Ever since its inception in 1908, the FBI has been tasked with investigating the sorts of mysteries that keep Americans up at night. From foreign espionage to bank heists, the FBI has earned a global reputation for its investigative prowess for a reason; but despite all their training, resources, and pedigree, even the FBI’s most capable sometimes fall short of finding their suspect. Of course, when the suspect is Bigfoot, it seems a bit more excusable.
Back in 1976, Bigfoot was, well, big. Less than ten years after the Patterson-Gimlin footage took the country by storm with what certainly looked like a living, breathing, ape-monster trudging through the California woods, the Sasquatch had become a fixture at the box office. Theaters all across the country showed films like “Curse of the Bigfoot” and “The Legend of Bigfoot,” along with at least two other ape-man features that year, and even an episode of the “Six Million Dollar Man” had a Bigfoot cameo.
But the most intriguing place Bigfoot popped up in 1976 wasn’t on screen; it was in a file folder at the FBI.
Patterson-Gimlin Bigfoot film slowed down and stablised
Not everyone in the Bigfoot game back in 1976 had a Hollywood address. Just like today, Bigfoot had a fervent scientific following already scouring the North American forests for any evidence of the missing primate. One of the most respected in the field at the time was Peter Byrne, who served as the director of the Bigfoot Information Center and Exhibition in The Dalles, Oregon.
Byrne got his hands on a small patch of hair attached to a bit of skin that was supposedly from the ape-man himself, but soon realized that he and his team lacked the capability to conclusively determine the hair’s origin. So Byrne made the decision to send the sample to a reputable third party for analysis: the FBI.
His letter was received by Jay Cochran Jr., Assistant Director of the FBI at the Scientific and Technical Services Division. Cochran started by explaining to Byrne that the FBI isn’t in the business of chasing down unusual hair samples from the woods unless there was some kind of crime involved, but, because of the unique scientific implications, he was willing to make an exception.
Hair samples sent into the FBI for testing
(Federal Bureau of Investigation)
The FBI files on Bigfoot contain a number of letters between Byrne and FBI officials from that point forward, as Byrne prodded the FBI to take his sample (and pursuit) seriously. Byrne forwarded clippings of articles from large media outlets like the New York Times to show that not only did he have a reputation as a legitimate researcher, but the American people had a vested interest in solving the Bigfoot mystery. Finally, the FBI responded to Byrne with the results of their analysis.
“The examinations included a study of morphological characteristics such as root structure, medullary structure, and cuticle thickness in addition to scale casts. Also, the hairs were compared directly with hairs of known origin under a comparison microscope,” Cochran wrote to Byrne.
“It was concluded as a result of these examinations that the hairs are of the deer family origin.”
Letter from Jay Cochran, Jr. to Howard Curtis
(Federal Bureau of Investigation)
Cochran returned the sample with the letter, though, according to Byrne, he never received that final bit of correspondence. Because he was traveling at the time, the letter was sent to the executive vice president of the Academy of Applied Science, an organization Byrne’s Bigfoot Information Center maintained close formal ties with. Byrne was presented with the results earlier this week by the Washington Post, and reacted as though the FBI’s conclusion was entirely new to him.
That may well be true, as the files were only uploaded to the FBI’s website this week, though the documents were actually declassified years ago and have been publicly available on websites like The Black Vault ever since.
Of course, it’s impossible to say if the FBI maintains any other files on Bigfoot, but at least for now, it seems the North American ape-man has eluded authorities once again.