When I was a kid, much like Fox Mulder on "The X-Files," I wanted to believe.
In between war stories and biographies of my favorite sports stars, I always made time to read about the unknown. If it went bump in the night, prowled the waters of a Scottish loch or zoomed above our heads in silver saucers, I wanted to know about it. It fascinated me to think about what strange and wondrous things might be lurking out there just under the nose of science.
Of course, in much the same way that I finally realized my dad was right when he told me pro wrestling was fake, I eventually figured out that all those supernatural boogums were just as much bunk.
But unlike with wrestling, which didn't hold the same appeal anymore after I discovered the truth around age 12 (say it ain't so, Dusty Rhodes), I never lost my fascination with the paranormal, although it is now tempered with the often-used caveat of "For Entertainment Purposes Only."
I still get a thrill from a spooky story. I watch "MonsterQuest" on the History Channel. I listen to the true believers call in to talk about their UFO sightings or visits from the shadow people on "Coast to Coast AM" on the radio.
And I know every single bit of it is a bunch of hooey. But I like it anyway because at 37 it's still entertaining to occasionally think like a 12-year-old for a few minutes, to go back to a time when the possibilities were endless and my outlook hadn't been made so cynical.
I had one of those moments Thursday.
My wife called. It went something like this:
"Have you seen the Bigfoot?"
"Some guys found a dead Bigfoot in north Georgia. They've got pictures."
"You're making that up."
"Everybody's talking about it. Go look it up on the computer."
"I just woke up. Why are you messing with me?"
And so on, until finally I went and looked it up, and sure enough, two men are claiming to have found a dead Bigfoot in the Georgia mountains and to have been keeping it on ice in a freezer.
The pictures of the freshly thawed "body" - which bears a striking resemblance to the title character in the 1940 Boris Karloff horror flick "The Ape" - quickly made their way around the Internet on Thursday. Bigfoot, in fact, was the No. 4 top search on Yahoo, just edging out Michael Phelps but apparently not quite as interesting as Tori Spelling, who was No. 3.
One of the men connected to this amazing "discovery" has already appeared on Fox News and he and his partners will hold a press conference in California today to present "DNA evidence and photo evidence" of the find, according to the press release from Searching For Bigfoot Inc.
Apparently, the actual body will not be in attendance, as it is being studied in "an undisclosed location." The location of the body's discovery is also being withheld "to protect the creatures."
But fear not - Searching for Bigfoot Inc. is organizing expeditions to search for live Bigfoots and will even try to capture one. And I'll bet you'll be able to go along for a low, low price. I'm sure you'll also be able to buy T-shirts and videos. Just click on Shopping for Bigfoot, which is a real link on the company's site.
My wife called back Thursday afternoon, laughing.
"It says credentialed media only. You should go to the press conference, see the fake Bigfoot."
Not going to happen, although the thought of the bean-counters reading "plane ticket to Bigfoot press conference" on an expense account did make me laugh pretty hard.
Jokes aside, I have to admit my childhood fascination came back for a few minutes Thursday while I looked at the pictures. How cool it would it be for once to say, "See, that thing you said couldn't possibly exist? Here it is."
But alas, the moment was short-lived because in addition to the monkey-suit appearance of the "body," at the bottom of the press release I read this:
"Searching for Bigfoot, Inc. has exclusive rights to all publishing rights, photo rights, television and film rights, production and distribution rights and other commercial opportunities related to the discovery and findings regarding this body and these creatures."
I've learned a lot of truths about life in my career as a journalist: You should never leave food unattended on the stove. When a woman is killed, the boyfriend did it. All politicians lie eventually. Ditto for lawyers.
But the truest truth of all is the old phrase from Watergate: Follow the money. When your press release about what, if true, would likely be one of the biggest stories in history includes a disclaimer about your commercial opportunities, I am forced to conclude one thing: Much like it said on "The X-Files," the truth is out there. But it won't be in California today.
What will be there is what this story really is.
A clever marketing gimmick.
E-mail Nate McCullough at firstname.lastname@example.org. His column appears on Fridays.