Patterson/Gimlin film 50 Years Later

Today marks the 50th anniversary of the most controversial wildlife footage ever captured.

On Oct. 20, 1967 Roger Patterson and Bob Gimlin captured on film what they alleged was a Bigfoot (sasquatch) creature on a desolate stretch of Bluff Creek in northern California.

This is the footage that plays in virtually every sasquatch-based television special and even in commercials.

Frame 352 showing the film’s subject walking with its arms swinging is the template for hundreds of products in the cottage industry that has grown up around the sasquatch phenomenon and even the arm swing itself is used in many obvious fake videos over the years.

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Frame 352 of the Patterson/Gimlin film. (Fair Use Doctrine)

This footage has been analyzed more than any other than the Zapruder film showing the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.

Numerous individuals have claimed the film was a fake and claimed to have been the man in the suit or that they actually created it.

One man even claims it was made from red horse hair.

Roger Patterson who was holding the camera that day died of cancer in 1972 and maintained what they filmed was real.

Bob Gimlin who is still living and until recent years has mainly avoided the topic also maintains he and his partner captured the image of a living sasquatch, not a man in a suit.

There have been many alleged sasquatch videos captured in the last 50 years but why does this one not only endure but remain the epicenter of media attention on the topic?

As a wildlife journalist I have wrestled with the question many times over the last 25 years.

I have an interest in the topic and have done my share of field research and investigating eyewitnesses. In my opinion this whole phenomenon is important because it is either the greatest source of mass fraud and hallucination the wildlife world has ever seen or its a truly epic discovery waiting to happen.

And I personally get tired of the film itself outshining other aspects of the phenomenon. There are some legitimately interesting things happening on the scientific end of this search.

But the fact remains if it is a fake, why haven’t many better ones been produced since then?

How could two cowboys in an era where Planet of the Apes was the shining example of costume makeup effects produce something that no one has even gotten close to getting?

Not a single alleged sasquatch video is as clear, close up and contains anywhere near as much detail as the Patterson/Gimlin film.

Not even close.

A question that must be asked is if it was so easy to fake in 1967 why haven’t there been many more much better fakes come out as special makeup effects technology has increased dramatically?

Even the BBC with a budget much bigger than Patterson and Gimlin’s abilities failed to produce anything that looked even remotely as realistic as what was captured on Bluff Creek 50 years ago.

Either it is a fake or the most important wildlife footage ever captured. There are no in-betweens.

That is why today this is a worthy subject to write about and the entire phenomenon is one that although problematic in many ways deserves further investigation.

Wildlife filming history was made 50 years ago.

Whether the film is legitimate or not may never be settled but without any doubt the Patterson/Gimlin film has its place in history.

Chester Moore, Jr.

 

Enter the Animal Underground

I once walked into the mouth of an old railroad tunnel.

Covered in vines and decaying it looked a bit ominous, even from a distance.

Many years previous trains would cut through as they winded through the limestone encrusted hills of the Edwards Plateau in Central Texas.

Now the tunnel is home to more than a million of Mexican free tail baits.

Passing by during the day or even walking nearby one would never know of their presence unless they maybe caught a sniff of the guano (bat dung).

But at night, these bats exit the tunnel and travel into the darkness in pursuit of insects and they return before dawn.

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In the 1800s, a network of safe houses and secret routes called the “Underground Railroad” saw thousands of African American slaves find their way to freedom out of states where slavery was legal.

Thinking about the tunnel reminded me there is an underground network of sorts for animals, paths in which they can travel without the system taking notice.

The animals themselves of course are not aware of it although by sheer instinct they use it to their advantage.

It is a mindset in the culture of wildlife viewing, academia, media coverage and the hunting and fishing community that things with wildlife are supposed to go “by the book” and anything challenging the official narrative is ignored outright assailed.

In 2002, I spent a day in the field in the Pearl River Wildlife Management Area in Louisiana with researchers David Luneau and Martian Lammertink in search of the ivory-billed woodpecker, a species at the time considered extinct. Zeiss Sports Optics sponsored a truly rare look at a species often reported but believed long gone.

We never saw any ivory bills but I saw two men intent on at least searching out what could be an incredibly important find.

In 2004, Luneau obtained a video in Arkansas that the US Fish and Wildlife Service itself considers to be an ivory bill-a previously though extinct bird.

It goes along with other recordings and research suggesting there are a few ivory bills out there.  However, the official narrative is the species is still lost.

Many don’t want to touch the topic with a 10 foot pole.

Ivorybills?!

Did they ever exist anyway?

That’s what many act like.

And its this very lack of “official” interest that allows such species to hide in the shadows beyond the attention of those who can verify and perhaps save certain ones.

Most scientists tow the line on mysterious wildlife because their careers are centered on grants and anything outside the norm might rock the financial boat too much.

The hunting and fishing community dodges controversial wildlife topics for fear of government intervention especially in relation to the Endangered Species Act.

Amateur naturalists are quick to skip over the mysterious for fear of public ridicule and loss of access to property.

And the media doesn’t really care unless they can spin it into the next viral story, often shaming those who are dare to question things or belittling the off the wall topics altogether.

I am too curious to ignore the stories that require stepping into the shadows. I crave the opportunity to pursue mysteries of the wildlife kind-controversial or not.

Growing up in the 80s, the intro to syndicated horror anthology series Tales from the Darkside used to terrify me.

That is terrify me enough to watch.

Man lives in the sunlit world of what he believes to be reality. But… there is, unseen by most, an underworld, a place that is just as real, but not as brightly lit… a Darkside. (Series Intro)

I won’t call the animal underground a “dark side” in terms of evil but it certainly not as brightly lit as what most see.

Maybe it’s time to light a candle.

Chester Moore, Jr.