The mysterious and elusive ape-man commonly referred to as Bigfoot is perhaps the most well-known cryptozoological creature in pop culture. Although many claim to have seen the man-beast, and some claim to have evidence proving its existence, mainstream science is not convinced that Bigfoot is real. But those who assert the reality of Bigfoot do not necessarily agree on what Bigfoot is exactly. Some believe Bigfoot is simply an elusive primate, similar to a gorilla. Others believe the creature is closer to a prehistoric human. But, stranger still, some assert that Bigfoot is actually an extraterrestrial.
Bigfoot and UFOs
Countless researchers and authors have written about Bigfoot. Although the furtive primate theory is the dominant explanation for the creature, there are a number of books and articles addressing the possibility that Bigfoot’s true identity is more alien. Author and radio personality Micah Hanks points out that researchers such as John Keel and Stan Gordon have noted parallels between sightings of ape-like creatures and UFOs. In an article titled “Curious Cryptohominids: A Link Between Aliens and Bigfoot,” Hanks references a study conducted by George Mason University professor Peter Leeson in 2008. Leeson plotted reported UFO sightings on a chart along with reported Bigfoot sightings. Hanks explains that Leeson noticed “an intriguing pattern” where states with more UFO sightings also appeared to have more Bigfoot sightings. Hanks goes on to say that, in a guest blog for the New York Times, “Leeson wrote that ‘six of the top ten UFO and Bigfoot states are the same . . .'”
Theoretical nuclear physicist and cryptozoology expert Dr. Franklin Ruehl wrote an article for the Huffington Post in which he presents the notion that Bigfoot could be an extraterrestrial creature. He too looks to UFO cases to support this theory. He details an encounter that occurred on October 25, 1973 where a group of farmers in Fayette County, Pennsylvania observed a brightly lit dome-shaped UFO approximately one-hundred feet in diameter. He explains:
As the locals drove toward it, they saw a pair of gargantuan creatures covered with thick, matted hair, luminescent green eyes and long arms that dangled below their knees. A farmer’s son fired a gun shot at the creatures, one of which raised its right hand in the air. At that very moment, the UFO disappeared. Then, the two Bigfoots escaped into the woods and were never seen again.
Ruehl recounts another case in which dairy farmer William Bosak of Frederic, Wisconsin had a “hair-raising experience” on December 9, 1974. This case was featured in the January/February 1975 issue of the APRO Bulletin (APRO, which stands for Aerial Phenomena Research Organization, was a civilian UFO research group that operated from 1952 through 1988). According to the report, Bosak was driving home at approximately 10:30 p.m. when he spotted an object on the side of the road ahead of him, approximately one mile from his farm. The APRO Bulletin further describes:
He had been driving slowly because of patches of fog and his headlights reflected off the object so he slowed as he approached it.
“It had a curved front of glass and inside I could see a figure with its arms raised above its head,” Bosak told reporters. When later interviewed by Field Investigator Everett E. Lightner, Bosak said that the newspaper account which appeared in the St. Paul Pioneer-Press was basically accurate except that the ears on the “human” he saw inside were placed higher on the head.
The object was standing still and appeared to be between 8 and 10 feet in height. The transparent “glass” area through which Bosak could view the occupant was bullet-shaped at the top, or tapered to a peak. He had slowed nearly to a stop when he came up to the object, but then fear took over and he stepped on the accelerator and left the object behind . . .
The “human,” as Bosak referred to it, had hair sticking out from the sides of its head with ears protruding out about three inches and they were shaped like a calf’s ear. It had no collar or shirt with seam in front but appeared to be clothed in something tannish-brown in color and fitted (skin-tight) like a diver’s suit. Both arms were extended above its head and hair stuck out from the outside of the arms. There was no beard, but there was hair or fur on the upper part of the body . . .
Reports of ape-man sightings and photographed large footprints in the 1950s marked Bigfoot’s entry into pop culture. The most famous image of Bigfoot comes from a short film shot in 1967 by Roger Patterson and Bob Gimlin in Bluff Creek, California. The film is widely considered a hoax, yet, as LiveScience explains, “it remains to this day the best evidence for Bigfoot.” Although Bigfoot entered pop culture in the 1950s and 60s, Bigfoot-like creatures appear in American Indian legends from much earlier. Ruehl cites an example from 1888 where a cattleman described an encounter with friendly American Indians in Humboldt County, California. Ruehl describes, “They led him to a cave where he saw a hefty humanoid creature covered in long, shiny black hair, with no neck, sitting cross-legged. One Indian told him three of these ‘Crazy Bears’ had been cast out of a small moon that dropped from the sky and landed. The ‘moon’ then ascended back into the air.” Ruehl’s speculative deduction is that “it’s highly likely the ‘Crazy Bears’ were really Bigfoots, and the ‘moon,’ a spacecraft.”
This particular Crazy Bears story was reported by paranormal researcher and author Brad Steiger. He explains that a man named James C. Wyatt sent him a copy of his grandfather’s journal that “contained fascinating and startling entries, written in straightforward fashion.” Steiger suggests that these entries, if interpreted literally, “may indicate that an association between Bigfoot-type creatures and UFOs has existed for quite some time.”
Jack “Kewaunee” Lapseritis also discusses American Indian encounters with Bigfoot in his book The Psychic Sasquatch. With a background in anthropology, psychology, and conservation, Lapseritis has researched Bigfoot for fifty years. In his book, he describes a trip he took with a friend to visit an American Indian family on their farm in Wisconsin. According to Lapseritis, the head-of-house informed him that, since moving to the farm that summer, the family had observed “round, glowing objects” in the sky. These saucer-shaped craft occasionally landed on the property. These landings reportedly took place mostly while the family was in the house watching television. The landings would also make the family dog “go berserk, barking, whining, and cowering.” Then, sometimes, “an ominous-looking figure of a giant man would peep in the windows.”
On the first few encounters, the teenage boys grabbed a .22-caliber rifle and ran outside to face the intruder. Each time they were mystified as to where the stranger had fled. Once the two boys saw a seven-to-eight-foot “man” run into the barn and heard him climb the steps to the second floor. The youths cautiously tiptoed up the stairs. They heard a thud from someone jumping to the ground from the second level. One of the boys ran to the side of the barn just in time to see a Sasquatch duck around the other side. When they reported the incident to their father, he immediately banned all guns and counseled them as to the nature of the being. He told his three sons to accept the Sasquatch as a spiritual friend, that the creatures meant no harm, and that they were conducting some task for the benevolent Starpeople who were on the flying saucers. The sons accepted this, as the entire family of five saw the spaceships land and, within an hour of the landing, a Sasquatch would boldly stand at their window.
The head-of-house had allegedly been informed years before by a traditional medicine man of the association between Bigfoot and UFOs.
There are documented UFO and Bigfoot sightings at a ranch in northeastern Utah, infamous for its prevalence of paranormal activity. These stories of UFOs and Bigfoot at the Sherman Ranch, also known as Skinwalker Ranch, are familiar to researchers and locals alike. In the book Hunt for the Skinwalker, Colm Kelleher and George Knapp reference a retired teacher named Junior Hicks, who they describe as the region’s unofficial UFO historian. According to Hicks, “Local residents have frequently reported sightings of creatures that resemble the legendary Sasquatch, better known as Bigfoot.” But, based on the beliefs of local Ute American Indians, the Bigfoot sightings on and near the ranch complicate the task of identifying the mysterious creature. Hicks claims, “Some of the apelike creatures are Sasquatch, the Utes say, while others might be so-called skinwalkers, beings of pure evil that can assume the shape of any animal.”
Kelleher and Knapp also cite Canadian writer and Bigfoot researcher Ron Murdock who asserts that the existence of Bigfoot is taken for granted by American Indians. He claims that the Athabaskan Indians of Alaska “regard Sasquatch as a ‘big brother’ who looks out for Native American peoples and brings signs or messages during troubled times.” Murdock also asserts that Hopi elders believe that Bigfoot “delivers messages from the Creator.”
Unexplained animal mutilations are another mysterious occurrence reported at, and around, Skinwalker Ranch. According to Kelleher and Knapp, Bigfoot-like animals have been reported in the vicinity of animal mutilation cases, but not just at Skinwalker Ranch. They describe that, during a 1974 wave of cattle mutilation cases in Nebraska, Kansas, and Iowa, witnesses reported seeing UFOs and “animals that resembled apes or bears” on the ranches where the mutilations occurred. Similarly, in 1975 during a wave of animal mutilations and UFO sightings, three separate witnesses saw “hairy, manlike beasts” in their yards in Idaho.
Assuming these hairy man-beasts exist, the question remains: What is Bigfoot? The easy, comfortable answer is that Bigfoot is nothing but an elusive primate. But Brad Steiger posits, “Perhaps, as some researchers suggest, the Bigfoot-type creatures are deposited here by extraterrestrial UFOnauts to test our environment in the same manner that we might one day in the future deposit primates on a planet whose atmosphere we wanted to evaluate in terms of a potential landing.” Dr. Franklin Ruehl postulates, “Perhaps the Bigfoot creatures are UFO pilots, landing on earth for exploratory purposes. Or, conceivably, higher level ETs are leaving behind some specimens as ‘guinea pigs’ to test our environment for long-term survival. Or, possibly, these Bigfoots are criminal entities being deposited on Earth as a form of cosmic deportation!” And Kewaunee Lapseritis suggests, “All evidence points directly to the fact that the creatures called Bigfoot/Sasquatch are, in reality, giant hairy ‘humans’ with an extraterrestrial origin.”
The apparent paranormal aspects present in many Bigfoot sighting reports and American Indian legends and beliefs seemingly suggest that, whatever Bigfoot is, it is no ordinary primate. Author and cryptozoologist Nick Redfern explains in his book Wildman!: The Monstrous and Mysterious Saga of the British Bigfoot, “There are a number of researchers who recognize that as much as it would be undeniably preferable to place Bigfoot in a purely flesh and blood category and nothing else whatsoever, there is a significant and hard to deny body of data and testimony that points in a very different direction.” But is that direction outer space? These reports and legends linking Bigfoot and UFOs lead some researchers to remain open to that possibility.
**A version of this article originally appeared in Open Minds magazine.