The Tall Man – Historical Notes

As a child I was terrified of Bigfoot. There was something disturbing about the thought of some creature standing silently among the trees, watching you. Bigfoot is a solitary figure, as much cryptozoologists want to believe there would be a family structure with nests. But Bigfoot, in my child mind, is a single entity that is always just out of sight, watching, waiting.

The common colloquialism for Bigfoot-like creatures that are brought up before the 1950s is usually “hairy man” or “wild man”. It seems there are some indigenous tales of humanoid, hairy creatures such as the Ts’emekwes from the Lummi, but it’s hard to find accounts of these things before the 1900s. An 1847 account names a tribe of wild men as skoocoom, though I’ve found many uses of the term, not all of them as threatening as the other. Bigfoot is sometimes a terrifying monster who attacks campers, and other times is a calm and gentle giant. I go back and forth in story, I admit. I don’t want to declare him a nefarious creature, but there may be things that drive him to violence.

The thing about wolves is true. From the Monster Talk episode “Bad Wolf“:

Blake: What are the signs that wolves will hunt humans?

Dr. Geist: The signs are that they begin to observe humans. They sit down and watch and watch and watch humans. Eventually, they come closer and closer to humans. My wife and I have experienced a wolf coming to within about ten paces of us, standing there, watching us.

Wolves are observation learners. We know that from studies carried out by colleagues that studied wolves, you see? They’re observation learners, I don’t want to go into detail, but the point is, this is how you know that the wolves are targeting you, because they keep on watching and watching and following you and watching you.

Bigfoot is something of a symbol of our changing views in paranormal research. It’s easy to think of him as supernatural, a strange thing not meant to exist. If legends really do exist that precede Bigfoot as we know him, they most likely refer to him in that context. As time went on, researchers tried to fit him into the niche of “missing link” as evolution grew in popularity, and these days they try to find a ecological place for him. For a creature to exist, there must be more than one of them, they must have homes, they must be part of an ecosystem. So they hunt that place.

Personally I’m a fan of Bigfoot as a supernatural creature, but I suppose I leave room for both here. Like with many things in this story, there’s a somewhat modern interpretation going on. But what I mainly try to capture is the fear of such a creature, human enough, smart enough, but still animal and wild.


One thought on “The Tall Man – Historical Notes

  1. Pingback: Cryptid Corner – Bigfoot | Deadlands

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