In 1982 Paul Freeman claimed he found Sasquatch tracks near a location he claimed to have a sighting of the creature. Professional tracker Joel Hardin was brought in to determine the authenticity of the prints. Here is an interview Daniel Perez did with Mr. Hardin. It has been said since this by those professing expertise on Sasquatch footprints that Hardin was using "human parameters" when making his examination, this is a wrong assumption of the actual work he did.
Daniel Perez: To my knowledge you are the only man in the United States to have been flown in a Piper twin engine plane to inspect “Bigfoot” tracks on the taxpayer’s dime. How does that hit you?
Joel Hardin: I have never considered it in that aspect and of all of the requests that I’ve had probably the most unusual which is why I wrote the story for the book.
DP: You mention on page 125 of your book, “I have failed to see the value of plaster casts, regardless of the quality, and these [Bigfoot plaster castings] weren’t very good.” Can you explain that position a little bit better, as foot castings in medical fields, like podiatry, are done all the time and the castings are of great importance.
JH: I’ve worked in the criminal evidence field through law enforcement and a professional expert tracker presenting technical tracking evidence for the past forty-five years. During that time I have never seen or have I been aware of a plaster cast being used to identify or provide evidence comparable to that of a skilled tracker.
DP: You write in your book, Tracker, “The big wrangler [Paul] Freeman wore a permanent scowl and I was sure I wasn’t mistaking his glance of dislike.” Before you arrived, did Paul know the purpose of your visit and who you were in the tracking world?
JH: I really do not know. I presume that his boss, the district Forest Service Ranger told all assembled forest service personnel that I was coming and perhaps someone told him who I was but I don’t know that or just don’t remember. I understood that Mr. Freeman and the others had been told that I was a Border Patrol tracker and was going to go look at the prints and render an opinion as to whether or not they were real or a hoax.
DP: Paul Freeman claimed a sighting inside the Walla Walla watershed in Washington state on June 10, 1982 and, as I understand it, you were there about one week later (about June 17, 1982). Is that correct and at first look, did the footprints you observed appear to be one week old?
JH: Daniel – I have not and do not have time now to go dig out the original report and notes – my recollection is that I was there a few days after the sighting. However, [I] was not taken to the area where the original sighting took place but instead where Freeman had subsequently a couple days later found additional tracks.
DP: Dr. Grover Krantz, from Washington State University at Pullman, stated the 1982 Freeman plaster castings could not have been faked. Did Dr. Krantz ever reach out to you to ask your opinion of the Bigfoot tracks?
JH: Dr. Krantz was correct in that the plaster castings were not faked. They were real but the question was whether or not the prints from which the castings were made were real or not. I never met Grover Krantz and had never heard of him until his entry into the discussion sometime after my being on scene. I don’t believe that Krantz every went into the watershed drainage and he never attempted to contact me.
DP: When you first saw the prints in the ground, what was your very first impression?
JH: They were faked.
DP: Did you have any meaningful conversation with Paul Freeman on the trail about the footprints or his sighting?
JH: No, actually the Forest Service Ranger in charge and others of his staff and the biologists and a couple other scientists pretty much pushed Freeman into the background. Later, as I remember no one even knew when he left the group.
DP: On this trip to investigate the footprints you also observed trackways of deer, elk, horse or mules and everything seemed to be natural but the Bigfoot trackway. Can you explain more fully what you observed?
JH: Normal walk in the woods. The concentration of normal animal sign seemed to be abnormal but it was a protected area. The bear sign was quite noticeable and
Paul Freeman in Pullman, Washington, June 1989, the only time I every spoke with him. He was there to present at a conference organized by the now defunct International Society of Cryptozoology about his findings on Bigfoot. When alleged Bigfoot hair supplied by Mr. Freeman was determined to be “synthetic,” Paul made a quick exit from the meet. Photo courtesy and copyright © by Daniel Perez, 2015. frequent.
DP: Paul Freeman made numerous claims of Bigfoot after 1982 and also received quite a bit of publicity. Did you keep track of him via the newspaper?
JH: No, not really. People in the Northwest that knew me pretty much kept me advised whenever some bit of publicity arose in their area.
DP: On some of the Bigfoot tracks you used “a two-foot-long heavy stem of grass” to do an experiment with a Bigfoot print and your grass stem told you something. What was it telling you (page 136 of his book)?
JH: I have responded to your questions without going back to the book and the page reference that you have provided so if my response doesn’t seem to address your question please ask again. I remember getting a particular long green heavy stem of the elk wallow grass to insert into the middle of the Bigfoot track in the mud of the wallow. I gently pushed this straw or stem straight down into the center of the track and it went down about eight to ten inches below the track impression. This indicated that the size of the foot surface precluded the person being able to push it down into the mud to reach solid ground below. In other words if the person had stepped into the mud beside the Bigfoot impression they would have sunk into the mud another 10 or 12 inches. **
At the time Scott Forslund wrote an article for Pacific Northwest magazine, March 1983, at which time he also interviewed Joel Hardin. Here is what Hardin told Forslund: “The creature was supposedly much heavier than any two of us combined, yet there wasn’t a man among us who didn’t sink farther into the mud than some of the tracks… on harder ground farther up the trail, it was obvious that the tracks had been ground into the trail, side-to-side. In two separate tracks near a tree, fir needles had evidently been blown or dusted away before the track was made.”
Keep in mind that Joel Hardin often gives sworn testimony in courtrooms and is called upon for both his expertise in tracking and credibility as an eyewitness.
To explain or explain away how debris was blown from inside a track Dr. Grover Krantz provided readers of his Big Footprints an incoherent if not lame explanation: “Forest litter disappears remarkably well inside a footprint when it is stepped on with great weight, as I have observed in my own footprints.” There is no explanation as to how this is accomplished.
Now that the dust has completely settled on all Bigfoot evidence related to the late Paul Freeman I find myself still trying to separate the wheat from the chaff.
Cliff Barackman from the television show Finding Bigfoot purchased a map from the Freeman family showing locations and dates of where, presumably, sighting and tracks finds were made and it was compiled by Paul himself. There is no question the map is legitimate, as it was noted by the late newspaper reporter Vance Orchard. However, it makes me wonder, was Paul documenting where he faked data or was he recording real discoveries?
In another handwritten document authored by Paul Freeman he can’t keep his story straight, writing about having his “first” Sasquatch sighting in June 1981, when the date was 1982. It is almost akin to forgetting the date of your own birthday.
Mr. Freeman’s employment is also worthy of notation. On May 1, 1982 he is hired on as a Mill Creek Watershed patrolman. On June 10th he claims a sighting and tracks are discovered. On June 16th more tracks are found. Before the month is out Paul Freeman resigns from his job. Wayne Long told The Associated Press “non-performance was a factor,” adding “he got more involved in searching for that creature than doing his job.”
In 1992 (often incorrectly noted as 1994) Paul Freeman was lucky enough to get a video of a Bigfoot and in this film, before you see the subject, you see the so called footprints of the subject. You can see this video by going to YouTube: “Paul Freeman Raw Video Footage” and about 45 seconds into the film you see a footprint.
Remarkably, most of the forest debris inside the footprint (shown below) is cleared away, a description also given by tracker Joel Hardin of Bigfoot tracks noted ten years earlier! Was a non-debris footprint the calling card of Bigfoot. Or Paul Freeman?
It the end, I just get the haunting feeling that we are witnessing the handiwork of Paul Freeman and not the sign of the legendary Bigfoot. Because this track is directly associated with Paul Freeman’s video, it would cause me to throw a red flag out and to be cautious of that video as well.
I can’t write Paul Freeman off as a complete fraud but René Dahinden did just that in a letter to me dated June 8, 1983: “Anyway, I don’t believe a damn thing about it. Just does not hang together - in my view.”