Friday, August 15, 2008

Press Conference Doesn't Even Convince Fellow Bigfoot Hunters

Matthew Whitter, Rick Dyer and Tom Biscardi promised conclusive DNA evidence, put produced that of a human and a possum. All the "Three Stooges of cryptozoology" had to offer at today's much-hyped press conference were two blurry pictures and a message of conservation. That message? They didn't want to reveal any further information about Bigfoot in order to safeguard this "endangered species." Bullshit.

There are so many news article about this farce of a press conference that it is almost embarrassing. Both for the three stooges and the news agencies involved. Each story offers something little different about the story; more background here, a few more quotes from the press conference there. The only way I can take a truly "fair and balanced" look at this story is to touch on each article individually. So as not to play favorites, I will present the articles in alphabetical order based on the name of the news agency.

Let's start with the Associated Press piece. The AP story quotes Bigfoot researcher and Idaho State University professor Jeffrey Meldrum as not being at all convinced by the "evidence" presented at the press conference:

"'What I've seen so far is not compelling in the least, and I think the pictures cast grave doubts on their claim. It just looks like a costume with some fake guts thrown on top for effect.'"

If you decide to read any further, Meldrum's name will become very familiar to you. Nearly every story I found quotes him at least once. The AP story also brought up the three separate stories Whitter and Dyer (whom I've decided to call Larry and Curly, since Biscardi is clearly the brains of the operation) have presented describing their "discovery" of the body:

"In one, the animal was shot by a former felon, and the men followed it into the woods. In a second version, they found a "family of Bigfoot" in North Georgia mountains. In the third, the two were hiking and stumbled upon the corpse with open wounds."

A story from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution paints a pictures of these two rubes that does not lend them any more credibility. I wonder how hard they had to stifle their laughter after releasing this gem:

"Still 'we’re now the best Bigfoot hunters in the world,' said Whitton, 31, of Ellenwood, who with Dyer, 28, wore ballcaps advertising their bigfootracker.com Web site."

The AJC article also reveals some the pair's antics before they hit the big time, talking in front fancy reporters and their cameras:

"They previously posted a video of the purported bigfoot on YouTube in which Whitton’s brother pretended to be a scientist, then announced it was all done in fun. And a recorded greeting on Whitton’s phone formerly claimed he and Dyer were leading expeditions to find not just bigfoot but also the Loch Ness monster and leprechauns."

Larry and Curly's excuse for this? They wanted to throw off all the "psychos" who were apparently hounding them after the first spoke of their discovery on a Bigfoot-themed radio show.

The AJC report also offers more information on the hoax Biscardi (Moe) perpetrated in 2005:

"In 2005, Biscardi claimed he had come across a woman in Nevada who had captured two living bigfoot creatures. He charged about $15 for visitors to his Web site to see blurry streaming video claiming to show the captured creatures."


The next story from the CBC offers little we haven't heard before, but does provide a concise explanation of the fruits of the DNA tests, and Moe's tortured explanation:

"Biscardi vowed that DNA evidence would vindicate the men. But he later said that one of the three samples sent for examination came back as human DNA, another was inconclusive, and a third came back as the DNA of a possum, which he said could have been from something the Bigfoot ate."

But since Moe never says from which part of the Bigfoot "body" the DNA samples were taken, this explanation doesn't seem to have a leg on which to stand. Even if the sample was taken from the alleged stomach of the beast after just enjoying a hearty meal of possum, the DNA would most likely have been destroyed in the digestion process.

The CBC article also reiterates the AP claim of Larry and Curly's three different "discovery" stories:

"Whitton and Dyer have so far offered three different tales about how they came to find the creature: In one, the animal was shot by a former felon, and the men followed it into the woods. In a second version, they found a "family of Bigfoot" in North Georgia mountains. In the third, the two were hiking and stumbled upon the corpse with open wounds."

The article posted on the Discovery News website quotes Meldrum much more extensively, clearly showing how laughable he, a self-described Bigfoot researcher, thinks this whole thing is:

"'What they are claiming to be Bigfoot in a photograph doesn't look natural,' Jeffrey Meldrum, a professor of anatomy in the Department of Biological Sciences at Idaho State University, told Discovery News. 'When the photo is juxtaposed next to an off-the-shelf costume, the resemblance is remarkable,' Meldrum added."

The Discovery article also offers some context for this situation. Georgia resident Charles Doyle, who is a noted folklorist and an associate professor of English at the University of Georgia describes the reasons why such an outlandish tale is proving popular in his region:

"'Much of the lore of Bigfoot, I suspect, is what one eminent folklorist a generation ago called "fakelore" -- invented figures with little or no basis in actual oral tradition that are passed off as local folklore, figures like Paul Bunyan and Pecos Bill -- for purposes of PR, attracting tourists, selling tabloid newspapers and magazines, creating children's literature, etc.,' Doyle explained."

The FoxNews.com article is only worthy of mention because the reporter actually sought out a Halloween costume seller to comment on the alleged picture of the "body" lying in a freezer:

"'It definitely looks like our costume,' Jerry Parrino, owner of TheHorrorDome.com, told FOXNews.com."

When even Fox News sees fit to rag on your credibility like this, you know you have a serious problem.

At last we come to the final article in my alphabetical hall of shame. This one comes from Scientific American, and presents a full-on interview with our good buddy Jeff Meldrum. In it, Meldrum actually identifies the scientist who preformed the DNA tests, but does not let any credibility seep into the story because of it:

"All the rumors about the bigfoot DNA results are just that: rumors. I spoke to Curtis Nelson (a biologist from the University of Minnesota) who is doing the DNA tests, and he all he could say is that there are no results yet—he can't say anything more due to a nondisclosure agreement. Apparently Curt just received a vial of tissue in the mail, and there's no chain of custody, no validation that this tissue came from the corpse in question. Since there is no known Sasquatch genetic material to compare it to, he may just end up with a gene sequence that doesn't match any other primates, at best."

The SciAm article was posted before the actual press conference, explaining Meldrum's description of the DNA samples as "rumors."

Meldrum's phone must have been ringing off the hook because of the three stooges. I feel a bit sorry for the guy. I cannot wait to see where Larry, Moe and Curly turn up next after being raked through the coals of critical thinking by so many news organizations. A few articles mentioned Moe claiming more test results will be revealed on Monday, but I somehow doubt it.

A side note, Jeremy the Skeptic will put on hold for the next two weeks. I'm glad I had to chance to write about this hilarious story as my last post for a while. Nothing makes me happier than to see blatant hoaxers get their asses handed to them by the news media.

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