For those of you who have read my book, Cry Wolf, it will come as no surprise that I am fascinated by the subject of cryptozoology - the study of as-yet undiscovered animals believed to exist by many, such as Bigfoot, the Loch Ness Monster and, of course, werewolves. Last July, when my always skeptical best friend told me there was a new show on Animal Planet that I absolutely had to watch because she loved it, I too became hooked on Finding Bigfoot and the antics of the four researchers featured on the show. There's Matt (a longtime Bigfoot researcher), Ranae (a biologist and skeptic), BoBo (who is the group's Bigfoot stand-in during reenactments), and Cliff (who analyzes the evidence obtained on each investigation).
When I read on his bio on the Animal Planet website that Cliff Barackman became interested in Bigfoot after spending hours at the library, reading books about the legend, I knew I wanted to invite him to do a Q&A with me, since books and reading obviously impacted him in a big way. I also have to admit, there are some aspects of the show that remind me of my novel (which was written and contracted long before I ever saw an episode of the show!) Being the awesome guy he is, Cliff agreed to let me pick his brain.
Angela: Thanks for agreeing to this, Cliff! I have to start off by saying I am a big fan of Finding Bigfoot, and while my book isn’t about the hunt for a Bigfoot, it does contain a plot where two reporters are trying to track down another cryptid, and Bigfoot is mentioned a number of times. I’ve long been fascinated by the field of cryptozoology, and I read numerous books on the subject before writing my fictional story. Mind if I ask what led you to pursue cryptozoology?
Cliff: Like most little boys, I was always interested in monsters of all sorts. I grew up in the 1970’s, and was absolutely hooked on the “In Search of…” style of TV shows that were very prevalent then. I kept up my interest in that sort of “weird” stuff throughout my adolescence, but my interest really bloomed when I was in college. I had a couple hour break between classes, so I’d wander through the library reading books on interesting subjects. One day I stumbled upon a collection of scholarly papers written on the sasquatch. I devoured that book, and went to the next bigfoot book, and so on. Soon thereafter, I started doing field research, and I have never stopped.
Angela: You’re the team’s evidence analyst. How many sightings get reported to you in a year, and how do you decide which ones deserve investigating for the show?
Cliff: I get dozens of reports sent to my website (www.CliffBarackman.com) every month. Very few of them get properly investigated because of time and man power. Unlike the BFRO, which has a couple hundred members across the continent, I am a one-man website. I read every report, but unless the encounter was very recent, or was in my own areas of study, I don’t really have the time to look more deeply. I wish I did, but I’m pretty busy with the show, answering emails (hours every day), and trying to live a normal life, whatever that means for a bigfooter…
Angela: Personally, I live in South Carolina. Have you ever heard of any Bigfoot sightings in S.C.?
Cliff: Yes, there are bigfoots in South Carolina. The entire length of the Appalachian Mountains have a long history of reports.
Angela: I’ve always wanted to use a thermal imager. What is your favorite Squatch-hunting device to use?
Cliff: My favorite device for fun would be the thermal imager, but the most useful device would be an audio recorder. Therms show you what you cannot see, but the easiest way to come back with some data would be the audio recorder.
Angela: Your team seems to have a lot of fun saying “Squatch” and “That’s very Squatchy” on the show. Is that something unique to Finding Bigfoot, or are they common phrases in the Bigfoot community?
Cliff: “’Squatch” has been used for years, but you’ll notice in the shows that I don’t tend to use that term very often. I prefer “sasquatch” or “bigfoot.” The term has become more common as of late, and I guess that’s probably because of the show, but I’ll stick to the longer, more cumbersome words for now. I also tend to say “crocodile” instead of “crock” too. Maybe it’s the teacher in me...
|A still from the famous Patterson/Gimlin film.|
Cliff: My favorite was going back to the Patterson/Gimlin Film Site with Bob Gimlin himself. Just to ride horseback with Bob would have been thrilling, but to head down to the film site on horseback with Bob was a highlight of my life.
Angela: I just have to ask this...If you and the team ever came face to face with a Bigfoot on camera, what do you think your initial reaction would be? And really, what would you do with a Bigfoot if you found one?
Cliff: I think I would honestly be afraid, but really excited. They are big, wild creatures that could easily hurt me, though I don’t think it would. If I “found” a bigfoot (whatever that means), I would try to observe it and learn about it through my observations. Then I would try to “find one” again.
Angela: What do you tell skeptics who refuse to believe animals such as Bigfoot exist?
Cliff: I encourage skeptics to be skeptical, but to at least look at the data that’s out there before coming down on either side of the argument. I don’t bother trying to convince others of anything. I kind of don’t care what others think or believe. Bigfoots are real, and their reality doesn’t depend on anyone’s belief, not even my own.
Angela: Do you think you will ever write a book on the subject of Bigfoot?
Cliff: I suspect I will. The future’s a bit hard to see, though. I’m not even sure what I’m up to tomorrow…
I want to say a HUGE thank you to Cliff for visiting my blog today, and if you haven't watched this show on Animal Planet, I highly recommend it. Whether you believe in Bigfoot or not, it's highly entertaining and addictive! It airs Sundays at 10 p.m. EST on Animal Planet. Visit Cliff's website to learn more about his research.