Bigfoot: The Life and Times of a Legend was technically published on May 15, 2009, by the University of Chicago Press, but it has been available to read for almost a month. Written by Joshua Blu Buhs, 36, of California, the 279-page hardback is available at bricks and mortar bookstores, as well as online.
I was given an early, pre-publication copy of the manuscript for my reaction. I read it and enjoyed it. I understood that it would be a book that would be misread, so to speak, as yet another dismissive examination of Bigfoot, and, indeed, of all of hominology. But I viewed it as a deeper book, one with a sociological insight that should be appreciated. Sure, folks, especially, Bigfooters, have reasons to be cautious, but unlike the vitriolic ad hominem skepticism spewed from Greg Long’s book, Buhs actually delivers a level-headed tome.
So, a summary of my opinion was published on the cover of the book:
“While Bigfoot researchers have grown weary of skeptical treatments of the topic, Joshua Buhs’s examination of the Sasquatch is refreshingly crisp and insightful, as opposed to demeaningly debunking. His grasp of the popular cultural significance of Bigfoot is outstanding and his overview of the legacy of these creatures is topnotch. Highly recommended.”
Today, I found in the middle of a longer article, a concise review of Buhs’ new book that is from a Bigfoot chronicler. Reporter Paul Fattig has, in the past, for example, written a positive, rather pro-Bigfoot article on September 3, 2006, “Off the Beaten Path.” It was a column about Eugene, Oregon resident Ron Olson who, with his father and a friend, built the Bigfoot trap (above) near what is now Applegate Lake in 1974. The reporter had also done an earlier column on saving the trap.
Fatting’s review of Buhs’ book seemed worthy of sharing here.
The skillfully written book isn’t about debunking the legend or proving the big guy exists. Rather, Buhs, whose other book, “The Fire Ant Wars,” was published by the same printing house in 2004, explores the cultural phenomenon created by the Sasquatch lore.
Buhs takes us around the world, from Olson’s bigfoot trap on the upper Applegate River to the search for Yeti in the snowy Himalayan peaks with Sir Edmund Hillary. You will read about Roger Patterson, who shot the grainy film footage of an alleged Bigfoot along Bluff Creek in the Klamath River drainage and Washington State University professor Grover Krant, who sought to give gravitas to what cryptozoologists have dubbed Gigantopithecus americana.
The stories are invariably interesting, sometimes strange, often humorous and always entertaining. It’s a good read, particularly if you’ve ever camped in a wilderness and wondered what lurks in the darkness just beyond the dying campfire light.
The writer, who has a degree in history and the sociology of science from the University of Pennsylvania, lets readers make their own conclusion.
He does note in the preface that he doesn’t believe the big boy exists. Yet you won’t find that bias in reading his book.
“I’m willing to concede people out there might see something they otherwise can’t explain,” he said in a telephone interview Friday. “I personally don’t believe it is a big hairy beast. But a lot of people are very sincere about what they’ve seen.
“There are the hoaxsters out there,” he continued. “But there is also a real core group of people who are very sincere and earnest, just trying to understand what their friends have seen or they have seen themselves.”
Reared in California, Buhs recalled first learning of the Bigfoot legend as a youngster. He also has camped throughout the Northwest.
“The approach I wanted to take was not, ‘Yes, it does exist’ or ‘No, it doesn’t,’ but to look at how Americans think about nature and our ideas about wilderness, particularly in the 19th century,” he said. “I also wanted to look at the different ways the bigfoot legend has spread. It is very ubiquitous.”
He also explores why there was so much interest in the creature at different times in our history, including the 1970s.
“I didn’t expect to find this many people involved or the detailed information that was out there,” he said. “When you get into the microscopic anatomy of a footprint cast, that’s very specific … I had a blast writing it.”
He is now researching a book about the Forteans, folks who follow the work of Charles Hoy Fort, an early 20th-century writer who devoted his life to phenomena on the thin edge between fact and fantasy.
“I think that could be very interesting,” he said.
And, yes, there still may be good reasons to keep that Bigfoot trap in good repair!