Friday, July 20, 2007

Meet the Sasquatch: A Review

Title: Meet the Sasquatch

Author: Christopher L. Murphy (with John Green and Thomas Steenburg); Publisher: Hancock House

According to the back-cover blurb for this title on North America’s most famous man-beast, Bigfoot:

Meet the Sasquatch is a milestone in the publication of Sasquatch information. Never before have so many resources been researched and consulted on the phenomenon, nor have so many associated photographs been published under one cover. Indeed many photographs are being published for the first time. The author and his associates, all active Sasquatch researchers, produced the work to accompany an extraordinary exhibit at the Vancouver Museum, Vancouver, British Columbia in the summer of 2004. While the last chapter on Sasquatch has yet to be written, here is the full story of what we know about the creature to date. The level and quality of research and photographic coverage will amaze both the believers and skeptics alike. Chris Murphy, John Green and Thomas Steenburg have published many papers and over a dozen books on this topic. The supplemental information contributed by other researchers, scientists, artists and technicians makes this a unique publication. As our title promises, the reader will truly Meet the Sasquatch.”

Well, I’m not usually in the habit of quoting so extensively from the back-cover blurbs of published books, but on this occasion I have made an exception; and for what I consider to be a very good reason.

Although Meet the Sasquatch has actually been on the book-shelves for quite some time now, it was just a few weeks ago that I was sent a a review copy; and I do not hesitate when I say that if you are only remotely interested in the Bigfoot mystery (and arguably, the myriad other man-beasts of the great forests of North America), then you should waste no time at all in getting hold of a copy of Meet the Sasquatch – a title that I consider to be one of the most important books (and certainly the most visually stunning Bigfoot book ever) to be published on the subject for a long time.

The sheer scale of superb illustrations that accompany this title are worth the cover price alone. And the authors have impressive pedigrees, too.

Chris Murphy retired in 1994 after 36 years service with the British Columbia Telephone Company; and as an avid philatelist, has authored several books on Masonic Philately. John Green is a retired newspaperman, a graduate of the University of British Columbia and Columbia University and the author of the authoritative and classic title, Sasquatch, The Apes Among Us; and Thomas Steenburg is the author of three books on Sasquatch sightings in both Alberta and British Columbia.

But to the most important part of all: the contents of Meet the Sasquatch. I could ask, given the incredible amount of data contained within its pages: where do we start? I guess with a volume like this, the beginning is the best place!

While skeptics are keen to assert that Bigfoot is little more than a modern day myth, the authors demonstrate that this is simply not the case and that anyone who claims that the story of Bigfoot originated in the 20th Century is wildly off the mark.

Highlighting cases that stretch back as far as 1500 BC and that center upon ancient, carved stone heads that eerily parallel some of today’s descriptions of Sasquatch-style entities, the authors reveal significant and little-known data in support of their argument that the Sasquatch has a longstanding place in the culture of Native American Indians that stretches back centuries.
Accompanied by a beautiful and haunting image created by Yvon Leclerc, this particular section of the book also covers additional stone carvings, petroglyph carvings of large and lumbering, hairy, man-like beasts and richly detailed wood carvings, such as the “dance mask” of the Kwakiutl First Nations, that represents the so-called Buck’was, or “Wild Man of the Woods.”

Again, full-color, page-sized photographs and startling images graphically bring this seldom-discussed aspect of the Bigfoot mystery to life in spectacular fashion. On a similar path, much-welcome coverage is given to an intriguing set of pictographs that can be found on the Tule River Indian Reservation in the Sierra Nevada Foothills of central California, and that show distinctly Sasquatch-like imagery of a creature known as mayak datat or “Hairy Man.” But Meet the Sasquatch is not solely steeped in ancient history – as fascinating as this aspect of the overall mystery certainly is.

As the authors note:

“Early written references and recorded sightings that could refer to Sasquatch creatures in North America go back about 200 years.”

To amply illustrate this, they describe the case of the explorer and geographer David Thompson (1770-1857), who found unusual, 14-inch long, tracks near the site of Jasper, Alberta in the winter of 1811.

The authors also reveal how in 1847 at Mt. St. Helens, Washington the noted explorer and artist Paul Kane heard tales from the local Indians of “a race of beings of a different species…whom they hold in great dread” that “inhabited the mountain;” and they cite a number of seldom-seen newspaper reports from the 1800s, all describing encounters with unknown, hairy, man-like creatures, such as the article from the 9 May, 1851 edition of the Memphis Enquirer which describes an encounter in Arkansas with a “wild man” of “gigantic stature” that was “covered in hair.” One again, old photographs and high-quality imagery accompanies this section of the book.

And for newcomers to the Bigfoot controversy, Meet the Sasquatch provides data on some of the more well-known and pivotal cases of the last 100 years, including the 1924 story of “The Apemen of Mt. St. Helens,” as related in detail by prospector Fred Beck in his book I Fought the Apemen of Mt. St. Helens, and in which Beck and four prospector colleagues had a terrifying encounter with a group of distinctly hostile Bigfoot-style entities at what has now become known as “Ape Canyon.”

Albert Ostman’s ever-controversial (but nevertheless intriguing) account of having been effectively “kidnapped” by a family of Bigfoot (or should that be a family of Bigfeet?) in 1924 deep in the heart of the forests of British Columbia is retold; as are classic encounters on the banks of the Fraser River near Ruby Creek, British Columbia, an almost-fatal (for the Bigfoot!) encounter with a hunter who nearly shot a Sasquatch but decided at the last minute to refrain from killing the beast because “he felt it was human;” and the story that gave birth to the name Bigfoot.

But perhaps most welcome is the large amount of data presented on the famous (some would say infamous) piece of film footage shot by Roger Patterson and Robert Gimlin on 20 October 1967 and that appears to show a female Sasquatch in the vicinity of Bluff Creek, California. The story is endorsed by some researchers of the mystery. Others cry “Hoax!”

To their credit, the authors do not shy away from presenting all of the available evidence and they examine the claims both for and against the film being authentic. But once again, it is the incredible number of full-color images related to this case that really attracted my attention.

I have read extensively on the subject of the Patterson film; however, to see so many images, photographs, paintings and drawings all underneath one cover on this particularly intriguing affair is a great experience. And the inclusion of this material really does provide the reader with a unique perspective on the story, its location and the players involved.

If you are new to the Bigfoot controversy and want to learn more about the Patterson controversy, this is a great place to start, to view key imagery from the footage, and much, much more.

Footprint and plaster-cast evidence (and, again, a copious amount of photographs on the subject) feature heavily, as do the technological advances that have helped in the search for the Sasquatch. However, I was particularly fascinated by the body of research that had been done on alleged hand prints of the beasts. Although this aspect of the search is limited to a relatively small amount of data, it is nevertheless presented well and again with an abundance of images.

I could go on and on about this book, its contents, the illustrations and much, much more. But I won’t. Instead I will say this: if you only buy one book on the Sasquatch and Bigfoot mystery, buy this one. Meet the Sasquatch is a true classic.

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