The Patterson/Gimlin Film: 50 Years Later
(Some of the information in this article has been graciously provided to me by Roger Knights, which I deeply appreciate, to correct some of the items I had put into the article I wrote 10 years ago. Thank you, Roger!!!)
Sources of information are Sasquatch: The Apes Among Us by John Green; Bigfoot Film Journal by Christopher L. Murphy; Know The Sasquatch/Bigfoot by Christopher L. Murphy; Bigfoot At Bluff Creek by Daniel Perez; Big Footage: A History of Claims for the Sasquatch on Film by Mike Quast; personal testimony by Bob Gimlin; and Roger Knights
50 years ago this year, Roger Patterson and Bob Gimlin, a rodeo rider and rancher from Yakima, Washington, rode out from their remote camp in the Six Rivers National Forest in Del Norte County, California. Roger and Bob had been in the Bluff Creek area for several weeks beforehand searching for footprints which Al Hodgson had reported to Roger's wife Patricia, who passed along a message to her husband about the tracks. Unfortunately, the footprints that the two did see were nothing more than globs in the mud. After Bob had rode into various areas in the forest that morning, then returning to camp to tack a horseshoe on tighter, he noticed Roger had left while he was gone. Roger returned to camp and asked Bob where he had gone and Bob told him, and Roger suggested they go into that area again just to see what could be there, if anything. At around 1:15 P.M. Pacific Daylight Time, the two men rode around a room-high tree and root system and came across what appeared to be a dark, bipedal, manlike creature crouching at the edge of the creek, possibly washing its feet. When it saw the two men, it took off for high timber, looking back at the two men once before Roger was able to get his rented (and overdue) 16 MM movie camera out of his saddlebag after the horse fell sideways onto his leg, temporarily pinning him to the ground. When he extricated himself, he saw the creature walking away, giving him a look which he described as, "You know how it is when the umpire tells you 'One more word and you're out of the game?' Well, that's the way it felt." (He described that to John Green who wrote it in his book Sasquatch: The Apes Among Us) When he got his bearings about him, he started filming, running and jumping and stumbling as he ran. Bob, still on horseback, rode across the creek, which prompted the creature to look back at him as he did this. He stepped down off his horse, rifle in hand, but did not bring it up to his shoulder to aim it, only holding it at the ready. When the creature looked back, the two men noticed she had very matronly large naked but hairy breasts, making her obviously a female. Roger had lost his horse, as had Bob eventually, as well as the packhorse. The creature had looked back at them twice (the first time was not filmed) as she fled. Eventually, Roger ran out of film after a little over a minute, and was not even sure if he had gotten aything good on film. Bob had wanted to follow after the creature, but Roger called him back, not wanting to be left alone in case there were others in the area. So, when they retrieved the horses, Roger, under a poncho as to not expose the film in the camera, removed that film and reloaded the camera, then used that second roll of film to film the tracks left behind by the creature. They then followed the tracks on horseback for a few miles but lost the trail when the creature presumably went up a mountainside where there were rocks. They had also retrieved plaster to cast two of the tracks, one of which was filmed as the plaster was setting. Then, after Roger was filmed holding the two cured tracks, they headed back to camp and then to town to try and get a hold of the Eureka Times-Standard, where Roger told his tale to Al Tostado, who wrote up the story to be seen in the paper the next day the 21st. Roger also called Al Hodgson, who came and met the two at his variety store, and he and Bob told Al what they had done, Roger telling Al "I got a picture of the son-of-a-buck." They then went on to one of the local airports to have the film flown back to Yakima to Roger's wealthy brother-in-law Al DeAtley, who would presumably drive the film to Seattle to have it developed (there is still controversy even to this day as to the timeline of film development). After this, Roger and Bob returned to their camp to eat dinner and discuss the events of the day, which were quite exciting to both of them. Then they turned in, but around midnight, it began raining, and neither of them wanted to be stuck in that area with the potential of flooding and mudslides, so Bob went to get some cardboard pieces to go and cover the tracks, but they were soaked through, so he pulled bark off some trees and covered the remaining tracks that had not been cast. Then they quickly got in Bob's truck and drove out of there around 6:00 A.M., driving straight through to Yakima, a 14-hour journey over treacherous mountain roads, where they nearly drove off the road and had to borrow a backhoe to pull themselves out of the mud. When they arrived back at Yakima around 8:00 P.M. that Saturday night, Bob went straight to bed, sick from the exposure to the heavy rain. Roger then arranged with DeAtley to have the film shown in DeAtley's basement the following day, inviting John Green, Rene Dahinden and Jim McClarin to come to see the film. McClarin and Dahinden had been in Willow Creek when they heard about the filming and they quickly drove to Yakima to see the film. When the three saw the film, they were duly impressed, but were cautiously optimistic about how scientists would view it. That Monday the 23rd, Lyle Laverty, on his first workday with the Forest Service, went to the site and took four photos, most famously of the footprint which had the pronounced mid-tarsal break in it. On October 29th, after hearing of the filming, local taxidermist and Bigfoot hunter Bob Titmus went to the site and cast some of the best examples of footprints left covered by Gimlin, ten tracks, including the one with the mid-tarsal break. Few scientists actually looked at the film, with the ones who did either rejecting the film as a hoax or at least being a bit cautious about it, not really saying anything pro or con about it. After 50 years, there have been several who have done analysis on the film, most notably the late Dr. Grover Krantz, the late Rene Dahinden, who took the film to England and Russia to have it examined (the British were cautious in their assessment, but did not call the film an out and out hoax, while the Russians said that the gait of the creature was different from modern man, even going so far as to have one of their top biomechanics experts, Dmitri Donskoy, examine the film and declare it basically authentic); Dr. Jeff Meldrum, Christopher L. Murphy, M.K. Davis, Daniel Perez, John Green, North American Science Institute with Jeff Glickman, Bill Miller and more recently, Bill Munns, all of which declared the film authentic or at least could not find any evidence of hoaxing. After 50 years, the fact that this film has yet to be conclusively proved a hoax, despite some claims from some individuals over the years, is a testament to the authenticity of the film. I say cheers to this film and its lasting impact.