Tag Archives: bigfoot

The Legend of Bigfoot

CONTEXT

RR is one of my best friends and roommates. She is a sophomore at USC who enjoys crocheting, writing poetry, and making me laugh. 

TEXT

Me: “Can you tell me now about Bigfoot? Because I know you heard about him since you were a little—all about him. Where is he from?”

R: “Bigfoot is a pretty big legend in the Pacific Northwest. 

I’m sure you have heard a little bit about him because you’re from Idaho 

but in Portland, and Oregon, because most of the state is covered in temperate rainforest. 

It’s a big thing for people to see Bigfoot. 

There’s so many sightings. 

There’s lots of websites too. 

The restaurant I worked in, the summer after I graduated high school, was a Pacific Northwest Oregon chain 

and some of the restaurants have lots of mementos of Bigfoot sightings 

like newspaper clippings or these really shitty, blurry photos of “Bigfoot” supposedly. I also had a teacher in high school who would go on hikes once a month 

and he’d try to find Bigfoot 

People really, really believe in him

there’s Facebook groups. 

There’s T shirts 

I bought us a shot glass that says Bigfoot country Oregon

It’s from the PDX airport. 

It’s big—it’s very prevalent in Oregon culture. 

I’d say that’s definitely one of the biggest landmarks of being an Oregonian.”

ANALYSIS:

The legend of Bigfoot has been around since 1958; a writer for the Humboldt Times, Andrew Genzoli, was sent pictures of large footprints that were found in northern California. He published the photos and joked that perhaps the footprints belonged to a “relative of the Abominable Snowman.” However, people were intrigued by the pictures and deemed this unknown creature, “Bigfoot.” Following this article being published, Bigfoot became a popular cultural phenomenon; especially in the Pacific NorthWest where temperate rainforests are common. In addition to Bigfoot being a mascot to the PNW, politicians in Washington and Oregon have even proposed bills in order to protect the creatures from hunters.

Bigfoot the Friendly Creature

Main Piece: 

Collector (me): How were you introduced to Bigfoot when you were little? 

Informant: Um… I’m trying to think. I think my parents told me about him… um, and he was probably in various picture books as well that I saw. So in downtown Seattle we have the Space Needle as an iconic landmark of Seattle. And there’s a picture book that my dad had when he was younger, and it was the thing in the early 70’s— they were trying to make a thing that Seattle had a mascot called the Wheedle. And it was like the Lorax, except huge, and orange and yellow, and there was a picture book called the Wheedle on the Needle, and it was this friendly monster dude that hung out near the Space Needle. And my dad tried to like get me into the Wheedle. And it was not a thing. It was like 35 years later, and I was kind of scared of him because he looked scary, the Wheedle, and my dad basically told me, “He’s not crazy, he’s a friendly dude, he’s like Bigfoot. He’s just like a friendly person,” and then I asked, “What’s Bigfoot?” And then he explained he was a creature that lived in the woods, and that he’s not hurting anybody, he just wants to be left alone. He doesn’t want to be bothered so everyone gives him his space and he’s a nice nice person. If you run into Bigfoot you’ll be fine, don’t be scared.

Background: 

My informant is a 20-year-old student from Washington state, where the legend of Bigfoot is incredibly popular— to the point of airports selling Bigfoot merchandise such as hats and shot glasses. As my informant said, “he’s kind of a state treasure, like everyone loves him. In other places it’s more like a creepy legend, but around here Bigfoot’s a friendly guy.” Whether one actually believes in him or not, it’s part of Washington state culture to acknowledge Bigfoot’s existence. 

Context:

When my informant was providing me with some Washington folklore for a separate post, I asked if she happened to know any lore about Bigfoot, since most of the legends I’ve heard about him take place there. She did, and I asked how she first learned about him, which she stated in the above piece.

Thoughts: 

This is the first version I’ve heard about Bigfoot where he’s been portrayed not as a monster, but a friendly creature. It’s very endearing, actually, and I think it’s a good representation of how attached a group can get to their legend. Even if Bigfoot is a well known legend across the U.S., this iteration of him could be considered a local legend because of how different he’s described as compared to the other versions where he’s shown as a creature out to cause harm. Since legends are just beliefs in narrative form, it also says a lot about how Washington people would rather view Bigfoot as kindly— as an icon of their state and culture. Furthermore, my informant’s point about Bigfoot’s popularity in Washington state indicates the notion that in order to become part of the surrounding folk group, there has to be an acceptance of this creature, or at least an acknowledgement. What’s also interesting to examine about this piece is how Bigfoot’s popularity has led to the development of a myriad of merchandise for locals and tourists alike, and could be seen as an example of cultural intimacy.

Arizona Bigfoot

Informant’s Background:

My informant, JA, is a undergraduate student at the University of Southern California. He moved from his family home in Arizona to attend college in Los Angeles. His family is of German ancestry.

Context:

I (AT) am a close friend of JA, and he comes over to hang out at my apartment often. I asked him if he had any folklore he could share and this story was his response.

Performance:

JA: “So anyways I’m in my psych class, professor to be left unnamed for confidentiality reasons, err, and he’s been like a perfectly good professor the whole semester, like very informative, very smart well-informed guy, older guy, and then he’s like-this last class he’s like yeah I went hiking and I saw bigfoot one-hundred-percent and I’m one-hundred-percent confident in this.”

AT: “What was the story exactly?”

JA: “Uhm… The story was, I’m trying to remember all of the details, but mostly that he was hiking in the woods in like a relatively uhm… popular-not even relatively popular, just like a-some place in Arizona like a wooded area that the guy hikes a lot etc and he was just like yeah I saw him there and he was bigfoot, and he was like eight feet tall and yeah, I’m like a hundred percent certain of what I saw.”

Informant’s Thoughts:

JA: “That was all the detail he really gave on the story. I wasn’t really sure if he was shitting us, but he seemed to believe it and he waited to tell it to us at the end of the year and then that was the last class I had with him and then I haven’t spoken to that professor like since so it wasn’t like a gotcha or anything.”

Thoughts:

Stories of Bigfoot are fairly common throughout the United States and Canada. I think this example is interesting because of the context in which the story is presented, and more specifically, the way in which it is presented. In my analysis of this performance, I thought a lot about the lack of information given by my informant. It seems to me that the informant had a very skeptical attitude towards the narrative his teacher was presenting, and framed the whole re-telling of that narrative in a way that implied that the teacher’s story was not to be believed, or that he was crazy, that he broke off from the normal at the last day of class. It occurred to me the link between the negative viewing of the original storyteller’s narrative by our informant and the lack of the actual ability to recount much of the original storyteller’s (the professor) narrative. To put it simply: the informant did not care about the bigfoot story. To the informant, the story was that the teacher was crazy, or weird, and that he presented this narrative on the last day of class, and how crazy that was. But what is lost is much of the original storyteller’s bigfoot tale. I think it’s very interesting how much a narrative can change depending on who is telling it, as in this case the entire narrative is reframed from what was originally intended by the professor’s telling of the story.

Momo, or the Missouri Monster

Main Piece:

“I think in the 70s it was, I know the name of the town because it’s called Louisanna, Missouri. It’s on the Mississippi river in the south of the state and in the 70s apparently a few people reported seeing a very tall, like 7 to 8 foot tall, ape-like swamp creature in the woods- they also called it a swamp ape. But the distinguishing feature of this thing was it had a very huge like bulbous onion shaped head, but like an upside down onion though, so like big and bulbous- and it had shag all over it and like big, big like freakishly huge red eyes because it’s a shitty B-Movie monster pretty much. So it’s like Bigfoot but with a big onion head and it reeks because it lives in a swamp near the river. For a brief period in the 70s and 80s, I think it was, people got really into the idea- it became called Momo, Missouri Monster, from the state abbreviation monster.”

Background:

The informant is a 21-year old male from Kansas City, Missouri who has lived there for the majority of his life. His family comes from southern Missouri, near Joplin and the Ozarks. The town in question for this piece, Louisiana, apparently tried to profit off this cryptid very shortly after its sightings similar to other towns who use Moth man or Bigfoot sightings to drive tourism, however Momo was not nearly as successful as those previous examples. The town remains a relatively quaint and small town.

Context:

I overheard this story when the informant was talking to a group about cryptozoology and I asked him to share it again with me for the sake of transcription. The exact exchange occurred in his room a few hours later.

Thoughts:

This piece appears to be another example of the common cryptid of Bigfoot. A large, ape-like creature that is elusive and on the fringes of society. Furthermore, these creatures are typically very smart and nearly human-like but not quite enough to warrant describing it as human. I feel there are a lot of these types of legends ranging from Bigfoot to Sasquatch and I feel this creature is another attempt to fit into that mold. What differentiates it and what makes this monster interesting, in my opinion, is how Momo is shaped to specify Southern Missouri. The Mississippi River is a huge part of the culture of Southern Missouri and so the monster being based out of a nearby swamp of the Mississippi River makes a lot of sense. What I like most about this legend is how it is clearly an attempt to cash in on the cryptid craze of Bigfoot and similar legends. While undoubtedly some people believe they saw the monster, the town quickly moved to monetize the creature and tourism surrounding it. However, compared to similar towns that attempt to make a tourism industry out of a local legend, this one did not work nearly as well, which makes it interesting to me. Finally, Momo is interesting as it fits the entire culture of Southern Missouri and the Ozarks as it is a creature on the fringe of society, which reflects the often isolated communities that exist in this area. Compared to a heavily urbanized city, a legendary monster like this is far more likely to appear in areas with lots of forest and mountains with small isolated communities, such as those in the Ozark Mountain range.

Bigfoot and the Zodiac Killer

“So we went on a scout trip near Bodega Bay, and the campfire talk was all about Bigfoot. Bigfoot is a huge hairy creature that lives in the woods. We kept arguing about whether he was real and whether he would come into a camp with a fire or not. So we all decided that the fire had to be big enough to scare him away. So, of course, you can imagine the size of the fire. The kids wanted to cut down trees and put them into the thing. This was also during the time of the Zodiac Killer, so we were even more paranoid and jumpy. We slept with the fire burning, and Bigfoot never bothered us. After that, I always made my campfires as big as possible because I was taught it would keep people safe from whatever is in the woods.”

Context: The informant grew up in Sacramento, and was a member of the Boy Scouts.

Interpretation: The act of making a campfire with fellow scouts is in itself a unifying activity, but claiming it is in defense against a common enemy strengthens the bond of the troop even more. Whether the threatening creature in the woods is Bigfoot or the Zodiac Killer, the thought distracts scouts from the much more tangible threat of nature itself. In fact, the troop arguably put themselves in more danger by creating a larger fire, but their fears were focused elsewhere. The parallels drawn between the Zodiac Killer and Bigfoot are particularly interesting. Both figures are predatory and shrouded in mystery, but they are viewed very differently by the public.