Utahns: Have you joined Bigfoot mania?
Last month, a video was posted on YouTube purporting to show Bigfoot in Provo Canyon.
The video made the rounds, even getting some play on ABC News. While it seemed to convince some viewers, others thought it looked like a guy in a gorilla suit in a bit
contrived to become a viral video.
What many people didn't realize is that the video was just one of many Bigfoot sightings in Utah. "Dozens and dozens. Probably hundreds," said Michael Slade, a professional photographer who chronicles on his website local sightings of what many believe is a giant apelike creature. "I'm not hunting Bigfoot," Slade said. "I'm hunting Bigfoot stories."
And there seem to be a lot of Bigfoot stories circulating in pop culture right now.
Earlier this year, TV shows from "South Park" to "The Newsroom" have used the idea of the creature as a pivotal plot point. In May 2011, Animal Planet began airing a weekly series all about "Finding Bigfoot."
There have been sightings in 49 of the 50 states all but Hawaii and around the globe, and similar stories that go back centuries. "Either there is a Bigfoot, and all these people have seen it," according to Slade, "or there's not a Bigfoot, and everybody has had similar psychosomatic, mentally traumatic experiences throughout eons of time and across vast continents."
And Utah has more than our share of Bigfoot stories. "We live in a corridor of some kind," said David L. Carver, of Eden, the organizer of Dave's Bigfoot Show. "There's movement going on all the time."
Carver put together his first Bigfoot Show about two years ago as a youth soccer fundraiser and 500 people showed up. A second show in January drew more than a thousand.
"We're not trying to prove anything," Carver said. "We're just providing a forum for people to tell their stories and not be called nutty."
Carver is among the true believers. He doesn't claim to have seen a Bigfoot himself, but he's seen footprints. He's talked to people who do claim to have seen Bigfoot, or heard such creatures. Or had "an encounter of some sort a smell, a sound, wood knocks, big rocks thrown at them or seeing something."
That video out of Provo Canyon and the weekly episodes of "Finding Bigfoot" serve as a double-edged sword in the battle to prove the creature's existence.
The TV show features a buffoon who goes by the name of James "Bobo" Fay, a guy who does Bigfoot calls and calls skeptics "ignorant." After all, if Bigfoot is ever captured on video, the show will have to end.
In this latest wave of Bigfoot-mania, sightings tend to come from average folks who aren't trying to profit from their encounters and who appear to sincerely believe they've had an encounter.
"What makes it so compelling for me is these are normal people," Slade said. "I was a journalist for many years, so I've interviewed a lot of people. These people are sincere and they're honest, yet they have this experience that seems like pure fantasy."
New episodes of the series that purports to be searching for Bigfoot air Sundays at 8 p.m. on Animal Planet, with repeats throughout the week.
Utah Bigfoot information
O Michael Slade is a professional photographer in Salt Lake City who chronicles local sightings. > utahbigfoot.blogspot.com
• David L. Carver, of Eden, is the organizer of Dave's Bigfoot Show. > bigfootusa.blogspot.com