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Media Article # 317

Monday, August 12, 2002

In Search of ...

By David Klinghoffer
National Review Magazine (Online Edition)

The week that M. Night Shyamalan's Signs opened as the country's top box-office draw, I was in Copalis Beach, Washington, thinking about the insufficiently commented upon nexus of crop circles and Bigfoot. Actually make that the nexus of crop circles, bigfoot, UFOs, the Loch Ness monster, the Bermuda Triangle, and every other variety of paranormal investigation that ever inspired an episode of "In Search of."

Signs is a tremendously moving thriller that uses crop circles -- weird signs stamped overnight into the fields of unsuspecting farmers -- to make us think about divine providence. The crop circles turn out to be navigational markings for an invasion by extraterrestrials. Shyamalan wants you to consider whether you regard all the patterns and coincidences in life as products of chance, or whether you are the kind of person who finds "signs," who doesn't believe there is such a thing as coincidence, who believes there is someone watching out for us.

Copalis Beach is a couple of rundown motels surrounded by deep forest on the Pacific Coast in Grays Harbor County. Grays Harbor is among the focal points for investigation by amateur enthusiasts who think there is such a thing as a native North American great ape: Sasquatch, a.k.a. Bigfoot. Sasquatch sightings occur disproportionately in the Pacific Northwest, most heavily in several counties here including Grays Harbor.

What interests me isn't Sasquatch per se, not crop circles either, or extraterrestrials, but rather a question that Shayamalan implicitly asks, connecting the dots between UFOs and God.

I'm looking at a bunch of reports of Bigfoot encounters from the website of the surprisingly non-cranky Bigfoot Research Organization (BFRO). They are classified by region, state, and county. Among the reports from Grays Harbor, I pick up a random example, Report #1225, submitted by Paula J. Drake regarding an event of July 3, 1997. She was driving alone in her car on Highway 101, a mile north of the turnoff to Moclips, which is immediately north of Copalis Beach. Unexpectedly, "I saw a very large dingy white, furry individual cross the road approximately 50 yards in front of my car."

Another report, #959, is from a man who in October 1997 was hunting deer near the intersection of Highway 101 and East Humptulips Road. Suddenly "I observed someone come out of the tree lines. At first I thought it was a very large man. As I looked closer I realized this 'person' was far taller than a human and the strides while walking were longer. It was a varied color of browns with what appeared to be light almost gray brown head and shoulders. Having never given thought to Sasquatch possibilities before, I was truly amazed to find that I saw one."

In never having contemplated "sasquatch possibilities" till he saw one, or thought he did, the deer hunter is like most of the other folks whose stories are collected by the BFRO. Their accounts are plausible. They don't seem mad, obsessed, or paranoid, but rather -- almost grateful. Suddenly there has entered into their lives tangible proof, or so they feel, that reality has dimensions beyond that of the everyday, the scientifically provable, the secular.

I doubt that M. Night Shyamalan is into Bigfoot. Judging from how offhandedly he resolves the spaceship invasion at the end of the movie, I don't think he is interested in crop circles or UFOs either. Why then -- and this is the implicit question he poses ‹ if he mostly wants to get us thinking about God, does he bother with the paranormal stuff?

Don't get me wrong: I'm of the opinion that God is real, while extraterrestrials are not. Still, they have something in common, which is that they appear to us only on the ever-shimmering, ever-disappearing horizon of reality as we experience it every day. To believe in God, you have to agree to the proposition that the stuff of observable reality isn't all there is in the universe. The same goes for UFOs, crop circles, and Sasquatch. If you think you've seen a Bigfoot then, for you, the proposition has been proven true. In an era of disbelief, paranormal phenomena give a boost to belief.

Out the window, from the thick wall of trees against the wide expanse of sand and the immense Pacific, I look out for a very large dingy white, furry individual to emerge just long enough for me to catch a glimpse of him.

I have never seen a Bigfoot. But I would like to.

-- David Klinghoffer is editorial director of "Toward Tradition" and author of "The Lord Will Gather Me In."

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