Alley, J. Robert, Raincoast Sasquatch: The Bigfoot/Sasquatch Records of Southeast Alaska, Coastal British Columbia & Northwest Washington from Puget Sound to Yakutat (Hancock House, 2003)
Powell, Thom, The Locals: A Contemporary Investigation of the Bigfoot/Sasquatch Phenomenon (Hancock House, 2003)

To set the record straight before I start, I lived in the British Columbia rainforest from 1964 to 1967 and never saw or heard a Sasquatch. However, I didn't see or hear a lot of other things that I know were around, so that doesn't prove anything.

At first glance, these two books from the same publisher may look like they duplicate each other, but in fact they complement each other, examining different angles of the Sasquatch question.

In The Locals, Thom Powell approaches the subject as a middle-school science teacher (surely among the most jaded and cynical of professions) who used the Sasquatch phenomenon to teach the difference between junk science and the scientific method. After some years of automatically characterizing the Sasquatch as junk science, he realized that, tabloid journalism notwithstanding, rigorous scientific inquiry and the scientific method were precisely what the Sasquatch phenomenon needed. Without quitting his day job, he became involved in Sasquatch research, mostly in the western continental US.

J. Robert Alley first became interested in Sasquatches while doing an anthropology thesis on Native folklore in Canada. He later became a physical therapist and worked in British Columbia, largely in First Nations communities, where he heard stories of Sasquatches and his interest revived. He began collecting stories of Sasquatch activities all along the northeastern Pacific coastline.

The Locals starts out with a detailed discussion of the scientific method and the principles of scientific research as applied to debunking junk science. It then talks about the uses of the Web in correlating information on Sasquatches. The rest of the book contains stories of Sasquatch activity from most regions of the US, details of research activities and expeditions, and analysis of what the results of the research do and don't indicate. Powell also includes a lesson plan for using the Sasquatch phenomenon to teach middle-school students about the scientific method and junk science.

Raincoast Sasquatch shows Alley's training as an anthropologist. It is a collection of reports from the areas mentioned in the subtitle: Puget Sound to Yakutat, arranged geographically within type of evidence (sighting, prints, etc.). It also has detailed advice on preserving suspected Sasquatch evidence, such as hair or other samples.

Both books have fairly detailed indexes, and Raincoast Sasquatch has footnotes and a long bibliography. As well, Alley has plotted the Sasquatch reports he has collected on a series of maps. Unfortunately, some of them aren't very easy to read in black and white.

The Locals has very few illustrations, except for sketches in each chapter heading and one map, which is much easier to read then Alley's. Raincoast Sasquatch is copiously illustrated. There are sketches by the author and others, and photos from many sources. Most are in black and white, but there is one section of colour photos of Native depictions of the Sasquatch: totem poles, masks and paintings by a contemporary Mohawk artist.

What do these two complementary books really show us? First, serious Sasquatch research has been hampered by years of junk science and popular hysteria. Second, the sheer amount of evidence of many sorts warrants proper investigation. There is so much of it that it is illogical to think it is all deliberate fakery — too much effort by too many people over too great an area for too little gain of any sort.

Both books give Web references for further study. Be warned that some of the addresses in Raincoast Sasquatch are no longer valid. As of this writing (December 2003), the following URLs are active and are a good place to start: Bigfoot Field Research Organization (I was intrigued to find reported sightings very close to my home, a continent away from the Pacific coast); International Bigfoot Society; and Washington State Sasquatch Search Group (occasionally temporarily frozen because of excessive bandwidth consumption.)

If you're interested in more lore from western North America, Hancock House, the publisher of both books, has an extensive list. I was not able to find e-dresses or Web sites for either author, but I believe that Powell, and perhaps Alley, can be contacted through the BFRO, and certainly both can be contacted through the publisher.


[Faith Cormier]

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