Posted by: Loren Coleman on November 6th, 2006
Who is hoodwinking whom?
The Associated Press is carrying a summary article out of Arizona, telling of Tom Biscardi (above) going on an expedition there. The piece leaves out any examination of Biscardi’s past and is a chopped up version of a longer article, which is found below. But what is the background story on this original Arizona news item? Can we pull back the drapes surrounding this media Oz, and figure out how this article was constructed? Here’s some details.
On Thursday, November 2, 2006, a reporter from the Arizona Republic named Dennis Wagner emailed me. He said he was “working on a story about [the] Bigfoot furor on the Apache reservation [there], and Tom Biscardi’s role in it. I’d like to speak with you. Deadline is Saturday afternoon.”
Dennis Wagner and I spoke later that day. I was not too hopeful that reporter Wagner would be doing a thorough or complete story as
(2) he thought that the 1958 Bluff Creek prints and the “Patterson film” had both been completely debunked and Bigfoot evidence was based on hoaxes;
(3) he felt Natives have more acceptance of the “spirit world,” so are more open to “believing” in Bigfoot;
(4) he was using as one of his main sources Tom Biscardi; and
(5) he had done most of his research online, including finding the Coast to Coast recap of Biscardi’s flip-flops.
There’s other disturbing indicators, as well, in Wagner’s article, such as referencing “Wikipedia” as a source, and carrying as a factual statement from an allegedly discredited book that the “most famous film footage was another hoax involving an ape costume made in Hollywood. Bob Heironimus, a Pepsi bottling company employee from Washington, admitted wearing the outfit.”
The reality is the “oufit,” according to that book, was said to have been made from (1) pony skins, and then separately in another place in that volume, as (2) an artifical gorilla costume from the Carolinas. You can’t have it both ways. Hollywood was not part of the confused explanations either, at least for the costume. Likewise there is no definite truths in Heironimus’ “confession.” Wagner’s article merely carries forth these items as foundation points, but they are theories with holes in them, not facts.
Reporter Dennis Wagner has fulfilled my prediction that this article would continue in line with other recent debunking media treatments of Bigfoot. For this Arizona Republic reporter to summarize the entire weekend article about Jeff Meldrum as: “Last week, faculty at Idaho State University complained that a colleague, anatomy Professor Jeffrey Meldrum, is embarrassing them by promoting the Bigfoot myth,” merely reinforced my thoughts.
Hey, lol, the reporter couldn’t even spell my name correctly (yep, that’s me, “Leonard Coleman,” sort of quoted below), despite the fact he emailed me, via my LorenColeman.com website.
This article reflects a level of media mythmaking that appears to be the standard resportage to be expected these days.
Ft. Apache reports spur Bigfoot hunt
The Arizona Republic
Nov. 6, 2006
WHITERIVER – For centuries, tiny spirit people have been a part of Apache culture, haunting the night with mischief, playing tricks in the shadows.
Now, the White Mountain Apache Tribe has another mystical being to watch for after dark: Bigfoot.
In recent months, the legendary creature purportedly has been chased by police officers, spotted by campers and caught peeking through windows of tribal residents’ homes.
Investigators even made plaster casts of what appear to be footprints and sent hair samples from a reported Sasquatch-like creature to a state lab for testing. Reports snowballed so much that, over the weekend, controversial Bigfoot hunter Tom Biscardi visited the Fort Apache Reservation northeast of Globe for the second time this year to interview witnesses and launch a mini-expedition.
During a broadcast Saturday on the tribe’s radio station, Biscardi exhorted witnesses to come forward.
"We’re here for the white Bigfoot, the monkey-type creature with a tail, the one that was throwing rocks at people here," Biscardi said. "I gotta tell you, people, it’s here."
By day’s end, at least a half-dozen tribal members had told of seeing a strange beast, hearing blood-curdling screams in the night or surviving other experiences.
Several offered to join Biscardi’s Searching for Bigfoot Inc. team on mini-expeditions. Most backed out, but 18-year-old Laramie Smith came through after explaining that he’d heard Bigfoot noises near a place called Diamond Creek. He said he had found a cave that might be the beast’s lair.
Smith led the team deep into piney woods, stopping under a full moon. Searchers geared up with infrared and thermal-imaging devices. They had a Taser, a tranquilizer gun and a net-shooting canon, just in case. At 11 p.m., the search began in earnest.
A stinky prowler
According to Biscardi, a former Las Vegas show producer, there are at least 3,500 Bigfoots nationwide, a number he derived by counting up one year of reported encounters, then subtracting suspected hoaxes and mistakes.
He has been trying to capture a specimen for 33 years, and his team has visited nearly every state in that quest. Biscardi claims to have seen a half-dozen Bigfoots personally. Recently, team members reportedly chased one into a Texas swamp. Biscardi first visited the Apache reservation in August, after a flurry of strange incidents. The most noteworthy occurred around 2:30 a.m. Aug. 14, when Barry and Tammy Lupe of Whiteriver called 911 to report an un-humanly large prowler peering through their window.
In a police report, White Mountain tribal Officer Katherine Montoya described what happened when she responded to the call:
"It stood approximately 6’7" tall. It appeared to be about 220 pounds or more. It had exceptionally long arms; it did not appear to be wearing any clothes, and just appeared black. When it turned towards me, the most obvious feature was its eyes. The skin around his eyes was a lighter color than the rest of the face. It appeared almost white while the rest of the suspect was black. I could smell a distinct odor, like a stink bug. You know, when you squish a stinkbug it smells. It never made any sounds until it crashed through the fence (while running away)."
Myth or beast?
Beast legends – Yeti, Yowie, the Abominable Snowman – have been recounted around the world for centuries. Bigfoot is among the more recent figures, first described in 1958 after giant footprints were discovered around a logging camp in Humboldt County, Calif.
Academic researchers today are generally skeptical. Last week, faculty at Idaho State University complained that a colleague, anatomy Professor Jeffrey Meldrum, is embarrassing them by promoting the Bigfoot myth.
According to Wikipedia.org, "The majority of scientists reject the likelihood of such a creature’s existence and consider the stories of Bigfoot to be a combination of unsubstantiated folklore and hoax."
Another online publication, The Skeptics Dictionary, scoffs: "There are no bones, no scat, no artifacts, no dead bodies . . . no fur, no nothing."
Stan Lindstedt, a regents professor of biology at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff, said new animal species are discovered only in the most remote places on Earth and it is unfathomable that a huge subhuman creature would remain concealed over wide sections of the country. "I put that in the category of mythology that can certainly make our culture interesting, but has nothing to do with science."
Biscardi shrugs off the doubters: "The scientific world does not believe. But you know what? Who cares? We’ve had the experiences."
True believers point to the number of sightings, rejecting the idea that every encounter can be explained as a prank or misidentified wildlife. Their position has suffered serious setbacks in the new millennium, however.
Four years ago, the family of Ray L. Wallace, a northern California logger, announced upon his death that he had created the first Sasquatch footprints as a prank, wearing shoes of carved wood.
Then, in 2004, author Greg Long published The Making of Bigfoot, a book that says the most famous film footage was another hoax involving an ape costume made in Hollywood. Bob Heironimus, a Pepsi bottling company employee from Washington, admitted wearing the outfit.
That dubious history has been compounded by questions about Biscardi and his Searching for Bigfoot Inc., which elicits criticism even within the community of Sasquatch enthusiasts.
Last year, Biscardi declared on a national radio show that a wounded specimen had been captured in Nevada, and subscribers who paid $59.95 to access his Web site would see it on streaming video. Instead of film footage, however, the public got a bizarre story that the critter, and its mate, had been abducted by a veterinarian. Eventually, Biscardi conceded that there was no caged specimen. He insisted he had been "hoodwinked" by associates.
Leonard Coleman, a self-described cryptozoologist who has written two books on Bigfoot, said Biscardi first entered the arena decades ago as an associate of Ivan Marx, who created notoriously phony films. Biscardi has since produced documentaries of his own.
"He seems very much to be in this to make money," Coleman said. "He is just shunned in this whole community. He’s been a continuation of the hoax legacy of Ivan Marx."
Biscardi said he got victimized in Nevada by a charade, a chronic risk in the Bigfoot business. "I refunded every damned penny," he said. "I was hoaxed. Everybody’s human."
Biscardi, who sells memorabilia and has sought corporate sponsors, makes no apology for trying to make money. He said he has transformed his passion into a career, and there are payroll expenses to cover.
Back in Apache country on Saturday, searchers splashed across Diamond Creek and climbed a hill.
There was no cave, no Bigfoot nest.
One team member, noting that Sasquatches sometimes communicate by knocking sounds, picked up a stick and began beating on a log.
Another stood on a rock and cupped her hands to her mouth – "Whoop! Whoop! Whoop!" – using "vocalizations" to lure the beast.
A coyote howled in the distance. All was quiet.
di, who had stationed himself next to a campfire back at the truck, said it was time to move on: "If they did not respond to the whooping and tree knocking, and there’s no signs, then there’s nothing here."