Strange Americana: Does Video Footage of Bigfoot Really Exist?

By Helen LinLast Updated Jan 22, 2021 12:46:58 AM ET
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Photo Courtesy: RichVintage/Getty Images

Does video footage of Bigfoot exist? In a way, sure. These days, it's less a question of whether or not there’s video footage of Bigfoot — it’s more about whether or not that very real footage proves the existence of anything more than a person in an ape costume. If you’ve ever wondered about the fascinating origins of Bigfoot, or the FBI’s stance on the matter, our deep dive into the infamous character is just the thing for you.

The Origins of Bigfoot

Legends of a large, ape-like creature with incredible strength are nothing new. In fact, they’ve been used to fuel Pacific Northwest American tourism for decades. While U.S.-based sightings of the creature were first reported as early as the 1800s, Bigfoot didn't really achieve his legendary status in American folklore until the 1950s.

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Photo Courtesy: Bettmann/Getty Images

It all began back in 1958: Journalist Andrew Genzoli of the Humboldt Times published a letter from a group of Northern California loggers — a letter that recounted the antics of a vandal who consistently struck their logging camp, leaving behind no evidence of his identity except for some footprints. And those footprints? They were mysteriously large. This, of course, caused the loggers to nickname the vandal (and potential creature) "Bigfoot."

Genzoli thought the letter would make for "a good Sunday morning story," and published it in his paper along with some lighthearted commentary. To his surprise, the story spread like wildfire around the country, with the legend of Bigfoot gripping the imaginations of readers both young and old. Eventually, a television show called Truth or Consequences even offered up a $1,000 reward to anyone who could provide real pictures of Bigfoot. Funnily enough, it wasn't until 2002 that the mysterious footprints were revealed to be no more than the work of a notorious prankster named Ray Wallace. By the time Wallace's secret came out, however, Bigfoot had taken on a life of his own and become a staple of American folklore.

The Original Video Footage of Bigfoot

To this day, one of the most famous videos claiming to prove Bigfoot’s existence is footage from 1967, which was shot by Roger Patterson and Bob Gimlin. Filmed around Northern California's Bluff Creek, the footage would later go on to become one of the most heavily scrutinized films in the world.

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Photo Courtesy: Roger Patterson and Robert Gimlin/Wikipedia

Dubbed the Patterson–Gimlin film, it's now been studied by generations of scientists, special effects artists and costume designers. To this day, no one has been able to say for sure whether the film was genuine or an elaborate hoax. Patterson died of cancer in 1972, while Gimlin swears to this day that if what he saw that day was a hoax, it wasn't one that he was in on.

Regardless of whether Bigfoot is a scientific reality or the stuff of legends, it's worth noting that even the FBI has an extensive file on the creature — a file that dates back to 1976. It all began when Peter Byrne, director of Oregon's Bigfoot Information Center and Exhibition, sent the FBI "about 15 hairs attached to a tiny piece of skin." Byrne remarked that his organization had been unable to identify them, hence the need for an FBI assist. The letter made its way to Jay Cochran, Jr., assistant director of the FBI’s scientific and technical services division. As a favor to Byrne, Cochran analyzed the hairs, but, unfortunately, they ended up belonging to a deer. Nonetheless, Bigfoot made an indelible stamp on the FBI’s records.

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Modern-Day Bigfoot Sightings

In an age where almost everyone has a camera on their phone, it's no surprise that new Bigfoot footage continues to emerge to this day. Among the more popular alleged Bigfoot sightings is the 2011 Marble Mountain footage, which was captured by a youth group during a camping expedition. There's also the Provo Canyon encounter, which ends in the videographers making a hasty retreat after the creature they're documenting stands up on two legs. In 2020, another Bigfoot sighting took place in Utah, though the videographers admittedly didn't get a very close look at the mysterious creature lurking on the horizon in their video.

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Photo Courtesy: Beard Card/YouTube

So, Bigfoot has (allegedly) been captured on film, but has a Bigfoot ever been physically captured? Well, back in 2012 a man named Rick Dyer claimed that he had shot and killed a Bigfoot in San Antonio, Texas after luring it forth with hundreds-of-dollars-worth of ribs. In 2014, Dyer released grainy photos of the creature, announcing his plans to embark on a nationwide tour. But after Dyer had earned around $60,000 from spectators eager to see the beast's remains, it finally came out that the "body" was a hoax, completely composed of latex, foam and camel hair.

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Leave It to the Pros

So how exactly do scientists and cryptozoologists establish credibility when it comes to video footage of Bigfoot or other mythical animals? In a way, it's hard to say, due to the fact that cryptozoology, or the study of "hidden" creatures, is largely considered a pseudoscience that has little to do with traditional scientific methods.

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Photo Courtesy: Dr. Melba Ketchum/Youtube

Some cryptozoologists rely on methods as simple as examining footage closely enough to determine whether a creature's body shows signs of muscle movement that wouldn't be present in a costume. Others have gone as far as founding organizations, like the Sasquatch Genome Project, a Texas-based organization that spent millions of dollars on a project they claimed provided DNA evidence that Bigfoot was indeed among us. The group not only insisted it had authentic video footage of Bigfoot, but it also claimed to have successfully sequenced the creature's DNA. While their research is presented in detail on their website, you're not likely to have an easy time understanding it — well, unless you've got some pretty killer DNA analysis skills tucked away. Although Bigfoot enthusiasts have been eager to support the Sasquatch Genome Project’s alleged findings, more than a few scientists have deemed it "junk science" and lend it no credibility whatsoever.

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So, is Bigfoot real or merely the stuff myths are made of? The truth is, no one really knows — at least for now. While videos like the Patterson–Gimlin film have certainly stood the test of time, the footage becomes no less baffling. But, at the end of the day, that air of mystery is what we love about Bigfoot to begin with, right?