Early last week, the folks from Sanger Paranormal, a California based paranormal investigation group, made waves in the cryptozoology world by declaring possession of what they have been calling “the best evidence of bigfoot since the Patterson film in 1967″. They announced a press conference to display their evidence to the media, evidence that they “accidentally” leaked well ahead of their intended date.
So in an effort to fill the front page with nothing but Bigfoot related stories, Who Forted made it a point to virtually attend the conference yesterday evening. We were sure to take notes, screen shots, and observations from the crowd. We can say right up front that the entire event was a hot mess.
From the the microphone set up, it was apparent that there were at least two local news crews present in the banquet hall of the Picadilli Inn, though the turn out was clearly not what the investigation team intended. There were a lot of empty chairs in that room.
Undeterred, and flanked by fellow researchers, Sanger Paranormal head honcho Jeffrey Gonzalez (who bears a striking resemblence to Tim Blake Nelson), started the event by leaning into the microphone and letting out a confident, “rock and roll!”
After displaying a few slides consisting of evidence collected from the same location in prior years (photos that looked an awful like like a human footprint and a bear rubbing on a tree) Gonzalez launched into the events that prompted the “greatest discovery in the history of bigfoot”.
The short, coherent version is that the team of investigators headed to a remote part of the Sierra mounains for a weekend Bigfoot hunt, but as the snowfall became heavy, they were forced to make a hasty exit back down the unused mountain roads, reluctantly leaving behind two vehicles full of equipment.
When they returned a few days later, they encountered crude road blocks made of downed trees. Obstacles that were, naturally, attributed to Bigfoot. Gonzalez went on to say that they found no signs of tire tracks, no footprints, and that it “took four people on their knees giving it all they had” to move the “1000 lb” tree out of the road.
When they finally reached their abandoned vehicles after a 2.5 mile hike, it appeared as though they hadn’t been touched, save for some large muddy smears on the windows of Gonzalez’ truck.
“Whatever it was it was oily, greasy, dirty. You can see the facial features.. like the Shroud of Turin, that’s how it actually looked.”
After enduring an unnecessarily long back story, the audience was finally treated to the reason they were there: a collection of dirty smudges on Gonzalez’ F150. As they displayed the photos, Gonzalez began to dispute the the skeptics who claimed that these impressions merely belonged to a bear.
“I had all kinds of food back in my pickup. Several people are saying that if it was a bear, all this would have been everywhere. None of this was touched… We don’t think whatever looked in my window was a bear.”
In fact, Gonzalez felt so strongly that this was not a bear, that he called upon Mickey Burrow, 14 year forensics veteran for the police department, to take a DNA sample.
Burrow was handed the microphone, prompting a well thought-out visual presentation comparing the window smears to the facial structure of a bear, a mountain lion, and a gorilla.
While his presentation was fair and had the potential to convince viewers that the smudges were a primate match, he basically followed up his display by discrediting himself, stating, “I am not a biologist, I am not a zoologist, I am not a person that studies animals regularly.” Burrows added, “do I think this is bigfoot? I don’t know.” He finished his statement by admitting that the smudges could have belonged to a bear.
After fumbling awkwardly over his words, accidentally switching off the microphone, and losing his train of thought, Gonzalez commandeered the mic from Burrows, touting his experiences and swearing that this was not a hoax. “We’re all willing to take lie detector tests,” he said.
This was about when the whole conference started to come unravelled and the true motives of these men became readily apparent.
“You know, there’s a lot of other investigators out there who are doing exactly what we’re doing,” Gonzalez began, “and, uhm, you know, it’s just that, you know, we need assistance. Better equipment. But most of all, somebody to come forward and take the DNA, to get it mapped, find out what it is not.”
They looked almost guilty when one member of the crowd finally stepped up and asked, “do you have a dollar amount in mind?” The answer they gave was, “ballpark? Five grand”, but insisted that they weren’t in this for the money. They just wanted to prove the existence of Bigfoot.
Now, I hate to nitpick, but not more than 15 minutes later, we hear David Roagoza, a fellow investigator, tell the media that he almost had a heart attack when he realized how much equipment he left in his Jeep that weekend, fearing it would be stolen. The dollar amount that he picked was rather unfortunate, as he quite literally spouted “over five thousand dollars” worth, adding that Gonzalez had “thousands” of dollars in equipment packed into his own vehicle.
They mean to tell us that a group of 7+ men who can afford thousands of dollars worth of expensive equipment can’t parse out five grand between the lot of them? Especially considering it could be “the truth behind bigfoot”?
To make matters worse, it was mentioned to me that they have had offers to get the DNA mapped at no charge from at least two other groups invested in the discovery of Bigfoot evidence, and have so far declined. Something doesn’t add up here, but I digress.
At this point, one of the local reporters actually walked to the front of the room, leaned over the middle of the table, and interrupted Burrow mid-sentence in order to grab his microphone and leave. Perhaps he felt the same way I did.
The group began to field questions from the audience about why they were so interested in Bigfoot (childhood passion), told the crowd exactly what was in the coolers (if it was a homeless man, he’d have made a sandwich, and if it really was a bear it would have “ripped his whole bumper off”), and they even had an answer as to why there were no footprints near the smudges (it was grassy).
When Burrow was asked if he was positive that there was a DNA sample in the smear and whether or not he believed that it was actually Bigfoot related, he replied with “it’s either here or its not” but he wouldn’t “testify in court” for it.
What happened next was probably the most angering part of the conference to watch, which says a lot considering the amount of incessant flip flopping, the grandiose claims paired with mediocre evidence, and the blatant request for a handout.
After the investigators, again, unintentionally added a layer of disbelief to their claims by stating that their evidence location was loaded with black bears, a woman who was quite obviously at the conference for no other reason than fascination regarding the subject matter, spoke up and offered her own insight as to why the bears might not have touched the food in the coolers. Let me stress that she was sincerely trying to help by offering a genuine solution.
“Maybe the bears were scared of bigfoot?”
Roagoza begins to tell the woman that this is a good observation, but I’m more focused on Joe Walsh, a man who, for the past hour, has sat silently on stage, staring into space, his chair spun around backwards so he could prop his arms on the back rest. You know, like the “tough guy” does in 80′s high school comedies.
Walsh smugly glances at Gonzalez with a shit eating grin, as if to say,”get a load of this crazy bitch!”
Right, right. She’s the crazy one. If he didn’t look twice as bored with his own evidence as I was, I’d have yelled at my computer screen.
The conference didn’t last much longer. From here on out, there were a lot of Sasquatch hunting veterans sharing war stories with the visibly annoyed paranormal team, but the best part was when one man asked them if they had contacted “that cable show about the Bigfoot hunters” with their evidence. Gonzalez actually ignored the question completely and instead held up a footprint cast that they had collected a few years ago, only to be interrupted by Roagoza announcing the end of the event. The online feed was cut soon after.
After two weeks of claiming that they had the best evidence of bigfoot recorded since the 60′s, what we were treated to, in reality, were a few chunks of mediocre evidence (anyone can find footprints, hell, even we have) in what turned out to be a publicity stunt aimed at garnering some fast cash and attention for their team. Why? It could have less to do with an endless search for the truth in an effort to better mankind and more to do with the television show they’re trying to pitch.
Almost mockingly, there exists a series of “secret” web pages hidden on Sanger Paranormal’s website that are accessed by clicking on a tiny image of what looks to be Bigfoot. Within these pages the viewer is treated to Jeffrey Gonzalez’ concept for a reality television series that he describes, in all seriousness, as “the paranormal smackdown of the century.” You can even view the ready made casting reel at Erthbound Entertainment’s production website.
During the press conference, I was chatting along with other paranormal enthusiasts as we watched the event unfold. After making a joke about how I intended to hold a conference to garner financial support for my research into fairies, I was promptly called a “hater” by someone who I can only assume was a member of Sanger Paranormal, and told that if I didn’t have anything positive to say about the conference, I should just leave instead of sharing my opinion.
Now, I’m sure that Gonzalez is a nice guy. In fact, his reputation for being a decent individual preceeds him. But this press conference wasn’t about Gonzalez, or Walsh, or Roagoza. At least, it shouldn’t have been. It was about their claims and their evidence to back it up. Unfortunately, the evidence didn’t live up to their profound claims, and the leak of said evidence may have had the opposite effect that the group was hoping for. The crowd was sparse, the media left early, and the researchers were neither well spoken nor well equipped enough to adequately handle the event. While it wasn’t quite the Georgia Bigfoot Hoax (certainly not as entertaining), the result is another blow to public opinion regarding cryptozoologists, a hit that comes after the evidence on Finding Bigfoot was revealed to be heavily manipulated. Talk about bad timing.
The conference left us with more questions than answers, problems that seemingly should have been solved before holding this press conference. Why wasn’t the supposed DNA given to one of the groups that offered to have it tested for free? Why were there no animal biologists brought into the investigation? Where is this magical location rife with Sasquatch activity? Is it accessed by logging roads? Could the “barricades” have been due to a logging truck? Did you really believe that this rudimentary evidence was worth holding a press conference over? Couldn’t the money spent renting the banquet hall been better served as an investment toward funding the DNA mapping yourselves?
Unfortunately, when and if these lingering questions are answered, it will have already been too late. They blew their shot in a bid for attention, whether it be for the end game of money or fame, and in doing so, have further damaged the reputation of cryptozoology as a whole.
The boys cried
wolf Sasquatch and I don’t think many people, much less the media, will be willing to listen to them a second time around.