Anatomy of a Beast: Obsession and Myth on the Trail of Bigfoot
by Michael McLeod
Many bigfooters, being certain that bigfoot exists, don’t bother reading the skeptical literature. I feel this is a mistake, especially when the books get traction in the skeptical world. As bigfooters, I feel it is our duty to be aware of the skeptical arguments and to grapple with them. After all, many of the points made are valid, and since bigfoots are real animals, these points can and should be dealt with. It was with that spirit in mind that I dove into Michael McLeod’s Anatomy of a Beast.
There are many good things about this book. McLeod did some real footwork putting this book together. He interviewed many people in the bigfoot world, he attended some bigfoot lectures, and he even read some of the pro-bigfoot literature. McLeod dug into the history of some of the people in the early days of bigfooting, which I found quite interesting. I knew little of Ivan Sanderson, for example, and I enjoyed reading McLeod’s version of Sanderson’s life.
What I found most interesting were the anecdotal stories that arose from the interviews. Talking to the likes of Ivan Marx, Patricia Patterson, Rene Dahinden, and Peter Byrne is bound to bring some interesting stories to light, and McLeod included many of them in his book. I sincerely enjoyed reading about their perspectives and insights into the history of bigfooting. He also spoke to some minor players, such as Jay Rowland who was in Bluff Creek back in 1967 when Roger Patterson and Bob Gimlin got the PG Film.
These interviews, though insightful, have a downside as well. He puts great importance on minor discrepancies in memory and perspective. These discrepancies are touted as strong suggestions that the PG Film, and indeed all bigfoot encounters and footprint finds, are a well-orchestrated hoax.
It was obvious from the beginning of the book that McLeod is a man setting out to prove the Patterson/Gimlin Film is a hoax. On pg. 14, he muses about how convincing the PG Film is “if one is not predisposed to reject Bigfoot out of hand.” It is obvious from his writing that McLeod is in fact predisposed to do just that, not giving the evidence more than a quick thought before rejecting it.
One of many dead ends for McLeod was his analysis of the timeline after the filming. He assumes that Roger and Bob went through Willow Creek before mailing the film on the coast, and then heading back to Willow Creek to speak to Al Hodgson and Syl McCoy. Since that path didn’t make sense with the allotted time, therefore somebody is lying and the film is a hoax. We now know that Roger and Bob went over Bald Hills Road into Orick before heading down the coast to mail the film. They only later went to Willow Creek. It tends to be small assumptions or gaps in McLeod’s knowledge that support his claim that the film is an “obvious hoax.”
To investigate the film, it seems more productive to enter the study of it from a neutral standpoint and see where the evidence leads. McLeod does the opposite. He “knows” the film is a hoax, so he explores the people in the field and finds out their eccentricities, minor memory inconsistencies, and personal flaws to hold these up as evidence that the film is a hoax. He doesn’t examine the film subject, he examines Ray Wallace’s long record as a hoaxer. He doesn’t look at the creature’s anatomy, he talks to Dahinden about who he doesn’t get along with. He doesn’t look at the footprint evidence retrieved from the film site, he looks at the dissonant personalities involved in the Pacific Northwest Expeditions of the early 1960’s. These things, along with many more examples in the book, seem more like a sleight-of-hand trick to cast doubt on the film by putting shade on the many people tangentially involved in some aspect of the film, location, or events of that time period.
Overall, the book is worth a read. The history told by the many interviewed players gives us glimpses, albeit biased ones, into the perspective of the time. It is the assumption from the get-go that the film is a hoax that does this book in from my perspective. Ad hominin attacks on the players do not make the film a hoax.
To purchase the book, click the link at the top of the page. I’ll get a couple pennies out of your purchase through a partnership with Amazon. I promise to put those pennies to good use by batting down skeptical arguments like those put forth in this book.