Floppy Saturday?

Back in 1967 two men, Roger Patterson and Bob Gimlin, came back from an expedition to find 'bigfoot' with some film which I still consider to be, almost 40 years later, one of the most interesting bits of unexplained footage in the world.

Here's their side of the story*:

In 1957 Roger Patterson became interested in 'Bigfoot' after reading newspaper stories about the creature. Some of these stories were further fuelled in the next year by practical joker Ray Wallace who in 1958 strapped on some giant feet and walked around a logging camp in the Six Rivers National Forest. He was not a known hoaxer at the time and his visible footprints formed a large part of the growing myth into which Roger Patterson and his friend Bob Gimlin were investigating.

They spent time looking in different areas around Washington following-up reports of sightings or footprints. Patterson even wrote a book "Do Abominable Snowmen of America Really Exist?" which was published in 1966.

During late August and early September 1967, the two of them were making a documentary film about Bigfoot, in the Mt. St. Helen's area. When they arrived back Patrica Patterson, Roger’s wife relayed a message from friends of theirs in Willow Creek, California. Al Hodgson and Syl McCoy had reported footprints, found in the Bluff Creek area. The tracks were three different sizes and had been found on new logging roads being built in the region. The location had been the scene of considerable bigfoot activity nine years earlier when in Jerry Crew found large human-like footprints there. Footprints which were to help coin the name "Bigfoot".

Patterson and Gimlin started planning their investigation of Bluff Creek which is in and around Willow Creek, a frontier town that sits near the Oregon border, right in the center of the Klamath and Six Rivers National Forests. They wanted to find and film fresh footprints so Patterson rented a 16mm movie camera and bought two 100-foot rolls of color film for the expedition. They drove there in a truck, taking three horses for the latter part of the journey. Dissapointment struck them immediately though as rain had pretty much ruined the footprints.

Undeterred they set up camp near Bluff Creek itself and headed off on horseback exploring the area. They used 76-feet of the first film roll for general filming and for seven days saw nothing of note. Then on October 20th he and Gimlin were riding, due north of Willow Creek, when they were thrown off their horses. Whipping out the camera and pointing it in the direction of the disturbance, over on the other side of the river, they filmed a creature whose full height Patterson estimated at seven feet, four inches. It began walking toward the woods. Gimlin kept watch with a rifle at the ready as his friend Patterson filmed 24-feet of color film, using up the first roll. Apparently the two had a pact that they would not shoot the bigfoot if a situation arose.

They then followed the creature until they lost the tracks in the mountains. Fortunately in that area there is a sandy clay soil which holds footprints well for a long period of time, inspite of rain. The footprints were 14 and a 1/2 inches long by 6 inches wide. They made plaster casts of these prints. They then claimed that heavy rain over the next few days stopped any further investigations. However other claims were made that they were worried about a possible confrontation with the creature.

When Patterson got back he got hold of a fellow bigfoot expert, Al Hodgson and then went public with his findings.

Directly below is the clip itself, as hosted on YouTube.

Here's the direct link to YouTube.

What I love about the footage is that most people just dismiss it as a bloke in a suit. I played it recently to a good mate of mine Daryl Denham and he couldn't see what the fuss was. The real fun for me is the story which follows as the 952 frames of film are subjected to all manner of examination and analysis. Firstly people noticed that it apparently has breasts so must be female. The fact the creature's face doesn't tally up to a human's is another area some focussed on. Then there's the odd way in which it walks. Something which struck me the first time I saw it. The infamous 'bigfoot walk'. It could be that the person in the suit is attempting to stamp down footprints as they go. Some people have drawn attention to the way it moves its neck. A large number of people genuinely believe this is not just a man in a suit.

The best smackdown of the footage I've found, so far, comes courtesy of Rotten.com:

"In 1967, Roger Patterson produced the greatest Bigfoot movie of all time, which ultimately became the progenitor of the Blair Witch Project. Patterson's groundbreaking 16mm film established the elements of the genre: woodland setting, spazzy camerawork, complete fraud. If not for the exquisitely ragged cinematography, it would have obviously been a guy in a furry suit. The costume wasn't that great; the handheld shakicam is what sold it."

I'm not entirely won over by this argument though. There's some great still cam footage done by a bloke called M.K Davis years later which you can see here on YouTube:

Or the direct link

Here, even more so, you can see the odd way in which he's walking. I'd argue that this enhanced footage is even more odd and interesting. If it was a hoax it was a pretty good one. Also, notice the movement of the skin, if it is a costume it's a realistic one. Here's where special effects legend John Chambers enters the story. He was the bloke who did the suits used in the "Planet of the Apes" films. They were such a huge innovation at the time that he won an Academy Award for them in 1968. The time frame fits, he was making them in the same year that the bigfoot film was shot. I love the idea that it's actually a "Planet of The Apes" suit.

In October 1997, film director John Landis said Chambers had revealed this when they worked on Beneath the Planet of the Apes in 1970: "That famous piece of film of Bigfoot walking in the woods that was touted as the real thing was just a suit made by John Chambers".

He was making monster suits for Lost in Space in 1965 and 1966, which look very like the creature in the Patterson film, only with a different head. Apparently the bigfoot in the film also shows signs of having a water bag under the fur in the stomach area. This is a trick used to make a suit move like real flesh would. This is a technique with which Chambers would be familliar.

However cryptozoo.monstrous.com has this:

"Chambers, who currently resides in a Los Angeles nursing home in frail health, has recently told interviewers that he had nothing to do with the Bigfoot seen in Patterson's film. In an interview of February 1997 by Bobbie Short, a registered nurse and Bigfoot investigator, Chambers denied any involvement with the Patterson-Gimlin film. He also stated that in his opinion, neither he nor anyone else could have fabricated the creature seen in the film. Chambers went on to state that he was good, but not that good. Chambers admitted he was aware of rumors concerning his involvement in the film. He never took steps to set the record straight because it was good for business."

Money of course is one of the key factors in this story. Patterson made a lot of money by selling his film and licencing the footage. However, his friend Bob Gimlin didn't make any money at all and in 1992 he said he might have been fooled but only if his friend Roger has invented it beforehand and set him up as an unknowing eyewitness.

This website has some great extracts from various scientists who have analysed the footage:

Dr. Grover Krantz - {From a Summer 1994 Interview, from the TV show "Encounter's the Hidden Truth"}

"I went through it, frame by frame, measuring everything I could on it... what the body proportions were... and I can state flatly that there is no human being alive who could fit into a costume with the dimensions that are shown there."

"Maybe it's a man whose got his elbows out, and that's the shoulders... But, then any man of that height... the elbows are much to far apart to be the shoulders... there's one way you could do it"...(i.e. fake the movie)..."You get a six and a half foot tall man, go one third out on his upper arm, break it, and introduce a new joint."

John Napier

"There is little doubt that the scientific evidence taken collectively points to a hoax of some kind. The creature shown in the film does not stand up well to functional analysis. ...I could not see the zipper; and I still can't. There I think we must leave the matter. Perhaps it was a man dressed up in a monkey-skin, if so it was a brilliantly executed hoax and the unknown perpetrator will take his place with the great hoaxers of the world.

Perhaps it was the first film of a new type of hominid, quite unknown to science, in which case Roger Patterson deserves to rank with Dubois, the discoverer of Pithecanthropus erectus, or Raymond Dart of Johannesburg, the man who introduced the world to its immediate human ancestor, Australopithicus africanus."

Dr. Dmitri D. Donskoy, Chief of the Chair of Biomechanics at the U.S.S.R.

A biomechanical study of the film was done by the Central Institute of Physical Culture in Moscow. He examined both the movie and stills taken from it, and concluded that it showed an efficient pattern of locomotion which differed from that used by humans. Dr. Donskoy noted that the arm motion indicated a being with massive arms and the muscles strong. The leg movements he finds to be typical of massive limbs with relaxed muscles, while the amount of knee flexion far exceeds that of a normal human walk. He concludes that this creature walks is absolutely different from any human gait.

Dr. William Montagna, the director of the federal primate center at Beaverton, Oregon, writing in Primate News, September, 1976 says:

Along with some colleagues, I had the dubious distinction of being among the first to view this few-second-long bit of foolishness. As I sat watching the hazy outlines of a big, black, hairy man-ape taking long, deliberate human strides, I blushed for those scientists who spent unconscionable amounts of time analyzing the dynamics, and angulation of the gait and the shape of the animal, only to conclude (cautiously, mind you) that they could not decide what it was. For real or woe, I am neither modest about my scientific adroitness nor cautious about my convictions.

Stated simply, Patterson and friends perpetrated a hoax. As the gait, erect body, and swing of the arms attest, their Sasquatch was a large man in a poorly made monkey suit. Even a schoolchild would not be taken in. The crowning irony was Patterson's touch of glamor: making his monster into a female with large pendulous breasts. If Patterson had done his homework, he would have known that regardless of how hirsute an animal is, its mammary glands are always covered with such short hairs as to appear naked.

To believers who complain that we scientists are too opinionated to look at the evidence, I reply: Is a scientist to listen to every zealot who regales him with tales of a putrid stench, who shows him fake footprints, or makes films of a man wearing a badly tailored monkey suit? The scientist who is reviled because he won't listen to fantasy goes securely on his way, knowing that life is so full of real wonderment and mystery that he does not have to fantasize.

But perhaps I ought to add that man's need to fantasize is a vestigial remnant of his past. It created mythological characters, good and evil; visions of miraculous events, heaven, purgatory and hell. It created the oracles, the art of palmistry, phrenology, astrology and all sorts of other occult sciences. And finally, it peopled man's world with monsters"

That said, in 1997 the North American Science Institute concluded that Patterson's Bigfoot is genuine. The link to their findings is here.

Furthermore computer enhancement shows in more detail the moving skin and hands of the creature as well as a close up of its face. You can see that, here. Again this work has been done by the researcher MK Davis.

There was also a book called "The Making of Bigfoot" which was written by author Greg Long. From what I can gather on the net it seems like a character assasination of Patterson. It even throws up a bloke called Bob Heironimus who gave this cracking quote to the local TV station 7KTVB:

"I could have spilled my guts 30 years ago… but I kept it quiet because I promised I would... But I think after 35 years, the truth should come out."

The book attacks Patterson for his greed and money making yet appears to have been an exercise in cashing in itself.

An odd story with no juicy death bed confessions, yet.


*Largely cribbed from cryptozoo.monstrous.com.


Anonymous said…
That's fascinating, Nick. Looks like a bloke in a suit to me.
lw said…
Nice post Nick. It was a good hoax to have so many people know of it, even after so long.
Neil Porter said…
Some people like to believe things outside their own reality. Does it make them feel more special?

If bigfoot really exists/existed then we'd know about it. We would NOT all be squinting close to a monitor trying to convince ourselves that this movie is of some kind of apeman.

Ghosts, Aliens, Astrology, Bigfoot, the US government conspiring to blow up the twin towers, etc. etc. meh whatever.
Spag Bog said…
Utter nonsense.

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