S'poreans going to Johor jungles. Their mission: To find mythical creature
By Teh Jen Lee
January 10, 2006
THIS is Bigfoot sighting season.
The latest was reported just across the Causeway last month.
And in November last year, three fish farm workers apparently saw two hairy beasts about 3m tall and a smaller, younger one, near Kota Tinggi.
These unconfirmed sightings have excited a group of Singaporeans.
In two weeks, 20 of them, members of the Singapore Paranormal Investigators (SPI), will head to the jungles of Johor.
Their two-day recce trip will determine how best to plan future expeditions.
SPI is a non-profit club that researches paranormal phenomena.
It has 50 paying members and over 10,000 members registered on its online forum.
The team members will be hand-
picked for their physical fitness as they will be staying overnight in the forests.
Mr Hashim Yusof, director of Johor National Parks Corp, said that SPI sent an e-mail request on 21 Dec to interview those who have reportedly seen Bigfoot.
He said: 'We thanked them for their interest and are in the midst of getting official clearance from the authorities.
'People can come unofficially as tourists, but any findings must be verified through the proper channels.'
Mr Hashim said the first Bigfoot sighting in Johor was reported 26 years ago, but the latest sightings have generated the most interest.
IS SOMETHING REALLY AFOOT?
Mr Toh Seong Fai aims to find that out.
The 32-year-old, who works in logistics, is one of SPI's Elite Members. He will be heading the recce trip.
For the past few years, he has been going on his own to Kota Tinggi once every few months on the Bigfoot trail.
He has spoken to locals about the most likely spots where Bigfoot may appear.
He has not gathered any evidence yet, but he is not giving up.
He said: 'I believe people are born curious about things they don't know. But many take the easy way out, they just accept information from sources without verifying it for themselves.
'I prefer to be active. I want to know if this mythical creature is real or whether it's a case of mistaken identity.'
Indeed, his interest is more enduring than what may be described as the recent King Kong craze.
Mr Toh said he specialises in cryptozoology - the study of animals 'whose existence has been made aware of, but whose actual identities are not verified'.
He said: 'I've been into cryptozoology since I was in primary school. I read about the Loch Ness monster and got interested.'
FUR, TEETH MARKS
With more people joining the search, he hopes they will be able to gather tangible evidence like fur or even teeth marks on half-eaten food.
Yet he is aware the trip could be just another wild goose chase.
'We will be scientific and logical. If we don't have sufficient info, we will not make any conclusions,' he said.
Similarly, SPI president Kenny Fong, 36, who is based in Macau, told The New Paper: 'As professional investigators, our aim is to verify and search for clues just as they are.'
Added the assistant professor: 'This means we do not come with any biased wishful thinking. We want to be as neutral as possible when examining any traces of artifacts collected.'
Another SPI Elite Member, Mr Douglas Lim, 29, an IT administrator, described some of the special equipment that may be used for the trip:
# Sound enhancer which can pick up ultrasound that is undetectable to human ears
# Infra-red or night-vision binoculars
# Metal detector to measure magnetic fields for abnormal readings
These gadgets cost over $800 in total.
But when it comes to footprints, Mr Lim wants to see it with his own eyes.
SPI secretary Lee Qing Yu, 24, a lab technician, said they will make moulds of any footprints so that these can be examined by experts.
Dr Fong said it's possible to find out the behavioural pattern of a creature based on its footprints.
'For example, are they multiple, social or solitary? With luck, we may observe a trail of footprints.
'It doesn't make sense if there is only a pair of them out of nowhere and going nowhere. We may be able to trace a trail all the way to their cave. That would be like hitting the jackpot!' he said, barely able to contain his enthusiasm.
He used to have an unusual hobby of observing footprints on sandy beaches.
'It was like a guessing game. You can see if the footprints are by a loving couple or a family, someone wandering around or in a hurry.
'When it comes to Bigfoot, the footprint can give clues to the weight, bone shape and size of the animal.'
After piecing together any evidence-based clues they find, SPI hopes to draw a conclusion or remark whether Bigfoot exists or not.
Said Mr Toh: 'If there were only one or two sightings, then maybe there's nothing. But there have been sightings again and again over the years, not just in Johor but elsewhere.
'What's more, the sightings are by native people who are very capable of differentiating between ordinary jungle animals and something extraordinary.'
What do their families and friends say about all this?
Said Dr Fong: 'Those who do not know me very well, their jaws will drop. It's the same reaction when I tell them how I rode a donkey for six hours in rocky mountains 2,300m above sea-level.'
This happened last Christmas when he was looking for a Biblical location in Jordan.
'I could have been dead many times during the climb if I had fallen over the cliff in the gorges. But this is me. Shopping in London or sightseeing at the Eiffel Tower makes me yawn.'
Parks boss invites media to seek out truth
THE reports of Bigfoot sightings in Johor mostly came from the forests of Tanjung Piai, Mersing, Kahang, Endau Rompin National Park and Kota Tinggi.
In the November sighting by three fish farm workers, footprints of various sizes were found in the area.
The biggest one, which looked like a triangular depression, was 45cm long. Its pictures were published in the Malaysian press.
About a week ago, Johor National Parks director Hashim Yusof took a group of 50 park rangers and journalists to the Sungai Madek forest reserve. They went around asking locals about the reported sightings.
Mr Hashim told Reuters that he was keeping an open mind and wanted to enlist scientists to prove whether the beast was fact or fantasy.
'We are collecting a database on the sightings. We want to uncover the truth about this creature and also quash any rumour that may scare away visitors to the national park.'
Bigfoot sightings have been reported in the wilderness all over the world. In the US, every state except Delaware and Hawaii has had a sighting.
It has many names including Sasquatch, Bokbokwolli, Yeti and the Abominable Snowman.
Many pranksters in the past have admitted to faking Bigfoot evidence.
Tracks are the most popular form of evidence collected, but the problem is that there is no consistency in the tracks.
Hair samples have turned out to be from other animals.