The Beast Within
My busy life caused me to miss an anniversary of sorts. It has been 40 years since the footage of an alleged Bigfoot was shot by Roger Patterson and Bob Gimlin in Bluff Creek, California, on October 20, 1967. (This is actually incomplete footage; there is another intriguing ten seconds or so of a straight-on shot of the creature crossing the riverbank before Patterson runs with the camera and takes the above footage, but I cannot find a clip that includes it. These seconds of footage show the "creature" beginning its walk from a standstill. The significance of this is made clear in the article about Bob Hieronimous, linked here and below.)
The belief in Bigfoot is certainly the most harmless and, in my opinion, the most fun, of the popular American pseudosciences. The legend commands a certain respect for having a place in Native American beliefs – although, truth to tell, the descriptions among the various tribes do not all gibe with the gigantic, hairy, five-toed, bipedal creature. (Sasquatch, Omah, and Bookwas, being part of the Pacific Northwest cultures, gave modern Americans our popular, commercial images of Bigfoot, but there are others, including a three-toed tiny creature said to wander the Everglades).
Even President Theodore Roosevelt, in his book The Wilderness Hunter, recounted a horrifying tale told to him by a grizzled old trapper named Bauman (although Roosevelt pooh-poohed the story as the product of a latent superstitious mind, rather than believed it as Peter Graves would have you believe in his 1970s “documentary” The Mysterious Monsters). The story itself is impressively frightening - probably due in part to Roosevelt's excellent rendition (imagine that we once had a good writer and a conservationist as our President!) - and is one of my all-time favorite campfire tales. Check it out! Fun stuff, whatever its reliability.
I have tried to locate the spot on maps, and located what I think are several good candidates; Bauman certainly existed and I do believe that something happened to him, although I am inclined to suspect more mundane explanations. However, I admit to still being fascinated by the Bigfoot legend. As Eugenie Scott said in an interview, many people, including scientists, would love to believe that there is an undiscovered humanoid or anthropoid out there.
However, I am a big believer in facing facts, and there are some disturbing facts surrounding the Patterson film. One of these is the unusual process used to develop the Patterson film. (He did not take it to the nearest film developing business, but had a friend - a very good friend - mail it to a personal developer.) Another is the fact that Patterson "forgot" which speed his camera shot the film, which was rather conveniently shot at the end of the film roll. (Patterson and Gimlin were in fact filming a documentary about Bigfoot with the intent to sell it when they fortuitously encountered the creature - they were not just two cowboys out for a ride that day with a film camera in hand!)
Yet another is the fact that Bob Gimlin "happened" to be present at a later so-called Bigfoot sighting near the Dalles, Oregon. Hmmm. Then there is a man named Bob Hieronimous, who for years has been the prime suspect in the "Where is the zipper" hunt, before finally confessing to being the Bluff Creek monster.
Gimlin, who avoided the spotlight for years, has since come forward and stated emphatically that 1) the Bluff Creek creature could very well have been a hoax; and 2) that he had no part of it. I recall an interview with Gimlin that stuck in my mind, in which he stated "The adrenaline was rushing," and "had it turned and rushed me, I would have shot it." In response to queries about a possible hoax, Gimlin stated, "I'm an older man now, and I've seen a lot of things, and yes, it's possible." I am inclined to find Gimlin sincere, although of course I cannot know - liars are liars because they are convincing.
And because people want to believe; as I did, when I was twelve.
UPDATED: Well, speaking of Hieronimous bosh, guess who has a blog!
What can I say? I told her that life begins at 40. Egg on my face, fo' sho'. Because Bigfoot is REAL! The footage below proves it!
Okay, seriously folks. This episode of "Ancient Mysteries" has the missing footage that I mention above, with the "creature" starting from a still position (it starts around 1:30). It's quite shaky, though.