Bigfoot Discovery Declared a Hoax

Ker Than
for National Geographic News
August 18, 2008
Alas, the search for Bigfoot continues.

No evidence has emerged to support claims made last week by two men who said they found the corpse of a seven-foot-tall (two-meter-tall) Bigfoot—an apelike creature of North American legend—in the woods of northern Georgia.

Critics declared the men's story a bold hoax after the pair refused to show the body and following the disclosure that genetic tests from the alleged remains revealed only human and opossum DNA.

Discovery of a Lifetime

Matt Whitton and Rick Dyer spoke to a packed room of reporters last Friday in Palo Alto, California, about their discovery. Joining them on stage was controversial Bigfoot hunter Tom Biscardi.

Whitton told a compelling story of how he and Dyer found the body of the dead Sasquatch—as the creature is also called—next to a stream while hiking in the Georgian woods in early June.

Whitton said he stood guard by the body for nine hours while Dyer went back to get a truck.

When Dyer returned, the pair dragged the hairy 500-pound (230-kilogram) corpse through the woods to the truck—all while being shadowed by three live Sasquatch.

"As we were bringing it out, they were paralleling us," said Whitton, a Georgia police officer on administrative leave.

Whitton said that after reaching their truck, they refrigerated the Bigfoot body and soon after contacted Biscardi.

Weak Evidence

At the press conference, the self-proclaimed "best Bigfoot hunters in the world" declined repeated requests to display the Sasquatch remains.

Instead, they handed out photographs purportedly showing the creature's mouth and tongue, and a blurry image of a hairy figure strolling through the woods.

Reporters and other Bigfoot investigators were underwhelmed by the group's evidence.

"When I first heard about this, I was optimistic and hopeful," said Jeff Meldrum, an anthropologist and Bigfoot investigator at Idaho State University. "But when I heard [Tom Biscardi] was involved, that optimism quickly evaporated."

Within the community of amateur and professional Bigfoot hunters, Biscardi has a "reputation of ill repute," Meldrum said.

Meldrum is also extremely skeptical about the authenticity of a photograph released in the days leading up to the press conference showing what appears to be a hairy corpse in a refrigerator.

"It looks like a heap of costume fur. It doesn't look like natural hair," Meldrum said. "The gut pile looks like it was dumped on there just for effect."

Mixed DNA Results

Casting further doubt on the group's claim are mixed DNA results from the purported body.

The DNA sample was analyzed by Curt Nelson, a molecular biologist at the University of Minnesota, who described it as a mixture of human and opossum.

Biscardi's "suggestion was that the tissue sample was from the intestine of the animal, and that the animal had eaten an opossum," Nelson told National Geographic News. "That seems improbable to me."

Jason Linville is a forensics expert at the University of Alabama at Birmingham who was not involved in the DNA analysis.

If the group had instead sent in hair samples from the body, it would have been relatively simple to confirm that it belonged to an unidentified primate species, Linville said.

"In theory, you could analyze that DNA and it would come up as something that didn't quite match human and didn't quite match primate, but was something pretty close to it," Linville said.

Media Storm

Matthew Moneymaker is the president of the Bigfoot Field Researchers Organization, an international network of Bigfoot investigators.

Moneymaker called the press conference an elaborate "profiteering scam" engineered by Biscardi.

"They know there's tremendous interest in seeing photographs of [Bigfoot], and they're trying to get people to pay to see hoaxed photos," he said.

Moneymaker's organization tracks Bigfoot news in the media, and he says Biscardi really scored with his latest exploit.

"There's been at least a thousand stories in newspapers across the world," Moneymaker said. "Before this, the highest record was about 200 articles in newspapers."

Moneymaker predicts that the mass exposure could actually hurt Biscardi in the long run.

"Now he's really a famous con man," Moneymaker said. "He was a con man known in Bigfoot circles for years, and now it won't be long before everybody knows it."

Biscardi, Whitton, and Dyer remain undeterred, however. The trio said they plan to conduct an autopsy of their Bigfoot corpse in the near future.

"I want to get to the bottom of it," Biscardi said. "What I seen, what I touched, what I felt, and what I prodded was not a mask that was sewn on a bear hide, OK?"

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