Not a Bigfoot crossing

This part of Highway 59, a few miles north of Denison, isn’t a Bigfoot crossing area. The sign denotes Lance Kleckner’s Bigfoot Willow hybrid tree service. Of course Dan Mundt stopped and took this photo

I have been fascinated with Bigfoot most of my life, which is why I was particularly pleased to learn that the FBI recently released previously confidential files about the (allegedly) furry beast.

I remember hanging out and talking about Bigfoot late one summer night with my friend Joel when we were maybe 12 or 13 years old.

One of us told a story about a woman who looked up while doing dishes and saw a Bigfoot watching her through the kitchen window.

We so thoroughly scared ourselves that some hours later, after a long period of silence, we both admitted we were still thinking about how there could be a Bigfoot lurking outside.

Joel and I were hanging out at my parents’ farm five miles south of Denison, where - even today - a law enforcement response to a Bigfoot attack would almost certainly take too long.

I’m reasonably sure no one has ever been killed by a Bigfoot (in Iowa, anyway), but the thought of a large beast walking upright somewhere out in the dark seemed like a real possibility that night.

When I say I have been fascinated by Bigfoot my whole life, what I really mean is that my childhood fear has been replaced by a fascination of the adults who have set themselves to proving that he (or she) is real.

For a while now I’ve been sharing on social media the interesting Bigfoot stories I’ve found online - and my friends occasionally share similar stories with me.

“NC mom invents a spray she says will attract any Bigfoot within a mile and a half,” was the headline from a September 13, 2017, story I shared from the Charlotte (North Carolina) Observer.

“To attract a Bigfoot, you need a smell that is woodsy enough to keep from scaring him off. But slightly different enough to make him curious, and come to investigate,” said Allie Megan Webb, the subject of the story.

She told the reporter that field tests by the Bigfoot 911 research group took place on an outing on which a Bigfoot sighting was reported - so it works!

Her attractant, called Bigfoot Juice, also doubles as a bug spray – and is still available on etsy.com. I do not endorse this product, but if you get some, make sure you keep your phone close - just in case.

“How many gallons have you ordered?” my friend Laurie asked.

“Bigfoot not found in Crawford County after group’s three-day search,” was the headline of a Meadville Tribune story I shared two years ago.

The Crawford County in question is in Pennsylvania.

“The reign of the all-time hide-and-seek champion continues as recent efforts to find a Bigfoot in Crawford County have failed,” is how the story began.

“After three days of searching, baiting and filming with trip cameras and thermal imagery, no creatures were caught, detained or otherwise encountered, according to T.J. Biscardi of Bigfoot Project Investments Inc.”

Biscardi told the Meadville Tribune that Bigfoots (Bigfeet?) roam as much as 80 to 150 miles in a day and might have been heading to a Canadian crossing area as part of their northern migration.

“Everybody knows Bigfoot lives in Woodbury County,” was my friend Ted’s comment.

Anyway, back to the FBI files.

“I have received your letter of November 24th requesting FBI Laboratory analysis of 15 unidentified hairs and tissues,” wrote Jay Cochran, Jr., assistant director of the FBI Scientific and Technical Services (STS) Division.

His letter, from December 15, 1976, is one of 22 pages concerning Bigfoot in the FBI document release.

Cochran was writing to Peter Byrne, of the Bigfoot Information Center and Exhibit, in a back-and-forth conversation that spanned about a half-dozen letters.

In a letter dated August 26, 1976, Byrne had asked about previous FBI examinations of possible Bigfoot hair samples.

“Will you kindly, to set the record straight, once and for all, inform us if the FBI., has examined hair which might be that of a Bigfoot; when that took place, and if it did take place; what the results of the analysis were,” Byrne wrote (his punctuation).

Cochran responded on September 10, 1976, “…we have been unable to locate any references to such examinations in our files.”

A two-week turnaround from the FBI on a question about Bigfoot is pretty fast, in my opinion.

In a letter dated November 24, 1976, Byrne asked Cochran if the FBI would analyze “...some hairs we have here which we are unable to identify.”

Byrne had collected the sample after spotting an unknown creature in a forest.

“The FBI Laboratory conducts examinations primarily on physical evidence for law enforcement agencies in connection with criminal investigations. Occasionally, on a case-by-case basis, in the interest of research and scientific inquiry, we make exceptions to this general policy. With this understanding, we will examine the hairs and tissue mentioned in your letter,” Cochran responded – just three weeks later – while possibly holding a mug of eggnog in his hand at a Christmas party (which is pure conjecture on my part).

The FBI document release included Cochran’s justification to his superiors for running the test.

Cochran stated that the test would not be a change in Bureau policy and “…the STS Division’s Laboratory Branch has a history of making its unique services and expertise available to the Smithsonian Institution, other museums, universities and government agencies in archeological matters and in the interest of research and scientific inquiry.”

Approval of the tests was granted.

Because Byrne was out of the country in early 1977, he asked that the results be directed to Howard Curtis, executive vice president of the Academy of Applied Science in Boston, Massachusetts.

On February 24, 1977, Cochran wrote Curtis and explained that the hairs had been examined by transmitted and incident light microscopy as well as with a morphological characteristics study of root structure, medullary structure and cuticle thickness. Scale casts were made and the hairs were compared directly with hairs of known origin under a microscope.

“It was concluded as a result of these examinations that the hairs are of deer family origin,” Cochran wrote.

In a twist, it turns out that Byrne never did receive the letter with the results of the FBI tests. He’s now 93 and only learned the tests had ever taken place after the FBI released the documents, according to a Washington Post story.

And that makes the final line of Cochran’s letter that much more tragic.

“The hair sample you submitted is being returned as an enclosure in this letter,” Cochran wrote.

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