Old FBI Documents Reveal Mundane Bigfoot ‘Investigation

Benjamin Radford

In June 2019, breathless headlines referred to an “FBI Bigfoot Investigation,” suggesting that newly declassified FBI files shed light on the venerable manlike mystery. As skeptics expected, it was much ado about nothing. In 1976, prominent Bigfoot researcher Peter Byrne, director of the Bigfoot Information Center and Exhibition, wrote to the FBI asking if they would agree to analyze some material—specifically fifteen hairs of unknown origin along with a bit of skin.

This got a December 15, 1976, response from Jay Cochrane Jr., assistant director of the FBI’s Scientific and Technical Services Division. He explained that the FBI typically only works on criminal cases but that “Occasionally, on a case-by-case basis, in the interest of research and scientific inquiry, we make exceptions to this general policy. With this understanding, we will examine the hairs and tissue.” A follow-up February 24, 1977, letter to Byrne’s colleague Howard Curtis provided the results of the examination: “the hairs are of deer family origin.” And … that’s about it.

The FBI did not “investigate Bigfoot”; it did not deem the monster credible or even worthy of investigation. It just agreed to use its technical expertise to analyze some unknown hairs, which turned out to be from a deer, for a Bigfoot researcher. Bigfoot believers have long been desperate for scientific legitimacy, but this FBI correspondence won’t provide it.

Benjamin Radford

Benjamin Radford, M.Ed., is a scientific paranormal investigator, a research fellow at the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry, deputy editor of the Skeptical Inquirer, and author, co-author, contributor, or editor of twenty books and over a thousand articles on skepticism, critical thinking, and science literacy. His newest book is Investigating Ghosts: The Scientific Search for Spirits (2018).


In June 2019, breathless headlines referred to an “FBI Bigfoot Investigation,” suggesting that newly declassified FBI files shed light on the venerable manlike mystery. As skeptics expected, it was much ado about nothing. In 1976, prominent Bigfoot researcher Peter Byrne, director of the Bigfoot Information Center and Exhibition, wrote to the FBI asking if they …

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