Like Ogopogo, the Loch Ness Monster and flying saucers, Bigfoot and Sasquatch make no sense from logical and scientific perspectives. Yet, we can’t let go of them. The man — whose name is Peter Byrne — who sent the deer hair to the FBI some 50 years ago still believes in Bigfoot. In the Okanagan, there are people convinced they’ve seen Ogopogo slithering through the water like a giant snake. They have pictures, though you can’t tell what they’re of.
And within the past couple of weeks, flying saucers were in the news again after the U.S. Navy issued new guidelines for reporting UFOs by its pilots. The navy doesn’t believe in flying saucers per se but acknowledges there are often sightings of flying things that can’t be explained.
Back in 1973, around the same time as Peter Byrne was collecting deer hair and writing letters to the FBI, I met a friendly, sincere fellow named Rene Dahinden, a Swiss-born man who had moved to B.C. and was even more famous than Byrne when it came to hunting for large hairy men with huge feet.
Dahinden was making the media rounds with a book he’d authored that was titled simply, “Sasquatch.” I had an autographed copy of it around the house for a long time. In it, Dahinden made the case for the existence of Sasquatch, backing it up with photos.
One of the main pieces of evidence that convinced him the Sasquatch was real was a fuzzy video clip known as the Patterson-Gimlin film (after Roger Patterson and Bob Gimlin) depicting what looked like a big man or woman in a gorilla costume striding through the woods of northern California.
The film was analyzed many times, with attempts to measure the length of the creature’s stride, its size in comparison to the surrounding landscape, and so on. The film was widely rejected as a hoax, but Dahinden believed in it.
Dahinden scored a TV gig as the spokesman for Kokanee beer while he kept looking for a Sasquatch. Hollywood filmed a movie comedy called Harry and the Hendersons, loosely based on Dahinden, or, at least, inspired by his quest.
He vowed that his intention was to protect the Sasquatch, not to hurt it. Others might shoot it, he feared, and that was the last thing he wanted to see happen.
I remember him saying with absolute confidence he would not only prove its existence, but find one himself. After almost 50 years of searching, he never did, and died in 2001 at the age of 71.
“He will be missed by cryptozoologists worldwide,” his obituary said.
I believe Rene Dahinden really wanted to find a Sasquatch but what if he’d succeeded? What would he have done the rest of his life, with nothing to look for?
And what would have happened to the Sasquatch? At the least, it would have spurred a frenzy of Sasquatch hunters looking for glory, if not to shoot it then to capture it and put it on display for money.
Worse yet, what if someone was to prove the Sasquatch doesn’t exist? Or Ogopogo, the supposedly (or hopefully) friendly water monster whose legend I grew up with in the Okanagan Valley?
And do we really want to know the truth about little green people from outer space? Are we so anxious for the War of the Worlds to come true? Yes, we continue to search the universe for knowledge, but welcoming aliens on our home turf is a different ball of wax.
It’s much more fun to speculate about Stonehenge than to know who built it and why. If we knew what happened to D.B. Cooper would our lives be any better? Can humans really spontaneously combust and, if so, why?
There’s a sort of religion in this reluctant search for the unknown. Part of us is curious, part of us would rather leave well enough alone. If God came to visit, what kind of a world would it be without blind faith? Would we be disappointed? If we knew the secrets of the universe, what would we do about it?
Some truth is just as well left alone. It might prove disappointing, or dangerous. And probably less interesting than our ignorance. According to Forbes magazine, 40 to 50 new species of mammals are discovered every year. That’s enough. Let the Sasquatch be. Let him continue his aimless tramping through the dark forests of our imagination, free and undisturbed.
Mel Rothenburger is a former mayor of Kamloops and newspaper editor. He publishes the ArmchairMayor.ca opinion website, and is a director on the Thompson-Nicola Regional District board. He can be reached at email@example.com.
Editor’s Note: This opinion piece reflects the views of its author, and does not necessarily represent the views of CFJC Today or the Jim Pattison Broadcast Group.