While the Animal Planet TV series Finding Bigfoot never does find the elusive man-beast, the show’s “team” tries hard to convince us they have. Again and again, they try to conjure up the mythological creature with a fuzzy photo, bent twig, or fleeting shadow. Their leader, Matt Moneymaker, is, at least, aptly named for a Bigfoot ballyhooer.
He and other team members, including Bigfoot caller “Bobo,” even try to find their quarry in the merest old tale—namely, that of “the Crying Woman” of Zwolle, Louisiana. As Bobo confided to the show’s fans (in an episode titled “Beast of the Bayou,” aired June 22, 2014), “We think those stories are about a ‘squatch.” Now, you might fear that, in so quickly jumping to a conclusion, team members might hurt themselves, but I rather think the only damage will be to their reputation for critical thinking—which is already not high.
Nevertheless, this tantalizing possibility—that tales of “a woman crying and screaming at night” (as Bobo says) could actually be Bigfoot—shouldn’t be dismissed out of hand. Never mind that various non-Bigfoot forest denizens actually make such vocalizations.
Bears, for instance, may bawl from pain or moan in fear, and cubs often scream in distress (Nickell 2013), while the Gray Wolf offers whines and yelps (Whitaker 1996, 689). The Barn Owl gives “a discordant scream,” the widely distributed Screech Owl “a tremulous wail,” and the Great Horned Owl, occasionally, “a blood-curdling shriek” (Collins 1959 (137–138). Again the Bobcat’s scream is especially piercing (Whitaker 1996, 804), the Mountain Lion produces “a prolonged scream like that of a woman” (Collins 1959, 330), and so on, and on.
As it happens, the “Crying Woman” of Zwolle, Louisiana, is one of many versions (folklorists call them variants) of a proliferating ghost legend that originated in Mexico and spread to many American states. Named La Llorona (pronounced lah yoh-ROH-nah), or “weeping woman,” she is typically an Indian peasant who—abandoned by her upper-class Spanish lover—drowned their children. She is since heard loudly wailing and is reportedly sometimes seen dressed in white, searching for their spirits along streams or other waterways (Graham 1996; “La Llorona” 2014). In the Zwolle version, the lover left in a boat with the couple’s baby which he then killed, leaving La Llorona fated to wander in grief (“La Llorona” 2014).
Some say La Llorona might be a banshee, a spirit whose wailing warns of an approaching death. (The La Llorona story has already begun to be overlaid with that Gaelic legend [“La Lorona” 2014].) However, before Bigfooters transform a ghost/banshee folktale into (much needed) “evidence” for Bigfoot, I would caution: How can Bobo and the others really know what a Bigfoot vocalization sounds like? As far as we can know, they have never heard one.
Brunvand, Jan Harold. 1996. American Folklore: An Encyclopedia. New York: Garland. Collins, Henry Hill. 1959. Complete Field Guide to American Wildlife: East, Central and North. New York: Harper & Row.
Graham, Joe S. 1996. In Brunvand 1996, 431. La Llorona or “The Weeping Woman.” 2014. Online at https://www.thehauntedinternet.com/llalorona.html; accessed June 27, 2014.
Nickell, Joe. 2013. Bigfoot lookalikes: Tracking hairy man-beasts. Skeptical Inquirer 37:5 (September/October), 12–15.
Whitaker, John O., Jr. 1996. National Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Mammals. New York: Alfred A. Knopf.