Fact Check: Photo Of Bigfoot Airlift Is NOT Real -- Edited Image Using Old Hoax

Fact Check

  • by: Sarah Thompson
Fact Check: Photo Of Bigfoot Airlift Is NOT Real -- Edited Image Using Old Hoax Photo Edit

Does a photo of a helicopter airlifting a large creature show evidence that Bigfoot is real? No, that's not true: This image has been edited. The silhouette of the Bigfoot that appears below the helicopter was pulled from a popular 2006 edited-photo hoax. "The Dead Bigfoot Photo" was debunked in 2015 when the original, unedited photo of an Alaskan hunter posing with a brown bear he'd killed was found on a vintage postcard on eBay.

The post with the airlift photo was published in the group Bigfoot Believers on March 19, 2023. It was captioned:

They are real. Government cover up no doubt. Change my mind

This is what the post looked like on Facebook at the time of writing:


(Source: Facebook screenshot taken on Tue Mar 21 14:54:36 2023 UTC)

A Facebook user commenting under the post shared a side-by-side image of the bear photo and the hoax. Remarking:

Photoshop does wonders ....
Look closely the one on the right is the same image they used under the helicopter .

A reverse image search for the original bear image brings up an April 11, 2015, blogpost by Karl Shuker titled, "EXPOSING THE 'DEAD BIGFOOT PHOTO' - THE BEAR FACTS AT LAST! - A SHUKERNATURE WORLD-EXCLUSIVE!" Shuker is a British zoologist and cryptozoologist. Merriam-Webster defines cryptozoology as:

: the study of and search for animals and especially legendary animals (such as Sasquatch) usually in order to evaluate the possibility of their existence

Shuker's blog post tells the backstory of cryptozoology website Cryptomundo.com's Craig Woolheater receiving the "Dead Bigfoot Photo" from a reader going by the name "captiannemo" in November 2006. The image subsequently became popular on Cryptomundo.com (archived here).

Shuker writes that on April 11, 2015, a cryptozoological colleague, Tony Nichol, shared with him a vintage postcard that was for sale on eBay. This postcard showed the original photo of a hunter and bear that had been edited to make the "Dead Bigfoot Photo" hoax. This photo also appears in a 1915 publication from the United States Bureau of Fisheries titled, "Report of Alaska investigations in 1914, [1915]." Several days after Shuker wrote the blog post, Woolheater contacted "captiannemo," who confessed he had created the photo manipulation.

In the Lead Stories composite image below, the figure below the helicopter was enlarged to match the size of the creature in the dead Bigfoot photo. Although blurry, the proportions, pose and lighting on both figures matches. The figure from the airlift photo is slightly narrower than the creature in the Dead Bigfoot Photo hoax, but that could be easily achieved purposely or accidentally during editing.


(Source: Lead Stories composite image with karlshuker.blogspot.com and Facebook screenshots taken on Tue Mar 21 14:54:36 2023 UTC)

Lead Stories used several reverse image search engines but was unable to locate the original source of the airlift photo used to create this secondary Bigfoot airlift hoax. The lower edge appears to show first responders at an accident scene on a snowy highway. The helicopter may have been an emergency medical airlift.

Lead Stories uploaded the photo from the Facebook post to fotoforensics.com (archived here), which provides tools for digital photo forensics. In the Lead Stories composite image below, the Error Level Analysis (ELA) is shown alongside a zoomed-in detail from the reading, showing the area where the Bigfoot appears. The ELA tool does not give a simple yes or no answer when it comes to discerning if an image has been altered. It requires some interpretation. The ELA tool tutorial describes:

Error Level Analysis (ELA) permits identifying areas within an image that are at different compression levels. With JPEG images, the entire picture should be at roughly the same level. If a section of the image is at a significantly different error level, then it likely indicates a digital modification.

In the detail it appears that the levels in the area of the airlifted Bigfoot, shown in brightly contrasting colors, are dramatically different from the surrounding area, which indicates digital manipulation.


(Source: Lead Stories composite image with fotoforensics.com screenshot taken on Tue Mar 21 14:54:36 2023 UTC)

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  Sarah Thompson

Sarah Thompson lives with her family and pets on a small farm in Indiana. She founded a Facebook page and a blog called “Exploiting the Niche” in 2017 to help others learn about manipulative tactics and avoid scams on social media. Since then she has collaborated with journalists in the USA, Canada and Australia and since December 2019 she works as a Social Media Authenticity Analyst at Lead Stories.


Read more about or contact Sarah Thompson

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