Thoughts on Sasquatch

According to modern anthropology, the last uncontacted person in North America – a person who has completely avoided contact with the modern global culture – stumbled out of the woods in 1911 near Mount Lassen in northern California and into the current human age. His name was Ishi, the last of the Yahi Native American tribe. Completely lacking in resistance to the virulent germs of modern Americans, he contracted tuberculosis and died five years later.

With Ishi’s death, anthropologists closed the book on the possibility of there still being uncontacted tribes or peoples in North America. South America was a different story, however. Even today there are still estimated to be hundreds of uncontacted tribes spread across Amazonia, fugitives from our modern world and its nightmares.

I’ve recently been reading through Petru Popescu’s incredible book about Loren McIntyre’s time among the uncontacted Mayoruna natives in Brazil, “Amazon Beaming”. The title of the book refers to a phenomenon that McIntyre describes in which he makes some sort of non-verbal contact with the head shaman of the tribe, and observes a background hum of non-verbal communication going on amongst the people of the tribe. This “beaming” isn’t exactly like telepathy. McIntyre doesn’t actually share a verbal language with the Mayoruna. Instead, it is described more as an empathic telepathy. He receives impressions from the transmitting headsman that he then puts into his own mental language.

My own theory about this “beaming” is that it is a form of empathic non-verbal communication that humans must have developed and used to transmit ideas and emotions before the advent of structured language. However, this “beaming” has its own limitations. While the headsman of the tribe is extremely well versed and capable in this language, the other tribal members seem not to be. It appears to be less outwardly useful than an actual verbal language, more seeming to foster some sense of group belonging and cohesion than a valid method of communication. Perhaps this ability is inherit to all humans, it’s just that we lose the ability early in life once we start learning language. Language, both verbal and written is simply more useful and supersedes the “beaming”. Perhaps it serves some biological function, keeping a mother and child emotionally in sync with one another. Before a child can verbally tell their mother what they need, maybe this “beaming” is a method of making the mother feel what the child needs, without the requirement they share a language.

McIntyre worries that this “beaming” is simply his mind’s way of coping with this situation of extreme loneliness and inability to communicate with other human beings. When he finally meets a Mayoruna from another group that speaks some Portugese, the hum of the group telepathy seems to fade away. I’m still working through this amazing book and I’m excited about reading further developments.

The concept of this “beaming” and the prospect that very primitive man primarily communicated via a kind of emotional telepathy got me thinking about the creatures commonly referred to as Bigfoot, or Sasquatch.

Typically, Sasquatch research falls into two major camps. On one hand, you have the hard cryptozoological approach in which Sasquatch are flesh and blood creatures, ape-man beasts that appear from time to time in remote wooded areas of North America and elsewhere. Similar creatures appear in legends all over the world, and seem to indicate some sort of common shared myth or cultural memory. The other camp holds a non-materialist point of view on the Sasquatch phenomena, believing that they are somehow perhaps non-physical apparitions, or dimension hopping beings from some alternate universe. This view usually cites the fact that often other anomalous phenomena such as UFOs are seen in vicinity to Bigfoot sightings, similar to how the Mothman and other cryptids infested Point Pleasant, West Virginia during the UFO flap described in John Keel’s “The Mothman Prophecies”.

I tend to agree with researcher Micah Hanks on his statements on the non-materialistic view of Sasquatch in that explaining an anomalous phenomena with another anomalous phenomena doesn’t actually explain anything. However, I’d like to posit later in this post that maybe, just maybe, both camps can be right on this one, without actually contradicting each other.

Now, about the strict materialist, cryptozoologist approach to Sasquatch. I believe that perhaps by treating Sasquatch as a “creature” is clouding the research and is a major – and likely wrong – assumption about whatever they are. The fallacy here is that since they appear bestial – giant hairy ape men that wear no clothes and carry no tools – they must be primitive beasts. Human exceptionalism is a trap that we must avoid. We as a species have a tendency to view life other than ourselves as not as advanced as us, primitive. As if our ability to create tools has elevated us to some evolutionary peak.

So, we tend to think of ourselves as an exceptional species. We have language! We have tools! But that’s not an entirely unique thing among the life on this world. Research is even starting to indicate that huge networks exist among plants and trees using fungus as a medium. These vast fungal networks link the individual members of a forest and allow them to communicate danger to one another. Typically when talking about the evolution of mankind, we present another primate like chimpanzees or gorillas as an example of primitive man. This is patently false. Chimps and other primates are just as evolved as us, we share common ancestors. We just happened to be burdened with very strange brains.

The most recent figures about the extinction of the Neanderthal place the last of them dying around 40,000 years ago. If you really think about that date, this is incredibly recent, probably less than 1,568 generations of homo sapiens. As homo sapiens came into contact with Neanderthal, we naturally competed with them. We raped them and we murdered and ate them. Eventually what was left was fully absorbed into our gene pools as homo sapiens emerged the supreme hominid in the Old World. Neanderthal don’t exist today except in genetic vestiges – as seen in my freckles and my brother’s red hair – because we destroyed them utterly. What other hominids did we genocide or absorb into our gene pool? What other hominids attempted to do the same to us?

Cultures all over the world have their own Sasquatch legends and I think it’s no surprise that majority of these legends are wary of the creatures, describing them as men-stealers, cannibals, not to be trusted and definitely to be feared.

The diary of Elkanah Walker, a missionary in Washington in the mid-1800s  had this to say:

“Bear with me if I trouble you with a little of their superstitions. They believe in a race of giants, which inhabit a certain mountain off to the west of us. This mountain is covered with perpetual snow. They (the creatures) inhabit the snow peaks. They hunt and do all their work at night. They are men stealers.

They come to the people’s lodges at night when the people are asleep and take them and put them under their skins and to their place of abode without even waking. Their track is a foot and a half long. They steal salmon from Indian nets and eat then raw as the bears do. If the people are awake, they always know when they are coming very near by their strong smell that is most intolerable. It is not uncommon for them to come in the night and give three whistles and then the stones will begin to hit their houses.”

I’m also reminded of the story of La Ciudad Blanca, a legendary city purportedly located in Honduras and alleged to have been seen by Charles Lindbergh while flying over eastern Honduras. A great city of white stone deep in the dense jungle, it is said to be there still, swallowed up by the voracious foliage and left to ruin. If we read into the lore surrounding the White City, there are some interesting connections with Sasquatch lore. American adventurer Theodore Morde wrote in the early 1940s about legends related to him by local Nahuat natives:

“The native name for monkey is Urus, which translates literally into ‘sons of the hairy men.’ Their fathers, or fore-fathers, are the Ulaks, half-man and half-spirit, who lived on the ground, walked upright and had the appearance of great hairy ape-men.”

These giant, hairy “half-spirit” men apparently stole women from the village to use as breeding stock (or so the natives believed) and created half-breed children. The natives banded together, razed the city and killed all of the Ulaks.

Compare this to the legends of the Paiute natives of North America and their extermination of the “Si-Te-Cah” a race of giant red-haired cannibals who lived in the area of ancient Lake Lahontan in northern Nevada. The Si-Te-Cah would raid the villages of the natives, stealing and eating their people. Eventually the local tribes banded together and forced the Si-Te-Cah into Lovelock Cave, where they set fire to the cave and exterminated the giants.

Stories of these conflicts seem to be common in native cultures of the Americas. Indeed, stories of conflict between man and “giants” goes back as far as you can explore in human folklore and mythology.

So, what if Sasquatch weren’t a “primitive” creature or ape? What if Sasquatch are us, or at least close to it? What if Sasquatch were another offshot of a common human ancestor, like Neanderthal or homo floresiensis, the “hobbit people” of the South Pacific?

What if, when modern humans migrated to the Americas during the last Ice Age, they found another hominid species already here? What if they fought and killed one another, and perhaps even interbred? This offshot, driven to near extinction by modern humans, had to go into hiding. They would have even been selected for traits that allowed them to hide in the wilderness from murderous homo sapiens. And this brings me back to Popescu’s “Amazon Beaming”. What if this offshot also used this non-verbal communication method? What if they honed it, developed it, became extremely good at using it? What if they could us it to hide?

People often describe feeling “strange” in the woods before some sort of anomalous encounter, gripped by a sensation they are being watched or driven nearly to panic by a sense of extreme anxiety. Keel described a “zone of terror” in “The Mothman Prophecies”. In David Paulides’ “Missing 411” investigations, victims often describe feeling uneasy or watched before leaving the group and disappearing forever. What if this was a manifestation of this non-verbal communicative ability being exhibited by a being that was trying to drive away threats?

People forget how utterly enormous and empty large swathes of the American wilderness still are. The idea that we have discovered everything that can be discovered out there is ludicrous. If there are still uncontacted, undocumented human tribes living in the depths of the Amazon, I don’t find it incredibly hard to believe that a closely related species of hominid that has been selected for an ability to hide themselves and possibly possessing some sort of method for influencing the emotions or minds of other hominids could still be hiding in small groups in North America. Lots of people don’t see Bigfoot because Bigfoot doesn’t want to be seen. I suspect that a large proportion of the encounters that are described are with juveniles, perhaps not as cautious as their elders and more prone to fits of anger or attack, culminating in events like the Ape Canyon incident of 1924, where a group of miners was allegedly attacked throughout the night by a group of Sasquatch.

Now, a couple of things stick out here. If Sasquatch are material, real beings it seems obvious that they do not want to be part of our society and want to be left alone. In the best case they never make contact with humans and in the worst case, they may attack and kill humans found encroaching alone in their territory. If this is true, and these are creatures with a level of intelligence and culture – thinking of The White City – comparable to modern humans, what right do we have to hunt them down still, to bring “evidence” of them to the rest of humanity? Also, contact with isolated tribes has historically been tragic for the tribes. Having no resistances to the germs and viruses of modern humans, many of them die or have to be given urgent medical care. If the Sasquatch really are as small in number and rare as they appear to be, couldn’t we be putting the entire species or tribe in grave danger by attempting contact? Finally, if this is a closely related c0usin to humanity, a form of life that for all intents and purposes are our brothers and sisters on this planet, moreso than any other living creature today, what right do we have to hunt them? If you were to kill one of them, it would be tantamount to the murder of any other human being. Given these presumptions, I believe that anyone seriously considering so-called “Bigfoot Hunting” rethink their motivations.

Now, a couple of thoughts about the non-materialist view of Sasquatch. While I tend to fall towards the physical nature of the phenomena as evidence of its material existence, I will also admit that other weird phenomena sometimes surround Sasquatch encounters. Given that humans have probably encountered, fought with, killed and have been killed by these creatures for untold millenia, it would be no surprise if some archetype of them existed deep within our collective consciousness, similar to why people seem to be instinctively frightened of snakes. We carry a memory of our predation; we carry this violence in our very genes. If we lean towards the type of explanations of anomalous phenomena put forth by researchers like Greg Bishop: that we are “co-creators” of the phenomena we are encountering, perhaps these stranger Sasquatch encounters are us taking these collective memories of these creatures and manifesting them in the experience. In this way, both the non-materialist and materialist views of Sasquatch can be true and occurring. Maybe there really are physical beings, and there are also manifestations of our collective memories and fears.

Half-man, half-spirit.