In discussing Stan Gordon’s claims that Bigfoot is part of an extraterrestrial plot, I discovered that American conspiracy culture apparently has made the Sasquatch-UFO connection a standard part of the extraterrestrial conspiracy, and thanks to some insightful comments on yesterday’s blog post I see that science fiction apparently anticipated the development of the Sasquatch-UFO connection at each stage of its development.
As most of you know, I don’t believe stories come out of nowhere, and I’m inclined to look for the mythological and folkloric background that gives rise to novel claims that lack what we might term objective evidence.
The legend of Bigfoot is rather a late development. Despite occasional claims for large bipedal bear-like monsters (as Teddy Roosevelt reported in the 1890s), Bigfoot as a giant ape emerges only after 1958, in the wake of popular accounts of the Yeti, the ape man of the Himalayas, springing from the 1951 “discovery” of alleged Yeti footprints in the Himalayas. As the story developed in the United States, it seemed to be a rationalization of earlier folklore and myth, taking on aspects of legends about lost tribes of wild men and red-haired cannibal giants, familiar from Euro-American interpretations and reinventions of Native American myths, particularly after the 1920s, in light of the theory of evolution, which—by coincidence—also saw a fluorescence of prestige following the Scopes Monkey Trial. Applying the logic of evolution to the assumption of a reality behind mythology led to the inevitable conclusion: the violent, deranged giants of myth must have been some type of ape-like primitive humanoid.
But science fiction was already in the process of marrying apes and aliens even during the formative phase of the Bigfoot legend. A good chunk of claims later made for Bigfoot can already be found in Algernon Blackwood’s “The Wendigo” (1910), in which key elements of the Bigfoot legend are already present: the backwoods setting, the mysterious footprints in the snow, the stench that follows him about, and of course the specific emphasis on the wild man’s feet: “His feet! Oh, Gawd, his feet! Look at his great changed—feet!” Despite genuine Algonquin lore describing the wendigo as an emaciated, skeletal creature, since at least 1855 Euro-Americans associated it with magic and a lost race of giants. Here’s Longfellow in the Song of Hiawatha:
Cleanse the earth from all that harms it,
Kenabeeks in the poem are serpents, so the grammar makes plain that the Wendigos were giants—stinky, cannibal giants who left large, mysterious footprints for travelers to find.
The important point is that it is the Euro-American imagination that provides the impetus for these claims, not preexisting Native American beliefs. While menacing giants appear in Native beliefs (as they do in almost every culture), the stereotypical red-haired giant cannibals were a Euro-American imposition on Native lore, drawn from European folklore originals, like those found in the Travels of John Mandeville or Marco Polo, by way of an overriding belief that the giants of Genesis 6:4 were flesh and blood creatures that could be found in the Americas. To that end, mastodon, mammoth, and sloth bones were pressed into service as evidence of Bible giants from the Conquest down to the Enlightenment—long before they suggested a shape for Bigfoot.
On the alien side, H. P. Lovecraft did his part in making apes into the servants of the aliens. In At the Mountains of Madness (1931), Lovecraft writes that the aliens created “a shambling, primitive mammal, used sometimes for food and sometimes as an amusing buffoon by the land dwellers, whose vaguely simian and human foreshadowings were unmistakable.” Yet it is perhaps the Old Ones themselves who bear a closer similarity to Bigfoot. In the Dunwich Horror the Old Ones share many traits with latter-day Bigfoot claims: they are trans-dimensional, in league with aliens, foul-smelling, and observable primarily through their footsteps: Yog-Sothoth “knows where They have trod earth’s fields, and where They still tread them, and why no one can behold Them as They tread. By Their smell can men sometimes know Them near…” It shouldn’t take much to see that Lovecraft was drawing on Blackwood’s “Wendigo.”
By the 1950s, science fiction had pretty well established the final idea of a gorilla in service to space aliens, if only by accident. In The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951), it was established that superior alien intelligences had super-strong robot servants, so Robot Monster (1953) wanted its evil alien, the Great Guidance, to have a robot servant to destroy the earth. Unfortunately, they couldn’t afford a robot suit, so they had to make do with a gorilla suit and a space helmet for the evil Ro-Man Extension XJ-2. Thus we have an early “Bigfoot” doing the bidding of space aliens. The year after Bigfoot’s debut in 1958, DC Comics introduced Gorilla Grodd, who gained telepathic powers and super strength from a radioactive meteor. Later, DC revised his origin story and made his powers dependent on an encounter with…yes…an alien spaceship!
Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) placed an extraterrestrial monolith at the origin of human consciousness and thus connected apes and aliens anew. By 1976, The Six Million Dollar Man, in a two-part episode I’ve never seen (S03E16 and E17, “The Secret of Bigfoot”) discovered that Bigfoot is in fact a robot monster created by a race of aliens to protect them from humans. The alien-Bigfoot team returned for a Six Million and Bionic Woman crossover at the beginning of the 1976-1977 TV season, where by bizarre coincidence the aliens demanded metals and jewels at the same time that Zecharia Sitchin told the world in Twelfth Planet (1976) that the aliens demanded precious metals!
At this point, the connection between UFOs and Bigfoot had seeped back across the line dividing science fiction from fringe history. While there is virtually no mention of the two together as late as 1970 in the fringe literature, something changed when Jerome Clark and Loren Coleman began to claim that there was a deep connection between Bigfoot and UFOs in their cryptozoology works of the mid-1970s, largely on the evidence that both phenomena appear largely to agricultural and working-class people in rural America. Such claims were influential; in 1977 Leonard H. Stringfield reported in Situation Red, the UFO Siege! that UFOs and Bigfoot had been seen together. And by 1980, this was now a commonplace. Ann Druffel and D. Scott Rogo reported in The Tujunga Canyon Contacts that year, for example, that “there is some evidence that UFOs and Bigfoot-like creatures are occasionally seen in close proximity.”
Perhaps surprisingly, the connection between Bigfoot and the Nephilim seems to have come much later, after 1990, when creationists began casting about for new ways to drum up interest in their ideas after the Supreme Court forbade teaching creation science in schools, but the theme only really took off after 2000, with the rise of the internet and its crazy quilt of improvisational fringe theology. This is particularly surprising since the theory has such a well-established and hoary antiquity. Helena Blavatsky, in The Secret Doctrine (1888) set the stage for the Bigfoot-Nephilim connection in particular and his supernatural powers in general when she wrote that the Nephilim of Genesis 6:4 were gigantic “hairy men”:
Gesenius and others devote an enormous space to the meaning of the word Nephilim and explain very little. But Esoteric Records show these hairy creatures to be the last descendants of those Lemuro-Atlantean Races, which begot children on female animals, of species now long extinct; thus producing dumb men, “monsters,” as the Stanzas [of Dzyan] have it.
And voila! We have the supernatural origin of Bigfoot in embryo.
Obviously, when the first Bigfoot hoaxes began in 1958, no one was planning a sting on Theosophy the way the Cardiff Giant was meant to send up biblical literalism. But the reason Bigfoot survived in folklore and developed into a phenomenon when other “mysteries” failed was because the myth managed to settle into a spot where it could serve as a cypher drawing in the occult and the esoteric, the religious, and the scientific in a way that seemingly would bring together and reconcile the opposites. Occult belief and biblical training set the stage, and 1950s scientific rationalism gave spurious scientific cover to what apparently has always been a lightly rationalized effort at proving the age-old myth of the giants of old, the men of renown.
To that end, in all of the research I did today, I found one interesting factoid I did not previously know: Seutonius recognized that the relics of the giants were nothing more than “the monstrous bones of huge sea monsters and wild beasts, called the ‘bones of the giants,’” he wrote in Twelve Caesars 2.72. Even today, the remains of our giants, the Bigfoot, are still nothing more than the hair of bears and scraps of misidentified animal bones. Nothing ever changes, least of all this: The single key to understanding virtually all of fringe history conspiracy culture is Genesis 6:1-4, where the Sons of God (the Watchers) and their Giant children serve as the model for demon-aliens and their Bigfoot servants.
These four verses, which have inspired more fringe history than any four sentences ever written, stand at the center of all the madness and the zany ideas, uniting through their many and varied interpretations medieval demonology, lost civilization theories, ancient astronauts, Bigfoot, creation science, and more. For whatever reason, these scant words are the foundation for occult history. The myth of the Watchers-Giants sets the cultural stage and the psychological worldview of Western culture and therefore shapes the way ambiguous myths, legends, and phenomena are interpreted and integrated into the tapestry of conspiracy culture.
I am an author and researcher focusing on pop culture, science, and history. Bylines: New Republic, Slate, etc. There's more about me in the About Jason tab.
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