History's Greatest Mysteries (2020) s04e15 Episode Script

The Legend of Bigfoot

Tonight, the most elusive beast
in North America.
Bigfoot might be the most widely
spotted cryptid in history.
This is not
something that's limited
to just one region,
or even just one continent.
This is something that is
reported all over the world.
Despite thousands of sightings,
this mysterious animal
remains unidentified.
Top scientists are at a loss.
They can't find any match
to any known species.
Now, we explore the top theories
this cryptic creature.
How did these two cowboys
pull off the greatest thing
in creature feature history?
It is possible
that some of these
could be wild humans.
There was a creature that
was thought to have gone extinct
that did match this description.
Does Bigfoot exist?
And if so, what is it,
and where is it?
September 1958,
Humboldt County, California,
lumber worker Jerry Crew
is operating a bulldozer
when he spots something strange
in the woods.
Maybe 20 feet away from where
he's working, he sees these
large human-like footprints
pressed deep into the mud.
And he mentions it
to his supervisor,
a man named
Wilbur Shorty Wallace.
Upon closer examination,
the prints are 16 inches across,
much too big to be human.
It's unlike anything
he's ever seen before.
Could it be an animal print?
But if it is,
it's strangely human,
but much larger.
Jerry suspects a coworker
is playing a prank on him.
Let's be real,
you're working in a remote area
with a bunch of guys,
it's a brotherhood.
We play pranks on each other,
it's just what we do.
Shorty Wallace's brother
Ray Wallace
is a complete prankster.
So, when Jerry
sees these prints,
he's assuming that the guys
are pulling his leg.
But soon,
other strange accounts surface.
At a job site the year before,
a 450-pound fuel drum
went missing.
It was found nearby in a gully,
but it had these giant
human-like footprints nearby.
This is not something that
an average-sized human being
could move on their own at all.
People also see a 700-pound tire
is magically moved
over to a ditch.
And what is around it?
Given the size
of the footprints,
the loggers come up with
a nickname for the creature
There are lots of
logging operations in the area,
and workers on other sites
catch wind of this Bigfoot.
For many of them,
this strikes a chord.
A number of them
who have been working
out in these woods
have reported the sensation
of feeling like
they've been watched,
that there is some
sort of intelligence
that is observing them
as they work.
It's not long
before these accounts
attract local media attention.
The story of Bigfoot
makes its way
to the Humboldt Times newspaper
in the form of a letter
that lands on the desk
of writer Andrew Genzoli.
Like Jerry Crew,
Genzoli assumes at first
that the letter is from
some crackpot.
But on September 21st, 1958,
he has a column to finish,
so he mentions it
towards the end
just as a bit of a joke,
like, "Hey, guess what",
"Humboldt County has its very
own abominable snowman.
They call it Bigfoot."
Once people see this story,
it catches on like wildfire.
People are intrigued by this.
It ties in with
their own experiences.
They've heard rumors that fall
right into line
with what's being reported.
It only makes sense
at this point
that Genzoli
is going to follow up.
So, he sets out to follow up
with Crew
to talk to the other lumberjacks
to find out
what's going on here.
What Genzoli ultimately
found out
when he did some more research
is that the idea of Bigfoot
of a large creature
with large footprints,
was not new, and in fact,
was part of the folklore
of Native American tribes
for some time.
There are reports
of unusual footprints
and sightings here dating back
throughout the 1800s.
In 1850, a prospector was mining
on the side of Mount Shasta,
and he had what could be said
as one of the first interactions
with Bigfoot, when a large
hairy hominid
came out of the woods
and smashed his sluice,
and then went back in the woods,
as if to say,
"Get the hell
off my mountain."
Because of all of the stories
coming in,
all of the engagement
from readership,
the Humboldt Times ends up
publishing an entire series
of stories about this creature
called Bigfoot.
This causes a huge stir,
and this story goes national.
Within weeks, the name "Bigfoot"
is known across America.
With all this attention,
there is a mad rush
to investigate.
And so, the L.A. Times,
the New York Times,
they all show up because
they want a piece of Bigfoot.
The whole country
is buzzing about this.
We see an immediate divide
between believers
and non-believers,
and skeptics and die-hards.
Everyone has an opinion.
A popular TV show
offers a $1,000 prize
to anyone who will come forward
and admit to perpetrating
this hoax.
And no one steps up
to claim the money.
In fact, new evidence emerges.
So, on October 17th, 1958,
a gentleman named George Smith
is driving through
Humboldt County,
and he has to slam on his brakes
as this large hairy beast
crosses the road
in front of him.
He described it as being
at least eight feet in height.
It stood upright and walked,
and it appeared shaggy
like it was wearing
a bearskin coat.
Could this be the same beast
that's been leaving behind
all these footprints?
Or is Smith
just making this story up
to get his 15 minutes of fame?
Despite the fact that we don't
end up with any proof
either way,
Bigfoot becomes engrained
in our nation's
collective psyche.
People are actually
making trips,
making pilgrimages
what folklorists
would call legend trips
to Humboldt County
to look for Bigfoot themselves.
For years, unsubstantiated
reports of sightings
continue pretty regularly.
More oversized Bigfoot tracks
are found,
some trails stretching on
for several miles.
This is not something
that's limited
to just one region
or even just one continent.
This is something
that is reported
in firsthand
and secondhand accounts
all over the world.
But as time goes on,
the mystery begins to take on
a slightly different tone.
Tales of Bigfoot encounters
grow more outlandish
and increasingly suspicious.
People started
to claim everything
from Bigfoot kidnapped them,
to they've seen Bigfoot
reading a newspaper
on a flying saucer.
They saw Bigfoot at 7-Eleven.
The vast majority
of these later Bigfoot stories
are clearly made up.
Bigfoot almost becomes a joke.
People do not take this
This is not treated
as a scientific finding.
It's something that's
largely considered to be untrue.
It's a shame, really,
because there are people
who really saw something,
and they really want answers.
There are proven
scientific methods
that could possibly find
those answers.
Once everybody thinks
Bigfoot is made up though,
they stop taking
the search seriously.
Still, it's worth pointing out,
as silly as things get,
that original Humboldt Times
story from 1958
is never officially debunked.
That is, until 2002.
In November of 2002,
Jerry Crew's coworker
Ray Wallace passed away.
Soon after his death,
Wallace's children come forward
to reveal their father
orchestrated the whole thing
back in the 1950s
and kept quiet about it
all these years.
On his deathbed,
Wallace has told his children
the whole story.
Ray Wallace comes up
with the idea,
and he enlists the help of
his brother Shorty, obviously.
And then they also get
their nephew
Mack McKinley in on it as well.
He and his brother
and his nephew
would strap
essentially wooden flip flops
onto their feet and walk around,
creating these large footprints.
Wallace's kids even have
a pair of the shoes
their dad used
to make the famous footprints.
Wallace was a prankster,
and according to his children,
his original goal
was simply to scare
his friend Jerry.
But when the story blows up,
rather than enjoying
his "gotcha" moment,
he decides to double down
and keep the ruse
going for decades.
Wallace's efforts aren't limited
to fake footprints.
On his property, Ray Wallace
keeps a number of bison,
and he uses their fur
and their droppings
to custom craft
hair and stool samples
that he leaves in the woods
for Bigfoot hunters to find.
Based on Wallace's
hoax confirmation,
for a lot of people, that's it.
It should be case closed,
we figured it out,
this guy made something up.
But what about
the other sightings?
It is impossible for Ray,
and Shorty, and Mack
to be responsible
for all Bigfoot sightings,
experiences, interactions
in the entire world.
And Wallace never dressed up
as an eight-foot-tall creature
and walked around at night.
What does that say for people
who actually spotted an animal,
and not just footprints or hair?
And what about the many
that take place before
Wallace is ever born?
Has there been a century-long
series of hoaxers,
or are people really
seeing something out there?
While Wallace
clearly played an important role
in the gestation
of the Bigfoot myth,
he is certainly not
the cause of it
or the entire
explanation for it.
There have been over
5,000 documented sightings.
There's no way one guy
could be responsible
for all of that.
I believe Ray Wallace
accidentally shined a light
onto a legend
of a very real creature.
The irony is that
Ray Wallace's fake footprints
may ultimately lead us
to the truth.
1967, Bluff Creek, California,
11 years after news
spreads nationwide
of a creature called Bigfoot,
two outdoorsmen head off
to hunt the beast
along the Klamath River.
In the summer of 1967,
Roger Patterson,
who's become fascinated
with the legend of Bigfoot,
is filming
a sort of pseudo-documentary
on the subject, when he bumps
into his old friend Bob Gimlin
at a gas station.
He tells Gimlin about his film,
and that he's heading
to check out
some unidentified footprints
found in
the Northern California area.
Gimlin agrees to go with him.
So, Patterson and Gimlin
are about halfway
through their journey
when they're approaching
a river,
and something spooks
Patterson's horse.
He ends up falling off
the horse,
but when he sees what it was
that his horse saw,
he pulls out his camera
and begins filming.
The filmed encounter
lasts 59 1/2 seconds.
To Patterson and Gimlin,
it feels like an hour.
Something emerges
from the brush
an enormous animal
Patterson and Gimlin
have never seen before.
They think it might be Bigfoot.
Once they surprise
the creature, it starts walking
quickly away from them,
and they manage to follow it
for quite some time
before they lost sight of it
in the woods.
Patterson and Gimlin then
hurry back to their campsite
to grab some plaster.
They know they're going to need
as much proof as possible,
so they take casts of the prints
left behind by the beast.
That night,
the 16-millimeter film
is developed.
What the film shows us
is a massive bipedal creature.
It's maybe six and a half,
seven feet tall.
It's covered head to toe
in this sort of
silvery brown fur
that reflects the sunlight,
and it's walking
with this loping sort of gait
through the landscape.
Compared to previous
it's slightly smaller,
with wider hips
and a rounder silhouette.
It also appears
to have mammary glands.
Gimlin and Patterson theorize
that they're looking
at a female Bigfoot.
They nickname her Patty,
after Roger Patterson.
Though the pair
are convinced by what they saw,
many dismiss the film as a hoax.
The Patterson-Gimlin
footage has been scrutinized
since it came out.
Everyone's had a chance
to look at it,
try to break it down,
try to explain
why it would be fake or not,
and to this day, you know,
you have people on both sides,
real or fake, but nobody
can disprove it. Nobody.
1967 is the same year
that the movie
"Planet of the Apes"
is released.
This is the height of big-budget
Hollywood special effects
back then.
If anything,
the Patterson-Gimlin footage
looks more realistic
than the ape suits
we see in that movie.
You're talking about, you know,
two guys
in the backwoods of Humboldt.
They didn't have deep pockets
to build something like this.
So, how did these two cowboys
pull off the greatest thing
in creature feature history?
And the thing is,
is they didn't.
There are no visible seams,
no zippers, no buttons.
It's not baggy.
You can actually see
the creature's musculature
moving under its skin.
Even special effects experts
can't explain that.
But if this film
of Bigfoot is real,
what type of creature
might it be?
There have been several attempts
to classify the animal
seen in Patterson
and Gimlin's film.
It's analyzed by Stanford
scientists Jessica Rose
and James Gamble in 1994,
and they're experts
in physiology and movement.
They analyze
the creature's gait,
and can't find any match
to known species.
They concluded
that this is not a gait
or a movement
that could be replicated
by a person in a costume.
The relationship of bones,
to musculature,
to skin and hair,
is a unique thing
for different animals, and it
really wouldn't be possible
for a human being to fake
this type of difference
in gait and movement.
In 1999, a pair of professors
from the University of Florida's
anthropology department
also analyzed the film.
And in 2009, the film
is broken down
frame by frame
by an anthropologist
from the New York
Museum of Natural History.
As for what type
of animal this is,
they have no idea.
These top scientists
are at a loss.
It's possible
that Patterson and Gimlin
have discovered
an entirely new species.
There are many
examples of creatures
that at first seemed mythical,
or their description
seemed hard to believe,
such as the Komodo dragon,
a giant lizard
that would eat sheep whole.
The narwhal, a whale
with a horn on its head
like a unicorn.
The pelican
an incredibly common bird
in contemporary life,
was at one time
thought to be
a mythological creature
back in the Middle Ages.
How about this?
The giant squid.
For millennia, since at least
the days of Aristotle
in the fourth century B.C.,
sailors would swear up and down
that they saw these massive
20-foot-long-plus squid
while out at sea.
There are thousands
of depictions and stories
of people who claim
to have seen the giant squid,
and yet still, it was considered
a mythological creature.
It's another in a long line
of fanciful tales
of make-believe sea monsters
like the Kraken.
Squids just don't get that big.
There's no evidence.
Until one day, there is.
Throughout the 19th century,
small pieces and remains
of giant squid
would periodically wash up
on the world's beaches.
And these would convince
some scientists
of the giant squid's existence,
but others kept on denying it.
They'd say that until
we find a living one,
it's simply not proven.
It wasn't until
a fishing trawler caught one
in 2004 that we realize
that squids
of this size actually exist.
They catch a nearly
30-foot-long giant squid
that's later named Archie.
It's been preserved by London's
Natural History Museum,
and can still be viewed today
proof positive of a giant squid.
So, hopefully one day Bigfoot
can join the giant squid
as a proven animal,
but it could be tough.
A lot of people like to believe
that all of life
has been discovered,
when it's quite the opposite.
Over 80% of life on this planet
is undiscovered.
So, absolutely,
a Bigfoot species
could be out there.
Ever since
large mysterious footprints
were first reported in Oregon
in the 1950s,
there has been no shortage
of Bigfoot sightings.
Institutions like the Bigfoot
Field Researchers Organization
have been cataloging accounts
since the 1990s.
Even today,
they're reporting sightings
at a rate of four or more
per month
across the U.S. and Canada.
But in 2007, one in particular
makes headlines.
In the Allegheny National
Forest in Pennsylvania,
there is a new piece
of information that comes out
that's very intriguing.
We get what could be
the most compelling set
of Bigfoot images
we've seen in 40 years.
One evening
at about 10:02 p.m.
a motion-activated trail camera
captured several bear cubs
foraging for food.
After that,
you have another picture
that really, like,
catch your attention.
Something else comes into frame
and is actually standing
I like to call it
downward-facing dog position.
And the way that
it is smelling the ground
is exactly how primates do it.
And this comes to be known
as the Jacobs Bigfoot,
after the camera's owner
who set it up in the woods
to help him track deer.
It seems that the situation
provides a pretty stark contrast
between what are clearly bears
and what is clearly not.
It's fairly obvious when
you compare the first photo
of the Jacobs Bigfoot
with one of the bear cubs
taken in the same spot.
They're in the same pose,
but their anatomy
is completely different.
The following week,
the state of Pennsylvania's
Game Commission
offers an explanation.
Sorry for all the Bigfooters
out there, believers,
but the Game Commission come out
to check out the area,
and their response is that
it is simply a bear with mange.
Scientists love to cite
Occam's Razor
the concept that
the simplest solution
to a problem is often
the best and most likely.
If you're in Texas
and you hear hoofbeats,
you should probably think horses
and not zebras,
because horses
are the more common animal.
Well, bears are super common.
Let's consider
Ursus Americanus
the American black bear.
What we know about this bear
lines up really well with
the reported characteristics
of Bigfoot its size,
its shape, its coloring.
It seems like a very likely
for the Bigfoot legend.
When they stand
on their hind legs,
black bears can reach up to
six or seven feet in height,
which is similar in height to
many reported Bigfoot sightings.
Seen from far away,
from the right angle,
at the right moment,
when it's standing up,
when it's moving bipedally,
it would be easy to mistake
a black bear for Bigfoot.
The vast range of black bears
could also support this.
Black bears live
in the Pacific Northwest,
the Northern Midwest,
and the Rocky Mountain region,
Alaska, and the northeast
from Maine
all the way down to Georgia.
All of these places
have had Bigfoot sightings.
If we add in
other species of bears
besides Ursus Americanus,
we have the potential
for Bigfoot or bear sightings
all over the United States.
In 2014, Oxford University
genetics professor Bryan Sykes
further tests this theory.
What Dr. Sykes did
which was unique,
was instead of simply looking
at sightings reports,
or photos, or tapes of Bigfoot,
of vocalizations,
Sykes actually
as a genetics professor
wanted to look at DNA samples,
and he requested
Bigfoot investigators
from all across the world
to send him their best examples
of Bigfoot DNA.
Sykes collects 30 samples
of purported Bigfoot hair,
sent in from a wide variety
of sources,
from hardcore cryptozoologists,
to amateur Bigfoot hunters,
to roadside oddity museums.
And what he finds
is really telling.
Almost all of them
come from known animals.
They come from bears,
they come from horses,
some of them even come
from humans.
But there's one sample
that isn't accounted for.
Remember the theory that Bigfoot
is an unknown species?
Well, incredibly,
Sykes' DNA analysis
of one sample actually does
reveal the existence
of a previously unknown species.
But it's not an unknown ape,
it's an unknown bear.
What we see is a hybrid
between a brown bear
and a distant cousin
of the polar bear
that was thought to have gone
extinct a long time ago.
While Sykes believes
this bear species
may have given rise
to the Bigfoot legend,
some other scientists
aren't convinced.
Remember, Sykes' sample pool
is just 30 specimens.
Are all the Bigfoots out there
just ordinary
run-of-the-mill creatures?
We've still got a long way to go
to figure that out.
Despite many long years of
searching for proof it exists,
the legendary creature
known as Bigfoot
remains more myth than fact.
Then, a chance encounter in 1974
convinces one man that
he's finally solved the mystery.
It is undeniable
that the real heart
of Bigfoot sightings have been
in the Pacific Northwest
of the United States.
So, that's California, Oregon,
Washington that's where
the highest percentage
of sightings have been reported.
But there have been
alleged sightings
of a creature like Bigfoot
in other places,
most notably Southern Florida.
In 1974, Dave Shealy
is 10 years old,
and him and his brother
are walking
across the Everglades,
and they have an encounter.
Dave is too short
to see over the grass,
so his brother picks him up,
lifts him over his head,
and there he sees it
100 yards away.
And what he ends up seeing
is a creature that he describes
as large, hulking,
walking on two legs, and hairy
exactly how we see Bigfoot being
described in other regions.
But Shealy knows it
by a different name.
This is something that
he's heard stories about
his entire life.
He knows that what
he's seeing in front of him
is the Florida skunk ape.
We already know that Bigfoot
has been given
multiple names
in multiple places.
Sasquatch is probably
its second most famous moniker.
Some call it a yeti.
In regions prone
to winter weather,
it's been called
the abominable snowman.
But fewer people have heard
of the skunk ape,
which is particular to this
one unique swampy area.
The skunk ape is
described in a way very similar
to your common Bigfoot sighting.
It's supposed to be about seven
to eight feet tall,
although it's more common
for the skunk ape to be
slightly smaller.
Perhaps it might
be a subspecies of Bigfoot.
The coloring of the hair
is different.
Some of the behavioral
characteristics are different.
But there is one key difference
that gives the creature
its name.
The skunk ape has
a distinct unpleasant odor.
It's been compared
to a wide array of foul smells
wet dog, hot garbage,
boiled cabbage, rotten eggs
hence the name skunk ape.
Maybe it's the heat,
maybe it's the muggy
wet conditions,
or maybe nobody anywhere else
has gotten close enough
to Bigfoot to actually smell it.
Maybe they all smell this way.
Stories of a human-like beast
with an unmistakable stench
have long been part
of local lore.
The native peoples of Florida,
the Seminole,
the Miccosukee people
have stories of a creature
described very similar
to what is now called
the skunk ape.
These legends of the skunk ape
go back to the times
of Spanish colonization.
You know, we're talking
16th century.
Then, throughout
the early 20th century,
we get isolated reports
from hunters and hikers
about strange hairy
two-legged creatures
spotted in the Everglades.
Surprisingly, not much research
is done at that time.
And the story really takes off
in the 1970s in Florida,
and we start to see
many more encounters.
More intriguing,
these alleged sightings
increasingly come
from larger groups
sharing the same story.
In fact, in 1997,
an entire tour bus of 40 people
all see the strange creature
on the side of the road
in broad daylight.
Before long,
we start hearing reports
of encounters in the highly
populated Broward County
things like skunk apes
breaking into people's homes,
or even stalking pedestrians
on the street.
Accounts become so frequent,
the state government
takes action.
In 1977, the Florida legislature
introduces a bill
to try and protect
the skunk ape and the public.
The bill includes
specific language,
making it illegal
to take, possess, harm,
or molest any sort of humanoid
or anthropoid creature.
The bill doesn't pass,
but it does add
a certain legitimacy to the idea
that skunk apes are real.
One man
who doesn't need convincing
Dave Shealy.
In 1994, Shealy opens
the Skunk Ape
Research Headquarters
in Ochopee, Florida.
The Skunk Ape
Research Headquarters
might at first appear
like a tourist attraction.
It has a gift shop.
But in fact, Shealy claims
that those sales
help subsidize serious research
into the creature.
Primarily, it's a hub
for legitimate
paranormal investigators
to share information
and gather resources,
and it's helped spawn
some major breakthroughs,
including by Shealy himself.
After a lengthy
stakeout in 2000,
Shealy manages to capture video
of what he claims
is a skunk ape in the wild.
We can see the creature
moving through tall grass,
walking in what seems
to be maybe ankle-deep water,
until it notices
that it's being filmed,
and suddenly takes off.
The thing with David's video,
is you take the still-frame
shot of it,
people think, yeah,
you're looking
at maybe a teenager Bigfoot,
or what we call in Florida
a skunk ape.
But then, you watch
the actual live video,
and for some of us,
it kinda looks
like you could have thrown
someone in a suit
and just had them
run through the grass.
In 2014, a Smithsonian
Magazine journalist
named Joseph Stromberg
decides to get
to the bottom of this.
Shealy told the journalist
that he believes skunk apes
are drawn
to the particular area
that they were investigating
because of the calls
of other primates.
He had been following
two skunk ape tracks,
and they led him straight
to this barbed-wire fence
in the middle of nowhere
that he described
as being some sort
of secretive or mysterious
primate breeding ground
right there in the middle
of Florida.
Stromberg was
skeptical about this story,
but in fact confirmed
that such a company did exist.
Is in fact a company
Primate Products Incorporated
located in Immokalee, Florida,
where primates are bred.
This leads Stromberg
to speculate
that perhaps
some of these animals got loose.
When Hurricane
Andrew hit Florida in 1992,
there was extensive damage
to Primate Products,
and they believe
over 6,000 primates
may have escaped into the wild.
In addition,
Stromberg turns up other reports
of people acquiring exotic pets
and then releasing them
into the wild
once they are too strong
or too powerful
to be cute anymore.
So, chimpanzees as pets
are a common animal
that gets released in this way
and adds to that population
of very unexpected primates
living in Florida.
A report from the
Sarasota Sheriff's Department
may offer further proof.
In 2000, a person
who had claimed
that there was disturbances
around their property
by an unknown critter
eventually get a picture of it,
and they wrote a letter
as to what happened.
And they send it
to law enforcement.
Two experts examine the photo
and make a surprising discovery.
They determine that based
on the creature's appearance,
the scale of its features,
the distance between different
parts of its body,
that it is, in fact,
an orangutan.
Not a creature
that we would expect to see
in a Florida backyard,
but not a skunk ape.
Stromberg concluded that people
who report the skunk ape
are sincere,
but may not be seeing
what Shealy claims they are.
Certainly, some people
who see Bigfoot
are in fact
misidentifying a monkey
that someone has released.
Since the 1950s,
most Bigfoot eyewitnesses
describe the creature
as a hybrid
between an ape and a human.
There's a debate
in the Bigfoot community
about what Bigfoot actually is.
Some believe that Bigfoot
is more of a stray animal.
I think the ideal answer
would be
that there's probably
an unknown primate there.
But scientists
are very skeptical
about the possibility
that the United States
could support an undiscovered
species of ape.
But it is possible
that some of these
could be wild humans.
There have been reports
throughout history of wild men,
human beings, but who are living
in a feral state
not in cities, not in
any sort of civilized way
living like an animal.
So, in South Central Texas
in the 1830s
we have the story
of the Wild Man of Navidad.
People were seeing
what they were describing
as something
that was Bigfoot-like,
covered in fur head to toe,
acting like an animal,
but with human qualities,
and that sparked
everyone's interest.
The descriptions
line up perfectly
with later sightings of Bigfoot.
In some ways, this is almost
the first Bigfoot legend,
but just going by
a different name.
The Wild Man
of Navidad was stealing piglets
and chickens, was leaving
footprints all over the area,
was breaking into homes
but only stealing food,
never valuables.
For over a decade,
the Wild Man of the Navidad
remains at large.
At one point, people looking
for the wild man
even found a shelter
in the woods
and conducted a stakeout.
But if that was where
the creature lived,
it never returned.
It was something
nobody could get near,
and it had people interested
and also worried.
So, in 1850, they ended up
getting a posse together
to try and round up
this wild man.
And upon investigating,
they found out that
it wasn't a creature,
but it was in fact a person.
This particular wild man
was an African slave
brought over
that escaped immediately
and ran into the woods,
and was able on his wit
and abilities alone
to survive for like 15 years
before being captured.
Could such wild humans
account for more
supposed Bigfoot encounters?
One story about a purported
feral human
came out of Arkansas in 1892,
when there were stories
of what appeared to be a boy
running with a pack of wolves.
I mean, this is Mowgli
from "The Jungle Book,"
taken in by wolves
and then raised,
and survived long enough
in the wild as a wolf cub
before finally being captured
by humans
and brought back
to be rehabilitated.
Stories of feral humans
have a lot of similarities
to stories of Bigfoot.
The creatures are usually
reported as hairy,
living in the woods,
leaving footprints,
stealing items.
The main difference
is that in these cases,
the culprit, the wild person,
is discovered.
Is it possible
that modern Bigfoot sightings
could also be of humans
rather than of animals?
In the 1970s and 1980s,
there's a dramatic rise
in homelessness
in the Pacific Northwest,
especially among veterans.
And around this time,
there's also a noticeable uptick
of possible Bigfoot sightings
around Washington state,
and a theory begins to emerge.
We have returning veterans
from the Vietnam War,
many of whom
were struggling with PTSD
and other societal issues,
choosing to isolate themselves,
or being forced into
living on the edges of society,
and perhaps appearing
as these wild men.
To me, the story that epitomizes
humans mistaken for Bigfoot
happens in Western
North Carolina in 2017.
A self-identified shaman
is conducting some rituals
in the woods
while wearing
his ceremonial garb,
which is made of fur
covering his entire body
from head to toe,
including his face.
As a result of this,
the Greenville Police Department
started getting
report after report
of people saying that
they saw a creature
covered head to toe in fur
moving about in the woods.
The police had to take this
One concern that
law enforcement has had
across the country,
is if people are out
hunting for Bigfoot,
it is possible
they will mistake a human
for a Bigfoot, and take a shot.
This brings us back to that
idea of Occam's Razor.
What is the simplest explanation
for all of these sightings?
We do have an incredibly common
bipedal hominid
walking around
all over the place,
and that's us people.
Bigfoot has been compared
with many modern animals
over the years,
most notably various species
of primates.
It looks very much
like an orangutan
or something of that nature.
Some of the things these
people are seeing in the woods
are legitimately
a silverback gorilla
or a chimpanzee.
Then on top of that,
you have wealthy people
that buy these pets,
and they just kinda
lackadaisically keep 'em,
and they escape.
But many experts believe
this doesn't fully explain
Escaped monkeys typically
don't grow
as large as Bigfoot
is purported to be.
There is no modern-day species
that really matches with
the description of Bigfoot.
But scientists are quick
to point out that
in the not-so-distant past,
there was a creature
thought to be extinct
that did match this description.
Remains have been
discovered of a creature
that most resembles Bigfoot,
and that is the species
called Gigantopithecus.
Gigantopithecus is a primate
from the Pleistocene Era.
It was believed
to have gone extinct
about 300,000 years ago.
An ancestor
of modern-day orangutans,
Gigantopithecus is thought
to be the largest primate
to ever live on Earth.
Gigantopithecus was enormous.
Its teeth were of such
that we estimate its body mass
to be on the order of, oh,
800 to 1,200 pounds.
We're talking
about a 10-foot animal.
And when people describe
seeing Bigfoot,
the sheer mass and size of it
leads some people
to believe that Gigantopithecus,
or a relic version of it
is Bigfoot.
Maybe it's evolved to be
a little bit smaller,
a little bit more nimble,
or we're just not seeing
the big boys,
and all we're seeing
are the females.
In the early 1980s,
American anthropologist
Grover Krantz
becomes one of the biggest
of the theory that
could perhaps be a candidate
for Bigfoot.
Considering this theory,
two problems
stand out immediately.
One is that Gigantopithecus
was thought
to be almost entirely exclusive
to Asia.
And the second problem,
of course, is that it's extinct.
As far as where
Gigantopithecus lives,
Krantz believes
that a land bridge
formed across the Bering Strait
that allowed Gigantopithecus
to cross over
to the North American continent
during the Ice Age
in search of better food
and warmer climates.
As for their extinction,
he believes it never happened.
Scientists believe
that given the vastness
of the ocean and the wilderness,
that there are numerous other
seemingly extinct species
that we may find
in fact still exist.
Let's take the pygmy tarsier
and the Kashmir musk deer.
These are two animals
that were supposedly extinct
that we have found are not.
What's amazing
is that there was a giant fish,
a coelacanth that existed
60 million years ago
and was thought
to be long extinct,
until we caught one in 1938
off the coast of South Africa.
And there's not just
one of them.
A whole community of them
was found to still exist.
So, clearly,
our best understandings
of just how extinct
an extinct creature might be
can be wrong.
Gigantopithecus may
not be the only extinct primate
that could fit the bill.
Bigfoot researcher John Napier
actually believed that Bigfoot
might be a different form
of seemingly extinct ape
called Paranthropus.
They're large,
really big heads, big frames,
and really fit the look
of when people describe
their experiences with Bigfoot,
what Bigfoot looks like.
See, with Gigantopithecus,
it was so massive,
we really can't be sure
that it even walked on two legs.
But Paranthropus
did strut its stuff.
This theory,
the idea that a species
assumed to be extinct
is not in fact extinct
is now the favorite explanation
of the Bigfoot
Field Researchers Organization.
It is possible
perhaps that at some point,
one or more of these species
came over the land bridge
to North America
where their descendants
have remained undetected,
but occasionally sighted.
Bigfoot might be
the most widely spotted cryptid
in history.
Hopefully, someday we'll finally
get close enough to identify it.
And when we do,
the scientific community
may be in for quite a shock.
Currently, there are more than
20 Bigfoot research associations
in the U.S. alone,
and dozens more worldwide.
Perhaps one day,
we'll finally be able
to identify this elusive
Until then, many Bigfoot hunters
are only too willing to search.
I'm Laurence Fishburne.
Thank you for watching
"History's Greatest Mysteries."
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