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Wednesday, August 11, 2010

MIKE HALLOWELL: Cliff Crook

I was interested to read Michael Newton's take on Bigfoot or more specifically, the dirty politics that have clouded the search for it for more years than I care to remember.

I believe in Bigfoot and think I might have caught a glimpse of him once near the Dorcheat Bayou in Louisiana. It was approaching dusk, though, and I can't be sure. I'd like to think so.

I don't wish to get involved in all the claims and counter-claims over the Patterson-Gimlin footage. My opinion has wavered over the years, and each researcher has to make up their own mind as to whether they think it's genuine or not.

But I would like to say a word about Cliff Crook.

Many years ago, when I was first cutting my teeth as a columnist, I decided to write up a piece on that enigmatic Man O' the Woods for perhaps more than any other cryptid, he fascinates me. I cannot explain why this is so; he just does. I contacted a number of researchers in the field. Some were moderately helpful, others less so. One, in fact, was downright abusive and accused me of being a "subversive." Wow, what a compliment.

But Cliff Crook was different. He sent me reams of material through the post, including copies of his newsletter, and a number of photographs. He told me in no uncertain terms that he did not believe the Patterson-Gimlin footage was genuine and I respected his opinion although at the time I did not share it. I was fascinated by his research and just knew I had to interview him. In my conversations with Cliff I found him to be unassuming, considerate and humble. He was, in fact, the sort of chap you just couldn't help but warm to.

I've interviewed Cliff several times over the years and was particularly fascinated by his account of his own first encounter with Bigfoot. In quiet, almost sedate tones he calmly related how, with some friends during a camping trip, he saw the creature and quite understandably, ran home – a distance of several miles.

I know that Cliff has courted controversy over the years – as readers of this blog know, I'm certainly no stranger to it myself – but after talking to the man I quickly formed the opinion that many of the ad hominem attacks directed towards him were launched from a platform of personal dislike. I don't have a problem with people who engage with others in the cut-and-thrust of intellectual debate; if we publicly make our opinions known then it is reasonable to expect that others may take issue with them. However, I have a real problem with those who engage in witch-hunts and carry out personal vendettas against those who have the temerity to disagree with their own pet theories. Sadly, I'm of the opinion that some of the flack that has been aimed at Cliff over the years falls into that very category.

I'm simply not in a position to say whether some of the criticisms and accusations launched at Cliff Crook are true or not. All I can do is relate my own experiences with the man and state quite publicly that my instincts have never led me to believe that he was a charlatan. He is, I think, a ruggedly individualistic and somewhat unconventional researcher who goes about things in his own way. It is a way that works for him. Some of his beliefs and theories may not be popular with other researchers but he is perfectly entitled to hold them without being subjected to intimidation.

Perhaps the saddest aspect of this whole affair is that such shenanigans distract us from the real goal of determining whether Bigfoot really exists or not. When researchers spend more time investigating the background and activities of their 'rivals' than they do looking for one of the world's most enigmatic cryptids, then they've allowed themselves to be lured from the track that leads to Sasquatch and into a proverbial blind alley.

There are, I know, a few close colleagues of mine at the CFZ who have been subjected to quite execrable abuse by a number of keyboard warriors recently (5th Battalion, Cowardy Custard Division of the Pseudo-Fortean Fusiliers), and it isn't pleasant. I really don't know what possesses such individuals, although it could very well be Beelzebub or one of his minions, I suppose.

Personally, I think that Cliff Crook is a far better researcher than some give him credit for. During my interviews with him I asked him about a number of investigations he's carried out. I was impressed by the methodical and systematic way he approached things. His techniques may not satisfy the meticulous standards of academia, but we can't all be paragons in the lofty pantheon of intellectual godhood. He struck me as a competent, thorough and quite creative researcher who has much to offer the world of Bigfoot research. When it comes to the instinctive, practical side of looking for the Big Fellah – actually getting out in the woods and doing it – I honestly think he'd be the first one I'd call.

Cliff Crook doesn't have the swishest website in the world but he does call a spade a spade. He may not possess a cerebral dictionary of academic terminology but he speaks in a manner that ordinary folk who have had encounters with Bigfoot understand and feel comfortable with. I have had correspondence with several experients who speak in glowing terms of Cliff Crook and the assistance he subsequently provided to them.

There is an old maxim in journalism that we should only write about what we know. Of course, in the world of Forteana we mostly have to write about what we don't know. There are, of course, many things about Cliff Crook that I do not know and therefore cannot comment upon. I'm sure he wouldn't expect me to. All I can say is that what I do know impresses me.

I haven't written this blog to take issue with anything said about Cliff by his critics, or to affirm or deny a single word that has found its way into print about the man. I simply want to show that there's another side to the story – another perspective on this vignette of Fortean history – that needs to be told.

Is there, I wonder, just the faintest chance that we could all put down our swords and/or bury our hatchets, pull on our hiking boots and head for them thar hills so we can get back to business and finally meet up with that Old Man O' the Woods?

Just a thought. If you disagree, you can pull me up about it at the Weird Weekend over a pint (your round – I bought the last one) and let rip – in a caring, sharing sort of way, of course.…

1 comment:

Dale Drinnon said...

I am not taking issue with the body of your blog posting and I do not detract from what you are saying about the dirty politics used by some Bigfooters.

What I actually noticed was that you thought you "caught a glimpse" of a bigfoot in Louisiana. I would like to hear about that part, write me personally if you like. I have done field work tracking bigfoot and I once "caught a glimpse" of what I thought was a black bear in Indiana (where there aren't supposed to be any)

In Louisiana, though, there are rumored to be Skunk Ape sorts of things also and so I was curious, was your "Glimpse" of something that seemed more humanlike or more apelike?

No personal attacks against anybody or anything, just curious.