GeneralHistory

A brief history of Bigfoot sightings

The legend of Bigfoot has been a fun part of mainstream culture since the late 1950s when loggers discovered a trail of giant footprints in the woods. Since then, the stories have continued to roll in. Sightings upon "sightings" have been reported throughout North America for almost 60 years. Here’s a quick history of how Bigfoot came to be such a cultural phenomenon.

Native American folklore

Sign on wooden pole warning visitors of Sasquatch at Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado
Credit: Sharon Keating / Shutterstock

Long before the world-famous video of Bigfoot walking through the woods took America by storm, Native Americans had been telling stories of large, hairy, humanoid creatures for decades. Although they call it by different names, the description of the creatures remains fairly consistent between tribes, even tribes that don’t live in the same region. They all describe them as six to nine feet tall, very strong, and hairy. Some tribes say that they have supernatural powers like the ability to turn invisible.

Most Native American stories describe Bigfoots (Bigfeet?) as shy creatures that don’t interact with humans. They sometimes steal things, like food or trinkets, but don’t mean any harm. Other tribes used Bigfoot as a way to scare their children into behaving by saying that the creatures like to catch small kids who wander off in the night.

The name "Sasquatch" was coined by the Sts’ailes people of western Canada. Their name for the creature was "Sasq’ets" which became "Sasquatch" to English speakers.

Early Bigfoot sightings

Old log cabin in foggy, mysterious woods surrounded by trees and rocks
Credit: Natwick / Shutterstock

There have been sightings of “wild-men” and “bear-men” in northwestern forests since the 1800s. Newspapers had entire sections devoted to these stories. One summer in 1924, a group of prospectors claimed to have been attacked by what they called a group of seven-foot-tall “gorilla-men.”

The men admitted that they provoked the attack by taking shots at the creatures as they walked through the woods. They even claimed to have wounded one that fell off a nearby cliff. Angered by the violence, the “gorilla-men” followed the prospectors back to their cabin and attacked during the night, flinging rocks and slamming their massive bodies into the walls. The attack continued all night until the sun came up the next morning, and the beasts wandered back off into the woods.

Rangers investigated the incident but couldn’t find any conclusive proof that the attack wasn’t staged. There was no evidence of the monster that fell off the cliff; all of the stones scattered around the cabin that were “used in the attack” could have easily been placed there by the men, and a ranger was able to recreate the giant footprints around the cabin by pushing his hands into the soil. They concluded that the attack was a hoax. Despite the rangers’ denial, Bigfoot tracks and sightings continued in the area long after the incident.

Modern Bigfoot

Large mysterious footprint track in brown granite
Credit: Igor Shoshin / Shutterstock

The Bigfoot we all know and love today began its rise to fame in the late 1950s. Loggers in northern California found large, mysterious tracks in the woods, and a newspaper reporter thought it would be a fun story to run. He joked that maybe there was a relative of the Himalayan Abominable Snowman running around in North America. They didn’t have a name or description of the creature, so it was named after the only thing they did have: a big footprint. The story was circulated and launched Bigfoot into the national spotlight.

In 1967, two guys decided to test out their new camera on a trail ride through the California wilderness. All of a sudden, they saw a large figure walking next to the nearby creek. They swung the camera around and caught the most famous Bigfoot footage of all time. The video still has not been officially debunked as a fake. It provided additional proof that Bigfoot exists and even showed what it looked like! Bigfoot was more popular than ever.

Bigfoot today

Warning sign advising hikers to avoid Bigfoot by staying on trail, Vermont
Credit: KatieDobies / iStockPhoto

Ever since it was caught on film, Bigfoot has become a national icon with sightings in every state in the U.S. and Canada, and has even made its way to other countries around the world. Countless researchers, and non-researchers, have gone on expeditions to prove the existence of the mythical creature. There are even legitimate organizations dedicated to finding and researching Bigfoot.

In 2011, a TV show called “Finding Bigfoot” premiered on Animal Planet in which a team of researchers travel the country following Bigfoot sightings. They interview the people who saw the sasquatch, recreate the scene, and then perform nighttime expeditions to try to capture footage of the creatures. After eight seasons, they still have not found any concrete evidence.

Despite the lack of evidence, Bigfoot is still a popular figure. It is featured in commercials, movies, hats, t-shirts, stickers and even had its own music festival!