Jeff Meldrum. Sasquatch: Legend Meets Science. Tom Doherty Associates, 2006.

Jeff Meldrum is an actual credentialed scientist; an expert in human locomotion at Idaho State University and thus takes a scientific look at our old friend Bigfoot. On the surface at least this book looks like a detailed scientific examination of Bigfoot reports and traditions, one which comes to the conclusion that these may indeed by real animals possibly related to Gigantopithecus.

Meldrum is either a brave pioneer going out on a limb and willing to stake his reputation on assessing evidence for an animal that his colleagues ignore, or he is a victim of his own cleverness, trapped inside his specialist arguments and unable to detect the handiwork of human hoaxers. The lay reader is not really in a position to make much of a judgement on this, but there are some worrying signs of the latter. Rather than being an objective assessment of the evidence, at times the book seems to be looking for evidences to back up a pre-determined conclusion. For example are his arguments that Gigantopithecus was bipedal little more than an attempt to square this with the Bigfoot stories? He argues that ancestral hominids show the mosaic of human and ape patterns of body structure which he sees in the Patterson-Gimlin film, but as Gigantopithecus was not a human ancestor, and was actually less closely related to humans than chimps and gorillas this seems to be an irrelevant point.

Then there his endorsement of a number of contentious claims, which have been subject to much skeptical comment from the Fortean community itself, such as the Bluff Creek and Bossburg tracks. Then there is the Patterson-Gimlin film, subject to some pretty serious allegations of faking made by Greg Long (by no means a fully paid up member of CSICOP) and others. You don’t have to take the 'confessions' of the various alleged hoaxers at face value to suspect something pretty dodgy about the whole thing. Meldrum does not refute Long’s claim, he totally ignores them. Again the reader of this book will not realise that Bigfoot sighting reports have been made all across North America, many by witnesses as equally credible as those reporting from the Pacific North West.

This of course does not prove Bigfoot does not exist; it is entirely possible that there is some uncatalogued group of animals out there, but also that some of the better known or most dramatic stories are hoaxes. It does however place a question mark against Meldrum’s judgement.

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