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Famous fabulous creatures: Bigfoot and Nessie

A whole area of paranormal and pseudoscientific claims—and thus also of skeptical research—concerns the claims of cryptozoologists.

“Crypto” means hidden or secret and “zoology” refers to the study of animals, so cryptozoology is the study of secret animals: creatures as yet unknown to science.

The most popular “secret animal” may be Bigfoot—or Sasquatch as a similar being is called in Canada. It may also be related to the legendary Yeti or Abominable Snowman of the Himalayas, and the Yowie of Australia.

The most commonly produced evidence of Bigfoot’s existence is the famous Patterson film, taken October 20, 1967 at Bluff Creek, Washington. Two men were on a search for Big Foot and, lo and behold, the creature supposedly walked right across a clearing in front of them. They managed to get it on film, of which the picture at the right is part of one frame.

This shot has been studied intensely by both believers and s

keptics. Critics say there is nothing to indicate this is anything other than a man in a monkey suit. Supporters claim the figure walks differently from a man, to which scientists respond that it also walks differently from what would be expected from a creature of that physiology—more like a man trying to walk like another creature. In short, the photographic evidence is inconclusive.

The other most common “evidence” put forward for the big guy’s existence has been casts of his massive footprints—the most celebrated being the Mill Creek prints of 1982. Occasionally cryptoids have produced samples of hair and skin they claim are from this previously unknown creature. However, not a single shred of compelling physical evidence has ever been confirmed. Somehow a colony of Bigfoots (Bigfeet?) has supposedly ranged through the woodlands of the American northwest and Canadian west for centuries, and yet we have never recovered a single live creature, carcass, a verifiable hair, blood, tooth or fingernail.

Recently the Bigfoot fan club has been rocked by a series of revelations that some of the most celebrated evidence has been the product of hoaxes. The Patterson tape, the Mill Creek prints and other much ballyhooed “proofs” of Bigfoot’s existences have all been tarnished as likely fakes.

The situation is similar with the mysterious creature known as Nessie. The photograph (left) that kicked off the craze for the supposed monster in Loch Ness, Scotland, was taken in 1934.

Judging by this photo, how big would you say this animal—often theorized to be a surviving dinosaur—is?

Well, we know exactly how big it is: fourteen inches. We know this because in 1994, one of the people involved in taking the original picture admitted it was a trick. The “monster” was created by attaching an artificial head to a toy submarine which was just over a foot long. An interview with the hoaxer was reported in Skeptical Inquirer, the magazine of the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal.

Other evidence collected by scientists and skeptics over the years have exposed other photos as faked or misread. The claims that a huge monster exists in Loch Ness have also been debunked by research showing that such a creature could not survive on the food available in the loch; even less could a substantial colony of such creatures — necessary for the survival of individual creatures over the centuries — be supported. Furthermore, the lack of any credible physical evidence of a creature or a colony of creatures after six decades of intensive searching by numerous expeditions would seem to make Nessie’s existence unlikely

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