Reading Time: 4 minutes


“Can I read you something from my Monster Museum book?”

I said sure, not knowing that we were launching a mini-obsession that so far has lasted a week. Delaney (6) flipped to the back of the book, which offers a short “bio” of each monster mentioned in the bad kiddie poetry that fills the rest of the book.

“‘BIGFOOT,’” she read. “‘Called Squishsquish in North America…’ Squishsquish?”

“Oh. Sasquatch.”

“You know about Bigfoot?” she asked, mighty impressed.

“A little,” I said. “Keep going. I want to hear.”

“‘Called Sasquatch in North America and Yeti in Asia. A huge, hairy, shy creature. Bigfoot prefers mountains, valleys, and cool weather. Many people claim to have seen and even photographed Squish…Squishkatch or Yeti or his footprints, but so far, no one has had a conversation with him.’ Haha! That’s funny.”

Each biographical entry has a little cartoon picture of the beast in question, with the exception of Bigfoot. We apparently know what a banshee looks like, and The Blob, and a poltergeist. But when it comes to Bigfoot, they simply put a question mark. I’m willing to bet it was the question mark that drew her attention to Bigfoot.

“If people took pictures,” she asked, “why is there a question mark?”

“I don’t know.”

“So is he real?”

“Some people think so, and some people think it’s a fake. Wanna see the pictures?”

We Googled up a few choice photos. Delaney gasped, launching into an enthralled monologue as I took furtive notes:

“It would be so interesting if Bigfoot was real. I really wonder if he is. It would be so cool if he was real! But maybe the picture is somebody in a gorilla suit. And maybe somebody went out with a big footprint maker and made footprints in the woods. Or maybe it’s real. But I’ll bet if he is real, he’s nice.”


“Because if he was mean, he’d be attacking people, and then we’d know he exists! But…there can’t be a person that big in a costume, so it seems like he has to be real somehow. Even the tallest person isn’t that tall.”

“So do you think it’s probably real, or probably not?”

She paused and thunk. “I’m not sure. I’m really, really not sure. I’ll bet scientists are trying to figure out. It’s just so cool to think about. It makes you curious.”

Yesterday she had a friend over—the pseudonymous Kaylee of a long-ago post—and dove right into the quest as I quietly transcribed the conversation on my laptop:

DELANEY: Have you ever heard of Bigfoot?

KAYLEE: No. What’s Bigfoot?
D: You have got to see this. You have got to see this. [Types BIGFOOT into Google.] Look, there it is. It’s called Bigfoot, but some people say Squishsquish.

K: What is it?!

D, with didactic precision: Some people say it’s like a gorilla man who lives in the forest. But you don’t have to worry. He wouldn’t be in any forest near us. Some people think it’s not even real.

K: So that’s Bigfoot??

D: Well it’s a picture.

K: So Bigfoot is real!

D: Nope, we don’t know that for sure. (Reads from website.) “An appeal to protect Bigfoot as an in-danger species has also been made to the U.S. Congress.”

K, (reading ahead): Look, it says right here, “Bigfoot is not real.” So he’s not real.

D: But we don’t know for sure. That’s just what the person says who has that website. That doesn’t make it for sure.

[Laney switches to image search, pulling up a full page of yetis.]

K: I hope it isn’t real. That would be so scary.

D: I hope it is. It would be so cool!

K: (looking at one photo): Does he only live in snow?

D: No look, there are pictures with no snow. It seems like he would hibernate. I wonder what he would eat.

K: Probably people.

D: I just wonder everything about him. Doesn’t it just make you so curious?

K: No. It makes me freaky.

I have a favorite particular moment in that dialogue–I’ll let you guess. But my favorite thing overall is Laney’s Saganistic approach to knowledge. Just as Carl Sagan wanted more than anything for intelligent life to exist elsewhere in the universe, Laney really wants Bigfoot to be real. It would, in both cases, be “so cool.” But that has no effect on her belief, or his, that the beloved possibility is real. Neither can see much joy or point in pretending that a wish makes it so. Both are happy to wait for the much greater thrill of knowledge, of the discovery that something wonderful turns out to be not just cool, but true.

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Dale McGowan is chief content officer of OnlySky, author of Parenting Beyond Belief, Raising Freethinkers, and Atheism for Dummies, and founder of Foundation Beyond Belief (now GO Humanity). He holds a...