Books on the Loch Ness Monster 1: Ronald Binns’s The Loch Ness Mystery Reloaded

Listeners of the Tetrapod Zoology podcast will know that I have – for no specific reason – been going through a bit of a Loch Ness Monster phase recently, my stated aim being to review three recently-ish published books on the subject. Here’s the first of those reviews, devoted to Ronald Binns’s The Loch Ness Mystery Reloaded. I provided a very brief review of this book at TetZoo ver 3 back in 2017 but always planned to produce a longer version. So here we are.

Nessie, the beast of many forms. It’s almost as if people are describing all manner of different things. Images: Darren Naish.

Nessie, the beast of many forms. It’s almost as if people are describing all manner of different things. Images: Darren Naish.

Is the Loch Ness Monster (LNM) science? Should I be writing about it, and encouraging an interest in it, on a blog ostensibly devoted to the scientific study of the natural world? Here I’ll say what I’ve said several times before about monsters and cryptozoology in general: even if monsters don’t exist (in the zoological sense), there’s still a phenomenon here that’s worthy of study, and there’s still a body of data that we can subject to scientific analysis. And I’ll add that ideas and writings about monsters like Nessie are definitely relevant to those of us intrigued by speculative zoology (Naish 2014), fringe theories, the history of zoology and other subjects included within the TetZoo remit.

Binns (1983)  , hardback (at left) and 1984 softback edition.

Binns (1983), hardback (at left) and 1984 softback edition.

Ronald Binns’s 1983 The Loch Ness Mystery Solved – produced with assistance from Rod Bell (though he doesn’t get an authorship credit) – is a classic work of scholarship and scepticism (Binns 1983). It shows how sightings, photos and film purporting to describe or show the monster are less impressive than typically described, are indeterminate or of more prosaic identity than claimed, have been embellished or modified by enthusiastic or biased writers, and can sometimes be explained as encounters with known animals (seals, waterbirds, deer). A sociocultural setting for the monster, an evaluation of the clutching-at-straws ideas on its biology, appearance, phylogenetic affinities and ecology, and a takedown of the ‘historical Nessie’ endorsed elsewhere also feature within the book (Binns 1983).

It should not be assumed that people - even people who’ve lived their lives in rural places, surrounded by wildlife - can always identify such animals as deer, seals and waterbirds (like grebes and cormorants) when they see them in unusual places, poses or situations. Deer are abundant around Loch Ness. I photographed this male Red deer adjacent to Loch Knockie, which is just a few hundred metres to the east of Loch Ness. Image: Darren Naish.

It should not be assumed that people - even people who’ve lived their lives in rural places, surrounded by wildlife - can always identify such animals as deer, seals and waterbirds (like grebes and cormorants) when they see them in unusual places, poses or situations. Deer are abundant around Loch Ness. I photographed this male Red deer adjacent to Loch Knockie, which is just a few hundred metres to the east of Loch Ness. Image: Darren Naish.

I’m glad to have encountered it at a relatively early phase in my career as a monster researcher, since virtually everything else I read and was exposed to was extremely pro-monster, so much so that I spent time as a teenager thinking that Nessie was a scientific likelihood. Phew: lucky, then, that I never made a fool of myself by proclaiming a belief in Nessie. Oh, wait.

Of course, much has happened since the publication of Solved in 1983. We have new biographic information on the people integral to the LNM story, and new eyewitness accounts, illustrations and photos have been unearthed or have joined the collective pool. Several of the main characters in the LNM story have died since Solved was published, meaning that their role can be more fully and honestly assessed than when they were alive (Binns 2017). On the sociological angle, Nessie has remained a cultural icon and flashpoint for woo, and its story has been retold, embellished, added to and expanded via the publication of many post-1983 books, so many that there’s what looks like a (mostly British) cottage industry on the subject.

Cover of   Binns (2017)  . Buy it if interested in the Loch Ness Monster, lake monster lore, cryptozoology or scepticism.

Cover of Binns (2017). Buy it if interested in the Loch Ness Monster, lake monster lore, cryptozoology or scepticism.

In view of all this, the time is right for an addendum to Solved, and thus we find The Loch Ness Mystery Reloaded (Binns 2017). Reloaded is, to quote its author, essentially a long-form appendix to The Loch Ness Mystery Solved, but it isn’t at all dry or tedious. It’s well written, entertaining and absorbing if you’re familiar with any aspects of LNM lore, and in fact is probably the LNM-themed book I’ve enjoyed reading the most. Footnotes and references are provided, though there are only a handful of illustrations.

The book begins with a look back at the making of Solved, the responses to it, and a series of updates on the book’s main (human) characters. Binns then retreads two classic sightings – that of Donaldina Mackay and the Spicers – albeit with new information. The Spicer account of 1933 is the great classic ‘land sighting’, recounted in every Nessie-themed book. George Spicer is generally framed as a lucky everyman who saw a remarkable, inexplicable thing and reported it fairly, without fanfare and without any need to see himself – rather than the animal – as the point of interest.

The Spicer sighting as conventionally portrayed, here by Dinsdale (1976). Image:   Dinsdale (1976)  .

The Spicer sighting as conventionally portrayed, here by Dinsdale (1976). Image: Dinsdale (1976).

None of this is correct. Details of Spicer’s account make it likely that he and his (still nameless) wife saw bounding deer (an idea, not original to me, discussed in Hunting Monsters); the details of his sighting changed significantly over the years and demonstrate (I say again: demonstrate) both embellishment and a predilection on Spicer’s part to speculate. Furthermore, Spicer wasn’t a quiet, impartial witness, reluctantly discussing his encounter when door-stepped by thirsty journalists, but extraordinarily enthusiastic, garrulous and boastful about it, his own writings making him sound wide-eyed and credulous. There’s a popular idea among cryptozoologists that one should ignore personality traits and biography and just pay attention to the monster sighting. Alas, no; this is wrong. Those things are absolutely relevant.

Probably the best ever depiction of the Loch Ness Monster in action. Surely this is what Mr Spicer actually saw. A beautiful image by the legendary Gino D’Achille. Image: (c) Gino D’Achille.

Probably the best ever depiction of the Loch Ness Monster in action. Surely this is what Mr Spicer actually saw. A beautiful image by the legendary Gino D’Achille. Image: (c) Gino D’Achille.

Famous photos, reloaded. Chapters are also devoted to the more notable LNM photos and the Dinsdale film. Revised and updated takes on the Surgeon’s photo, and on the Gray, Stuart, Cockrell, Macnab and O’Connor photos – and a bunch of less famous ones – are presented, all of which can sensibly be stated to be hoaxes, indeterminate, waves, sticks and other non-animals. Binns remains non-committal on the very unusual Peter O’Connor photo of 1960 but implies that O’Connor’s career as a taxidermist might mean that we’re looking at a dead animal (maybe a seal?). My competing idea (Naish 2017) – it originates with Dick Raynor – is that it’s an inverted kayak and a head-shaped stick in front. I think this explains what looks like planking and the metal rudder support, visible in uncropped versions of the image.

The O’Connor photo has never made sense as goes lighting. O’Connor’s story is suspiciously odd. And the object he photographed does not appear to be an animal. It looks likely to be an inverted kayak, and looks uncannily similar to the specific kayak that O’Connor owned. The image here - scanned from one of the several LNM books - is a cropped version that doesn’t feature the whole of the object. Image: (c) Peter O’Connor.

The O’Connor photo has never made sense as goes lighting. O’Connor’s story is suspiciously odd. And the object he photographed does not appear to be an animal. It looks likely to be an inverted kayak, and looks uncannily similar to the specific kayak that O’Connor owned. The image here - scanned from one of the several LNM books - is a cropped version that doesn’t feature the whole of the object. Image: (c) Peter O’Connor.

Nor does Binns wholly buy my argument in Hunting Monsters than the Hugh Gray photo depicts a swan. He does think it’s a fake though. I remain pretty confident about the swan hypothesis because a Whooper swan (not a Mute swan as implied by the illustration in Hunting Monsters) matches the shape, hue and likely size of the object, the object has what looks like a swan’s ankle sticking out of its flank in the right position, and also has an otherwise inexplicable pale patch (presumably double-exposed on top of the main image, and coming from a moment in time when the bird had its head above the water surface) that exactly matches a Whooper swan’s bill patch. It also has a swan’s tail. And it’s white.

At top, the Hugh Gray photo of 1933. A ‘mid-sized’ object (look at the ripples), that’s white or near-white, has a sinuous appendage at one end, a short, pointed appendage at the other, and a dark appendage that disappears into the water close to one of its ends. The double-strike areas (featuring pale triangular patches) indicate double-exposure (that is, the film failed to move on and was exposed again). Image:   Naish (2017)  .

At top, the Hugh Gray photo of 1933. A ‘mid-sized’ object (look at the ripples), that’s white or near-white, has a sinuous appendage at one end, a short, pointed appendage at the other, and a dark appendage that disappears into the water close to one of its ends. The double-strike areas (featuring pale triangular patches) indicate double-exposure (that is, the film failed to move on and was exposed again). Image: Naish (2017).

On vocal champions. It’s frequently implied or stated by those endorsing the existence of monsters that vocal champions of the cause are sensible, level-headed, scholarly types who come to the conclusions they do after carefully and scientifically evaluating the data. Maybe this is true for some individuals. But it’s generally the opposite of true. Monster proponents – and I’ve now been bold enough to state or imply this in print (Conway et al. 2013, Naish 2017) – are more frequently tremendously naïve, biased, impressionable and unscientific, and attracted to the subject because of its intrinsic appeal and their own tendency to want the world to be occupied by stuff considered beyond current scientific knowledge.

This is emphasised in Binns’s chapters on F. W. ‘Ted’ Holiday, author of 1968’s The Great Orm of Loch Ness (wherein Nessie is posited to be a giant Tullimonstrum) and 1973’s The Dragon and the Disc (the main thesis of which links lake monsters with the ancient alien movement). Similarly, Binns’s treatment of Tim Dinsdale, the well-meaning and likeable champion of the LNM from 1960 until his death in 1987, discusses Dinsdale’s propensity to be all too impressionable, and with ideas that were not in keeping with his claim that he was always objective and basing everything monster-related on sound science. There’s a lot that could be said about both men (I’m avoiding that here; Dinsdale will be discussed in a future article); anyone interested in their legacy and how it fits into the LNM story must see what Binns says to say.

Ahh, classic Holiday. The object in the Hugh Gray photo interpreted as a modern-day, big  Tullimonstrum . Image:   Holiday (1968)  .

Ahh, classic Holiday. The object in the Hugh Gray photo interpreted as a modern-day, big Tullimonstrum. Image: Holiday (1968).

Both those interested in, and brought to despair by, the literature on the LNM will have noted that there’s a lot of it: an enormous number of published books, booklets and articles, and a vast quantity of correspondence, imagery and art. Yet for all the fame of the LNM, there’s been surprisingly little effort to collate or gather things and several collections are in danger of being lost when their owners are no more and their estates dissolved. Binns terms this the ‘archive problem’, and it’s common to many subject areas that involve ‘paperwork’.

But a fraction of the books that exist on the Loch Ness Monster. Image: Darren Naish.

But a fraction of the books that exist on the Loch Ness Monster. Image: Darren Naish.

As mentioned above, a great many books have been published on the LNM since the early 1980s. Binns provides commentary on the more recent of them (those from the post-Dinsdale era). He's fairly critical of Gareth Williams’s serious and well-drafted A Monstrous Commotion of 2015 (another of the books set to be reviewed here), noting that it fails to credit The Loch Ness Mystery Solved despite drawing substantially upon its contents. Those lines in the acknowledgements of A Monstrous Commotion explaining how eagle-eyed reviewers and editors did a sterling job in preventing numerous mistakes are ironic in view of the fairly enormous number of errors that did make it into print, all of which Binns discusses and corrects (pp. 150-152).

Binns on Hunting Monsters. I am of course especially interested (I hope understandably) in what Binns says about my own Hunting Monsters, a volume he classes as part of the same ‘cultural cryptozoology’ school as Loxton and Prothero’s Abominable Science! (which I had a hand in as technical reviewer and blurb-writer; my review of that book is here at TetZoo ver 3). Hunting Monsters is “fluent, elegant, scholarly”, says Binns (p. 153); he “finds Naish’s approach congenial because he seeks to rescue cryptozoology from the naïve literalists” (p. 154).

In which I tried to develop a sociological or anthropological view of cryptids - Nessie included - as icons embedded within culture. The softback version was preceded by a 2016 digital one (which has a different cover). Image:   Naish (2017)  .

In which I tried to develop a sociological or anthropological view of cryptids - Nessie included - as icons embedded within culture. The softback version was preceded by a 2016 digital one (which has a different cover). Image: Naish (2017).

It isn’t a coincidence that Binns finds my take on monsters concordant with his own position. As has been stated here at TetZoo many times now, I think today that cryptids like Nessie are sociocultural phenomena, that people ‘see’ monsters like Nessie because they fully expect to encounter a thing that’s firmly embedded within their culture (Binns terms this expectant attention), that ideas about the identity, biology, ecology and so on of Nessie are nothing more than speculative house-of-cards-type efforts, and that eyewitness descriptions of Nessie are either so ambiguous as to be useless, are hoaxes, or are explainable or near-explainable by those able to employ critical thinking or sceptical analysis.

You can be an atheist and still love buildings of worship. Likewise, thinking that Nessie is not real does not stop Loch Ness from being a remarkable place or one with a great amount of allure. Image: Darren Naish.

You can be an atheist and still love buildings of worship. Likewise, thinking that Nessie is not real does not stop Loch Ness from being a remarkable place or one with a great amount of allure. Image: Darren Naish.

The Age of the Internet. It’s no secret among those especially interested in the LNM that one of the most visible writers on the subject in the Age of the Internet is not a journalist or scientist but a blogger – Roland Watson – who is unashamed and thoroughly biased in his insistence that Nessie is real and that those questioning the ‘evidence’ are wrong and on ground shakier than the firm footing occupied by himself. Binns notes that Watson has been useful in uncovering new data but more impressive are the substantial number of occasions in which Binns corrects or contests Watson’s interpretations.

Watson’s blog is a fun read if you like being immersed in detailed discussions of LNM-themed sightings, anecdotes, accounts and controversies. I congratulate anyone aiming to put esoteric data like this on the record, and to unearth more information on relevant people and the backgrounds to claimed eyewitness accounts.

But two issues ruin Watson’s entire take on the subject. One is his obvious employment of confirmation bias and insistence that Occam’s Razor has no place in monster hunting: while the record shows that he doesn’t automatically identify any object seen in the waters of Loch Ness as a monster, his primary argument on many occasions is to insist that ‘giant unknown aquatic vertebrate species’ should, as an explanation, be on equal footing with ‘swimming deer’, ‘unidentified fish’ or ‘wave’. No it shouldn’t.

The surface of Loch Ness, photographed in September 2016. Many people’s monster sightings are of a calibre similar to this. These are waves, made by a boat. Image: Darren Naish.

The surface of Loch Ness, photographed in September 2016. Many people’s monster sightings are of a calibre similar to this. These are waves, made by a boat. Image: Darren Naish.

The second issue is Watson’s obsession with sceptics, who he very much regards as The Bad Guys, The Enemy. He bashes sceptics a lot – as if being sceptical about Nessie is a bad thing or represents poor life choice – and has written at length about the motivations that, he thinks, drive sceptics and their scepticism. These arguments are naïve, way off base and just fucking weird. Example: Watson claimed on his blog and in his review of Hunting Monsters that I have been groomed – his word – by Loch Ness expert Dick Raynor, since sceptics require that the chalice of Loch Ness scepticism be passed down across the generations, and, furthermore, that I have been turned to the cult of scepticism via the nefarious chicanery and allure of an older man. Binns noted all of this as it was happening. “Naish’s assertion that Watson inhabits ‘an idiosyncratic intellectual landscape’ was a generous and measured response”, he says (p. 18). Damn straight.

Those of us sceptical about lake monsters are so, or have become so, because we aren’t convinced by the evidence, such as it is, and we see obvious problems with the ‘data’ deemed integral to the case by believers. I’ve become a sceptic for these reasons, not because I wish to be part of a special club (note to Nessie fans reading this: I am not employed in academia), not because I somehow earn points or money for being a sceptic (I wish), and not because I’m guilty of sloppy thinking, blindness, unfamiliarity with the evidence or an unwillingness to read or engage with the literature or the cryptozoological community. I was a believer once, I remind you, and I’ve said all sorts of dumb things supporting the existence of monsters that my critics never seem to be aware of. They only see an enemy: a blinkered ivory-tower elite who lives in a solid gold house, has never had a proper job, and dives every evening into a money pit of Science Dollars provided by the government or something.

Here’s a close-up of the Hugh Gray photo again. I say again: the ripples show that this object is ‘mid-sized’ (as in, 1 m long or so). Weird than an object which I say looks like a swan also has what looks like a swan’s leg and what looks like a swan’s pointed tail.

Here’s a close-up of the Hugh Gray photo again. I say again: the ripples show that this object is ‘mid-sized’ (as in, 1 m long or so). Weird than an object which I say looks like a swan also has what looks like a swan’s leg and what looks like a swan’s pointed tail.

You should buy this book. The Loch Ness Mystery Reloaded is required reading for those interested in the Loch Ness phenomenon, in lake monsters, cryptozoology and/or scepticism, and I really enjoyed it. My one complaint is that the lack of an index is a real pain. We all know that indexes are difficult and time consuming to compile, but lacking one entirely is not really excusable – even a short one consisting of keywords is better than nothing.

Anyway… it would be helpful to read Reloaded right after The Loch Ness Mystery Solved if you haven’t read that book already, but I wouldn’t say that this is a requirement. You should definitely buy it. And you should also consider leaving a positive amazon review given a really appalling bias present there at the time of writing. More Nessie book reviews soon.

Binns, R. 2017. The Loch Ness Mystery Reloaded. Zoilus Press. pp. 222.ISBN 978-1-9997359-0-6. Softback, refs. Here at amazon, here at amazon.co.uk.

Nessie and related issues have been covered on TetZoo a fair bit before, though many of the older images now lack ALL of the many images they originated included…

Refs - -

Binns, R. 1983. The Loch Ness Mystery Solved. Open Books, London.

Binns, R. 2017. The Loch Ness Mystery Reloaded. Zoilus Press.

Conway, J., Kosemen, C. M. & Naish, D. 2013. Cryptozoologicon Volume I. Irregular Books.

Dinsdale, T. 1976. Loch Ness Monster (Revised Edition). Routledge & Kegan Paul, London.

Holiday, F. W. 1968. The Great Orm of Loch Ness. Faber and Faber, London.

Loxton, D. & Prothero, D. R. 2013. Abominable Science! Columbia University Press, New York.

Naish, D. 2014. Speculative zoology. Fortean Times 316, 52-53.

Naish, D. 2017. Hunting Monsters: Cryptozoology and the Reality Behind the Myths. Arcturus, London.

Bigfoot’s Genitals: What Do We Know?

Ok, I will fully admit upfront that the article you’re about to read (or: about to stop reading, depending on your preference) is included here both because it’s linked to something in the news, and because it’s sensational and perhaps amusing.

The offending tweet. What we're all asking is:  how anatomically accurate might this depiction be?  Spoiler: not accurate at all (err.. assuming that Bigfoot even exists, a minor detail). Image: Twitter.

The offending tweet. What we're all asking is: how anatomically accurate might this depiction be? Spoiler: not accurate at all (err.. assuming that Bigfoot even exists, a minor detail). Image: Twitter.

Without going into all the details, US Republican candidate Denver Riggleman (great name) has been outed as an alleged fan of Bigfoot erotic fiction… yeah, this is a thing, come on you knew that don't pretend you didn't… though I do wonder whether this is some sort of ploy to downplay said candidate’s more worrying association with white supremacists [UPDATE: Loren Coleman tells me that Mr Riggleman has a long-term, serious interest in Bigfootery]. Bigfoot erotic fiction? The fact that – like it or not – Bigfoot is regarded as light-relief and harmless hokum means that any link between Bigfoot and sex is immediately treated as a joke. News stories associated with Riggleman’s niche interests have featured an illustration of a male Bigfoot, its seemingly substantial sexual organ safely censored by a long and subtle black box (see if you can spot it in the image above). And this leads us to the ultimate question: what have people honestly, seriously, thought about the genital anatomy of Bigfoot? Inspired by a twitter exchange with Russ Dobler and Kyle Marian, I thought this was as good an opportunity as any to summarise what’s on the record.

First things first: does this mean that I consider Bigfoot a real, genuine, flesh and blood, undiscovered primate? Let’s just say for now that I’m really sceptical of this notion (for reasons discussed here, and in my 2017 book Hunting Monsters). I’m not a knee-jerk sceptic though, and long to have my mind changed…

I've only had one up-close encounter with a Bigfoot myself (it happened in California); I didn't have opportunity at the time to do any checking as goes any details of anatomy, but here's the proof. Image: [safely anonymous source]/Darren Naish.

I've only had one up-close encounter with a Bigfoot myself (it happened in California); I didn't have opportunity at the time to do any checking as goes any details of anatomy, but here's the proof. Image: [safely anonymous source]/Darren Naish.

One of the main aims of my writing is to summarise or convey what others have said before me and, like it or not, a bunch of authors who’ve written about Bigfoot as a real biological entity have indeed considered the subject of its genital anatomy. After all, if you regard Bigfoot as a real animal it’s perfectly valid to consider all kinds of aspects of its biology, behaviour and evolution, even if we’re doing little more than speculating.

If Bigfoot is real, just remember that it's probably the most terrifying animal in existence. Seriously. I tried to modify my drawing ( available on merchandise! ) so that the animal appears to be in the dark. I failed. Image: Darren Naish.

If Bigfoot is real, just remember that it's probably the most terrifying animal in existence. Seriously. I tried to modify my drawing (available on merchandise!) so that the animal appears to be in the dark. I failed. Image: Darren Naish.

So, if you look at the Bigfoot literature you’ll see a fair few mentions of male genital anatomy, these most typically being references to “a small penis and scrotum” (Krantz 1999, p. 155). When a penis is mentioned, it’s virtually always flaccid… though there are exceptions. The infamous ‘Kong’ account (in which the semi-anonymous ‘Jan Klement’ described his long-time association during the 1970s with an animal that regularly visited his property) includes an event whereby ‘Kong’ exhibited a tumid penis and interacted sexually with a cow.

Then there’s the ‘Redwoods’ incident. In 1995, an alleged Bigfoot was filmed (from a vehicle) in Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park, California. And what appears to be a slender, tapering, mobile, sickle-shaped penis flexes upwards during the footage. Some writers have even interpreted this as a possible threat display (Meldrum & Greenwell 1998). This piece of footage is known generally as the ‘Redwoods Footage’, but the fact that it was filmed by a crew working for the Playboy company – and hence is also often called the ‘Playboy Footage’ – hasn’t exactly helped its credibility.

At left, we see a rather grainy still from the 'Redwoods footage'; at right is an interpretation (drawn by Peter Visscher, based on an initial interpretation produced by Jeff Meldrum). The penis isn't visible in this part of the footage. Image: Meldrum & Greenwell (1998)/BBC Wildlife.

At left, we see a rather grainy still from the 'Redwoods footage'; at right is an interpretation (drawn by Peter Visscher, based on an initial interpretation produced by Jeff Meldrum). The penis isn't visible in this part of the footage. Image: Meldrum & Greenwell (1998)/BBC Wildlife.

A reasonably large, erect penis has also been described in an observation of a Central Asian bar-manu, one of several creatures sometimes suggested to be Eurasian relatives or versions of North America’s Bigfoot. And then there’s the whole world of speculation concerning whether ancient depictions of satyrs, wildmen and so on with erect penises are relevant to such sightings and their validity. I discuss this issue further in Hunting Monsters (Naish 2017).

Herpetologist and cryptozoologist Jordi Magraner drew this obviously male bar-manu (a crypto-hominid reported from Pakistan) as described by a witness. The account was published by Michel Raynal (2001). Image: Raynal (2001).

Herpetologist and cryptozoologist Jordi Magraner drew this obviously male bar-manu (a crypto-hominid reported from Pakistan) as described by a witness. The account was published by Michel Raynal (2001). Image: Raynal (2001).

Loren Coleman included a whole chapter on sex and genital anatomy in his 2003 Bigfoot! The True Story of Apes in America (Coleman 2003). Indeed, he noted at the start of this chapter that the general absence of writings on Bigfoot sexual behaviour and anatomy seems weird given the importance and significance of these things to primates. “Bigfoot are most frequently shown without any male genitalia even though a penis might be part of a witness description”, he wrote (Coleman 2003, p. 185).

Loren Coleman's 2003  Bigfoot!   includes a whole chapter on ideas and observations about sexual behaviour and anatomy. If Bigfoot isn't real, maybe this stuff is fatuous. Then again, even if Bigfoot  isn't  real, our attitude to this stuff might still tell us something. And if Bigfoot is real? Well... Image : Simon & Schuster .

Loren Coleman's 2003 Bigfoot! includes a whole chapter on ideas and observations about sexual behaviour and anatomy. If Bigfoot isn't real, maybe this stuff is fatuous. Then again, even if Bigfoot isn't real, our attitude to this stuff might still tell us something. And if Bigfoot is real? Well... Image: Simon & Schuster.

A few other eyewitness encounters have described a penis. Albert Ostman – the Canadian logger and construction worker supposedly kidnapped by a Bigfoot family during the 1920s – described the penis of the large male boss of the group as short (around two inches long) and “hooded with skin”, or – according to researcher John Green following his communication with Ostman – “like an inverted funnel, which sounds horse-like” (Coleman 2003, p. 191). I should add for the record that I don’t believe Ostman’s encounter ever happened, strange as that might seem. And the other accounts of which I’m aware refer to an organ proportionally smaller than that of an average human – there aren’t (so far as I’m aware) reports of giant, swinging structures of impressive length or girth, excuse the mental image.

The general impression we get from this limited information (assuming here that Bigfoot is real, of course) is somewhat contradictory but we can couch what we know within the social systems and breeding strategies of other primates (e.g., Harcourt & Gardiner 1994). Because there’s no indication of giant testes (like those of chimps), we might infer that sperm competition is not an evolutionary driver for Bigfoot, and thus that they presumably have a monogamous or near-monogamous mating system. This is in keeping with the general idea that Bigfoot lives in small bands, perhaps involving a mating pair and their offspring. The apparently proportionally small size of the penis could be seen as being consistent with this, since it might indicate that the genitals are not used in social display and intimidation, as they are in humans and (to a degree) chimps and bonobos. On the other hand, a proportionally small penis could also be inconsistent here, given the hypothesis that large penises in humans are supposedly linked with monogamy/near-monogamy (note: supposedly. I must avoid discussing the argument over human sexual behaviour and mating systems). The contradiction comes from the Redwoods footage, though, since this seemingly reported a relatively large penis used as a display, err, tool.

I will finish this discussion on male genitals by noting that there’s been some serious discussions within Bigfoot research circles as goes such details of anatomy as the presence or otherwise of the baculum. You can read about that discussion, if you wish, in this 2010 article by Loren Coleman.

The creature in the Patterson-Gimlin footage of 1967 - now affectionately known as 'Patty' within the Bigfoot research community - seemingly has breasts comparable to those of some humans. Is it coincidental that Roger Patterson was very familiar with William Roe's female Bigfoot of the 1950s (see below)? Or is this consistent with the ostensible biological reality of this animal? Because images of the Patterson-Gimlin film are copyright protected (like virtually all images of Bigfoot), I made this myself and it's available for use. Image: Darren Naish.

The creature in the Patterson-Gimlin footage of 1967 - now affectionately known as 'Patty' within the Bigfoot research community - seemingly has breasts comparable to those of some humans. Is it coincidental that Roger Patterson was very familiar with William Roe's female Bigfoot of the 1950s (see below)? Or is this consistent with the ostensible biological reality of this animal? Because images of the Patterson-Gimlin film are copyright protected (like virtually all images of Bigfoot), I made this myself and it's available for use. Image: Darren Naish.

So that’s enough of that. Everything you’ve read so far is focused on males of this ostensible species. What about females? I think it would be fair to assume that very little – perhaps nothing – has been written about female anatomy. Bigfoot is, after all, mostly imagined as a quintessentially male creature linked to masculinity and the manly male humans that pursue it. But female Bigfoots have been reported too, and indeed among the most influential and historically significant of all Bigfoot accounts ever – William Roe’s Canadian story of the mid-1950s and Roger Patterson and Bob Gimlin’s famous/infamous encounter of 1967 – describe obvious females.

Late in the 1950s, William Roe reported his encounter (supposedly from earlier in the decade) with another obviously female Bigfoot in Canada. This drawing was produced by Roe's daughter, under his direction. I can't be the only one who thinks the anatomy here is a bit... gravity-defying. This is not the original drawing, but a re-drawing produced by John Conway for our  2013 book  The Cryptozoologicon: Volume One  . Image: John Conway.

Late in the 1950s, William Roe reported his encounter (supposedly from earlier in the decade) with another obviously female Bigfoot in Canada. This drawing was produced by Roe's daughter, under his direction. I can't be the only one who thinks the anatomy here is a bit... gravity-defying. This is not the original drawing, but a re-drawing produced by John Conway for our 2013 book The Cryptozoologicon: Volume One. Image: John Conway.

Breasts have been written about and commented on a great many times in discussions of this creature. A few reports have described elongate or ‘droopy’ breasts but those most often discussed – those of ‘Patty’ and Roe’s creature – were rotund and even engorged in appearance (Bindernagel 1998). Indeed, those working to demonstrate the reality of the Patterson-Gimlin film have gone to some trouble to argue that ‘Patty’s’ breasts can’t be fake because they exhibit movement and flexibility consistent with genuine breasts, and inconsistent with any of the available prosthetic alternatives. William Munns has a whole section on this issue in his book When Roger Met Patty (Munns 2014). Human models were filmed and photographed to show, via comparison, how the ‘Patty’ breasts perform in a consistent and realistic manner.

I could go on – as I’ve said, a lot has been said about Bigfoot breasts in the literature (there’s also been a whole discussion on how realistic the concept of furry breasts might be) – but I think that’ll do. Moving elsewhere as goes females, why do we never hear about female genitalia (I’m here excluding breasts from the definition of ‘genitalia’), in contrast to all those mentions of Bigfoot junk? Maybe it’s true that those who’ve considered Bigfoot as a biological entity have been biased by patriarchy. I don’t doubt that this is true but it should also be noted that observations and recollections concerning the finer details of female genital anatomy are few and far between, as they might be for logical reasons (I mean: all the goddam hair). Anyway, a few mentions are out there. A very few.

In the aforementioned discussion provided by Loren Coleman, Loren refers to the rarity of discussions of female genital anatomy and notes that he (at the time) was only aware of one. In the November of 1968, hunter John Thomas is said to have encountered two Bigfoots sleeping out in the open. They were in the posture that – curiously enough – has been described on several occasions by witnesses; that is, with the limbs partially folded beneath the body and the back facing upwards. Anyway, one of these animals had breasts in addition to a “swelling” in its genital region that it kept rubbing (Coleman 2003, p. 198). Without more information it’s difficult to know the story here. Presumably we’re talking about a modest swelling of the sort seen in various primates (including gibbons and gorillas among hominoids), and not the pronounced and striking structures seen in chimps, bonobos and various monkeys.

Several accounts describe crypto-hominids sleeping in this very unusual posture, or at least in postures like it. This drawing was apparently produced by a Soviet zoologist called Khlakhlov during the early 1900s and depicts an Almas - an Asian crypto-hominid - encounterd in the Dzungarian region. The drawing is reproduced in Myra Shackley's 1983 book. Image: Shackley (1983).

Several accounts describe crypto-hominids sleeping in this very unusual posture, or at least in postures like it. This drawing was apparently produced by a Soviet zoologist called Khlakhlov during the early 1900s and depicts an Almas - an Asian crypto-hominid - encounterd in the Dzungarian region. The drawing is reproduced in Myra Shackley's 1983 book. Image: Shackley (1983).

A second case concerns what’s said to be the imprint of a Bigfoot butt, left in sandy soil in Walla Walla, Washington. The print was cast by Paul Freeman – an individual with a controversial track record in the world of Bigfoot evidence, shall we say – and passed to Jeff Meldrum who described it in his 2006 book. The print reveals well demarcated, muscular buttocks but also what appears to be the suggestion of labia (Meldrum 2006). With a bit of imagination, they look – from the cast of the impression – to be about similar in form and proportion to those of a human.

Needless to say, there isn’t – to my knowledge – any discussion out there as goes any other aspects of female genital anatomy in this alleged creature. Not only is eyewitness data on such details unreported (so far as I know), but any sensible idea we might have on what’s predicted or assumed is dependent on whatever phylogenetic affinity we prefer for the species: Bigfoot has, variously, been suggested to be close to gibbons, orangutans, hominines and even hominins and humans by those who endorse its existence. There's an argument for platyrrhine status out there as well.

Non-human primates of many sorts have diverse and remarkable genitals. Variously platyrrhines - spider monkeys are the most famous - have enormous clitorides. This is a Colombian or Black-headed spider monkey  Ateles fusciceps rufiventris  using a stick as a scratching tool. Image: Darren Naish.

Non-human primates of many sorts have diverse and remarkable genitals. Variously platyrrhines - spider monkeys are the most famous - have enormous clitorides. This is a Colombian or Black-headed spider monkey Ateles fusciceps rufiventris using a stick as a scratching tool. Image: Darren Naish.

That about brings us to a close on this niche yet worthy subject. As usual with arcane topics like this, it’s never true that “nobody ever talks about ---- [insert weird niche subject]”: on the contrary, quite a few writers have. Clearly, if Bigfoot is real, we have scant data to work with, and a conclusion must be that Bigfoot genitalia are not especially noticeable in average encounters with humans. And if Bigfoot isn't real, but is a sociocultural phenomenon of some sort, the fact that so few encounters discuss its genitalia in detail might be consistent with the near-irrelevance of such features to an entity of this sort. This might be inconsistent with erotic fan fiction - sorry, Mr Riggleman - but there it is.

For previous Tet Zoo articles on Bigfoot and other cryptozoological matters, see…

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Refs - -

Bindernagel, J. A. 1998. North America’s Great Ape: the Sasquatch. Beachcomber Books, Courtenay, B.C.

Coleman, L. 2003. Bigfoot! The True Story of Apes in America. Paraview, New York.

Conway, J., Kosemen, C. M. & Naish, D. 2013. Cryptozoologicon Volume I. Irregular Books.

Harcourt, A. & Gardiner, J. 1994. Sexual selection and genital anatomy of male primates. Proceedings of the Royal Society, London B 255, 47-53.

Krantz, G. S. 1999. Bigfoot Sasquatch Evidence. Hancock House, Surrey, B.C. & Blaine, WA.

Meldrum, D. J. 2006. Sasquatch: Legend Meets Science. Tom Doherty Associates, New York.

Meldrum, J. & Greenwell, R. 1998. Bigfoot: take two. BBC Wildlife 16 (9), 68-71.

Munns, W. 2014. When Roger Met Patty. William Munns.

Naish, D. 2017. Hunting Monsters: Cryptozoology and the Reality Behind the Myths. Arcturus, London.

Raynal, M. 2001. ‘Jordi Magraner’s field research on the bar-manu: evidence for the authenticity of Heuvelmans’ Homo pongoides.’ In Heinselman, C. (ed) Hominology Special Number 1. Craig Heinselman (Francestown, New Hampshire), unpaginated.

Shackley, M. 1983. Wildmen: Yeti, Sasquatch and the Neanderthal Enigma. Thames and Hudson, London.