Wednesday, August 4, 2010


Americans call it Bigfoot, Canadians call it Sasquatch, and the Sherpas of Nepal call it Yeti. All agree it’s huge and hairy, part animal and part human. Hundreds of people swear they’ve seen these creatures. But many other people don’t believe they exist at all. Native Americans tell stories of human-like creatures roaming the land before white people came to North America. Early settlers in northern California have seen them. There have also been reports of Bigfoot sightings in Ohio and Florida. In China, there are reports of a hairy “wild man.” In Russia, people claim to have seen the “Snow Person.” Here’s a typical story of a sighting. This one happened on March 18, 1987, in British Columbia, Canada. A seven-man oil crew was working in the wilderness when four of the crew saw a monster. They claimed it stood about 7 feet tall and weighed about 400 pounds. “The thing looked more like a man than an animal,” said one of the workers, Myles Jack. The monster crouched down and watched the men. Then it circled the worksite. Jack said, “It looked like we were in his territory and he was checking us out. He seemed really curious.” Another worker, Bryan Mestdagh, said, “I’ve seen a documentary on the Sasquatch. I’d have to say that what we saw was absolutely identical.” Another famous sighting was in 1958. It took place near the town of Willow Creek, in northern California. Jerry Crew, a bulldozer operator, was working there with a road-building crew. On the morning of August 27, Crew noticed footprints in the dirt near his bulldozer. Figuring they were bear tracks, he climbed onto the bulldozer and looked down. Now he could see that the tracks approached the bulldozer, made a circle around it and went off into the forest. The prints were larger than anything he’d ever seen. Crew jumped down from the bulldozer. He compared one of his own feet to one of the prints—and broke out in goose bumps. The prints were enormous. Crew showed the prints to his foreman, Wilbur Wallace. The foreman had a story of his own. He said that he’d also seen the huge prints. Crew made a plaster-of-Paris cast of one of the prints and took it into town. Soon dozens of news stories were written about Crew’s discovery. In 2002, when Wilbur Wallace died, his family revealed a secret. Wilbur had made an enormous foot out of wood. He’d taken it to the worksite and laid down the tracks Crew had found. The whole Bigfoot sighting in Willow Creek was a fake! But are all the sightings fakes? Many argue that the big tracks are made by bears. They say the bears have simply overstepped their front paw mark. And others insist that sightings prove nothing. Eyewitness accounts are often unreliable, they point out. This has been proven again and again in law courts. No fossils of Bigfoot have been found. But fossils do not form in wet, acidic soil. The Pacific Northwest, where Bigfoot is said to roam, has wet, acidic soil. Some well-respected scientists believe Bigfoot could be real. Jane Goodall, famous for studying chimpanzees in Africa, is certain that Bigfoot exists. Another scientist is Jeff Meidrum, from Idaho State University. He says every Bigfoot sighting can’t be dismissed as a fake. He also thinks that some of the footprints seem to be real. A few samples of Bigfoot’s hair have been found. These hair samples can’t be matched to any known animal. In 2000, a huge plaster cast of a Bigfoot creature was made from a muddy impression discovered near a pond. Several scientists were impressed by the cast. Jeff Meldrum said that if the cast is a fake, it is a masterpiece. Daris Swindler, a professor from the University of Washington, didn’t believe in Bigfoot’s existence. But when he saw the plaster cast, he, too, was impressed. He said it would be difficult to fake. So perhaps Bigfoot does exist. Until bones or a body are found, however, we cannot know for sure. THE LOCH NESS MONSTER Loch Ness is a lake in northern Scotland. It is large enough, and deep enough, to hide something big. But is there really a “monster” lurking in the lake? Many people think so. As far back as A.D. 565, there were reports of a strange creature in Loch Ness. Throughout the 1900s there were several sightings of the huge creature. When the road near the lake was upgraded in 1933, sightings grew more and more frequent. In May 1933, Mr. and Mrs. Mackay reported seeing some strange disturbances in the water. Two months later, tourists from London, the Spicers, saw something in the bushes by the road. Mr. Spicer said, “The body shot across the road in jerks. It was about 5 feet in height. I estimate the length to be 25—30 feet.” In December 1933, a newspaper sponsored a hunt for the monster, which was nicknamed “Nessie.” A big-game hunter discovered a giant footprint near the lake. But the print turned out to be a fake. Someone had made the impression with a dried hippopotamus foot! In 1934, Dr. Robert Wilson took a famous photograph of Nessie. The image was fuzzy, but there was no mistaking the monster. The picture showed a huge aquatic reptile with a long curved neck. The creature looked like a plesiosaurus. For many years, people believed this must be Nessie. Then, in 1994, the photograph was analyzed with high-tech equipment. It turned out to be a toy boat with a plastic model in it! Many sightings, in fact, have turned out to be fakes. But others have encouraged Nessie’s “believers.” In 1960, an aircraft engineer named Tim Dinsdale made a short film. It shows a dark shape moving through the waters of Loch Ness. Experts from Britain’s Royal Air Force analyzed Dinsdale’s film. They said the dark shape was probably a living creature. Several scientists have explored the lake. They searched for Nessie using sonar. (Sonar uses sound to detect underwater objects.) Sonar did detect large moving objects in the lake. But the reading couldn’t tell if it was one large body or a very big school of fish. People continue to spot the monster. Ian Cameron, for example, was on the lake fishing with a friend of his one day. He saw something break the surface of the water. He kept watching as it disappeared, then broke the surface again. “It was a whale-like object,” he said. Several people who had gathered by the lake were also watching. “I can’t compare it to anything I ever saw before,” Cameron reported. “We all had an emotional attraction to it—there was no fear at all.” Cameron has a dim view of scientists. He says if they can’t “pigeon-hole” something, they dismiss it. But along with many, many others, Cameron has an answer for them. “I saw it,” he insists. So the mystery of the Loch Ness monster is still unsolved


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