Cryptozoology

Chad Arment. The Historical Bigfoot. Coachwhip Publications, 2006.

Arment has gathered together transcriptions of original newspaper and other reports of 'wildmen', 'gorillas', 'apemen' and so forth from the period c.1810-1949, before the modern age of the Bigfoot. This publication of articles in full, rather than cleaned up abstracts gives a much better idea of the context in which these tales arise. The stories here range from ones which have good similarities to modern Bigfoot reports, to ones with quite different material, such as descriptions of wild men wearing ragged clothing or creatures that sometimes go on all fours (bears?)

Arment admits that it is not clear how to interpret many of these stories. Are peoples perceptions and testimonies conditioned by contemporary beliefs? Do newspapers give facetious coverage to what might be seriously reported events? Are they newspaper hoaxes? The only way that perhaps one could at least make a stab at answering these questions would be to examine these stories in the general context of the newspaper. Did a newspaper regularly run various 'believe it or not' stories and other obviously tongue in cheek items, do the stories have a by-line, what pages did they appear on, and what else appeared on these particular pages etc.. Even then it is probably never going to easy to work out what the stories might have meant to contemporaries.

The modern reader can probably best appreciate this book as a folkloric source, which certainly suggests that the idea of the “wild man” was a staple part of nineteenth and early twentieth century American folklore. It is also interesting to see original accounts of the some classic cases. You will see for example Fred Beck stoutly denying in newspaper reports the spiritualistic background to his and his companions “fight with the ape men of Mount St Helens” which formed a feature of his later pamphlet. -- Peter Rogerson, January 2007.

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