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Monday, 3 June 2019

STICKS AND STONES!


An ‘A Glyph’ found in Irwell Park, Salford in 2017.
Photo by Andrew McGrath
‘Sticks and stones will break my bones, but names will never hurt me!’  - Isn’t that how the old proverb goes? A once powerful retort, invoked by children everywhere to the vocal bully, who, in those innocent days of childhood to which we once belonged, could be stopped in his tracks or made mute and immobilised, by this most cunning of all comebacks, right? But, as adults, or grown olds, we actually experience the reverse, in that, names or more precisely, our name or reputation, can, in fact, hurt us. Ironically, far more than sticks and stones ever could.

When entering the house of cryptozoology, one might think that your reputation should be left at the door, but this could not be further from the truth! This fringe discipline, often clinging on to the edge of methodical principles, is largely tenanted by laymen, who must somehow compete for the attention of professors in the highly regimented and recognised realm of the scientific sphere; where the practice of systematic observation, measurement, experiment, and the formulation, testing and modification of hypotheses, are prerequisite to acceptance!

With this in mind, we creep carefully into the minefield of sticks and stones or, Bigfoot Sign, as some would classify them. One can scarcely join a Bigfoot group on social media these days, without being bombarded by photos or film of trees that have fallen into odd positions, sticks twisted into strange shapes/glyphs, or piles of stones that have allegedly been left as territory markers, by our elusive forest friends. Although most of these signs can be explained away by forest fall and man-made activity, I feel that it is imperative that we deal with some of the regular signs that people encounter and at minimum try to eliminate some of the natural explanations for these supposed anomalies. The importance that is currently assigned to this issue within the research community, is, I believe, damaging on a reputational level and paradoxically in juxtaposition to the childhood proverb, our obsession with these sticks and stones are a direct cause of the names that will inevitably hurt us.

I have compiled a short list here of some regularly observed stick and rock formations, that are associated with Bigfoot activity:



  • X: This is often observed as two trees that have fallen across one other, to form the shape of a letter X. the sign is commonly believed to be a territorial marker or barrier to keep other Bigfoot or people out!
  • Pinned Arch: Usually, a living tree that has been bent over and pinned beneath another tree, or tree limb/log. Believed by some to point in the direction of water.
  • Stick Tepee: a makeshift hut or grouping of sticks, in a free-standing tepee formation, sometimes clumsily leant against a tree. Variously interpreted as temporary lodgings or the bored musings of our hairy friends.
Mini Pinned Arch -  Littleworth Common, Esher, Surrey.
Photo by Andrew McGrath, 2017.
  • Bigfoot Kerplunk: Seriously!? This sadly is the only way that I can think of to interpret this particular stick formation, which seems to be a collection of sticks or branches, jammed together from every angle, to form a kind of spikey circle. Some of these examples, in North America at least, seem impossible for humans to replicate without machinery. However, I am not aware of any British examples that fit these criteria. 
  • Stick Leans: These are simply branches that have been leant against trees. Often, several branches are observed together facing in the same direction. Additionally, they are often observed leant against several trees in a row. These are believed to be directional markers, left by Bigfoot, to tell other Bigfoot which way they went.
  • Glyphs: These are usually small signs, made of intertwined or carefully placed sticks that form a shape or symbol. Some researchers believe that some of these shapes resemble characters from the mysterious Neolithic Vinca markings, an ancient set of symbols found on artefacts from 6th to 5th millennia BC, in Central and South-eastern Europe.
  • Rock Stacking & Clacking: These are usually small piles of rocks placed in prominent places, on sawn tree stumps or next to roads and on beaches etc. There are also paired rocks, presumably used for rock clacking, a regularly reported feature of Bigfoot behaviour.

Making a Scene
There are abundant natural explanations for many of these phenomena and it is important that we try to entertain the more mundane possibilities, before assigning a more grandiose character to their manufacturers. The first and most obvious, go to, for much of what we observe in stick structures is windfall. One of my favourite cannibalised sayings is: ‘if a tree falls in the forest, did Bigfoot push it, or do trees just fall in the forest?’ Of course, the answer must be the latter; for wind, snow, and rain and even natural death, in trees, leads to all kinds of strange and unusual formations that may appear unnatural, to the untrained eye.

Another causal explanation for these unusual edifices could simply be that they are man-made. The forest, after all, is host to a myriad of different groups, from forestry workers who regularly cut away deadfall, to wild campers and bush crafters, who like to make huts and dens out of deadfall, (incidentally, this is a regular feature of some children’s activity camps!) Our travelling community in the UK, is also rumoured to employ the use of stick and stone signs in the forest, to indicate resources, like water and to give directions. Which brings us finally, to the biggest bugbear of them all, rock stacking and the rather irritating trend that has recently spread throughout the country, of leaving these teetering towers of terror, in forests, mountains and on beaches, as a kind of middle-class interpretation of the practice of tagging; wherein, the talentless tagger spray paints, ‘Kevin was ‘ere!’, on the wall of some beautiful building, in an attempt to leave his mark upon the world.

In Conclusion:
Should we ignore these signs and exclude them from our research? Certainly not! If both repetition and locality are demonstrable across the spectrum of this physical data, then further investigation is certainly warranted. However, one would also expect other collectable data to be available at these locales, such as tracks, hair samples and animal remains.

Unhappily, as it stands; if one finds sticks in the woods, that is only evidence, of trees!



Written by Andrew M.L. McGrath 
(Excerpt from the 2nd edition of Beasts of Britain)

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