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NC State University, Raleigh, North Carolina, USA
As an academic with a foot in both the parapsychological and Bigfoot research communities, I can appreciate the allure of mixing the two, but am especially cautious not to cross the streams of scientific approaches to each, and especially recognize the futility of addressing one unknown with another. Cutchin (2020) recently speculates on numerous ways that the two fields might relate, proposing a phenomenon of “wildnisgeist,” or “poltergeists of the woods” (although I think the more literal “waldgeist” would be clearer and sound better). Reinterpreting what Bigfoot researchers commonly call “class B” reports (i.e., reports of events consistent with alleged Bigfoot behavior but lacking an actual sighting) as potential poltergeist phenomena, Cutchin produces a laundry list of ostensible similarities, including “thrown stones, raps, disembodied voices, anomalous odors, frightened pets, apports, electrical interference, and anomalous lights” (p.10). Cutchin poses a number of logical explanations for these relationships, yet seems to see no path forward towards testing or assessing their vitality. In this paper, I offer a more logical means of parsing alleged poltergeist occurrences from Bigfoot accounts, in order to facilitate scientifically testing potential poltergeist phenomena.
Methods: This is an exploratory study based on qualitative data from interviews and ethnographic fieldwork.
Discussion: My own speculation on a poltergeist explanation of some alleged Bigfoot reports arose from a number of firsthand accounts I heard from amateur Bigfoot investigators. A minority of reports included details that were qualitatively distinct from most “class B” reports, as well as logically inconsistent with biological models of even potential primate range and behavior. For example, in place of the standard rock-throwing, a behavior both reported in numerous Bigfoot eyewitness accounts and also consistent with known primate behavior, certain witnesses reported being showered instead with tiny pebbles. Pebble tossing mirrors the act of rock-throwing, but utterly lacks the presumed intent of intimidation. These reports seem to cluster in locations far less likely to provide habitat or cover for a large, elusive species. For example, one experiencer encouraged me to join him in attempting a Bigfoot encounter in an urban tract of “woods” that appeared to be only about an acre or two in size. The experiencers of these qualitatively different reports furthermore tend to have numerous encounters, far more frequent than most amateur investigators. For example, I accompanied one such eyewitness on a fruitless nighttime investigation, after which he claimed that he had previously “always” experienced Bigfoot across many visits to that location. That same witness later shared with me descriptions and photographic evidence of a physical nature, but “evidence” that was easily explained as misidentification of natural and normal aspects of the environment. While misidentification, imagination, and/or fabrication could account for all of these reports, the apparent sincerity of the witnesses – as well as the correlation of their unusual and unlikely details – led me to consider a more charitable explanation. The further correlation of these reports with common aspects of poltergeist activity suggest potential origins in unconscious psi or RSPK, not the least notably that they are repeated phenomena occurring in the presence of only certain human experients.
Rather than shrug our shoulders at where the potential line, if any, may be drawn between possible Bigfoot and poltergeist experiences, I encourage parapsychological focus on cases fitting this particular profile, which is almost certainly not reconcilable with any conceivably natural Bigfoot species. This allows for at least a research question that is clear and singularly focused: Are these experiences human RSPK phenomena? If so, then they may offer psi researchers a wonderful opportunity to study poltergeist phenomena that are longer lasting than most domestic manifestations. On the other hand, the ethics of investigating a phenomenon other than that reported by and of interest to the experients must be carefully navigated.
- Cutchin, Joshua. (September 2020). “Wildnisgeist: Poltergeists of the Woods?” EdgeScience 43, pp.6-13.
- Special thanks to the Rhine Research Center research group for formative comments on my early ideas.