SEATTLE —When former NPR editor and producer Laura Krantz read a 2006 Washington Post article about anthropologist Grover Krantz, she wondered if he might have been a distant relative.
It turned out he was —and that wasn’t all. Krantz also discovered that when Grover Krantz wasn’t busy as a pre-eminent anthropologist, he was hunting the elusive Sasquatch all over the Pacific Northwest.
Krantz’s journalistic curiosity got the best of her, and she soon found herself interviewing scientists and amateur Bigfoot hunters, and venturing into the deep of the forest in search of Bigfoot —or at least some insight into the people who just can’t quit looking for the apelike creature.
Krantz’s investigations didn’t turn her into a hardcore Bigfoot believer, but she did become the host and producer of the new podcast “Wild Thing,” available on Stitcher and iTunes. On the podcast, Krantz examines the evidence, history, scientists and believers that have made her wonder if Bigfoot might be real after all.
Q: Can you take me through the details of what happened in your brain when you were like, “OK that’s it, I’m diving into this Bigfoot stuff”?
A: It was one of those stories that was more just fun for cocktail parties, being able to say I was related to this kind of quirky guy, and, “Haha, isn’t this hilarious?” But in the back of my head I … just kept thinking, “But he was a real scientist and he was one who was pretty well-respected in anthropology. The Bigfoot stuff aside, he’d been involved in some interesting discoveries about human evolution and some big debates on human migration, so it wasn’t like he was some crackpot academic, he was something of a heavyweight in that field.” And that just kind of, I don’t know, it kept nibbling at the back of my brain.
Q: What’s the most convincing evidence out there?
A: I haven’t seen physical evidence that’s really convinced me. The eyewitness accounts are really interesting to me because they stretch back for centuries and you have Native American stories and First Nations tribes stories and I find that to be kind of compelling … in the idea that even if Bigfoot isn’t around now, there might have been a creature like that once upon a time.
And from an evolution standpoint, we don’t know a lot about what’s missing in the grand evolutionary scheme. One of the scientists I talked to talked about how very hard it is to become a fossil, which I’d never really thought about it. But you know, you have to die in the right place, at the right time, in the right conditions, be buried and sort of preserved in the right fashion, and then you have to be found again at the right moment and chiseled out correctly and identified correctly. And when you think about that, there certainly are species that we don’t know anything about and maybe there was something like Bigfoot among them.
Q: So was there a singular turning point at which you started thinking, “Hmmm. There’s really something to this Bigfoot stuff?”
A: Some of the people I talked to … told me their personal encounters. I mean, these are people who’ve spent their lives out in the woods —they’re Fish and (Wildlife Department), they’re Department of Natural Resources —they’re outside all the time and are familiar with the sounds of the woods and the animals and are not uncomfortable out there, and there were a couple of stories that people told me and I was like, “Holy (expletive)!”
You really start to think that there’s something more than just a bear or a shadow or a lucid dream; they’ve experienced something that’s really altered their perception of the natural world, which for someone who has spent a lot of time outside, that would be, I would think, pretty tough to do.
Q: So has this become more than a journalistic interest? Will Bigfoot remain a part of your life after the podcast?
A: I don’t know that I’m going to become a Bigfoot hobbyist, but I’m sure I will probably now read Bigfoot stories with a lot more interest. I think this will probably always be a part of my life here going forward … I think that once this series is done, I will be done reporting on Bigfoot. Unless they find it! Then I will have to jump back into the fray.
Q: What’s the deal with the Pacific Northwest and Bigfoot?
A: I think if you look at a map of the Pacific Northwest and up into Canada, there’s a lot of terrain in there that is undeveloped and pretty uninhabited so it makes sense that a creature of this size who would need to support itself on food would need that kind of land. Additionally you’ve got precipitation and tree cover, all the things that sort of create an ecosystem where something like this might exist.
Q: Why would precipitation and tree cover be necessary?
A: For hiding, is what I’m told. And precipitation just because, it’s gonna be a lot harder to live in the desert if you’re a big hairy ape. You’d need the tree cover, you’d need water, you’d need foliage.
Q: So what are some of the misconceptions that people have about Bigfoot and the Bigfoot phenomenon and Bigfoot hunters/researchers?
A: I think probably that the biggest misconception is that these people are crazy … They’re not crazy. The point is, I kind of expected to go in and be dealing with a lot of tinfoil-hat types. And really these are solid, upstanding U.S. citizens. They have jobs, they have families, they have lives. They are not conspiracy-minded. They just are incredibly interested by this idea and trying to pursue it in as rational and sane way as they possibly can … They’re actually very measured human beings. They’re nice people who are curious about something, what’s wrong with that?
Q: What do you think makes people look at something like Bigfoot and think, “Gosh, these people are crazy,” versus it seeming more acceptable for people to believe in ghosts or something?
A: There is some sort of odd taboo … I don’t know if it’s the tabloid nature of it. I never really could understand why Bigfoot has such a taboo versus, you know, there are scientists out there trying to figure out how to put consciousness in a bottle or searching for extraterrestrial life, which we also have no proof of per se. So why is Bigfoot seen as being so much sillier than these other things. And that’s something I could never really figure out.
Q: Maybe the forest feels less mysterious and more accessible than … the depths of the sea or space, so it’s seen as silly to think that there are still mysteries out there?
A: But I think that’s part of the appeal though too. You want the world to still be mysterious enough that something like Bigfoot could exist. You want it to be not so developed and civilized and pruned and paved and landscaped that it’s not wild enough to support something like Bigfoot. I think that’s ultimately what the big appeal was for me. At the end, I want Bigfoot to be real, because I want that world to still be a possibility.
Q: What is the plural of Bigfoot? Did you figure that out?
A: I don’t know; I never figured that out! I started kind of treating it like the word deer. Bigfoot as plural of Bigfoot, but I have no idea if that’s correct.
Q: Could you give me a solid definition of Bigfoot from what you’ve found?
A: I think the best definition that’s been given to me is Bigfoot is simply an undocumented, unidentified primate.
Q: That makes it sound so innocuous, like these people are just out there like birders.
A: Yeah, there just looking for a much hairier, bigger bird. But … when you put it like that, it’s like, “Oh well this isn’t all that fantastical. It’s not like they’re looking for unicorns.”
Q: That’d be cool, though.
A: That would be cool, especially if you found one.
Q: Maybe there’s like an ugly factor at work here. You know if you were looking for unicorns, maybe it’d be more of just a fun thing to do.
A: Maybe we should start that club. Do you want to be a unicorn hunter with me?
Q: Totally. I’m in if you’re in. We don’t kill them, we just hug them.
Q: Is there anything you feel needs to be shared with the general populace about Bigfoot?
A: My feeling is embrace Bigfoot and what Bigfoot stands for, even if you don’t believe. I think there’s something worthwhile in having a little Bigfoot in your life.