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.
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.
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.