Bigfoot film sets enthusiasts at odds
BOTHELL, Washington --- In the hearts and minds of true believers, Bigfoot'sexistence has long been enshrined in a single minute of jerky, grainy footage of a startled sasquatch retreating into the upper California woods.
But two enthusiasts of the legendary being are alleging four magnified frames of the 16 mm footage show tracings of a bell-shaped fastener at Bigfoot's waist. They say the creature in the so-called Patterson-Gimlin Film can finally be dismissed as a man in a monkey suit.
'It was a hoax,'' said Cliff Crook, a longtime Bigfoot tracker who devotes rooms to sasquatch memorabilia in this suburb north of Seattle. ''How can an artificial, manmade object end up on a Bigfoot?''
The film, purportedly showing a female Bigfoot fleeing a streambed, was taken by Roger Patterson and Bob Gimlin on Oct. 20, 1967. It has largely withstood independent scrutiny and, for many steeped in the lore of the man-beast, has become bedrock evidence of its very existence.
'There's no way of really detracting from it,'' said Ray Crowe, president of the International Bigfoot Society in Portland, Oregon. The image captured in the footage ''has a fluid motion. It's a wild creature of nature.''
The film is important because many Bigfoot believers compare all plaster casts of telltale footprints against those made by Patterson the day he purportedly filmed the creature slinking across a sandbar in the Six Rivers National Forest.
Discredit the footage, experts agree, and the gold standard for Bigfoot tracks will be washed away.
Crook bases his assertion on computer enhancements performed by Chris Murphy, a Bigfoot buff from Vancouver, British Columbia, who maintains he discovered an aberration in the footage in 1995 while helping his son Daniel prepare a class project.
Murphy declined to be interviewed, instead supplying a written narrative detailing his discovery.
According to that account, the Murphys used a color photocopier to duplicate a frame of the Patterson film. Zooming in again and again, Chris Murphy became suspicious.
To him, something geometric - vaguely the shape of a bottle opener - seemed to take shape at Bigfoot's waist. Murphy maintains that four sequential computer-scanned frames of the film show the object in different positions, as if it were swinging. He theorizes something is cinching the sasquatch costume in place.
Murphy made a clay model of the object and in October gave that and the enlargements to Crook, a charter-bus driver transfixed by sasquatch stories since 1957. That's the year he made a camping trip with teen-age friends on Washington's Olympic Peninsula that ended with telltale signs of a sasquatch encounter: a rustling of brush, a throaty growl and an ever-worsening hallmark musk.
Decades later, at 58, spare rooms in his home are dubbed ''Bigfoot Central,'' stuffed with photos, plaster casts and maps dotted with push-pins that chart sasquatch sightings.
Now his hoax assertion is giving rise to a howl that would make a Bigfoot proud. Longtime enthusiasts smell a deserter.
One recent e-mail was typical of the incredulity Crook's allegation of a costume fastener is up against.
'Cliff, Cliff, Cliff,'' it scolded. ''That's matted feces.'' 'There are two witnesses (and) there are footprints,'' said Rene Dahinden, a Richmond, British Columbia, researcher who shares the film's copyright. ''We've never had anything like it previously, and anything like it since.''
*Dahinden, 68, discounts Murphy as an amateur. ''He wasn't involved in this until 1993,'' Dahinden said. ''He couldn't spell the name 'sasquatch' before that.''
*Grover Krantz, a Washington State University anthropology professor and Bigfoot expert, also believes firmly in the old footage.
'I fully accept the Patterson film,'' Krantz said. ''If there was a fastener, it could not be seen in an enlargement. The film grain is such that it cannot hold an image of something that small.''
The truth of the Patterson-Gimlin film remains as elusive as Bigfoot itself. Enthusiasts such as Krantz and Crowe see the film as a building block for their faith. And the faiths of Crook and Murphy endure in spite of it.
Crook knows that, in dissent, he and Murphy are ''far outnumbered.''
'There's a few broken friendships because of this,'' Crook said. ''I just figured, 'This is a search for the truth. When it becomes something different, that's when it should stop.'''
Maybe a Bigfoot will one day view the film, Crook figures, and offer its own disapproving grunt.
'There's just too much evidence that these creatures do inhabit certain areas out there,'' Crook said, ever sanguine. ''Even though the Patterson film is a hoax, it doesn't mean Bigfoot doesn't exist.''
By The Associated Press
Sunday January 10, 1999
*Since this original newspaper article was published, Rene Dahinden died in April 2001
and Dr. Grover Krantz passed away in February 2002 both from cancer. Roger Patterson died in 1972.
Clifford Crook can be reached at Bigfoot Central, P. O. Box 147 Bothell, WA. 98041-0147
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