Bigfoot Encounters

By Ivan T. Sanderson, Pursuit 1968

The most outstanding event in the fortean field during the past six months, and potentially one of the most important ever to have occurred was the obtaining of 30-feet of 16 mm, standard, non-professional, color film of a very large hairy Hominid, by Roger L. Patterson and a friend Bob Gimlin, in Del Norte County of northern California, in October last.

This story has been published in ARGOSY Magazine in two articles -the February and April issues of this year -- and aired on innumerable television and radio shows, both network and local, and including several of the biggest shows, like Alan Burke, Joe Pyne, et al. The best summation of the whole story was, however, written by Bob Kirkpatrick, the Executive Editor of NATIONAL WILDLIFE and published in his own magazine, Volume 6. No. 3, April-May, 1968 issue.
But none of this airing has told the real story behind the story; a story that will be all too familiar to old time forteans but which still should be disseminated.

All the old "Blocks" arose and many of the old gimmicks were unleashed, and by the whole gamut of orthodoxies. The treatment of Roger Patterson personally only missed that normally meted out to 'pioneers' by a hair's breadth. Frankly, we -- the working members of our society -- were, as Roger has very generously stated, solely responsible for the fact that the wipe (see Charles Fort for definition) although started and well under way was halted before it gathered too much momentum, so that he did finally get a proper hearing.

All he was "robbed of was reimbursement for the time and money he had spent during the past eight years on this enterprise, which has virtually bankrupted him; since the "value" of any one such picture as he obtained had been priced at a positively enormous sum ten years ago. And this story should be placed on the record.

I personally (Ivan T. Sanderson) was present in a suite at the Ambassador Hotel in New York occupied by my late friend Tom Slick, the Texas multimillionaire oil and cattle man, owner of Slick Airlines and the founder of the largest privately backed Scientific Institute in the world and who had spent many years pursuing ABSMs, all the way from the original Abominable Snowmen of the Himalayas to the pigmy Orang Pendek of Sumatra, the Sasquatches of Canada and these Ohmahs or Bigfoot of California, when two senior executives of one of our leading news magazines offered him (officially and in the presence of five witnesses; one of them C. V. Wood who built Disneyland for Walt) $500,000 for the first photograph of any Abominable Snowman (ABSM), dead or alive, that could not be proven a fake.

What actually happened in the Patterson Case was that a mutual friend, - Jim McClarin rang me (Ivan Sanderson) late one night from California to say that word had come out that Roger had obtained some film of a Bigfoot and was on his way to have it processed. He (McClarin) requested help in handling matters, which we immediately promised and we then started laying on all possible scientific, commercial, and publicity outlets. However, we heard nothing further for over three weeks, when HQ got a phone call from Roger from New York. We were down there ill two hours, having alerted LOOK Magazine, and met Charlie Crandall, their Picture Editor, in the hotel, and then got together with Roger Patterson, his brother-in-law, Al DeAtley, and a Hollywood agent who had come east with them.

LIFE Magazine had viewed the film at a private showing for scientists in Canada -- since no Americans would look at it -- and had paid the party's passages to New York and made a dozen 'out-takes' of the best frames from the film. We wanted LOOK Magazine to see these and the film in case LIFE decided to relinquish their option, which is just what they did. We also went to our old friend Milt Machlin, Editor of ARGOSY, an ex-newsman, a live wire and serious minded. (We did not go to TRUE because they had 'muffed' the last story we offered them - i.e. the first copy of the Royal Air Force's analysis of the Tim Dinsdale film of a Loch Ness Monster, which they had proved to be genuine - by sitting on it for three weeks when it was the hottest topical news item on the docket). LOOK Magazine was very impressed but could not do anything on ethical grounds until LIFE Mag came to a decision.

Next day, LIFE took Roger and Al with the film to the American Museum of Natural History where a showing was put on for some of the scientific staff: notably Dr. van Gelder, head of the Department of Mammals and Dr. Shapiro of Anthropology.

The wire services were permitted to view but the owners were excluded and within fifteen minutes the 'scientists'* announced that "It is not kosher (a funny word to use for a spokesman of a scientific organization) because it is impossible".

Upon this, LIFE washed their hands of the whole thing and LOOK followed suit on the grounds that if the AMNH said it was a phony, it was. At this point we pounced; and contract was signed between the owners and Mr. Hal Steeger, publisher of ARGOSY, late that night. We then went to work to round up some other scientists and notably physical anthropologists.

The results are fully recorded in the first ARGOSY piece. The film was flown down to Prof. W.C. Osman Hill at the Yerkes Primate Center, Emery University, in Atlanta, Georgia, and then Drs. John Napier, Vladimir Markotic and others viewed it at a closed showing in Washington at which Dr. A. Joseph Wraight Chief Geographer to the U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey, and Mr. N. O. Wood Jr., Director of Operations for the Secretary of the Interior were present. A copy of the film was then handed to Dr. Napier of the Primate Biology Division of the Smithsonian for detailed analysis, a work that is of the time of writing, still in the process of being executed.

Meanwhile Roger Patterson and Al DeAtley had returned to the Coast, and then the next phase of this saga began. They were invited to Hollywood at their own expense, I might add, and kept there for no less than seven weeks negotiating with all manner of high-fallootin' outfits, all of whom were talking in six figures about making an hour and a half documentary, incorporating Roger's "strip" of the whole Bigfoot story. They asked a year to make it, with a camera crew and director on Patterson's expedition for which he was trying to raise money. As is usual with Hollywood, not one g-d thing happened and not one single penny was even put into escrow by way of an option.

Finally, Roger rang me and asked what we might be able to do. I asked him whether he might be prepared to make over foreign rights to us, and he did so. We made one phone call to David Attenborough the head of the Second Program - Science and Natural History - of the B.B.C. in London and within 24 hours their Senior Producer, Ronald Webster was with me in New York. It took two weeks only to negotiate and sign contract for first-run rights in the U.K. and Commonwealth, and a generous participation in foreign sales to be handled by the BBC. Roger retained and still retains all North American rights. Two weeks later Ron Webster went to work with an extraordinary crew - Chicago Films Inc. (Gavin McFadyen and Charter Weeks) - and within two weeks, despite the "city revolution", finished the film and flew home over the North Pole with several tens of thousands of feet of film in the can.

While here the BBC filmed Roger Patterson at HQ, and then shot several hours of a discussion between Dr. John Napier and the writer (Ivan Sanderson) with visuals in the form of plaster casts of the footprints of Bigfoot. Later, they ran an hour on Dr. Joe Wraight in Washington, D. C., then flew to Denver to interview Professor George A. Agogino; then on to Dr. Montagna, Head of the Oregon Primate Center; and ended up with interviews with several persons, of all ages and walks of life on the Coast who had told Roger that they had encountered Bigfoot at close range. It will take two to three months to edit this film but it will then be aired in Europe, and LIFE INTERNATIONAL have opted to publish an article on the story simultaneously.

That there is very great interest in this throughout the rest of the world was exemplified by a half-hour telephone call we had from Moscow. This was from the Editor of AROUND THE WORLD, the Russian equivalent of LIFE, and Dr. Boris F. Porshnev, Professor of History at the Russian Academy of Sciences who has been actively investigating ABSMs for over a decade.

This is the status of the story as of now. A copy of the BBC Documentary, enclosing several runs of Patterson's 'strip' is being given to Roger for private showing in this country and for sale to TV or other outlets. It is rather amusing, but typical of such incidents that all the networks here, several independents, some film companies and a host of agents are now scrambling for an exclusive first showing here. Thus we have avoided the wipe and maybe saved the scientific discovery of the age, but there is a long way to go yet. A film is not conclusive proof of the existence of anything. Only a dead, stunned specimen, or a skull, will prove the matter and convince the scientists and other skeptics. Roger has to get back into the field to obtain such. Meantime, we know of no less than nine other serious minded and in some cases fully financed outfits that are going into the field this spring. The funny thing about this case is that the topnotch scientists most deeply concerned with the specialty are taking it very seriously. Further, most of these scientists are government employed, and both the Canadian and American Governments themselves are deeply interested. This is something quite new in fortean endeavor.

© Pursuit, June 1968
"Pursuit was a Journal published by Ivan T. Sanderson's Society for the Investigation of the Unexplained, long defunct. 5-12-02...Bobbie Short "
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-Links to the stabilized Patterson film by M.K. Davis are here:
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