North America has its version of legendary ape. While India has its Vanaras and the Himalayas has its Abominable Snowman or Yeti, North America lays claim to Sasquatch or, as he has been nicknamed, Bigfoot. Sasquatch - a 7- to 8-foot-tall man/ape - has been sighted in North America for centuries. Before the European invasion, Native Americans were very familiar this "hairy giant" that lived in the wilderness.
One of the earliest recorded sightings of Sasquatch by a white man occurred in 1811 near what is now Jasper, Alberta by a fur trader named David Thompson. Since then there have been many sightings of the creature in Western Canada, and in many states of the U.S., especially the Pacific Northwest, Ohio, and even as far south as Florida, where the swamp-dwelling beast is known as the Skunk Ape.
On the hunt for Bigfoot? Josh Stevens, a PhD candidate in Geography at Penn State, has stumbled across a treasure trove of Bigfoot sightings. Stevens discovered that the Bigfoot Field Researchers Organization has cataloged Bigfoot/Sasquatch sightings in the United States and Canada stretching back to 1921.
The database hosted by BFRO contains thousands of geocoded and time stamped logs describing sightings of the mythical beast. Stevens consolidated a total of 3,313 sightings from 1921 to 2013. He then mapped and graphed out the sightings to look for patterns:
Right away you can see that sightings are not evenly distributed. At first glance, it looks a lot like a map of population distribution. After all, you would expect sightings to be the most frequent in areas where there are a lot of people. But a bivariate view of the data (right) shows a very different story. There are distinct regions where sightings are incredibly common, despite a very sparse population. On the other hand, in some of the most densely populated areas Sasquatch sightings are exceedingly rare.
The map shows areas where Bigfoot sightings are more frequent such as the Pacific Northwest and Florida. Stevens graphed out sightings on a timeline at the bottom of his map poster, noting a few milestones such as the first footprint photo in 1951 which gave rise to the name Bigfoot, the emergence of the Bigfoot Hunting culture in 1958, and the release of the Patterson–Gimlin film purportedly showing a female bigfoot mid-stride. Bigfoot sighting reports increase gradually with the first decade of the 2000s showing the largest increase. It would be interesting to understand what triggered that significant increase (increased access to GPS and smartphones, perhaps?) and why the rapid decline starting around 2010 in reports.
Unfortunately, the database only contains reported sightings for the United States and Canada, so sightings of Yeti, Ban-manush, Hibagon, and other ape-like cryptids are not mapped out.
1924: Prospector Albert Ostman claimed to have been abducted in his sleep by Sasquatch and held captive by the creatures in British Columbia. Ostmann claimed the hominids that had captured him, a family of four, were benevolent in nature and didn't seem to have any intent to hurt him. He claimed to have escaped after four weeks by feeding the male Sasquatch snuff, whereafter it became groggy and disoriented.
1924: Fred Beck claimed that he and four other miners were attacked one night in July 1924, by several "apemen" throwing rocks at their cabin in an area later called Ape Canyon, Washington. Beck said the miners shot and possibly killed at least one of the creatures, precipitating an attack on their cabin, during which the creatures bombarded the cabin with rocks and tried to break in. The supposed incident was widely reported at the time. Beck wrote a book about the alleged event in 1967, in which he argued that the creatures were mystical beings from another dimension, claiming that he had experienced psychic premonitions and visions his entire life of which the apemen were only one component.Speleologist William Halliday argued in 1983 that the story arose from an incident in which hikers from a nearby camp had thrown rocks into the canyon. There are also local rumors that pranksters harassed the men and planted faked footprints.
1941: Jeannie Chapman and her children said they had escaped from their home when a 7.5 feet (2.3 m) tall Sasquatch approached their residence in Ruby Creek, British Columbia. The creature's nature was not apparent, however it did barge into the family's old outhouse in their absence and bust open a 55-gallon barrel of salt-fish. Notably, the Sasquatch described by Chapman bore a coat of pale-yellow fur with contrasting black skin beneath.
1955: William Roe, a highway worker near Jasper, Alberta, Canada, claimed to have observed a Sasquatch on Mica Mountain. Roe claimed the simian was definitely female with well-developed breasts and a coat of brown silver-tipped hair. Similar to other Sasquatch sightings, Roe's Bigfoot possessed a sloping forehead that came to a point at the top, akin to the head shape of archaic humans. The creature seemed disinclined to make contact with the the young William Roe, however did not seem aggressive or afraid. Feeling the animal in front of him was human after-all, Roe could not bring himself to shoot it. He later found what he believed to be the creature's "nest", where it had slept for many nights. Roe suspected the creature did not possess even the most primitive of tools and was strictly vegetarian.
1958: Bulldozer operator Jerry Crew took to a newspaper office a cast of one of the enormous footprints he and other workers had seen at an isolated work site at Bluff Creek, California. The crew was overseen by Wilbur L. Wallace, brother of Raymond L. Wallace. After Ray Wallace's death, his children came forward with a pair of 16-inch (41 cm) wooden feet, which they said their father had used to fake the Bigfoot tracks in 1958. Wallace is poorly regarded by many Bigfoot proponents. John Napier wrote, "I do not feel impressed with Mr. Wallace's story" regarding having over 15,000 feet (4,600 m) of film showing Bigfoot.
1967: Roger Patterson and Robert Gimlin reported that on October 20 they had captured a purported a Sasquatch on film at Bluff Creek, California. This came to be known as the Patterson–Gimlin film. Many years later, Bob Heironimus, an acquaintance of Patterson's, said that he had worn an ape costume for the making of the film. However, Patterson and Gimlin claimed that they sought various experts to examine the film. Patterson claimed to have screened the film for unnamed technicians "in the special effects department at Universal Studios in Hollywood ... Their conclusion was: 'We could try (faking it), but we would have to create a completely new system of artificial muscles and find an actor who could be trained to walk like that. It might be done, but we would have to say that it would be almost impossible.'"
2007: On September 16, 2007, hunter Rick Jacobs captured an image of a supposed Sasquatch by using an automatically triggered camera attached to a tree, prompting a spokesperson for the Pennsylvania Game Commission to say that it was probably an image of "a bear with a severe case of mange." The photo was taken near the town of Ridgway, Pennsylvania, in the Allegheny National Forest.