With the emergence of several TV shows, numerous movies and the quirky Jack Link’s “Messin’ with Sasquatch” commercial campaign, there’s little chance that anyone is unaware of the legendary creature Bigfoot.
But is there a possibility that this famed creative could be roaming Kansas? Some researchers and fans believe so.
“There’s ‘squaches pretty much everywhere,” said Carter Buschardt, investigator for Bigfoot Field Researchers Organization and a firm believer in the existence of Bigfoot.
BFRO was established in 1995, and, according to its website is, "a virtual community of scientists, journalists and specialists from diverse backgrounds" who investigate the phenomenon through field and laboratory work.
Buschardt, who lives in Kansas City, Mo., has been researching the Bigfoot concept for about five years and investigating for BFRO for about a year and a half.
While sightings cover the entire nation, some are closer to home than others. There have been numerous Bigfoot sightings near Wichita, Salina, Manhattan and Pratt, Kan., and several places in Riley County, including near Tuttle Creek State Park.
Buschardt recounted a sighting reported in Pottawatomie County that was never made official due to the requests of a nearby Indian reservation.
“A lady … saw one, and one of her best friends, a school bus driver up there, hit one with her school bus. It busted her window,” Buschardt said.
On Jan. 29, crew members from Animal Planet’s "Finding Bigfoot" television show visited Salina, following reports of Sasquatch sightings northeast of the city. Although the crew took some video, they reported not finding any evidence of Sasquatch activity.
There is a good reason that Sasquatch sightings are relatively rare, Buschardt said.
"‘Squatch are as intelligent as you or I are, just in a different way. They’re good at maintaining their distance from humans,” Buschardt said.
Buschardt believes that the Sasquatch species is intelligent because the creature is likely an offshoot of the giant ape Gigantopithecus, an extinct genus that the fossil record suggests existed for millions of years but became extinct about 100,000 years ago. He said that it is possible both humans and Bigfoot developed from Gigantopithecus, but in different ways, giving them different types of intelligence.
“We’re smart at building rockets and computers. They’re smart at surviving off the land and staying unseen,” Buschardt said.
Buschardt is not the only person who is interested in the sightings of Bigfoot in Kansas. Crew members from "Finding Bigfoot" recently made a trip to Wichita to hold a meeting to discuss sightings in the area.
Buschardt, along with six witnesses he had spoken with, attended the meeting. The meeting invited anyone in the area to share about any encounters with Bigfoot and provide information about sightings in Kansas.
But not everyone is as certain as Buschardt about the existence of Bigfoot at all, never mind whether he lives in Kansas. Lauren Ritterbush, associate professor of archaeology, believes that Bigfoot is not a real creature, but that it “serves a mythological role in our society.”
Referencing "Bigfoot Exposed," a book by anthropologist David J. Daegling, Ritterbush explained that she, like Daegling, believes that Bigfoot’s mythological purpose may be as an “eco-messiah” of sorts.
According to Daegling’s book, as an eco-messiah, “Bigfoot signifies wilderness and the power of nature. The Sasquatch is the eco-messiah, for if we understand this monster we might overcome our ambivalent relationship with nature.”
"Bigfoot Exposed" claims that “this symbolic aspect of Bigfoot is rarely talked about among advocates,” who, Buschardt confirmed, “are all pretty much outdoor people."
But while this theory could explain much of the reasoning behind the continued search for Bigfoot, it cannot say for certain whether Bigfoot does or does not exist as a real, physical creature. In "Bigfoot Exposed," Daegling wrote, “we only know for certain that the Sasquatch is meaningful.”
Glenn Sipes, junior in industrial engineering, said that he “most certainly” believes that Bigfoot exists.
“There’s no reason to believe that it doesn’t exist. You can’t disprove something that you haven’t found,” Sipes said.
Sipes said he doesn’t look down on those who don’t believe in Bigfoot.
“There’s no proof that it doesn’t exist, and there’s no proof that it does exist, so it’s logical to believe either way,” Sipes said.
There are K-State students on the other end of the spectrum, too. Steven Kelly, graduate student in English, holds a bachelor’s degree in anthropology and now focuses his study on cultural studies in English literature.
Kelly said that while he doesn’t believe Bigfoot exists as a real, physical creature, he does think Bigfoot plays an important social role as a myth.
“The evidence, to me, shows that Bigfoot does not actually exist, and that Bigfoot is in fact a myth and not real, but the fact that the myth isn’t true doesn’t mean it’s not important,” Kelly said. “Myths are critically important to gluing people together into group cohesion. They’re big parts of identities.”
Kelly said he thinks one reason people are drawn to Bigfoot is the mystical nature of the creature.
“People don’t always need a reason for believing in something,” Kelly said.
Kelly also said that the commercialization of Bigfoot plays a large part in its popularity.
“There’s an industry around Bigfoot. The media is part of that industry, so they put out the shows to get people to watch TV, to watch the shows that advertisers and companies are paying for to keep the networks alive,” Kelly said.
Sipes said that it was a movie, "Harry and the Hendersons," that first made him believe in Bigfoot.
“‘Harry and the Hendersons’ … is an encounter that’s obviously faked, but could legitimately happen in my mindset,” Sipes said.
While both sides can provide evidence to support their viewpoints, it is up to individuals to decide what they believe about the existence of Bigfoot. But one thing is for certain: Bigfoot will likely stick around for years to come, whether he lives on in the wilderness or as a myth that continues to circulate the nation.