Posted by: Steven Streufert on April 21st, 2011
We do have some unique powers and abilities–but what living lacks its own uniqueness? …We do not pull rabbits from a hat. But we can become rabbits.Shadarue, Bigfoot, Priorian, Ladantian, or whatever, from
Conversations with Bigfoot
The Floating Island Publications Edition of the Tall Tale in Question
When dealing with issues of “the paranormal” quite often the realms of Fiction and Non-Fiction tend to blur. Sometimes the imagination or wishful thinking precede Science and verification. At times there is cognitive dissonance where facts, however obvious, are not accepted, as they contradict desired beliefs. Critical thinking is required, lest we come to believe just about anything that seems possible. Sometimes an oddity comes along that one cannot help but feel is too good, or too strange, to be true. Such is the case, as we’ve found, with a curious little booklet called Conversations with Bigfoot. Many, we found, seemed to believe this story was an actual, real event, documented by a real person who experienced the encounter described. The North America Bigfoot Search (NABS) website even claimed:
One of our researchers found and read it, he recommended that our team review it. An ornithologist happened to find a bigfoot that was seriously injured. The story is about a conversation he had with the biped. The conversation was tape recorded and that tape was submitted to experts who stated that a human could not have stated the words.North America Bigfoot Search (NABS)
No attempt, apparently, was made to verify any of the claims made in the story. No tape recording of the “conversation,” presumably a very important anthropological or zoological document, ever was archived. Not only is this not a true story, it is an implausible one; and its real author, a novelist, poet, and English professor residing in Northern California, has been found and has confessed to his playful “hoax.” His name is Jim Dodge. He is the critically acclaimed author of such underground classics as Stone Junction, Not Fade Away and Fup.
Jim Dodge, in his fairly recent form.
The story was first published in 1970s in a “street sheet” ‘zine, Unjustified Margins, in Arcata, California. It was later released as a nicely hand-bound 16-page, fine press chapbook, by Floating Island Publications, of Cedarville, CA, in 1998. Supposedly, the story goes, in 1975 a scientist out doing field research in Northern California finds a wounded Bigfoot named Shadarue who is near death due to a fall and being covered by a rock slide. He speaks with this sentient and intelligent creature, and it speaks eloquently, in refined, perfect English. It claims to be of the “Priorian” (as in “prior,” or “before,” we assume) race of beings. It also claims to be of the “moon families.” The being then goes on to explain a fairly complex philosophy and culture centered upon balance and their interconnection with nature. Far from being all about survival, a scrappy evolutionary relic of a bygone epoch, this creature is a full-blown, natural-born Thoreau, a John Muir without hiking boots, a wise man without the need of civilization, temples or schools. The author’s name is given as one Gordon Langley Ives. There is one problem, however: he never existed. No record of his name or professional career could be found anywhere.
Some in the Bigfooting world have been talking about this book as if it were a true story, and as if it supported the idea that Sasquatch is not only intelligent, but capable of learning and fluently speaking English whilst discoursing upon abstruse Philosophy. Now, we will grant that Bigfoot does indeed have capabilities which elude our understanding (like the rabbit and the hat quote, above), but this one just seemed to be WAY too big a stretch. The tale seems really far-flung: too human, too similar to us, with too many human cultural devices to have come from another species. But who knows? The world is full of Mystery! Many claim to have had such interactions with the Bigfoot, and who are we to assume they have not? We have not even been able to prove that Bigfoot exist, let alone have we determined the nature of their being.
Shouldn’t we be able to find out some information about a professional, Ph.D.-holding ornithologist? If he is an academic or scholar shouldn’t he have published something, somewhere, other than this dubiously-substantiated tall tale? Well, we looked into it, and were not surprised at what we found: there IS NO such author. Dr. Gordon Langley Ives just did not turn up in any other way on Google searches, the Amazon book catalog, nor any other place were one would expect him to be. We could only conclude that the guy never did exist, and was the product of an author’s imagination. Beyond this, the booklet mentions that he taught at “Portland University.” There is no such school. There is the University of Oregon, which has an extension in Portland, or Portland State University. One would not expect a professor to get the name of his own employer wrongly. Even further, the authorial voice in the story states that he is studying the Pileated Woodpecker because they are “near extinction.” In fact, according to the IUCN, the “Pileated Woodpecker populations declined greatly with the clearing of the eastern forests. The species rebounded in the middle 20th century, and has been increasing slowly but steadily in most of its range. Only in Arkansas do numbers seem to be going down.” Even more damning, he misspells “Pileated” as “piliated.” No “Professor of Zoology” specializing in the study of birds would make such an error. It was obvious, even this far in our examination, that this “author” was NOT what is claimed. Adding the questionable nature of the supposed maker of the tape of a Bigfoot speaking, the cryptic nature of the supposed “author” himself, to the somewhat dubious contents of the book itself, we knew we had to get to the bottom of this thing.
We wanted to find out where this book came from, and how it came into existence, and so we dug a bit more deeply. Soon, fortuitously, the author was located. The truth was discovered via bibliographic research, not “in the field,” nor by strange nocturnal encounters. An inquiry to a bookseller who had the booklet and knew the reprint publisher, who in turn knew of the author and origins of the book, led to our discovering the story’s origins, and contacting Humboldt County resident who wrote it. Jim Dodge’s admission of authorship, as well as a refutation of the belief that the story was a true account in any, were published nearly a year ago on Bigfoot’s bLog.
Find out for yourself. Read the full story of the investigation, and the full text of the tale, through the links at the end of this post.
Just as a taste, here is an example of this peculiar “conversation”:
IVES: No, I understand, really. Really it is quite astonishing. But why are you telling me this?
BF: It is given me to do so; I have decided to comply. Birds sing. Always in my life I’ve had a weakness for speech, a foolishness that often afflicts us of the moon families. Foolishness, age, pain–many possibilities. Because my voice rises to your face. Because my voice soon finds its stillness. (Pause) But also because things are bad with my people. For too long now we have lived like trout under the frozen crust of a winter lake, sluggish, suspended in ourselves. Despite our powers and small magic there is a sickness amongst us, a sadness, a grief very deep. No one knows the exact origin of this sadness. My own feeling is that it is of astonishing complexity, beyond even dream music. No doubt it breeds in our isolation, no doubt it finds fecund [meaning fertile, or highly imaginative... ed.] our enforced disconnection from old springs and spirit grounds that your people now occupy. Nescomela, one of our most gifted, feels your people have maddened the earth beyond anything we might balance. Perhaps. But on this Walk there was feeling in me of a more serious sort, that our sadness is the first tremble of extinction, a blood premonition of species-death. I must explain that it is Ladantia practice to read “emotion” in the blood–I did so by opening a vein in my arm. In the bloom I saw a fish with corroded fins and the trunk of an oak tree split. And I saw most clearly a bird creature feeding on itself, its beak tearing at its own breast. Birds are the densest energy–they are like song. And among us, always, only with singing has sadness dissolved. Long ago, when your people lost respect, we learned to sing silently against our discovery. I now realize, to swallow one’s songs, for they grow mad in the heart and the blood. That is what the bird creature told me in its being. There are other signs of discordance; the quality of dreaming–to which we pay careful attention–has deteriorated. And there are more mad ones. They are the ones who leave footprints and cross highways. So great is their torment they wish to flirt their existence. Two have been shot this year.Conversations with Bigfoot
Here is author, Jim Dodge’s, first reply:
I’m stunned, flabbergasted, and incredulous that anyone–in any world, much less the “Bigfoot world”–would claim this piece I wrote on Bigfoot years ago (originally for a free street-sheet I was doing at the time, along with Jerry Martien, Mort McDonald, and other co-conspirators, called UNJUSTIFIED MARGINS) could take it as a “real and true” account. They are, at best, poor scholars, as even rudimentary research into the various claims made by the purported author couldn’t survive minimal fact-checking; at worst, they are guilty of a willfully deliberate ignorance, as dangerous to good faith as it is damaging to those, like me, who enjoy using the imagination to illuminate reality.
“Conversations with Bigfoot,” as you accurately discerned, was a literary lark, a bit of an elegy for nature, and a little tweak directed at media and American culture. As to your passed-along question: In my 50 years of roaming the Northern California back country I have never seen a Bigfoot creature, no sign of one (scat, footprints, hair), nor met anyone who has–granted you don’t meet many folks out in the wilds.
That doesn’t mean I dismiss the possibility that a Bigfoot might exist, but just that I’m one of those flinty old-school realists who only believes half of what I see and nothing of what I hear without reliable verification from a few trusted informants.
I hope this unequivocally clears up all questions of fact regarding “Conversations with Bigfoot” for your readers.Truly, Jim Dodge
Novelist and Poet, Jim Dodge, around the Time of Composition of the Tale.
Still, despite what we thought was a thorough debunking of the tale’s “non-fiction” status, some folks persisted in holding that the story was REAL. Too much was “right on” about it, they said. Or even, they said, “too much was revealed” by the story, things about the Bigfoot People that Native elders and others believed should never have been released to the general public. This implied some kind of secret knowledge, an esoteric realm of not only sightings and knowledge of Bigfoot, but actual interactions, conversations [in English!], and even spiritual teachings received directly from the Bigfoot by humans. Think whatever you like about these possibilities, which may, after all, be true; we thought it an important matter to establish whether this particular story was in any way “true.” Despite our debunking of the “true story” assumption, some continued to hold out, now saying that there was perhaps even a “cover-up” to state that it was fiction, when it was in fact real, or even that the author had “received” this true information subconsciously, without knowing it was indeed real and true. This seemed to us to go too far, so recently we contacted Mr. Dodge again via email. What follows is his eloquent response closing the case for good (we hope), which also stands as a fine defense of individual imaginative freedom and common sense objectivity in a world where, all too often, “anything goes” in the realms of the stranger sides of “reality.”
Jim Dodge’s second, and definitive, reply:
As usual, pardon the tardy reply, but this was one of those instances where I had to do some heavy consideration about whether I even wanted to make the attempt to set the record straight given that approach had already failed. When the truth is taken as some sort of cunning dissembling or strategic cover, in my experience you’ve entered that realm where accuracy has no privilege, integrity seems to subvert honor, and honesty can be easily perceived as mockery, so it really doesn’t matter what you say: people will hear what they’re disposed to hear and believe what they want or need. However, I feel impelled to reiterate, no doubt as some romantic gesture to those days of yore when truth was an honorable defense, that my booklet “Conversations with Bigfoot” is entirely and wholly and without exception a work of fiction, a pure product of imagination, and that I have never sensed or seen, much less actually conversed with, a Bigfoot/Sasquatch, nor did anyone or anything in any way contribute to the creation of “Conversations with Bigfoot.”
However, because it annoys me that more than a few commentators whose remarks you forwarded indicated (to quote one) “that no one should have released this to the public [because] it had details that should have been kept secret about the ‘foots’” I would like to know whose permission is required before I can publish what I know is a work of fiction? Is there some enlightened council of supreme moralists that decides what should be released to those obviously inferior beings who comprise the public, for whom accurate information is dangerous? I’d also be obliged to know how they justify the imposition of such “prior restraint” as something other than the crudest form of censorship, and who gave them the authority to exercise such powers? Also, I’d love to know if those powers are self-assumed/self-appointed, or if they are awarded by some governing body. I trust they appreciate my difficulty in seeking their approval, or even some guidance, before publishing “Conversations with Bigfoot”, when I had no idea such a group existed, much less an address or phone number where I might secure it’s permission or at least argue my worthiness to publish.
For the many commentators who found it inconceivable that an old cracker-ass white writer, no doubt severely dain-bramaged from decades of drug-abuse back in his wildly misspent youth, could possibly make-up a conversation with an allegedly mythic creature that contained “. . .way too much accurate information to be made up” or “the information in this article is more than 110%” (of what exactly isn’t clear), allow me, who has made up enough stuff to fill four books and a couple of filing cabinets, to offer an explanation. Kenneth Rexroth, one of the more astute literary commentators of the 20th Century, called the imagination “the organ of communion.” According to the psychologist Carl Jung, the human psyche is composed of four elements, all in dynamic interaction and constant change: the sensational (the body and all its sensory information); the intellectual (knowledge and learning); the heart (the realm of emotion); and the soul, or personal spirit, which, like the other three, is embodied energy. At the nexus of these four elements, or “centers,” as Jung also designated them, when they are properly balanced/focused/directed, a fifth element, the imagination, assumes enough power to become effective. The particular power of the imagination is to empathize and understand, to enfold and become the other, to voluntarily incarnate that which isn’t you, and the more you can relinquish of the self, of ego-demands and attachments, the more you can make yourself available to the other, and to the world. It helps immensely if you can draw energy from what Jung called the “collective unconscious,” which are psychic energy forms that humans have in common (and some other creatures), since they are based on “the ceremonies of existence,” events–whatever our cultures–that we all share, and all pay considerable attention: like birth, rearing the young, coming of age, courtship, sex, marriage, securing food and shelter, making journeys, gathering and passing along knowledge, and eventually aging and death. Why would it be so far-fetch that a well trained imagination could conjure a Bigfoot and capture a bit of his or her social concerns, particularly when they’re likely not that different from other bi-pedal mammals. The reverse is also likely: a Bigfoot imagining a human being. Once contact is made, communion can flow in either direction. And given communion, is conversation so farfetched?Truly, Jim.
What more can be said, folks? It is a tall tale, a modern folk legend, a comedy, and a literary lark. It may contain some “true” things, but if that is the case, their appearance is wholly accidental and imaginative in origin. You may find poetry in this story, perhaps even profundity, and it may be “true” in that sense; it may even depict the true nature of the Bigfoot (but we really doubt it). And it is a grievous logical mistake to assume it is a True Story because of that.
Read more in the full post, and follow the full Saga of a Debunking:
Previous posts on this matter:
Conversations with Bigfoot: A Hoax? …wherein the detective work begins. Also, you may read the entire text of the booklet here.
Conversations with Bigfoot a Hoax? Yes, Indeed, It Was! … where Jim Dodge first replied.
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