Squatch

Dr. Jeff Meldrum, professor at Idaho State University, presents alleged footage of Bigfoot, Thursday night at the Logan Library.

For the majority of Americans, the question of Bigfoot’s existence is a decided “no.” For Jeff Meldrum, Bigfoot expert and a professor of anatomy and anthropology at Idaho State University, the answer is a lot more complicated.

The question certainly resonates with many in Cache Valley who showed up at the Logan Library on Thursday night to hear Meldrum make the scientific case for Bigfoot.

Adult Services Librarian Jason Cornelius said a rough headcount showed nearly 140 people came for Meldrum, enough that the presentation had to be moved to a larger room. The audience filled the available seating quickly and the rest packed the margins, either standing in the back, sitting on the floor up front, or listening from out in the hall.

“I would have been quite pleased with a quarter of the attendance,” Cornelius said. “It kind of blew us away a little bit just how many people wanted to come.”

Over the course of an hour and a half in the dark and muggy room, Meldrum constructed the scientific groundwork of his arguments. The presentation, titled “Is Sasquatch or Bigfoot real?” focused on the Patterson-Gimlin film, an infamous recording that’s considered one of the clearest arguments for evidence of Sasquatch in North America.

The film, taken in 1967 by Bob Gimlin and Roger Patterson, shows a two-legged, upright ape-like creature confidently striding through a clearing in a Northern California forest.

“It remains the most compelling piece of photographic evidence,” Meldrum said. “Nothing really comes close to the quality, and the impact, and significance, the implications of this piece of film.”

Meldrum emphasized the film’s importance in grounding the search for Bigfoot in science.

“It attests to the physicality of a biological entity in an era when more and more Bigfoot enthusiasts are, and I’ll be blunt, seduced by this notion of some paranormal explanation,” Meldrum said. “Individuals, who, through their own subjective experiences, find the naturalistic explanations wanting and so resort to supernatural, paranormal explanations to explain this creature.”

Meldrum dissected nearly every aspect of the encounter, analyzing lens quality, the creature’s posture, gait, head, shoulder and muscle shape, and more, drawing upon his background in anatomy for a detailed description of how a creature like Bigfoot could evolve alongside humans. Occasionally, surprising revelations evoked scattered gasps throughout the audience.

“I’ve seen Dr. Meldrum on TV and I’m really interested,” presentation attendee Amy Wallace said. “I thought it’d be a good thing to come and listen to him speak in person.”

Meldrum has appeared in dozens of TV and film documentaries over the last 20 years as an expert on Bigfoot, including “Ancient Aliens,” “Discovering Bigfoot,” and “Bigfoot: The Definitive Guide.”

The presentation was hosted jointly by the Bridgerland Audubon Society and the Logan Library. Robert Schmidt, an associate professor in the Department of Environment and Society at Utah State University, said Meldrum brings a new perspective to the Bigfoot conversation.

“What was unique about his presentation is that he’s a bona-fide scientist,” Schmidt said. “He uses Sasquatch or Bigfoot, which is popular with students, popular with lots of people, to help them engage, to think about science as a way to clarify what they think about these things.”

People have different ideas about cryptids like Bigfoot, the Loch Ness Monster or the more local Bear Lake Monster, Schmidt said, but hopefully science can help people clarify what’s folklore and what’s real.

“And although I am not a believer in Sasquatch, I do really appreciate the logical line that Dr. Meldrum makes from that original film all the way to using modern technology, and his speculations on how that animal might be out there today,” Schmidt said.

Meldrum first came into contact with the Patterson-Gimlin film as a child in 1968, and a chance encounter soon afterward — his elementary school librarian was the niece of Sasquatch scholar John Green — set him on a line of inquiry he still follows 50 years later. That line has taken him across the world, gathering evidence, meeting other Bigfoot enthusiasts and publishing a book, “Sasquatch: Legend Meets Science,” in 2007.

Interest in Bigfoot is not limited to California or the Pacific Northwest where Meldrum grew up. Nestled in the Rocky Mountain range, bordered by the Cache National Forest and two wilderness areas to the east and west, Cache Valley also offers key conditions for Bigfoot sightings.

The Bigfoot Field Researchers Organization, a group dedicated to categorizing and seeking out sightings of Sasquatch-adjacent creatures around the world, lists six local sightings stretching back to 1977, but informal sightings run rampant. In 2012, Animal Planet’s “Finding Bigfoot” filmed in Cache Valley after a video of Providence Canyon went viral for supposedly featuring footage of the mythic monster.

Although belief in Bigfoot or Sasquatch may be low, it is on the rise. In a 2018 survey on paranormal beliefs by Chapman University, just 21% of Americans believed Bigfoot was real — lower than Atlantis, ghosts or telekinesis. However, the results showed an increase of 7% from 2013.

“Maybe it shouldn’t surprise me,” Cornelius said of Thursday’s high attendance. “There’s enough of a question mark about Bigfoot, and everyone has their opinion about it.”

While many in the audience Thursday may have been firm Bigfoot believers or Sasquatch skeptics, others are content to hold the cryptid possibility somewhere in the middle.

“My sister had an interesting story,” attendee Dylan Downs said after the presentation. “She was camping with some friends, and they had some dogs, and the dogs became agitated, whimpering. The top of the tent got pushed down. She didn’t hear anything approach, and she didn’t hear anything leave, so it was a little strange. The next day, she got out and she didn’t see any signs of anything unusual, so we don’t know what it was.”

“Chalk it up to Sasquatch, right?” Wallace said.

“Like Dr. Meldrum said, I think there’s an open door,” Downs said.

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