The continuing saga of Sasquatch DNA

It’s been a busy week in Sasquatchery. As we reported on Saturday, a press release was issued officially by Dr. Melba Ketchum’s DNA Diagnostics announcing the study she completed which is awaiting publication regarding the collection and analysis of supposedly Bigfoot DNA.

Since then, many outlets have picked up the story, several have used our story as a source and it has also been distributed on Bigfoot blogs and forums. Naturally, there are clearly extremes on the issues – the believers who think this is one of cryptozoology’s finest hours and the cynics who laugh and joke. Doubtful News is not going to be either of those.

This is a genuine opportunity to shine some scientific rigor on the question of Bigfoot. This story is a good summary of the situation as it stands right now.

Yakima Herald Republic | Sasquatch: Does DNA say it’s human?.

The whole Sasquatch thing may be moving from the realm of the weird to the level of “truth is stranger than fiction.”

That will depend on how mainstream science responds to the impending release of a five-year DNA study apparently suggesting Sasquatch exists, and is not entirely human and not entirely non-human. It is, says the study’s author, a hybrid cross of the two.

The research was done by a team led by Melba Ketchum, a former veterinarian who moved into genetic research 27 years ago and runs DNA Diagnostics, Inc., based in Texas. Ketchum had hoped to see the results announced in a peer-reviewed scientific journal but they were “outed” last Friday by a note on the website of the Russia-based International Center of Hominology.

It describes how the study results were leaked by Igor Burtsev, Melba then issued the official word, but the paper is still pending in press. Not all has gone well since then, as you might anticipate. Some commenters have been horrid towards Dr. Ketchum and the entire field of Bigfootery. Some comments have been unnecessarily harsh to skeptics who have a problem with the way this potentially blockbuster news has been handled.

Meanwhile, Steve Novella questioned the conclusions here. And Ben Radford distributed the news widely via this piece.

A few things have come up since the story broke. When there was mention of “unknown” DNA, it suddenly got labeled as “angel DNA” making this into even more of a joke. Dr. Ketchum says she never said that. The source of this label has been one “reporter”, R. Lindsay, who has continually “leaked” faulty information from unnamed sources to Bigfoot blogs and some have dutifully publicized it. There was news that Ketchum’s spokesperson was a woman who went public over a year ago announcing that a family of Bigfoot is living in her backyard. (She is mentioned and comments here.) But, according to Ben Radford, he was contacted by a different PR person for Melba.

Dr. Ketchum’s reputation is questioned based on the poor ratings for her business DNA Diagnostics and her past Facebook updates claiming she has seen and interacted with the creatures herself. She not only believes she has Bigfoot DNA, she believes she has encountered the live beings as well.

The Yakima Herald article says the study’s suspected conclusions, that Bigfoot is a “tribe” of humans has “ignited a war” with those who think Bigfoot is more ape than human. That’s an exaggeration. The dispute has been more about if any of use should trust the samples submitted of Bigfoot DNA, how they were obtained and what to think about all the various parties involved. The study is shrouded in official secrecy including the coauthors with Ketchum.

Already people are suggesting that the samples show human genetic signatures because they were contaminated by the humans that collected them. It’s easy to contaminate samples and that would provide a simpler explanation than a new species of human-like animal we’ve been missing from various lines of inquiry all these centuries.

We continue to wait (scientific papers do take a long time to get through the peer review and publication process – 12 months is not uncommon) to see what the paper says and allow experts in genetics to opine on what it all means. Until then, the hype and snickering will undoubtedly continue.

  5 comments for “The continuing saga of Sasquatch DNA

  1. November 28, 2012 at 10:28 AM

    I have no helpful information to add. All I can say is let the data be published, or rejected for publication. I am somewhat skeptical that an uncontaminated genetic sample collection was collected, but exceedingly skeptical that a careful analysis will prove that any unknown male primates mated with modern homo sapiens females and produced Bigfoot within the last several tens of thousands of years.

    I suspect the real motivation for this last claim by veterinarian Ketchum came more from watching “Beauty and the Beast” too many times than from science, but that’s just my take. (Of my personal suspicion about Ketchum’s private fantasies, I shall otherwise remain discretely silent.) Variations upon the Beast Man mythos have a long and compelling tradition in folklore, and resonate even today with the Bigfoot “community” — of which Ketchum seems to be an enthusiastic part.

    A viable population of semi-humans or large apes/hominids living in North America for thousands of years would surely leave physical evidence: Bones, carcasses shot, (unambiguous) photographs — something. But not a single scrap of physical evidence has ever survived examination by real scientists. Only credophiles and fantasists will believe in Bigfoot after this dust settles, just like before Ketchum’s latest kerfuffle.

  2. November 28, 2012 at 11:33 AM

    It truly amazes me how all this nonsense can create such a huge rift in the Bigfoot camp. I’d call it another social enigma, but I know better than that. Ironically, the jesters in this comedy point at the skeptics, and laugh.

  3. Massachusetts
    November 28, 2012 at 4:45 PM

    It should be noted that many Bigfooters don’t hold Ketchum in high esteem and don’t trust her work. They are much more influenced by Jeff Meldrum’s footprint work, and the work of others, like Bindernagel, who came before him. Whether or not they are barking up the wrong tree, they do believe they are working with evidence. This doesn’t necessarily hold true for certain television shows on the same topic.

    That said, the whole Ketchum DNA saga has really turned into a nut house, IMHO. It was a big stretch to begin with, but once she started reporting about how she routinely hangs out with a Sasquatch family when ever she feels like it, her credibility really tanked. I’m sorry, but it just sounds crazy. Even if the critter exists, she and she alone knows how to contact them and pass amongst them while countless others fail, and coincidentally she also sequenced their DNA with a ground breaking study? It’s just too much.

    It will be interesting to see what happens with the Oxford study. And assuming that the Oxford study contradicts Ketchum’s findings, it will be very interesting to see what impact that has on the Bigfooting community. Will such findings be dismissed as a conspiracy against the truth, or will opinions change and widespread belief start to wane? Time will tell.

  4. Anon
    November 29, 2012 at 4:35 AM

    You say it’s exaggerated, but I think the “war” you’re dismissing is to some extent real among the amateur enthusiasts, if not the researchers. Guy Edwards also states very clearly that it’s not a war, while emphatically planting his own flag in the “man is an ape” camp. The combative comments to his blog are really bringing out some fringe ideas. So I am still hoping you might have something to say about the reasons people invest themselves so deeply in this pseudoscientific question, and what they get out of it. It would seem to have a lot to do with their inability, or defensive refusal, to accept rational investigation of these subjects, which is our larger concern, no? It’s not a religion, after all (with the exception of the Native American believers in Bigfoot at least).

  5. Anon
    November 29, 2012 at 4:38 AM

    Anything about how/why such refusal to accept even solid results leads to conspiracy would also be interesting. Thanks.

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