|Freitas uses a huge speaker on his pick-up truck to blast recorded|
Bigfoot calls across the valley / The Chronicle Photo: MICHAEL MACOR
On this day, January 24th, in 1999, The San Francisco Chronicle noted a change in the way bigfooters did their research. If today's technology trend is combining all your gadgets into a single hand held device (think iPhone), in the 90's it was all about turning any technology into something you could hold in your hand. Powerful cameras and audio devices were not only shrinking, but also becoming more affordable. Another revolution was on the World Wide Web. With the release of Windows 95 people were migrating from AOL, a "walled-off" online service, to the surfing the decentralized web through a browser.
In a world where an average article is usually 200-500 words, journalist Michael Taylor gives a rare treat of writing an epic 3000-plus words of the who's who of Bigfoot research. It starts out with the new technology of call blasting.
From the cab of his pickup truck, John Freitas takes out a camera, a tape recorder and a pair of binoculars and sets them within easy reach in the pickup's bed. Near the tailgate is a huge outdoor speaker, much like the ones you see suspended from the tiers of baseball stadiums.
Freitas fiddles with the tape deck in the truck's dashboard, and then suddenly the speaker booms forth with an eerie wail.
"Aaarrrrrgggghhhh," the voice screams for several seconds, arcing from low to high then low, a bit like an air raid siren, and then again, in a higher pitch, "Aaaaaaiiiiiieeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee." Freitas shuts down the tape and listens carefully, waiting for a response. Silence. More silence. We look around, video camera at the ready. Come out, come out, wherever you are.
"The theory," he says, nodding at the speaker, "is that if there's another 'Squatch in this area, this will attract him."
This is the hunt for Bigfoot -- the legendary Sasquatch, as he was known in the old Salish tribal language of British Columbia, where locals say he has been seen frequently. John Freitas may well be typical of the new breed of Bigfoot hunter that seems to be emerging in the never-ending search for the phantom ape of North America. Undaunted by the occasional snicker or rolling of eyes from his friends or co-workers, Freitas, like any good police investigator, is methodical and practical and willing to go looking for something about which precious little evidence even exists.
Over the past few years, the hunt for Bigfoot has exploded in a frenzy of high technology. New high-tech detection equipment abounds, dangling from trees all over the United States -- Starlight nightscopes, motion detectors hooked up to infrared still and video cameras, FM wireless transmitters dangling from fir trees and transmitting to tape decks up to two miles away.
In his bedroom at a cabin Freitas rents deep in the forest are a video cassette recorder, a three-foot-long telephoto lens, nightvision Starlight binoculars and a recycled siren switchbox from a patrol car, used to amplify the screams on his tapes.
And that's just the stuff in the field. At home and in offices across the country, the Internet has spawned a myriad of Web sites that have brought a sense of order and organization to a subject that for years has been disparate, fractured and, given the heated arguments over whether Bigfoot even exists, fractious in the extreme.
And there is still a smattering of oldstyle Bigfoot information: At the Bigfoot museum in Willow Creek, where Al Hodgson is the curator, nearly two dozen plaster casts of footprints seen in the Northern California wilderness are on display in glass cases. The best part of Hodgson's display is the collection of footprint casts donated by the estate of Bob Titmus, one of the most experienced Bigfoot trackers.
On the Six Rivers mountaintop with Freitas, though, all that counts is whether the elusive man-ape will answer these calls. The tapes were recorded in 1994 in a mountainous rural area of eastern Ohio by Matthew Moneymaker, a 33-year-old software engineer from Southern California who is also a longtime Bigfoot tracker. Moneymaker said there have been numerous sightings of Bigfoot-like creatures in that Appalachian area of Ohio, near Pennsylvania.
Moneymaker played the tapes for three scientists, including a zoologist who specializes in wildlife, and "they all said it was something really unusual" and could not identify the sounds. In the world of Bigfoot, that means it bore no resemblance to any identifiable mammal, and it was just what Freitas needed in the form of aural bait.
The article continues on to mention a new website that catalogs and stores Bigfoot sightings, the address is MattMoneymaker.org/BFRO. Known simply today as BRFO.net
Now, however, there is some consistency developing in the search for Bigfoot, particularly on the Internet.We have only shared less than a third of the article, the rest is definitely worth reading as most journalist don't give this much time and effort to the topic of Bigfoot. The entire article is at the San Francisco Chronicle.
For example, Moneymaker has helped create the Bigfoot Field Researchers Organization (BFRO) and its inevitable Web site (www.moneymaker.org/BFRO/), that purports to have one of the largest geographic databases of sightings in the world.