The Air at the Top of the Bottle

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R.I.P., Bigfoot Body

August 21st, 2008 · No Comments

Like many, I was disappointed by the quick fizzle of the Bigfoot Body hoax in Georgia.  I suppose I should wax explicit, and carefully explain that no, it’s not because I think Bigfoot is a real flesh-and-blood beastie, or because I was expecting, or even wanting, evidence.  The stories are real enough; and have their roots deep, deep in many cultures.  For whatever reason, homo sapiens tells tales of big hairy bipeds: Amerind sasquatches, Aussie yowies, Chinese yeren, Tibetan yetis.  That’s what hooks me.

The hoax is a delicate art; and, in the right hands, a thing of beauty.  Some hoaxes are just jokes — like Hugh Troy’s student stunt of stamping rhino prints around the Cornell campus.  Others are satirical, like the many mock “avant garde” poems and paintings by conservative artists.  But perhaps the richest genre is ostension.

Ostension — the manifestation of a myth — is part of the folk tradition: telling a story by action, rather than words.  The best of them — crop circles, photos of UFOs and lake creatures — are beautiful in themselves, and stir the magical thinking that feeds the myth to begin with.  The “thought photos” of Ted Serios are so lush and oneiric that you wish they were genuine.  The crop circles were so well designed and executed that many people insisted they couldn’t have been done by humans — even after multiple confessions.

The myth of Bigfoot (and his multi-culti counterparts) is that of primordial man: the wild man, the mountain man, the apeman.  It’s a romantic story.  The Patterson-Gimlin film pushed the right buttons: a few seconds of a free and elusive being; you wanted more.  So did the footprints in the snow of Mt. Everest.  So did an earlier Bigfoot Body, the Minnesota Iceman: frozen in a cake of ice, like a Siberian mammoth, glimpsed now and then in traveling carnivals.

But a gorilla suit, stuffed with offal and crammed into a jumbo cooler?  It was ugly; it was no fun to look at.  You didn’t want it to be true, and that’s fatal to a hoax.

So — I was disappointed.  It’s been a rough month; I was looking forward to a nice artful hoax.  Maybe next time.

(Posted by Doug Skinner)

Tags: Animals · Belief Systems · Forteana · Hoaxes

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