Finding Bigfoot – town hall event, Newcastle

Previously I’d posted a link on our Facebook page regarding some “town hall” event that had something to do with the TV show Finding Bigfoot.  I’ll freely admit that while I’d heard of the show, I’d never seen it or had any real desire to.  My familiarity with the show was really confined to reading some (not particularly flattering) online discussions and some articles.

As the event was being held in Newcastle I posted the link so anyone local interested could follow up if they wanted to go.  Also, as apparently people would be discussing their own Bigfoot experiences I responded for an invitation on the off-chance there may be some interesting local reports to follow up on.  A couple of days later I received an invitation to the event to be held in County Durham, at Lumley Castle.

So it was with some trepidation I set off for Lumley Castle on the evening of 7th June.  Not that I was nervous about coming face-to-face with some Para-Celebs, more the weather conditions presented some unnerving driving conditions and the engine warning light in the car had come on.  So potentially not the smartest journey to make – but I guess that’s just how us anomalous researchers roll…or something.  Off I went with the number of my roadside recovery organisation scrawled on the back of a business card of a local Spanish restaurant stuffed in my wallet, and an open mind with no real indication of what to expect.

I arrived at Lumley Castle and met another member of the OWNE team, Gayle, and went inside, just sort of milling about with the other guests.  Here came the first surprise of the evening.  All of us were huddled in a small cellar-type area under the room where the event was to take place.  The surprise was that everyone around us looked, well, kinda normal.  Think of the clientele in your local pub on any given evening.  A couple of people with kids, small groups of friends, and the like. No obvious weirdos and no-one dressed in camo hunting gear.  Not sure what I was expecting, but I was still surprised.  The second surprise came a few minutes later when a member of the production team came in and said they wanted to separate people with experiences to tell and people just there to watch.  And they were almost ready to start filming.  Shit, filming?  I harbour absolutely zero desire to be on TV.  My own naiveté I guess.  I thought folks were just going to sit around and discuss Bigfoot.  The fact that the event was being hosted by a TV show and might film the event simply hadn’t occurred to me.  Had I known I probably wouldn’t have come.  Still, I was there now.  We figured we’d just lay low and hide or something.

Eventually we ended up in the room where the event was to take place, with the lights, cameras and production crew.  We were seated and things got rolling.  The cast came in and said their hellos.  Twice actually.  First time was too tapered by our natural English reserve or something.  My first experience of being on a TV set? Meh.  I wasn’t familiar with the cast or their dynamics at all.  Three males, one female, two beards, one baseball cap, and lots of smiles.  My first impressions of their dynamics were a token skeptic, a serious one, a warm gregarious one and a slightly off-the wall one.  I’d no reason to think they were anything other than very nice chaps at that point.
After some opening gambits about how wonderful the UK was, how happy they were to be here, and how they’d come to investigate the possibilities of a Bigfoot existing in the UK, we moved on to people recounting their experiences – essentially what I’d come to listen to.  They all stood up one at a time and gave their accounts.  Some provided photographs which the cast perused with much discernment.  Some had travelled long distances to attend.  I can only assume they really loved the show, really wanted to be on it, or really wanted to tell their stories to someone who wouldn’t just dismiss it.  To be fair, the cast were gracious when it came to these experiencers.  They listened, smiled again, made comments, asked questions, said thank you, and smiled.  There were accounts from around the UK, for example Scotland, Northumberland, Cannock Chase and East Anglia.

The most interesting accounts for me were not actually the experiences.  A fella from Scotland talked of possible historical connections in folklore and poetry relating to the Grey Man of the Cairngorms.  Then there was the lady who talked of the Green Man carvings of St Nicholas Cathedral, Newcastle and their connections to Bigfoot lore.  She raised the very salient question of whether these possible historical connections were less a memory of some real flesh-and-blood being, but rather the memory of a spiritual belief or embodiment of that belief.  My impression is that she favoured the latter, and it would be hard to disagree.

In terms of the experiencer’s accounts, these were what you might expect.  Mainly sounds of footsteps, noises in the bush, grunts and the like.  There were accounts of audible responses to tree knocking or banging rocks together.  There were accounts of finding knocked down trees, potential Bigfoot bivouacs and footprints.  There were reports of the odd sighting, literally and figuratively.

One thing was immediately obvious from these experiencer accounts.  They all came from people who had gone out with the intention of finding Bigfoot (pun intended).  That doesn’t mean they should be dismissed per se, but there is of course a valid reason not to glibly accept their interpretation of what were ostensibly ambiguous stimuli.  The same theme is common to many ghost hunting groups who go out looking for ghosts and find them – seek and ye shall find.

What of local reports? Members of Bigfoot Research UK were present and gave accounts of their experiences from Bolam Lake and Harwood Forest in Northumberland. Much of their evidence can be found on their website.  I don’t find what they present particularly compelling personally.  Much of it is as vague and ambiguous as the evidence presented by ghost hunting groups.

I deal in certainty very rarely when looking at anomalous experiences.  However, when it comes to Bigfoot in Northumberland, I’m pretty comfortable saying that the likelihood of a flesh-and-blood Bigfoot creature residing here is certainly slim to non-existent.  On a less diplomatic day I’d just say non-existent.  This isn’t the Pacific North-West of the USA.  The proximity of urban conurbations to the lesser populated areas of Northumberland isn’t particularly far.  Given that and additionally the requirement of not one but a minimum stable population of the creatures, residents, day-trippers, National park and Forestry workers and other factors – reports would be expected to be much more numerous and also have a relatively continuous historical documentation. Neither holds.
In my personal view this means there are really three options in terms of Northumberland:

  • People have experiences with a prosaic root cause but interpret those experiences through their own expectations or biases;
  • People have experiences but those experiences have some relationship to the folkloric or otherwise non-prosaic tales from the area;
  • People experience directly or indirectly an unknown biological hominid.

The former is always most likely.  The second is interesting and at this point I’m not closed to it.  The third I simply don’t subscribe to.