Thoughts on the Patterson-Gimlin Footage
By John Green
Almost thirty-seven years ago
two young men from Yakima, Washington,
Roger Patterson and Bob Gimlin, emerged from a remote forest in the
corner of California with a brief 16-millimeter film showing
a hairy creature walking along a sand bar on its hind legs,
debate on whether their film shows an unknown animal or a man
wearing a fur suit has gone on ever since.
thanks to a new book on the subject, that debate should be at
an end. The answer has been in plain view all along, the
the film holding it, quite literally, in its arms. And that answer,
ironically, is the opposite of the one
in the book.
The creature can not be a man in a suit.
The writer of the book, of which only review copies are
available, claims to have cracked the case by finding two key
witnesses, the man who wore the suit, a Yakima
Patterson and Gimlin named Bob Heironimus, and the man who
sold a gorilla suit to Patterson and told
him how to modify it,
Philip Morris, a costume maker from Charlotte, North Carolina.
The Heironimus story is not
new. It surfaced several years ago
one of the many unsubstantiated claims to have been "the man
in the suit" that crop
up from time to time. Phillip Morris appears
to be a real find, a man who actually was making gorilla costumes
and who says he remembers selling one to Roger Patterson.
One of the things that Morris is quoted as saying is that
to make the arms in the suit look longer than human arms is to
extend the gloves of the suit on sticks. Many
people have noted that
the arms of the creature in the film look unusually long, almost as
long as its legs. Some, including
myself in 1968, have published
estimates of their length. No one went on to deal with the question
of how human arms
could be extended to match the extra length
and what such an extension would look like.
There is no way to establish
for certain if any of the dimensions
estimated for the creature in the film are accurate, but what can
with reasonably accuracy is the length of the
creature's legs and arms in relation to one another. From that ratio,
anatomists call the "intermembral index," it is simple to
calculate how many inches must be added to the arms of a man
known size in order to make his arms long enough to fit the
supposed suit. In my own case the answer turns out to
be about 10
But in order for the arms to bend at the elbow, which they plainly
do in the movie, all of
that extra length has to be added to the
lower arm. The result, in my case, is about 12 inches of arm above
and 29 inches below it~almost as much of a monstrosity
as Edward Scissorhands. The creature in the movie has normal-looking
It cannot be a man in a suit.
Many issues in the long debate about the movie remain unresolved -
what the film speed
was, whether a man could duplicate the
creature's unusual bent-kneed walk, whether its behavior was normal
for an animal,
whether the tracks left on the sandbar could have
been faked, and so on - but all of them turn out to have been
to the main issue.
My measurements of the film, made 36 years ago, gave the creature
arms that were 30 inches from
the shoulder to the wrist and legs
that were 35 inches from the hip to the ground. My own measurements
are about 24
inches from shoulder to wrist and 40 inches from hip
to ground. Only the ratios of the measurements matter, the actual
of either the human or the creature makes no difference, and the
ratios for creature and human are so much different
accuracy of the measurements is not significant either. The much
ridiculed Patterson-Gimlin film does not
show a man in a suit.
What about Roger Patterson buying a gorilla suit? Philip Morris
does not claim to have records,
only a memory, and neither Mrs.
Patterson nor Bob Gimlin remember Roger having any such suit.
But Roger was trying to
make a Bigfoot documentary at that time
and most such documentaries contain re-enactments by someone
wearing a fur suit.
If he did buy one it has little more significance
than an apprentice carpenter buying a hammer.
And the descriptions
of the suit by the two key witnesses are
totally contradictory. Morris is quoted as having described his
suit in precise
detail, and how he made it. The suit had six
separate pieces: a head a body (arms, torso and legs), two hands
feet. A knitted cloth material served as a backing to
thousands of synthetic nylon strands called dynel, which were
by a powerful knitting machine with needles through the
knitted cloth material and then pulled back through to the other
It had a 36-inch zipper up the back.
Bob Heironimus is also quoted, saying that Patterson made the
by skinning a dead horse and gluing fur from an
old fur coat on the horsehide. It was in three parts, head,
legs that felt like bigger rubber boots and that went
to his waist. He thought the feet were made of old house slippers.
suit weighted 20 or 25 pounds and he needed help to get in
and out of it. It also smelled bad. "It stunk. Roger skinned
dead, red horse."
=============================================A comment by Jeff Meldrum
"It has been obvious
to even the casual viewer that the film subject
possesses arms that are disproportionately long for its stature.
Green is a veteran researcher into the question of Sasquatch
or Bigfoot. He was among the first to view the film captured
Patterson and Gimlin and has studied it intensely in the intervening
years. His recognition of the significance of
the unhumanly long arms
of the film subject is point that has not previously been articulated
in such a straightforward
manner. It is such a fundamental observation
that it is considered a breakthrough in assessing the validity of this
film. Anthropologists typically express limb proportions
as an intermembral index (IM), which is the ratio of combined
forearm skeletal length (humerus + radius) to combined thigh and leg
skeletal length (femur + tibia) x 100.
The human IM averages 72. The
intermembral index is a significant measure of a primate's locomotor
forelimb-dominated movements of the chimp and
gorilla are reflected in their high IM indices of 106 and 117 respectively.
the positions of the joints on the film subject can only be
approximate and the limbs are frequently oriented obliquely
plane of the film, rendering them foreshortened to varying degrees.
However, in some frames the limbs are nearly
vertical, hence parallel
to the filmplane, and indicate an IM index somewhere between 80 and
90, intermediate between
humans and African apes. In spite of the
imprecision of this preliminary estimate, it is well beyond the mean
and effectively rules out a man-in-a-suit explanation for
the Patterson-Gimlin film without invoking an elaborate, if not
prosthetic contrivance to account for the appropriate
positions and actions of wrist and elbow and finger flexion visible
the film. This point deserves further examination and may well rule
out the probability of hoaxing."
Meldrum Ph.D. Associate professor of Anatomy & Anthropology
Idaho State University Pocatello, Idaho, 83209-8007. Dr.
is an expert in primate anatomy and locomotion. He recently coedited,
From Biped to Strider: The Emergence of
Modern Human Walking,
Running, and Resource Transport. He became interested in the
Sasquatch question eight years ago
after witnessing 15-inch tracks
in southeastern Washington state. He has examined numerous
footprints, including those
associated with the Patterson-Gimlin footage.