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Opinion: Creatures on campus

TV producer, skeptic and a former regent weigh in on Sasquatch and other mysterious Minnesotan creatures.
Image by Ava Weinreis
In a time where misinformation and conspiracy tend to run rampant, returning to some of the more classic, relatively harmless spooky stories is a nice change of pace.

The northern woods of Minnesota harbor a plethora of mysterious monsters and spectral spirits unknown to the likes of humanity, or so the people say.

Cryptids have been a staple of American folklore for generations, and Minnesota is no different. The Minnesota Dogman, Wendigo and even the Mothman, who was thought to be a native of West Virginia, have been reported by many a woods traveler. 

But with all of these creatures crawling — or flying — around, none have caught the public’s attention quite like the elusive Sasquatch. 

There have been sightings and expeditions all over the state and numerous TV shows. One show, Monsterquest, aired for four seasons on the History Channel and was created by Blaine resident Doug Hajicek.

“It was always about me wanting answers,” Hajicek said.

Monsterquest was also responsible for the first filmed evidence of the giant squid Architeuthis Dux, according to Hajicek. 

Hajicek’s interest in Sasquatch and other cryptids stemmed from an encounter he had in northern Canada, where he followed some large footprints that seemed to have stepped over a seven-foot-tall tree.

“It couldn’t have been anything else,” Hajicek said. 

Hajicek is one of the most prominent Sasquatch experts in Minnesota. He claims he receives reports of not only Sasquatch but of Mothman and Dogman as well. When it comes to cryptids in Minnesota, Hajicek is the main man.

So, having found footage of a giant squid and being one of the premier cryptid experts in all of the land, where is the video evidence of Sasquatch?

“If anyone had footage [of Sasquatch], Doug would know about it,” said Michael Hsu, former regent at the University of Minnesota. 

Of all the things I imagined talking to a former regent about, Sasquatch never came to mind.

Hsu and Hajicek met in 2002 when they were neighbors and a fast friendship blossomed from their mutual interest in Sasquatch, Hsu said. 

After producing the documentary “Sasquatch: Legend Meets Science” in 2003, Hajicek expressed an interest in a companion book to Hsu. Hsu would go on to help publish the book of the same name with author Jeff Meldrum.

“That book wouldn’t have been in print if it wasn’t for me,” Hsu said. 

Meldrum was a professor of anthropology at Idaho State University. Hsu said, if he wrote the book, it would make Meldrum a “rockstar” in the world of Sasquatch. He was right. 

“Sasquatch: Legend Meets Science” was one of the most successful books on the topic ever written, according to Hsu. 

The book and documentary both largely focus on the scientific method in the search for Sasquatch, Hsu said that his primary interest was in the science and the search related to the anomalous events surrounding Sasquatch sightings. He said the scientific background of the book was responsible for getting kids interested in science.

But that book came out over 15 years ago. Where is the new evidence?

There has not been any reliable video evidence of Sasquatch since the Patterson footage of 1967. That footage famously captured a female Sasquatch walking through a field. It is known to be a female due to its large breasts, according to Hsu.

Though Hsu said he loves to “give Doug s—” for not producing any recent footage, he believes there could be several reasons for that.

The Sasquatch from the Patterson footage could have been the last of its kind or they could just purposely stay away from people, Hsu said.

“If I was a Sasquatch, I’d go hang out in Canada,” Hsu said, referring to the vast amount of uninhabited forest that a Sasquatch could make its home. 

Without much concrete evidence on the subject, how do we account for the number of sightings and anecdotal accounts of Sasquatch? What about the people who believe they saw something else entirely?

“If it [Sasquatch] doesn’t exist, it’s even more interesting,” Hajicek said.

Can everything that happens in the woods be written off as falsehoods, embellishments or the mind playing tricks on itself?

Yeah, probably. But where’s the fun in that?

“We’re not the fun ones at the party,” said Travis Peterson, president of the Minnesota Skeptics.

The Minnesota Skeptics are a group that meets on the second Thursday of each month to discuss a plethora of topics, primarily rallying against conspiracy theories and misinformation. Though they mostly discuss topics like vaccine denial — they believe in science and the importance of trusting doctors, to be clear — they do venture into the discussion of flat-earthers, UFO enthusiasts and, of course, Sasquatch hunters.

When I first encountered the group on Facebook and asked if anyone was willing to speak to me for this column, one of the first responses I received was asking if I had been properly vetted. When it comes to source verification, they do not mess around.

“So when you’re going out looking for something like that, with such a … slim chance of ever finding something that you know, tiny have a chance and you don’t find it, our human nature kicks in,” Peterson said. “Humans like to be comfortable in the idea that what they think is true.”

The search for Sasquatch and other cryptids could be an eternal endeavor. Conspiracy theories can be a dangerous thing, particularly done in a dangerous and non-scientific way.

In our conversation, Hajicek informed me that his new documentary, “Sasquatch: Legend Meets Science 2” would have 25 new pieces of evidence, including DNA testing that would be conducted by North Carolina State University.

Even with his great interest and dedication to the subject, Hajicek said he is uncertain about the existence of the Sasquatch, though he does believe there must be some force leaving behind these tracks and DNA. 

Near the end of our phone conversation, Hsu sent me a photo of his Jack Links Sasquatch bobblehead. The Sasquatch is in the Heisman pose holding a bag of jerky. Hsu said he had spoken to the marketing team that had worked with Jack Links, and we were both disappointed that the Sasquatch was simply marketing and did not stem from the owner’s belief in the Sasquatch.

With more time on his hands since departing as a regent, Hsu said going out and searching for Sasquatch with Hajicek is “on my bucket list.”

To each their own.

Walking through the woods searching for monsters does not sound like a horrible time. To my dismay, there is probably no Sasquatch, Dogman, Mothman or Wendigo out in the Minnesota wilderness. But weird things happen out there. 

While some may call cryptid enthusiasts conspiracy theorists, they’re nothing like the others that have been in the news in recent years. Anti-vaxxers are promoting harmful pseudoscience and Q-Anon promoted civil unrest and provided a space for neo-Nazis to congregate. Some guys trying to scientifically prove the existence of monsters in the woods doesn’t seem so bad. 

When I was young, my dad and I would listen to Coast to Coast AM. That radio show would cover UFOs, ghosts and, you guessed it, Sasquatch. I’m very skeptical about these kinds of things, but they are a whole lot of fun to talk about. 

In a time where misinformation and conspiracy tend to run rampant, returning to some of the more classic, relatively harmless spooky stories is a nice change of pace.

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  • deano
    Dec 5, 2023 at 10:00 am

    No mention on Wendigo? That is the cryptid related to this general area.

  • Sandy
    Nov 1, 2023 at 11:59 am

    Further to the proceedings in the wake of this summer’s revelations, House members are set to meet with the Intelligence Community Inspector General in a SCIF slated for Nov. 16 to discuss UAP in an ongoing effort toward Disclosure; the latest chapter in the epic saga of the would-be greatest story never told.