Showing posts with label The New York Times. Show all posts
Showing posts with label The New York Times. Show all posts

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Today in Bigfoot History | July 30 1995 | The New York Times Reviews "Where Bigfoot Walks"

(yes that is a blanket of moss.)
Dr. Robert Michael Pyle is one of my favorite Bigfooters. Over a few beers last year we talked Bigfoot, biology and butterflies. Yes butterflies, you see Dr. Pyle is world renowned etymologist and more specifically a lepidoptertist. Due to his background, he has a take on Bigfoot like no one else. In the back of the book he even maps out a protocol in case we ever do have the opportunity to come across one, live or dead.

Below is a review of his book, "Where Bigfoot Walks: Crossing the Dark Divide" from The New York Times. Not many Bigfoot books make it across the desk of a NYT book reviewer; an achievement in itself.

The title comes from a geographic area between Mt. St. Helens and Mt Adams, a dark valley made mostly of black basalt. It is the largest roadless area in Washington State. Although seemingly apt, the name actually comes from a gold prospector named John Dark. The Dark Divide is also the nest of Ape Caves and Ape Canyon. This book is highly recommended. You can get a copy from Powell's Portland's largest local bookstore, or of course at

Book Review by Robert Sullivan

The New York Times, July 30, 1995 Where Bigfoot Walks; Crossing the Dark Divide

By Dr. Robert Michael Pyle, PhD.

Illustrated. 338 pp. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company. $21.95

While the description of Bigfoot generally remains consistent — very tall, very hairy and extremely elusive as it roams the forest of the Pacific Northwest — the styles of Bigfoot literature vary like the styles of the Bigfoot hunters themselves. Sasquatch, the British Columbian classic by Ren&ecute; Dahinden with Don Hunter, reads a little like Louis L'Amour with a cryptozoological ax to grind. The Search for Bigfoot: Monster, Myth, or Man?by Peter Byrne, a former African safari guide who currently heads the Bigfoot Research Project in Hood River, Ore., is like a story told over a campfire at the end of a trek across Nepal (especially the part where Mr. Byrne recounts smuggling what was thought to be the hand of a yeti in the lingerie of the wife of the actor Jimmy Stewart). And then there is the rigorously scientific air that characterizes the work of Grover Krantz. In his last book, Big Footprints: A Scientific Inquiry Into the Reality of Sasquatch, this anthropology professor at Washington State University executed a frame-by-frame analysis of the so-called Patterson film, a blurry eight-millimeter home movie that shows something hairy running across a bank of Bluff Creek in northern California. With Where Bigfoot Walks, Robert Michael Pyle has added yet another style to the genre: the Bigfoot book as natural history treatise, a kind of story of Sasquatch as told by John Muir.Mr. Pyle says he is not interested in whether Sasquatch is or is not real. Rather, he aims to examine the myth surrounding the controversial creature and the human characters who have concerned themselves with its fate. He describes his pursuit as "a chance to immerse myself in the putative habitat of Bigfoot. And perhaps a way into its mind, or at least into the part of my own mind where Bigfoot dwells." He recounts a year of studies in flashbacks woven into a narrative of a month long hike through territory in southwestern Washington, known as the Dark Divide, that is rich in Sasquatch sightings.

He also talks a lot about butterflies Bigfoot may or may not be familiar with. His Wintergreen won the John Burroughs Medal for the best natural history book in 1987, establishing his credentials as an ecology writer, but he seems to be a lepidopterist at heart. In addition to having written The Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Butterflies, he is now editing a collection of butterfly writing by Vladimir Nabokov. The idea of a lepidopterist on the trail of a 1,000-pound giant hairy thing that is sometimes said to lift cows into trees contributes, for me, to an accidental comic effect.

Mr. Pyle is not a slight lepidopterist1, however: he describes his long-bearded self in full pack and custom-made hiking boots (he has a foot problem) as weighing 330 pounds. In fact, for the first few pages into the hike I thought I was going to have to call for help as he heaved and dehydrated his way up and down hills, once nearly falling to his death. Fortunately, he survives long enough to recall a few of the Northwest Indian tales of hairy creatures such as Dzonoqua, Bukwus,Bokbokwolli nooksiway, Stick Man and Se-at-tlh (Mr. Pyle suggests that the name of the capital of grunge might be an etymological relative of Sasquatch). Next, he lays out some of the key issues of Sasquatchology: Has Sasquatch embraced second-growth forest as a living area? Does it travel in tribes or alone? If found, should it be killed? The rest of the time he details the habitat. He over details it; this guy knows the name of absolutely everything that grows in the woods. Which turns out to be the problem with sending a lepidopterist out after Sasquatch: he might not be able to see Bigfoot's forest through the pipsissewa2, a batch of which he duly notes.

Not very far into the trip, Mr. Pyle begins to sound more like a believer than he cares to admit. "If a lagomorph3 most often identified with alpine granite can thrive in sea-level basalt and mid-elevation woodpiles, what does that say for a primate's chances of switching from forest to scrub?" he asks; I get the distinct feeling he thinks it says the primate's chances are very good. He also says, "In the absence of specimens, no one can prove that Bigfoot is not out there." And sure enough, more than once he has what might be called a limited encounter. He remains skeptical of even his own possible brushes with Sasquatch, but by the time you get to the appendix, entitled "A Protocol for Encounter," you're not surprised that he thinks Sasquatch killers, scientists or others, ought to be hit with the book: "If not manslaughter, the crime should at least be an imprisonable felony."

The school of Bigfoot thought that Mr. Pyle's book most neatly sides with is that usually associated with Peter Byrne, whom Mr. Pyle describes as "suave and handsome" in appearance, "enhanced by his Oxbridge accent, pressed khakis, sweat-stained safari hat and silk cravat." "I have yet to share a campfire" with Mr. Byrne, Mr. Pyle writes, "but we have sat around fireplaces in both our homes, sharing good ale, chenin blanc or single-malt whisky, trading tales from Nepal or New Guinea, comparing signatures of Tenzing Norgay." Mr. Byrne is a staunch advocate of the no-kill policy, and he often suggests that Bigfoot hunters cooperate in the search — something as unlikely as an imminent Sasquatch find. But what will Mr. Byrne make of the chapter in which Mr. Pyle runs around naked in the woods? ("I was Bigfoot," he claims.) I can't say.

For those unfamiliar with the Bigfoot legend, Where Bigfoot Walks is a good primer. For those up to speed, the story Mr. Pyle has recorded of a Sasquatch-like encounter as told around the campfire by a former Haisla Nation chief from coastal British Columbia may be worth all the rehashing; it is one of the best I've ever read. I found a lot of Where Bigfoot Walks to be a little annoying, mostly because Mr. Pyle does what he accuses various Bigfoot hunters of doing — using the creature for his own cause, in this case as a paean to the Northwest's evaporating nature. As a paean, it is O.K., but its point — that if Sasquatch is in jeopardy, then so are both the mythic and the no mythic qualities of the woods — seems obvious. In the end, I mostly savored the Bigfoot encounters and the crisp writing about butterflies. There is a description of ghost moths mating fluorescently in the moonlit sky that makes them seem fairylike, even haunting. After reading that, I hope to be out in the woods camping sometime and see a ghost moth light up the night.

1. lep·i·dop·ter·ist: n. An entomologist specializing in the study of butterflies and moths.

2. pip·sis·se·wa: n. Any of several evergreen plants of the genus Chimaphila, especially the Eurasian species C. umbellata, having white or pinkish flowers grouped in a terminal corymb. Also called prince's pine.

3.lag·o·morph: n. Any of various plant-eating mammals having fully furred feet and two pairs of upper incisors and belonging to the order Lagomorpha, which includes the rabbits, hares, and pikas. –lago·morphic, lago·morphous adj.

This book is highly recommended, I come back to many times and read certain passages just to feel the wonder of Bigfoot through the mind of a naturalist. You can support my local bookstore Powell's or get it at Amazon. Either way, both links are worth checking out for the reviews.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Today in Bigfoot History | JAN 03 | New York Times Declares Wallace is Bigfoot

Rough estimate of the New York Times Front Page, Headline accurate 

In 2003, January 3rd, The New York Times printed a front page article reporting Ray Wallace's "death bed" confession as the guy wearing a Bigfoot costume in the famous Patterson/Gimlin film. To Bigfooters the Sasquatch in the film is referred to as Patty. Ray Wallace has been claiming he was Patty long before he died, but somehow as a "death bed" confession the story seemed to stick better. He also claimed at one point his wife was in the suit. The testimony of Michael Wallace, Ray's son is the thrust of the article.

''This wasn't a well-planned plot or anything,'' said Michael Wallace, one of Ray's sons.

''All it means is that Ray Wallace is dead, not Bigfoot,'' said Dr. Wolf Henner Fahrenbach, a zoologist in the Portland area who is retired from the Oregon Regional Primate Research Center.

Though some Bigfoot believers had long suspected that Mr. Wallace created the tracks, he kept his secret, and his family never confirmed it until his death.

Michael Wallace said his father had a friend carve the feet. Dr. Fahrenbach has tried to prove -- by DNA analysis of hair samples -- that Bigfoot is a species heretofore unknown to science. ''Sasquatch feet grow in substantial excess of general body dimensions,'' Dr. Fahrenbach wrote in one study. ''Hence the justifiable moniker Bigfoot.''

Filmed in the Six Rivers National Forest in Northern California, not far from where Ray Wallace laid his tracks, the short film shows a bewildered-looking apeman walking upright, while glancing at the camera.

The film has its believers, Dr. Meldrum and Dr. Fahrenbach among them. ''As long as Dad was alive, he was Bigfoot,'' Michael Wallace said

Our favorite part is when Dr. Matthew Johnson get's wrapped into this famous article. Dr. Matthew Johnson is an active leader in the Bigfoot community and a Bigfoot witness who currently offers parenting advice via books, CDs, and conferences. His site is one-stop center for "Parenting with a Plan." He also has a popular Facebook Group Team Squatchin' USA

Dr Matthew Johnson (Dr. J) in the wilderness. In 2003 he was quoted
in the now famous New York Times article about Ray Wallace

Below is the excerpt that includes Dr. Matthew Johnson.
Dr. Meldrum and Dr. Fahrenbach may have some academic investment in Bigfoot, but Dr. Matthew Johnson, a clinical psychologist from Grants Pass, Ore., said his conviction could not be dismissed as scholarly bias.

Dr. Johnson said he was too big - 6 feet 9 inches tall - too educated, and too familiar with the outdoors after living in Alaska for years to be fooled by some guy in an ape suit, or a logger with wooden feet.

"I've never had a U.F.O. encounter and have not seen the Loch Ness monster," he said. "I was just a husband and father out for a hike."

Two years ago, while hiking with his family in the Oregon Caves National Monument, Dr. Johnson said, he ventured off to the side of a trail, looked up to some trees and stared, eye to eye with Bigfoot. He reported his find to the National Park Service.

"Ray Wallace may have indeed hoaxed his own tracks," Dr. Johnson said. "But I can guarantee you that Ray Wallace was not walking around in a nine-foot Bigfoot suit in the Oregon Caves at the age of 82. What I saw was real."

Since the encounter, Dr. Johnson, now president of the Southern Oregon Bigfoot Society, has led numerous outings to feed and track Bigfoot. He leaves bananas and husked corn for the animal.

Click the following link to read the entire Bigfoot New York Times article.

In a previous post we broke the news that Judge Rheinhold is planning on producing a movie about Ray Wallace.

Friday, April 20, 2012

New York Times: How to Hunt Bigfoot

Bigfooter Ambassadors Matt Moneymaker & Cliff Barackman Takes
The New York Times Bigfooting
Before attendees can be registered for an expedition, they are required to read a chapter from the B.F.R.O. handbook that helps people “deal with the terror of a first experience.”

The tone of how the media handles bigfooters has changed within the last year or so. Oh sure, they still acknowledge that Bigfoot is elusive and proof is lacking, but I would argue that the pursuit of Bigfoot has gained some respect--if not respect, at the very least serious interest.

 We think credit is due to Finding Bigfoot, not necessarily the show itself, but its marketing and publicity team. Over the last few years they have lined up media embeds and highly visible interviews. The cast have been great ambassadors for Bigfooting as well.

After the first season, there were a few Bigfoot insiders that predicted that Finding Bigfoot would be a stain on Bigfooting, we disagreed from the beginning. We actually felt it would shine a greater light and generate interest in Bigfooting. We also have great faith in humanity and trusted as more people went to the web to learn more about Bigfoot, they would independently come to the same conclusion as most of us have. Bigfoot is compelling.

Do you need further proof Bigfooters are getting more respect? In the recent New York Times article (below) they refer to Matt Moneymaker as Mr. Moneymaker. It should be noted the headline of printed version of this article is "Howling at Nothing: A Hunt for Bigfoot" So, we don't have full respect, but  anybody who refers to Matt Moneymaker as Mr. Moneymaker throughout the the article must be trying

How to Hunt Bigfoot
Published: April 20, 2012

A BIGFOOT’S howl is multidimensional: a deep and undulating whoop that starts low and ends in a high, feral squeal or resolves completely, like a siren. The first time I unleashed one, while crouching on a bluff overlooking the eastern bank of the Apalachicola River, Matt Moneymaker — who, moments earlier, had loosed a robust, commanding shriek that echoed cleanly through the valley — responded with a hearty guffaw.

“I have a cold,” I mumbled by way of an excuse. It was nearly 2 a.m., and we were huddled in the dark in Torreya State Park near Bristol, on the Florida Panhandle. My craggy, toadlike holler did not yield a response.

Mr. Moneymaker is the founder and president of the Bigfoot Field Researchers Organization (, a group of Bigfoot investigators dedicated to acquiring “conclusive documentation of the species’ existence.” Bigfoots, also known as sasquatches or yetis, are famously elusive creatures — if, in fact, they exist at all — and since 2000, the organization has hosted research expeditions, some of which are open to nonmembers, to suspected Bigfoot habitats across North America. The goal is to rouse and record a Bigfoot. The trips, which typically last four days and cost between $300 and $500 (not including airfare, camping equipment or food), are led by a B.F.R.O. investigator native to the region and center on nightly jaunts through the woods.

In December, on an outing in the same park, Matt Craig, 26, spotted what he believed was a Bigfoot on a thermal imaging device. He and five others watched while it hugged a tree and popped in and out of hiding, as if it were playing peek-a-boo. “At that point, my mind was trying to rationalize what it was,” Mr. Craig said. “I was shaking so bad I couldn’t even look through the thermal after that.”

Now, 11 of us — three women and eight men, including Mr. Craig — had assembled with hopes of repeating his encounter. I was dubious but also willing to accept that I didn’t know exactly what kinds of oddball creatures might be loping around the forest late at night.

The Bigfoot organization’s online database contains over 30,000 user-submitted Bigfoot reports, and it’s a surprisingly consistent body of data: by most accounts, adult sasquatches weigh around 650 pounds and are 7 to 10 feet tall, nocturnal, fond of women and packaged sweets, hairy, bipedal, omnivorous, flat-footed, and distinctly malodorous.

On B.F.R.O. expeditions, faith in the existence of Bigfoots is presumed, and the hunts proceed with a kind of grim earnestness. Members are accustomed to incredulity: detractors (including most reputable scientists) insist that all observed phenomena could easily be attributed to a bear, or a rogue primate, or some dude in a gorilla suit. Bring us a body, they say, or anything that can be objectively authenticated (to date, no definitive Bigfoot remains have been excavated).

Cliff Barackman, for one, isn’t troubled by dissenters. “I don’t care what people think,” he said. “I think skepticism is healthy and good.”

Mr. Moneymaker and Mr. Barackman are co-stars on the Animal Planet series “Finding Bigfoot,” in which they amble through dark thickets, howling at one another and banging blocks of wood together (sasquatches purportedly communicate via “knocking” — the belligerent pounding of trees or their own bodies).

For believers, rustling up a squatch, as they are often called by the team, is serious business, and “Finding Bigfoot” is deliberately low on high jinks. Mr. Moneymaker and his crew host town hall meetings, recreate sightings and employ a cornucopia of enticement techniques, like arranging glazed doughnuts on a log.

Membership in the B.F.R.O. is by invitation only, and requires (paradoxically, perhaps) at least the appearance of good sense. Kevin Smykal, 58, leads the organization’s Florida chapter, and conducts telephone screenings of potential participants before they can sign up for an expedition. “We’re very careful,” he said. “We don’t want somebody who’s going to be an irritant to other people. You’re not going to want to spend your nights out in the woods with an undesirable.”

I didn’t want to be an irritant, but I also wasn’t sure I wanted to spend that much time in dark woods. The organization’s investigators wear headlamps and carry flashlights, but they’re intended only for use in emergencies. “The darker it is, the closer they come,” Mr. Moneymaker noted, and I sensed that neurotically flicking on your headlamp midexpedition was considered an unforgivable gaffe. Mr. Moneymaker cited weather, big cats and stray branches as a sasquatch hunter’s primary foes; a park ranger further cautioned us against snakes and alligators.

Not far from camp, Mr. Barackman pointed out a series of unusual animal tracks. There was speculation that they were made by a bear or maybe even a young sasquatch. None of the presented possibilities were particularly comforting. The next morning, castings were made of the footprints; they turned out to be the work of an exceptionally large northern river otter.

AT 10:30 p.m., after we’d roasted hot dogs and exchanged a couple of squatching yarns, Mr. Moneymaker ran through a few rules. “Don’t freak out” was the prevailing theme. He said he’d seen otherwise stoic men — soldiers, even — turn into “sniveling messes” when led into a dark forest. Before attendees can be registered for an expedition, they are required to read a chapter from the B.F.R.O. handbook that helps people “deal with the terror of a first experience.”

Mr. Moneymaker distributed night vision monoculars called Ghost Hunters, which render everything in shades of green. We split into two groups, putting enough distance between us that we could convincingly initiate and return calls. We hoped to hear a few knock backs right away. “It’s not going to be a human out there making knock backs, it’s going to be a squatch,” Mr. Moneymaker said. “If we hear knock backs then we’re in business.”

When hiking through the woods with no other light source than a new moon, it’s remarkably easy to lose sight of everyone around you, and even that false sense of isolation can be deeply terrifying. Our group of five crept toward the river in a single line. We paused near the site of Mr. Craig’s encounter and, after radioing Mr. Barackman’s team, tried a few howls.

Much of Bigfooting is listening, and like any kind of hunting, it requires extraordinary patience. While we waited for a reply, I pulled a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup out of my back pocket and laid it on the ground. (I’d been told that Bigfoots have a particular affinity for Zagnut bars, but they weren’t stocked by the local Wal-Mart.) A foraging armadillo let out a few inquisitive grunts, but sasquatches, it seemed, were uninterested in initiating contact just yet.

Eventually, we trekked back to camp and reorganized. Around 3 a.m., I followed Mr. Barackman and four others east toward the park’s sandy access roads. We howled, knocked and scanned for glowing eyes, but our solicitations were not reciprocated. By 4:30 a.m., I was asleep in my tent with my hiking boots still on.

The next morning, I sat by the fire snacking on a slice of bacon and a powdered doughnut. The other team had heard and recorded a response howl — a brief, high-pitched hoot. We speculated about whether it was human. Mr. Barackman described the results of the expedition as fairly typical. “We recorded something that we don’t know the origin of,” he said. “The mystery continues.”

A few minutes later, something screeched in the distance, and Mr. Moneymaker, barefoot, abandoned his breakfast and bounded into the woods at full speed. Although the sound turned out to be nothing, I was impressed by Mr. Moneymaker’s enthusiastic gait. It was that of a believer.
SRC: The New York Times

Friday, December 30, 2011

New York Times Reviews Finding Bigfoot Season 2

Left to Right: Cliff Barackman, James "Bobo" Fay, Ranae Holland, Matt Moneymaker 
"[Dutchess County Residents] are exactly the kind of people who might be encountering sasquatches every once in a while on their own property." -- Cliff Barackman 
Be Wary of Bobo, Sasquatch 
Published: December 30, 2011
It was bad enough to see them terrorizing Florida, Oregon, Washington State, Alaska and the other places visited in Season 1 by the sasquatch hunters of “Finding Bigfoot,” a documentary series on Animal Planet. But the opening episode of Season 2 on Sunday night finds the investigators just a few hairy strides from New York City. How would you like to be jostling for a seat on the subway with a cranky, possibly fictitious 10-foot biped who hasn’t had his morning coffee yet?
The show follows Matt Moneymaker, president of the Bigfoot Field Researchers Organization, and three sidekicks — Cliff Barackman, Ranae Holland and James Fay — as they investigate Bigfoot sightings with fancy-looking audio equipment and those cameras that record grainy, ghostly images in the dark. In Sunday’s episode they travel to the Catskills to try to show that footage of something climbing in a tree, captured accidentally 15 years ago, is proof of a Bigfoot infestation in the area.
The film, made during a music festival and generally known as the New York Baby Footage, comes from a man named Douglas Pridgen, who was shooting home movies with friends around a campfire. He tells the “Finding Bigfoot” crew that he did not notice the beast lurking in a tree in the background until a few years later, when he was transferring the footage to another format.
The film has been on the Internet for years and has drawn its share of skeptics. Some think the animal is just someone’s pet monkey. That the film was shot during a music festival has also been occasion for comment.
“Hippies are responsible for a lot of big foot sightings because of their hair and scent,” someone has posted under one YouTube version of the footage.
Mr. Moneymaker and his team go to the spot where the film was made, in Ulster County, and, by having Mr. Barackman clamber up a tree, prove conclusively that the thing in the footage looks nothing like a tree-climbing male adult human. At least one team member, though, had already made his mind up. “We’re clearly looking at a baby sasquatch in this footage,” Mr. Fay announced earlier in the show, his credibility only slightly diminished by the fact that his nickname is Bobo.
The crew also convenes a town meeting across the Hudson in Pawling, N.Y., in Dutchess County, where residents, Mr. Barackman explains, “are exactly the kind of people who might be encountering sasquatches every once in a while on their own property.”
The investigators invite those who attend to relate their sightings of Bigfoot or Bigfoot tracks, and quite a few do. By plotting the locations of these sightings, the investigators determine that the beasts seem to hang out in the vicinity of the Appalachian Trail.
“We think the Bigfoots use that as their highway,” Mr. Moneymaker says.
The team sets up nighttime surveillance in the woods in hopes of meeting some Bigfoots, bellowing an occasional sasquatch call — a cross between a police siren and an ill baby — through the hills to try to get the creatures interested in a rendezvous. As is usual for this absurd but delightfully addictive show, Mr. Moneymaker’s crew does not capture a Bigfoot, either on film or in the flesh. But the investigators nonetheless amass almost irrefutable evidence that the Catskills and Dutchess County are crawling with the critters: ¶When Mr. Pridgen appears on camera, the identifying label under his name says, “New York Bigfoot Witness.” Same thing for a couple of Pawling residents who describe sightings. Would Animal Planet, which has brought us rigorously scientific shows like “Hillbilly Handfishin’ ” and “Rat Busters NYC,” allow someone to be called a “Bigfoot Witness” on TV if he had not witnessed a Bigfoot? Seems unlikely.
Though the team does not find any Bigfoots, it does find a deer, and deer, as someone points out, are prime sasquatch food.
When the crew goes into the woods at night, it records assorted noises. And what possible explanation could there be for noises in a nighttime forest other than Bigfoots?
It seems clear, then, that these things are massing for an invasion of New York City. We need to act now, and decisively.
As with a military campaign, we need to sever their communication and supply route, i.e., the Appalachian Trail. Put up one of those police sawhorse barricades, or perhaps a sternly worded sign: “Absolutely no Bigfoots allowed.”
Clear cutting the Catskills would also seem advisable. At least then we’d be able to see the danged things. Any battlefield strategist knows that the key to dealing with invisible enemies is to flush them into the open.

Make sure you catch Finding Bigfoot Sunday night Jan 1st!
And catch after the show videos at

Sunday, November 6, 2011

New York Times has High Regard for Christophers Munch's Bigfoot Movie, "Letters From the Big Man"

“I have no question of their existence, [I know] people who were in situations where they were living among sasquatch, literally, and had developed a climate of mutual trust,” --Christopher Munch, Director of Letters from the Big Man

You can read our previous coverage of Letters From The Big Man. We covered this fantastic movie from it's premier at the Sundance Festival to interviewing the genius behind the Sasquatch Costume, Lee Romaire.

Not only is Christopher Munch's true-to-life Sasquatch movie the most respectful towards the Sasquatch phenomena, it is also probably one of the most respected Sasquatch movies. How do we know? Read the newest New York Times article below.

Sporting Big Feet and a Heart to Match
Published: November 4, 2011

IN five features over two decades Christopher Munch has cultivated a singular career on the margins of the independent film world. Although his debut, “The Hours and Times” (1991), was grouped with the emerging New Queer Cinema, Mr. Munch, 49, has never fit in with a movement, and it’s hard to think of another working American filmmaker with a similar sensibility or array of interests.

Christopher Munch, the director of “Letters From the Big Man.”
If anything, his movies are testaments to private obsession and imagination. From the young engineer who attempts to salvage a Yosemite Valley rail line in “Color of a Brisk and Leaping Day” (1996) to the middle-aged bohemian single mother and former radio D.J. dying of cancer in “The Sleepy Time Gal” (2001), Mr. Munch’s protagonists are all dreamers of a sort. Although his films range widely in their idiosyncratic themes and settings, they are of a piece in their serene melancholy and their loving attention to the unruly details and irreducible dimensions of individual lives.

If there is one thing above all that defines Mr. Munch’s work, it is a disarming sincerity, a willingness to risk awkwardness and even absurdity by taking seriously an outlandish premise. Imagining the lost weekend John Lennon spent with the Beatles manager Brian Epstein in Barcelona, Spain, “The Hours and Times” is at once tactful and assured in its conjectures. “Harry and Max” (2004) treats with almost surreal matter-of-factness the relationship between two incestuous brothers who both happen to be in boy bands.

Mr. Munch’s wholehearted commitment to eccentric material has never been clearer than in his new film, “Letters From the Big Man,” a parable about man and nature in the form of a beauty-and-the-beast tale, involving a forestry worker (Lily Rabe) and a sasquatch (Isaac C. Singleton Jr. in a hairy bodysuit and face makeup).

“Letters,” which opens at the IFC Center in Manhattan this Friday, grew out of Mr. Munch’s desire to make a movie in the Klamath-Siskiyou eco-region of southwestern Oregon. “Connection with landscape is a fundamental thing for me,” he said over Skype recently from a cabin he was renting in rural Oregon, not far from where he shot the film. “It’s always a way in — to understand a physical geography and to feel close to aspects of a place.”

This expanse of Pacific Northwest wilderness, with its green mountain ridges and crystalline rivers, is also a repository of sasquatch lore. Mr. Munch’s views on the phenomenon changed as he researched it. As recently as six or seven years ago, he said, “it was not something I had any sense about.” Looking at depictions in popular culture, he found only jokey curios: B movies with titles like “The Legend of Boggy Creek.” But the more time Mr. Munch spent in the region the more determined he was to make a film that aligned with the view of indigenous cultures in which, he said, the “sasquatch is honored and sought out for his wisdom.”

“Letters From the Big Man” started as a broader story that played out against the backdrop of the controversial salvage logging operation that followed a devastating wildfire in 2002. But after trying unsuccessfully to finance the film as a larger project, Mr. Munch narrowed the scope to focus on Ms. Rabe’s character, Sarah, an artist and hydrologist. Getting over a breakup, she takes on an assignment to do field research for the Forest Service on stream life in a burn zone.

Even though Mr. Munch had traversed the area extensively on foot for months before shooting, there was only so much planning he could do. His regular cinematographer, Rob Sweeney, said that several locations required fairly long hikes. “Often finding a place to shoot a scene, securing it and getting our crew there, figuring out how to stage and light it — that would all happen in one day,” Mr. Sweeney said.

Ms. Rabe, best known for her theater work, described the experience as a lesson in self-sufficiency. They were the smallest of crews in the remotest of settings, and Sarah spends much of her screen time alone. The first day of shooting, Ms. Rabe said, she was dropped from a helicopter in a field while Mr. Sweeney and Mr. Munch observed from afar. “It was a very lonely experience for me, which was exactly right for the part,” she said.

The strange magic of “Letters From the Big Man” has much to do with its readiness to believe in the possibility that sasquatch exist. Mr. Munch is prepared to go further and declare himself fully convinced. “I have no question of their existence,” he said. His circle of acquaintances in Oregon includes “people who were in situations where they were living among sasquatch, literally, and had developed a climate of mutual trust,” he said.

Mr. Munch’s closest collaborators do not share these beliefs. “I’m definitely a doubter,” Mr. Sweeney said. “But Chris has convictions, and they are intriguing.” He added that Mr. Munch was “somewhat seriously” hoping to get a real sasquatch to appear in the film. “But when that didn’t work out, he made the costume,” Mr. Sweeney said. “I think the sasquatch’s agent wouldn’t agree to the rates.” While Mr. Sweeney remained unswayed, he spoke of Mr. Munch with fondness: “Chris has a sweet naïveté along with a piercing intelligence, and that’s an unusual combination.”

Ms. Rabe sees the film as an off-the-grid fantasy, with the big man a possible projection of the lonely, disappointed Sarah. “What she’s really going through, for me, was: Am I going to be able to be a part of society?” she said. “Or do I need to kind of disappear?” While Mr. Munch’s interpretation was more literal, she said: “It was never a disagreement. He loved that I felt the way that I did, and I was so fascinated by the way that he felt. One doesn’t exclude the other.”

Lily Rabe plays a lonely part-time worker for the National Forest Service in Christopher Munch's “Letters From the Big Man.”
Before his screening at Sundance in January, Mr. Munch read a letter on behalf of the sasquatch that began: “Do not be frightened of us. We are people just like you.” Reporting from the festival in The New York Times, Manohla Dargis wondered if Mr. Munch “was pulling our collective leg.” He insists he was not (the letter, he said, was procured through an animal communicator). “It’s very easy to write it off as New Age pablum, but that actually is what they keep drilling into us,” he said.

Mr. Munch recognizes that such talk opens himself up to dismissal or hostility. Nonetheless, “the ideas of the film are heartfelt, and they’re borne out by personal experience, not based on some unreasoned belief,” he said, adding that he comes from a family of scientists — his father was an astrophysicist — and is not generally prone to mysticism.

His own views aside, Mr. Munch said he was careful to make a film “that does work as a metaphorical comment on our society.” The myth of the sasquatch, he added, “represents a longing to make sense of whatever it is that’s incomplete in us” — an urge palpable in all his films.

Mr. Munch admitted that he sees in Sarah’s frustration with mainstream society some of his own conflicts, having toiled for years as an independent artist in an increasingly inhospitable environment. “Twenty years ago I think I had high promise in terms of some sort of a career and yet not a strong sense of where I wanted to go,” he said. “Now I think I have very little promise of a career but a very strong sense of what I want to make.”
SRC: New York Times

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Letters From the Big Man: First Look Preview

There has been preview release of a few scenes from the Christopher Munch's film Letters from the Big Man

Today the New York Times released an article covering Christopher Munch's presentation of his Film at the Sundance Film Festival. Below is an excerpt:

They believe in stories at Sundance, to be sure, usually with three acts, sympathetic leads, closure, teachable moments and sincerity, which makes sense for a festival where filmmaker Q. and A. sessions can feel like religious revivals. Do I hear an Amen for the brave young filmmaker down front? Hallelujah and pass the audience ballot! It’s easy to mock Sundance and its pretensions to purity, but it’s also hard not to be moved when these filmmakers find communion with their audiences. One of my fondest memories from this year was trying to decide if Christopher Munch — who was there with his pleasurably eccentric feature “Letters from the Big Man” and, after one screening, read a letter from the Sasquatch “people” in perfect deadpan — was pulling our collective leg. The polite audience didn’t blink, and neither did he.

It’s possible that Mr. Munch’s film — with its lapidary landscape photography, off-kilter environmental theme and up-and-coming starlet, Lily Rabe, who plays an outdoorswoman collecting samples for a field study and attracts a benevolent hirsute stalker — will find distribution. I hope so. “Letters From the Big Man” drifts a bit after its absorbing first hour, but it’s the kind of off-Hollywood production that still makes Sundance surprising. (Curiously, it was the first of two Big Foot movies I saw. The second, “Sasquatch Birth Journal 2,” from the Zellner Brothers, was a self-consciously crude short that purports, with irreverently comic effect, to show the birth — shake, drop and roll — of one of these creatures.)

Even if its finds a distributor, a film as willfully independent in its vision as “Letters From the Big Man” is unlikely to enjoy the relative commercial success of Lisa Cholodenko’s “Kids Are All Right” or Debra Granik’s “Winter’s Bone.” Both were at Sundance last year and went on to become art-house hits with stories that were, in their different fashions, calibrated for uplift. With its crystal-meth hillbillies, “Winter’s Bone” looks and talks tougher than “The Kids Are All Right,” a winning comedy-drama about a lesbian couple trying to keep the family peace. One reader, responding to something I recently wrote about Sundance, insisted both are corporate products — but really, these are mainstream narratives.

New York Times: Still a Home for Directors, and Big Foot
Screen Daily's Review of the Movie

Award Winning Director, Christopher Munch, Premiers "Letters from the Big Man" at Sundance
Bigfoot Film Premier at Sundance Film Festival: Update

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Profiling Hoaxers: The Psychology of Fame

Money and power are handy, but millions of ambitious people are after something other than the corner office or the beach house on St. Bart’s. They want to swivel necks, to light a flare in others’ eyes, to walk into a crowded room and feel the conversation stop. --Benedict Carey, New York Times

The News Tribune of Tacoma Washington, ran a story today about Cliff Cook. For those unfamiliar with Cliff Crook he is responsible for the photo in Benjamin Radford presentation below. The photo has been revealed as a hoax and has become a trophy to skeptics, along with the Frozen Georgia Bigfoot. They will probably be followed soon by the Sylvanic Bigfoot video footage.

What motivates hoaxers? I always get the sense that they believe in Bigfoot, despite the hoax. There has to be a more complete answer to their motivations. I wanted to know the psychology behind it. Oddly enough, there is not a lot of studies on hoaxing, but that's because hoaxing is really a polite term for what these "hoaxes" really are. These "hoaxes" are really lies, fraudulent lies. Y'see a real hoax is like what you see on Candid Camera, April Fools, etc. Proven hoaxes are lies. I'm not trying to be harsh, but if we are honest we might be able to understand motives better.

So why lie? Some have speculated greed as the motivation. After all, there is money to be made in the Bigfoot/CryptoZ industry. The only issue is, any proven "hoax" has never been profitable in the long-run. Although you can argue "hoaxers" are short-sighted and gambling on the bet they will not be caught, I think there is something that is a far stronger motivator. Fame.

Before you say, "Duh!" Give me a chance to be more specific. Fame is much more than "getting attention," it is deeper than that, its fulfilling a "need." Understanding a hoaxer's desire to attain fame can provide a few clues to overall psychological make-up of Bigfoot hoaxers. Let me quote Benedict Carey of New York Times.

For most of its existence, the field of psychology has ignored fame as a primary motivator of human behavior: it was considered too shallow, too culturally variable, too often mingled with other motives to be taken seriously. But in recent years, a small number of social scientists have begun to study and think about fame in a different way, ranking it with other goals, measuring its psychological effects, characterizing its devoted seekers.

People with an overriding desire to be widely known to strangers are different from those who primarily covet wealth and influence. Their fame-seeking behavior appears rooted in a desire for social acceptance, a longing for the existential reassurance promised by wide renown.

In a 1996 study, Richard M. Ryan of the University of Rochester and Dr. Kasser, then at Rochester, conducted in-depth surveys of 100 adults, asking about their aspirations, guiding principles, and values, as well as administering standard measures of psychological well-being.

The participants in the study who focused on goals tied to others’ approval, like fame, reported significantly higher levels of distress than those interested primarily in self-acceptance and friendship.

Surveys done since then, in communities around the world, suggest the same thing: aiming for a target as elusive as fame, and so dependent on the judgments of others, is psychologically treacherous.

We think there is a lot more to to this, and although we can't assume whether a "hoaxer" is really interested in finding Bigfoot, we can assume finding Bigfoot is not their first priority. Don't get us wrong, we are extremely inclusive here at BLC, good research and theories can come from anywhere. As far as "hoaxers" go? We feel a "hoaxers" are repeat offenders. And we should always be leery when they appear back in the news.

Dislamer: I don't want anybody to think I am a "hater." I already have my claim to fame. My fame peaked in 2008 and I'm okay with that.

Cliff Cook Article at The News Tribune
The Fame Motive at The New York Times
Loren Coleman Weighs-in

Please read our terms of use policy.