Bigfoot Tales

Janet and Colin Bord. Bigfoot Casebook Updated: Sightings and Encounters From 1818 to 2004. Foreword by Loren Coleman. Pine Winds Press, 2006.

Sali Sheppard-Wolford. Valley of the Skookum: Four Years of Encounters with Bigfoot. Foreword by Autumn Williams. Pine Winds Press, 2006.

In his foreword to this updated reissues of the Bord's Bigfoot Casebook, Loren Coleman places the book in the context of the rise of new ufology and indeed new cryptozoology in the late 1970s. The Bord's book was a part of this, and as Coleman notes, they simply collected stories from all over without passing subjective judgements on them, and arranging them in chronological order.

The result, in which stories come from all over the United States, not just official Bigfoot country, clearly challenges the belief that Bigfoot stories are primarily founded on actual encounters with real live exotic paws-and-pelts animals. Stories can feature all sorts of exotic elements, including joint encounters with Bigfoot and UFOs, Bigfoot walking through solid fences etc. Furthermore the chronological arrangement shows that once what are now called Bigfoot encounters were much more diverse, as different people constructed individual images of 'the ape' or 'the wild man'. For example in some of the early stories the wildman is seen as an ordinary human being gone feral and might be described as wearing tattered clothes. The image stabilises as time goes on, and a standard Bigfoot picture is produced.

Those who view Bigfoot as a paws-and-pelts animal will have little time for the sort of exotic story narrated by Sali Sheppard-Wolford of her encounters with Bigfoot, dream encounters with a native American shaman, UFO-like lights in the sky, poltergeists, MIB, psychic warfare etc. They may well, of course, be right to dismiss this story as a work of fiction, or at best an autobiographical novel with a fair degree of literary licence. There is no way one can really judge the authenticity of any of these first person stories. The same of course must be said of many more officially accepted stories.

The material gathered by the Bords is probably best seen as folklore, and as such testifies to the power of the image of the wildman or apeman in popular imagination, as a symbol of the otherness of wild nature. The tales told by Sheppard-Wolford fall into the same category, they are metaphors for the wildness of things, especially when remote from the safe rational world, or at least the world we tend to imagine as safe and rational. -- Reviewed by Peter Rogerson, not previously published.

No comments: