What is your statement for Bigfoot sightings

The man is an experienced hunter and trophies in his living room in a small town in the US state of Idaho suggest it. Now he asks Jeffrey Meldrum to examine the plaster cast. It is the footprint of a big foot, the man claims, for sure.

Meldrum bends over the cast when his eight-year-old son comes through the door. Meldrum's son glances at the cast, looks up and says in amazement, "Dad, I thought we wanted to look at a big foot print. This one is from a bear."

The phone rings up to ten times a month in Meldrum's office at Idaho State University in Pocatello and people report encounters with a hairy giant.

Or they transmit pictures or plaster casts of powerful footprints that point to a being that cannot be human or bear. It's always about Big Foot or "Sasquatch", as the legend is called in the Northwest of the USA. It's about a kind of Yeti: never there, never gone. And somehow constantly out of focus.

Back in Bluff Creek

There is no certainty about the existence of this monkey-bear-human blend, but reports of sightings abound. No document is discussed as much today as the Patterson-Gimlin film, which was made exactly 40 years ago in a valley in California.

This film is the reason why Jeffrey Meldrum is sometimes laughed at by colleagues and why there are 200 imprints of footprints in his laboratory, to which no known creature can be assigned. Jeffrey Meldrum was ten years old when he found out that this Big Foot film was showing in theaters in 1968.

The Patterson-Gimlin film is extremely controversial. A few years ago, for example, the American Bob Heironimus declared that he had worn a gorilla costume for the film (Skeptical Inquirer July / August 2004).

Jeffrey coaxed his father and sat in the front row of the full movie theater that evening. He saw a wobbling image and a human-like, black-skinned cattle trudging through a river bed, turning once to the camera, and then trotting away.

Big Foot! Big Foot? Meldrum later studied zoology and anthropology. Today he is the only scientist who deals with a fairytale-like creature in his main job, who is advertised with dried meat and after whom music festivals are named in the northwest of the USA. Anyone who integrates "Sasquatch" into their jokes in this corner of the country earns laughter. Whoever believes in him will be laughed at.

Jeffrey Meldrum likes to laugh. He is tall and is sitting in his office in Pocatello, ready to hike in his outdoor shirt and trekking shoes. The accreditation for a big-foot conference dangles above the computer screen, and a photo on the wall shows him next to the gorilla researcher Jane Goodall.

She is the most prominent supporter of his work. Meldrum got to know one of the filmmakers, Bob Gimlin, personally - that's why he can explain how the video was made: Roger Patterson, a former rodeo rider, heard about oversized footprints in a Californian valley in September 1967 and made friends with him Bob Gimlin and two horses set off into Bluff Creek. "And that's when it happened," says Meldrum. "Roger's horse cried like mad." The being appeared. Bob Gimlin held his rifle at the ready, struggling to pull his horse by the reins.

Patterson grabbed his camera, it fell from his hands, he read it again and followed the creature. Gimlin followed, reluctantly, firmly by the reins of the horse. The being turned around once. And disappeared. Robert Patterson died five years later, Bob Gimlin is now allergic to journalists who always ask one question: Weren't you cheating on the recordings after all? "He could have made a lot of money with a confession," says Meldrum. "But he always just says: I saw what I saw."

"Which animal is responsible for these prints?"

Jeffrey Meldrum teaches his students on Mondays and Wednesdays, the rest of the week he mainly belongs to Big Foot and his footprints. This includes the one taken at Bluff Creek ten days after the incident. "These impressions are among the best because they show the anatomy and dynamics of a Sasquatch's gait," says Meldrum, cradling the cast in his hands.

"Which animal is responsible for these prints?" Asks Meldrum. "I'm not saying these prints prove the existence of Big Foot. But they prove the existence of something." How so? Well, they are different from human footprints, says Meldrum, because the imprintmaker's metatarsus is seemingly more flexible than a human's.

Meldrum digs out a bone model in which the metatarsus is not rigid and arched like in humans, but consists of many individual bones. A Sasquatch foot rolls off like the chain of a tank.

Meldrum is not only a scientist, he above all enjoys good stories. And he's a good storyteller. Perhaps that is why he is one of the stars of his university, which - alongside foundations and wealthy big-foot believers - finances his research. He is able to pay volunteers to install infrared cameras in forests that could find the big foot.

It is so, says Meldrum: After researchers discovered the remains of a dwarf man on an Indonesian island four years ago, who may have lived on Earth parallel to Homo Sapiens, the science magazine Nature wrote: "The discovery of this dwarf man makes it much more likely that all the reports of mythical, human-like beings have a spark of truth in them. " Meldrum grins as he quotes from the article.

Whether or not Big Foot's existence can be proven, Jeffrey Meldrum may have already proven something much more important: that you can keep a ten-year-old's curiosity.