Claudia Ackley has had enough of California’s discrimination against her and her fellow Bigfoot researchers, and has filed a petition that, if granted, would force state agencies to recognize the existence of the species she calls “Giganto Horridus Hominoid and/or Gigantopithecus,” a.k.a “Bigfoot,” a.k.a. “Sasquatch.”
It will not be granted.
It is also plainly a publicity stunt, intended to get you to watch a Bigfoot documentary on Netflix. While writing about it arguably plays into this tactic, I am going to do it anyway because even a petition intended as a publicity stunt should be better than this one. (Your objection that I, too, am after publicity is only partly true and is overruled anyway.) I mean, put a little effort into these frivolous pleadings, would you please?
The San Bernardino Sun reported on February 12 that Ackley claimed to have encountered a Bigfoot or three whilst hiking near Lake Arrowhead. It was on March 27, 2017, about dusk, when the drama allegedly began:
Ackley and her 11- and 14-year-old daughters were hiking the winding trail when Ackley’s daughters, several yards ahead, froze in their tracks, gazing wide-eyed at a large, shadowy figure braced in a pine tree. Ackley ran to her daughters to see what they were staring at.
“I ran into a Sasquatch—a Bigfoot,” Ackley told the Sun. “We were face to face. He was 30 feet up in the tree.”
I know that sounds inconsistent—you were “face to face” with something 30 feet up in a tree?—but Ackley claims to have seen this from a sort of plateau well above root level. So it is technically possible that the Sasquatch/Bigfoot could have been “30 feet up in the tree” according to its frame of reference and yet “face to face” with Ackley from hers. This is just a straightforward application of the theory of relativity, you guys, one I’m sure Einstein was working on when he died.
In any event, Ackley claims to have been pretty close to this thing, so what did it look like? Well, according to the Sun, she said “the creature was barrel-chested, with a head three times the size of a human’s, and appeared to weigh about 800 pounds.” Now, it’s a known fact that casual hikers are good at estimating the weight of unknown creatures they observe only briefly, so let’s take that number at face value (though that would make it much bigger than the largest gorilla). Maybe not so much with head size, though. According to this 1993 study, the average human head is about six inches wide, 7.5 inches long, and 22 inches in circumference, and it seems very unlikely that anything with a head three times that big could even walk, let alone climb a tree.
On the other hand, it seems clear that the average human head is getting smaller all the time, so maybe this is plausible after all.
What else can Ackley tell us?
“He looked like a [N]eanderthal man with hair all over him. He had solid black eyes. He had no expression on his face at all. He did not show his teeth. He just stared at the three of us,” said Ackley. She said she made a howling “whoop” sound, and the creature in the tree reacted by rocking back and forth, shaking branches.
Yep, ’cause that’s what you do when you’re out in the wild with your children and you encounter a giant and potentially savage creature: try to startle it. Luckily, in this case the whooping caused only a mild reaction, but it was enough to convince the Ackleys to leave:
That’s when Ackley told her daughters to turn and slowly walk away. She said her youngest daughter, who shot video of the alleged encounter on her phone, later told her mother she saw two other similar creatures on the ground, running away upon their approach.
Video? Yes! Conclusive? Surprisingly, no. There does appear to be a dark blob in the tree, but, despite the close range and the remarkable quality of today’s cell-phone cameras, it’s hard to make out any details. These close calls are so frustrating.
If you’re not convinced, I should remind you that Ackley is an expert. She has, in fact, been working on trying to communicate with the creatures:
Near another tree sits a discarded tire, where Ackley leaves snacks for Sasquatch—apples, oranges, Fritos and a can of Coca-Cola—along with a voice-activated book with pictures inside, made by Ackley in an effort to communicate with Bigfoot. Ackley recorded words such as “candy” and “fur,” along with pictures or samples of each taped to the pages.
“We think they have language, as people have recorded them actually speaking,” said Ackley. [They haven’t.] “I’m trying to teach them a little bit of our language to communicate with them.”
It’s a lot like the movie Arrival, only stupider.
Speaking of movies, back to this documentary. The filmmaker involved claimed he was “at first skeptical of Ackley’s story,” but after “observing the area” of the encounter and watching that video you just saw, he became convinced that
they could sell this to Netflix Ackley was telling the truth. They then “teamed up,” as the Sun put it, and her role on the team was evidently to file this lawsuit.
In the petition, Ackley accuses the state Department of Fish and Wildlife and its Natural Resources Agency of refusing to acknowledge the overwhelming evidence in favor of Bigfoot’s existence, in violation of their mandate to manage the state’s ecological resources. “Respondents are, or ought to be, aware that the State of California is home to a large wild indigenous mammal,” Ackley alleges, “[believed] to be a giant hairy vertebrate, hominoid or primate, commonly known as Sasquatch.” Given the overwhelming evidence in Ackley’s possession, it’s a little concerning that she can’t classify Sasquatch more definitively. I mean, if Sasquatch does exist, I think there’s not much doubt it’d be a vertebrate. I don’t remember anybody claiming they saw one undulating through the forest, at least. But maybe she’s just hedging her bets. As she admits in the petition:
15. There are knowledge gaps in respect of Sasquatch.
This is true.
But Respondents, of course, are supposed to be helping with this, and yet they “have done nothing to substantiate, acknowledge, or even investigate the existence of Sasquatch,” Ackley alleges. “[A]nd consequently,” she continues, they “have treated Petitioner with an indignity to her fundamental human rights” that must be redressed. This, to my knowledge, is the first time someone has claimed that she has a fundamental right to make someone else believe in Sasquatch. Ackley’s petition, in fact, asks the court to order the state to do so.
The filmmaker told the Sun that he and Ackley are eager to get a hearing at which they will prove once and for all that the giant hairy vertebrate exists. “If this goes to court,” he said, “we will win, easily. It’s not a joke. The best wilderness experts in the world are coming out to testify. It’s amazing.” None of that is true.
According to the report, a hearing is scheduled for March 19 in San Bernardino Superior Court. But the docket says that’s just a status hearing. If the case hasn’t been dismissed by then, my guess is that its status will not be “amazing.”
Update: Ackley dismissed the case just a few days before the status hearing.