Things that go Bump in the Forest

… or the Return of Bigfoot

By Will Johnson
Messenger Reporter

EAST TEXAS – Anyone who has followed The Messenger over the last 10 or so years probably knows some of the past and present staff have a borderline obsession with all things Bigfoot, Sasquatch and/or  Yeti.

Several of the intrepid reporters who have worked here have been tasked to seek out stories on the mythical creature. Conventions have been attended, sightings investigated and museums visited.

Still, it came as quite a surprise to find out the FBI had actually launched an investigation into the ape-like animal during the mid-1970s.

On Wednesday of this week, the FBI released documents about their investigation and the results were to say the very least – a letdown.

In an age of no internet, in a time when disco ruled the airwaves and bell bottoms sashayed across the catwalks New York, Paris and Milan, Bigfoot was well – a big deal.

The Sasquatch legend was so big in fact, the Bigfoot Information Center and Exhibition was established in Oregon. The center was under the direction of Peter Byrne and when he received word of what was termed as a “credible sighting” in the Pacific Northwest, off he went.

During a search of the area, Byrne discovered hair and skin fragments lodged in the bark of a tree approximately seven feet off the ground.

Convinced he finally had evidence of Bigfoot’s existence, he preserved the hair and skin particles in the hopes he might be able to prove the creature really did exist.

He even fired off a letter to the FBI asking for their assistance and anxiously awaited their reply – and waited.

Byrne’s patience wearied and he mailed another letter to the FBI headquarters in Washington, D.C. This time, however, he got a reply. The FBI’s response was tepid at most. It insinuated the first letter was never received and further stated the FBI did not investigate this type of matter.

Next, Byrne sent the evidence he had collected and stored to FBI headquarters. Lo and behold, it caught the eye of Jay Cochran who served as the Assistant Director of the FBI Jay Cochrane and had oversight of the bureau’s lab division.

Cochrane agreed to run some tests but that was where the story ended – until June 5, 2019 – when the FBI records were released.

The tests had indeed been run but the results were never passed along to Byrne.

“The FBI has analyzed hair in connection with the search for Sasquatch, aka ‘Bigfoot,’” an internal FBI memo noted in February 1977.

“The examination of the hair included a study of morphological characteristics such as root structure, medullary structure and cuticle thickness, in addition to scale casts. Also, the hairs were compared directly with hairs of known origin under a comparison microscope. It was concluded as a result of these examinations that the hairs are of a deer family origin,” the memo stated.

Byrne, now in his mid-90s, was contacted by The Washington Post for his thoughts on the newly released documents.

Still on the hunt for Bigfoot, Byrne remarked, “So what if that was the hair of a deer. The real stuff is out there, somewhere.  That’s kind of a dead end. If the FBI says it was deer hair, I guess that’s it. For now.”

Will Johnson may be contacted via e-mail at [email protected].

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