Saturday, 17 March 2012

Animal Planet episode seeks Bigfoot in Cache County

By Nancy Van Valkenburg, Standard-Examiner staff

Wed, 03/14/2012

LOGAN -- Is Bigfoot living in Cache County?
That is the question that brought an Animal Planet film crew to Logan last fall to shoot an episode of "Finding Bigfoot" that airs tonight.
Producers interviewed Utah State University folklore lecturer Lynne S. McNeill for the episode, titled "Holy Cow, It's Bigfoot."
"What brought the show to Cache Valley was a famous YouTube video, shot in Providence Canyon, of young kids having a bonfire, and taping it," McNeill said. "There is a figure that stands up and walks away in the background. It's something they say they didn't see until they watched the tape."
 The teens, apparently trying to blow up a bottle of flammable liquid in the bonfire, don't notice a partially illuminated grayish shape in the distance, which seems to walk away about 1:03 into the footage. The photographic quality is too poor to determine the nature of the moving shape/figure.
"The show invites people to a town hall meeting in places where there have been reports of Bigfoot sightings," McNeill said. "They called the university, and the person who fielded the call told them we had a folklore program.
"Show producers were really hesitant to associate themselves with folklore. They feel, whether it is tongue-in-cheek or real, that they are doing serious scientific inquiries, and they thought 'folklore' means that something is fake, not true."
So McNeill attended the town hall meeting to give producers an idea of what folklore really is.
"I told them that folklore is the study of informal culture," she said. "It's culture shared by word of mouth, person to person, through stories. It's the customs and beliefs we learn from other people. Some people use the word folklore dismissively, but it's a serious academic field."
So the crew taped a short segment with McNeill sharing her knowledge.
"They told me it's the first time they've ever done a segment like that," she said. "They broke format."
McNeill said she never watched an episode of "Finding Bigfoot" before her own. And she also never researched Bigfoot before she heard the show was coming to Logan. But checking USU archives, she found multiple reports of local Bigfoot sightings.
"In the archives, there are examples from Providence Canyon dating back to the '70s and '80s," she said. "There is a long-standing tradition in Cache that the Bigfoot creature is out here."
The film crew also uncovered local legends of haunted canyons that McNeill found interesting.
"The local folk culture is neat to see."
McNeill said there are two main reasons that people embrace specific stories from folklore. One is that they hear stories and then see evidence or hear of evidence from someone they trust.
"People may be seeing something that reads as Bigfoot," she said. "Giant squids and giant pandas used to be creatures that existed as folklore, then people paid attention to the patterns, and found them. Any time we see reports that cross cultures from around the world, they might be having a legitimate experience."
Or there's another possibility.
"People like the idea of being so close to nature, and hidden for so long," McNeill said. "There's a romanticization of Bigfoot as a kind of hopeful thing. People want this life to be possible somewhere in the world."
What does McNeill believe?
"I really don't have any personal opinions," she said. "I've yet to see evidence that Bigfoot exists or doesn't exist. But I am willing to listen to any stories anyone wants to tell me.
INFORMATION: See the "Holy Cow, It's Bigfoot" episode of "Finding Bigfoot" at 8 p.m. and 11 p.m. today, and 4 p.m. Saturday, on Animal Planet, seen by local cable subscribers on Channel 26.

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