Occasionally, I day-trip from the borders of legitimate science and into the boundless holiday that is the esoteric. I don’t know exactly why I take such pleasure in pseudo-science; perhaps it is to keep my work safe from those who might portend I am out of my league with the real stuff.
The lush, seemingly benign woods of the Pacific Northwest abound with myths, quasi-tragic histories, tucked-away lichen, hallucinogenic mushrooms, endangered animals, and wild men. They also set an unwitting and shadowy stage, perhaps appropriately, for one of the great dramas of the esoteric: Bigfoot.
With the appearance of a shaky 24 feet of filmstrip in 1967, Bigfoot stepped into the limelight, out from centuries of Native American myth, unsubstantiated yarns, and mysterious footprints. Ever since this footage — the so-called “Patterson-Gimlin Film” — the Bigfoot has fiercely entertained, spooked, and howled through popular consciousness, becoming as potent an icon of the region as the spotted owl — or grunge music, for that matter.
There are those, however, who take the beast very seriously. They claim that until the Patterson-Gimlin film is satisfactorily debunked, or the hundreds of other sightings they have under their belts reasonably explained, then they’re going to keep conducting the earnest field work that is the backbone of organizations such as the BFRO (Bigfoot Research Organization). To these people, the mainstream conception of the Sasquatch as being folklore or farce is a source of great and indignant offense, and it is their modus operandi to prove all the rest of us wrong with diligent scientific research of their golden calf of a cryptid, the Bigfoot.
To those who believe in him, the Bigfoot is a completely real, albeit elusive creature of unknown survival economy, native to the woods of Northern California, the Pacific Northwest, and Western Canada. He is six and a half to eight feet tall, covered in reddish-brown or black hair, with large, human-like feet and a significantly foul odor.
But this is not the beast I am interested in.
No, there exists a stranger, even more profoundly conspiracist conception of the Bigfoot: the psychic Sasquatch, a paranormal, inter-dimensional creature. As you might imagine, this causes a huge rift within the already fractured Bigfoot (BF) community. Those who support the thesis of a paranormal Bigfoot are profoundly marginalized, barred from discourse, and generally scorned in much the same way that the non-Bigfoot community — i.e. the scientific mainstream, popular consciousness, you know, normal people — scoffs at the very existence of a hairy woodland ape.
This begs the question, of course: can we imagine that an as-yet-unknown normality is scoffing at us? Above all, it’s simply a question of perspective, of the tools and methodologies available to you. Can the normal be more normal? The crazy, crazier?
Before we delve too deeply into the philosophical nuances raised by this divided community, we should perhaps discuss the psychic Sasquatch. There are several models, of course, but they all share some central precepts: the Bigfoot is of greater-than-human intelligence and endowed with an acute psychic ability. He is elusive, not because of his scarcity or well-documented ability to hide away in the woods: he is elusive because he has the capacity to dematerialize, to pass through wormholes from this dimension to any other, parallel dimension. Furthermore, and perhaps most outrageously, he is in cahoots with friendly extraterrestrials, or UFOs. The UFOs serve as scouts, protecting the interdimensional Bigfoot from leering human eyes.
Furthermore, according to the telepathic field work conducted by one of the theory’s most vocal proponents, Jack “Kewaunee” Lapseritis, the Bigfoot race was brought to Earth (“seeded”) by their friends, the Star People, long before we ever came around. It’s beyond amazing: to explain the belief in something as dubious and marginal as the Bigfoot, Lapseritis and his colleagues port in something even more highly-contested and generally laughed-off: UFOs.
The evidence for these claims? Telepathic communications, alleged hundreds of joint Bigfoot-UFO sightings going back over a hundred years, and, surprisingly, theoretical physics. According to paranormal Bigfoot researcher Jon-Erik Beckjord, perhaps the most colorful character in the history of the Internet, the work of respected physicists like Dr. Michio Kachu and Albert Einstein can be used quite convincingly to explain the Bigfoot’s tendency to slip from one dimension to another, with or without the help of his extra-terrestrial buddies.
When scientists talk about the potential for long-distance space travel in our future, or when they discuss the remote possibility of alien life visiting Earth, they often throw around the concept of wormholes. A purely theoretical construct gleefully exploited in science-fiction films, a Schwarzschild wormhole, or Einstein-Rosen bridge, is a hypothetical connection between widely separated regions of space-time. It’s complicated: in 1962, John A. Wheeler and Robert W. Fuller published a paper showing that this type of wormhole is unstable, and that it will pinch off instantly as soon as it forms, preventing even light from making it through. However, if we postulate that a Schwarzschild wormhole could be held open by a grip of exotic matter (another theoretical construct), then a traversable wormhole is possible, allowing faster-than-light travel through space-time. Theoretically, then, ships could cross great distances across universes in such a way. I hesitate to say UFOs because it instantly demotes me to a different level, but that’s the idea.
So, quoth Beckjord, “If UFOs can do this, why not people, missing ships and planes, and hairy humanoids?” Taking the concept to town, Beckjord proposes that there are thousands, even millions, of wormholes “twisting and crackling all over the Earth, sending and receiving, taking and returning, over and over.” In this worldview, wormholes shuffle Bigfoots from one continent to another (which explains the existence of the Yeti, Yowie, Bunyip, Skunk Ape, and the Chinese Yeren), shoot people through time and space, account for the lost sock phenomenon, and have something to do with both orgasms and the Satori, or Zen state.
I’m fascinated by how fervently the torch of “science” is burned by people whose position in relation to the scientific mainstream is way off the map. To people like Beckjord, particularly, science is an absolute, profound practice, one which is abused by those who wield its power most. It’s incredible how even the most tinfoil-hat conspiracy theorist will always return to the symbolic value of science, insisting that their ideas are scientifically proven, valid, theoretically plausible according to some incredibly advanced branch of physics of which they have no understanding. How did science garner this cultural position as the ultimate justifier of reality?
What if science and the “paranormal” could sit side by side in the pantheon of ideas? After all, that prefix, “para,” which has come to designate objects derivative of that denoted by the base word (and hence abnormal or defective: parody, paranoia), originally denoted, too, a notion of side-by-sideness (“at or to one side of, beside, side by side”) that we can still see in words like parallel and paragraph.
Perhaps cryptozoology.com‘s primer on the Sasquatch put it best: “If we hope for mainstream scientists to keep an open mind, we must lead by example, and not waste time and energy that would be better spent searching for evidence fighting amongst ourselves. “