Bluff Creek, California. A tributary of the Klamath River located in Del Norte County* (note: we misspoke in the episode. The film location was in Del Norte County, but Bluff Creek is actually in Humboldt County), and aptly known as the “Squatchiest” place on Earth, in no uncertain terms, due to one of the most mysterious (and potentially sinister) pieces of film footage ever recorded. Located deep within redwood territory, trees are not the only things they make bigger around There.
Bigfoot. Sasquatch. Satchmo. No matter what you call him, he (or in this case, she) has been called the blurriest animal in all of North America. Long before the white man ever landed on the continent of North America, natives from all over the continent told tales of so-called “wild men” which inhabited the forests and mountains of certain regions of the Pacific Northwest. Tales of this elusive creature even predate the time of Western colonization. Stories of these creatures even made their way to Teddy Roosevelt, then just a young strapping adventurer in the late 1800s, who wrote about an account of a fur trapper who had been allegedly killed by one of these creatures.
However, the modern Bigfoot mania as we know it today started back in 1958 when construction site worker Jerry Crew found giant human-like footprints at his work site near Bluff Creek, CA. Over the course of several weeks, the crew at the site would dub the mysterious unseen visitor “Bigfoot”, and the name stuck, becoming synonymous with campfire stories, beef jerky and even monster trucks.
After Ray Wallace, who was Jerry Crew’s boss at the time, died in 2002, his family came clean and came out publicly, revealing that his original footprint casts were a mere hoax; his son going on record stating that his father was a prankster, but never malicious. He just liked playing jokes. (Just to note, this is a point of contention in the bigfoot world – the BFRO [Bigfoot Field Researchers Organization] for one, VIOLENTLY disagrees with this assertion, stating that the wooden foot stompers found in in Wallace’s possession after his death do not match the footprint casts found at the site. In any case, this is a mystery that we’re not gonna touch with a 10-foot pole, especially on this episode.)
However, what allegedly started out as nothing but a practical joke played by a blue-collary kinda guy would soon spiral out of control, culminating in the birth of a film legend so extraordinary, that it would inspire grown men from all over North America, and even beyond, to devote what’s left of their finite lives toward going out into the wilderness to search for this elusive creature.
Our story begins in the tumultuous year of 1967, a year when the Vietnam War was heating up, and millions of young people began speaking out against the war, smoking dope, and refusing to get haircuts. Meanwhile, two 30somethings who made their living as ranchers and rodeo riders, would head out into the uncharted forests of Northern California in search of the elusive creature known as Bigfoot, and emerge with what some would describe as the Willy-Wonka Golden Ticket of film footage: A nearly 24 foot long, 954 frame, 59 ½ second long strip of film that would become so infamous, that it would make heads explode and supply enough oxygen for the legend of Bigfoot to keep it alive for now going on 6 decades. Much like the famous Zupruder Film of Kennedy Assassination fame, skeptics, scientists, armchair detectives, and neckbeards alike have been picking apart the footage of the Patterson-Gimlin film looking for new clues to either prove its authenticity or debunk it outright as a man in a monkey suit. And all these years later, no matter which side of the aisle you fall on, one thing is almost certain: the deeper you dive down the rabbit hole, the more you learn, but the less you know.
Tonight, dear listener, we will not be discussing the mystery of Bigfoot in general, or whether bigfoot is a real creature or not, but rather, our focus tonight will be only on the 59 ½ second film footage shot by cowboys Roger Patterson and Bob Gimlin on October 20, 1967, in Bluff Creek, California. Was this film just a man in a monkey suit? Or could it be that this footage is of an unknown bipedal creature that science has yet to catch up with, even today?
Roger Patterson was born on Valentine’s Day of 1933 in Walls, South Dakota, but moved with his family to Yakima, Washington, and subsequently became a rancher and a rodeo rider. He had developed a keen interest in the subject of Bigfoot after reading an article written by Ivan T. Sanderson in True Magazine in the late 1950’s. (Just to note, Ivan T. Sanderson was a writer who wrote about many subjects including cryptozoology). <- Plays no further part in the story
Roger even self-published his own book on the subject in 1966, titled “Do Abominable Snowmen of America Really Exist?” in which he wrote about the accounts of numerous eyewitnesses of the creature, his own experiences searching for evidence, and argued that they really do, in fact, exist.
However, allegations have been made about Roger by many folks: in polite terms, that he was a man who was unable to commit toward a career and found himself unable to hold down a job for an extended period of time. And according to other allegations, he was a man of a morally questionable nature. What is also a matter of record is that he kept the rented camera he used to shoot the infamous footage for longer than agreed upon and was even arrested on this charge – but the charge was dismissed when he returned it in good condition.
By the early 1960’s, Roger was out searching for the legendary beast himself, with mixed success. In 1963, he made plaster casts of two alleged bigfoot footprints that he found in Laird Meadow, CA, one of a left foot and one of a right foot, which measured 17 inches in length, 7 ½ inches in width at the ball of the foot, and 5 inches in width at the heels.
By 1967, as the story goes, Patterson would try his luck at making a documentary film about the creature. Over the course of months, he showed his friend and fellow rodeo-rider, Bob Gimlin, all of the evidence that he collected, ranging from tape recordings of eyewitnesses he interviewed, to the plaster casts he had taken a few years prior, and eventually convinced Bob to tag along with him up into the forests near Bluff Creek, CA in search of the creature, or at least, evidence of it.
Roger rented a CineKodak K100 16mm film camera, they packed up their supplies and set out in early October 1967 on horseback deep into the as-of-yet barely explored forested territory of Northern California surrounding Bluff Creek.
The two spent the next 3 weeks or so riding out into the beautiful unspoiled wilderness of Northern California. Roger spent much of the time shooting footage of the beautiful fall scenery, as at the time, all the leaves of the forest were beginning to turn a stunning array of oranges and yellows.
According to their story, on October 20th, a warm and sunshiney day, the two were riding their horses approximately 3-4 miles away from their campsite, planning to head about another 35-40 miles into a more remote location. Roger was riding in front, and Bob was behind him, leading a pack horse.
Somewhere between 1 and 2 PM, As they were coming around a giant downfallen tree near a creek bed, the two were shocked, and horrified, by what they saw.
Just 30 to 40 feet in front of them, as Bob Gimlin estimated, stood a creature that isn’t supposed to exist.
Roger’s horse reared in panic, sending him tumbling down softly. However, he maintained his composure, scrambled up off the ground and reached into his saddle bag, grabbed the film camera and immediately began shooting the now infamous footage.
According to an interview on Survivorman Bigfoot, by Les Stroud, Bob Gimlin stated that his first thought upon seeing the creature was ‘Yeah, these things really do exist’.
Roger immediately scrambled to get a better position to film the creature, ultimately stabilizing his elbows on a nearby log as it began to lumber away from them in a left-to-right direction.
Roger yelled for Bob to cover him, meaning to grab the rifle and be ready to shoot if necessary.
As Roger filmed the creature, Bob rode his horse across the creek toward the creature for a closer look, dismounted his horse and held his rifle at the ready.
As Roger was busy shooting the footage, Bob stood in place and watched it with his own two eyes.
Eventually, the creature lumbered off into the woods in the background and disappeared.
The two were able to track it for a short distance, but the tracks led straight up a steep rocky embankment, and the two agreed that it would be too dangerous to follow any further.
According to Bob, the event happened incredibly fast; neither of them were fully prepared to see the creature there, as they had just begun the next leg of their journey from their campsite toward an area they suspected they’d have better luck finding evidence in, and only a few miles into said journey is when they got the surprise of their lives.
Roger decided to ride back to base camp to retrieve footprint casting material while Bob remained on site near to the footprints while he waited for Roger to come back. The two ended up making two plaster casts, one each of the best footprints they could find for the left and the right foot.
They then headed back to their trailer, loaded their horses back inside, and drove back to Willow Creek and mailed the film off to Yakima Washington to get it developed.
That, in a nutshell, is their official account of the events as they happened that day.
After the film was finally developed, Bob Gimlin stated that he was disappointed by it; deeming it of poor quality and did not expect it to be taken seriously by anyone.
Roger Patterson eventually ended up being able to capitalize on the film, making money off of selling the distribution rights for it and heavily promoted it whenever he could. Sadly, he would pass away from cancer in 1972 at the age of 38, leaving the rights to the footage to his wife Patricia.
Bob Gimlin on the other hand, faded off into obscurity for decades. In recent interviews, he’s stated that he became an outcast in the area in which he lived after the film became public, and wished that he had never been a part of the incident at all due to the damage it caused to his reputation. However, over the last two decades, Bob Gimlin has changed his perspective on the matter, and has been more forthcoming and open about the whole thing. To this day, he has never wavered in his assertion that he saw a real life Bigfoot on October 20, 1967, and vehemently denies any allegations against himself or Roger Patterson that they conspired to hoax this footage. At the time of recording this episode, Bob Gimlin is still alive and is 92 years old, and is still active in the “Bigfoot Community” (if you can call it that).
Allow us to jump forward in time for a moment here, to the year 2004, when a book was published by author Greg Long, which claimed to expose the entire story as a giant hoax, called The Making of Bigfoot: The Inside Story. In the book, Greg Long interviewed dozens of people who knew Roger Patterson in Yakima Washington, and learned that he had a long history of being a person of morally questionable nature. He also told the story of Bob Heironimus, a man who by this time was just a retired Pepsi bottler from Yakima, who had come out and admitted to being the man in the bigfoot suit.
According to Heironimus, Roger Patterson made a gentleman’s agreement to pay him $1000 to don the suit and walk the infamous walk for the footage. However, Patterson never paid him a cent for his participation. “I was never paid a dime for that, no sir… sure I want to make some money. I feel that after 36 years I should get some of it.”
“It’s time people knew it was a hoax,” Heironimus told the Washington Post. “It’s time to let this thing go. I’ve been burdened with this for 36 years, seeing the film clip on TV numerous times. Somebody’s making lots of money off this, except for me. But that’s not the issue – the issue is that it’s time to finally let people know the truth.”
Greg Long also was able to trace down the alleged maker of the suit, a guy who specialized in gorilla costumes out in North Carolina by the name of Philip Morris, who corroborated Bob Heironimus and Greg Long’s claims.
However, Bob Gimlin disputes these claims, and both sides point the finger at each other for being the real liars.
Shortly after Greg Long and Bob Heironimus came out with these allegations, Tom Malone, a lawyer based in Minneapolis, spoke on behalf of Bob Gimlin and told the Washington Post “I’m authorized to tell you that nobody wore a gorilla suit or monkey suit and that Mr. Gimlin’s position is that it’s absolutely false and untrue.”
Further down the article from the Washington Post was a quote from Bigfoot Researcher John Green, who IS Canadian, who said “It’s all [expletive]… there are going to be libel actions flying.”
Later Recreation of “original suit” worn by Bob Heironimus, made by Phillip Morris
If you only know the subject of Bigfoot in passing, chances are you’ve already dismissed the authenticity of this footage outright without giving it much thought. It’s obviously just some dickhead wearing a monkey suit, right? Well, not necessarily. If you’re familiar with the subject of Bigfoot, you’ve likely heard the name of Dr. Jeff Meldrum, who is one of the most, if not THE most reputable person who vouches for the film’s authenticity. He’s a professor of Anatomy and Anthropology at Idaho state University, and he’s so convinced that the figure in the footage is not a man in a suit, that he even shows the video to his students, and often appears on Bigfoot-related television shows and documentaries to support it.
In 2021, the dailymail wrote an article about an upcoming television special he was going to be on, called “The Proof is Out There”. The following excerpts come from that article:
Dr Jeff Meldrum, professor of anatomy and anthropology at Idaho State University, said during the show: ‘We are here 50 years later because advances in technology have provided opportunities to consider the film in novel ways.’
Meldrum, along with computer scientist Isaac Tian and Bill Munns, who is a veteran Hollywood costume and special effects designer, used artificial intelligence, computer vision and costume expertise to see details that have gone unnoticed for five decades.
Although the original film was lost, the team were able to replicate it by taking existing duplicates and making 22 different copies, each with a different variation, and then they used an AI program to integrate all the copies.
Computer vision algorithms were applied to stabilize the images, producing a final version that is much clearer to make out – as if Patterson had the camera standing on a tripod while shooting from the riverbed.
'The Proof is Out There' experts looked at the creature’s foot in the film and with the redesigned footage, they are able to see how the its foot interacts with the ground while walking.
There is a flexing in the middle of the foot, which is commonly seen in apes and not humans, and an upward turning of the toes that would be impossible to see if it was just a person in a costume.
Definition is also seen in the calf muscles as the creature walks, which would not be seen in manmade furry suit either.
Such suits are typically made with a simple fabric that does not provide any definition of the body – they typically just hang on the person wearing it.
The measurements of the potential Bigfoot work out to it being at least seven feet tall and based on its proportions, the History Channel experts say it weighs about 700 to 800 pounds.
If the furry creature was nothing more than a man in a suit, Patterson and Gimlin would have needed to find a human that size to fill in the costume, the team said in agreeance.
Focusing the on the head and neck, the eyes of the creature look directly at the cameras as it strolls by.
When it comes to costumes, any movement of the head the fake fur will be skewed on one side or texture will changed, Munz said in the episode.
Even the muscles on the back of Bigfoots neck look like those of an ape.
‘I am struck as an anatomist by the massive size of these trapezius muscles and their intermediate attachment on the back of the skull. This is not a human configuration,’ Meldrum said.
Meldrum compares the skull of the figure to that of australopithecine, which is extinct early human species that lived in East Africa about three million years ago.
‘All of the bony landmarks of Patty’s [the figure in the film] correlates with proportions seen in this skull,’ said Meldrum.
He then says one could speculate that this species did not go extinct, but expanded into Asia, crossed the Bering Strait and made its way down through North America to exist as sasquatch.
'I can take look at the film and look at what we know about anatomy and primates and image a world where the bigfoot exists,' Harris told DailyMail.com
'I remain in the camp that wants more information and I think we are going to get it.
'Part of the beauty of the show, I think, is that we will get the evidence.'
Further back, in 1998, the BBC attempted to recreate the subject in the Patterson-Gimlin film for their show X-Creatures. A side-by-side comparison of the two now float around on the internet and are often referenced by proponents of the film.
Along with the infamous footage of ‘Patty’, were a trail of footprints that were both photographed and cast.
According to Cliff Barackman, cast member of Animal Planet’s ‘Finding Bigfoot’ fame, has been a bigfoot ‘researcher’ for more than 20 years, and has a giant collection of footprint casts. According to him, the casts taken by Patterson and Gimlin are convincing.
“The trailing leg of the creature shows a great flexibility in the foot. There are a few frames there where we see Patty take her heel off the ground but yet keep the entire forefoot in touch with the ground.”
He also added “one of the footprints showed a very distinctive pressure ridge. A push-off that comes about as a result of the very flexible mid-foot.”
Perhaps the weirdest, and most mind-boggling part of “Patty”, is that she’s STACKED. She’s got breasts, which seem to move around and bounce freely as she strolls off and exits stage left. Many proponents for the film’s authenticity point to the fact that a hoaxer would likely not take the time, effort or have enough forethought to put realistic-looking breasts on their homemade ape costume. Bill Munns, famous Hollywood costume designer has stated on various occasions that in 1967, the technology to make fake breasts like these did not exist. However, skeptics point out that a clever hoaxer might choose to include breasts on the costume in order to lend more credibility toward it.
One has to look no further than movies such as “Planet of the Apes” and “2001: A Space Odyssey” to see what state of the art ape costumery looked like around the year 1967.
Even to the untrained eye, the apes in 2001: A Space Odyssey, for example, are clearly men wearing form-fitting, shag-carpet-style onesies over their bodies, and don’t look totally convincing. Some of the apes from the Planet of the Apes movies also don’t look convincing, as they look kind of like grown men wearing pajama onesies.
However, Patty, if she was a person in an ape-suit, looks a lot more form-fitting and realistic, for lack of a better word.
Bill Munns, famed Hollywood Costume Designer and special effects specialist, analyzed the footage himself and concluded that there is no way that this could be a man in a suit.
According to Munns, when an actor wears a costume, there is no way to alter the position of their knees. When he overlaid a 3D model of a human onto Patty and scaled it to match the height of Patty and then lined up the knees to be in the same position, the result was that the hips and ankles did not match up to human proportions. He noted that if it were someone in a suit, their arms would need to be 10% longer than a normal human, Patty also has a longer torso than a normal human, the hips are located lower than a human, and if the shoulders are lined up, the human’s hip becomes too high. If you match the hips, the shoulders fall short of the height of Patty. But to Munns, the most unusual aspect of his analysis comes from the legs of Patty – he concludes that the length of the upper leg is longer than a human, and the lower leg shorter than a human. These proportions are more indicative of ape than man.
“All of these add up to something which in my mind, is biologically real, and not a human in any type of costume.”
The Patterson-Gimlin Footage remains to most in the Bigfoot world the single most convincing piece of evidence that supports their belief that a very large, tall, bipedal creature lives in the forests of North America and continues to elude humanity’s attempts to finally bring it to justice, once and for all. And to many, if not most Bigfoot believers, remains the lynchpin in their belief that Bigfoot really does exist.
The stakes in this mystery are high on both sides, and it’s winner takes all – if the footage was a fake, it likely means that countless numbers of middle-aged men with too much time on their hands are wasting what’s left of their finite lives smashing baseball bats into trees and shrieking as loud as they can deep into the wilderness of North America, all while an elderly cowboy laughs at them all behind their backs.
However, if authentic, would mean that the vast majority of the scientific community were absolutely DUNKED on by a couple of cowboys who, from a scientific perspective, disregarded all conventional wisdom and decided to do their own thang – like Eminem at the end of the movie 8 Mile.
So next time you’re feeling down and need some reassurance, just remember that there might be a big blurry creature out there in the wilderness who’s just as lost and afraid of human interaction as you are.