Skeptophilia (skep-to-fil-i-a) (n.) - the love of logical thought, skepticism, and thinking critically. Being an exploration of the applications of skeptical thinking to the world at large, with periodic excursions into linguistics, music, politics, cryptozoology, and why people keep seeing the face of Jesus on grilled cheese sandwiches.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Dream job

Are you interested in research?  Do you like hiking and camping?  Are you knowledgeable about technical equipment?  Do you have a desire to spend your time looking for a creature that may not, technically, exist?

Well, a nonprofit in upstate New York has a job for you.  [Source]

Apparently, a Bigfoot research group based in Whitehall, New York, has an advertisement in the "Help Wanted" section of Craigslist, inviting interested parties to apply for a position as a research assistant.  Here's the main body of the ad:
Not for profit organization, located in Whitehall, NY is a high-energy, team-oriented research entity that is involved in the tracking, documenting, and study of cryptozoological creatures, with a deep interest in the study and search of bipedal primitive apes.
We seek an experienced researcher with a deep understanding of cryptozoology, primatology, with a good background with scientific research and interest in great apes. The ideal candidate must be able to work both autonomously and as part of a large team. The individual must also be able to solve problems creatively, communicate effectively, and collaborate well with project leaders and team members.
Duties and Functions:
• Develop actionable tracking program in designated geographic area.
• Investigate, document and interview individuals with reported Bigfoot sitings.
• Occasional travel to remote areas of Adirondacks including spending several nights in the wilderness, checking motion cameras, collecting hair and dung samples for laboratory analysis amongst other related activites.
• Must have own transportation, four-wheel drive a plus.
** Serious Inquiries only **
Compensation: based on experience, this is a grant funded position and is expected to last 6 months with the possibility of renewal.
This sounds like a job made in heaven for me -- the combination of the hiking and backpacking aspects, the biological research aspects, and the cryptozoological aspects, not to mention that this is veritably in my back yard, seem to cry out that I apply.  Of course, there's the downside that this job is only guaranteed for six months, and I'd have to quit my other gainful employment, which I suspect both my principal and my wife would have an opinion about.  But come on -- a Bigfoot research assistant?  In the Adirondacks?  How cool would that be?

Of course, I do have some questions.  First, the salary is based on experience?  Experience with what?  Actually finding Bigfoot?  Because if so, this is looking like it could be a volunteer position.  Also, you have to wonder who is actually funding this whole thing.  I tried to find out more about it, but whoever is behind it seems to be keeping their names out of sight.

Also, I had no idea that the Whitehall area was as much of a hotspot for Sasquatches as it is.  I knew about the Connecticut Hill Monster, which is even closer to my home (a mere thirty miles) than the Adirondacks; but I hadn't heard of the sightings around Whitehall.  But evidently this is a seriously squatchy area, with tales of giant apelike creatures going back at least a hundred years, perhaps more.  In 2008, the Glens Falls Post-Star did a story on the whole phenomenon:
For Whitehall, the pivotal year for sightings seems to be 1976. The country was celebrating its bicentennial, but Bigfoot was the local center of attention that summer and fall.
[Paul] Bartholomew details the encounters in his book.
On Aug. 24, three Whitehall teens reported seeing a 7-to-8-foot-tall brown, hairy creature in a field off Abair Road. The teens allegedly saw the figure two times that night. They also claimed to hear a noise that sounded like a "cross between a woman screaming and a pig squealing."
The next day, a farmer found "big, human footprints" nearby and a ravaged deer carcass.
That night, a local off-duty police officer, who was a brother of one of the teens, went to the site with a New York State Trooper.
Around midnight, the police officer spotted a pair of red eyes reflecting off his headlights. He shut off his lights and radioed the trooper, who put a spotlight on some nearby bushes.
The police officer said he turned his headlights back on when he heard something crashing through the shrubs. He claims to have seen an almost 8-foot-tall creature that he estimated weighed 400 pounds.
He didn't fire his gun because he said the figure looked too human. The creature then vanished into the bushes.
Later that year, a village police sergeant reported hearing an "eerie, high-pitched yell" while hunting in the same area.
A few days later, a man from Granville reported shooting at "Bigfoot."
For the record, Paul Bartholomew is also the guy who spearheaded the successful effort ten years ago to get Whitehall to pass a law designating the forests around the village "protected Bigfoot habitat."

So anyway, the whole thing sounds pretty interesting, and I'm bummed that I won't be able to apply.  I do wish the best of luck to whoever gets the job, and hope that they get some hard evidence, something that has been sorely lacking in all previous efforts.  As I've said before, I see nothing scientifically impossible about the existence of Bigfoot, but I'm certainly not going to throw myself in with the True Believers with only uncorroborated eyewitness testimony and fuzzy photographs as proof.  If more data surfaces, however, I'm perfectly willing to consider it, in the spirit of skepticism, and also because it would be wicked cool if it actually was true.

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