Reach down into your pocket, check the table next to you, or look in your hands. If my intuitions are correct, then you probably have a cellphone there. And it’s probably a smartphone, too. I’m guessing it has a camera. No, I’m not trying to demonstrate my psychic powers. Much like a cold reading, I’m just making an educated guess based on statistics. You see, mobile communications technology really took off in fully-developed countries; most adults and adolescents there have one, and most people who have one usually carry it around pretty often. While I could comment on the detrimental effects cellphone addiction seems to have on the human psyche, I’m much more interested in the beneficial effects of having a camera ready to go on everyone at all times.
If we look back only a decade or two, cameras were significantly less prevalent. People had them, but it was a little inconvenient, and you had to actually bring it with you to film anything. So people were definitely capturing things on film, but not quite as often. Then go back another few decades. Cameras had to be lugged around, and took a little bit of know-how to even get running. Patterson and Gimlin only had a camera with them because they were specifically tipped off to reports of forest giants in the area, and were coming to investigate. For most people, the likelihood of having film equipment while on a deep-forest hike was next to zero. This is part of what makes the Patterson-Gimlin Film so special.
So what can we expect to change? What difference does it really make? We might get more footage these days, but it’s not like everyone’s convinced by it. As photography advanced, so too did special effects. Anyone can figure out how to use a green screen, and it’s now cheaper to film a hoax than ever. Not to mention the prevalence of creature-suits and cosmetic effects amateur costume makers can employ to disguise a hoaxer as the genuine article. The majority of paranormal and cryptid videos are fake anyway. How is this any better than before?
Well, we have a few key advantages. First of all, even if most people aren’t convinced, we can still extract useful information from the relatively reliable footage. For instance, Dr Meldrum’s theory about the midtarsal break was substantiated by the Patterson-Gimlin Film, the Provo Utah rock-throwing bigfoot, and others, due to the tireless work of photography expert ThinkerThunker. I’ve analyzed quite abit of footage myself to determine what was under bigfoot’s fur.
Second, photoanalysis can reveal the presence of special effects in most cases. A digital hoaxer will usually leave distinctive evidence that a professional can pick up on, making it very difficult to tamper with video undetected. That’s part of why photographic evidence is considered so reliable in the criminal courts.
Third, increased reporting allows for more accurate trend-mapping. With numerous sightings every year, we have a much better understanding of potential sasquatch distribution, not to mention a good guess at their migratory patterns. By identifying hotspots, investigators know where to direct their time and funding to procure more evidence. It also allows us to speculate further into their biology and behavioural patterns. Since forest giants are very often seen around rivers, it can be assumed that they use them to navigate, or at least like to stay close to sources of freshwater. It may also imply some level of piscivory.
Of course, these factors apply to the research of phenomena other than mountain devils. If dogman turns out to be a real flesh-and-blood creature,, we can infer that it prefers more northern climates, and is a very strong jumper. We may be able to scrutinize paranormal footage to understand how it is that orbs develop. If there’s a mystery, more reliable footage means more clues to work through. That gives us more theories, and sometimes theories lead to new evidence.
So, while most field investigators running around the forest at night aren’t going to get any useful evidence, the few that do will be doing us all a huge favour. Even in mainstream science, more and more strange phenomena are being captured all the time. Why, it wasn’t long ago that St Elmo’s fire was still nothing but a rumour. As long as there is something left to discover, someone will be doing just that. To all you brave men and women, putting time and gas money on the line in the pursuit of truth, I salute you from the comfort of my office. Without your continued contributions, what I do wouldn’t be possible.
UPDATE: I talked it over with Sporkless Entertainment, and they do need me to actually leave my office. As a member of the Sporkless Field Team, I’ll be headed over to the Nebraska Bigfoot Conference and the Fouke Monster Festival, both this April. If you’re interested in the search for bigfoot, stay tuned.