cover image The Secret History of Bigfoot: Field Notes on a North American Monster

The Secret History of Bigfoot: Field Notes on a North American Monster

John O’Connor. Sourcebooks, $26.99 (304p) ISBN 978-1-4642-1663-3

What does it mean that so many Americans believe a large ape-like creature roams the country’s forests? Journalist O’Connor attempts to answer this question in an amusing and thoughtful debut that focuses on “bigfooters” as much as on the legendary beast itself. Through fieldwork and interviews, O’Connor analyzes the belief as a social phenomenon while also cataloging the long history of sightings and noting links to Native American legends concerning a wild man living in the woods. He gives space to serious believers (their ranks include two-time National Book Award winner Peter Matthiessen, who claimed he may have spotted a yeti in 1970s Nepal and thought a similar creature could exist in North America) while also citing fellow author Robert Michael Pyle, a bigfoot agnostic, who theorizes that both bigfooting and Trumpism are related “expressions of disproportionally white, male, middle-aged American angst.” (Though not everyone who believes in bigfoot is drawn to the hunt for such reasons, O’Connor points out.) Plunging into the mystery directly, O’Connor participates in a recreation of the famed 1967 Patterson-Gimlin footage (which purported to show a bigfoot walking for several seconds in California) that fails to prove the figure depicted was above average height. Throughout, O’Connor uses bigfoot as a launching point into rewarding ruminations on pop culture, psychology, and philosophy. It’s a winning portrait of America at its weirdest. (Feb.)