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The 1950s in America, with the innocence and excitement that abounded during that era, served dutifully as the “Golden Era” for a host of now famous modern endeavors. Following the Second World War, as the United States emerged from the conflict as one of the major world superpowers, creativity was running high, and new forms of industry and infrastructure were being identified and executed for profit, thanks in large part to the necessity for innovation that occurred during the war years.
The 1950s would also usher in an age when, in the absence of the requisite focus on wartime turmoil, curiosity, hearsay, and perhaps a bit of boredom, blended eloquently to lend themselves to new, and sometimes odd, interests. Of particular interest to our audience here, the 1950s ushered in such things as the modern flying saucer craze, as well as a new interest in an older story from further back up in the foothills around the Pacific Northwest: the alleged existence of “ape men” in the remote wilds of North America.
We sometimes forget how old this phenomenon really is, especially when we find ourselves watching the mind-numbing silliness (or sport, according to some) that so-called “Bigfoot hunting” has become. But has it really become the past time of a select few weekend-warriors who are out in search of the biggest-game there is, or is it a continuation of a much older cultural practice? Read on friends, and you may just learn the sad, shameful truth.
The discussion of the Bigfoot craze in America is a lot like flying saucers, in a sense, in that while the perceived fascination with the phenomenon would begin in the 1940s and 50s, there are earlier histories that involve both the wild men of the remote parts of America, as well as unidentified flying objects. Reports of strange airships–and even disc shaped craft in at least a few instances–do go back much further in our cultural memory than the first sighting of alleged “flying saucers” by Kenneth Arnold in 1947 (which, as has been argued elsewhere
, may not have been “saucers” at all). The airship reports date back to the 1890s, often linked with Jules Verne’s presentations on such themes in books like Robur the Conquerer and its sequel, Master of the World. In similar fashion, reports of “wild men” in the Americas that pre-date the 1950s reports that led to the creation of “Bigfoot” (if in name only, and largely by members of the press, as had been the case with Arnold’s “saucers”) exist also; notable reports include a detailed affidavit written and signed by William Roe a few years prior to the famous hoax that fooled Jerry Crew at Bluff Creek, California, as well as earlier reports such as the “Ruby Ridge” incident, and collected accounts of the Harrison Lake Chehalis natives authored by J.W. Burns even earlier.
In those days, going out and “hunting” Bigfoot, for those who took the matter seriously, was something that was seldom done… although there were a few who were doing it, and trying to do it seriously. Namely, among these were writer and researcher John Green, as well as Rene Dahinden (who famously took a ver literalist “pro-kill” stance regarding Bigfoot “hunts” early on), as well as the British explorer and adventurer Peter Byrne, who would claim to have raised several millions of dollars throughout the 50s, 60s, and 70s that had gone toward serious studies into Bigfoot’s potential existence. Zoologists the likes of Ivan Sanderson, as well as his colleague Bernard Huevelmans (who actually coined the term “cryptozoology) also took serious interest in the matter. Later, the renowned anthropologist Grover Krantz would enter the proverbial Bigfoot-ring, espousing views regarding “final proof” of the creature that mirrored Dahinden’s early offerings on the necessity for having to kill one of the creatures. Finally, one Archie Buckley, a pediatrist who studied alleged Bigfoot footprints, would attempt to make a strong case for their existence, in part with the help of promotion through programs like In Search Of…and other television specials which most of the men described above had variously appeared on.