Posted by: Craig Woolheater on September 3rd, 2013
Loxton, Daniel and Prothero, Donald R. Abominable Science! Origins Of The Yeti, Nessie, And Other Famous Cryptids. Columbia University Press, 61 West 62nd Street, New York, New York 10023; 411 pages (heavy stock paper), August 6, 2013 publication. $29.95 (cloth); ISBN: 978-0-231-15320-1; photos (black and white and color); illustrations, chapter notes (references cited) and acknowledgements. Their website: www.cup.columbia.edu or telephone: (212) 459-0600.
Reviewed by Daniel Perez, editor and publisher of the newsletter, Bigfoot Times, published since January 1998.
It doesn’t take long to get a feel for this book. Wrote well known skeptic Michael Shermer in the foreword, “In January 2003, the world lost the creators of two of its most celebrated bio-hoaxes in modern times: Douglas Herrick, father of the…jacakalope…and Raymond L. Wallace, godfather of the less absurd and more widely believed Bigfoot.” After reading this I figured everything else I would see in this work would be a sinking ship, which proves to be true. As I read I contemplated the authors’ explanations for cryptids: hoaxes and misidentifications proved to be the principle thesis for all things cryptozoological, be it Bigfoot or the Loch Ness Monster and everything in between.
So I thought why aren’t people seeing Bigfoot in Cuba or Iceland? Why would hoaxers and unreliable witnesses want to confine the Bigfoot mystery to just North America?
Dr. Jeff Meldrum (author of Sasquatch: Legend Meets Science) succinctly commented, “It is irritating that these self-proclaimed experts set out to write an authoritative evaluation and produce such dribble and get it published through academic presses!”
Since 10¢ is noted on the cover of this tome with a cartoon looking character to subliminally suggest to the reader there is nothing serious about the topics discussed, I would like to add my own 2¢ worth of critique.
On page 18 the authors note, “…known from legend since the seventeenth century but not described until 1840.” That legend did come to life: the lowland gorilla. The legend of Bigfoot has a longer history than the lowland gorilla and no one is certain when it will transform into reality.
“With [the late William] Roe, the Sasquatch transformed into a mystery primate – a primate white people could see,” the authors assert, which ignores the fact that prior to his 1955 sighting on Mica Mountain, British Columbia, white people were seeing Sasquatch. “Roe’s close-encounter tale effectively created the modern Sasquatch,” which again ignores another white man’s tale, that of Albert Ostman from 1924, so the template for how the Sasquatch looked was in place long before Roe, but you wouldn’t know that if you read this somewhat confusing, illogical book.
“No cryptozoologist had ever met Roe,” [face to face], they write, which may be so, but the late René Dahinden gave me a piece of mica from that mountain and he may have shown me a photo of Roe as well, but that was 33 years ago, so I can’t be sure of it. I wouldn’t be surprised if René did meet Roe and conducted a reel-to-reel tape recording of what he claimed in his sighting. As it stands, René didn’t produce that “piece of wood” from the P-G filmsite until years after he brought it home as a “souvenir.”
Moving on there is discussion of “lying by omission,” (page 42) and deleting contextual information relevant to a case to build your own. Now let’s back up!
John Green in his Sasquatch: The Apes Among Us, “…when I made a trip across Canada some years after his [Roe's] death, zoologist in two different cities told me that they had corresponded with him about buffalo. Both assured me that he was an expert observer of wildlife.”
Somehow the authors failed to include that information – call it lying by omission or call it what you will. Never mind the fact that Mr. Green heard Roe in a “…taped radio interview…” which may still survive somewhere.
Short of calling Roe a liar, Daniel Loxton writes “If Roe was a hoaxer, it follows that the Patterson-Gimlin film must also be a hoax.” Later Loxton writes, “It is also suspicious that the Patterson-Gimlin film echoes William Roe’s alleged encounter with Bigfoot so exactly.” “So exactly?” Well, let’s see, Roe was alone, Patterson was with Gimlin. P-G had horses, Roe did not. Patterson had a camera, Roe did not. The subject Roe saw walked “directly toward me,” and was seen eating leaves. The subject Patterson saw walked away from him and was not seen eating leaves.
When I talk about this book as both confusing and illogical, let me shore up my argument. Roe is a hoaxer, it follows that Patterson is a hoaxer. I don’t get it. Does this mean that if a short, bald man who robs a bank it follows that the next short, bald man who walks in a bank will do the same? I don’t see the logic in that.
“Patterson, a Bigfoot author, set out on a camping trip to film Bigfoot – and then he promptly did,” writes Loxton on page 48. For those who have followed the real story line, Patterson set out to film Bigfoot tracks in the Bluff Creek area for a documentary he wanted to produce, and supported by the first newspaper publicity on the matter.
“Last Saturday [October 14, 1967] they arrived to look for tracks themselves,” as per the Eureka, California, Times-Standard. Fast forward to the storied day of October 20th…I would hardly call that “promptly.” In terms of rugged scholarship and real research, Loxton fails to hit his mark but because this tome is published by Columbia University Press most unsuspecting readers would be greatly impressed by the prestige of the publisher, unable to realize serious scholarship is lacking in many instances.
In fact, as I was preparing my notes for a review of this book I looked at the reviews posted in Amazon.com, only to realize that there still remains ignorance and naiveté about the P-G film. Noted E.N. Anderson from Riverside, California: “The [P-G] film so often cited is a transparent case of a guy in a gorilla suit — I believe I even noticed a label on the suit in one frame.”
Bob Heironimus is thrown in the P-G film mix for good measure. You know, the standard crap: car trunk, fur suit and rumors. Anything to dislodge the 16-millimeter film from its proper place in natural history. Yet nowhere are we told about the fact that Bob Heironimus did jump in a gorilla suit from the said costume maker, Philip Morris, and was filmed to recreate what he allegedly did in 1967. The so called “recreation” was so pathetic it essentially fell off the face of the earth, yet there remains a short video clip to be found on YouTube, which looks nothing like the real P-G film. But we are asked to believe Bob Heironimus. Give me a break.
The late Roger Patterson is described as “no angel…” yet somehow the authors never bothered to talk with the still living Bob Gimlin. There is no mention of Bill Munns and the late Janos Prohaska, both who have worked in Hollywood, and, more specifically, on gorilla suits and costumes for special effects. Their opinions on the P-G film is highly favorable, but you would never know that by reading Abominable Science. So, would we call this lying by omission or did the editor cut out all the positive stuff to fit a page count for the book?
There is no discussion of the trackway from the P-G filmsite – somehow author Loxton managed to quietly tip-toe around that evidence, yet he does include a fair amount of discussion about the Bossburg “Cripple Foot” from 1969 and that the well known hoaxer, Ivan Marx, was involved, making the case “radioactive.” But again (lying by omission?) René Dahinden’s notes on the matter are not to be found. “I looked at this line of tracks 7 times and did not find any indication of faking,” Dahinden would write.
Instead of writing about the radioactive “Cripple Foot” tracks, perhaps they should have discussed a lesser known but likely far more compelling case, the tracks found in Grays Harbor County, Washington, 1982 and investigated by Deputy Sheriff Dennis Heryford. In Loxton’s “Footprints” discussion, the 1982 tracks are not mentioned.
In the “Hair and DNA” section Dr. Henner Fahrenbach, who has studied alleged Bigfoot hair, is never cited once. He has found that some hairs are of an unknown primate, when studied microscopically show a “red tinge” color and lack a discernible medulla (the innermost layer of the hair shaft).
And if you just kind of poke around, you will find non factual statements. “[Joshua] Buhs met with George Haas…” on page 299. With people sometimes only an e-mail click away, I asked if Buhs ever met with Haas and he told me “no.” I suspect this book is riddled with non factual information but this was what I found due to time constraints.
Again, I suspect the authors are guilty of completely ignoring certain people and anything that might be potentially damaging to their skeptical and debunking mission on cryptozoology. Agenda driven, of course.
When it comes to the famous Yeti tracks found in 1951, Donald Prothero, responsible for this chapter, writes, “since the late 1980s, a school of thought has grown that [Eric] Shipton may have intentionally faked his famous tracks, citing investigative journalist Peter Gillman with this nonsense: “It would have been the work of moments to enhance one of the oval footprints by adding the `toe-prints’ by hand, particularly a hand wearing a woolen glove.” As a note to the reader, both Shipton and Michael Ward are deceased.
The way Dr. Michael Ward reflects on the episode, it doesn’t appear Shipton had any chance to be alone with any particular track. Dr. Michael P. Ward: “My first sight of the extraordinary tracks that we found on the Menlung Glacier in [November 8], 1951 did not immediately fill me with any great wonder. Instead, my main reaction was that here was as good an excuse to put my load down, sit around, and generally do nothing. After the rest the three of us, Eric Shipton, Sen Tensing and myself spent some time examining these tracks and followed them down the glacier before we branched off. Our height [elevation] was probably between 18,000 and 19,000 feet… Some of the tracks that we saw were well formed, and others were rather indistinct.”
“One feature was that where the animal had crossed a small crevasse one could see where the toes had dug in to gain purchase on landing, and also it appeared as though there might be the imprints of nails. However, it is impossible to be absolutely certain about this point.”
In my opinion, Dr. Michael Ward, educated at Cambridge University and London Hospital Medical College, would not have participated in a hoax.
In summary, the authors of Abominable Science, Daniel Loxton and Donald R. Prothero, try to present themselves as unbiased and professional, but their bias and obvious omissions is so troublesome it is blinding at times. Like the title of this book suggests, this is truly an abominable book. Daniel Perez