Thursday, 16 August 2012

The Patterson-Gimlin Bigfoot movie - some background information

The short cinefilm shot by Roger Patterson on 20 October 1967 in the Bluff Creek area of northern California remains the most important single piece of evidence for the existence of a real upright-walking hominid ape living wild in North America. Some might argue that the cumulative evidence of footprints, sightings and other evidence is even more persuasive, but the Patterson movie remains the most famous and controversial pieces of evidence ever produced for a cryptid, or animal unrecognised by science.

Patterson and his companion that day, Bob Gimlin, have been hailed as heroes and condemned as crooks. They have been praised for their skill at tracking down a Sasquatch or dismissed as lucky amateurs, even by those who now believe the film is genuine. Those who believe the film to be a fake have either condemned Patterson and Gimlin as hoaxers and frauds, or written them off as the gullible tools of a fraud perpetrated by others.

Given the massive amounts of controversy that still surround the film, it is interesting to look not only at the film itself and what it seems to show, but also at the background to it. There are details of the events surrounding the film that are often passed over, but which can shed much needed light on the events of that autumnal day.

In 1967 Roger Patterson was a rodeo rider living at Yakima, Washington, but work was intermittent. He did odd jobs for his brother in law, Al DeAtley, to help out financially. Patterson was also very interested in the Sasquatch enigma. He seems to have missed the excitement around the events of 1958 at the Bluff Creek road works, but in 1964 he read an article by Ivan T. Sanderson. In that article, Sanderson compared the evidence for Sasquatch with that for the Yeti of the Himalayas. At this date, Sanderson was referring to all such supposed cryptid apes as ABSM (ABominable Snow Men), the translation of one of the Nepalese names for the Yeti. Patterson became interested in the idea that there might be an American Abominable Snow Man living near his own home. He spent some of his spare time collecting reports, interviewing witnesses and casting footprints.

On some of these trips he was accompanied by a friend named Bob Gimlin. Gimlin was a part-time horse breeder, part-time rodeo rider and occasional construction worker. He was also partly descended from the Yakama, and like all First Nations people had heard stories about the hairy man-apes all his life, but did not really take them very seriously. He did, however, enjoy the outdoors and was happy to travel the wilderness areas with his friend Patterson when he had nothing better to do.

In 1966 Patterson pulled all his material together in a book entitled “Do Abominable Snowmen of America Really Exist?”. It sold fairly well locally, but did not make much of a profit. Patterson then had the idea that he might make a documentary film about these mystery apes. He did not really know much about the television business, and did not even own a camera. He decided to get some footage of witness interviews and footprints using a camera hired from a camera shop in Yakima, then try to get somebody from the TV business interested in the idea.


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