Internet shifts perspective of ‘Bigfootage’


It remains one of the most iconic moments in American folklore.

Forty years ago this week, two men filmed a hirsute creature wandering through Six Rivers National Forest in California. The frozen instant when this beast turns to look at the camera has become the quintessential image of Bigfoot.

The footage also has become a cornerstone for proof in arguing the creature’s existence and for an equal amount of hoax theories.

The encounter occurred on Oct. 20, 1967, when “cowboys” Roger Patterson and Tom Gimlin headed into the Willow Creek region of the forest on a quest to photograph Bigfoot. The men were on horseback when they ran across the beast.

According to their statements, Patterson dismounted and began to chase the creature with a borrowed 16 mm camera, while Gimlin remained behind with a rifle in hand. (The two had agreed in advance they would not fire upon it.)

Patterson once told a researcher that the famous expression on the beast’s face as it turned was that of “contempt and disgust … you know how it is when the umpire tells you ‘one more word and you’re out of the game.’ That’s the way it felt.”

The pair’s resulting 53-second film has been analyzed by everyone from anthropologists to Hollywood special effects artists. Opinions to its authenticity vary wildly. Yet few dispute that the jittery, handheld camerawork, washed-out colors and subject-in-longshot make it difficult to determine what is really being witnessed.

For years, the public has relied on the rudimentary clip to debate the validity of Bigfoot. But recently technology has given everyone a new perspective on the Patterson-Gimlin footage.

A blogger who goes by the name M.K. Davis has utilized image-enhancement and motion stabilization to create an entirely new version. (Here is retooled footage 1 and 2 of the incident.)

Viewing the short film in this manner proves rather eye-opening.

I’m no expert … but isn’t that some guy in a gorilla suit?

It’s not so much that the furry brown costume looks fake – it’s actually pretty convincing. Rather, it’s the walk of Bigfoot that is a dead giveaway. Prior to the stabilization technology, the jumpiness of the footage made it easy to be distracted by the environment that accompanied the central image. But once the you-are-there documentary aura is dumped, and it’s only a static shot of the subject walking, my fence-sitting opinion of Patterson-Gimlin’s Bigfoot dramatically changed.

It looks like they hired a bulky buddy and had him strap on a modified ape costume. From his gait, he might as well be wearing a Cleveland Browns uniform. He looks like a defensive lineman walking off the field after the other team just kicked a field goal.

There is nothing simian about him.

Sure, there is still plenty of evidence on both sides of the argument. And, yes, Bigfoot enthusiasts can probably point to other aspects of the film that support their case.

But strictly in terms of the naked eye, it looks like Patterson and Gimlin were simply monkeying around.