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Wrapping Up the Bigfoot Video

by Brian Dunning, Feb 18 2010

So I guess I can now reveal that no, I am not jackass enough to imagine that the “John E Walker” Bigfoot video is so compelling as to command the attention of SkepticBlog or the Skeptologists.

The video was made and sent to me back in January by John Rael of SkepticallyPwnd.com, and he asked me to write up something that looked like a critical review of it. He said it would be easy, since it’s such a lame video, and I suppose it was. It would have been easier if it had been more compelling. When a video is so dumb, it’s kind of hard to say anything intelligent about it.

I’m not exactly sure what role I played in his gag, but what the heck, it was a fun little lark. His reveal video is here.

But Google Alerts made this a little more fun. Turns out some Bigfoot site, the Bigfoot Lunch Club, picked up on my SkepticBlog analysis and found it lacking. The author’s comments are well worth a read:

Today SkepticBlog wrote a post about a video they received a link to. They thought they would make fun of it and call themselves skeptics.

I always wanted a Bigfoot video to make fun of, so I could finally award myself the badge of Skeptic.

And then, to support his statement, he quoted the last two paragraphs of my original post about the video. These two paragraphs followed what was, I think, at least a half decent discussion of what was actually known about the video: its time, place, equipment used, and stuff that’s actually testable. There was none, so I wrapped up with a laissez-faire rumination:

Maybe it is a Bigfoot. Maybe it’s a guy in a suit, one that flares out bellbottom style, like my own cheap-ass gorilla suit does. Maybe it’s an autonomous robot in a suit. Maybe it’s a Bigfoot in a Bigfoot suit. Maybe it’s an example of high-end composite work combined with low-end 3D modeling, all rendered on Renderman.

The fact is that we can’t really know or conclude much of anything about this video, and the million others like it. We can’t prove it’s a fake any more than we can prove it’s a real Bigfoot. What it is is crappy evidence. It’s not testable. It’s fun, and it’s interesting, but its value as evidence is zero. Its value as an anecdote is that it suggests a direction for research. So to all who feel motivated: Grab your 3CCD cameras and head on up to Greenhorn, Oregon. A bellbottomed Bigfoot might be waiting for you.

And then he brought out the big guns, to show by comparison how lame those self-described “skeptics” really are. He quoted from someone named Autumn Williams, evidently a much more serious Bigfoot enthusiast, who had “dug a little bit deeper” into the video in her own analysis:

I’m not sure what to say here. No offense intended if you’re trying to be serious (it sure sounded that way?), but the hair is obviously synthetic, the face appears to be a poor reconstruction of a “planet of the apes” theme, the makeup pitiful, the movements awkward, the staging is obvious, subtle references to the Patterson film are rather amusing… and I’d have to say, if it’s not an attempt at a hoax on your part, you’ve been hoaxed. Somehow, though, I find it difficult to believe that you could follow something for that long and NOT know it was someone in a stovepipe-legged, poorly-made suit. I didn’t even need to pause the footage to tell that…

…Finally, asking people for “offers” and having “james randi” in your tags in your youtube account is a dead giveaway that you’re looking for money. I’m sorry, but ol’ Jim won’t buy it, and I doubt anyone else will either.

“Kudos to Autumn Williams,” he went on to conclude. Well, I take issue. This analysis by Autumn is guilty of exactly the kind of useless commentary I panned in my Skeptoid episode about Bigfoot research. She makes no attempt to address anything in the video that’s testable. She basically says only that it’s a really stupid looking suit. That’s a terrible analysis. The first person who ever saw an okapi probably thought it was a really stupid looking suit too.

To Autumn, and to your Bigfoot Lunch Club associate, I suggest you work on improving your analytical skills. You have to have testable evidence if you want anyone to take your claims seriously. You omitted the part of my blog where I discussed what was testable (which was almost nothing), so it was of course very easy to make my analysis look weak. But if what you quoted here was the strongest part of your analysis, the rest of it must have been strongly wanting. Red herrings, like mentioning the James Randi reference in the YouTube description, are not testable data. The assertion “The movements are awkward” is not testable data, and since some animals are awkward as hell, it’s not even a useful observation. “The hair is obviously synthetic” is laughable. If you can truly discern synthetic hair from real hair by a YouTube video shot from a distance, you’re a freaking wizard.

So, Mr. bravely-anonymous Bigfoot Lunch Club, you’ve not succeeded in impressing me, and if this is the level of analysis that passes for science with you, you’ve got a long way to go before you’re going to impress anyone. Oh, and it appears that you’ve been SkepticallyPwnd by Mr. Rael.

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Wrapping Up the Bigfoot Video, 4.0 out of 5 based on 13 ratings

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11 Responses to “Wrapping Up the Bigfoot Video”

  1. SkepticallyPwnd videos are excellent

  2. John Rael says:

    Brian,
    Huge thanks, my man!!!
    The “role” you played was to potentially inspire some crypto’s to ‘defend’ or ‘promote’ the hoax. There was a problem, however: You see, I assumed that I had already learned a lesson that apparently I had not. I assumed that I had already learned the lesson that “less is more.” I ASSUMED that ‘less’ than a second of clear footage would get me the ‘more’ of what I was looking for. APPARENTLY a split second of clear footage is a split second too much!
    Though Tom Biscardi is another story (see my site for more details)

    Thanks again for your time and effort, Brian. Me and my girlfriend have been listening to you every week for about six months now. Also, please pick out a shirt for me to send you: http://skepticallypwnd.com/?page_id=3

    Thanks,
    John

  3. rustle says:

    This whole thing was a waste of space.

  4. JRB says:

    Thumbs up for “If you can truly discern synthetic hair from real hair by a YouTube video shot from a distance, you’re a freaking wizard.”

    That made my giggle for longer than it probably should have.

  5. I knew this, I knew this!!! (yes, I did.)

  6. Guy Edwards says:

    The title of the Big Foot Lunch Club post was, “‘Skeptics’ Late to Debunking Bigfoot” that was the primary theme; you were late and a simple Google search would have have revealed multiple other sites have already debunked the video. The word skeptics was in quotes because, I don’t think you qualify as one. Finally “lame” is YOUR word I never used it it.

    Finally Autumn Williams’ synthetic hair comment was about the hair samples John Rael mailed to her.

    Bigfoot is fun let’s keep it that way!

    • Chip Cherry says:

      Brian Dunning doesn’t qualify as a skeptic? Please define the word and explain how Brian doesn’t fit the mold with all the work he’s done for the skeptical world.

      Sheesh.

    • John Rael says:

      Dude, I already explained this to you: I NEVER MAILED AUTUMN ANYTHING!

      She was judging it to be synthetic based on the video and a crappy jpeg that I “E”-mailed her. She was making presumptuous critiques where she had no right to be making them. She could have said that the video bares ‘no evidence,’ but instead she attempted to debunk untestable specifics… that’s just bad science… even for a crypto :)

      Thirdly…
      Brian Dunning’s work on Skeptoid and the skepticblog speaks volumes about his mad-skillz as a skeptic. He’s earned the respect and partnership of people like Michael Shermer and Phil Plait; people that Autumn could barely get an autograph from. The minute that you or her put together an online journal with Jeff Meldrum you let me know.

      PWNAGE

  7. I am Michael Johnson co founder of Sasquatch Investigations of the Rockies. All our own evidence all the time. No one elses. Then I don’t have to justify it or defend it. Getting a photo of Sasquatch has turned out be be much more difficut than I imagined. I thought it would be easy. It is not. The technology my group possesses has been defeated time after time. You can check it out on my taboo topics page. Unknown low frequency sounds we cannot identify and stealth cams whiting out for no reason and working fine on us. We have not used the stealth cams or the 12 volt stealth cam battery that went dead that was on the unit since and you can inspect them anytime. It works fine on us. The drone in the recordings, we have hours of it. You can hear the birds in the morning fine and you can hear jets flying over as well. The drone comes and goes as they come and go. I have the recordings to prove it. I suggest you focus on recording 2 and tell me what that is. It is a wood knock, a grunt and then some kind of excited response from what sounds like a primate to me. I slept through it all, so I don’t know, but I have never heard like it in the woods before and I have been in them since 1977. I suggest you check out my hand print as well. It is the best in the world bar none. You can come measure my truck if you like for scale. The hand print has a large pad on left side not found in humans and the dermal ridges are huge. It happened on a rainy night in remote Colorado. I have it blown up on a 24 x 36 laminate. Something was beating on my truck at 04 am in the rain. It left gray hairs in the side of my truck as well, which I have. You tell me what it is, I am waiting. I am listening. No one has wanted to tackle it yet because it’s the real deal. There was only two of us there, nearest camper 2-3 miles away minimum on a Thursday night. I am a hunter of elk and deer for years. I am an insurance investigator for 23 years. I am a college graduate with honors. The only thing I have failed to see in the woods is a scientist or a skeptic and I rarely see a forest service employee in the places I go. I spent 60 plus days in the remote woods of Colorado last year. Thats what it takes. You got to give of yourself and put yourself out there. This old Kansas boy never thought this would happen in his life, but it has. Bigfoot is real, more so than some humans I know. I will stake my reputation on it. Thanks for your time, Michael L Johnson-Co founder-SIR

  8. The hand print is still waiting! Mike J-:)