Bigfoot Encounters

Famous film of Bigfoot: Big hoax?
by Eric Cook, for the Kalamazoo Gazette

Tuesday, November 18, 2008 -- A Kalamazoo native's story helps to debunk the myth of Bigfoot tomorrow on TV Land.

It was 1967 when costume-maker Philip Morris got an unusual phone call from a guy asking about a gorilla costume. ``We had been advertising our costumes in a lot of trade magazines, so I was used to getting phone calls, but this was different,'' said Morris, whose costume company Morris Costumes in Charlotte, N.C., is one of the largest in the nation.

``The man on the phone, who said his name was Roger Patterson, wanted to buy a gorilla suit and asked if it looked like a real gorilla,'' said Morris, a Kalamazoo Central graduate. ``I told him that it looked like a Hollywood gorilla, but he said he wanted something that looked more like a Neanderthal. What he wanted was Bigfoot.''

Intrigued, Morris asked Patterson what the costume was for. ``He said the costume was for a prank, but I thought that was pretty odd because these were expensive suits,'' said Morris. ``Our customers were movie studios and famous magicians, the suits cost $450 back then. That is like over $1,000 today. I thought it was odd to spend so much on a prank, but I sent him the costume.''

Two weeks after sending out the costume, Morris got another phone call from Patterson. ``He asked me to send him some extra fur and asked how to hide the zipper in the back and how to make the person in the costume look larger,'' Morris said. ``I told him to brush the fur over the zipper and use hair spray to hold it, and then get some football shoulder pads and sticks for the arms to give the illusion of being taller, and use stuffing to get more bulk.''

Two months later, Patterson was all over the news with a video he ``captured'' of Bigfoot while hunting in northern California. ``I was watching TV when I saw Patterson and his film on the news,'' Morris said. ``I called my wife from the other room and said, `Look it's our gorilla costume.'''

The film has since become the most famous footage of Bigfoot and has ignited a controversy over its authenticity. With a large clientele of magicians, Morris decided not to tell anyone that it was his gorilla costume in the film.

``As a costume and special-effects producer, I have an ethical code I have to uphold,'' Morris said. ``I couldn't go out telling secrets and expect magicians to trust me with their props. That is why I didn't say anything. Plus I thought he would come clean in a few weeks.''

Patterson never admitted it was a hoax, but after his death in the 1980s Morris decided it was OK to tell people it was his suit in the film.

``Most people believe me, but there are people that are very hostile to me when I tell them it is a hoax,'' Morris said. ``It is like telling them Santa Claus doesn't exist. They grew up believing it was true and do not want to admit to themselves it's fake.''
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