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Maybe It’s Time We Forget About The Patterson Bigfoot Film

Since its public release in the late 1960s, the Patterson-Gimlin film, a short piece of 16mm footage which purportedly depicts a female Sasquatch seen walking near Bluff Creek, California, has remained a “Holy Grail” of sorts among Bigfoot advocates.

It has also remained mired in controversy, drawing more negative conclusions from several within the Bigfoot research community, who question whether the murky circumstances under which it appeared point to a likely fraud.

Amidst the more recent debate about this film, a new stabilization of Patterson’s otherwise shaky camerawork has appeared online, courtesy of a Reddit user who took the time to painstakingly center the film’s subject frame by frame, allowing us a far better sense of the behavior and movements of the purported creature therein. The rendering was subsequently featured at skeptical news site Relatively Interesting, which noted that the stabilization finally shows us now, more clearly than ever, that the purported Bigfoot in question is indeed just a guy in a monkey suit.

A friend of mine brought all this to my attention over the weekend, and as I related to him upon reading the piece, I have more than a few qualms with the aforementioned article’s assertion that, by stabilizing the film, we can now better discern that its object is “a man in a monkey suit.”

Granted, I should note here that I, too, am skeptical of the footage… to say the very least. In fact, it is my own understanding of the primatological interpretation of the film’s subject that causes me to take such issue with the debate over whether stabilizing the film really helps us in any way, which I’ll explain shortly.

The first thing I took issue with was the apparent notion that the stabilization featured on Reddit “finally” offers us a clear view of the creature in the film, as if this had never been accomplished before. The truth, to the contrary, is that stabilizations of the film have existed already for some time, thanks to the work of researcher M.K. Davis, who began producing such renderings and enhancements years ago.

Phillip Morris(left) - costume maker.

Phillip Morris(left) – costume maker.

The article goes on to discuss Charlotte, North Carolina-based costume maker Phillip Morris, and his claims that he supplied the suit to Patterson. Interestingly, the man purportedly wearing it in the film, retired Pespi bottler Bob Heironymous, said it was made (at least partially) of horse hide, and that the smell was nearly unbearable when he wore it. Some have tried to reconcile these two conflicting stories by saying Patterson modified a suit that he did actually purchase (which, in truth, may be likely after all, as we’ll soon see).

Finally, the post concludes by directing people over to the Wikipedia entry for Bigfoot if they’d like to read more, which, in likelihood, shows that the authors gathered their information from the same source. Hey, it’s a great article, but I maintain that, while Wikipedia is a useful resource, when you go there, try to use it to find more reliable information, which is linked as source material for each article featured on the site.

Seeing all this, I joked with my friend that, at times like this, I can become skeptical of others’ approaches to debunking! Then I offered to see if I could do any better.

The first thing I will bring up here involves John Napier, a former Smithsonian primatologist who, largely skeptical in his attitudes toward Bigfoot, noted a number of problems he had with the film from a primatological perspective. For starters, the creature displays a sagittal crest atop it’s skull; however, the subject also, rather famously, appears to possess female mammary glands (breasts). Among the great apes, we have the sagittal formation that occasionally appears, primarily among the male members of the species (gorillas and orangutans), rather the females. Hence, it seems rather out of place that the prominence on “Patty’s” head so greatly resembles a sagittal crest formation, since “she” would be the least likely of the sexes to possess this trait.

It is also important to understand what the presence of a sagittal crest denotes in terms of diet. This protrusion along the top of the skull appears most often in relation to the omnivorous (but largely herbivorous) diet of the apes which have it; hence, when the crest is present, there are other physiological elements we can expect to see, such as large, flat teeth, powerful jaws, and a stomach chamber capable of allowing the slow, prolonged breakdown of raw plant matter that all of the aforementioned traits are used to help consume. Thus, the stomach of many among the more herbivorous of the great apes will often take on a “pot-bellied” appearance, especially when standing upright. While this is most pronounced among chimpanzees and bonobos, it might be equally expected of a Bigfoot, as Napier and others have suggested.

footprints

Finally, the individual footprint length used to estimate relative height of the purported animal, matched to the distance between tracks left in the sand (which were measured at the scene of the purported observation at Bluff Creek) are inconsistent with the proportional ratio for expected stride. Primatologists, like Napier, who observed the film have pointed this out, although it remains one of the least-discussed aspects of the the film’s investigation which argues strongly against the animal in the film being genuine. To this, he noted in his 1972 book Bigfoot that the manner in which the subject appears to walk in the film looks very exaggerated: “All three factors should be consistent with each other. Could it be that the ‘exaggerated’ walk of Bigfoot was designed to magnify the normal step length, an effect which, in the event, failed miserably?”

Napier’s determinations, in my mind, strongly favor the idea that the creature displays undeniable characteristics of both sexes, in addition to a leg length in relation to its stride that appears to be incompatible with its physiology. In other words, the “Bigfoot” we see here is either a strange evolutionary amalgamation of mixed characteristics gone wrong and a funny locomotive tendency, or it is indeed a man in a suit, which was procured (and possibly retrofitted with certain characteristics like the breasts) by an individual without a complete understanding of the physiology among great ape species. These are the logical reasons behind why I have, over time, come to feel that there is far less to be made of the Patterson Gimlin film than others have continually maintained; add to this the fact that the supposed date of its creation, October 20, 1967, remains entirely inconsistent with the circumstances under which its maker claimed that it was developed (or the fact that the “private lab” Patterson cited in his story can’t even be located), and even more of the story’s hair begins to fall out, revealing scales of an obvious fishy nature underlying.

Thus, I think it’s fair to say what this “new” stabilization really represents to many so-called “skeptics”: just another way to fulfill their confirmation bias that it’s a man in a monkey suit. This, in place of actual logical deduction, amounts to just being lazy skepticism. Then again, maybe if they’d stop reading Wikipedia articles for their information, they could present an analysis similar to that which Napier did, placing him among the numerous advocates of Bigfoot’s existence (that’s right, he was an advocate) that still took issue with the Patterson film. Peter Byrne, the late Mark Chorvinski, and numerous others expressed very similar hesitation about accepting the film’s authenticity, and in fairness, I have to agree with them.

At the end of the day, there’s just too much dirt surrounding the Patterson film to use it as any reliable source for debate about the existence of Bigfoot, which in turn, makes it a very useful tool for skeptics seeking to use it to debase the argument of believers.

Then again, I gave up on “belief” a long time ago. If you want to have a good debate about Bigfoot, it’s only fair to ask for some good evidence to match; and please, let’s try and leave any further discussion of Mr. Patterson’s film out of it.

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  • Daniel Maguire

    Thanks for this, Micah! The Patterson film has been waved around by both sides on the Bigfoot argument for years and in the end it, in and of itself has never really added anything to the overall argument for either side. It’s nice to finally see someone just come out and say that it should probably be pushed aside in favor of more substantial evidence.

  • Why assume the ‘crest’ in Patty is necessarily indicative of a bony protrusion?

    It might just be tufted hair.

  • Micah Hanks

    I do want to express that, in my opinion, there is other information pertaining to Bigfoot that I find more compelling than this film; to try and say that there is too much “dirt” associated with it is not to say that I’m trying to make a case against the existence of Bigfoot as well. Once a believer, I consider myself somewhat “agnostic” about Bigfoot today; some of the data is compelling, but some of it cannot really be considered trustworthy, if we want to be completely honest in our rationalism. I choose not to “believe” just for the sake of belief alone.

    To me, that’s what we’re seeing with the Patterson film; is it possible the thing is a real animal? I would never say that it’s impossible… but I also see a lot of people trying to convince themselves of its authenticity, primarily on the grounds that they want to be able to say that Bigfoot exists. Question: can one adopt a view that the creature may likely exist, but that the problems associated with the Patterson film, and the circumstances surrounding its creation, aren’t suited for presenting it as “good” evidence for that likelihood? I think so.

    Therefore, I want to be clear… we can continue asking questions about “what if what we see in the film is actually this, or that,” or “look at what this person said about why it’s real,” but that only adds to the problems in my opinion, because the best cases for, or against, only show how divided opinions are on the film. That is not anything that will ever warrant a scientific consensus, and so again, I have to logically conclude that by observing this film over and over again and saying “real, or fake?”, we’re just wasting time on something that will never be accepted as good evidence.

    Hence, I feel it’s time to move on, with the hope for finding better evidence that can be observed, and appreciated for being plausible, rather than criticized for its lacking areas.

  • Micah Hanks

    You know RPJ, M.K. Davis said he thought the “protrusion” in question actually depicts bangs, a topknot, and a ponytail (possibly braided), which moves as Patty walks. Hence, no sagittal crest… then again, he used such an argument to support the notion that the “creature” was in fact a Native American, an assertion which presented its own little microcosm of controversy and offense that I’m sure you’ll recall.

    I would simply say that, if the top of the creature’s head moved as it walks, and independent from the rest of the body, that suggests whatever was there was not firmly attached to the skull… a headpiece (or mask) would qualify also.

  • ‘Bangs’ reported on female Sasquatch are very common. Even Albert Ostman reported it.

  • To me the biggest argument against the P-G film is that, after so many decades, it hasn’t been replaced by a similar film or video clearly showing an alleged Bigfoot. We’re still debating over this 60’s film, the same way UFOlogists are still fighting over Roswell; so from that perspective alone, Micah raises a valid point.

  • Jay Higbie

    Nice back peddling. A phenomena that should be studied is on how skeptics demand evidence for every single possible angle, no matter how improbable, and even when some of these quibbles are answered to any reasonable conclusion it still isn’t good enough for said skeptics because the bottom line is they don’t believe in whatever the subject is so therefor it does not/can not exist.
    Except when it comes to someone presenting contrary evidence to a phenomena. Then any and all required proof previously requirements are suddenly dropped and said contrary evidence is immediately given the stamp of authenticity and whatever subject is instantly filed under debunked.
    For instance were the shady and suspicious incidents given the thorough research of authenticity, that rather handily came out decades after the event, with even half of the effort given to the demands of the skeptics? Or more likely was this the neighbor of the kid who rode his bike past some people and overheard them talking about this guy they knew and immediately upon hearing the story it was pronounced proof and the film debunked…by the skeptic that had a $10 bet on the validity of the film.
    This is what, the third or fourth guy who has claimed to be the guy in the Bigfoot costume in the last 15 years? And each one of them deemed to be telling the truth by the skeptical ilk and those who just don’t like Bigfoot for whatever reason and feel the need to make up facts and ignore proven facts to justify their non researched opinions.
    Here is a fact…the alignment of the hips to shoulders of Patty as well as the arm to length of body ratio could not be made by a human. Period. You and all your doubts are baseless. Oh wait! You just found the doctor who did the surgery on the guy who was in the costume so he could meet these inhuman proportional inconsistencies. Right? (rolls eyes)

  • ivr

    Move on from the PG film, sure.I would love to see something as compelling. But, the assumption that it is faked really does not hold up to scrutiny. If MK Davis is your most compelling source isn’t he also the one advocating for a bigfoot massacre at Bluff Creek? Mr. Morris comes close with a duplicate custom but ultimate fails on multiple fronts. Looking for solid evidence of BF’s existence? Doesn’t exist. But that two ranch hands with limited resources and no market for their product created such an enduring production is an astounding claim. So far I have not seen any extraordinary evidence to rebuke such an extraordinaire claim.

  • Digital Liberty

    You can tell he was thrown from the horse from the footage, can you? As opposed too jumping down and erratically handling the camera?

  • Digital Liberty

    If this is indeed a suit, you can’t count on many of the anatomical features matching those of the person inside. Elbows, knees, and eyes would be about all I would trust. The top of the head, shoulders, hips, etc. of the suit would most likely not align with those of the wearer. This would create the illusion of non-human body proportions.

  • leewacker

    Yes, I can, and, besides, Patterson stated flatly he was thrown and had to pick himself up to even begin filming! You don’t ride, do you? Just look at the horse plunging and bucking—HE saw something completely alien and strange to him, and reacted!