This reviewer's introduction to the Bigfoot story was through the movie The Legend of Boggy Creek (1972), a very southern "sheepish" docu-drama, now a cult classic, which replays sightings of the stinky, hairy Fouke monster, reportedly experienced in Arkansas since mid-twentieth century. Admittedly, the movie kept me up a couple nights, mostly due to suspenseful editing which brought home the vulnerability that could be had when/if a monster chooses to attack while one is sitting on the toilet.
Obviously, sightings, stories and theories about Bigfoot, Sasquatch, or Yeti, whatever one might prefer, are much more extensive, complex and widespread than the humble backwoods of Arkansas. Like UFOs, the more one hears about all the available Bigfoot accounts, the more one realizes that there is something going on in these narratives.
This is what makes Praise for the Hairy Man: The Secret Life of Bigfoot, by Andrew Colvin and Jeffrey Pritchett such an important volume. It's really the only text this reviewer has come across that doesn't attempt to convince the reader that there is only one possible explanation for the experiences and stories of the hairy man-beast.
Colvin, who is best known for his collections of Mothman stories and, more recently has published important, rare writings by the Fortean genius, John A. Keel, has patterned this book similarly, using a wide variety of sources and theories to create almost a celebratory portrait of possibility: it is not simply what/who Bigfoot might be, it's also what Bigfoot can tell us about ourselves.
Pritchett, who is best known for his popular weekly podcast, Church of Mabus Radio, adds his even-handed, open ended accepting touch to the interviews. Pritchett's singular gift as an interviewer is his ability to ask the simple questions that get people talking and his willingness to entertain both difficult issues that may arise, and seemingly outlandish notions, just for the sake of completeness. The two of them together are a great team for this project.
Virtually everyone who is anyone in the field of Bigfoot investigations is interviewed or examined in the text, such as David Coleman, Nick Redfern, Lyle Blackburn. Even John Keel is resurrected for a final word. Bigfoot is examined in art, literature, in connection with other cryptids and UFOs; every possible angle is considered, from representative First Nation accounts to the most 'otherworldly' New Agers. The wistful cover art was provided by Bobby Bausoleil, formerly of the Manson clan, now serving a life sentence for his role in the "Helter Skelter."
As such, Praise for the Hairy Man might well be the consummate book for someone who wants to get a complete overview of the great range of thought and approach that comprises the Bigfoot investigative community in North America.
Of course, one could argue that this emphasis on N. America is also the book's weakness. But it is forgivable, given that the bulk of hairy, hominid sightings seem to be reported here. However, this does raise an interesting point. How unique are these sightings to the N. American continent?
Many people have heard about the large hairy ape beast in Tibet and China known as Yeti, but may not know that similar experiences have been reported in places like Indonesia, India, Malaysia, Russia, the Amazon and even in Australia. Some of these locations have traditional stories about these creatures going back many centuries, so the likelihood of western influence as the source for the accounts is very unlikely.
As recently as 2008, authorities in the rural Meghalaya district in NE India were activated to hunt down a "Bigfoot" creature that was terrorizing villages. As the BBC news reported, in Indonesia, the creature is called sajarang gigi, in Australia, yowie, in Brazil, mapinguary, and in this region of India, mande barung, forest man. Whatever/whoever this is, the creature's appearance seems to be ubiquitous. There is no continent on which some version of this being, and/or stories about him/her do not exist. That alone is fascinating.
And yet, just as with UFOs, ghosts and poltergeists, the actual physical evidence for such a widely distributed and large, bulky primate, is remarkably slim, and always contested, although there is some suggestive material, even in the amazingly consistent stories of encounter, through the centuries, among widely diverse peoples. In Arizona, a federally funded group of police investigators, called the Navajo Rangers, actually officially investigate such paranormal reports on behalf of the Dine nation and the state of Arizona.
Keel noticed that the cycles of appearance for Bigfoot seemed to track with broader cycles of UFO lights, mysterious fires and hauntings, that circle the N.American continent in a broad swath, every decade or so. It's clear he assumed Bigfoot was an aspect of what he called Super Spectrum phenomena. No one has bothered to check if similar patterns pertain in other parts of the world where the Hairy Man has been spotted.
For this reviewer, Praise for the Hairy Man has come at an auspicious time. The Hudson Valley region is experiencing a sudden upsurge of both Bigfoot and strange nocturnal light reports, some of these occurring quite close to my residence. With this book in hand, it will be possible to consider all options as the evidence and stories are collected. Let the fun begin.