Paul Freeman dies at 50 of complications from diabetes
Paul Freeman’s search for Bigfoot ended Wednesday. He left big tracks to fill.
Freeman, 50, of Airway Heights, died after complications from diabetes, said friend and colleague Loren Coleman, an adjunct associate professor at the University of Southern Maine.
Freeman’s self-described encounter with Bigfoot in 1982 in the Blue Mountains near Walla Walla “and his plaster casts of footprints” made him a “pivotal figure” in the search for Sasquatch, Coleman said.
“I think Paul Freeman personifies the individual who has an extraordinary encounter,” Coleman said. “For a lot of people, they get ridiculed and quit. But Paul really decided to become a Bigfoot hunter.”
Freeman also made a video in the mid-1990s of what he said was a distant Bigfoot as it crested a far ridge.
That shouldn’t be confused with the famous film of a Bigfoot-like figure walking across a forest clearing, often spoofed in TV ads for Kokanee beer.
Freeman’s main contributions were his plaster casts of Bigfoot tracks, said Coleman, who recently published Bigfoot! The True Story of Apes in America.
Rod Johnson, a 40-year wildlife biologist at the Walla Walla Ranger District, traveled with Freeman and others to the footprints Freeman said he discovered.
“I made the plaster cast that made the national fame,” Johnson said. “I don’t necessarily believe in it. But I try to keep an open mind.”
The late Grover Krantz, a famous Bigfoot hunting anthropology professor at Washington State University, was with Freeman and Johnson when the famous plaster casts were made.
Krantz, an expert on the bone structure of primates, said he found indentations in Freeman’s casts that Krantz believed could not have been faked.
The Forest Service officially refused to enter the debate over the existence of Sasquatch, the Salish Indian’s word for woodland “wild man.”
“One rumor was we had a whole room of hair and other evidence, which we don’t,” Johnson said. “A lot of people were serious believers.
“Our job wasn’t to try to discount them. We were just trying to keep people out of the watershed. There were 20 or 30 people up there packing rifles hoping to shoot one to prove they exist.”
Krantz “who suggested using a helicopter with an infrared sensor to search the mountains at night” received severe criticism until he died a year ago.
Freeman, too, attracted ridicule, after he described in 1982 seeing a hairy, reddish-brown, 8-foot- tall Bigfoot from about 60 yards away.
Reporters hounded Freeman, as did his supervisors at the Forest Service where he worked as a watershed patrolmen, Coleman said.
Freeman quit that job, but returned to Walla Walla in 1984 to continue his pursuit, Coleman said.
“It always hurts to be ridiculed,” Coleman said. “He would retreat in the woods to find evidence. Because he knew the woods so well, he had an incredible amount of luck finding the footprints.”
Some suggest Freeman had too much luck.
From: the Spokane Review, 3 April 2003.