If an orange-haired troll from the 1960s had grown old, grey, and brittle, and closed its eyes for a long winter nap, it might resemble the latest twist in the search for a North American Bigfoot.
Rick Dyer is a full-time Bigfoot tracker who claimed to have shot dead one of the elusive (or imagined) hominids in the woods near San Antonio, Texas, on Sept. 6, 2012. He has now released a photo of what he says is the deceased creature's face, to drum up some faith.
"We wanted to get people's reaction, make them believers," he says.
Dyer says he killed his quarry, whom he calls Hank, by nailing pork ribs to the side of a tree and waiting, alongside a British documentary film crew led by the BAFTA-winning filmmaker Morgan Matthews. When Hank approached, Dyer says he chased him down and shot him three times, while another Bigfoot attacked Mr. Matthews and bloodied his face.
"He definitely went toward the camera man and attacked him, but I was busy with the other Bigfoot so I didn't have a shot," explains Dyer.
Matthews was not immediately available for comment, but his expedition to Texas resulted in the yet-to-be-released film "Shooting Bigfoot." Publicity for the film describes Matthews' experience as "a quest that ultimately leaves him with scars – mental and physical!"
Needless to say, the confusion surrounding those events has left plenty of room for skepticism, among the Bigfoot-dubious and the Bigfoot-curious alike. D. Jeffrey Meldrum, who is a professor of anatomy and anthropology at Idaho State University and an expert in hominid locomotion, has collected over 250 casts of huge footprints found across wooded areas in North America over the past several decades, and says their plausible form and consistency present good reasons to continue investigating the existence of a nonhuman hominid. In fact, he spent 2012 raising funds and helping to design a catamaran-style blimp, which has not yet been built, to aid in the search.
But Dyer's photograph does not convince Dr. Meldrum. "The thing has clearly been fabricated to depict a specimen that has been dissected. It smacks of images of alien autopsy," he says, adding that Dyer asked him to authenticate the body but refused to let him to speak with any of the scientists who had allegedly kept it for a year of testing, at an unnamed university in Washington state.
Meldrum doubts he would have been contacted at all, if the body were real. "If you have a body, you have the world at your behest. You have the discovery of the century and you're pandering to the Bigfoot community?"
Dyer, however, says that he only waited so long to show Hank to the world, because of a non-disclosure agreement he signed with investors in his bigfoot-tracking enterprise. After a year of tests, he says, the agreement has finally ended, allowing him to share an image and make plans for a North American tour with the body. With income he expects from the tour and pharmaceutical rights to Hank's tissues, he says, "I'm going to go and capture a live one."
But Hank hasn't yet become a national sweetheart, due in part to Dyer's involvement in a much-publicized 2008 hoax, involving a rubber Bigfoot frozen inside a block of ice.
That panned out so badly that Dyer doesn't want to talk about it until Hank's authenticity has cleared his name, which he says will happen at a Feb. 9 press conference. "I prefer to tell that story when everybody knows that it is true," he says. "Right now I have zero credibility."