Skepticism

'Tis a Hoax

You know that it’s a poor hoax when Bigfoot hunters have posted on the front page of their site that the alleged “Bigfoot body” that many news sources, including CNN (they’ve got Larry King interviewing Sylvia Browne and UFOlogists all the time after all), was in fact a rubber suit all along.

A few excerpts from the site “Searching for Bigfoot”:

On August 1st, 2008 Tom Biscardi traveled to Georgia and on August 2nd was given a sample, allegedly, from the corpse, for DNA testing. The DNA was hand delivered to Dr. Curt Nelson of Michigan and a chain of custody of the said sample was maintained from the time it was received from Ricky Dyer and Matthew Whitton.

As was pointed out previously on Skeptic’s Guide to the Universe, what are they testing this ‘DNA’ against? Do we have previously recovered Bigfoot DNA? At best you can determine that the DNA belongs to no known species but that’s the part where some people commit the nescio ergo bigfoot fallacy. If you can determine that the DNA belongs to no known species then your test is simply inconclusive.

On August 10th, 2008 Tom Biscardi received an email from Dr. Nelson that after the amplifications of two of the three samples, that the size of the DNA was consistent with human/ape DNA.

The size of the DNA is consistent with human/ape DNA? What does that mean? Do they mean the number of chromosomes?

Humans and apes don’t have the same number of chromosomes (a fact which some creationists tried to use to try to disprove common ancestry between humans and apes but which was simply the result of a fusion of two chromosomes somewhere along our evolutionary history).

Do they mean the size of the DNA molecule? Atomic size is not determined by the species the atoms are in, atomic size is determined by “electron shielding” and other fun things you’ll get into if you take chemistry. Atomic radius doesn’t vary between humans and amoebas.

Perhaps they meant the size of the genome? If so, then their terms are really confused.

On or about August 12th, 2008, Matthew Whitton and Ricky Dyer requested an undisclosed sum of money as an advance, expected from the marketing and promotion, and as a good faith gesture of the contract.

They want money? My hoaxy sense is tingling…

On August 15th, 2008, Tom Biscardi, Ricky Dyer and Matthew Whitton held a press conference at the Cabana Hotel in Paolo Alto, California, announcing that the corpse of a creature fitting the description known as ‘Bigfoot’ had been discovered. A police officer of seven years, on medical leave, labeled as a hero for being wounded in the line of duty, got up in front of the world and told the world of how he and Ricky Dyer uncovered this creature. This has since been proven a lie. It is notable that Rick Dyer insisted on this press conference and told Tom Biscardi he would not release the ‘body’ unless the conference was held on this specific date.

I can’t help but be reminded of the number of times UFOlogists claim that since their witnesses are “credible” then what they saw was really there. Sometimes seemingly credible people just lie. I think, however, that most of the time credible witnesses are simply mistaken as all humans have the capacity to be mistaken.

On August 17th, 2008 Searching for Bigfoot Team Director of Field Operations, TJ Biscardi and myself, were up early to discover that some hair was now exposed. I extracted some from the alleged corpse and examined it and had some concerns. Bob Schmalzbach arrived and concurred. We burned said sample and said hair sample melted into a ball uncharacteristic of hair.

Well, good for him to examine that but hold on… a zoologist probably could have told you if the hairs were real and possibly what animal it may have come from if they were real.

Having eaten lunch with the zoology department at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science a few times, I’ve heard them speak on topics ranging from collecting poo to find dung beetles to pictures of “chupacabras” which various people have brought in for them to look at. It’s almost always just a dead dog or other animal which looks monstrous and frightening because, well, its flesh is decaying.

That’s why I had to raise my eyebrows when CNN did a piece on the so-called “montauk monster” and didn’t show the picture to a single qualified zoologist. Instead they showed the picture to people on the street who probably wouldn’t be qualified to identify the corpse. That’s not to say that they aren’t intelligent or aren’t sane, but indentifying animals does require a certain amount of expertise.

But, oh, right… zoology isn’t a real science. That’s why random people on the street have a much more valid opinion when they say that the “montauk monster” is an alien (later determined by someone on Science Blogs to be a racoon, but frustratingly I can’t find the link) than those ivory-tower elitists in their museums dissecting smelly animal corpses and in the wild collecting dung to search for species of beetles who say it’s just a rotting corpse.

But, alas, they finally did figure out it was just a rubber suit.

At that time we contacted Mr. Biscardi who gave us permission to begin an expedited melting process. We set up a salamander heater to heat the freezer. Within one hour we were able to see the partially exposed head, as I was now able to touch it, I was able to feel that it seemed mostly firm, but unusually hollow in one small section. This was yet another ominous sign. Within the next hour of thaw, a break appeared up near the feet area. As the team and I began examining this area near the feet, I observed the foot which looked unnatural, reached in and confirmed it was a rubber foot.

At that point we immediately contacted, Tom Biscardi and advised him of the situation and he began to take action on his end. Later that day, Tom Biscardi informed us that both Matthew Whitton and Ricky Dyer admitted it was a costume.

I had to find the end of this account of what happened a tad ironic:

At this time the victim of this series of deceptions, Searching for Bigfoot, Inc., is seeking justice for themselves and for all the people who were deceived by this deception. Due to this event peoples lives have been disrupted and many people, so wanting vindication about there prior experiences were hurt. Let us all try to be mindful of such.

Granted, creating a hoax has to make you a bit of a jerk I guess, but perhaps it wouldn’t be such a let down if they had been, I dunno… more skeptical?

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4 Comments

  1. August 19, 2008 at 4:45 pm —

    My favorite bit of the whole reveal was that Biscardi employed a “Sasquatch detective.” I wish I could just make up my own job. I’d be Professor Of Everybody Gives Me A Dollar.

  2. Shivierie
    August 19, 2008 at 7:05 pm —

    There was a debate about the Montauk Monster on the skeptics guide forum, if you’re interested. Hang on, let me get the link.
    http://skepchick.org/skepticsguide/index.php/topic,12662.0/topicseen.html
    I think it starts on page 3, but I’m not sure

  3. FFFearlesss
    August 20, 2008 at 7:28 am —

    I can’t believe the red flag didn’t go up to ANYBODY in the news industry when, as they said by their own words, the people who found them weren’t just random tourists or police officers in the forest, but “Hobbyist Bigfoot Hunters.” Why didn’t that strike somebody, ANYBODY, at CNN as highly suspicious.

  4. August 20, 2008 at 8:49 am —

    That someone on ScienceBlogs is Tetrapod Zoology. The relevant post is here.

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