A flurry of excitement among Bigfoot believers was punctured last night by the screening of a new videotape that one disappointed expert said was so blurry she could barely make out any detail.
A ferry operator shot the video in northern Manitoba and Fox News bought it for what is believed to be a six-figure amount. It was aired yesterday on A Current Affair, a tabloid show that reaches few Canadian households.
Promotional clips for the show said that producers had "two minutes and 49 seconds of videotape you've gotta see to believe," a promise that Bigfoot researcher Lisa Shiel called overblown.
Ms. Shiel, author of a fictional work The Hunt for Bigfoot and currently at work on a non-fiction book called Backyard Bigfoot, watched the show from the Michigan's Upper Peninsula. She said that it was a brief program and that only 20 or 30 seconds of the Manitoba footage was shown.
"It's interesting, intriguing. Definitely something walking upright but that's about all you can see," she said in a telephone interview. "It's definitely not a bear."
As promotion for last night's show, Fox News had offered a brief clip so blurry it was almost impossible to make out any detail. The tape shown on the main program was not substantially better, Ms. Shiel said.
"It was a pretty blurry, dark shape that moved around," she said. "You could see arms and legs."
The Manitoban who shot the tape, Bobby Clark, was interviewed on the program. He described seeing the creature on the far bank of the Nelson River near his home in Norway House and grabbing his video camera to record the moment. He was not asked about the quality of the tape, which is so bad it brings to mind home-shot images from a generation ago.
Despite its quality, the very existence of the tape set off a burst of excitement among those who believe that these creatures roam the far reaches of the world.
Matt Moneymaker, a sasquatch hunter and the director of the U.S.-based Bigfoot Field Researchers Organization, has viewed the video and says it points to "a credible encounter."
In a statement on his organization's website, he says that the subject on the tape is either human or sasquatch, but adds that "it is not clearly one or the other."
Others had a different take. Posters to a Web forum linked to abovetopsecret.com, a site for discussing conspiracy theories, UFOs and other topics, were interested in the new tape but quick to denounce the poor quality as the result of a government cover-up.
"I'm telling you that it's been tampered with somehow," said one person, posting under the name Dr Love. "It just doesn't make sense for A Current Affair to hype that kind of garbage. It's been tampered with just to the point where you can't get a good view. How many of you have camcorders that produce crap results like that?"
That person went on to argue that the cover-up is driven by the need to conceal the fact that humans are not unique on this world. Bigfoot researcher Jeff Meldrum, an associate professor of anatomy at the University of Idaho, offered a more restrained view but was not entirely at odds with that perspective.
He said last night that, in spite of the existence of Bigfoot-like myth in many cultures around the world, much of human identity lies in a belief in our distinctness and argued that many would be shocked to discover that a wild humanoid creature exists.
"We are on top of the world and think we are the only hominid. But that's kind of an arrogant attitude. After all, the two oldest literary works, Beowulf and Gilgamesh, have as a co-star a hairy wild man."
Ms. Shiel, the Bigfoot researcher and author, said that even though the new videotape is disappointing it adds one more bit of information to the mystery surrounding the legend. "It's another intriguing piece in the puzzle. We keep adding to that jigsaw puzzle and maybe some day we'll be able to see the whole picture."