Both men have always dismissed allegations that they had hoaxed the footage by filming a man wearing an ape suit; in fact Patterson, who died of cancer in 1972, swore on his death bed that the footage was authentic and he had encountered and filmed a large bipedal animal unknown to science. Allegedly Patterson had confessed to the owner of Yakima camera store that he hoaxed the film to generate money for his wife, since he was dying of cancer. His friend and business associate, Gimlin, has always denied being involved in any part of a possible hoax with Patterson and claims that that he and his partner had encountered a real Bigfoot. However, he avoided publicly discussing the subject for many years until about the year 2000 when he began giving interviews and making appearances at Bigfoot conferences.
Some decades after the Patterson-Gimlin film's publicity, Greg Long interviewed people who described Patterson as a liar, a conman, and sometimes worse. 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 Abominable Snowman. (sic)'" (Long, 300). Patterson agreed to repay her $850, plus 5 percent of any profits from the film. Also, records show Bob Gimlin sued DeAtley and Patterson's widow Patricia, in 1975, claiming he wasn't receiving his share of the film's proceeds. In addition, Roger Patterson's own brother-in-law, Bruce Mondor, has come forward and admitted that Roger showed him how he hoaxed bigfoot tracks. No one doubted the sincerity of Patterson's belief in Bigfoot; he was consumed by the search for it.
After securing funding for his Bigfoot documentary from his brother in-law DeAtley, Patterson and his friend Gimlin set out for the Six Rivers National Forest in northern California. Patterson chose the area due to intermittent reports of the creatures in the past and of their enormous footprints near there since 1958. The most recent of these reports was the nearby Blue Creek Mountain track find, which was investigated by journalist John Green, Rene Dahinden, and archaeologist Don Abbott on and after August 28, 1967 (Perez, 8). This find was reported to Patterson soon thereafter by local resident Al Hodgson.
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. According to Krantz (Krantz, 1992) years later, Patterson and Gimlin agreed they should have tried to blow up the creature, both for financial gain and to silence naysayers.
Patterson's expensive 16 mm camera had been rented on May 13, but he had kept it longer than the contract had stipulated, and an arrest warrant had been issued for him on October 17 (Long, 167). This charge was ultimately dismissed after Patterson returned the camera in good working order. (Long, 169)
In the early afternoon of October 20, Patterson and Gimlin were at Bluff Creek. Both were on horseback when they "came to an overturned tree with a large root system at a turn in the creek, almost as high as a room" (Gimlin, quoted in Perez, 9). When they rounded it they spotted the figure behind it nearly simultaneously, while it was "crouching beside the creek to their left" (Krantz, 85). Gimlin later described himself as in a mild state of shock after first seeing the figure.
Patterson estimated he was about away from the creature at his closest. Patterson said that his horse reared upon seeing (or perhaps smelling) the figure, and he spent about twenty seconds extricating himself from the saddle and getting his camera from a saddlebag before he could run toward the figure while operating his camera. He yelled "Cover me" to Gimlin, who thereupon crossed the creek on horseback, rode forward awhile, and, rifle in hand, dismounted (presumably because his horse might have panicked if the creature charged, spoiling his shot).
The figure had walked away from them to a distance of about before Patterson began to run after it. The resulting film (about 53 seconds long) is initially quite shaky until Patterson gets about from the figure. At that point the figure glanced over its right shoulder at the men and Patterson fell to his knees; on Krantz's map this corresponds to frame 264 (Perez, 12). 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."
At this point the steady middle portion of the film begins, containing the famous frame 352 (see accompanying photo above). Patterson said "it turned a total of I think three times" (Wasson, 69), the first time therefore being before the filming began. Shortly after glancing over its shoulder, the creature walks behind a grove of trees, reappears for awhile after Patterson moved ten feet to a better vantage point, then fades into the trees again and is lost to view as the reel of film ran out. Gimlin remounted and followed it on horseback, keeping his distance, until it disappeared around a bend in the road three hundred yards away. Patterson called him back at that point, feeling vulnerable on foot without a rifle, because he feared the creature's mate might approach.
Next, Gimlin rounded up Patterson's horses, which had run off before the filming began, and "the men then tracked it for three miles (5 km), 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. The entire encounter had lasted less than two minutes.
A few hours after the encounter, Patterson telephoned Donald Abbott, whom Krantz described as "the only scientist of any stature to have demonstrated any serious interest in the (Bigfoot) subject," hoping he would help them search for the creature. 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.
Forestry worker Lyle Loverty happened upon the site a day later and photographed the tracks. Taxidermist and outdoorsman Robert Titmus went to the site with his brother-in-law 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.
Patterson initially estimated its height at six and one-half to seven feet (Patterson & Murphy, 195), and later raised his estimate to about seven and one-half feet. (Some later analysts, anthropologist Grover Krantz among them, have suggested Patterson's later 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.
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 program, with Krantz offering his analysis of the film, and also on Joey Bishop's talk show (Long, 258).
While Patterson sought publicity, Gimlin was conspicuous by his absence. He only briefly helped to promote the film (Long, 265) 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 written 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 lymphoma in 1972, still swearing to the authenticity of the film.
Krantz argues, based on an analysis by Igor Bourtsev, that 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 that "[w]e may safely rule out 16 frames per second and accept the speed of 18."
Dahinden stated that "the footage of the horses prior to the Bigfoot film looks jerky and unnatural when projected at 24 frame/s" (Perez, 21). And Dahinden experimented at the film site by having people walk rapidly over the creature's path and reported: "None of us ... could walk that distance in 40 seconds [952 frames / 24 frame/s = 39.6], ... so I eliminated 24 frame/s" (Perez, 21).
Others (including primatologist John Napier, who published before Dahinden and Krantz--see Bayanov, 70) have expressed a different opinion, contending it was "likely that Patterson would have used 24 frame/s" because it "is best suited to TV transmission," while conceding that "this is entirely speculative" (Napier, 94 [2nd printing]). More recently, skeptic and University of Florida anthropologist David Daegling has asserted that even at 16 frame/s the creature's odd walk could be replicated: "Supposed peculiarities of subject speed, stride length, and posture are all reproducible by a human being employing this type of locomotion [a "compliant gait"]" (Daegling, 127).
The figure shown in the Patterson-Gimlin film appears to possess both a sagittal crest and pendulous 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. Napier has noted that a sagittal crest is "only very occasionally seen, to an insignificant extent, in females" (cited in Wasson, 74). 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.
On the Bigfoot episode of Is it Real? on the National Geographic Channel, the two furthered their statement claiming that, due to poorly-duplicated copies of the film, claims about muscle movements, arm proportions, proper finger/wrist flexion, and the like in the film's subject are questionable.
Daegling 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).
Some observers contend that the result can make the creature in the Patterson-Gimlin film look like a human being in a suit. However, Davis himself argues otherwise, claiming that there are subtle indications of muscles moving under the hair and movements impossible for a human, such as the calf bulging on foot-impact and mid-foot flexion off the ground. Skeptics, however, argue that an actor's muscles would also show if the suit was tightly-fitted.
Davis has produced a second stabilized version incorporating enlargements of these specific indications that he notes.
Donskoy concluded the creature was non-human based on its weight, and especially its gait, which Donskoy judged would be difficult if not impossible for a human to replicate. He inferred the film's subject was weighty from the ponderous momentum he observed in the movements of its arms and legs, in the sagging of the knee as weight came onto it, and in the flatness of the foot. Its gait he considered non-artificial because it was confident and unwavering, "neatly expressive," and well-coordinated, and yet non-human because its arm motion and glide resembled a cross-country skier's. Krantz describes Donskoy's conclusion as being that the film depicts "a very massive animal that is definitely not a human being" (Krantz, 92).
Grieve concluded that "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, "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). Like Krantz, Grieve thought the figure's shoulders were quite broad. Also 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 . (196 cm)." He notes that a tall human is consistent with the figure's height but also notes that for a tall human "[t]he shoulder breadth however would be difficult to achieve without giving an unnatural appearance to the arm swing and shoulder contours.
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 possibility that the Sasquatch actually exists. This seems worth stating because others have reacted similarly to the film" (cited in Byrne, 157).
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.
Napier conceded the likelihood of Bigfoot as a real creature, stating, "I am convinced that Sasquatch exists" (Napier, 205--2nd printing). But he argued against the film 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."
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, Australopithecus africanus" (Napier, 95).
Patterson and Gimlin sought various experts to examine the film. Patterson claimed to have 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). It is important to note that the authenticity of that quote has never been verified, and the special effects technicians who allegedly said it have never come forward.
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".
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).
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). The allegation has been repeated by pioneering makeup artist Rick Baker. (Rick Baker comment said by William Dear on the DVD commentary for Harry and the Hendersons.
Shortly after Landis's story was published, stimulated by inquiries from cryptozoologist Loren Coleman, Bigfoot researcher Roberta 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 making the film, and had no knowledge of the Patterson-Gimlin film before its public exposure. Short states that Chambers added "that he was 'good' but he 'was not that good' to have fashioned anything nearly so convincing as the Bluff Creek Bigfoot" (Coleman and Clark, 56). Chambers also reportedly 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 the Patterson film.
Chambers' innovative Planet of the Apes make-up relied primarily on expressive masks, not on body suits, and whatever seams or "zippers" would have appeared on the Planet of the Apes suits were covered up by clothing. Clothing was also used to cover up certain folds and seams on the Ewok costumes in Return of the Jedi (1983). Even when the costumes became more elaborate in the 1970s, the titular creature in the 1976 film version of King Kong still had a clearly-defined separation between the body of the suit and the head mask. Folds in the material have appeared in every film in which there was human costumed as an ape up until Gorillas in the Mist (1988), and they can be identified as such either in close-up or at a distance.
The theory that the costume was designed by John Chambers was reviewed by fellow special effects makeup artist Dick Smith. He reached the conclusion that it was not indicative of his work and any relationship between the video and Chambers was highly unlikely.
This fact demonstrates that somewhat lifelike ape suits were not only possible but available and reasonably affordable at the time Patterson and Gimlin were filming. Since home-movie stock does not clearly record details at a distance, it is argued that if the film was faked, the ape suit did not have to be unusually elaborate.
Morris said that he sold an ape suit to Patterson via mail-order in 1967, thinking it was going to be used in what Patterson described as a "prank" (Long, 446). (Ordinarily the gorilla suits he sold were used for a popular side-show routine that depicted an attractive woman changing into a gorilla.) After the initial sale, Morris said that Patterson telephoned him asking how to make the "shoulders more massive" (Long, 448) and the "arms longer" (Long, 447). Morris says he suggested that whoever wore the suit should wear wide football-type shoulder pads and hold sticks in his hands within the suit. His assertion was also printed in the Charlotte Observer.
As for the creature's walk, Morris said:
The Bigfoot researchers say that no human can walk that way in the film. Oh, yes they can! When you're wearing long clown's feet, you can't place the ball of your foot down first. You have to put your foot down flat. Otherwise, you'll stumble. Another thing, when you put on the gorilla head, you can only turn your head maybe a quarter of the way. And to look behind you, you've got to turn your head and your shoulders and your hips. Plus, the shoulder pads in the suit are in the way of the jaw. That's why the Bigfoot turns and looks the way he does in the film. He has to twist his entire upper body.
Morris' wife and business partner Amy had vouched for her husband and claims to have helped frame the suit.
However, Morris offered no evidence apart from testimony to support his account.
Long uncovered testimony that he contends corroborates Heironimus's claims: Russ Bohannon, a longtime friend, says that Heironimus revealed the hoax privately in 1968 or 1969 (Long, 414). Heironimus says he did not publicly discuss his role in the hoax because he hoped to be repaid eventually. In separate incidents, Bob Heironimus and Heironimus's relatives (mother Opal and nephew John Miller) claim to have seen an ape suit in Heironimus' car. The relatives say they saw the suit two days after the film was shot (Long, 362). No date was given by Long for Hammermeister's observation, but it apparently came well after the relatives' observation, as implied by the word "still" in the justification Heironimus gave Hammermeister for requesting his silence: "There was still supposed to be a payola on this thing, and he didn't have it" (Long, 398).
Long argues that the suit Morris says he sold to Patterson was the same suit Heironimus claims to have worn in the Patterson film. However, Long quotes Heironimus and Morris describing ape suits that are in many respects quite different from one another; Long speculates that Patterson modified the costume, and offers colloborative evidence and testimony to support this idea. Among the notable differences are:
The evidence for this involvement is Wallace's alleged statement, "I felt sorry for Roger Patterson. He told me he had cancer of the lymph glands and he was desperately broke and he wanted to try to get something where he could have a little income. Well, he went down there exactly where I told him. I told him, 'You go down there and hang around on that bank. Stay up there and watch that spot.'" This quote is debated, however, as others suggest that Wallace made no such claims during his lifetime.
Coleman has written that Patterson was an early Bigfoot investigator, and that is was only natural that he sought out and interviewed older Bigfoot event principals, which included Wallace, due to the 1958 Bluff Creek incidents. Coleman has asserted that Wallace had nothing to do with Patterson's footage in 1967, and has argued in an analysis of the media treatment of the death of Wallace that the international media inappropriately confused the Wallace fake films of the 1970s with the Patterson-Gimlin 1967 film.(Coleman, 2007)
Stein comments on Patterson's incredible good luck. "Roger Patterson set out to make a Bigfoot documentary," he says. "He immediately stumbled upon a Bigfoot. Not only that, he stumbled upon a Bigfoot that was out in the open in bright, clear sunshine, perfect weather for filming. He didn't just beat the odds. He gave the odds a royal whipping."