Some Thoughts About the Patterson Bigfoot Film
on its 30th Anniversary

By Mark Chorvinsky

OCTOBER 1997: Thirty years ago---on October 20, 1967--Yakima, Washington resident Roger Patterson, then 34, and his tracking assistant Bob Gimlin, then 36, emerged from the Bluff Creek area of northern California with a strip of colored 16mm film of what many have taken to be a female Bigfoot.

This short film has provided evidence for those who believe in Bigfoot and is arguably the most famous film clip purporting to demonstrate the existence of unknown creatures. It has been featured in numerous television shows and films and ads, on the cover of books and magazines, and now on web sites. The Patterson film has been one of the major pillars of belief in Bigfoot for the past 30 years. When people think of "Bigfoot," the creature in the film often comes to mind.

Bluff Creek, where the famous Patterson film was taken, is a sacred spot to the Bigfoot enthusiast. It is also the site of the 1958 Birth of Bigfoot case, which is severely tainted by the presence of Ray and Wilbur Wallace. Ray Wallace of Tacoma Washington is a problematic character. He is a known hoaxer responsible for numerous Bigfoot films, photographs, tape recordings, fake footprints, and artifacts. I have written a number of articles about Ray Wallace and the 1958 Bluff Creek Birth of Bigfoot case, bringing great doubt upon the case in which Bigfoot was named and entered the public consciousness on a large scale.

If the Bluff Creek Birth of Bigfoot case was the work of the Wallaces (Ray's brother Roy was accused by the local police at the time), then later cases that occur in that area should be highly suspect. Ray Wallace has claimed that he knows who was in the Patterson suit. He will not give a name, but says that the person in the suit was a Yakima Indian.

Wallace also says that he told Roger Patterson where to film his Bigfoot. "Roger Patterson came [over] dozens of times pumping me on this Bigfoot," Ray Wallace explained to researcher Dennis Pilichis in 1982. " I felt sorry for Roger Patterson. He told me that he had cancer of the lymph glands and he was desperately broke and he wanted to try get something where he could have a little income. Well, he went down there just exactly where I told him. I told him, 'You go down there and hang around on that bank. Stay up there and watch that spot.' I told him where the trail was that went down to where that big rock was.I told him where he could get those pictures down there. Bluff Creek."

All of Wallace's claims are suspect, but there is no doubt that Patterson met with Wallace to get information, as Wallace says. We know that Patterson visited Wallace--Patterson writes about it in his own book Do Abominable Snowmen of America Really Exist? (Yakima, Washington: Franklin Press, Inc., 1966, pp. 63-64.) And we know that Patterson took his films at one of Wallace's favorite Bigfoot spots: Bluff Creek, the site of previous alleged Wallace hoaxes. In short, the Patterson film was taken on the location of a known serial hoaxer.

Ray Wallace has also circulated questionable Bigfoot photos that bear some resemblance to the Patterson creature (see Mark Chorvinsky, "New Bigfoot Photo Investigation," Strange Magazine 13, Spring 1994, pp.10-11, 51). Wallace has at least one and more likely two Bigfoot suits that he has used for photographs, and had the funds to commission others. At this time it is unknown if Wallace was involved in a hoax with Patterson or hoaxed Patterson.

If there was a hoax, Patterson was either hoaxer or was hoaxed. If he was the hoaxer, what would his Bigfoot have looked like? I would suggest that Patterson's own drawings of Bigfoots for his book may be early designs for the subject of the film that he would take the next year. If Patterson was to have a suit fabricated, he would have rendered a drawing of what he wanted and given it to someone who could fabricate the suit. That drawing would have been an example of what Patterson thought a Bigfoot looked like.

Patterson was strongly influenced by the earlier 1955 William Roe case in eastern British Columbia involving a female Bigfoot.

Roe's description of the creature that he saw is very similar to the subject of the Patterson film, as are numerous aspects of the encounter. Consider the following from Roe: " it came closer I saw by its breasts that it was a female...Its broad frame was straight from shoulder to tip...its arms were much thicker than a man's arms and longer reaching almost to its knees..[T]he nose was broad and flat..the hair that covered it (the face), leaving bare only the parts of the face around the mouth nose and ears...its neck also was unhuman, thicker and shorter than any man's I have ever seen...It looked directly at me through an opening in the brush. A look of amazement crossed its face... [It] straightened up to its full height and started to walk rapidly back the way it had come...again turning its head to look in my direction."

In his book, Patterson illustrates a scene from the Roe case that might as well be the design for what would later be the Patterson film. The resemblance is striking: the position and stance of the creature in the frame, the much-discussed hairy breasts, the general form of the creature, etc. suggest that this illustration was the storyboard for what would later become known as the Patterson film.

Indeed, when we peruse Patterson's book we find one illustration in particular that could explain one aspect of the Patterson Bigfoot: its large hirsute breasts. How many of us would have designed a Bigfoot with breasts like the one in the Patterson film? Some have suggested that the female nature of the Bigfoot in the Patterson film mitigates in favor of its reality in that it is unlikely that a hoaxer would have created such a Bigfoot. Patterson has drawings of two female Bigfoots in his book.

If the cultural transmission of Bigfoot/Sasquatch belief is at the heart of the Bigfoot phenomenon, as I suspect it is, then it is significant and no surprise that this image was passed on from Roe to Patterson. A comparison of Roe's daughter's drawing of Roe's Sasquatch and Patterson's female Bigfoot drawing is valuable: their strong similarity to the creature in the Patterson film demonstrates how the cultural transmission of the image of a phenomenon may be accomplished.

Some of the other problems that I have with the Patterson film include the following:

There are many other questions and problems to be discussed at length in future articles.

It has been suggested that the Patterson Bigfoot film was instrumental in making Bigfoot what he is today and perhaps this is not an overstatement. On its 30th birthday I toast the film that defined and cemented a phenomenal image in the public consciousness, and whose delightfully ambiguous nature will continue to be an item of great controversy for many years to come.

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