I was in a forest in Northern California last summer, it was pretty hot and humid, the sweat was dripping off my forehead like a waterfall. I sat down for a moment, took a sip from my water bottle and spotted something across the trees from me … it was a large hairy monster squatting by a chokecherry bush, eating without a care in the world. It was definitely him, Bigfoot, a Sasquatch, the Yeti, whatever you want to call him, it doesn’t matter, it was him, I’m sure of it. He had that hairy face that looked kind of human, was over 7 foot tall and had berry juice all over his mouth. After a while, he turned around, looked me dead in the eyes, and then faded away into the green foliage.
Sound too good to be true? That’s because it is, I just made it up!! Oh don’t get me wrong, I’m a believer. As it says on a poster on the office wall of a certain hero of mine, “I want to believe”. However, as an economist, I have to rationally consider whether the whole legend of Bigfoot is real or just a story made up by the residents of small towns who need tourists. So let’s apply the power of economics to Bigfoot and see if we can determine whether he is real or not!!
Not surprisingly, money is a big attraction in the word of Bigfoot. In 2012, Spike TV offered a reward of $10 million to anyone who could give them a Bigfoot body, dead or alive. More amazingly, in 2013 Tom Biscardi’s company ‘Bigfoot Project Investments Inc.’ had a market capitalisation of $10 billion (the real mystery here was not Bigfoot, but how his company was worth so much). There is also the rather amusing story of an academic at a New Mexico University who managed to use $7k of taxpayers’ money to go on an unsuccessful hunt for Bigfoot; suffice to say, his bosses were extremely angry. The real question is, how much money is Bigfoot generating for small towns? How much of a cash cow is he?
Using Bigfoot as a tourist attraction is quite simple; if you’re a small town in America and you need to boost your mini-economy’s aggregate demand and employment then why not attract tourists (and all the money they bring in their little pouches) by making up stories of Bigfoot. A multitude of industries would get a boost from Bigfoot tourism. For instance, the tour-guide industry would become extremely lucrative as hundreds of rubes journey into the backcountry in search of the ever-elusive Bigfoot. Moreover, local businesses would flourish selling all those Bigfoot branded mugs and shirts to tourists. Additionally, everyone in the hospitality industry, including restaurants and hotels, would receive a massive boost. Furthermore, museums would pop up, claiming they have the recovered remains of a Sasquatch found in a nearby forest. We can turn to a real life example, the town of Whitehall in New York. Whitehall hasn’t had a legitimate Bigfoot sighting in years, but it is still reaping the monetary rewards. Local businesses have been prospering from the inevitable multiplier effect for years as a result of all the tourists flocking to the area.
Turning to another case, this time in Hochatown, Oklahoma, one local business named ‘Janet’s Treasure Chest’ has made a good earning from selling Bigfoot memorabilia. Amongst other things, the owner of the store says her gift shop sells Bigfoot coasters, stickers, pamphlets, t-shirts and hats and adds that “Bigfoot’s been very good to me … I cannot complain.” It seems that Bigfoot tourists are big spenders, see what we did there?
Bigfoot, or rather the financial benefits that Bigfoot brings, has even encouraged 2 small towns to engage in a ‘we have Bigfoot’ war.
The tiny Californian town of Remer, with a population of just 370, must continually seek ways to draw tourists to its community. The town is situated just off a lucrative local tourist trail that brings in seasonal cash, they need some way to get their attention. Que a Bigfoot. Remer decided to host an annual Bigfoot celebration to honour the mystic beast as he was apparently photographed close by.
That’s when the challenge came, not from the front, but from the sides (sorry, couldn’t avoid the obligatory Jurassic Park pun). Fellow Californian Town, and self-proclaimed ‘Bigfoot Capital of the World’, Willow Creek was not too happy about Remer claiming that Bigfoot resided there. It was at Willow Creek, after-all, where the legendary beast was videoed in the famous Patterson film. Willow Creek responded by letting tourists know that Bigfoot still resided in Willow Creek, and it was there that they would have to visit.
UFO and Bigfoot Correlation
Let us now turn to our final point, the correlation between Bigfoot and UFO sightings. A study by two professors at George Mason University, Peter Leeson and Claudia Williamson, collected data on Bigfoot and UFO sightings in the United States between 1997 and 2007 and discovered a strong positive relationship. States with more UFO sightings had more Bigfoot sightings. 6 of the top 10 UFO and Bigfoot states are the same: Washington, Oregon, New Mexico, Alaska, Wyoming and Colorado. Leeson and Williamson suggest that this correlation supports the view that Bigfoot is not real. They argue that residents of these States are trying to attract tourists by claiming there are UFOs and Bigfoot there.
There is, however, an alternative explanation, one which in fact explains the correlation between UFO and Bigfoot sightings with causality running from the former to the latter. The 2 professors should have been open to, as Fox Mulder would say, ‘extreme possibilities’ and consider the point that there is a link between UFOs and Bigfoot, Bigfoot could be an alien. However, since this theory has not yet been proved, we would have to agree with the conclusion of the study, it seems likely that the residents of these states are making up stories of UFO and Bigfoot encounters to attract tourism.