By Daniel Silliman
When the remains of an Internet-born hoax goes up for sale on the Internet, it's hard to know exactly what to believe.
The Halloween costume used by two Clayton County men, in an international Bigfoot hoax, was sold on eBay for $250,000. The man selling the thing doesn't know if he believes that, though.
"It's really kind of tricky," Joshua P. Warren said Friday, after bidding for the "Bigfoot Hoax Body & Display" was closed on eBay. "I really have no way of knowing if that's legitimate, other than relying on eBay ... At this point, until we get the money transacted, we're not really going to know."
Warren is president of a hoax research center in Ashville, N.C. He's selling the costume, and the freezer used to attract worldwide attention to wild claims of the discovery of a corpse of the legendary, North American man-ape.
The hoax was exposed when the three perpetrators had a financial falling out, after a big press conference failed to "shock the world," as promised. The incident has continued to attract a lot of attention, though, and the hoax is thought to be the biggest Bigfoot hoax in perhaps nearly 100 years.
Warren said the hoax display should be open to the public, so everyone can have the chance to look at it and ask themselves if they would have been fooled. Hoaxes, he said, deserve to be analyzed, and the Bigfoot costume could help people ask questions about gullibility and their desire to believe.
According to Warren, the money from the auction will be used to reimburse the investors who were fooled out of $50,000, and the rest of the money will be put into the development of a hoax museum and hoax research. None of the money is supposed to go to the perpetrators of the hoax, former Clayton County police officer Matt Whitton, former corrections officer Rick Dyer, and full-time "Bigfoot find" promoter Tom Biscardi.
The auction started with a minimum bid of $499, a little more than the cost of the rubber suit, as sold by an online Halloween costume maker. The first bidder offered $1,000, according to eBay's records, and after 48 hours, the amount was up to $24,947. On Thursday night, after what some observers called "a new media circus," the bidding closed with user, vitanetworks, offering $250,283.
Warren said eBay requires some financial information before allowing users to post bids above $15,000, but he's trying not to mentally spend the cash before he receives it. If the bid isn't legitimate, the auction is set up to accept the last, legitimate bid.
Some people obviously aren't taking the sale seriously, though. Since Warren's sale started on eBay, there have been a series of sales sporting some connection to the hoax, including a toy, stuffed monkey billed as the "Hoax Bigfoot's baby," and a rock, labeled a "Big Foot Hoax Pet Rock," and advertised as the "genuine rock that I held while thinking about the big foot hoax situation!!!" The starting bid on the rock was set at $1,022,347.
Even angry and derisive attention is attention, though, and Warren said the hoax body will act as a tourist attraction. He hopes it will be displayed for people interested in the legendary ape-man, people interested in the hoax, and historians.
"I just hope it doesn't end up in the dimly-lit back corner of some rich guy's living room," Warren said.
Others, however, aren't so happy the final hurrah for the hoax is going to involve lots of money. Loren Coleman, the author of a number of respected books on Bigfoot and someone who has followed the Georgia hoax since the hoaxers burned his book in an online video, said he thinks the auction leaves everyone with the wrong moral to the story.
"It sends the message to future hoaxers that there's money to be made," Coleman said. "I'm kind of mixed about it; I think it really puts people's money and attention in the wrong direction. I'd rather have people funding Bigfoot research than hoax museums, but there is an incredible public interest in this hoax."
Coleman said the hoax was "definitely a very big deal," and the biggest Bigfoot hoax in the last decade, if not the last century. He said the scenario is only really comparable to the Francois de Loys hoax of 1929. Loren believes both hoaxes captured a national mood oscillating from gullibility to skepticism, and points out that both hoaxes happened right before a major economic crisis.
"There's a gullibility, and then this aggressive skepticism," Coleman said. "It's almost as if people felt the stock market was a hoax, or the housing market was a hoax. People can look at this Georgia situation and get into all the questions: Why was I fooled? What was it about this? Was it just me? Was I just that gullible?"