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Sasquatch tracks are sighted in Bossburg in Stevens County on November 24, 1969.

HistoryLink.org Essay 7938 : Printer-Friendly Format

On November 24, 1969, Joe Rhodes of Colville, in Stevens County, finds Sasquatch tracks in Bossburg. Sasquatch or "Bigfoot" is a seldom- or possibly never-seen, rather enormous, alleged beast, possibly hominid, that leaves large footprints (unless these footprints are left by something else). "Sasquatch" is the Salish word for "wild man." Rhodes's discovery of Bigfoot footprints will lead to extensive searches, and at least one hoax. Investigations will prove inconclusive.

Exciting Sightings

There is a long history of Sasquatch sightings in the Pacific Northwest. Native American legends, fur trader David Thompson in 1810, settler Elkanah Walker in 1840, and many others have reported evidence of a large hairy beast inhabiting mountains and forests. Logger Albert Ostman claimed in 1957 that he had been captured by a Sasquatch family in British Columbia in 1924. Other reports from the 1950s placed the Sasquatch near Jasper, Alberta, and in Northern California. One account had "Sassie" (Times) making off with a 750-pound truck tire without taking the trouble to roll it. Roger Patterson filmed a Sasquatch in California in 1967.

Silver and lead mines originally attracted early settlers to Bossburg (pop. 800 in 1892) in Stevens County along the banks of the Columbia River just south of the Canadian border. When the minerals ran out, Bossburg was abandoned and became a ghost town. While disposing of his trash at a community garbage dump on November 24, 1969, Joe Rhodes spotted large footprints at the dump and reported his discovery.

Sasquatch hunters excitedly descended upon the area. Rene Dahinden (1930-2001), a renowned Sasquatch hunter, and others searched the area. They hung fresh meat and fruit lures six feet up in trees and scoured the countryside. On December 13, searchers found more tracks close to one of the meat lures. The left footprint measured 17.5 inches long, 6.5 inches across the ball of the foot, and 5.5 inches across the heel. The deformed right foot, slightly smaller, had two lumps on the outer edge and a third toe that was either badly twisted or missing. The little toe stuck out at a sharp angle.

Chasing Footprints

In all, the Sasquatch hunters found 1,089 footprints ranging from near the Columbia River, across the railroad and main highway, over a 43-inch-high wire fence, across flatland, and halfway up a hill. The footprints then retraced their path and disappeared into the river. Five days later a U.S. Border Patrolman found similar tracks on the other side.

Two months into the search prospector Joe Metlow claimed to have possession of a live Sasquatch. After a merry chase consuming time, money, and credibility, Metlow's claim proved to be false. This brought the Sasquatch hunters full circle back to the original footprints.

British anthropologist Dr John Napier (1917-1987), former Curator of Primates at the Smithsonian, examined casts and photographs of the Bossburg footprints and identified the right foot deformity as talipes-equino-vanus, or club-foot. Because of the way the heels were defined in the footprints, he concluded that the cause was probably an early childhood injury. He concluded, "It is difficult to conceive of a hoaxer so subtle, so knowledgeable -- and so sick -- who would deliberately fake a footprint of this nature. I suppose it is possible, but it is so unlikely that I am prepared to discount it." He went on to say:

"Either some of the footprints are real, or all are fakes. If they are all fakes, then an explanation invoking legend and folk memory is adequate to explain the mystery. But if any of them is real then as scientists we have a lot to explain. Among other things we shall have to rewrite the story of human evolution. We shall have to accept that Homo sapiens is not the one and only living product of the hominid line, and we shall have to admit that there are still major mysteries to be solved in a world we thought we knew so well."

Faking Footprints

Upon his death in 2002, the family of Ray L. Wallace (1918-2002) admitted that he had made the giant footprints in 1958 that began the legend of Bigfoot in the Pacific Northwest. A friend had carved the 16-inch alder wood feet he used. Just because these 1958 footprints were fake, though, doesn't mean that all of the footprints that have been found were fake.

In 2004, Bob Heironimus confessed that he posed as the Sasquatch in Patterson's 1967 film. Philip Morris, a North Carolina gorilla-suit specialist, claimed to have sold a Sasquatch costume for $435 to an amateur documentary filmmaker named Roger Patterson.

Believers Keep Believing

Grover Krantz (1931-2002) perplexed many because he was an established scientific researcher who studied Bigfoot. A physical anthropologist at Washington State University, he undertook Bigfoot as a scientific problem that needed to be solved. He initially believed Bigfoot to be a hoax but his studies convinced him otherwise. Even though he studied Bigfoot for 30 years and believed Bigfoot existed, Krantz could never prove it.

No Bigfoot body has ever been found. Nor are there any confirmed hair samples or scat. No evidence at all acceptable to the scientific community has come to light. Nevertheless, many people continue to believe that Sasquatch exists. They continue searching...

Sources:
Steve Hymon, "Obituaries: Grover Krantz, 70; Bigfoot Researcher," Los Angeles Times, February 21, 2002, p. B-10; "Big Believer in Bigfoot Dies at 70," Columbian (Vancouver, WA), February 19, 2002, p. C-2; Bret Oppegaard, "Bigfoot," Ibid., November 13, 1996, p. 1; Richard Leiby, "The Reliable Source," The Washington Post, March 7, 2004, p. D-03; Josef Berger, "Top Denizens of the Myth Zoo," The New York Times Magazine, November 27, 1960, p. 52; David C. Anderson, "Stalking the Sasquatch," Ibid., January 20, 1974, p. 231; "The Bossburg, Washington (Cripple) Tracks," and Robin Brunet, "Tracks to Nowhere," and Clive Cocking, "The Magical, Mystical, Mythical Sasquatch," Bigfoot Encounters website accessed September 4, 2006 (http://www.bigfootencounters.com/); "Bossburg," Ghost towns website accessed September 5, 2006 (http://www.ghosttowns.com/); "Footprints," Big Foot: Fact or Fantasy website accessed September 5, 2006 (http://home.clara.net/rfthomas/bf_prints.html). See also Wayne K. Spitzer, “Flying the Fog Roads of Cascadia: Grover Krantz on the Trail of Bigfoot,” Columbia: The Magazine of Northwest History Vol. 22, No. 2 (Summer 2008), 3-5.


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Purported Sasquatch from Roger Patterson film, 1967
Courtesy Douglas E. Trapp


 
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