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Friday, January 3, 2014

What to ask what to look for
What to look for

This is a guest post by Gordon Ambrose from The discerning man's squatch. Stop by his facebook page and give it a like. Gordon is a bigfoot enthusiast who employs critical thinking when looking at bigfoot evidence.

What should your criteria be when it comes to purported Bigfoot evidence?
Let’s start with what kind of evidence there is and then describe what makes some better than others. I will divide this topic into several different articles so they can be digested easier.

The most common is the eyewitness account. This is a person who claims to have come into visual range of a creature they believe is a Sasquatch. This evidence can be quite compelling because unless it is an outright lie, you usually have someone who is very excited because they believe they have witnessed something very few people can claim to have ever seen and a mythical creature to boot.

There is a certain element of shock that has to accompany this type of encounter that makes the retelling of it very convincing. As convincing as this can be however, there are several factors you must keep in mind if you are a critical thinker. 
First off, as we have already mentioned, is this person telling you the truth and if so could they be omitting details that make their story more plausible such as was the lighting less than optimal when they had this encounter? I think that the majority of people who come forth with these types of stories are in fact telling the truth. For one, it can and does have an impact on a person’s reputation when they come forward with such a claim. 

In the case of the anonymous story teller, there is much less to gauge truthfulness and even though we can understand why a person would choose to remain anonymous, we can only consider their story as just that, a story. In the case of the self-identified purporter, there are some very good reasons to ask the right questions as the audience to the claim. 
The biggest hurdle you have to overcome as the listener is could this person have misidentified what they have seen? Questions to be asked should be, was it light or dark outside? How far away was this sighting from you? Are you familiar with other creatures that inhabit the area? Why were you in the location you were in when this sighting happened? 

Based on those answers you should have follow up questions such as did you believe in this creature and were you looking for it, even if just as a brief passing thought, when you had this encounter? If they are a believer and were in fact at least Bigfoot minded when they ran across it, they could have experienced something our minds have been doing for millennia, which is in fact a survival skill we all have built into our psyches. All of us have been scared of the unknown from time to time. 
This feeling of fear is actually a safety or self-preservation mechanism so that you are prepared in the case of an encounter that may put your life in danger. Your senses are heightened, your adrenaline is at an optimum and you are better suited for fight or flight. Today these worries are less frequent than our ancient relatives, but we do still encounter them whenever we find ourselves somewhere where we feel the slightest bit vulnerable. It happens all of the time in real life scenarios, but let’s take one that most people can relate to even if vicariously through a good story or a movie.

I chose this scenario because it is not normally considered a rational fear, but we have all experienced this in some form or another. You the actor, are crossing a graveyard late at night by yourself. It is dark, the wind is scattering leaves and twigs and you can’t help but think about the environment you are walking through. You may not even believe in ghosts, but you have heard stories and the night is just right for an encounter like the one you begin to imagine. You may begin to experience a phenomenon that makes the shadows you see and noises you hear, take on a more threatening characteristic than they actually are. This is your mind preparing you for the worst… just in case. If something were to jump out of the shadows and scurry across your path, you might be forgiven to believe it was something other worldly. In fact your mind has been setting yourself up for that experience this whole time. 

This protective sense of ours is most of the time wrong as is the case of the graveyard crosser or sometimes even in a dark, unfamiliar alley that you find you must traverse. However, it only has to be right once to have done its job, so we are stuck with it. Of course not all visual encounters should be lumped into this and if Bigfoot does in fact exist there are truly people out there who have seen this thing first hand and have made a positive identification. 
The problem with an eyewitness account though is that we as human beings are very prone to making mistakes and that is just part of who we are.

Part 2 of What should your criteria be when it comes to purported Bigfoot evidence?

The second type of evidence for Bigfooter’s to consider is the photo/video kind. This type of evidence takes us as the viewer a little closer to the experience and sometimes as an unintentional consequence, smack dab into the bat sh*t crazy mind of those who put it forth as proof.
I know we dabble in a topic that is not mainstream so unintentionally invite in some that sit back smoking a soap bubble pipe while still having flashbacks from the age of Aquarius. But that does not automatically give them the right to spout googly goo nonsense and expect those of us that share this interest to allow them to contaminate the discussion. Those who have the back of the blurry photo do just that. In what other field does an ambiguous, nondescript photo hold any weight? With that in mind, even the best of photos should be looked at with a skeptical leaning eye. Not just because we live in the day of photoshop, but photos can be misleading on many levels.
The primary way a photo gets into the Bigfoot archives, but still leaves us scratching our heads is the partial body or head shot. We see something that looks like it is a hairy creature and think we can make out an eye, a head. an arm or a leg. Unfortunately for us, every single creature that roams the woodland also shares those features. If you already have your mind set that big creatures with big feet are a lurking out there, anything that comes close to your preconceived notion of that will trip your switch. Why is it that most photos only contain a partial body? You can say, well there are trees and such that they live and hide behind. Very well and good I say, but those very obstacles also cast an infinite amount of shadows that when in the right perspective, create an infinite amount of figures, faces and facades. The partial body photo is also a good way for a hoaxer to cover the lack lusterless imparts of a staged shot. If you were to take hundreds of such photos, one is bound to create the effect you are looking for.

The full body shot does us a little better justice, but a great deal of those are also just as blurry. If you find a shot that is not blurry, you have to look at another limitation, which is scale. Photos are notorious for making small things look big and big things look small. I am sure you have even seen photos where it appears that someone is holding the moon in their hands or holding up the Leaning Tower of Pisa. Illusions abound in everyday life and I have always especially liked sidewalk drawings where it looks from a certain angle like you may just tumble into a chasm of some sort if you don’t walk around it. The point is our eyes can be fooled.

Video proof is perhaps our best proof, yet it is full of limitations too. If you are lucky, in a video you have an opportunity to see body movement and if you are even luckier, context of scale and perhaps some finer details. Often however you are stuck with grainy and bouncy footage, where you get a one second glimpse of something that just could be……mmmmm Bigfoot maybe? I believe this is deliberate in some cases and just the nature of traversing the terrain and getting that award winning shot in others. Thankfully today, we do have people like MK Davis that have taken it upon themselves to stabilize, zoom in and slow down some videos so we can get a better understanding of what we may be seeing. I applaud those people, for without them, not only would we be left sea sick, but completely unimpressed with a tremendous amount of footage.

I personally have a couple of gold rule standards that I apply to videos, before giving them a thumbs up or a thumbs down. The first is, what is the backstory and why are you, the video taker, where you are and with a camera rolling? Some videos are dead giveaways just because there seems to be no logical reason why you are filming in the first place. In other words everything appears to be staged just for this one in a million, phenomenal footage. 
The second thing I look for is reaction of the party or parties when the creature comes to their attention. First thing you would expect would be an evident surge of fear, shock and adrenaline. Their voices will get higher in pitch, they will say things like “Holy sh*t, what, the heck is that thing” and not things like “look a Bigfoot”. You get my point anyway. 
The third thing I look for is the length of the clip. If you have your video camera trained on a Sasquatch, you would think you would get more than 17.5 seconds of footage or in many cases a whole lot less. Got to love the 3 second video clip we are expected to fawn over. 
One of the reasons I was never impressed by Rick Dyers tent video is its shortness for such a close up video. Unfortunately most videos fall into that length of time and should be a red flag. I do understand editing for the best parts, but once again this goes back to the importance of people’s reactions before, during and after an encounter. You are editing out the best parts if you remove an honest reaction. 
The final aspect of a video that I will discuss today concerning validity is, what do you actually get to see in the video? Even if in the case of a possible mistaken identification, we should be able to clearly make out that this is a living animal, be it human, bear or otherwise and not a tree stump. The best videos however leave no doubt, such as Freeman and the PG films, that you are looking at either a well made costume or a Bigfoot indeed.

A little on CGI and the well made costume. With today’s technology CGI is always a possibility, however even in the highest budget movies, we seem to be able to tell something is not quite right, but too high a quality should be a clue as well. We don’t often traverse the woods with a many thousand dollar camera, so something that looks too good probably is too good if done by a supposed amateur. Seems ironic requesting high quality proof, yet potentially dismissing it at the same time.
You just have to have a keen eye for what does not look natural and put all of the pieces together. They can get you every time with a well made U.F.O video.
Lastly if you have ever watched the Sci-Fi show face off, you know what talented people are capable of concerning makeup and costumes. We as a group, fascinated with the Bigfoot have a tough job ahead of us in any event. I know this article sounds like I can dismiss just about everything out there, but that would not be true. I have seen some videos that fail on three quarters of what I like to see and I still think there is a possibility we may be viewing a Bigfoot. The take away though, should be, (1)we as humans are capable of seeing things that are not there especially when we want to believe it. (2) We need to be able to put ourselves in the shoes of the videographer and see if the reaction and emotion fits the situation and finally (3) we need to consider all aspects of the video, not just what we see, but how we are seeing it (is it staged) and even seemingly little things like the length of the video. 
I will discuss in more depth (at another time), videos I really like and I am always interested in what you the reader may have discovered that is new or I may have overlooked.

Ready, set…..Bigfoot!

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1 comment:

  1. It is important to point out that you are describing a method that is not accepted by science. Science treats any anecdotal evidence (eyewitness reports) with great doubt and will never accept it as proof. Science also has no respect for scale. 1 sighting looks the same as 1,000. They are not treated differently. As researchers we have to understand that science uses the empirical method to prove or disprove. This method has very strict requirements that must be met before we can even test a hypothesis like is Bigfoot real. DNA evidence or a body is about the only way to prove it's existence within the empirical model.

    Now what Mr. Ambrose described is a logical model. Many scientists and scientific skeptics like to describe their approach as reasoned and logical, but in fact anyone who requires the empirical model (scientific) method to be the only test for claims is not following logic. Many people say logic without much thought put into the definition, but a logical system is very different than scientific practices and in fact classical skepticism is based on logic and critical thinking. Unfortunately we have a modern wave of skepticism that tries to have an allegiance to the scientific method and logic simultaneously which is impossible. But that is another issue.

    A logcal model looks at what a reasonable human being would accept as evidence. These are two very different things, but important. The paranormal and cryptid world would do well to adopt a logical model to guide research until we have something that can be tested under the empirical model. Science has a limited scope: It is horrible at testing claims that are far out of reach of current scientific understanding. Unless something can be tested in a lab environment or we understand some of the underlying principals, science will resist these lines of thought.

    We should acknowledge that the existence of Bigfoot would change many accepted scientific principals, so it will not be accepted without substantial proof.

    - Matt


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