PALO ALTO, CALIF.—It was perhaps the most highly touted press conference of the week, but it didn't reveal much in the way of evidence: Three bigfoot enthusiasts announced today that a series of genetic tests performed on samples taken from a carcass they claim is a Sasquatch came back as a mixture of human and opossum.
In addition to the mixed DNA results, Tom Biscardi, Matthew Whitton and Rick Dyer showed the audience two blurry photos, one of a solitary figure in mixed hardwood forest and another of the mouth of what appeared to be the tongue and teeth of a primate.
Nevertheless, fielding questions from a packed room in Palo Alto, the trio called their discovery groundbreaking and held to their claim that the animal they are currently holding in "an undisclosed location" is indeed the legendary bigfoot.
"We're not bigfoot hunters originally," Whitton said. "We stumbled upon this creature. It was a stroke of luck, I can tell you that."
Whitton and Dyer said they discovered the carcass when they were hiking in a forest near their home sometime in June and that it has been stored in a large freezer since then. They refused to say exactly where and when, stating only that it was in northern Georgia and that they captured video of several live animals.
They said when they found the carcass they hauled it into a truck and brought it to a freezer. They then set up a Web site to offer tours into the area and made an announcement on a bigfoot enthusiast radio program.
That's when Biscardi got involved, moved the animal to another location, and began contacting the media. In the week before the press conference, Whitton and Dyer spent several days sparring with skeptics and created a YouTube video where they held a stuffed bear up to the camera and repeated their claims of having found a Sasquatch.
Meanwhile, Biscardi sent three samples of the carcass to biologist Curtis Nelson at the University of Minnesota for analysis. In an e-mail, Nelson told Biscardi that most of DNA segments taken from two of the samples matched human DNA. One came back as a likely match for an American opossum. Biscardi said this is likely from a stomach sample and that the creature might have eaten an opossum. He did not say why he had sampled from the stomach.
Despite Biscardi's assurances that soon he would bring in scientists from Stanford University and journalists from Fox News to inspect the body, scientists are skeptical that the find is legitimate. "It's about what I expected," said Jeffrey Meldrum, a professor of anatomy and anthropology from Idaho State University in Pocatello who has studied the bigfoot phenomenon. "Today they should have produced a physical piece of the corpse, if not the corpse itself. Until they produce the body, it doesn't matter."
"What they should have done is contact a reputable scientist and have it examined at a known university," said Benjamin Radford, who writes for the Skeptical Inquirer magazine and has followed bigfoot hunters for more than a decade. "Instead, this whole thing is very cloak and dagger. It all about, 'We have unnamed scientists working at an undisclosed location under armed guard.'"
Meldrum said it's still remotely possible the claims are genuine, but that the group's behavior resembles that of previous hoaxes. He said that even if the genetic testing had turned up some evidence that it was bigfoot, no one can verify where the animal was found.
Today's pronouncement was not Biscardi's first. In 2005 he claimed that he had captured a Sasquatch. The beast never materialized, and Biscardi said he had been swindled by a deranged attention-seeker.
Radford says hoaxers make money off tours through bigfoot country and with documentary films—a motivation Biscardi doesn't discount. When asked at the press conference how much money he expects to make from his alleged discovery, Biscardi said, "As much as I possibly can."
He said, however, that he will satisfy all skeptics when he releases the actual body. Earlier this week he invited Megyn Kelly of Fox News to Georgia to view the carcass.