If the FBI only releases files to the public when the subject of a file has died, and the FBI is releasing its files on Bigfoot, does that mean Bigfoot is dead?
Sadly, you won't find the answer to that question in the 22 pages of archival documents the FBI just released detailing its investigation of the mythical creature.
What those pages do reveal, amazingly enough, is that the FBI took the hunt for Bigfoot seriously enough to test hair samples provided by an Oregon-based sasquatch enthusiast.
The FBI's brief investigation into the fictitious reclusive man-beast began in August 1976, when it received a letter from Irish-born cryptozoologist Peter C. Byrne, head of Oregon's Bigfoot Information Center and Exhibition.
"From time to time we have been informed that hair, supposedly of a Bigfoot, has been sent for examination to the FBI with the conclusion…that it was not possible to compare the hair with that of any known creature on this continent," Byrne wrote. "Will you kindly, to set the record straight, once and for all, inform us if the FBI has examined hair which might be of a Bigfoot…[and] if it did take place; what the results of the analysis were."
Lest the FBI think he was joking, Byrne concluded his letter by saying, "Please understand that our research here is serious. That this is a serious question that needs answering."
Byrne's belief that the FBI had tested supposed samples of Sasquatch hair appears to be sourced from a page in the Army Corp of Engineers' 1975 edition of the Washington Environmental Atlas, which makes just that claim.
According to the FBI's response to Byrne, the publication of the Washington Environmental Atlas kicked off a flurry of inquiries to the FBI about its Bigfoot hair-testing practices.
"Since the publication of the 'Washington Environmental Atlas' in 1975, we have received several inquiries similar to yours," wrote Jay Cochran Jr., assistant director of the FBI's Laboratory Division, in a September 1976 letter to Byrne. "However, we have been unable to locate any reference to such examinations in our files."
Rather than let the matter rest, Byrne sent another letter to the FBI requesting that it test a sample of hair and skin his organization had found, and which it had so far failed to identify.
"I am writing to ask if you could possibly arrange a comparative analysis of some hairs that we have here which we are unable to identify," Byrne wrote in a November 1976 letter to Cochran. "We do not often come across hair which we are unable to identify, and the hair we have now, about 15 hairs attached to a tiny piece of skin, is the first we have obtained in six years which we feel may be of importance."
In a December 1976 response to Byrne, Cochran bluntly informed the Bigfoot hunter that the FBI's forensic labs were for serious criminal investigations; but also, what the hey, send those hairs over.
"The FBI Laboratory conducts examinations primarily of physical evidence for law enforcement agencies in connection with criminal investigations," Cochran wrote. "Occasionally, on a case-by-case basis, in the interest of research and scientific inquiry, we make exceptions to this general policy. With this understanding, we will examine the hairs and tissues mentioned in your letter."
According to an internal FBI memo, the mysterious hair sample was subsequently sent to the FBI's laboratory in Washington, D.C., by one Howard Curtis, the executive vice president of the Boston-headquartered Academy of Applied Science—which at the time was sponsoring Byrne's work.
In February 1977, the FBI—after conducting a thorough analysis of the hair sample provided by Byrne and Curtis—determined that it was from a member of the deer family.
After receiving the results, Curtis wrote one final letter to the FBI expressing his gratitude for the assistance and promising to inform Byrne of the results when he returned from his trip to Nepal—rumored stomping grounds of the Abominable Snowman.