Two men from Georgia, claiming to have discovered the body of the legendary creature "Bigfoot," appeared in a much-anticipated press conference held Friday afternoon at the Cabana Hotel in Palo Alto.
Accompanying them was long-time Bigfoot researcher Tom Biscardi, who had previously flown out to Georgia to meet them. Biscardi now says he has the corpse in his custody.
"It's not a human, it's not an ape. It's definitely not something we've seen before," Biscardi said.
Two grainy photographs were released to members of the press as evidence along with commentary on DNA samples analyzed by Curt Nelson of University of Minnesota.
One photo shows the creature's mouth, with six bright incisors jutting out above a broad, protruding tongue. The other shows an indistinct, brown figure, partly obscured by trees in the forest.
Of the three DNA samples examined, one was "100 percent human," another came back as a "96 percent match to Â… a possum," and the last was inconclusive, according to a copy of Nelson's email to Biscardi.
The body's discoverers, Matthew "Gary" Whitton, a police officer from Clayton County, Georgia, and his friend Ric Dyer answered questions before a conference room packed with reporters, cameramen and a man sporting his very own Bigfoot costume.
According to the pair, they came across a body in the woods of northern Georgia while hiking "many miles off the path." Equipped with cameras, they also observed three similar creatures walking upright in the surrounding area.
Whitton said he waited for nine hours with the body and its apparent relatives while Dyer fetched help in the form of his 16-year old step-son and a tow truck. Together, Whitton said, the three men dragged the corpse through the forest for over 7 miles in order to load it onto the truck.
They refuse to reveal the exact location where the body was found, citing concern over the remaining creatures in the area.
Whitton's account of what happened to the body afterward was unclear, aside from his statement that it was placed in a large freezer box, which was later filled with water.
Responding to a question about why the two did not choose to hand the body over to a research institution, Dyer said, "Is Stanford going to buy me a new Corvette?"
"I didn't want to do the news conference," Dyer said. "But if you don't believe us now, just wait and see how it all ends."
Robert Barrows appeared at the conference as Biscardi's publicist. Barrows, who has worked with Biscardi for several years, is known in San Mateo County for his multiple bids for the District 12 Congressional seat formerly occupied by the late U.S. Rep. Tom Lantos, now held by Jackie Speier.
"I think you'll find that this is the real deal," Barrows said of the alleged discovery.
A recently released a photograph of the find shows the hairy mass stuffed in a large freezer. The photo is available on Biscardi's website, www.Searchingforbigfoot.com.
Dr. Jeff Meldrum, a veteran Bigfoot researcher, is skeptical of the team's discovery, as well as Biscardi's credibility.
"The photo is very un-compelling, it has more the appearance of a costume or some sort of fabrication than it has of a real flesh-and-blood entity or body," he said. "More photos of the same aren't going to sway anyone's opinion."
Meldrum teaches anthropology and primate anatomy at Idaho State University's Department of Biological Sciences and is considered an academic authority on the fabled creature by Bigfoot enthusiasts.
"I have not been invited in any way shape or form to participate or to examine the alleged corpse," Meldrum said.
Biscardi has declined to name any of the scientists who have examined the body.
Biscardi himself is veteran Bigfoot tracker who has released a documentary entitled "Bigfoot Lives" about his observations in the field.
Whitton has been on administrative leave since suffering a gunshot wound to the wrist during a struggle at the scene of a robbery. Whitton and Dyer allegedly discovered the body less than a month after his injury.
A press release sent to media outlets by Barrows states several "vital statistics" of the Bigfoot body, including that it is nearly eight feet tall, weighs over five hundred pounds and has blackish-grey eyes.
"It is a bi-pedal creature covered in hair," Biscardi says. He claims to have prodded the body, at which point he was convinced of the integrity of the discovery.
"I'm not holding my breath," Meldrum said. "So far the handling of this has been more like a carnival side-show than it has been a scientific investigation."
Officials from the Georgia Department of Natural Resources Wildlife Resources Division said the largest wildlife they are aware of in the state are black bears and white-tail deer.
Biscardi said the next step is to turn over the body to scientists for an official autopsy.