“Finding Bigfoot” a Howler

June 13, 2011

Finding Bigfoot, a new series airing on Animal Planet on Sundays (10 p.m. eastern and pacific time), looks like another silly TV program aimed at the credulous. Its "special preview episode"—filmed in the "remote woods of northern Georgia," in the Chattahoochee National Forest—set forth the show's formula: make it look as much like Ghost Hunters as possible.

Thus, just as Ghost Hunters was based on the TAPS organization (The Atlantic Paranormal Society), Finding Bigfoot features the exploits of BFRO, Bigfoot Field Research Organization. Again, the show emphasizes nighttime excursions (based on the observation that Bigfoot/Sasquatch is often nocturnal). This adds a spine-tingling aspect to such outings and offers the possibility of using—tah dah!—fancy equipment. This includes "night-vision devices" and "thermal imagers," both of which can create eerie visual effects that TV-show producers can't resist. Team members also make much use of hand-held radios—"copy that"—and repeat the phrase that Ghost Hunters made famous, "Did you hear that?!"

BFRO claims to be a "scientific" organization, but its head and the show's central figure, Matt Moneymaker, does not appear to have any scientific credentials or, in fact, to use the scientific method. Like pseudoscientists everywhere, he has obviously started with the desired answer and works backward to the evidence, picking and choosing. Invariably, evidence for Bigfoot is at best inconclusive, but often it is faked outright, and Moneymaker has been taken in by at least one hoax (some would say several).

The hoax involved "the Sonoma video," a recording of a purported Bigfoot sighting in California's Sonoma County in 2005. The video was made by someone calling himself "Mark Nelson," an admitted "amateur naturist." Now naturist was once synonymous with "naturalist," but its more recent meaning is "nudist." Also Nelson said he was a member of a rock band called Total Nutcase. Nevertheless BFRO proclaimed the Sonoma footage to be genuine, and, when it was revealed to be a put-on made by Penn and Teller for their TV show Bullshit!, BFRO suggested that it was actually Penn and Teller's claim that was bogus! However, when Bullshit! aired, BFRO removed all references to the video and has never mentioned it again. (See https://www.sasquatchopedia.com/index.php/Sonoma_Video.)

In addition to wiping egg off his face, Moneymaker has had to endure sarcasm regarding his name. Critics have noted his penchant for, well, making money—for example tens of thousands of dollars infused into BFRO by elderly supporter Wally Hersom who spent some $100,000 on equipment alone. Reported cryptozoologist Loren Coleman on his Cryptomundo site (December 17, 2007), Hersom's interest had been secured when—on his second BFRO expedition—"he heard howls in the night and had rocks thrown at him—typical Bigfoot behavior, according to Moneymaker." However, I regard rock throwing as an indicator of probable hoaxing, beginning with a case in 1924. (See my Tracking the Man-Beasts, 2011, p. 67.) In any event, Bigfoot's fortuitous appearance elicited money from Hersom.

Mister Moneymaker has been criticized for conducting Bigfoot hunts with a $300-per-person fee. As a consequence, according to Craig Woolheater (posting on Cryptomundo July 12, 2007), some BFRO members quit in protest. Moreover, says Woolheater, BFRO "claims to uncover evidence on every trip—sightings, footprints, hair samples and spooky wails that could only come from any of the 2,000 to 6,000 Bigfoots it says are roaming North America." It's rather amazing how Bigfoot so faithfully shows up at BFRO events, yet remains ultimately elusive. Judging from the first episode of Finding Bigfoot, I predict the show will continue the tried-and-true Ghost Hunters formula. It is a haunting thought.


#1 Kris (Guest) on Monday June 13, 2011 at 11:31am

Wow, I’m so glad to read this.

I thought I was being overly critical when I watched the show. I thought “surely it can’t be THAT bad.”

Needless to say, it was. It barely even attempted to masquerade as science.


#2 Chuck Coverly (Guest) on Tuesday June 14, 2011 at 10:04am

Hey Joe,
you forgot to mention the very creative editing in this show.  There was one instance where they showed a “mysterious creature” on the thermal imaging camera. As one of the team members approached it, they cut to Moneymaker statingg that whatever it was just ran off.  They didn’t show it.  Most likely because it was a deer, and the video would have conclusively shown this to be the case.

This creative editing is disingenuous at best.

#3 Eric (Guest) on Tuesday June 14, 2011 at 4:05pm

I watched an episode the other day where they met with a man who supposedly captured footage of one on thermal imaging. The team determined it must be real because it was large and clothes or a costume would be visible on the thermal imaging. They tried to recreate it to test if it could be a hoax. To their dismay, they recreated perfectly and the person who played bigfoot in the recreation actually appeared bigger than in the original film. Instead of concluding a possible hoax, three of the four team members decided this was almost certainly proof of a juvenile Sasquatch.

#4 lmao (Guest) on Monday July 04, 2011 at 12:55pm

This show is hysterical.  I too noticed the tape cuts.  I think they are “squatch” out of luck.  AP must be disparate for programming!

#5 Dan H. (Guest) on Sunday July 10, 2011 at 8:51pm

I am so glad this is it for this ridiculous show.Animal planet is this the best you have?And why is the show title finding Bigfoot it should be found Bigfoot they see one every show and what credentials do any of these folks have.They all talk like they eat supper with a squach all the time.A leaf just fell mus be a squach.All the comments from viewers speak for its self/PS Get some old Marlin Perkins on there thats Animal Planet. Shows a JOKE.

#6 RGOST on Monday July 11, 2011 at 5:46pm

I guess the first question I have is: Why were there no sittings and shootings by hunters of Bigfoot or Sasquatch when settlers first arrived in North America?  Wouldn’t the population have been much larger then?  Ok, maybe Native Americans hunted them to near extinction.
Then we get into the fact humans and primates are social animals: living in groups, bands, tribes.  An animal living in the wild has a much shorter life span due to harsh North American climate with the accompanying predation, accidents, and disease.  [The usual life span of a gorilla living in a natural habitat is 25 – 35 years.] With continued sittings, it is logical to assume we would have long ago found the existence of a breeding population. 
Primates normally do not roam around individually like cougars. 
Even if so, they would still be easy to locate. 
Verifiable clues should be in abundance: hair, tracks, and scat. 
One lump of scat would offer up incredible amount evidence. 

Most Sasquatch, as described, would be pretty large creatures.  How much food would a full grown specimen require?  How would they obtain it in winter?  Wouldn’t somebody easily see Bigfoot out hunting?

So, winter is a time when spotting a big furry creature would be quite easy. 
Unless of course we are going to say Sasquatches are the only ape like creatures know to hibernate like bears.  Yet, even hibernating bears are not too difficult for trained biologists to find.
Thinking of all the logical things to prove/disprove the Bigfoot myth would be a good project for grade or middle school science class.

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