Digging Into The Enduring Mythology Of Bigfoot
SHEREEN MARISOL MERAJI, HOST:
"Giant Footprints Puzzle Residents" - that's an old headline from The Humboldt Times, a local paper from Northern California. It was the first to name the giant, hairy woodland creature - Bigfoot - 60 years ago this month, a good excuse as any to devote a little airtime to Sasquatch. Joining us to talk more about this is journalist Laura Krantz.
LAURA KRANTZ: Hi, Shereen.
MERAJI: All right. So we know each other.
KRANTZ: We go way back.
MERAJI: We do go way back. You worked here at NPR for a long time, but you left...
KRANTZ: I did.
MERAJI: ...And you spent the last year and a half making a podcast about Bigfoot called "Wild Thing." And I think a lot of us want to know why you did that.
KRANTZ: Sometimes I want to know why I did that. So when I was working for NPR - this would have been back in 2006, so over a decade ago - I was flipping through The Washington Post, and there was this huge article in the Style section about a guy named Grover Krantz. And I was, like, oh, same last name. Let's read a little more about this guy. He was this tenured professor of anthropology who was known for driving around the Pacific Northwest looking for Sasquatch with a spotlight and a rifle.
And so I tried to find out if we were related because the last name kind of - you know, it rang a bell. So I called my dad, and he called my grandfather, who was, like, oh, yeah. That was my cousin. And he used to show up at the family picnics and measure people's heads with calipers.
MERAJI: Grover Krantz.
MERAJI: What a character.
KRANTZ: I know. I wish I'd met him. He died in 2002, so I never got the opportunity. But he sounds like he would have been quite the guy to have a glass of wine with.
MERAJI: Are there scientists carrying on his work? Did it die with him?
KRANTZ: No. There are a few others. So Grover is considered a pioneer of Bigfoot research. He is referred to as one of the four horsemen of Sasquatchery (ph).
KRANTZ: And he, along with these three other men, were out there looking for Bigfoot, trying to do it in a way that was more in keeping with scientific methods. You know, I met a guy who was, like, I study in the Krantzian (ph) school of Sasquology (ph). So, clearly, Grover's legacy...
KRANTZ: ...Is passed down over the generations with other Bigfoot researchers.
MERAJI: I'm sorry, but what are they expecting to find? What are their expectations of what this thing is?
KRANTZ: Well, I think they're hoping it's an undocumented primate that's, you know, lurking around the corners of the Pacific Northwest. Now, some people think it's a descendant of this ancient ape that lived in Asia called Gigantopithecus. That was the theory that Grover sort of hung his hat on.
KRANTZ: Gigantopithecus. It would have come over the Bering land bridge along with a lot of other species that showed up in North America. And then there are people who think it's more closely related to humans and that it's descended from, like, a common human ancestor, so maybe even in the same genus - so genus Homo. Grover did not buy into that.
MERAJI: There is a lot of mythology about Bigfoot, and it's been around for a very long time. You spoke to a woman in your podcasts named Harvest Moon. She's from the Quinault Tribe, which is up in Washington state. And she said some really interesting things to you about the mythology. Can you talk a little bit about that?
KRANTZ: Yeah. So she talked about growing up hearing these stories as a kid, and it just really permeates the culture there. And now she is a professional storyteller, and she goes to a lot of the lodges up in that area and sort of tells the tribal stories and shares them with people. And she says, inevitably, after these talks, all of these people will come up to talk to her to tell her about the experience that they've had.
(SOUNDBITE OF PODCAST, "WILD THING")
HARVEST MOON: Either they experienced him, smelled him, heard him. Others have seen some of the petroglyphs throughout the Columbia River Gorge. There's carvings in the rocks that look and say it's Bigfoot.
KRANTZ: That sort of fits in with this idea that Bigfoot or Sasquatch has been around for centuries.
MERAJI: I don't want to put too much on this, but I'm going to (laughter). Do you think that this hunt for Bigfoot speaks to a larger truth about who we are as human beings?
KRANTZ: Totally. It represents something wild, something untamed, something that we don't understand completely. So it's, like, holding that hope out that the world is still wild and mysterious. I think that's a big part of it. And I think it's not so much about finding Bigfoot as it is about wonder about the world and looking for new things or mysterious things and exploring the unknown.
MERAJI: Do you want Bigfoot to be real?
KRANTZ: Yeah. Who doesn't?
MERAJI: That's journalist Laura Krantz, and her podcast is "Wild Thing."
Thank you so much, Laura.
KRANTZ: Thank you, Shereen. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.