When I was in middle school I was absolutely enthralled by the idea of lake monsters, drawing renditions of “Nessie” in my free time and reading every book on the topic from the school library at least twice. Needless to say, I was a nerd and didn’t have many friends during this time, which only gave me more opportunity to degrade my vision by staying up to all hours reading accounts of various cryptozoological critters. These days, despite the debunking of various myths, documentaries still are being made about various legendary creatures, often involving chubby guys out into the middle of the woods on the anniversary of the night they saw bigfoot. Such was the case with a show I caught last week (I forget what channel) about the mythical ape-man, involving a local reporter going out into the middle of the woods with a bunch of “country gentlemen” to the same spot where they reported saw the Sasquatch. Odd that not long after arriving they start seeing things and rocks or purportedly thrown at the group (although this is never caught on film, all we see are the reactions of the people after the fact) and then one of the brilliant lot decides to fire off a few rounds from his pistol into the woods. This is followed by a film crew being led into the woods by a Native American and his brother, stopping and saying “You smell that? Stink? You smell it?“, then pointing to a tiny speck on a mountain far away, claiming the thing is Bigfoot. At least it’s good to know that if I fail at all else in life I can start a business leading “Genuine Bigfoot Tours” in a good portion of the lower 48.
I followed this up with a National Geographic documentary on “Hogzilla,” a boar that was supposed to be 12 feet long and weigh 1000 pounds shot in Alapaha, Georgia in 2004. To say the least, this was not the best work done by NG. Much of the documentary is spent talking about how big a threat escaped pigs are to North America and the large sizes attained by pigs in different parts of the world, the actual science filling up the last 15 minutes of the program. By the time the body of the hog is exhumed for study (the same point at which I had almost forgotten the show had any scientific point), the NG scientists finding that “Hogzilla” only weighed about 800 pounds and was approximately 8 feet long. The hunter who shot the pig, Ken Holyoak, claims that the corpse shrunk after burial, the same effect seen in raisins, and therefore the NG scientists just duped everyone for some reason that you’d probably have to ask Ken about in order to get all the conspiratorial details. This explanation doesn’t hold under scrutiny, however, as if you look at the picture, figuring that Ken is approximately 6 feet tall, the pig couldn’t have been any more than 8 feet from nose to rump. The story just doesn’t add up, and NG could have made the tale much more compelling by starting with the exhuming of the body and then showing what the scientists actually did to arrive at their conclusions. Much was made of the pigs “legendary” status as well but if I remember correctly no mention is made about the “legend of the giant pigs” other than one of the local farmers taking people out to shoot huge boars. This was truly a shame as I was looking forward to seeing the documentary for months (I missed it the first time) and when I finally saw it the actual scientific content could have been expressed in a 5-minute clip and so the premise was stretched a bit thin to fill up an hour. I love NG, I really do (the night before I saw the amazing documentary Relentless Enemies about “swamp” lions that specialize in hunting buffalo in Africa) but I have been a little disappointed by some of their programs as of late, showing the same sensationalist trend that turned me away from the Discovery Channel.
Stories about lake monsters, aliens, sasquatch, killer pigs, and other things are fun to hear from time to time, especially to fans of bad b-movies like myself, but I am dumbfounded by the amount of time and money spent looking at crackpot claims. Sure, there are plenty of animals that we have yet to discover and truth is nearly always stranger than fiction, but I’m a bit hard pressed to believe that there’s an extant primate with psychic powers roaming around North America, leaving no trace of its existence other than a few tossed stones.