Sunday, 28 August 2011

Minnesota: Expert discredits Bigfoot footprint find

Jana Peterson, Duluth News Tribune
It was a little over a year ago when the Siltanen brothers found the footprints. Checking for bear bait on a Monday morning, it wasn't bear tracks they found in the freshly plowed field. In fact, they weren't sure what they found.

"We found about 75 of these footprints," Robert Siltanen said. "My brother had plowed the field Friday and seeded it Sunday. We found the footprints on Monday morning."

Siltanen said the prints measured 4 inches wide and 11½ inches long, with a 42-inch stride from heel to toe.

"There have been (Bigfoot) sightings in the (Kettle River/Automba) area," Siltanen said, adding that he knew of at least three more-recent ones and recalled people in high school talking about Bigfoot sightings. "So we started snooping around, and we called all the neighbor ladies to see if they'd seen anything."

The really strange part, Siltanen said, was the fact that the footprints seemed to appear 60 feet from the outer edge of the field, then continue toward the woods. There were no prints leading onto the field.

"Who the heck knows," he added. "It's one of those unexplained situations."

He made casts of the footprints using plaster of Paris, which are displayed in an old shoebox. The prints are quite different: The left one looks almost deformed, with the smaller toes practically stacked on top of each other..

The brothers, who are the third generation in their family to farm their land in Kettle River, said they also hear strange noises early in the morning, sometimes a scream, other times a low moan.

Robert Siltanen imitated the moan.

Roger Siltanen laughed.

"It was hell walking to the deer stand after that," Roger Siltanen said. "I don't know how I would react to seeing one."

Robert Siltanen said a man named Jim Hebb from a Minnesota Bigfoot organization came and looked at the prints three weeks later and guessed they could belong to a juvenile Bigfoot.

However, in a response to viewing photographs of the footprint casts together and compared to Robert Siltanen's bare foot, Idaho State University professor Jeff Meldrum said the prints look very human.

Meldrum, an anatomy professor whose specialty is primate and human locomotion and the adaptation of the foot for walking on ground, is well-known as an expert on reported Bigfoot casts. He initially became interested in doing serious research on the legendary North American ape after seeing about 35 to 45 clear prints in the ground in 1996.

"My forte is footprint evidence," said the professor, who also published a book, "Sasquatch: Legend Meets Science," in 2006. In endorsing the book, noted primatologist Jane Goodall said, "Jeff Meldrum's book `Sasquatch: Legend Meets Science' brings a much-needed level of scientific analysis to the Sasquatch — or Bigfoot — debate."

Although his recent film and television credits include Monster Qwest and National Geographic programs, the Idaho State University professor has not worked with the "Finding Bigfoot" television cast … at least not directly.

"They did send some prints after they found the first Georgia footprints," Meldrum said. "But I

couldn't get back to them in time. I concluded they were bear tracks. One of the hosts raved about those tracks, that they were some of the best he'd seen.

"It's unfortunate," he added. "You get these amateur `experts' making silly pronouncements, and the skeptics use it as ammunition to discredit all the evidence that comes to light."

On the subject of Sasquatch and footprints, Meldrum said the more-credible Bigfoot prints have several things in common:

They exhibit a flat, archless foot that shows a greater degree of flexibility in the mid-foot.

They have a much greater width and length than a human foot.

The toes tend to be more squarely aligned; there's less of an angle from the big toe to the little toe. There's also less of a size difference between the big toe and the smaller toes, although the big toe is still bigger than the rest.

Meldrum has no trouble making the call on the Siltanen casts on the basis of two photographs.

"The photo of the man [Robert Siltanen] with the cast is the most telling," Meldrum said. "There are so many resemblances [between his foot and the print] … I'd be surprised if it's not his foot or someone closely related to him."

Robert and Roger Siltanen both insist the footprints were not their own.

"We might (stretch the truth), but we wouldn't do this," Roger Siltanen said. "It's still a mystery if they (Bigfoot creatures) are really out there or if it's someone that's had too much to drink … or it's an elaborate hoax."

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