Friday, October 20, 2017

The Patterson Gimlin Filn

50 years ago today, Roger Patterson filmed a Sasquatch meandering through a dried river bed in Bluff Creek, California.

Patterson, who was to die of cancer five years after the encounter, was an avid Bigfoot buff who’d regularly go out hunting for the giant cryptid, after first reading about it in 1959. He even published a short book of his sasquatchian musings in 1966.

On Friday, October 20, 1967, around 1:30 in the afternoon, Patterson and his friend, Bob Gimlin, on horseback, rounded a bend in a dried creek marked by a large overturned tree. Patterson’s horse spooked and nearly threw him. He got off, steadied the animal, and began filming a large, hairy, upright creature approximately 25 feet away, who seems itself to get spooked and bustle away.

The film in its entirety lasts 59.5 seconds.

Myself, I probably first saw this clip on one of the Leonard Nimoy-narrated In Search Of episodes in the late 70s. That launched a pre-adolescent fascination resulting in many hours studying Bigfoot books in an untraveled nook at the library where my mom worked. Though lost to my memory, I must have easily devoured ten or twelve books of varying degrees of difficulty and seriousness on the famously shy hominid. To this day, when in the grip of insomnia, I’ll creep down to the laptop at the writer’s desk in the basement, throw on the headphones, and watch endless Bigfoot videos and documentaries, everything from obvious hoaxes to that greatest documentary of all time, another Nimoy-narrated Sasquatch bio by Ancient Mysteries.

Now – does Hopper believe in Sasquatch?

Uh, dunno. Normally, I’d shout emphatically “No!” Despite a fascination with all things paranormal, cryptozoological, and downright weird, a fascination spawning in part from the countless hours of enjoyment reading and watching science fiction in my childhood, I am at heart a pragmatist. UFOs do not travel here from other galaxies; the Greys do not abduct campers and single moms in trailer parks. Hundreds of eight-foot-tall, 500-pount hairy man-apes do not inhabit the forests of the continental United States.

And yet … I recall reading about how the existence of the African gorilla 150 years ago was roundly mocked and belittled until, uh, a gorilla was actually captured (probably killed). I guess I’m saying Bigfoot’s existence is plausible, though unlikely. Maybe a 5 percent chance of actually being an actual being, were I a betting man.

A common rebuttal to the Sasquatch question is, why haven’t any bones been discovered? Then I read and hear hunters talk and say things like, bears exist, but we don’t find bear bones out on the trail. Dying animals hide, and then other animals dismember and ultimately digest the body.

Then again, I’ve seen plenty of photos and videos of bears.

So, I don’t know. I’d like to think Bigfoot exists. I even thought I saw one, for a split second, peripherally from my ground-level bedroom window as a boy. Turned out just to be my mother, taking out the trash.

I’ve tried to get my girls interested in the creature, if only for the campy, creepy, “what’s that staring at us just beyond the treeline?” effect, but no dice. They ain’t buying it. Perhaps if they were boys, I don’t know. My oldest likes watching the occasional Finding Bigfoot, but only to make fun of the quartet of nerds on the show endlessly not finding Bigfoot and using the cringe-worthy word “squatchy” whenever possible.

Do I think the Patterson film is legit? That the creature filmed is really a Sasquatch, and not some dude in a Hollywood special effects costume? Again, probably not. Breathless affirmations that the suit is lifelike, that “muscles can be seen undulating beneath the fur,” that it’s too realistic to be faked, don’t convince me. One thing, though, does: the fact that when the creature turns to look back at the human intruders, it throws its shoulder and arm back too. This is what gorillas do, because, unlike man, their chins do not rise above their shoulders, and to look back they have to move their entire body 45-90 degrees to one side. Would amateur hoaxers realize that?

So … mostly I know, but there’s a tiny, childlike part that still says “I dunno.”

Creepy, regardless.

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