(**Don't forget, there is a zombie short story contest going on here--the details are in last Sunday's post and deadline is July 3rd**)
Even though I consider myself a ghost hunter, I’m interested in all areas of the unexplained and my second favorite subject is Bigfoot. This North American Great Ape as some would call him, is a puzzling creature. Although for centuries Native Americans have reported such a hairy man of the mountains, it was until the October 20, 1967 Patterson-Gimlin film taken in the Six Rivers National Forest in Northern California, that people began to openly debate the existence of this cryptozoological creature.
The skeptic in me has to debunk before I can move on and say something is extraordinary. I’ve seen this film nearly all my life, but never stopped to really analyze it. I simply dismissed it because of the context in which it was taken. I tended to dismiss this film because these two men went into the woods to find Bigfoot with a camera. The setting in which this occurred to me was always suspect. Had they just happened upon him while filming a fishing trip, I admittedly would have reviewed the film much more hopefully.
That being said, I’ve had enough time and maturity and basic knowledge in debunking now to review the film again with a clearly open mind and trying not to put it in the context of two men happening upon the very creature they were hunting. When I see the film on its own as a piece of hard evidence without any personal stories by witnesses, I have to admit to being strangely unsettled.
Here are just some of my questions:
Where is the profit? Had other men made a movie about a Bigfoot for attention or notoriety, they would have likely made a huge business out of it like you see Tom Biscardi (refrigerator Bigfoot infamy) as if it were a three-ring circus. I didn’t see that kind of authority and leadership from these two men. They didn’t seem to want to be famous, just to be believed. That they didn’t become the leaders in Bigfoot research is worth noting. These shy men really didn’t rush to go before cameras or talk about what they saw. They had the potential to lead the way in research and yet they backed off. I am also impressed that the film did run out and that showed a certain shock at running into the Bigfoot when they did. They were at the end of a reel and didn’t realize they might actually run into this thing. Had they planned it, the film might have been performed at the beginning of the reel or the middle, certainly not at the end when they ran out during filming her leaving the area.
Why take on such detail? Other men would have given less full-frontal Bigfoot, fearing that the suit could be identified. Remember, this wasn't the time of the Internet. This film wasn't going to be seeng and analyzed ad nauseaum by sidechair computer viewers. If they feared being debunked, they would have captured him walking between trees, obscured from view somewhat. They also would have filmed him with a steady hand, not the shaking hand of a man who stumbled from his upset horse. They also would have portrayed him as sexless. The fact that this Bigfoot obviously has breasts is quite astounding, as well as their natural pendulous shape and hair covering like an ape. This was the 1960s and hardly primitive times and yet man hadn’t been having the decades’ long debate about the fine details of Bigfoot’s feeding, movement, and attributes. To have realized the details such as the swaying hair covered breasts and the interesting half human/half ape face was unbelievably brilliant.
Why did she react that way? When I saw the film in review, I couldn’t help being caught up in the setting. This Bigfoot was near a creek, a likely hang out. She was in a location others had recently seen prints which is why Patterson and Gimlin went there. She didn’t react as I would expect someone portraying a Bigfoot would. There was no racing off and out of the scene in a hurry, afraid of men on horses. She seemed cautious, but in no real hurry to run. She felt no imminent threat, which is astonishing considering she probably had never seen a man nor horse before. This female knows she’s high up on the food chain. She paced herself to leave the site, but continued to make eye contact. There was something very natural about that response. I admit to using the same one when going through a dimly lit parking lot, letting people know I see them and walking briskly. Obviously, she’s been up against bears in the woods and perhaps deer and elk and the sight of man and horse was surprising, but rather more creatures she must endure sharing the woods with.
Why does she move that way? The biomechanics of the way the Bigfoot in this film moves have been analyzed to death with folks in costumes and others measuring each frame and reenacting it. It is nearly impossible to move in just the same easy and casual way with the posture the same as the creature, its proportions so off of human’s. The way it moves its shoulders and head as a unit shows its lack of neck length that is closer to an ape than human. The movement of muscles under the fur is something that I would only be able to guess, but in 1967 they certainly had nothing like that in the movies of the time or they would have had a blockbuster on their hands. The size of the leg muscles is perfectly in keeping with propelling such a heavy beast on two legs.
As you can see, it’s easy to go on forever with questions and find three or four varying answers. Depending on what you want Bigfoot to be or not to be, you can adjust your answers. If I had to decide on Bigfoot’s existence based on the film alone and not all the thousands of reported sightings and foot castings and other photographs, I’d probably say I refuse to decide. One film can’t make a case. But, when added with other evidence, it seems to be that a large ape-like man does wander North America and is occasionally seen. That he is seen rarely shows a level of intelligence and perhaps a need like man has to dominate the far reaches of the woods where he can be king.
How will we go about finding Bigfoot? I doubt it’ll be two redneck hunters with a refrigerator for storage. Nope. It’ll more than likely be how we view bears nowadays, wandering into a neighbor’s pool for a drink when the drought becomes unbearable. I don’t think we’ll go find him. I think he’ll stumble upon us when we encroach even closer to his territory.
Although I readily admit I do believe in the existence of Bigfoot, as far as the Patterson-Gimlin film is concerned, it is becoming more and more likely to me that this was film of something extraordinary. As a story goes, the plot was too perfect with them entering the woods to look for the creature, but the timing of finding it, with Patterson falling off his horse and having a shaky camera, being at the end of the film, finding the creature near a creek, and the fact that for a few seconds the creature is very clearly visible for review, I find something very genuine about the whole thing. I’ve never let myself connect with just the creature in the film and see if it rang true as a real creature of a man in a costume, but after watching it dozens and dozens of times recently, I feel as if I am looking at something not man. Not ape. Something extraordinary. And not because I want this film to be real (I always assumed it wasn’t), but because the creature itself is compelling enough to not seem fashioned by man but nature.
Just for kicks, I thought I'd repost here the short story I wrote about how I think finding BF will go down. Enjoy!
Location: Carson River Valley on the Columbia River, Washington State
Time/Date: 7:49 pm October 29, 2010
Residence: Morgan family living a quarter mile from the river, backyard facing the forest on a 4-acre lot.
Witnesses: Mother Anna and father Joseph are in the kitchen nook discussing the upcoming Halloween fundraiser for the children’s school. Sons 10-year-old Simon and 8-year-old Carter are playing videogames in the living room. Family dog, Butcher, a half pit bull/half German shepherd is resting in front of the fireplace.
Witness account: Simon let the family dog out the back door. Within one minute, the dog barked and scratched at the glass door. Simon’s father called for him to let the dog in. Simon gets up to go let the dog in at the same time his mother goes to open the door impatiently. Butcher races past them, growling, hair standing on end, and hides in the downstairs bathroom.
Father, Joseph, comes to see what the commotion is about and turns on the porch light to see if there’s a raccoon in the yard. A recent forest fire made many animals wander into their yard and scare their dog in past weeks. The sound of trash cans clanking alerts him. He gestures for the family members to stay inside while he grabs up his son’s baseball bat and goes out to investigate. As he rounds the back of the house towards the driveway he catches something dark out of the corner of his eye. He swings around and raises his bat protectively just as he sees something very tall and upright loping towards the roadway. Joseph thinks it’s an intruder and he jumps into his car, pulls out onto the roadway in its direction. Pulling from his driveway, he overcompensates in his rush to find the would-be burglar and his car goes into the grassy shoulder, striking something solid with a thump. He puts the car into park, heart racing, as he gets out to see just what he hit.
With headlights on it, Joseph finds a dark figure slumped onto the ground, face down. It appears to be big, dark, and furry. Hands trembling, he attempts to touch it and see if he can turn it over. It’s too heavy and too unconscious to flip. He rides back to the house and tells his wife Anna to call 9-1-1. His sons beg to go out and see what he hit, but Joseph assures him he bumped into someone and it’ll be okay. He goes back out to meet the police when they arrive. He uses his cell phone to take some pictures.
8:32 pm: Police car pulls up, its lights helping to illuminate the figure along with Joseph’s car lights. Office Tompkins and Officer Salazar approach and call for an ambulance. They decide not to move the creature in case of spinal injury.
8:43 pm: The ambulance arrives. Unsure how to handle the victim, the ambulance attendants call for animal control. Animal control agrees to send someone out.
9:01 pm: A van arrives with two animal control officers who approach the victim, joining the group studying the unconscious creature. The ambulance attendants assure them there is no breathing. The creature has expired. Several calls back to the station in search of an answer to where the creature should go, the morgue or animal control, the decision is made for animal control to take the creature in its possession to be removed to prevent roadside hazards. Joseph gives his information and goes back home. The police officers offer help getting the creature onto a gurney and then transporting it into the back of the van. The animal control officers head back to the office calling in with a warning that they are transporting something they can’t identify.
Animal Control Officer Dallas: “It’s maybe 7’ tall, 400 pounds easily, covered with hair like a bear, but its facial features are human-like, no, no, ape-like. There’s no snout. It has a wide flat nose. No real lips.” (Turns away to talk to other officer) “Its head was kind of dome-shaped?” (other officer replies) “Yeah, yeah.” (To the dispatch) “Its head is dome shaped.”
Dispatch: “So, you’re saying you have a Bigfoot?” (chuckle)
ACO Dallas: “That’s right. We’re going to need a few strong men there to help. Oh, and a gurney. A big one.”
Dispatch: “No joke?”
ACO Dallas: “No fucking joke.”
9:30 pm: A group awaits the arrival of the van in the parking lot. The dispatcher approaches, arms crossed. “You’re going to look like asses, you know.” She snickers as they go to the back of the van and the others rush over. “I just thought I’d invite everyone to see you two get caught in your story.” The officers don’t take the bait. They swing open the doors and the group collectively takes a step back at the stench.
“What is that?” The dispatcher covers her nose.
“Bigfoot.” Officer Dallas replies. “Can we get some hands here? Where’s the gurney?”
“We don’t have a gurney strong enough for even a bear.” The dispatcher backs up further.
“Well, then, let’s get the kitchen island from the break room.”
“We’ve got it.” Two workers rush inside.
One of the volunteers comes forward and touches the fur. “Poor thing.” She offers. “How did it die?”
“Hit by a car. Probably internal bleeding.”
“Look at that foot!” The volunteer runs her hand over the giant foot. The toes are curled inward, the bottom of it harder than shoe leather.
The dispatcher sighs. “What do we do now?”
“What’dya mean?” The officer asks. “We take it inside.”
“And then what? Incinerate it like road kill?”
Officer Salvatore, who up until now has been silent, offers his option. “We don’t call the press. That would make it a zoo here and we have work to do. Why don’t we call the University? Surely someone there would want to come and get it?”
Everyone agreed on the plan of action, eight people work to place the now stiff body onto a rolling wooden cart. Once inside, they shove it against the wall and lock the wheels, everyone crowding around to get a look at the features.
“Yup.” One man nods. “For such a big fella, he’s kinda unblessed.” He comments.
“Jesus, Roger!” Another snorts. “Look at that face. It’s kind of big and flat.”
The dispatcher hands out masks so they can tolerate the smell filling the room. It’s a mixture of feces, wet dog, and skunk. Inside the cages nearby the dogs begin to howl and scratch.
“Better cover them up.” Officer Salvatore tells them. The volunteers cover the cages with large sheets. Still, inside the dogs can smell the intruder and whimper and howl.
As if brought out of their amazement, the group begins to remove their cell phones and take pictures. The dispatcher gets the evidence camera and starts to take as many detailed pictures as possible.
“This is fucking insane.” She snorts. “This is the real thing. Not a fake.” She pokes at the muscular flesh covered in wiry rough fur.
“Got someone at the university coming to pick it up. It took a helluva lot of convincing.” One of the volunteers announced. “The head of the anthropology department is coming out to see it. He wasn’t all that happy, said we’ll be in a lot of trouble if this is a fake.”
“What did you say to him?” The dispatcher asked.
The volunteer laughed. “I told him they better have a big fuckin’ freezer.”
11:44 pm: Dr. McGill from the University arrives with his two assistants. The young man and woman flank both sides of the body and begin to take pictures while the professor examines the fur and structures beneath. After removing a blood sample and swabbing the cheek for DNA, he asks some of the stronger volunteers to help transport it to the van.
October 30, 2010 2:22 am: The professor is now joined by two colleagues, a physician and a veterinarian. They begin the task of photographing, taking hair samples, and then have a conference call with other associates about whether to proceed with an autopsy and documentation of the internal organs or whether to put the specimen in the freezer until more specialists can arrive. The decision is made to keep the body cold. The president of the university tells them to stay hushed until he can plan a press conference. It is apparent that the find is not just a boon to science but to the university, as well.
7:30 am: Newspapers arrive on doorsteps. Joseph’s Bigfoot picture and story are buried deep inside the paper, taken as a potential hoax that occurs like clockwork in that region. Since it’s the eve of Halloween, no one is taking the photo and story seriously. Joseph calls the local TV station. A crew comes out to do a short piece on his explanation of what happened. The videographer and sound man both chuckle as they film his interview. The reporter looks completely unsatisfied with having to do a fluffy piece in time for Halloween.
5:30 pm: News flashes a 45-second blip about the supposed Bigfoot car collision and the photos. The reporter, Irene, is troubled by Joseph’s explanation, his bashed in car fender, and the fact that animal control took the creature away. Just as a follow up, she calls the office of the local animal control. The dispatcher refuses to answer questions. Now curious about what is going on, Irene calls the police department and finally 9-1-1 dispatch. Going through the station’s lawyers, the 9-1-1 call is found. Irene is now going back to talk to Joseph and the animal control officers. Thus begins a local story picked up by AP and Reuters and spreading all the way to Wolf Blitzer on CNN as a tongue-in-cheek Halloween-themed teaser not to be taken seriously.
10:08 pm: The team at the university, after meeting with the university president and board, go about a formal autopsy, filming, documenting, all done by a physician and veterinarian. DNA samples and blood samples are sent to the lab. The decision is made to release the information once the autopsy is completed. The president of the university asks the professor to be the spokesperson.
Date: Halloween October 31, 2010
Time: 8:30 am:
Event: Press conference called by the university president.
Location: University Main Hall
Dr. McGill: Thank you for attending this press conference. I suspect this might be one of the most important ones the field of anthropology has ever held. (His hands tremble as he shifts through his papers, looks down, takes a breath, and raises his head, his dark eyes narrowing cautiously). On October 29th, a man in Washington State gave chase to an intruder only to hit him with his car. (The room remains silent in anticipation of why this warranted a press conference). The victim died on the scene of internal bleeding. What makes this such an exceptional case is that the victim was not a human. Nor was it any known animal. (The room erupts into chatter, cameras flash and light up the room nonstop. The professor holds up his hand). The creature was 7’2” tall, 448 pounds, covered in hair from head to toe. It was a bipedal creature more man-like than ape in appearance. The details of its exact dimensions and the autopsy findings are in reports being handed out right now to the press. (The room becames a jostling match of eager press trying to obtain their copies from the professor’s assistant). The DNA swab and hair sample were sent out to a lab and the results will not be back until the end of November. Blood tests relate that the creature’s blood counts and electrolytes match that of a human. What popular culture has deemed `Bigfoot’ matches this creature. The creature has been renamed `Homo Pilosus’ or `Hairy man.’
Reporter: Are you saying this thing is a man?
(overhead projector showing images taken of the creature on the autopsy table, crowd gasps)
Dr. McGillis: That cannot be determined until DNA analysis confirms it, but with experts examining the creature, it has become apparent that it is more man-like than ape-like.
(The president of the university cuts into the conference, explaining that no more questions can be answered until tests come back. He goes on to explain that the university would like states to enact laws for the protection of this endangered creature, then segues into fund-raising efforts for the university).
November: (The first weeks of November begin with headlines around the world, pictures flashed nonstop on the news networks, lots of hot discussions about the preservation and protection of the species versus finding more. With money to be made from anyone who bags a Bigfoot, greedy people gather guns and head into the woods around the area causing a huge mess to the community along the Columbia River and causing states to begin enacting laws against the destruction of the creature or its habitat. Interviews are done with leading scientists and Joseph. Animal control officers and police and ambulance workers refuse to speak. The president of the university allows no interviews, but does plan a press conference, hoping to garner all the nation’s attention when the DNA results come back. News helicopters hover over the region. Chaos and angry debates about whether Bigfoot is human or not create a firestorm in the news media and around the water coolers in offices as well as living rooms in homes)
Date: Thanksgiving day, November 25, 2010
Time: 3:00 p.m.
Location: University main hall
Press conference: (Following a lengthy and absolutely meaningless speech from the president of the university pumping up their science department).
Dr. McGillis: The results of the DNA sampling from the Homo Pilosus have arrived and been sifted through. Without going into details that are technically overwhelming, I’ll simply say that the DNA findings show the creature to be significantly closer to man than ape. Basically on the branches of man’s tree, we cannot place this creature precisely, but from the specimens of gigantopithecus blacki found in China, we can assume that it’s entirely possible that this species is a descendent from that creature, having crossed the land bridges in Alaska when man also crossed to the Americas. All of this is speculative at the moment, but we can make some speculation based on the similarities to humans, the large size, and the possible way it gained entry to America. (The press begins to shout questions and the university president quiets them down. The professor chooses reporter after reporter to ask ridiculous questions. Finally, the exhausted professor calls on the last reporter, determined that this will end his relationship with the press so he can begin the important research).
Press: Professor, what do you think about the zealot hunters rushing the woods in the Northwest right now?
Professor: (Weary sigh) Although this find is quite extraordinary, there’s no reason to put the creatures of the woods and other humans in danger. I’d like to warn those armed weekend warriors that most states have now put forth laws protecting this creature. When it comes down to it, just don’t forget we’re human and they are, as well. I guess what I’m saying is, if you found out you had a cousin you didn’t know about, would you go to the woods chasing him with a rifle?