Bigfoot on the Mind, or a Personal Encounter?
Real or memorex?
This is my Bigfoot story. OK, it’s not my Bigfoot story, but it is a first hand account I heard from a lady at a party. I doubt it’s been published anywhere, so I thought I’d repeat it for posterity. It is an example of a credible Bigfoot sighting by a believable witness, it’s stories like this that keep the legend alive. Unfortunately, being older and wiser now, I can also see how this story might not be true even if the witness in question is perfectly sincere and credible. So in the spirit of illustrating both points of view on Bigfoot…
This woman and her friend were backpacking in Northern California. They stopped for the night in a clearing on the trail they were following. She clambered down a short slope to fill their water bottles for the night. As she was crouched by a small stream filling her bottles she got the classic “something is looking at me” feeling. She glanced up…crouched on the other side of the stream was a huge hairy ape looking right at her. It apparently had been doing just what she was doing, getting a drink. It stared at her a bit longer, and then vanished into the woods.
She was, to say the least, rather alarmed. Her friend was too when she got back to camp, they debated leaving but it was almost dark. Being experienced backpackers, they knew backpacking in the dark was a really good way to get hurt or lost. So they spent a nervous night camped right there, but the night passed uneventfully. First thing in the morning they packed up and headed back the way they came. When they left, on the trail just feet from their camp, was the fresh headless carcass of a deer. It had not been there when they arrived the night before. They set a new land speed record backpacking out that day.
Interesting story, eh? Especially the deer, was it a threat or a gift? Headless deer have been reported in association with other Bigfoot sightings, was she a consummate liar who had done her research? A coincidence? Taken at face value, it’s a very convincing story, and for years I thought the only two possibilities were that she was a skilled story teller, or she really had seen a big ape up close in the woods of Northern California.
Alas, here comes the older and wiser part. Knowing now what I do now about the unreliability of human perception and memory, there is another possibility. First off, it was almost dark. And she was certainly very very tired from backpacking all day. The light down by the stream was likely even darker being down a slope and all. And she was a woman alone in the woods, a bit spooky at the best of times. No matter how credible she was, we have a very tired witness under less than optimal viewing conditions.
What did she see? I have no idea. I have no doubt that something spooked her by the creek, an animal might very well have stared at her. It is possible to inadvertently sneak up on animals in the woods if the wind is in your face, been there, done that myself. Maybe it was a bear or something half hidden in the gloom and foliage. A puma most likely if she really did see two eyes staring at her. When the mind sees something it can’t make sense of, it fills in the details. This is especially true when one is tired and the visibility is poor, not to mention if one is alarmed or startled by what they are seeing.
For all I know she had been discussing Bigfoot during the day, and might well have been “primed” to imagine she saw one under the right conditions. By the time she had scrambled up the slope to her friend, she had convinced herself of what she had seen, and her brain may very well provided details to her memory that weren’t accurate but reinforced her story. The deer carcass, who knows, could be a coincidence. Could also be they simply didn’t see it in the dark on the way into camp.
So all in all, I definitely believe she saw something by the creek that night, but I can no longer say that this story is proof of Bigfoot in any way. Unfortunately a lot of sightings of Bigfoot and other paranormal phenomena fall into the very same category, if one looks at the details of the story, the possibility of the mind playing tricks has to be ruled a possibility. Perception and memory are both much more flexible than most people are willing to admit, science has shown this seven ways from Sunday. The eye is not a camera, what we see is heavily modified by our brains. And memory is even less reliable, it is all too easy to induce completely false memories in people under a wide array of conditions.
Not to mention a very real human tendency to modify a good story to make it more believable as it is retold over and over, again, completely unconsciously. Even in my retelling above I suspect I made changes or added details that weren’t there when I heard this story over a decade ago. It’s a great story. Alas, until a Bigfoot is caught or killed, I now suspect he is a creature that lives in our minds, not the woods.
(The above image is claimed as Fair Use under US copyright law. It is not being used for profit and it is an historically important image.)