The Patterson-Gimlin Film: Evidence of Bigfoot or Elaborate Hoax?

On October 20, 1967, Roger Patterson and Bob Gimlin shot a grainy, 59.5 second film purporting to prove evidence of Bigfoot. It has become one of the most famous films in history. But does the Patterson-Gimlin film confirm the existence of Sasquatch, or was it one of the world’s most elaborate - and famous - hoaxes? Read on to find out.

14 May 2024

Believed to be the second-most watched movie reel in history behind the Zapruder film that caught the last seconds of JFK, few pieces of evidence in the annals of cryptozoology have stirred as much debate and fascination as the Patterson-Gimlin video.

In the rugged wilderness of Del Norte County in northwestern California, just eighteen miles from the Pacific Ocean, Roger Patterson and Robert ’Bob’ Gimlin, two former amateur boxers and rodeo men from Yakima County in the US state of Washington filmed Bigfoot, also known as Sasquatch.

Or did they?

Watch: The Patterson Gimlin Film

Running just under a minute, the Patterson and Gimlin film has become the centrepiece of a controversy that spans over half a century, swinging between claims of definitive proof of Bigfoot’s existence, and allegations of an elaborately complex hoax.

Exactly what did the two men see that day on the banks of Bluff Creek? Was it a brilliantly orchestrated con, nothing more than a guy in a gorilla suit, that has kept the world guessing for more than five decades, or did they stumble upon an unknown hominid that fits somewhere in the evolutionary line between modern human beings and their anthropoid progenitors?

Yet the most fascinating part of the Patterson-Gimlin film is that, despite being forensically dissected by scientists, technology experts, film specialists, and even Hollywood costume designers, it’s never been definitively debunked.

This is the story of the Patterson sasquatch film.

The Sasquatch Encounter

Bigfoot sign (Credit: pabradyphoto via Getty Images)

The story of Bigfoot had been around for years and Roger Patterson had become interested in its lore since the late 1950s. It’s thought he went to Bluff Creek in 1962 and again in 1964 when it was reported he found footprints of… something.

Dozens – probably hundreds – of people descended on the area, but with every failed encounter, they slowly dropped away, but Roger Patterson didn’t give up.

In October 1967, Patterson and Gimlin, described as a ‘sceptical but supportive friend’, drove out to the Six Rivers National Forest with a few days’ worth of provision and three horses.

On the 20th, somewhere between 1 – 2pm, the men were riding upstream in a northeasterly direction. In the words of one of the men, they ‘came to an overturned tree with a large root system at a turn in the creek, almost as high as a room.’

Looking left, they saw a bipedal, apelike creature which the two men variously estimated to be between six feet and seven and a half feet tall with either ‘silvery-brown’, ‘dark reddish-brown’ or ‘black’ hair. They reached for their camera to capture what they saw.

When the famous Bigfoot Patterson film started rolling, the creature was probably around 120 feet away and it captures ‘Bigfoot’ walking across a clearing before disappearing into the dense forest.

Patterson claimed the creature turned to look at the camera three times, although two were either before the camera started rolling or during a pause in recording as the men moved to a better vantage point. But it’s the iconic look-back ‘frame 352’, where ‘Patty’ turns over her right shoulder to look directly into the camera, that ignited an immediate interest in the Bigfoot legend, transforming it from folklore to a subject of serious debate.

This moment in the Patterson and Gimlin film has been analysed, scrutinised, and debated by experts and enthusiasts alike, with some arguing it depicts a creature of unknown species, and others contending it’s merely a person in an – admittedly, very good – costume.

The aftermath of the film’s release thrust Patterson and Gimlin into the spotlight, facing both fascination and scepticism. Patterson, in particular, steadfastly defended the authenticity of the film until his death in 1972, while Gimlin maintained a more reserved stance for many years, only recently embracing his role in the saga.

The Plausible Patterson-Gimlin Film Theories

Was a standing brown bear mistaken for Bigfoot? (Credit: Paul Souders via Getty Images)

The grainy movie has generated a spectrum of theories over the years, ranging from plausible explanations to more outlandish and speculative ideas. These theories attempt to explain what Roger Patterson and Bob Gimlin purportedly encountered that day in 1967 in the forests of Northern California.


One of the more scientifically grounded explanations is that Patterson and Gimlin might have misidentified a known animal, such as a bear, which are common in the area and can occasionally walk on two legs. Proponents of this theory suggest that the men were primed to see Bigfoot due to their interest in the subject and interpreted their sighting accordingly.

A Brilliantly-Executed Hoax

Sceptics often posit that the figure in the Patterson sasquatch film was a person wearing a sophisticated ape suit. This theory is supported by claims from various individuals over the years who have alleged involvement in the creation or wearing of a costume for the film. Despite these claims, no one has definitively proven the film to be a hoax in this manner.

Costume technology at the time, including visibly moving musculature, was probably not as advanced as what was allegedly seen in the Patterson and Gimlin film, nor has anyone, in the 50+ years since the film was made, come forward with definitive proof to say they made or wore the suit that day.

It’s also been suggested that, despite Patterson attempting to make a documentary on the subject a few years previously, these two blue collar guys may not have had the wherewithal or the means to pull off such an astonishingly elaborate and complex hoax that has left the scientific world baffled since the sixties. This doesn’t rule out the possibility that someone else in fact played a prank on them, leading the pair to genuinely believe what they filmed was real.

A Real Animal

Some believe that Patterson Gimlin video did indeed capture an unknown species or a cryptid. This explanation holds that the creature is a real, undiscovered animal living in the North American wilderness, possibly a remnant population of gigantopithecus, an extinct genus of ape, or an unknown hominid.

The Out-of-this-World Patterson-Gimlin Film Theories

Is Bigfoot out there? (Credit: David Wall via Getty Images)

On the far end of the spectrum, some theories suggest that the creature could be of extraterrestrial origin or an interdimensional being that temporarily appeared in our world. These theories often draw on broader beliefs about UFOs and supernatural phenomena, lacking scientific support but rich in imaginative speculation.

Another speculative idea is that the Bigfoot Patterson film unintentionally caught a creature that was part of a secret government experiment, possibly related to genetic engineering or advanced costume technology being tested in a remote area.

Despite the wide range of theories, the Patterson-Gimlin film remains one of the most compelling pieces of evidence for believers in Bigfoot. The lack of conclusive evidence to definitively prove or disprove the film’s authenticity keeps these theories alive in the public imagination. In the end, the true nature of what Patterson and Gimlin captured on film that day in 1967 remains one of the greatest mysteries of American folklore.

The Legacy of the Patterson Gimlin Video

Bigfoot books at the Archives for the Unexplained in Sweden (Credit: JONATHAN NACKSTRAND via Getty Images)

The Patterson-Gimlin film, since its emergence in 1967, has remained a pivotal and polarising piece of visual evidence in the lore of Bigfoot. Straddling the realms of cryptozoology, folklore, and pop culture, it invites an enduring debate over the existence of this elusive creature. Despite advancements in technology and numerous attempts to debunk or validate the footage, the film continues to hold a unique place in the collective imagination.


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