BIGFOOT BELIEVERS SAY FILM NO FAKE
Published in the Herald-Republic on Thursday, February 4, 1999
By David Wasson - copyright YAKIMA HERALD-REPUBLIC
Just days after shooting their famous 1967 Bigfoot film, Yakima sasquatch hunters Roger Patterson and Bob Gimlin were in Hollywood, Calif., forming a company to begin promoting the now-under-fire footage, documents show.
Joining them as a full partner in Bigfoot Enterprises was Yakima business mogul Albert E. DeAtley Jr., according to records contained in Yakima County Superior Court archives. DeAtley, among the state's largest paving contractors, withdrew from the partnership less than three years later, giving his one-third share in the company to Patterson, who was his brother-in-law.
"The only thing I did was to loan Roger money," DeAtley said when asked this week about his founding role in the company. "I took an (ownership) interest to secure that debt."
Now, with authenticity of the grainy, 60-second scene in question after last week's disclosures from a Yakima man who says he donned a fur suit and posed as the creature in the film, Bigfoot believers across the Western United States are lashing out. Many accuse the man -- whose identity has been withheld by Zillah attorney Barry M. Woodard while negotiations are under way for rights to his story -- of fabricating the tale in hopes of getting rich. Woodard said his client has passed a lie-detector
"It sounds to me like he's just trying to make some cold, hard cash," said an angry Erik Beckjord, director of the San Francisco-based Sasquatch Research Project. "That should tell you something about his credibility." But as court documents show, the same could be said of Patterson and Gimlin. Just 12 days after filming what they said was a startled sasquatch retreating across a streambed into the Northern California woods, the Yakima men were doing business as Bigfoot Enterprises in the movie capital of the world. The company was formed Nov.1, 1967, with the help of Beverly Hills lawyer Walter E. Hurst.
Patterson, who died of cancer in 1972, had written and self-published a book about Bigfoot in 1966, which is about when Yakima suddenly became a hotbed of sasquatch activity. He also was filming a documentary about the elusive mountain
By 1975, though, the partnership had soured. Records show Gimlin sued DeAtley and Patterson's widow, Patricia, that year, claiming he wasn't receiving his share of the film's proceeds. The lawsuit was settled out of court. Details of the settlement were kept confidential.
Gimlin and Patricia Patterson both have declined comment. DeAtley, who is married to Patterson's sister, said he wrote off the unpaid loan and gave his share in Bigfoot Enterprises to his brother-in-law in 1970, when Roger Patterson was diagnosed with cancer. He said he'd loaned money to help Patterson launch other business enterprises as well, including a company that built stagecoaches in Union Gap.
Asked whether he ever questioned authenticity of the 1967 Bigfoot film, DeAtley said he purposely avoided the subject "I never asked," he said, "because I didn't want to know." The footage has stood for more than three decades as the only irrefutable evidence of Bigfoot's existence. To debunk the film is to debunk the standard by which Bigfoot enthusiasts measure all other sightings. Numerous Bigfoot believers said the film has withstood too much scientific scrutiny to be dismissed as a mere man in a monkey suit, no matter how many lie-detector tests Woodard's client passes. "There are anatomical features of this animal that preclude it from being a man," John Kirk, president of the British Columbia Scientific Cryptozoology Club, said in a detailed, typewritten response to claims the film was a hoax.
"First and foremost, one notes that the trapezius muscles on the creature can be seen to be connected to the base of the skull, unlike in humans where it is connected to the neck."
He went on to explain that everything from the beast's buttocks to its loping, knees-bent stride are too authentic to be duplicated in a fur suit, particularly with the limited technology available in 1967.
Beckjord, of the Sasquatch Research Project, said analysis of the film indicates the creature is so large that if it was someone in a costume, the person would have to be more than 7 feet tall and have shoulders broader than the largest NFL linebacker to give the kind of performance necessary. He said Woodard told him his client is just 6 feet tall.
"The shoulders would be too wide for his arms to hang down through," Beckjord said. Further, he said computer enhancement of the film shows a baby Bigfoot can be seen clinging to the fleeing creature's chest.
Loren Coleman, a professor at the University of Southern Maine and co-author of a book exploring paranormal creatures, said he also doubts the 1967 film is of a costumed man. "If the gentleman involved can produce a suit that is able to show all the muscle structure as demonstrated in the film," she said, "that should be seen as good proof of the hoax."
Woodard said Wednesday that his client has been unable to retrieve the suit, explaining that's why he took the lie-detector test. Meanwhile, the Zillah lawyer's office has been inundated with calls from media outlets as well as from enraged Bigfoot believers ever since news of Woodard's client hit newspapers over the weekend. "We're just sort of waiting for the dust to settle," he said,
explaining he and his client are evaluating offers.
"We anticipate that we will be telling the full story to somebody rather quickly." Woodard said that once people hear the full story, they should have few doubts that his client is the person in the suit.
Paranormal researcher Greg Long, who is writing a book questioning authenticity of the Bigfoot film, said he has interviewed dozens of Yakima residents and is surprised the footage has survived scrutiny this long. "Anyone who spends any time at all talking to his circle of friends knows Roger Patterson had predicted from the early 1960s that Bigfoot would make him rich," said Long, a Bellevue writer and researcher.
"He had written a book that floundered. He was filming a documentary and ran out of money before it was done.
"It's all circumstantial evidence," he said. "But the circumstantial evidence is very convincing. This whole thing was a money-making venture for him from the beginning."
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