National Geographic’s



Pros: The nature of the Yeti finally revealed!

Cons: May not be the answer Squatch enthusiasts want to hear…

Undoubtedly one of the most interesting of the recent deluge of Bigfoot/Sasquatch/Yeti-related television programs, National Geographic’s 2013 special Bigfoot: The New Evidence is one of the few documentaries relating to the possibility of unknown hominids roaming the corners of the globe that actually makes serious headway in the investigation. As programs like Finding Bigfoot continue to (literally) feel around in the dark during their supposed search for the creature and shows like Destination: Truth come up with some intriguing but more often puzzling evidence, this National Geographic documentary scientifically examines the Bigfoot phenomenon, comes up with a hypothesis – and proves that hypothesis through the use of DNA testing. Granted, the end results of this investigation might not be exactly what the typical Bigfoot enthusiast would want to hear, but I’d have to declare that the results of this investigation are nothing short of remarkable.

Do I detect skepticism on the faces of geneticist Bryan Sykes (extreme left) and researcher Mark Evans (extreme right)? 


The program starts off by introducing Oxford University professor and geneticist Bryan Sykes, who undertakes a study in which he will attempt to apply DNA testing on alleged Bigfoot hair samples gathered from around the world. During the course of the program, hair samples are obtained from the American Pacific Northwest (regarded as the one true “hotspot” of Sasquatch activity in the US), Russia (no mention of the “killer” Russian Yeti – I wonder why?), and the Himalaya, all the while various eyewitnesses tell their stories about alleged sightings and encounters to the National Geographic cameras. While some of these stories are fairly typical (a Russian family finds a trail of large footprints; American outdoorsmen hear wood knocks and see something in the woods), The New Evidence does examine a few encounters that are quite enthralling – and controversial.

One of these relates to an American hunter named Justin Smeja who claims to have shot and killed a young Sasquatch in October 2010 in the Sierra Mountains of California. This case has had a polarizing effect on the Bigfoot community – most “squatchers” frown upon anyone killing one of these creatures, but if there was one, single way to prove the existence of Bigfoot, producing a corpse would absolutely be it. Smeja provided some hair and blood samples for Sykes to examine, but his outlandish account may not be the most downright outrageous one presented in this National Geographic special – the story involving a Russian “wild woman” found in the late 1800’s may actually take that honor. Nicknamed “Zana,” this animalistic woman was reportedly captured by hunters in the Russian province of Abkhazia and proceeded to mother several children to various Russian men. Given that Zana was essentially a prisoner during most of her life, one can draw his own assumptions of how she became pregnant in the first place, but the end result is a legend about Zana being a surviving Neanderthal whose bloodline continued on after her death. Leave it to Russian researcher Igor Burtsev (yes, the same guy who turned up in Discovery Channel’s Russian Yeti: The Killer Lives! mockumentary) to not only produce the unearthed skull of Zana’s son, but also to point National Geographic’s lead field examiner Mark Evans on the path of even more of Zana’s rather burly and rough-looking descendents in an attempt to extract DNA samples for analysis.

The famous Shipton photo, taken high in the Himalayas in 1951.

On a certain level, Bigfoot: The New Evidence plays out much like one would expect a program of this nature to work. The special is well-made from a technical standpoint, with crisp editing and some wonderful aerial views of the Washington state wilderness and frigid terrain of the Himalaya. We also get the expected recreations of alleged encounters – though no special effects or men in ape suits are seen – and quite a lot of talk rather than the presentation of any actual evidence (there is only one piece of video evidence shown during this program, though I think this video is somewhat compelling). Just to prove how predictable and formulaic the typical Sasquatch-related program has become at this point, Idaho University primate expert and perhaps the world’s most capable/famous Bigfoot researcher Jeff “Look at me, I’m on TV” Meldrum shows up within ten minutes of the start of the show – it’s nice they get Meldrum’s obligatory appearance out of the way right off the bat.

Researcher Mark Evans GRILLS Justin Smeja.

Additionally, the show certainly is more than a bit provocative in its presentation of not only the generally distasteful (by conventional standards) story of Zana, but also researcher Evans’ in-your-face grilling of witness and supposed “squatch murderer” Smeja. When a police sketch artist is brought in to render a drawing of the creature Smeja allegedly killed – and then Evans proceeds to practically shove the sketch into Smeja’s face while asking him how he felt when he killed a creature that looked “this human…,” the program nearly crosses the bridge into being absolutely outrageous, sensational programming that I’d have a hard time taking seriously.

why so serious
I just killed a Sasquatch.

It’s a good thing then that Sykes’ purely scientific investigation delivers the goods by producing some hard, extremely compelling results. I don’t think I’m giving much away when I reveal that the vast majority of the hair samples examined actually turn out to be of the dog, bear, deer,horse, or even cow variety – results which do not at all amuse the persons who collected the samples in the first place. The program’s final segment however (in which Sykes examines hair samples taken from the body of an unknown animal killed in the 1970s in north-east Nepal and ones lifted from an alleged Yeti “nest” in Bhutan in the early 2000s) pretty much drops a bombshell on research into the existence of the Yeti – by proving that there is in fact a previously unknown creature responsible for the sightings and reports. Some Sasquatch researchers (i.e. those whose motivations for continuing their search seem, at least to an extent, to be related to capital gains rather than scientific advancement) probably won’t be very excited about the results of this National Geographic investigation, but those interested in the honest-to-goodness factual basis for these unknown creatures would likely be stunned. The ultimate payoff of this program is a genuine revelation.

This is it doubters: the truth is revealed in this program.

In many ways, Bigfoot: The New Evidence would be an ideal introductory piece for anyone interested in the Bigfoot phenomenon. This program provides a crash-course examination of how Bigfoot lore started in the first place both in America (with footprints cast by Gerald Crew in 1958) and in the Himalaya (with the famous 1951 photographs taken near Mount Everest by Eric Shipton), and also does a nice job of, frankly, cutting through the b.s. relating to all things Sasquatch by utilizing – are you ready for it – actual science. This – reliable scientific process applied to the case, providing indisputable evidence – is after all, what’s been missing from Bigfoot research all along – a fact that any “serious” scientist is all too happy to regurgitate time and again. Bigfoot: The New Evidence fixes some of that lack of hard science, and draws some undeniably fascinating conclusions. This may not be the most flashy Bigfoot program around, but it does have some amusing moments (check out the scene where HUGE Russian former boxing champ Nikolai Valuev commands some young boys to watch their language or one where Igor Burtsev demonstrates the type of “chatter” that Sasquatch-like creatures use to communicate – the reaction face of researcher Mark Evans says it all) and I’d call it a must for Bigfoot enthusiasts.


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