"Bigfoot" was rubber gorilla costume

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - No wonder Bigfoot failed a DNA test. Researchers said on Tuesday the hairy heap claimed by two men to be the corpse of the mythical half-ape, half-human creature was actually a full-body rubber gorilla costume.

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The discovery adds another dimension to what appears to be an elaborate hoax by Matthew Whitton and Rick Dyer, the owners of a company that offers Bigfoot merchandise, that sparked an Internet frenzy last week.

The pair said they discovered the Bigfoot corpse while hiking in the woods of northern Georgia, with a dubious photo -- and the commercial interests of the alleged discoverers -- drawing interest from Australia to Europe and even The New York Times.

The men held a news conference last Friday which revealed the results of tests on genetic material from the alleged remains, which were frozen in ice and placed in a freezer, did not prove the creature’s existence.

Bigfoot creatures are said to live in the forests of the U.S. Pacific Northwest.

Steve Kulls, executive director of the Web site and host of Squatchdetective Radio, said in an online statement that the rubber suit was discovered after the researchers thawed the “corpse.”

He said he was part of a team that involved Tom Biscardi, host of a weekly online radio show about the Bigfoot who was contacted by the alleged discoverers.

Kulls’ statement, also carried by Biscardi’s Web site, referred to the claim that the corpse of a creature fitting the description known as Bigfoot had been discovered.

“This has since been proven a lie,” said Kulls.

In a detailed statement, Kulls said researchers had used heat to speed up the thawing of the shaggy remains. Within an hour, they realized at least part of the head was hollow and, over the next hour, a break appeared near the feet.

“As the team and I began examining this area ... I observed the foot which looked unnatural, reached in and confirmed it was a rubber foot,” said Kulls.

The whereabouts of Whitton and Dyer were not known on Tuesday.

Writing by Miral Fahmy, editing by John O’Callaghan