, first in American Indian cultures and later in the United States, particularly in the remote forested areas of northern California and the Pacific Northwest.
The accounts generally describe a creature that’s taller than humans, covered in fur, walking upright, with long swinging arms and a low forehead reminiscent of African apes.
The stories have a certain scientific plausibility.
Fossil evidence shows that large, ape-like species cohabited with humans as late as 100,000 years ago.
The problem is that no such remains have been found younger than 100,000 years, and none have ever been located in North America.
Still, that’s enough for a handful of academics to at least hold out the possibility that a great ape species could have lived longer, perhaps even into recent times.
“Personally, I am pursuing it from an academic standpoint. My interest is in the biology and natural history of a presumed great ape surviving into the modern era,” said Jeffrey Meldrum, associate professor of anatomy and anthropology at Idaho State University.
Meldrum is often derided by his fellow academics as an eccentric dissenter.
But he has his defenders, Dunning among them.
Jane Goodall, the famous anthropologist who lived with chimpanzees in Africa, has been sympathetic to Meldrum’s studies.
Goodall couldn’t be reached for comment Friday.
“My argument is that there is a body of evidence that is strongly suggestive of the existence of such an animal,” Meldrum said, stopping short of saying that he actually believes Bigfoot is out there somewhere.
“It remains a question. And there are vexing issues … like, how has it been able to avoid scientific scrutiny for so long?,” he said.
David Raygoza hopes that the Bigfoot symposium will provide a breakthrough.
“Maybe when people are camping in the mountains and hear something go bump in the night, maybe it’s something that we can explain,” he said.Seth Nidever
I have had personal dealings with Mr. Raygoza, principal of Pershing High School in Fresno, CA.
Several years back, he contacted me wanted to debut video footage purported to be of Bigfoot at our Texas Bigfoot Conference.
He claimed the footage was obtained while out hiking, looking for Bigfoot and/or Bigfoot evidence, when he happened upon a Bigfoot on the trail and shot the footage.
I requested still images from the footage before agreeing to show the video. Said stills were agreed to be sent by Mr. Raygoza.
Unfortunately, I never received anything to verify Mr. Raygoza’s amazing Bigfoot footage. I also never received any additional contact from Mr. Raygoza after I requested and he agreed to send the images.
There is no mention of this footage in the article, so I assume he is not hawking it anymore.
The details on his conference are below.
I am sponsoring an informational Bigfoot Symposium in Hanford, California on Wednesday, August 1, 2007 at 6 p.m. at Fatte Albert’s Pizza Company.
The purpose of the meeting is to gather information on how many local individuals have had bigfoot experiences and to give these folks a forum to talk about their experiences with others. I have invited several individuals from various towns from Central California who have reported to have had bigfoot experiences/encounters. Visitors will also have an opportunity to look at several pictures/videos of purpoted bigfoot tracks/ prints and casts as well as equipment that is used during our research trips. Over-all, it should be a good time as well as informational.David Raygoza