It goes by many names: yeti, sasquatch and, of course, Bigfoot. While some believe it’s a mythical beast reserved for storybooks and the silver screen, other think the primate-like species is the real deal.
Enter Ryan Willis, founder of the Trent University Sasquatch Society, a club that is now about 150 members strong, based in Peterborough, Ont.
“We are looking for Bigfoot,” said Willis. “Growing up I would watch shows like Finding Bigfoot and it was always such an interesting subject for me.”
So the group is exploring the region (with their eyes peeled) and speaking to experts, virtually hosting guests including Matt Moneymaker and Cliff Barackman from Finding Bigfoot and Jeff Meldrum, professor of anatomy and anthropology at Idaho State University.
“I was a youngster living in Spokane, Washington, and it just happened to be the first showing of the Patterson-Gimlin film to the public,” said Meldrum, referring to famous footage, shot in 1967 in Northern California, that made ‘Bigfoot’ a household name.
Meldrum said that enhanced a love of natural history — and mystery — and he would eventually go on to study bipedal locomotion (the evolution of walking on two legs). In 1996, he was called to Washington to examine a set of potential sasquatch tracks.
“There was no mistaking, these were either cleverly hoaxed or the real deal, 35, 45 clear footprints in the mud,” he said.
“It was such an impactful experience that the hair still stands up on my arms because that realization set it that my gosh, they do exist.”
Meldrum said he now has more than 300 examples of possible prints from all over the world.
“Arguments can be made either way, but for me it’s the footprint evidence,” he said. “I’m convinced.
“As a scientist, I can’t say with 100 per cent certainty until we have a physical specimen, a conclusive DNA specimen or something definitive, but as surely as I can know just shy of that conclusive evidence, yes, I am convinced.”
On their ‘Bigfooting’ expedition, society member Sabrina Marie said she isn’t completely convinced the sasquatch is real, but said she is keeping an open mind.
“Hearing a broad range of different viewpoints from different experts has been a cool experience,” she said.
“I’ve always been interested in cryptozoology, and I think some of the people who have put their livelihoods on the line to recount their experiences is some of the most compelling pieces of evidence.”
Along with speaking with experts, the team explores the area, doing the odd sasquatch call (which Willis said is a big, wolf-like howl with a different tone) and doing something called “wood knocking.”
Club member Joel Porter explained its using a large piece of wood to hit a smaller tree in a certain pattern.
“Some researchers believe it is a way they communicate,” he said.
“I love hiking and walking so just doing a couple of wood knocks or Bigfoot calls when you’re out there, it’s just something extra and for me it’s fun.”
Willis said they are hoping to expand the club and have created a web database for other university students and even the public. They are hoping for their website to go live by the end of April.
“We want to find it, obviously, and we want to research as much as we can,” he said.