Aug. 19, 2008 -- In the end, it seems Bigfoot was nothing more than a frozen Halloween costume.
Last Friday, two men, Matthew Whitton and Rick Dyer, announced they had found the remains of the elusive legend, Sasquatch, better known as Bigfoot.
The two men had teamed up with self-proclaimed Bigfoot hunter Tom Biscardi, creating a media bonanza replete with claims that they had a real half-human, half-ape body in their possession. They even said they would unveil DNA proof and photographs confirming the existence of the new species.
But all the brouhaha over the "discovery" of Bigfoot, or Sasquatch, was for nothing.
Biscardi, who himself has a history of dubious Bigfoot sightings, claims the story started to unravel over the weekend. And he apparently tried to shift responsibility to Whitton and Dyer claiming the pair "deceived him." But several Bigfoot academics say all three men appear to have been perpetrating a hoax.
Biscardi claims he dispatched another Bigfoot "expert," Steve Kulls executive director of Squatchdetective.com, to Georgia to investigate the body, supposedly being held in a freezer.
Kulls, wrote in a news release posted on Biscardi's Web site, searchingforbigfoot.com, that as the "remains" thawed, it became increasingly clear that the men had stuffed a frozen apelike costume into a freezer.
Kulls wrote that when Biscardi confronted Whitton and Dyer on Sunday, they admitted that all they had was a costume.
"At this time the victim of this series of deceptions, Searching for Bigfoot Inc., is seeking justice for themselves and for all the people who were deceived by this deception, " Kulls wrote in the release. "Due to this event peoples lives have been disrupted and many people, so wanting vindication about their prior experiences were hurt. Let us all try to be mindful of such."
Evidence? What Evidence?
This is quite a change from the tone Biscardi struck at Friday's press conference in Palo Alto, Calif., in which he hailed Whitton as a "hero" and encouraged him to tell reporters how he and Dyer stumbled upon the Bigfoot body while hiking in northern Georgia two months ago.
For most of Friday's new conference, Biscardi baited the dozens of reporters with promises of DNA evidence and never-before-seen photographs of the corpse and three other live creatures Whitton and Dyer saw as they carted the corpse away.
"You will actually see a bipedal creature and [a photograph] with the teeth up close to prove to you people that this is not a mask," Biscardi said.
He added that he would provide the media with a DNA report from Curt Nelson, a lab researcher hired to analyze tissue reportedly taken from the animal.
But when Biscardi finally revealed what he called DNA evidence, it became clear that the promises of evidence were intended to string along reporters and the public.
Suggesting that the results had gone awry, he said the first tests revealed human DNA, and the second indicated the presence of possum DNA. Photographs of the corpse show animal entrails on top of the body, and Biscardi said it's likely tissue from the entrails had been collected instead of tissue from the body.
With much fanfare, the three men also unveiled two new photographs of the corpse and reported live Bigfoots. One photograph zeroed in on the face of the corpse, showing the creature's teeth. The other photograph reportedly captured the live creatures Whitton and Dyer spotted as they towed the corpse out of the woods.
Despite the underwhelming evidence, Biscardi and his cohorts ardently assured reporters that they had the body of a Bigfoot in their possession.
"I got to tell you, it was a euphoric experience for me," Biscardi said about seeing the body. What I seen, what I touched ... was not a mask sewn onto a body."
Although lacking Biscardi's flair for showmanship, Whitton and Dyer were also zealous in their remarks.
Addressing the crowd in a blue visibly torn T-shirt and baseball cap broadcasting the message "Best Trackers in the World," Whitton emphasized the shock he experienced after finding the creature.
"I didn't believe in Bigfoot at the time. I've seen the films and the things on television, and you have to come to terms with it and realize that you've got something special," he said. "It's like finding the biggest diamond in the world and [having] it in your possession."
The three men said they had become business partners and intended to assemble scientists to continue studying the creature.
But even before Friday's conference, longtime Bigfoot experts and trackers were already certain the trio was taking the public for a ride.
"Discovery? It's a hoax. It's a Halloween costume in a box," said Matt Moneymaker, the president and founder of the Bigfoot Field Researchers Organization.
Created in 1995, the group maintains a database of Bigfoot sighting reports and organizes tracking expeditions for interested members of the public.
Jeff Meldrum, a leading Sasquatch researcher and Idaho State University professor of anatomy and anthropology, was equally skeptical.
"There's a whole number of things that raise red flags, in my opinion," he said.
The most glaring red flag: Whitton and Dyer's appeal to Biscardi.
"He does not carry a reputation of credibility," Meldrum said of Biscardi.
The 'Real Bigfoot Hunter'
On Friday, Dyer claimed he and Whitton had encountered the reported Bigfoot body approximately two months ago and froze it to stave off rigor mortis. But until they involved Biscardi two weeks ago, no one gave them much attention.
"We started to tell people the week after we found the body, but no one believed us," he said. "So we started to make fun of the Bigfoot trackers, and that got attention."
Whitton and Dyer landed themselves on the "Squatch Detective" radio show and announced their discovery on the air. When the host pressed the pair to let someone verify the body, they asked for Biscardi, the so-called "real Bigfoot hunter."
"You type in 'Bigfoot' and that's the name that comes up," Dyer said.
Biscardi, a 35-year veteran of the Bigfoot business, who declined to give his age, is CEO of Searching for Bigfoot Inc., producer of the documentary "Bigfoot Lives" and host of an Internet radio show about, yes, Bigfoot.
He said he has been fascinated with the apelike creature since watching a short film made by Roger Patterson in 1967 that famously purported to contain footage of a real Bigfoot.