Interview with Todd Neiss.
Welcome to the very first online interview for our group!
First off, we would like to thank Todd Neiss for his time on this. Now for the interview!
Profile: Born in 1961, I am a native Oregonian and an avid outdoorsman.
Hunting deer and elk has been an annual Fall tradition for over two decades. Hiking, fishing, and camping round out the rest of the year. I currently live in the western foothills of the Cascade Mountains near Mt. Hood (50 miles east of Portland). A mortgage broker by trade, I spend my spare time researching and investigating the Bigfoot\Sasquatch phenomenon.
Q: Lets start with the easy question first! What got you interested in the search for Bigfoot?
A: Back in April of 1993, I was a sergeant in a combat engineer unit of the Oregon Army National Guard. During a demolitions (high-explosives) exercise on private timberland (roughly 6 miles east of Seaside, Oregon), I witnessed three of these large, hair-covered creatures observing our activity from a safe distance. Only later was it learned that three other soldiers also witnessed these very same animals during the exercise. Since then, I have been hooked.
Being raised in the Northwest, it is nearly impossible not to hear something about “the legend of Bigfoot”, however, it should be noted that at no time had I ever bothered to read materials or watch any programs related to these animals. I had merely relegated the whole affair to Indian legend or embellished campfire tales. But once you come face to face with the reality of their existence, you never look at the woods the same way again.
Q: How long have you been searching? Can you estimate how much time you have invested?
A: As I said, my fascination with these creatures began the moment I
actually saw them for myself, so I suppose it would be fair to say that I am entering my eighth year in this field of study.Â As to how much time I have invested, I have never actually taken pause to consider that question. I would venture to say that hardly a day goes by that I am not doing something related to my research. Let’s just say it would easily fall somewhere between 8,000 to 10,000 hours to date.
Q: What is it that you would ultimately come of your research? Just see one close up? Prove its existence or….?
A: Ah…the “Holy Grail.” Several reasons come to mind. Mostly, this is a personal quest for me. A Native American fellow by the name of Johnny Longfeather told me that “once you have looked upon a Sasquatch, your spirit will never rest until you see them again.” After interviewing many witnesses and coupled with my own insatiable drive, I just wonder if Johnny was right.
First off let me say that I am not the least bit interested in the personal conversion of nonbelievers to believers. This field of study brings out more than it’s fair share of skeptics (and rightly so). After all, I was one myself prior to my encounter.
One of the biggest driving factors for skeptics is the media’s incessant thirst for sensationalism. Foremost in that effort is the tabloids. However, in this day and age, it seems like nearly all forms of media are taking the “safe route” of plausible deniability. When news gets slow, they go for the “Human Interest” angle by pretending to be neutral while portraying witnesses as being less than believable (i.e.. confused, lying, mental, etc.). Like Peter Byrne used to tell me…”whatever sells soap.”
Another reason for skepticism is this ingrained notion that “unless conservative mainstream science has given us their blessing to acknowledge the existence of something, we are not obligated to accept it as fact” (regardless of what thousands say to the contrary). People have no trouble accepting such intangible concepts as “Global Warming” and “Black Holes” but fail to even consider something as terrestrial as an unclassified primate in North America.
Hoaxing has also been a factor in dissuading people from accepting the existence of these animals. While I believe that hoaxing plays a part in only a fraction of the reports collected, they have a tremendous negative impact.
Lastly, is the shear lack of tangible forensic evidence. All of the photographic evidence, castings, fecal and hair samples have thus far failed to provide the “smoking gun” that we have been looking for. As for photographic evidence, it seems that we have become a victim to our own technology. One needs only to view Jurassic Park, Twister, or Independence Day to realize that ANY visual can be fabricated through computer-generated special effects. Unfortunately, this will most likely condemn any modern day images that may be presented as evidence. Sadly, this leaves us few alternatives short of obtaining a physical specimen. Whether such a specimen comes by way of accidental or intentional means or is simply discovered already dead will be insignificant compared to the impact it will have on conservation and protection for the species as a whole. For the record, I prefer the latter.
Most importantly, I feel that these magnificent beings need to be officially recognized and subsequently studied. I am truly fascinated about how these animals have coexisted with mankind yet seem to do so in relative seclusion.
There are so many unanswered questions regarding these amazing creatures that need to be answered. Where did they come from? How long have they been here? What do they eat? How long do they live? Are they resident or migratory? What kind of social behavior do they practice? How many are left?
The bottom line is this: Unless these animals are officially recognized as a species, we will never know the answers regarding their habitat and food resources. And short of that, they will never receive the sort of protections that I feel they truly need in order to perpetuate a healthy population. I want to do whatever it takes to get them that recognition.
Q: What do you say to people that challenge the existence of a Bigfoot?
A: I think skepticism is a healthy thing. I was one of those people at one time so I can completely relate to their feelings on this subject. I used to get upset when someone challenged my account, but they have every right to express their opinions. However, opinions based upon ignorance or the prevailing “conventional wisdom” without any attempt to review the evidence is just plain laziness. But, as I have stated before, I am not interested in making “Bigfoot converts.” My conscience is clear and I know the truth.
That’s good enough for me.Â Whether or not others wish to accept the truth doesn’t make it any less true.
Q: People have said in the past that, “field research is a waste of time”
and “the phone and computer will be what tracks one down”. How do you feel about these statements?
A: Tell that to Jane Goodall or Diane Fossey.Â While modern technology offers us new tools and techniques, there is no substitute for good old fashioned field work. That is where the evidence will be found. As for “track[ing] one down,” I personally feel that any attempt to stalk these elusive beasts IS a waste of time. They obviously are well adapted to evading humans and do so quite efficiently. Because of this, my main focus has been to situate my base camp in an area of recent activity and basically present a non-threatening posture. This usually takes the form of blending in as much as possible, and exercising light and noise discipline.
Additionally, I employ several “enticements” to hopefully attract a Sasquatch into the observation area. Seismic ground sensors are then strategically positioned around the observation area to alert us to any approaching wildlife. Specially equipped video and audio systems are stationed to record any activity that may take place. Powerful parabolic microphones pick up sounds undetectable to the human ear (I am getting ready to field test a homemade “mega ear” soon). I have developed a one of a kind video surveillance system which incorporates two video cameras (one w\night-vision) and triggered by several motion\heat sensors. I call it my Passive Infrared Capture (P.I.C.) System.Â These and other experimental techniques need to be done on location. No amount of phone and computer magic will ever replace field research.
Q: It seems that there have been several “feuds” over the years in the Bigfoot research community. People do not trust others, etc. Have you seen this? Have any comments?
A: “Bigfoot Politics” is a sad but true reality that seems increasingly prevalent in the Bigfoot research community. They happen for a number of different reasons (jealousy, competition, differences of opinion, etc.). Literally thousands of people share their theories through a number of Internet list discussion groups every day. Some are “lurkers” just seeking information while many others network with other researchers. Occasionally a grass roots organization gets formed and will usually select regional representatives to follow up on recent reports of Bigfoot activity. These groups can sometimes take on a “cliquish” mentality which can often lead to petty rivalries. While for some people this becomes a personal quest, others have more of a selfish motives in mind. I would be remiss if I ignored mentioning the greed factor. The potential profit for those involved in the eventual acquisition of a Bigfoot goes without saying. Thus grandiose delusions of fortune may play a small role as well.
I find this aspect of Bigfoot research to be a tragic waste of energy. It is quite conceivable that this phenomenon could have been solved by now had certain research groups cooperated with instead of competed against the other. Rather than organizing an all-inclusive centralized database, a wealth of data becomes disjointed and cast helter-skelter. Some research organizations today are working towards centralizing the data, but how much has already been lost? If we are all working towards the same end, then hopefully we can be more open with such things as proven techniques and common-area histories. But the sad truth of the matter is that not all researchers are motivated by a common goal, and so the “feuds” continue.
Q: Any advice for people who want to “join the search”?
A: I would start at the local library. There are many books out on the subject. Look for authors like John Green, Peter Byrne, Rene DeHinden, Grover Krantz, and John Bindernagel (to name but a few). Next, check out the many websites on the Internet such as the Big Foot Research Organization, Internet Virtual Bigfoot Conference, and the Washington State Sasquatch Search Group, etc. Most of these sites have lists or bulletin boards for open discussions.
For the more hardy, would suggest dusting off your camping gear, gathering a friend or two, and heading into the back country where these beasts live…and don’t forget your camera! Keep your eyes (and mind) open. Look for things that seem out of the ordinary. Try different things (this is amateur hour…nobody’s got it 100% right yet). And take lots of notes…a seemingly irrelevant notation may prove vital later.
And lastly be very careful. Do not go alone. I can tell you from experience that these are extremely powerful creatures, quite capable of defending themselves or protecting another. Despite their apparent aversion to violence, like any animal, they can be potentially dangerous under certain circumstances.
This is a fascinating field of study that has so many mysteries yet to be learned and adventures to be had. Anybody can participate at whatever level they prefer. Most of all, have fun and enjoy “Bigfooting” for yourself.
Todd M. Neiss
Mt. Hood, OR
Feel free to contact me at BFnorthwest@aol.com