- Eerily similar tracks are found miles and years apart
- Police officer Jimmy Chilcutt of Conroe, Texas and Dr.
Jeff Meldrum, an anatomy and anthropology professor at Idaho State University,
share a passion. They examine the prints left by hands and feet to reveal
the identity of unseen visitors. But while the testimony of fingerprint
expert Chilcutt can prove a person guilty in a court of law, Meldrum's
assertions that certain footprints constitute evidence of the legendary
Bigfoot's existence raises eyebrows of scientist colleagues.
- Meldrum hopes some skeptics will change their minds after
hearing what Chilcutt has to say about the footprint castings Meldrum has
collected from the Pacific Northwest.
- "The ridge detail (finger pattern) on the casts
is neither man nor ape," says Chilcutt. "Is it possible to have
faked it? Sure. But (the faker) would have had to have an intimate knowledge
of primate footprints and that didn't exist at the time the castings were
- Chilcutt initiated the study of primate fingerprints
in the mid 1990's working on a hunch that the identifying ridge patterns
(the articles, loops and whorls made by folds in the skin) would someday
help forensic specialists catch criminals. He explains that it would be
helpful if criminologists could identify the race of a person by his fingerprints.
But research in that direction has been inconclusive, Chilcutt believes,
because the races have interbred so much. Primates, however, have undiluted
gene pools. To date, Chilcutt has more that 1,000 fingerprints of lemurs,
monkeys, and apes in his computer data bank. When he heard about Bigfoot
castings in Meldrum's laboratory, he was intrigued but skeptical. "What
I do is catch bad guys in Conroe, Texas," Chilcutt says. "I didn't
care one way or the other if Bigfoot existed."
- But a casting made near Walla Walla, Washington in 1984
piqued his interest. Not only did the ridge pattern run vertically along
the edges of the foot, then angle across underneath the toes - a pattern
different from humans and apes, which have ridges running horizontally
and at an angle across the foot pad, respectively - but the imprints showed
splits in the feet where the ridges did not realign perfectly when the
skin had healed.
- Chilcutt got a second jolt when he found a northern California
casting made in 1967. The pattern was similar to that on the Walla Walla
casting, although made from a smaller animal. For them to be fake, Chilcutt
believes the same person would have had to fabricate both footprints, 17
years and several hundred miles apart. That seemed unlikely to Chilcutt,
especially after he tried to duplicate the casting and failed.
- The fingerprints expert has become a believer. "I
can assure you," he says, "there's an animal up in the Pacific
Northwest that we have never seen."