Patterson-Gimlin film

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Patterson-Gimlin Bigfoot

The Patterson-Gimlin film is a motion picture of a purported Bigfoot, filmed by Roger Patterson and Robert Gimlin on October 20, 1967.

The film has been studied by biologists, anthropologists, photographers and others, both amateur and professional, yet opinions remain divided as to its authenticity. Most mainstream experts have declared the film a hoax, depicting a person in a suit. Some argue the film depicts a genuine, unknown creature; anthropologist Grover Krantz held this position. Others still have taken an agnostic position: Ecologist Robert Michael Pyle does not endorse the film as authentic, but also writes that it “has never been convincingly debunked.”(Pyle, 208)

There have been many rumors and claims regarding alleged hoaxers, but no one yet has offered conclusive evidence supporting a hoax. If the film was indeed hoaxed, no one has presented the "suit", which could, conceivably, be worth a small fortune.

Patterson died in 1972 of a cancer he had suffered on-and-off for at least eight years. Gimlin is alive and has recently begun making appearances at Bigfoot conferences. Previously he kept out of the public eye and had little contact with Bigfooters. Both men dismissed allegations that they had hoaxed the film, and Patterson was firm in his insistence that they had encountered and filmed an animal unknown to science. For decades, Gimlin held a similar position, though his opinion wavered somewhat in his later years. Gimlin said he did not hoax the film, but in a 1999 telephone interview with television producer Chris Packham, Gimlin said that for some time, “I was totally convinced no one could fool me. And of course I’m an older man now ... and I think there could have been the possibility (of a hoax). But it would have to be really well planned by Roger (Patterson).” (Long, 166)

Contents

Background

Patterson says he became interested in Bigfoot after reading press reports of the creature in 1957. His book Do Abominable Snowmen of America Really Exist? was self-published in 1966. The book’s been characterised as "little more than a collection of newspaper clippings laced together with Patterson’s circus-poster style prose." (Hunter and Dahinden, 113)

Some decades after the Patterson Film's publicity, Greg Long interviewed people who described Patterson as shifty, opportunistic and deceptive. Pat Mason, Glen Koelling, Bob Swanson and Vilma Radford claimed Patterson never repaid loans they made to him for various Bigfoot-related ventures. Radford alone had corroborative evidence: A $700 promissory note “for expenses in connection with filming of ‘Bigfoot: Americas (sic) Abominable Snowman.’” Patterson agreed to repay her $850, plus five percent of any profits from the film.

After securing funding for his Bigfoot documentary, Patterson and his friend Gilmlin set out for the Six Rivers National Forest in northern California, USA. Patterson chose the area due to intermittent reports of the creatures in the past and of their enormous footprints near there since 1958, reports which had garnered major attention in 1966. In addition, he had just received a hot from a local resident that tracks had turned up again.

Though Gimlin says he doubted the existence of Sasquatch-like creatures, he agreed to Patterson's suggestion that they should not attempt to shoot any such creatures they might see. (Years later, Patterson and Gimlin agreed they should have tried to shoot the creature; both for financial gain and to silence naysayers.) (Krantz, 85)

Patterson’s expensive 16mm camera was rented, but he had kept it longer than the contract had stipulated, and an arrest warrant had been issued for him. (Wasson, 66) This charge was ultimately dismissed after Patterson returned the camera. (Long, 169)

The Encounter

As Patterson and Gimlin were allegedly the only human witnesses to their brief encounter with a Sasquatch, we have their testimonies alone in studying the account. Their statements agree in general, but Long notes a number of inconsistencies. In subsequent years, Patterson and Gimlin offered different times for the encounter, ranging between 1.00 pm and 3.00 pm, and offered somewhat different sequences in describing how they and the horses reacted upon seeing the creature. Patterson in particular increased his estimates of the creature’s size in subsequent retellings of encounter. (Long, 162 - 165) In a different context, Long notes, these discrepancies would probably be considered minor, but given the extraordinary claims made by Patterson and Gimlin, any apparent disagreements in perception or memory are worth noting.

In the early afternoon of October 20, Patterson and Gimlin were at Bluff Creek. Both were on horseback when they say they spotted the figure nearly simultaneously, while it was “crouching beside the creek to their left.” (Krantz, 85).

Patterson said that his horse reared upon seeing (or perhaps smelling) the figure, and he spent about twenty seconds extricating himself from the saddle before he recovered and ran toward the figure while preparing his camera. Patterson estimated he was about 25 feet away from the creature at his closest.

The figure walked away from them as Patterson walked quickly towards it. Patterson stumbled and fell to his knees, all the while filming. At about the moment he fell, the figure glanced over its right shoulder at the men; this is perhaps the most famous image associated with Bigfoot. To researcher John Green, Patterson would later characterize the creature’s expression as one of “contempt and disgust ... you know how it is when the umpire tells you ‘one more word and you’re out of the game.’ That’s the way it felt.”(Krantz, 85)

The resulting film (about 53 seconds long) is initially quite shaky until Patterson gets about 80 feet from the figure. Patterson estimated its height at about seven and one-half feet; (some later analyses, anthropologist Grover Krantz’s among them, have suggested Patterson’s estimate was about a foot too tall.) The film shows a large, hairy bipedal apelike figure with short black hair covering most of its body, including the figure's prominent breasts. The figure's head is somewhat pointed; some have argued this feature is a sagittal crest, a type of ridge also found on gorillas. The figure depicted in the Patterson-Gimlin film generally matches the descriptions of Bigfoot offered by others who claim to have seen the creatures. Shortly after glancing over its shoulder, the creature walks into a grove of trees and is lost to view.

The entire encounter had lasted less that two minutes. Gimlin says that “while Patterson was filming, he “was trying to control the panicked horses.” (Hunter and Dahinden, 115) He later described himself as in a mild state of shock after first seeing the figure.

Soon after the figure walked into the trees, “the men then tracked it for three miles, but lost it in the heavy undergrowth.” (Coleman and Clark, 198) They returned to the initial site, measured the creature’s stride, made two plaster casts (of the best-quality right and left prints), and covered the other prints to protect them.

Shortly after the encounter, Patterson telephoned Donald Abbott, “the only scientist of any stature to have demonstrated any serious interest in the (Bigfoot) subject”, hoping he’d help them search for the creature (possibly with tracking dogs). Abbott declined, and Krantz argued this call to authorities the same day of the encounter is evidence against a hoax, at least on Patterson’s part. (Krantz, 122)

With Robert Titmus, Patterson and Gimlin returned to the site nine days later. Titmus made casts of the creature’s prints, and as best he could, plotted Patterson’s and the creature’s movements on a map.

Aftermath

Krantz writes that "Patterson had the film developed as soon as possible. At first he thought he had brought in proof of bigfoot’s existence and really expected the scientists to accept it. Actually only a few scientists were willing to even look at the film, and most of them promptly declared it a fake. It was then incorporated as the centerpiece of the documentary film that Patterson had set out to make in the first place. This was taken around and shown in local movie houses around the Pacific Northwest, and brought in a fair amount of money that way." (Krantz, 91-92) This was a muted triumph, however: Patterson sold overlapping distribution rights for the film to several parties, which resulted in costly legal entanglements.

Though there was little scientific interest in the film, Patterson was still able to capitalize on it. Beyond the documentary, the film generated a fair amount of publicity. Patterson appeared on several popular talk shows to show the film and promote the documentary; on Merv Griffin's programme, with Krantz offering his analysis of the film (Krantz 120), and also on Joey Bishop’s talk show. (Long, 258)

While Patterson sought publicity, Gimlin was conspicuous by his absence. He did not help promote the film, and avoided discussing his Bigfoot encounter publicly for many subsequent years. He would later report that he’d avoided publicity after Patterson and promoter Al DeAtley had broken their agreement to pay Gimlin a share of any profits generated by the film. (Long, 159 - 160)

Krantz reports that “A few years after the film was made, Patterson received a letter from a man in Thailand who assured him a sasquatch was being held in a Buddhist monastery. Patterson spent most of his remaining money preparing an expedition to retrieve this creature” only to learn it was a hoax. Patterson died of Hodgkin’s disease in 1972, still swearing to the authenticity of the film.

Filming Speed

One fact complicates discussion of the Patterson film: His camera was capable of filming at 16, 18 or 24 frames per second. Patterson says he normally filmed at 24 frames per second, but in his haste to capture the Bigfoot on film, he did not note the camera’s setting. Krantz argues since Patterson’s height is known, a reasonable calculation can be made of his pace. This running pace can be synchronized with the regular bounces in the initial jumpy portions of the film that were caused by each fast step Patterson took to approach the creature.

Based on this analysis, Krantz argues that a speed of 24 frames per second can be quickly dismissed, and "We may safely rule out 16 frames per second and accept the speed of 18." (Krantz, 96)

Legal Status

Henry Franzoni reports that “Mrs. Patterson, Roger Patterson's widow, who still lives in Yakima, WA, has the TV and Movie rights to the actual film. Rene Dahinden has the rights to the 953 still frames from the film.” Franzoni also reports that “The original film no longer exists. Five known copies were made of the original film. The five copies, long, long ago, were once in the possession of René Dahinden, John Green, Dr. Grover Krantz, Erik Beckjord, and Peter Byrne. René Dahinden possesses one of the copies, but it is no longer known who possesses the other four original copies, or if they still exist.“ [1] (http://www.rfthomas.clara.net/papers/faq.html#q6)

Analyses

In 2004, Anthropologist David Daegling (who leans strongly towards a hoax conclusion) notes that in 1967, movie and television special effects were rather primitive when compared to the more sophisticated effects in later decades, and allows that if the Patterson film depicts a man in a suit that “it is not unreasonable to suggest that it is better than some of the tackier monster outfits that got thrown together for television at that time.”(Daegling, 112)

Daegling also writes, “The skeptics have not felt compelled to offer much of a detailed argument against the film; the burden of proof, rightly enough, should lie with the advocates.” Yet without a detailed argument against authenticity, Daegling notes that “the film has not gone away.” (Daegling, 119)

Similarly, Krantz argues that of the many opinions offered about the Patterson film, “Only a few of these opinions are based on technical expertise and careful study of the film itself.” (Krantz, 92)

Curiously, the figure shown in the Patterson-Gimlin film appears to possess both a sagittal crest (usually restricted to male gorillas) and pendulous female breasts (as in human and chimpanzee females). Neither humans nor chimpanzees have hairy breasts as does the figure in the film, and critics have argued these features are evidence against authenticity. Supporters speculate that a sagittal crest might be related to Bigfoot size or maturity, not to sex, and caution against applying established standards to what may be an unknown creature. Napier has noted that a sagittal crest is “only very occasionally seen, to an insignificant extent, in females.” (cited in Wasson, 74)

A few notable opinions on the Patterson film are listed below:

Dmitri Donskoy

Anthropologist David Daegling reports that the only formal academic study of the Patterson film was conducted by Dmitri Donskoy of Moscow’s Darwin Museum. (Daegling, 45) Krantz describes Donskoy’s conclusion as being that the film depicts “a very massive animal that is definitely not a human being.” (Krantz, 92)

D.W. Grieve

Anatomist D.W. Grieve of the Royal Free Hospital School of Medicine studied a copy of the film in 1971, and wrote a detailed analysis. He notes that "The possibility of a very clever fake cannot be ruled out on the evidence of the film", but also writes that his analysis hinges largely on the question of filming speed.

Like Krantz, Grieve thought Patterson's estimate of the figure's height was inaccurate. Grieve concluded the figure in the Patterson film revealed "an estimated standing height for the subject of not more than 6 ft. 5 in. (196 cm.)."

If filmed at the slower speed, Grieve concluded, "the possibility of fakery is ruled out if the speed of the film was 16 or 18 frames per second. In these conditions a normal human being could not duplicate the observed pattern, which would suggest that the Sasquatch must possess a very different locomotor system to that of man."

If filmed at the higher speed, Grieve concluded that the creature “walked with a gait pattern very similar in most respects to a man walking at high speed.”

Grieve noted that "I can see the muscle masses in the appropriate places ... If it is a fake, it is an extremely clever one." (Hunter and Dahinden, 120) Also like Krantz, Greive thought the figure's shoulders were quite broad. He notes that a tall human is consistent with the figure's height, but also notes that for a tall human, "The shoulder breadth however would be difficult to achieve without giving an unnatural appearance to the arm swing and shoulder contours."[2] (http://home.clara.net/rfthomas/papers/grieve.html)

More personally, Grieve notes that his “subjective impressions have oscillated between total acceptance of the Sasquatch based on the grounds that the film would be difficult to fake, to one of irrational rejection based on an emotional response to the the possibility that the Sasquatch actually exists. This seems worth stating because others have reacted similarly to the film.”(cited in Byrne, 157)

Bernard Huevelmans

Bernard Heuvelmans — a zoologist, and the so-called "father of cryptozoology" —thought the creature in the Patterson film was a suited human. [3] (http://www.strangemag.com/pattersonfilm30th.html)

Grover Krantz

Krantz offered an in-depth examination of the Patterson film. (Krantz, 87 - 124) He concluded the film depicts a genuine, unknown creature, citing the following factors, among others:

  • Primarily, Krantz's argument is based on a detailed analysis of the figure's stride, center of gravity, and biomechanics. Krantz argues that the creature's leg and foot motions are quite different from a human's and could not have been duplicated by a person wearing a suit.
  • Krantz pointed out the tremendous width of the creature's shoulders--which he estimated at about three feet across--arguing there was no way a suited person could mimic this and still have the naturalistic hand and arm motions present on the film.
  • Krantz and others have noted naturalistic-looking musculature ( Hunter and Dahinden note that "the bottom of the figure's head seems to become part of the heavy back and shoulder muscles ... the muscles of the buttocks were distinct" Hunter and Dahinden, 114) visible as the creature moved, arguing this would be highly difficult or impossible to fake.
  • Krantz also interviewed Patterson extensively, and as noted below, thought Patterson lacked the technical skill and knowledge needed to create such a realistic-looking costume.
  • Krantz reports that in 1969 John Green (who at one point owned a first-generation copy of the original Patterson film) interviewed Disney executive Ken Peterson, who after viewing the Patterson film, asserted "that their technicians would not be able to duplicate the film."(Krantz, 93) Krantz argues that if Disney personnel (among the best special effects experts of their era) were unable to duplicate the film, there's little likelihood that Patterson could have done so. (Krantz, 121)
  • More recently, Krantz showed the film to Gordon Valient, a researcher for Nike shoes, who he says "made some rather useful observations about some rather unhuman movements he could see." (ibid)

Jeff Meldrum

Dr. Jeff Meldrum of Idaho State University cites efforts by John Green as important in his own studies of the Patterson film. "It has been obvious to even the casual viewer that the film subject possesses arms that are disproportionately long for its stature." Meldrum writes that "Anthropologists typically express limb proportions as an intermembral index (IM)" and notes that humans have an average IM index of 72, gorillas an average IM index of 117 and chimpanzees an average IM index of 106.

After noting the difficulty in determining an IM index for the figure in the Patterson film, Meldrum concludes the figure has "an IM index somewhere between 80 and 90, intermediate between humans and African apes. In spite of the imprecision of this preliminary estimate, it is well beyond the mean for humans and effectively rules out a man-in-a-suit explanation for the Patterson-Gimlin film without invoking an elaborate, if not inconceivable, prosthetic contrivance to account for the appropriate positions and actions of wrist and elbow and finger flexion visible on the film. This point deserves further examination and may well rule out the probability of hoaxing."[4] (http://www.rfthomas.clara.net/papers/thoughts.html)

John Napier

Prominent primate expert John Napier (onetime director of the Smithsonian's Primate Biology Program) was perhaps the first mainstream scientist to not only critique the Patterson film, but also to study then-available Bigfoot evidence in a generally sympathetic and even-handed manner in his 1973 book, Bigfoot: The Sasquatch and Yeti in Myth and Reality. (Incidentally, Napier generally argued against the likelyhood of Bigfoot as a real creature, citing a lack of phyical evidence.)

Napier argued against the film’s being genuine: "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." [5] (http://www.strangemag.com/pattersonfilm30th.html)

He adds "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." (Napier, 95)

While not challenging Napier’s expertise in primate studies, psychologist Barbara Wasson finds fault with his analysis of the Patterson film: “I must disagree with John Napier. In fact, I disagree most heartily with Mr. Napier. His logic is deplorable.” (Wasson, 72) Wasson goes on to point out a number of what she contends are logical fallacies in Napier’s arguments, stating in summary, “It is clear to me that all of Napier’s views have very serious flaws in logic, thought process and visual perception. He primarily attempts to impose known standards on a creature that may be a live, unknown creature in an attempt to discount the existence of such a creature. Such an attitude, much less the ridiculous arguments he submits, is unworthy of a man of his profession.” (ibid, 76)

North American Science Institute

The North American Science Institute was founded in Hood River, Oregon in the late 1990s to study reports of the Sasquatch phenomenon. Now apparently defunct, in 1998 the organization undertook what it claimed was a $75,000 study of the Patterson-Gimlin film and concluded that "the Patterson Film’s Bigfoot is genuine, and computer enhancement analysis suggests the creature’s skin and musculature are what one would expect to find in a living animal, not in a hairy suit, however innovatively constructed." (Coleman and Clark, 200)

Hoax Allegations

Patterson and/or Gimlin

When considering the possibility of a hoax, many critics immediately suspected one or both of the men who witnessed the figure depicted in the film. Patterson and Gimlin both denied that they’d perpetrated a hoax, but as noted above, Gimlin allowed for at least the possibility of a hoax on Patterson's part.

Indeed, if they had perpetrated a hoax, they were most confident of it, in seeking various experts to examine the film. Patterson screened the film for unnamed “technicians in the special effects department at Universal Studios in Hollywood ... Their conclusion was: ‘We could try (faking it), but we would have to create a completely new system of artificial muscles and find an actor who could be trained to walk like that. It might be done, but we would have to say that it would be almost impossible.’” (Hunter and Dahinden, 119)

Anthropologist David Daegling writes that the “more cynical skeptics” see Patterson’s luck as “more than a little suspicious”: He sets out to make a Bigfoot documentary, then almost literally stumbles across a Bigfoot. Daegling, however, offers the benefit of the doubt, noting that Patterson’s reasoning is sound: In seeking something elusive, he went to where it had been reported. (Daegling, 78)

Krantz thought Patterson might have perpetrated such a hoax, given the opportunity and resources, but he also argued that Patterson had “nowhere near the knowledge or facilities to do so--nor for that matter, did anyone else ... When I talked about some of the more technical details of biomechanics, he (Patterson) showed the familiar blank look of a student who had lost the drift of the explanation, but was still trying hard to pay attention. Yet he must have known all these details to create a hoax. For instance, he could see the anterior position of the front of the shin, but how that related to foot leverage was quite beyond him.”(Krantz, 120)

Similarly, Daegling writes that “Most acquaintances of Patterson volunteered that neither he nor Gimlin were clever enough to put something that detailed together.”(Daegling, 112)

John Chambers

Rumors circulated that the creature seen in the Patterson-Gimlin film was a suit designed by movie special effects expert John Chambers, who designed the ape costumes seen in many of the original Planet of the Apes films, and was reportedly an acquaintance of Ray Wallace and Bob Gimlin.

Film director John Landis (who had earlier worked with Chambers on Beneath the Planet of the Apes) certainly helped spread such rumors, if he didn’t invent them outright. Coleman and Clark cite a 1997 Sunday Telegraph story where Landis says, “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.” (Coleman and Clark, 56)

Shortly after this story was published, Bigfoot researcher Bobbie Short interviewed Chambers, who was living in a Los Angeles nursing home. Chambers asserted he did not know Patterson or Gimlin, was not involved in hoaxing the film, and had no knowledge of the Patterson-Gimlin film before its public exposure. Chambers added “that he was ‘good’ but he ‘was not that good’ to have fashioned anything nearly so convincing as the Bluff Creek Bigfoot.” (ibid) Chambers also told Short he had once helped create a Bigfoot sculpture, and speculated that this fact may have started or fueled the rumors that he was involved in hoaxing the Patterson film.

It’s also worth noting that Chambers’ innovative ‘’Planet of the Apes’’ make-up relied primarily on expressive masks, not on body suits.

Philip Morris and/or Bob Heironimus

Phillip Morris

Recently, Philip Morris of Morris Costumes (a North Carolina-based company offering costumes, props and stage products) claimed that he made a gorilla costume that was used in the Patterson film. Morris says he discussed his role in the hoax privately in the 1980’s, but first admitted it publicly on August 16, 2002 on Charlotte, North Carolina radio station WBT-AM. (Long, 444) Morris claims he was reluctant to expose the hoax earlier for fear of harming his business: Giving away a performer’s secrets, he says, would be widely regarded as disreputable. (Long, 453)

Morris asserts that he sold an ape suit to Patterson via mail-order in 1967, thinking it was going to be used in a carnival sideshow act, like many other gorilla suits he’d sold for a popular routine that depicts an attractive woman changing into a gorilla. After the initial sale, Morris said that Patterson telephoned him asking how to make the costume appear more human-like; Morris says he suggested that whomever wore the suit should wear wide football-type shoulder pads and hold sticks in his hands within the suit to make his arms appear longer than normal. His assertion was also printed in the Charlotte Herald. [6] (http://www.charlotte.com/mld/charlotte/business/8637087.htm).

Beyond his rather detailed account, Morris has offered no corroborative evidence or testimony.

Bob Heronimus

Bob Heronimus claims to have been the figure depicted in the Patterson film, and his allegations are detailed in Long’s book. Heronimus was a tall, muscular Yakima, Washington native in his mid-20’s when he says Patterson offered him $1000 to wear an ape suit for a Bigfoot film.

Long uncovered testimony which corroborates Heironimus' claims: Russ Bohannon, a longtime longtime friend, says that Heronimus revealed the hoax privately in 1967 or 1968. Heronimus says he didn’t publicly discuss his role in the hoax due to Patterson’s insistence that it might take some time to generate the promised $1000 payment. In separate incidents, Bob Hammermeister and Heronimus’s mother Opal both claim to have seen an ape suit in Heronimus’ car at about the time the film was alleged to have been made. (Long, 362)

Long argues that the suit Morris says he sold to Patterson was the same suit Heronimus claims to have worn in the Patterson film. However, Long quotes Heronimus and Morris describing ape suits that are in many respects quite different; Long speculates that Patterson modified the costume.

  • Heronimus says that the suit was manufactured by Patterson from a “real dark brown” horse hide. (Long, 344) This point is repeated several times: “It stunk: Roger skinned out a dead, red horse.” (ibid) Heronimus also reports that the suit’s fur was from an old fur coat.
  • Morris reports that the suit was a rather expensive ($450) dark brown model with fur made of dynel, a synthetic material. Long writes that Morris “used Dynel solely in the sixties--and was using brown dynel in 1967”.(Long, 449)

Ray Wallace

After his death in 2002, the family of Ray Wallace went public with claims that he had started the entire Bigfoot phenomenon and had something to do with the Patterson-Gimlin film. Wallace was well known for his dubious claims, however, so some Bigfoot researchers discount Wallace’s involvement.

Sources

External links

de:Patterson/Gimlin-Film

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