Monday,Â May 15, 2000
Web site sorts Bigfoot stories to seek truth
By Kimbre Chapman, Correspondent
Springfield State Journal-Register
PALMYRA – The report reads like something out of an old B-rated horror movie. A big two-legged hairy beast screams, eats a mangled deer and chases witnesses, who run for their lives.Â “This is bogus,” Robert Smith of Palmyra frowns. “I believe Bigfoot is out there, but I also believe there’s a lot of wasted energy in chasing shadows and stupid reports.
“Loud, screaming howls. They got that from our Web site. Eating a mangled deer – they wouldn’t even be able to get close enough to see this creature eating a deer. Then chasing? This is foolishness. It’s all foolishness.”
Smith, a 47-year-old former private investigator, is a member of the Bigfoot Field Researchers Organization (www.bfro.net), a loose-knit international group that meets in cyberspace. The organization’s 30 “curators” include scientists, attorneys and video experts, along with about 200 scattered volunteers who do field research. Smith joined in 1996 to help the organization ferret out false reports.
“We have the ability to send off blood samples, hair and recordings,” Smith said. “We also want to provide a legitimate site to counter what’s out there. There are Web sites that claim that Bigfoot is multidimensional. Other Web sites have cassette tapes for sale to tell you how to go find your own Bigfoot. Or how they’ll take you for a fee to hunt Bigfoot. They’re liars and con artists and hurt our research. Our information is free to the public.”
But David Bloomberg, chairman of the Rational Examination Association of Lincoln Land (www.reall.org) scoffs even at Smith’s professed fact-based Bigfoot research. Based in Springfield, REALL promotes critical thinking and the scientific method toward fringe science and the paranormal.
“Every claim of Bigfoot has serious problems, whether it’s some guy with a plaster cast of a foot, or the famous black-and-white movie that you see on all the television shows,” Bloomberg said.
“The photos look like something blurry, but you can’t tell what it is. And when they examined the footprints, they didn’t correspond to how a manlike/apelike creature would walk. Instead, they correspond to the way someone who was trying to fake it would make a footprint.
“Here we have this supposedly manlike creature that lives somewhere. Yet the best evidence they can get of him is quite shoddy, in my opinion,” Bloomberg said.
Smith admits he too has doubts. He wonders why there are no bones or any specimen.
“Let’s say I’m 10 percent skeptical,” he said. “I also think Bigfoot is a myth that goes across cultures all over the world which aren’t connected. Mythology doesn’t generally go multicultural to this level. I believe there’s a basis in fact behind these myths.”
Smith’s hunt for answers began in the fall of 1993, when he and his wife, Susan, were running a horse ranch in northwestern Arkansas.
One day, the couple’s 7-week-old stud colt disappeared from among a herd of horses. Smith thought someone had stolen it.
Although they never found out what happened to their colt, they discovered their neighbors had collectively lost 100 livestock that winter. One woman lost so many of her sheep that she asked local deer hunters to watch over them at night.
The hunters set up their blinds at 1 a.m., but they never saw anything. Still, in the morning more sheep turned up with head injuries, rear legs broken, bellies ripped open and missing livers. In each case, the intestines were laid at the sides of the bodies.
Other neighbors shared similar stories.
When Smith began to research online, he came across a Bigfoot Web site containing reports of a deer kill in Ohio. He said the death injuries were the same as those encountered in the remote area near his ranch.
“We talked to this woman again in ’96,” said Smith. “She told us about a hunter who had found a lot of bones in a mineshaft. We took three trips and found the mine shafts in ’97. The interesting thing is that there were roughly 20 goat skeletons, and they were all piled in a stack in this big room at the end of this shaft. It looked like someone had been keeping house.
“The closest place where the goats could have come from was three miles away.”
Smith speculated that a family of nomadic people left the goat skeletons, possibly a Bigfoot family.
Smith points to other recently detected species. Perhaps Bigfoot is just another species not yet found, he says.
That idea doesn’t hold up, Bloomberg responds.
“The Bigfoot people often point to a prehistoric fish that was thought to be extinct and then fishermen brought one up off the coast of Madagascar. But the fish lives hundreds of feet under water.
“Here we have a manlike creature that lives on land and supposedly interacts with people. Where’s the documented evidence?
“You’ve got to do better than that and adhere to the same rules that everyone else adheres to,” he said.
Smith has been featured as an expert on “Animal Planet,” “Inside Edition,” the Fox and CBS television networks and a variety of radio stations. He plans to continue his hunt and hopes that one day he’ll find this creature of legends.
“But I’m not going to sell everything in my house and go live in the woods just to see one,” he said.