bigfoot body found?

I haven’t addressed this fully in this blog, but I am a skeptic. I’m a member of the Skeptic’s Society which essentially means that I subscribe to Skeptic magazine. You can check out http://www.skeptic.com to learn more about the magazine and what it means to be a skeptic.

As a skeptic, I know it’s important to not be a cynic. I try not to dismiss unusual claims out of hand, which I admit can be difficult at times. I do my best to look at the evidence, whatever it is, and then make my judgment. However, even after I come to a conclusion on some extraordinary claim, I remain open-minded toward more evidence which might cause me to change my position.

“Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence” is the Skeptic’s motto. It’s something I keep in mind every time an event like this crops up.

So, this past week, two bigfoot hunters from Georgia, Matthew Whitton and Rick Dyer, made quite a media splash with their extraordinary claim of discovering the carcass of a bigfoot. They further claimed that a “scientist” had flown in from Texas to have a look at it and was amazed. Whitton and Dyer said that everyone would be amazed when they made their official statement at a press conference to be held Friday August 15th.

The press conference was held and, from what I heard of it, I have to say I’m underwhelmed. Especially since a few interesting items came to light during the week leading up to that press conference.

One item was the photograph of the body stuffed in a freezer. It’s a pretty unconvincing photo. The “find” looks like a blob of brown fur with a face. I’m no expert, but I can see no indication of a skeletal structure or musculature. Things I would expect to see when looking at a dead primate of any sort. Besides, a fairly nondescript photograph could hardly be considered extraordinary evidence.

The photo became even less convincing when it was demostrated how much the body resembled a sasquatch costume that can be purchased online for your next Halloween party.

Whitton and Dyer posted on YouTube an approximately ten minute long video promoting their find. They never show the body in the video, but they do bring in a “scientist” to examine the body. Mind you, that’s how the fellow refers to himself. He calls himself a scientist, not a primatologist or zoologist or biologist or meterologist, just “I’m a scientist.” Very convincing.

This “scientist” was a red flag that couldn’t be resisted by what Whitton refers to, in their follow up video on YouTube, as stalkers. What Whitton calls stalkers, I call fact checkers. In any case, it was discovered that the scientist was really Whitton’s brother, who is not a scientist. These bigfoot hunters try to laugh off the fake scientist, but they maintain the body is authentic.

The initial YouTube video promoting their discovery has other interesting and telling features. As I stated earlier, the body is never shown, but they do manage to mention their website several times. Whitton claims that, unlike other bigfoot websites, they aren’t in it for the money. Dyer claims the their website is the best because they have a body. Well, I’m not so sure about that, Mr. Dyer.

There’s also a strange non-sequiter segment popping up two or three times in the first YouTube video. It’s an older fellow brandishing a very large knife and repeatedly shouting, “Airborne! Yarrrraghhh!” Try as I might, I can’t figure out what this old Airborne enthusiast has to do with hunting bigfoot.

At the August 15th press conference was a third fellow, Tom Biscardi. Biscardi is a self-proclaimed bigfoot expert and the host of an internet radio talk show dedicated to stories about bigfoot sightings and such. And it was Biscardi that the bigfoot hunters went to first with their discovery. I find it interesting and very telling that Whitton and Dyer went to a fellow bigfoot enthusiast and not to the local university or zoo with what could be the scientific find of the century.

It’s also very telling that the trio seem reluctant to show us the body. They want to hand-pick scientists for the examination. If this was the true discovery of the elusive bigfoot, I would have to believe that these fellows would be more than willing to turn the carcass over to scientists for proper study. They wouldn’t be stonewalling.

This whole episode looks more and more like the alien autopsy or the Raelians’ cloned human media follies. My conclusion at this point is that this is much more likely a publicity stunt meant to promote Whitton and Dyer’s website and Biscardi’s internet radio program. They’ve all recieved a lot of pub, but, I think, they end up looking foolish.

I have my doubts as to the existence of bigfoot. The fuzzy photographs, the shakey videos, the easily faked footprints, the anecdotes and the fact that people having been searching for this undocumented primate species for about 80 years and still haven’t found it indicate to me that bigfoot probably isn’t out there. Further evidence may prove me wrong, but if these two nimrods have really discovered bigfoot, then I’m a monkey’s uncle.

Update 8/19/08

According to the Fox News website, it appears the skeptics were right, again. Whitton and Dyer, it turns out, were attempting to con Tom Biscardi as well as the rest of us. Only it’s Biscardi who is out an undisclosed amount of money.

I’m afraid I gave the impression that Biscardi was guilty by association in perpetrating the hoax. I apologize to Mr. Biscardi. I’m sure this episode hasn’t lessened Tom Biscardi’s belief in the existence of bigfoot. I hope, however, that if there is a next time Mr. Biscardi turns immediately to the proper scientific experts for validation of the find before shelling out any money.

Update 8/20/08

It appears that my apology to Mr. Biscardi may have been premature. New information on FoxNews.com shows that Biscardi is well known among cryptozoologists and cryptozoology enthusiasts. He is not highly thought of and some are certain that he is just as much a part of the hoax as Whitton and Dyer.

I don’t know if he is part of the con or not, but this event just goes to show the importance of critical thinking.

Update & Correction 8/21/08

If you’ve been following this story you know that it’s become very sad. Very sad. It was a joke to lighten the mood of America. That’s what Rick Dyer is now claiming. It was just a joke that got out of hand.

Oh, well.

And a correction needs to be noted. I had Matthew Whitton and Rick Dyer mixed up. I have corrected the text above, but I want to be open with my readers (if there are any) about making that change.

concert memoirs pt. 24 – buzzcocks & paul weller

The Buzzcocks

11/20/93 First Avenue w/John Ticket Price: Unknown

Geez! Of the last five shows I attended at First Avenue (or anywhere else, I’m sure) three were is see The Buzzcocks. I guess I really liked these guys. You will also notice that the numbers of shows I went to per year had greatly reduced. One or two a year was my pace.

If memory serves, this was the show at which the band had television sets dressing the stage. They were promoting their first new album in quite a while, Trade Test Transmission. I may be mistaken but I think the album title refers the test screen that used to be seen on the TV at the end of the broadcast day. I could be wrong. Anyway, I think that’s why they had the TV’s.

The televisions were plugged in and the screens were just showing snow. And, at the very end of their show, Pete Shelley and Steve Diggle each grabbed a microphone stand and smashed out the TV screens. It was a cool effect, however I don’t think the First Avenue staff appreciated the stunt. I saw the staff fellows sweeping up the mess rolling their eyes and shaking their heads. Anything to stay in show business, eh, boys?

So, the next day the band was at the downtown Minneapolis record store, Northern Lights, (No, it’s not there anymore.) doing an instore record signing appearance. I got my copy of their new album signed by the band. I forgot to ask them if the First Avenue people knew they’d be smashing televisions, but I did remember to gush all over Pete Shelley about seeing his fantastic solo show (First Avenue, 8/20/86) and going on about how great it was.

What a fanboy I am!

Paul Weller
5/16/94 First Avenue w/John Ticket Price: Comp. Tickets

It had been more than six months since John and I had gone to a show at First Avenue, but we would still head down there fairly frequently for the Tuesday and/or Saturday dance nights. First Avenue’s usual practice in those days was to hand patrons as they walked in a few complimentary tickets for upcoming concerts and a couple dance nights. Usually, the concerts didn’t interest us much. So we didn’t make much use of them.

You might also get some comp tickets from the bartenders. John and I had gotten to know one bartender, Pete, pretty well. Ok, we didn’t hang out with him or anything, but he knew us and what we drank and thought we were pretty ok. Now and again he would flip us a couple comps. I’m certain we weren’t the only ones he’d do that for.

One Saturday night at the Disco (that’s what we called First Avenue), Pete grabbed a couple comp tickets for us. As he was picking them out, I said to John that it would be so cool if he gave us tickets to the upcoming Paul Weller show. We were planning on buying tickets, but we hadn’t yet. Well, Pete slapped two tickets to the Weller show in front of us. Thanks, Pete!

John and I were both big fans of The Jam and The Style Council, so we were pretty geared up to see Paul in concert. We had never seen him before.

He was promoting his self-titled solo album, which I had and knew very well. John wasn’t as familiar with his solo material and that was all that Paul played. No Jam tunes, no Style Council tunes. Paul had moved on.

I really enjoyed the show. John had a harder time with it not knowing any of the material. But he did perk up at the end of one of Paul’s tunes (Bull-Rush, I think) when he kicked into a few bars of The Who’s Magic Bus. He told me that he wished they had played more of it than they did.

This brings to mind the story about our discovery of The Jam, so I may as well relate it here. It was 1984, I was in art school and John was going to the University of Minnesota, poli/sci major. We were both getting into new music. The underground stuff. Stuff we weren’t hearing on the radio. We were looking for anything that was cool.

On one of my visits to the local record store one of the fellows working there asked if I’d ever heard of The Jam. The record store guys knew me to be a huge Who fan and figured that I might be interested, so Marty (one of the guys) put the band’s first album, In The City, on for me to hear. I liked what I heard, but I didn’t want to spend money on them just yet.

John had bought the second album by The Vapors – Magnets. (Yes, they had a second album. They put out two and they are both very good. Too bad they only had the one hit. The name escapes me… Turning… hmmm… Turning Burmese. Something like that.) Anyway. John had heard good things about a band called The Jam and wrote the name on the inside of the cassette cover of his copy of Magnets. By that time, The Jam had broken up and Weller was doing The Style Council thing, but John was intrigued by what he had heard.

He picked up the cassette of The Jam – Snap, a collection of their singles. He popped it in his car stereo and drove around listening to it. This was John’s favorite way to listen to new music. I was working at Wendy’s back then and John came through the drive-up. He pulled around and I leaned out the drive-up window to chat. He held up the cassette case and exclaimed, “These guys are great!”

He was plenty excited about them. John isn’t one to go into major displays of excitement, but he was pretty jazzed about The Jam.

And through John, I got jazzed about them, too.

concert memoirs pt. 23 – buzzcocks, the the, killing joke & buzzcocks

The Buzzcocks w/Jazz Butcher

11/20/89 First Avenue w/John & David Ticket Price: Unknown

Here we go! We really were anticipating this show. The Buzzcocks was one of our favorite bands. I’m not sure about my friend David, but John and I had never seen them before. David is a few years older than John and I, and had gone to lots of concerts. He might have seen them before.

Anyway, the closest John and I had previously gotten to see The Buzzcocks was the fantastic Pete Shelley solo show (First Avenue 8/20/86). That show had impressed the hell out of us, but now we were going to see them all! We were ready!

They kicked off with ‘I Don’t Know What To Do With My Life’ and we went crazy. Slamming, pogoing, skanking! What great fun it was. And we kept going right through the chanting chorus of ‘I Believe’. “There. Is. No. Love. In. This. World. An-Nee-Mooooooore!”

We were spent. And we loved it.

The The
2/21/90 First Avenue w/John Ticket Price: Unknown

Well, look here, it’s another all-ages show.

For reasons unknown to me this show had been rescheduled from 11/6/89, but what does it matter?

This was another of my favorite bands from the 80’s. I just love the album Soul Mining! This show was in promotion of their lastest album, Mind Bomb. A very good record in its own right.

I know it’s hard to call The The a band, when much of their material is Matt Johnson’s. Working mostly solo in the studio, then getting a touring band together. At least, that’s what I understand to be true.

I don’t have a lot to relate about this show. I enjoyed it and I’m fairly certain that The Smith’s legendary guitarist, Johnny Marr, was in the band at the time.

Killing Joke
3/1/91 First Avenue w/John Ticket Price: Comp. Tickets

I don’t have much here. But have you noticed that I had only one show listing for all of 1990 (The The, First Avenue, 2/21/90)? Well, I had really been dropping off the concert going thing since about 1987 or so. Both John and I had begun to lose interest in the whole process.

So, anyway, that’s it.

The Buzzcocks
11/18/91 First Avenue w/John, David & Diane Ticket Price: $11.00

Another great show by a favorite band. As I recall they set off again with ‘I Don’t Know What To Do With my Life’ and ended the main set with ‘I Believe’. And they rocked us with another outstanding punk rock show in between.

I think it was at this show that David’s girlfriend, Diane, attended along with us. And it was also the show at which I was feeling ill. I’m not sure what was going on, but I felt pretty lousy. Still, I pushed myself in the slam dance pit. I wasn’t about to let the band down.

So it was more slam dancing, sweating, pogoing, exhaustion, with a little illness thrown in for good measure. Lots of fun.

concert memoirs pt. 22 – wire, killing joke & the waterboys

Wire

6/22/88 First Avenue w/John Ticket Price: Unknown

Wire is just so cool.

They had just released my two favorites of their albums: Ideal Copy and A Bell Is A Cup… I know their earlier albums were great as well, but those two just rank high with me. It doesn’t hurt that Ideal Copy has one of the greatest songs ever – Ahead.

Wire’s lead guitarist played with his back to the audience while making feedback at his monitor. You’ll remember that two of the trio, The Jesus and Mary Chain (First Avenue 12/15/85), did the same thing. But Wire still was able to be engaged with the audience, while Jesus and Mary Chain didn’t give a damn. Besides, Wire had much better songs.

The bass player’s bass had a sliding pick-up built in. He would slam it back and forth to making the way cool bangs that open the song Ahead. Did I mention that Ahead is one of the greatest songs ever?

Killing Joke w/Rifle Sport
4/19/89 First Avenue w/John Ticket Price: Unknown

Possibly the most serious band in music history. But, I haven’t seen The Henry Rollins Band so…

Lead man, Jaz Coleman, dressed in a grey jumpsuit, his face painted as if for battle, exuding intensity. He was hopping, shaking, quaking with importance. His behavior can seem silly, but he pulls it off.

This also appears to be the first all-ages show that John and I attended at First Avenue. I have noticed an interesting phenomena at all-ages shows. As the audience waits for the band to take the stage they sit on the dancefloor. They just sit there.

The first time John and I had witnessed this behavior, we were mystified. What the hell were they sitting for? We asked a First Avenue staff member what the deal was. He told us he didn’t know why they did it, but the youngsters sit on the floor before concerts. Very strange.

The Waterboys
10/27/89 First Avenue w/John Ticket Price: Unknown

This was a good show, but it didn’t live up to the first time we had seen them (First Avenue 11/6/85). It may have been due to the fact that Kurt Wolinger was no longer with the band, having left to form World Party. The violin player they added didn’t quite make up for Wolinger’s absence.

concert memoirs pt. 21 – the godfathers, robyn hitchcock & the egyptians & the church

The Godfathers w/The Nils

3/28/88 First Avenue w/John Ticket Price: $6.00

“This damn nation! Frustration!”

An excellent song that I first heard during a Club Degenerate night at First Avenue. Great guitar. Nice and angry.

They put on a good show. They were very tight and very rockin’. Their lead singer was full of the tough guy attitude. He pulled it off, though I would say that it came close to seeming a bit put on.

They did an excellent cover of The Sex Pistols’ God Save the Queen.

What do I remember of the opening band The Nils? Nil.

Robyn Hitchcock & the Egyptians
4/11/88 First Avenue w/John Ticket Price: Unknown

Robyn sang, Robyn blinked, Robyn told amusing anecdotes. Robyn was great.

The Church w/54-40
6/21/88 First Avenue w/John Ticket Price: $12.00

The night before this show, The Church played at the Guthrie Theater. I couldn’t afford to go to both shows, but John could. John always had more money than me. Always. I mean, twelve bucks to see them at First Avenue was a bit on the spendy side. I was working at Wendy’s and John was working for the county, so he was making way more money than I was.

The show at the Guthrie was used to film the video for their song Reptile. They started filming early. The idea was they would film early with an audience then head off and 54-40 would play. After that, The Church would come back out and play their set.

As it turned out, the filming took so long that 54-40 had to be bumped. So, John didn’t get to see one of the best bands that Canada ever produced. He would have to wait until the next night.

When you watch the video for Reptile on the YouTube, you now know that it was filmed at the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis. The old theater, they recently built a new one in downtown Minneapolis.

John and I headed out to First Avenue the next night to see both bands. Again, at First Avenue we could get a closer look at the bands then was possible at the Guthrie. 54-40 came out and entertained us with their leftist, socialist, antigun, pro-Sandinista songs. Politics aside, they were really good.

The Church took the stage in promotion of their latest album, Starfish. Incidentally, it’s my opinion that that was their last decent effort. Something happened to them after that. They seemed to lose their touch. They would have a good song here and there, but no good cohesive album effort.

So, anyway…

I always enjoyed watched Marty Wilson-Piper play. He had the most rock star attitude of the band. While watching him, I saw how he achieved that cool effect on their song Destination, the opening track on Starfish. He would turn the volume down on his guitar, strum a chord and then turn the volume up. He did this three or so times very quickly at the proper point of the song.

The Church was also the first band I’d ever seen that used a certain device on their guitar to achieve a particular sound. Instead of strumming, Marty and Peter would hold some sort of something to the strings while fingering the frets. My guess is that the device must have vibrated the strings. The Church did such neat things back then.

This was the last really good show John and I would see of them.