Thursday, August 21, 2008

Unfolding in Reverse: The Bigfoot Hoax of 2008

August 20th, 2008

What happens when an unlikely and incredible claim gains such momentum that the eventual ridiculous truth can't help but be insulting? The Bigfoot Hoax of 2008 answered this question for three distinct demographic groups.

If you're an average person, you laugh and acknowledge that while proof of bigfoot would have been cool, the writing was on the wall for this one from the start.

If you're a legitimate cryptozoologist--don't laugh--you shake your head and wince at yet another blow to the reputation of your profession.

If you're Matt Whitton, one of the two perpetrators of the hoax, you lose your job as a Clayton County Police officer.

"Once he perpetrated a fraud, that goes into his credibility and integrity," Police Chief Jeff Turner would go on to say. "He has violated the duty of a police officer."[1]

To be fair, it is unlikely that the Clayton County Police Department new hire handbook contains policy on mythical creatures, fabricated or otherwise.

August 19th , 2008

As the horrible truth behind the hoax becomes apparent, self-described “Real Bigfoot Hunter” and "35-year veteran of the Bigfoot business" Tom Biscardi[2] begins to rethink the wisdom of hitching his wagon to Matt Whitton and Rick Dyer, the two Georgia hikers who perpetuated the hoax by claiming to be in possession of a bigfoot corpse. Biscardi doesn't exactly have the most airtight of reputations in the bigfoot community--again, don't laugh--but Whitton and Dyer were little more than two amateurs selling questionable bigfoot tours from their dubious website. They were self-described "week end warriors" converted to bigfoot enthusiasts by a 2005 camping trip that turned into "something no body expected!"[3]

Finding himself the butt of a hoax, Biscardi calls Whitton and Dyer, who freely admit their duplicitous role in the affair. Biscardi sets up a meeting with the two at a hotel and upon arrival discovers that they have fled.[4]

It is entirely possible at this point that Biscardi tried reaching Whitton and Dyer via their long-running "24-Hour Sighting Hotline," which asks for tips related to "leprechauns, unicorns, large cats, dinosaurs," as well as "Jimmy Hoffa or Elvis."[5]

August 18th, 2008

Biscardi knows his current shot at proving the existence of bigfoot hinges entirely on the frozen (alleged) corpse stored in an undisclosed location. The block of ice initially weighed an estimated 1500 pounds when it had arrived, but two days of thawing at room temperature (to avoid decomposition[4]) had melted enough ice to expose hair.

Hair is extracted and tested. When burned, the hair sample "[melts] into a ball uncharacteristic of hair."[6]

Strike one.

Biscardi decides that speeding up the thawing via heat sources is perhaps in order.

Slowly the ice recedes enough to reveal a section of the head, which is "unusually hollow in one small section."[6]

Strike two.

An hour later, the ice melts enough to expose the feet adequately for testing. The unusual nature of the feet becomes immediately apparent.

Unusual in that they are are made of rubber.[6]

Biscardi's prized bigfoot corpse is, in fact, a rubber gorilla costume full of animal innards.[5]

Strike three.

August 15th, 2008

While the block of ice was en route to an undisclosed location, Biscardi, Whitton, and Dyer hold a press conference. Biscardi had initially wanted to host the press conference after the (alleged) corpse had been examined by scientists, but Dyer and Whitton insisted addressing the press came first.

This is, presumably, because they wanted a press conference, which the discovery of a rubber gorilla costume full of animal innards doesn't typically merit.

Biscardi steps up to the podium and explains that while the (alleged) body won't be presented, he does have the results of tests done on DNA (allegedly) extracted from the (alleged) corpse.[7] The press had been hoping for an actual body but this would have to do.

Flanked by Whitton and Dyer, Biscardi reveals that the three DNA samples have been identified as follows: one human, one possum, and one inconclusive.[7]

Of note: none of the three belong to a strain of bigfoot.

Also of note: none of the three even belong to a rubber gorilla costume full of animal innards.

Biscardi suggests that perhaps the bigfoot specimen had eaten a possum shortly before death, which would account for the DNA. The proof is coming, though, and all skeptics will fall silent when Biscardi finally brandishes the corpse[7]--for real this time--which is currently en route to an undisclosed location.

When how much money he expects to make from this (alleged) discovery, Biscardi replies, "As much as I possibly can."[7]

On a perhaps unrelated note, it is around this time that Biscardi begins to charge for photos of the (alleged) corpse on his website.[5]

August 14th, 2008

Also perhaps unrelated: Searching for Bigfoot, Inc, the group that Biscardi founded and leads as CEO, pays Whitton and Dyer an undisclosed sum for the (alleged) corpse.

Undisclosed, perhaps, but reports indicate that the proven market rate for a rubber gorilla costume full of animal innards is $50,000, give or take a bill or two.[8]

August 1st, 2008

Biscardi travels to Georgia to inspect the alleged corpse. He meets Whitton and Dyer for the first time, having been placed in contact with them via Steve Kull, a fellow bigfoot enthusiast with a radio show.

Whitton and Dyer take Biscardi to the freezer where they've been storing their claim. Biscardi is impressed. "Be still my heart, I felt bad for the poor thing," Biscardi later said when recalling his first glimpse of the rubber gorilla costume full of animal innards. "After being in the industry for the past 30 years, I wondered: Was it diseased? Did it die of old age?"[2]

Three days later Biscardi's Searching for Bigfoot, Inc. would enter a contract with Whitton and Dyer.

July 28, 2008

Due to mounting notoriety over a series of youtube videos, Whitton and Dyer agree to a phone interview on Steve Kulls' Sasquatchdetective Radio show. The two field questions for an hour and express interest in handing over their investigation to bigfoot authority Tom Biscardi.

Why Tom Biscardi, a man with a reputation that can charitably be described as lacking?

Dyer credits the internet. "You type in 'Bigfoot' and that's the name that comes up."[2]

July 9th, 2008

Dyer and Whitton post a video on youtube claiming that they possess a bigfoot corpse and have been storing it for months in their freezer. They use this opportunity to boorishly boast to be "the best bigfoot trackers in the world."[9]

A followup video is posted in which a scientist discusses examining the body. The scientist is shortly outed as Whitton's brother, a photographer.[9]

The next video features a teddy bear doll with a can of nuts propped in its paws.

Why nuts?

So the teddy bear can goad bigfoot researchers into "play[ing] with them," of course.[9]

One wonders if Biscardi watched these videos before committing involvement.

Interesting fact: $50,000 can buy roughly 12,500 cans of nuts.

May/June 2008

During his non-bigfoot-related day job as Clayton County Police officer, Whitton is "wounded in the line of duty while apprehending a suspect that had allegedly shot a woman in the head".[8] Whitton is placed on temporary leave.

Whitton is faced with an uneventful summer containing entirely too much freetime.

Epilogue: August 19th, 2005

Tom Biscardi appears on the Coast to Coast AM radio show and announces a pay-per-view event in which people can view a captured bigfoot.

Refunds are announced five days later.[9]


[1] Clayton Cop Fired After Bigfoot Hoax
[2] Georgia Bigfoot Hunters Reveal 'Evidence' At Press Conference
[3] (now defunct)
[4]Searching for Bigfoot Discovers the Truth
[5]Fox News: Bigfoot Hoaxers Still On the Lam
[6]Chicago Tribune: Bigfoot revealed as big hoax
[7]Scientific American: Bigfoot Press Conference Yields Little Evidence, Lots of Scorn
[8]Fox News: Bigfoot Body Revealed to Be Halloween Costume
[9]Autumn Williams' Investigative Report: Anatomy of a Hoax

Note: all text quoted from sources is accurate at time of publishing, but I am not responsible for future changes by their parent news organizations.

Monday, August 4, 2008


The trees glowed green against the pink-yellow sky tonight, the air heavy and pregnant with tense possibility.

I hope it fucking explodes.

Who watches the Watchmen?

Warning: very minor Watchmen spoilers follow.

So how do you adapt the most celebrated graphic novel of all time, anyway?

Perhaps the definitive adult take on the superhero genre, Watchmen was the first comic to really deconstruct the concept of "people dressing up in tights to fight crime" and explore all the ramifications. If the various tropes of the costumed crimefighter/superhero genre existed in the real world, what would the results be?

Watchmen, that's what.

The problem with adapting Watchmen to film is that doing the source material justice would involve constructing the world's most expensive character-driven ensemble drama. Actors would walk from one budget-busting set to another, doing little more than, well, talking.

Occasionally in costume.

Judging from the preview, director Zack Snyder's approach to adapting Watchmen is to adhere fanboy-frothingly close to the source material while sexing each scene up as much as possible. The characters will spring directly from the pages and trace the well-familiar plot but with with explosions in slow motion and colors as saturated as possible.

Watchmen fanboys--a demographic that includes myself--have so far been pretty pleased with what promises to be a visually stirring faithful rendition of the most holy of comics, and as such I feel almost remiss in shitting on the party and reminding everyone that Watchmen really, really shouldn't be sexy.

Watchmen is a brutal, gritty book of characters either plagued with self doubt or driven by power to amorality. Characters fight, argue, and have sex, but to make them seductive is to place the audience too clearly on their side. Batman movies are about how cool it would be to be Batman--let's face it, for all the man-it's-tough-being-Batman shit you leave the theater wishing your parents had been gunned down in an alley--but Watchmen is about the self-conscious knowledge that dressing up to play vigilante is inherently kind of unhealthy. Watchmen is unflinching in its examination of the men behind the masks, and the need to dress up is constantly likened to a form of borderline-juvenile addiction. It is sexy, yes, but only to those weird enough to ignore the what-the-fuck of it all and feel the calling in the first place.

Not exactly helping matter is Zack Snyder himself. As he said in a recent piece published in Entertainment Weekly:
"In my movie, Superman doesn't care about humanity, Batman can't get it up, and the bad guy wants world peace," Snyder says with a smirk. "Will Watchmen be the end of superhero movies? Probably not. But it sure will kick them in the gut."

While everything Zack said is accurate in regards to the source material, his delivery promises badass transgressive entertainment, which is about as un-Watchmenlike as you can get. Superman doesn't care about humanity and it's cold and lonely. Batman can't get it up and it's linked to insecurity and addiction. The bad guy wants world peace, yes, but it's the introduction of a complex moral question.

Watchmen is a deconstruction of a genre. It is not "a kick in the gut."

Watchmen is not sexy.

Rorschach is debatably the Watchmen character that gains the most from his alias. His everyday life is pathetic and squalid, but there is a genuine power he derives from his alter-ego, and it's difficult not to sympathize with the nasty little shit's feelings of violation when he is unmasked.

And yet, even Rorschach eventually drops the alias and faces his fate as a man, not a superhero.

One wonders if such an action will make sense in Snyder's universe.

And in the end, who watches the Watchmen?

Me, whether it turns our good or not.