Sure, there's the Bigfoot conference in the East Texas town of Jefferson each October, and that's where a permanent Bigfoot museum is envisioned.
But here at the University of Texas at San Antonio's Institute of Texan Cultures, an exhibit and lecture series called "Bigfoot in Texas?" is lending long-sought credibility to a scientific inquiry that has struggled to gain academic respect.
Viewed by many scholars as a figment of folklore, for others Bigfoot is an elusive creature hiding in the damp woods of East Texas, where scores of sightings have been logged over the years.
Giant footprint casts, photographs, videos and other artifacts are offered as evidence in the exhibit, which opened April 8 and ends July 30. Items and information including eyewitness accounts were provided by the Texas Bigfoot Research Center and other private investigators who pounced on the institute's invitation to assemble the displays.
Experts say the exhibit is the first backed by a university since a 1978 conference in Canada. The institute's Bigfoot project director, Willie Mendez, said he got the idea last year as he pondered what to do next after a highly popular event on dinosaurs.
"I love what I do and I want to keep these doors open," he said. "I thought, 'What else is out there that would attract people to come in?' "
He conferred with UTSA and other academics before enlisting the Dallas-based research center, with its extensive archives and 50 volunteers with assorted expertise.
"These guys have some incredible investigators with them - wildlife biologists, DPS officers. They're doing a really good job," Mendez said.
Yet, the institute asserts strict neutrality on the issue of Bigfoot's existence, as suggested by the question mark in the exhibit's title.
"We don't take any stance on it at all. The way the exhibit is set up is - you decide. We present the pros and cons and at the end of the exhibit, we ask you whether you believe. So far the vote has been 2-1 'yes,' " Mendez said.
It's interesting. With the relentless expansion of human development into the traditional habitat of various animals, we see story after story of unfortunate encounters between people and alligators, people and bears, people and mountain lions, all taking place in what was once the exclusive domain of those animals. Where are the stories of human encroachment on Bigfoot territory? Why has no one been forced to kill a Bigfoot to defend family, property, or self? Is their domain so wild and so remote that no exurban real estate speculator has ever set sight on it? Or is there perhaps a more prosaic explanation?
Now, I've not been to the UTSA-ITC exhibit, so it's possible I'm being excessively harsh on them. Maybe they do lay out the facts accurately, and it's just the visitors who are the failures. Like everything else about this phony phenomenon, however, I rather doubt it. For shame.Posted by Charles Kuffner on May 29, 2006 to The great state of Texas | TrackBack