The Radford Files
Bigfoot and Biscardi in New Mexico
In early May, a Bigfoot hunter named Tom Biscardi came to New Mexico. He was following up on a few sightings and claimed that some Bigfoot lived in New Mexico caves. Biscardi took KRQE reporter Annie McCormick with him to search for the elusive creatures.
As Bigfoot is one of my main areas of expertise, I was interviewed for the segment, which aired the night of Monday, May 19. I only had a few seconds to give a skeptical point of view, and in this column I want to provide some context to both Bigfoot in New Mexico and Tom Biscardi. To assess Biscardi’s credibility, a little history is in order.
Biscardi, leader of the expedition and founder of something called the Great American Bigfoot Research Organization, made a stunning announcement on Aug. 4, 2005. Promoting his new idea of a pay-per-view cable TV program, he offered viewers the chance to see a Bigfoot captured on live television: “Now the whole world can watch us try to track down and study the elusive creature known as Bigfoot.”
I can’t begin to adequately describe Biscardi’s lofty plans without making them seem like satire, so I will quote liberally from one of his press releases, and let the material speak for itself:
"The expedition, which has already been investigating multiple Bigfoot sightings since the spring thaw, has located an area in which they expect to find at least two resident Bigfoot," according to the release. "The area is near Happy Camp, California and they will begin offering live streaming video of their expedition beginning August 6th on a 24-hour-a-day pay-per-view webcast which people can view on the internet at www.findingbigfoot.com. The expedition will be broadcast live on www.findingbigfoot.com. for 90 days. The webcast will be available in 65 countries and will cost $14.95 for a 7 day pass and $59.95 for a season pass for 90 days.”
“In addition to being a major scientific expedition to find, capture and study the creature known as Bigfoot, this expedition will also become a major event. This expedition is a news story, a business story and an entertainment story. There will be real danger, drama, personal interaction stories, scientific research, discovery, discussion of Bigfoot myth and fact, extremes of hot and cold from the surface to the caves, the fear of the unknown, things that go bump in the night … . As an entertainment and curiosity factor, Bigfoot is bigger than King Kong, and bigger than Godzilla.”
Of course, the marketing angle was not lost on Biscardi:
“Many of the people who will be on camera on this webcast may become instant celebrities. With so many hours of footage available, the footage will be available to be compiled into multiple film, television and book projects. There will also be opportunities for companies to buy advertising on the webcast and the expedition team members will also be able to test and feature all kinds of products that they may be using including everything from hygiene and food products, to clothing, gear and insect repellent, as well as soft drinks, bottled water and various scientific, communication and computer equipment. “This expedition and webcast will become a worldwide event,” says the press release, “and we hope to be able to prove to the skeptics of the world that some kind of creature called Bigfoot exists.”
It didn’t take Biscardi long to claim he had actually captured a Bigfoot, an assertion that had many in the Bigfoot community suitably skeptical. On Aug. 19, 2005, Biscardi appeared on "Coast to Coast with George Noory" (Art Bell’s old show, or as I call it, “The Art Bell Comedy Hour”). On the program, Biscardi claimed his group had captured a Bigfoot a week earlier, a male beast that weighed more than 400 pounds and stood 8 feet tall. He said he would be presenting photos of it several days later. The photos never came and Biscardi admitted it was a hoax (although he asserted he had been hoaxed, even though he was the one who made the Bigfoot capture claim).
So was Biscardi’s recent visit to New Mexico really about conducting a serious search for Sasquatch or simply setting the stage for his latest moneymaking and publicity scheme? You decide.
Biscardi’s antics aside, the question remains: Could Bigfoot live in New Mexico? Certainly it’s possible; anything is possible. But before we start calling out the search parties, it’s important to keep in mind a few facts:
1) We are not just talking about one Bigfoot roaming the Land of Enchantment. No, there would have to be many Bigfoot to sustain a breeding population—some estimates suggest that for Bigfoot to be a viable species, there would have to be over 100,000 in North America alone. The simple fact is that Bigfoot are not seen often enough in New Mexico to credibly believe they exist here. And even if they are here ...
2) Where are all the Bigfoot bodies? How is it, exactly, that thousands of Bigfoot supposedly live and die in New Mexico, yet not a single dead body has ever been recovered? Surely at least one Bigfoot must die at some point. The story we're being asked to believe is that thousands of giant, hairy, mysterious creatures are constantly eluding capture and discovery—and have for a century or more. At some point, a Bigfoot's luck must run out: One of them must wander onto a freeway and get killed by a car, or get shot by a hunter, or die of natural causes and be discovered by a hiker. Not one has been found on a mesa, in the Jemez, out on a reservation or anywhere else.
Bigfoot believers try to explain away the lack of bones by claiming that bones degrade quickly. While this may or may not be true in the acidic soil of the Pacific Northwest, where the majority of Bigfoot sightings occur, that is certainly not the case in the Southwest. In New Mexico’s arid climate bones in fact may last years, as any hiker who has found old, bleached coyote, dog or cattle bones can attest.
In the KRQE interview, Biscardi repeated a second common defense. It’s actually one of my favorites, since it’s so easily refuted: that Bigfoot bones are like bear bones, and bear bones are very rarely found. This superficial argument has been a staple rebuttal for years.
Apparently, Biscardi and other Bigfoot buffs need to do a little research. Who says bear bones are very rarely found? Yes, on the whole, bear skeletons are rarer than many other wildlife skeletons (such as deer, elk, coyotes, etc.), but that’s because there are proportionally fewer of them. It’s simply not true that bear skeletons are especially rare. A quick Google search turns up dozens of photos of bear bones and skeletons, but not a single authentic Bigfoot bone or skeleton.
3) Eyewitnesses are not necessarily lying or crazy; people see things all the time that they can’t necessarily identify. Bigfoot researchers readily admit that most sightings are misidentifications of normal animals, while others are downright hoaxes. A lack of information (or negative evidence) cannot be used as positive evidence for a claim. To do so is to engage in the logical fallacy of arguing from ignorance: We don't know what left the tracks or what the witnesses saw, therefore it must have been Bigfoot. Many Bigfoot sightings report “something big, dark and hairy.” But Bigfoot is not the only (alleged) creature that matches that vague description.
There is little reason to believe that Bigfoot exist in New Mexico, and there are strong arguments and evidence against it. But either way, the search for Bigfoot deserves real investigation instead of publicity stunts.
Benjamin Radford has investigated mysterious and unexplained phenomena for more than a decade. He is a columnist for LiveScience.com and managing editor of Skeptical Inquirer science magazine. His latest book is Lake Monster Mysteries , available at his website: www.RadfordBooks.com.
The opinions expressed are solely those of the author. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.