Sunday, October 30, 2011

FINDING BIGFOOT: Birth of a Legend

Animal Planet - Original Air Date: 10/30/11

This Bigfoot Believer show returns with a 2-hour premier looking at the legend they're pursuing by going to Humboldt County, CA, site of the controversial Patterson film -- still the Holy Grail for many bigfoot researchers.  (Despite the fact that National Geographic's Is It Real debunked it for me long ago.)  The rest of the crew, Cliff, Bobo, and Matt have all clearly spent a lot of time convincing themselves the film is real.  Happily, despite having seen the film as a child and believing, Ranae Holland, often the only sensible member of the team, remains more skeptical; she thinks it could be a suit.  (And so do I.  See part of my critique in this review, here.)  The team goes to Bob Gimlin, the surviving member of the two-man team who filmed the footage, and they all ride and hike into the forest where the film was taken.  More "why it's real" excuses by the believers ensue.  Ranae asks Gimlin if it could possibly been a man in a suit, and he says no; he could see the muscles moving under the fur.  (Though I seem to remember an interview where he previously confessed that Patterson could have duped him; sadly, despite my Howls & Growls database, I cannot turn up a program reference.  Nor do I remember Gimlin mentioning muscle movement on the thing until that became the catchword of bigfoot believers.  Muscle movement is bullshit.  See the Michigan Dog-man case.)

They reconstruct the sighting using Bobo as bigfoot, and though it looks good, Cliff makes the usual muscle-movement excuse for why he still thinks the original is real.  I suggest they check the Is It Real show on bigfoot.  So they do a night bigfoot hunt in the area, including Bobo's dog in the team.  Would you be surprised if they heard mysterious sounds?  I wouldn't, and sure enough, they do: Ranae seems to hear children yelling.  But finding nothing else besides a bear track, they leave behind some camera traps and move on to Willow Creek, a town built on bigfoot belief.  There, they meet Al Hodgson and see his bigfoot museum; not surprisingly, he thinks the film is real.  He thinks both Patterson & Gimlin were honest men, though we know Patterson had a history of hucksterism and deceit.  They then call a town meeting, talk to more witnesses, and try to recreate sightings for which there is no video record.  All in good fun, I guess, but aside from placing sightings for further investigations and collecting interviews, not a lot of hard scientific.

So they do a night investigation and camp-out sasquatch party, hoping to attract the supposedly curious animals.  But even with Ranae yodeling bigfoot calls, no luck.  So, they move on and show video of a "bigfoot" watching a ridge line, but only Ranae seems to think it's a person.  The video also shows a 'bigfoot hut" (nest) and supposed tree damage, but the videographers are all laughing at the time, and the entire thing could possibly be a joke.  An actual witness doesn't think so, and Bobo stands in on a ridge for a reasonable recreation.  "I see no reason to discount that (original film) as a sasquatch," Cliff says, and Matt and Bobo agree.  Ranae sensibly points out there's no reason it couldn't be a hiker.  Believers vs. skeptic again, but the cast is not tilted in Ranae's favor.

Now they hire a chopper to do a thermal sweep on the Hoopa Indian Reservation in a nighttime investigation.  Matt & Bobo spot something on a road below, while Ranae and Cliff walk nearby.  Ranae hears a strange whistle and spots eye-shine nearby.  "Oh my God, that was ... there is something standing to your right, there," she declares.  They hear more strange noises (perhaps a rock hitting a tree), but they can't locate the thing they're seeing and hearing.  Bobo and Matt, now on the ground -- with no mention of what the figure on the road was -- check their sighting area and then converge on the other two.  They "smell animals," and hear a yell (which sounded like a person to me), but....  At the end of teh night, Ranae admits that events have decreased her skepticism.  "I had a rock thrown at me.  Definitely," she says.  "Maybe there really is a small possibility that there is something out in the woods of Northern California."

Maybe.  But like Ranae, I'm going to need a lot more evidence -- and a lot less belief on the part of investigators -- before I'm convinced.

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