Posted by: Loren Coleman on April 18th, 2012
One of the greatest hominologists (those who study Sasquatch, Bigfoot, Yeti, and other unknown hominoids) of the modern era died eleven years ago, at 8:40 PM Pacific Daylight Time, on 18 April 2001, in Richmond, British Columbia.
Born in Weggis, Switzerland on August 23, 1930, René Dahinden moved to Canada in 1953. Just a month after he arrived, he heard a radio report about the forthcoming 1954 Daily Mail expedition to the Himalayas to search for the legendary Yeti or Abominable Snowmen. After listening to the CBC news broadcast, Dahinden turned to Wilbur Willich, the Alberta dairy farmer he was working for, and said: “Now wouldn’t that be something, to be on the hunt for that thing?” Dahinden recalled Willich said, “Hell, you don’t have to go that far. They got them things in British Columbia.”
Finding out they had a local name and lengthy lore, Dahinden was bitten by the Sasquatch bug, and within three years was conducting serious research on North America’s unknown hairy hominoids, sometimes with British Columbian researcher and chronicler John Green whom Dahinden first met in 1956.
As it would turn out, during his lifetime, Dahinden conducted numerous field investigations throughout the Pacific Northwest, interviewed many witnesses, and examined apparent physical evidence for the legendary creature. Always living modestly, it became his life’s passion even though Dahinden never saw a Sasquatch.
His only book, written twenty years after he entered the field, Sasquatch (McClelland & Stewart, 1973; republished as Sasquatch/Bigfoot, Firefly, 1993), was written with Don Hunter.
René Dahinden was open, friendly, and entertaining, often visiting researchers from around the globe who came to him or when he went to them. A common image of Dahinden, holding two casts, for example, was taken in November 1971, in London, England. He was on a worldwide trip to the United Kingdom, Sweden, Finland, Switzerland, and Russia, trying to interest scientists in the need for a study of the Sasquatch.
Dahinden was the first to show the Patterson-Gimlin Film (taken on October 20, 1967 at Bluff Creek, California) of a Bigfoot in the former Soviet Union, and he worked hard to see to it that the film got the scientific attention he felt it deserved.
George Haas, René Dahinden, and Archie Buckley, photographed by Loren Coleman, Oakland, California, 1975.
George Haas, Loren Coleman, and Archie Buckley, photographed by René Dahinden, Oakland, California, 1975.
René came to San Francisco, California, to visit me in 1975, and I was touched by his humor, insights, and encyclopedic knowledge of the field. Dahinden and I then traveled together to Oakland to visit George Haas, the editor of the Bigfoot Bulletin and Archie Buckley of the Bay Area Group. Dahinden was a funny and engaging man.
In the Hollywood Bigfoot family movie comedy Harry and the Hendersons (1987), the Sasquatch hunter, a character played by David Suchet (better known to television viewers through his BBC/PBS Mystery series role as Belgian detective Hercule Poirot), was loosely modeled on René Dahinden.
A decade later, in 1997, Dahinden was immortalized in a popular television ad for Kokanee beer. Dahinden’s pursuit of Sasquatch had made him so famous that the brewers of Kokanee beer asked him to play himself in the commercial. Even then he didn’t get to see the Sasquatch. Facing the camera, with the unpretentious mobile home he lived in as background, an off-camera narrator asks if he ever used B.C.-made Kokanee beer to lure a Sasquatch. “Do you think I’m crazy or something?” asks Dahinden, unaware that behind him a Sasquatch is sneaking into his trailer to make off with a case of beer.
Dahinden became established forever as one of the the Four Horsemen of Sasquatchery (along with John Green, Peter Bryne, and Grover Krantz) in the award-winning 1999 documentary, Sasquatch Odyssey. The film is friendly to Dahinden. It permanently gives a living profile of the man, captured from June-September 1998, showing him having no time for fools, equally hating hoaxers, lunatic fringe Bigfooters, and pretentious Ph. Ds (which Dahinden called “Please Help Demented”).
In the years before he died, with Dahinden’s acquiring of the photographic images of the Patterson-Gimlin footage, some of his time was occupied in technical legal and copyright affairs, as well as working with Christopher Murphy who assisted him in disseminating some of his collection. Dahinden would often speak at or attend the growing number of gatherings of Bigfoot hunters, and his outspoken style became as legendary as Sasquatch.
Eleven years after his death, he is still missed by hominologists and cryptozoologists worldwide ~ for the passionate stirrings he always left in his wake. Despite decades of early photographs showing him putting on a serious face for a skeptical media, his enduring legacy of light-heartedness, crustiness, in-fighting, energy-filled pursuit of the quest, and friendly confrontation lives on in our memories of him and vividly in the field. Among the oldtimers, go to any Bigfoot conference being held in North America today, and these people will talk about René Dahinden like he’s still in the room. Meanwhile, others seem to want to take his place as the sharp-edged and opininated critic slapping you on your back. But no one can replace René. They can only honor him with continuing to do as he did, search for Sasquatch with enthusiastic gusto.
René is fading in our memories, but he lives on, nevertheless.
Image courtesy of Sasquatch Odyssey.
Copyright©1999 by Big Hairy Deal Films Inc.
Note: I am saving the original comments sent in six years ago, when I first posted this now slightly revised tribute.