|Cliff Barackman beim "Squatching" (Bilder Matt Moneymaker)|
Einer dieser Menschen ist Cliff Barackman, ein Lehrer und Jazz-Gitarrist aus Portland im US-Bundesstaat Oregon. Barackman interessiert sich seit der Kindheit fürs Bigfoot-Phänomen. Heute ist er Mitglied der Bigfoot Field Researchers Organization und wohl einer der beharrlichsten Feldforscher, die es gibt. Ausserdem schreibt er einen Blog.
Ich traf Cliff am Oregon Sasquatch Symposium in Eugene im vergangenen Juni, hatte aber leider keine Gelegenheit, ihn zu interviewen, denn er brach noch während der Veranstaltung auf die Olympic-Halbinsel in Washington auf, weil dort frische Spuren gefunden worden waren. Ich bat ihn deshalb einige Wochen später, im September, um ein E-Mail-Interview.
Mich interessierte, warum er nach Bigfoot sucht, ob es ethisch wäre, eine solche Kreatur zu töten, welchen Wert unscharfe Fotos und Videos haben und wie er über das Kentucky-Projekt denkt.
Cliff, what does "squatching" mean to you? Is it just about getting evidence or is it more, maybe some kind of a culture or lifestyle?
"Squatching" or "bigfooting" means a lot of things. To me, it has certainly become a way of life. The majority of my free time is now either spent in the field, writing my blog, or dealing with some other aspect of bigfooting. Most of my closest friends are other researchers. Even "civilians" in my life now speak to me about bigfoot or bring me stories they have heard. Sometimes, it's hard to clearly define where "bigfooter" stops and "Cliff" begins. It can be a very consuming pursuit.
The largest reason I search for sasquatches is that I love it. I love to be in the woods. I love to look for wildlife sign and to attempt to document it. I love the sasquatches, and in fact I love apes in general. I love the search for the unknown. I love the adventure.
However, I recognize that "discovery" will be the worst thing to ever happen to the sasquatch. If I claim to love these creatures in any way, I must be honest with myself about this. I was forced to search inside myself for a reconciliation to this dilemma.
I reasoned that if sasquatches continued to be unrecognized as a species, they could go quietly extinct without our knowledge, as Dr. Grover Krantz suggested in his excellent book. Bigfoots might need some protection. I quickly changed my mind, realizing that they seem to be doing a great job protecting themselves.
I then started looking into the other apes and how they are threatened. Besides the hunting of apes for "bush meat," their number one threat is deforestation. That is something that could directly threaten sasquatches as well. The elimination of their habitat, or even inadvertently isolating groups thus prohibiting interbreeding, could eventually threaten their genetic integrity. It then occurred to me that while sasquatches might be doing a great job keeping a low profile and avoiding hunters and other threats, the land they live on could be in danger. "Conservation Before Discovery" was born from that thought. The premise behind Conservation Before Discovery is basically encouraging voters to cast their ballots in favor of laws that benefit sasquatches. The most common way to benefit sasquatches with a vote is to protect large tracts of land from development. Nobody even needs to know that the voters are bigfooters, and in fact this knowledge could hurt the cause (like it or not, we're largely viewed as kooks).
One more thought on this topic. While "discovery" will be temporarily devastating to sasquatches, it might be the best thing for humans. I'm an optimist, and maybe even a little naive, but I think that when humans realize that we share the world with sasquatches, clearly our closest biological relative, it might produce a "kinder and gentler" human species. Maybe we'll think twice before dumping those toxins into the river. Perhaps we'll start treading a little more softly on the planet. I believe in human compassion, and bigfoots might be the key to unleashing the floodgates of our inter-species empathy. Ironically, bigfoots might be the proverbial "Hundredth Monkey."
How does squatching affect your life? How much time and money do you spend on it, what kind of sacrifices do you make?
In general, bigfooting greatly enhances my life. I befriend interesting people that do uncommon things. I go to places that most people never even dream of seeing. I learn about the world and its inhabitants in their natural environment. It's truly an exciting pursuit.
There are definitely sacrifices, though. Since I'm in the woods so much all year around, I miss out on some social opportunities fairly often. I have to plan ahead to make sure I can attend things like weddings or parties. I'm an introvert to begin with, but missing social events makes it hard to meet friends or women to date.
Bigfooting certainly takes a toll on my pocketbook. Much of my income goes into my gas tank, though I'm starting to work locations nearer to my home which helps. Even though I'm part of the Hersom Project, I do spend a good amount of my own money on gear. Camping gear breaks or wears out, batteries are an ever-present need, and precision instruments like range finders or transits cost a pretty penny. Oh well, a man needs his toys.
There are tons of blurry, obscure pictures and clips of alleged Sasquatches out there. For example the Silver Star photos or the McKenzie River footage, that has been presented on the BFRO website lately. What are they worth? They don't convince anyone.
Most of the images that have surfaced don't seem to be worth much due to the quality (or lack thereof) of the photos. However, in all fairness, most images don't get investigated thoroughly. Take for example the Silver Star Mountain photos. The initial investigation was sufficient, but I thought that much more could be done with this sighting. Therefore I took it upon myself to look into the images more deeply, and have been intensively investigating those photos for over a year now. They are actually pretty clear and well-focused. I have been to the site of the photographs on several occasions and have another trip planned for the coming weeks. By using Bill Munns' work as my model, and applying the same optics formulas, I have done some fairly simple math to determine the probable size of the subject. What I have found is that the creature depicted in the pictures is very likely far larger than any likely human hiker. I am consulting a professional statistician to refine my measurements and to determine the probability of my findings. We are nearly done with the work, which will be published for peer review by the bigfooting community, and anyone else who would like to run the numbers or punch holes in my methods.
The real value of any image that comes in is that it represents objective data. Sighting reports and other witness accounts are by definition purely subjective. The experience goes through a filter, that filter being the witness and his/her experiences. Data is the same no matter who analyzes it. By taking measurements and playing with some math, conclusions can be reached that can be reproduced by others. That's what science is, after all. We, the bigfooting community, need to man-up (or woman-up, as the case may be) and live up to the amateur scientist role we are taking on. Photos are a great way of doing so since they are one of the best forms of data available for study.
The Kentucky project is kind of a strange subject to talk about. For some it's taboo for others it's worth discussing. Let's assume they do have several clear clips of footage and have testimonies of a scientist who has seen the creature or even shot some of the footage. Do you think it can revolutionize Sasquatch research?
I have personally only seen one clip from the Kentucky Project, and even that footage was only available as a low-resolution version. I can say that the clip I saw seems to be legitimate, knowing the circumstances of its filming, the people involved, and observing the behavior of the creature.
Pretty much everyone involved in the Kentucky Project has signed non-disclosure agreements, so very little information has leaked out. This in itself is a testimony to the investigators on the scene, both of which are friends of mine. I have little doubt that what is going on there is the real deal.
That being said, I do not expect the films to revolutionize much of anything. It will largely depend on how the clips are presented, and in what context. I think the most realistic expectation would be that it might encourage some academics to investigate the topic more closely. Clearly, the data available supporting the existence of the species is pretty much overwhelming at this point. The problem is that the academics are ignorant of this data. Once they see what exists in the data set, many more scientists will hopefully become intrigued. It won't happen overnight. It will happen little by little. I call it a "rising tide of acceptance." My hopes are that the Kentucky Project will be a major catalyst for this "rising tide."
I find it strange that most of the bigfooters say that only a specimen will establish Sasquatch as an accepted species but at the same time don't want to kill one. Maybe they don't want it to be accepted. What do you think? Where's your standpoint?
Again, I'm an optimist, and quite possibly a little naive on this topic, but I believe that we can move past the Darwinian model in regards to sasquatches. The Darwinian model is like this: "What's that thing? Let's kill it and find out." It is my hope that we can perhaps present a body of video evidence in combination with good DNA and testimony by scientists who have observed sasquatches as "proof" of their existence. This will take a long time, thus bringing back the idea of a "rising tide of acceptance." I imagine that eventually a type specimen will be obtained, but I hope it isn't necessary. Perhaps long-term studies at habituation sites can be substituted.
As far as bigfooters not wanting a type specimen to be obtained, I think this is a testament to our compassion for these amazing creatures. Apes are very special animals, and sasquatches are the most special of all (to me, at least). Apes are sentient, intelligent, problem-solving creatures. In fact, human beings are apes, and I think there is something inside of us that recognizes them as biological brothers.
Ponder the following thought: Would you want "higher life forms" to obtain a type specimen of human beings to prove we exist?
I have spoken to several academics about this. We are all in agreement that field researchers like myself will always have a role in bigfooting. Most bigfooters who are just interested in the topic will continue to be interested, just like plenty of people enjoy learning about bears or other wildlife. Field guys like myself will be needed to gather data from the field, like footprint casts or hair/tissue samples. As long as field researchers properly document their finds, their data will be useful. Most academics will be stuck in their laboratories fulfilling their commitments to the research grants and teaching courses. They will not have time to spend in the field.
Even now, I am working with several academics to supply whatever data I can. The academics involved seem to appreciate my efforts, and are nothing but encouraging to me. They give advice on how to properly document data to be most valuable to them. We discuss findings and techniques used in the field. I'm not going to stop doing this, even if sasquatches are proven to be real today. I love it too much. I'm having too much fun. I may as well be of some use!
Something else to consider. We amateur field researchers know a lot more about bigfoots than most academics. Just by the nature of the sasquatch, it'll probably be years after "discovery" until they catch up. If the academics ignore the experience of the diligent amateur, it'll be even longer.
What are your three favourite books on Sasquatch?
Sasquatch: Legend Meets Science by Dr. Jeff Meldrum.
Bigfoot/Sasquatch Evidence by Dr. Grover Krantz.
North America's Great Ape: The Sasquatch by Dr. John Bindernagel.
Three most admired bigfooters?
Dr. Jeff Meldrum for his academic professionalism, and bravery by sticking his neck out.
Dr. John Mionczynski for his staggering field experience and knowledge.
Bob Gimlin for his integrity and kindness in the face of mud slinging and misinformed gossip.
Three best pieces of evidence?
The internal congruence of the available data.
The Patterson/Gimlin Film.
Three worst pieces of evidence?
The only "bad" evidence is that which is fabricated. The rest of it is simply to be disproved by investigation. That's the nature of science.
Three best events in bigfooting history?
The Patterson/Gimlin Film event for it's unique impact.
The Cripple Foot footprint event for its role in getting Dr. Krantz interested.
The founding of the BFRO for being the largest database of sasquatch sightings ever assembled and publicly shared.
Three worst events in bigfooting history?
The Georgia "Body in a Freezer" Hoax.
The publishing of Greg Long's book, The Making Of Bigfoot: The Inside Story.
The "Massacre at Bluff Creek" theory getting any traction at all.
Three best locations to search for Sasquatches?
The Olympic Peninsula in Washington State.
Prince of Wales Island in Alaska.
Uninterrupted green belts near your home.
Three best items for field research?
Nature observation skills.
Three best experiences in the field?
Bigfooting with Bob Gimlin.
Adventures with Bobo (every trip with him can be described as "the best").
Doing field work on Prince of Wales Island.
Three worst experiences in the field?
Finding myself 4 miles upstream from camp at sunset without a flashlight at Bluff Creek.
Any one of my numerous experiences with poison oak or poison ivy.
Having to get towed out of slick, deep mud in the White Mountains of Arizona.
Three best websites on Bigfoot?
(all modesty aside)
Du willst mehr über Cliff Barackman erfahren? Der Filmstudent Jesse Larson drehte kürzlich einen sehenswerten Dokumentarfilm über ihn:
The Search For Sasquatch from Jesse Larson on Vimeo.