gives a summary of the biomechanical analyses by various scientists
of the Patterson-Gimlin Film. Strasenburgh, who displays a great knowledge
in the field of human evolution, attempts to identify the film's subject
as a large surviving australopithecine --Paranthropus or Australopithecus
robustus --a view he has made in previous writings. Thus, he takes
a position different from the other two major alternatives, in terms
of the level of humanity and identification of the creature in the
film. The common view in the West is that a less human, Gigantopithecus
is the creature in question. Some Russian authorities, however, consider
it to be a more human Neanderthal man.
In 1967, nine years
after the term Bigfoot was coined in response to large, man-like footprints
found in northern California, the late Roger Patterson exposed 29 feet
of 16mm color motion picture film. On the film is the image of a large,
heavy-set, hairy hominid. Most anthropologists who have viewed the film
agree that the image is crested and has pendulous breasts. This paper
will review the circumstances of the film, the analyses, which the film
has undergone, and their contexts, North American anthropological attitudes
pertinent to the question, and will suggest further analyses which the
film might be properly subjected to.
film is almost universally regarded by those interested in and knowledgeable
about the Bigfoot or Sasquatch phenomenon as genuine. There are two reasons.
One is that the image on the film corresponds to the verbal descriptions
recorded previously. The image is that of "an animal bearing the
unmistakable likeness of humanity," as a report of a sighting reads
in the May 9, 1851 Memphis Enquirer (..a copy may be examined at the Library
The article continues: "He was of gigantic stature, the body
being covered with hair and the head with long locks that fairly enveloped
the neck and shoulders. This singular creature has long been known traditionally
in St. Francis, Green, and Poinsette Counties, Arkansas, sportsmen and
hunters having described him so long as seventeen years since." In
an 1870 California newspaper a pair of hairy hominids are described, one
of them "a female, unmistakably" (Green 1973a:120).
Whatever the reason
that one of the hairy pair was unmistakably identified as a female in
1870, a sighting that took place in 1955 clarifies the record. In 1957
John Green had the late William Roe put down his recollections in a sworn
My first impression
was of a huge man, about six feet tall, almost three feet wide, and probably
weighing somewhere near 300 pounds. It was covered from head to foot with
dark brown silver tipped hair. But as it came closer I saw by its breasts
that it was female. And yet, its torso was not curved like a female. The
head was higher at the back than at the front (Green 1973a: 17-18).
Patterson's involvement began after road-building crews in the Bluff Creek
area of northern California found large footprints around their construction
equipment. He decided to try to get a film of the creature. In the eighth
year of his search he claimed success. Here is how he described it.
Bob Gimlin, a friend of mine, and myself had been in the area (12
miles northwest of Orleans, California) a little over a week, when riding
horseback up a creek bottom the afternoon of October 20, 1967, we encountered
this creature. My horse smelled it, jumped and fell. I got the camera
out of the saddle bag, ran across the creek and we were able to get 29
feet of 16mm colored film. We tracked the creature for about three miles,
only to lose its tracks in the extremely rough terrain and heavy undergrowth.
Most of the film is very clear, allowing the scientific and movie experts
to see the muscle movement of the Bigfoot creature. Footprints of the
creature, preserved in plaster casts made by myself and Bob at the time,
and by others who visited the area later, measured 14~A inches from heel
to toe. (..from a 4 pg form letter by Patterson as Executive Director
of the Northwest Research Association around 1970)
Ten years later there are four analyses of the Patterson-Gimlin film
on record. Three are favorable, and are the second reason why investigators
consider the film genuine. We will review the four and the context of
each in the order in which they were published.
Analyses of the Patterson-Gimlin Film
The first analysis was conducted by D.W. Grieve, Reader in Biomechanics,
Royal Free Hospital School of Medicine London. Its purpose was"...to
establish the extent to which the creature's gait resembled or differed
from human gait" (Napier 1972:215). In addition to the Patterson-Gimlin
film proper, Grieve examined a sequence showing a 6 foot 5.5 inch tall
human walking over the same course. By comparing these two films, he arrived
at a height, weight, and foot length of, respectively, 6 feet 5 inches,
280 pounds, and 13.1 inches for the image of the Sasquatch.
If the film was taken at 24 fps (frames per second) Sasquatch walked
with a gait pattern very similar in most respects to a man walking at
high speed... The shoulder breadth however would be difficult to achieve
without giving an unnatural appearance to the arm swing and shoulder contours.
The possibility of fakery is ruled out if the speed of the film was 16
or 18 fps. In these conditions a normal human being could not duplicate
the observed pattern, which would suggest that the Sasquatch must possess
a very different locomotor system than that of man (Napier 1972:220).
The second analysis
was undertaken by Grover S. Krantz (1972b), to test his earlier hypothetical
reconstruction of the Sasquatch foot and ankle pivot (Krantz 1972a). In
addition, Krantz used the image to estimate the volume and weight of the
body. He found the stature to be "almost exactly 7 feet," by
using the average of five footprint casts (14.25 inches) as a known distance,
as well as by comparing the Patterson-Gimlin film to the film of the man
walking in the footprints of the Sasquatch. Employing three independent
methods, Krantz arrived at estimated weights of 471, 476, and 506 pounds.
After examining the
frames that show the foot, Krantz concluded that the image shows ankles
that are set further forward than those of human beings. Specifically,
he found the Sasquatch ankle forward of the heel tip 31% of the total
length of the foot, as opposed to 25% in the typical human. In all, Krantz
found the Patterson-Gimlin film image to be consistent with data in the
form of footprint casts he had previously examined and analyzed, and with
eyewitnesses' estimates of height and weight previously recorded.
The third man to analyze the film was Dmitri Donskoy, Chief of the Chair
of Biomechanics, Union of Soviet Socialist Republic's Central Institute
of Physical Culture Moscow. It is described as a "qualitative biomechanical
analysis." Donskoy did not address either the question of the exact
dimensions of the image or the speed at which the film might have been
taken. He concluded:
Since the creature
is man-like and bipedal its walk resembles in principle the gait of modern
man. But all its movements indicate that its weight is much greater, its
muscles especially much stronger, and the walk swifter than that of man...
At the same time, with all the diversity of human gaits, such a walk as
demonstrated by the creature in the film is absolutely non-typical of
man (Hunter and Dahinden 1973:191192).
The fourth analysis of the film was made by Geoffrey Bourne, Director,
Yerkes Regional Primate Center, Emory University, Atlanta. As a portion
of the hour long "MONSTERS! Mysteries or Myths?" (..directed
by Robert Guenette) produced by Wolper Productions in association with
the Smithsonian Institution, it was broadcast on network television the
evening of November 25, 1974, and reportedly viewed by 30,000,000 North
Americans. Bourne informed me by telephone that he had viewed the Patterson-Gimlin
film several years earlier. He said the request by Wolper that he analyze
the film, his second viewing of it, and the recording of his conclusions
all took place in the space of a few days. The following is a transcript
of his statement as provided by the Smithsonian Institution:
Well, you know, that
looks to me very much like a human walk. Its gait is very much of a human
type gait and also when you look at its feet as it walks, the under surface
is much too light-colored for an animal with this kind of dark fur. And
furthermore, it seems to have the characteristics of both male and female---the
head has a big crest on it like a male gorilla does--and this crest is
called a sagittal crest. Now, this creature also has pendulous breasts
which is a female characteristic and the breasts are covered with fur
and in all other primates the breasts are actually either bare or very
sparsely haired. So for these reasons alone, I would have very grave doubts
about the authenticity of this particular animal.
There are two testable, mutually exclusive hypotheses concerning the
image on the Patterson-Gimlin film. It is genuine and graphic evidence
of a species of hominid unknown to science, or it is, in a word, a hoax.
The actual mechanics of the hypothetical hoax in turn give rise to operational
hypotheses from the plausible "man in an ape suit" to the rather
fanciful "hoaxers hoaxing hoaxers." Although the reader is invited
to speculate to his heart's content on any scheme which he honestly believes
would replicate the Patterson-Gimlin film and the published analytic response
to it, we shall limit ourselves here to the basic question which the Patterson-Gimlin
film logically raises: Is the image that of a real hominid, or is it not?
For all practical purposes the first three analyses were published simultaneously.
They present, therefore, three independent judgments of the Patterson-Gimlin
film, which do not rely upon or take into account earlier study and conclusions.
Oddly enough, Bourne's analysis, undertaken a year or more after the publication
of the first three analyses, also seems to have been conducted without
reference to the others. The three may be characterized as a conditional
vote of confidence, and one vote of no confidence in the validity of the
Patterson-Gimlin film. Let us compare the conclusions and the common questions
they address, and examine further questions they raise.
The first question concerns the dimensions of the image. Krantz finds
them to be impossibly large for a human masquerade and consistent with
numerous eyewitness reports in North America. Donskoy finds them to be
suggestive of a much greater weight than that of a typical human being.
Grieve finds them to be within the upper limits of human variation, with
the caveat that the shoulders seem disproportionately broad. Bourne does
not comment on the dimensions of the image.
The second question arises from the movement of the image. Bourne finds
it "very much of a human type gait." Donskoy agrees with Bourne
"in principle," and then goes on to enumerate differences, which
lead him to the conclusion that the walk of the image is "absolutely
non-typical of man." Grieve detects a similarity between the gait
of the image and that of man only if the film were taken at 24 fps or
some higher speed. Film speed does not, however, bear upon the appearance
of the arm swing and the shoulder contours. Krantz limits himself to the
observation that the apparent pivot point of the ankle differs from that
of the average man.
The question of film speed has been debated at some length. Patterson's
camera was capable of 16, 18, and 24 fps. Napier (1972:94) suggests 24
fps because it is best suited for television transmission, and Patterson
acknowledged his desire to have his film broadcast on TV. Napier also
reports that Patterson could not recollect at what speed the film was
taken. Green (1973b:70) reports Patterson finding his camera set at 18
fps on checking it after the excitement of the moment had quieted, although
it was his custom to set it at 24 fps.
These various conclusions, taken together, suggest that in terms of size,
proportion, mechanical structure, and movement, the image on the Patterson-Gimlin
film cannot be explained by any known agency unless the film speed were
24 fps or greater. None of the four analysts find any evidence that a
machine is to be found behind the Patterson-Gimlin film image. None of
the four analysts find any evidence that the image might represent a masquerade
by any known animal other than man. And three of the four analysts find
reason to doubt that the image is that of a human masquerade. If it cannot
be said that the preponderance of the analytic results disproves the widely
accepted hypothesis that the film is a hoax, there is little, if any,
evidence in the published record to support that hypothesis.
What of the anthropological
point of view? How does the film fare when the unknown hominid hypothesis
The first step in the anthropological approach to the film image is best
expressed as a question--a question that every anthropologist ought to
ask himself. Would I have advised a hoaxer in 1967 to achieve the image
of a large, heavy-set hominid with obvious breasts and a sagittal crest?
And why? Green (personal communication) has suggested to me that a scientist's
inability to conceive of a hoaxer arriving at a complex set of characteristics
is highly circumstantial evidence that the hoaxer could not have done
so. In the case of the Patterson-Gimlin film, though, I think a valid
distinction can be made between what any human being might have known
in 1967 and the ability to foresee what would be discovered in the decade
The second step in the anthropological approach is as simple in concept
as it is controversial in operation. To test the unknown hominid hypothesis,
one has only to compare the data, which can be gleaned from the Patterson-Gimlin
film image to the sum of data, which is available on hominids. Although
it is a trivial matter, we might begin by observing that human hominid
footpad color, despite great variation in the predominant skin pigmentation
is uniformly light. (Krantz makes the same point in Guenette's updated
broadcast in March, 1977). The pendulous breasts of the film image are
an exclusive characteristic of hominids. Indeed, Morris' (1967) hypothesis
that they are an integral part of hominid evolutionary development appeared
in the same year the Patterson-Gimlin film was taken. I have not examined
the film frame by frame, but Dmitri Bayanov (personal communication) informs
me that by doing so one can ascertain a fiat facial profile. Green (1973a:
71) concurs on this point. If they are correct, then the Patterson film
image exhibits three diverse hominid characteristics in addition to its
habitually erect, bipedal locomotion pattern.
Now let us proceed to the heart of the matter from the anthropological
point of view. Is the sagittal crest of the Patterson-Gimlin film image
a positive or a negative indicator within the framework of the unknown
Because the question
of the significance of the crest occurs in an apparently controversial
context, I would first like to make my position clear. If I had not been
aware of the Australopithecus robustus in 1969, I seriously doubt that
I would have given Sasquatch a second thought. One could, in that year,
visit the Explorer's Hall of the National Geographic Society and view
the skull of Australopithecus (Zinjanthropus) boisei revolving
on its pedestal to the recorded statement that this was man's earliest
known fossil ancestor. I am satisfied that A. robustus (often called Paranthropus)
had admirably withstood the test of time during an unprecedented period
of burgeoning hominid fossil evidence in Africa.
Robinson's recent (1972) erection of a paranthropine subfamily to accommodate
A. robustus and Gigantopithecus has great merit as well. With it
convergence is relieved of the responsibility of producing two graminivorous
hominoids with overlapping geographical ranges in a relatively short period
of time. And the tuberculum sexsum of the A. robustus molars, the
bilaspurensis molars (Simons, personal communication), and at least
some of the Gigantopithecus blacki molars, is transformed from
the least likely product of convergence to a possible diagnostic trait
at the subfamilial level, rather than at the generic level, as Robinson
first hypothesized (1956). If a graminivorous paranthropine represents
the hominid archetype out of which Homo sprang as Jolly (1970)
and Robinson (1972) suggest, it is proper to conceive of Gigantopithecus
as a hominid as large as, if not larger than, the giant of the pongids,
We are far more certain however that Australopithecus robustus,
who was relatively taller and most robust than contemporary Australopithecus
africanus, was a bona fide hominid. If we regard the fossil remains
of A. robustus as anything other than the male of the species. A. africanus,
then A. Paranthropus, one of only two known hominids, appears to
have been crested in both sexes. "Such a crest is present in every
full adult individual so far found in which the relevant region is known" (Robinson 1972:226).
Alternatively, there is no concrete evidence to be found in support of
the hypothesis that the female A. robustus, like her pongid cousins,
There seems to me to be an unpublished controversy of some magnitude
concerning Australopithecus robustus. I have come to the conclusion that
by whatever name, the other hominid is generally regarded as an embarrassment
by the anthropological community. The discussion of the genus (or species,
if you prefer) is often fanciful when it is mentioned in more than passing.
The hypothesis which accounts for the extinction of Australopithecus robustus
by Homo erectus lacks fossil evidence and good sense as well.
Here, for example, is how Napier (1972:173) opens his chapter on the relationship
between Sasquatch and fossil evidence:
present' with 'monsters past' is a favorite exercise of their devotees.
As a means of rationalizing an 'therwise unlikely story, it has much to
commend it. By postulating that a monster is a relic form --a holdover
from the past --monster fans feel absolved from the necessity of explaining
how such an outrageously unsuitable creature has evolved in the light
of the present day ecology. Actually, of course, there is still the obligation,
often ignored, of explaining how an archaic form has achieved the remarkable
feat of surviving beyond its time [emphasis added].
Because Napier is
the leading, anthropologist to have discussed the question of Sasquatch
in published form, I conclude that this rather value-laden paragraph represents
a relatively moderate position on the question.
Aguirre (1974) and
Poirer (1974) also seem to question the propriety of searching for correlations
between reports of unknown hominids and fossil species, although their
response to Porshnev (1974) represents a somewhat different context.
Yet, if we are to
seriously test the hypothesis that the Patterson-Gimlin film is evidence
of an unknown hominid, how can we possibly avoid examining every shred
of evidence concerning hominid evolutionary history which has been amassed
over the past century?
However profitable the inclusion of Gigantopithecus among the hominids
in terms of reclassifying previously puzzling data, I think it inappropriate
and counter-productive to exceed the data and the scholarly discussion
it has generated.
Cronin (1975), in
his article discussing the unknown hominid (Yeti?) which walked around
his tent in the Arun Valley of Nepal on the night of December 19, 1972,
suggests that Gigantopithecus may have been crested. I hope it
is obvious that in principle I agree with the relative likelihood of that
supposition. I point out, however, that A. robustus is known to
have been crested, and his remains in Africa and Java place him in a range
the middle of which is the Himalayas. I have the same difficulty with
Bourne's and Krantz's repeated suggestions that if Bigfoot is real, then
Gigantopithecus represents a good potential ancestor.
I respond to Porshnev (1974) and Bayanov and Bourtsev (1976) regarding
Homo neanderthalensis as a viable alternative in my "More on Neanderthal
vs. Paranthropus" (Strasenburgh 1979).
The Basic Problem
The present position of the anthropological community in North America
appears to be that until "concrete" evidence is forthcoming,
scientific attention cannot be properly turned to Bigfoot. T. Dale Stewart,
for example, observed in "MONSTERS! Mysteries or Myths?"
in the case of Bigfoot I don't think is very good because you can't test
it. It's credibility of the person and these people...they want to see
something strange, they can imagine it. I don't believe in Bigfoot because
no hard evidence has been presented. Ail the evidence so far is in the
form of footprints and such reports--all of which constitute soft evidence...Hard
evidence is like [a] skull [emphasis in original].
Any uncertainty apparently
categorically precludes investigation and discussion of the subject. As
I have pointed out (Strasenburgh 1975), this preoccupation with the need
for a specimen tends to obscure the fact that a significant number of
19th and 20th century North Americans have testified to encounters with
the species. Sasquatch is therefore, at least, a remarkable survival of-the
Wildman myth (Bayanov and Bourtsev 1976; Bernheimer 1970; Kirtley 1964;
Strasenburgh 1975; Vlcek 1960).
If this is the extent
of the Sasquatch phenomenon, the anthropological community can neither
acknowledge it nor comment on it so long as it persists in demanding a
specimen. If one grants the possibility that Sasquatch is a real rather
than mythological hominid species, then the current North American anthropological
position Sasquatch any calculation of the probability that such might
be the case. The key to the dilemma that Sasquatch increasingly poses
for the North American anthropological community, short of a specimen,
is the examination of the best data.
Accounts of encounters
and the consistent descriptions which accompany them can be of no use
until the demand for concrete evidence is tempered and this facet of the
phenomenon is validated. In the present circumstances, the layman's documentation
of it (Green 1973a, 1973b; Hunter and Dahinden 1973; Porshnev 1968; Sanderson
1961; Tchernine 1971), while impressive, is not the best datum.
The collected footprint casts that have been examined by Napier (1972)
and Krantz (1972) represent a higher, but still imperfect, grade of datum.
Against the published positions of these two scientists that the footprint
casts represent good, positive data, there appears to exist a widely accepted
opinion that footprint casts are liable to undetectable fabrication. Since
the judgment of footprints is more the forte of native guides than of
western urban man in general or physical anthropologists in particular,
such suspicion is accountable. I think it unfortunate, however, that North
American anthropology has thus far responded to Krantz and Napier's analyses
and conclusions with unpublished rebuttal. But however good the analyses
and data of the footprint casts may be, they are not the best data.
The Patterson-Gimlin film and its analytical results to date are the
best data. The film offers many advantages that the footprint casts cannot.
Its exposure date is known with certainty. It is frozen in time, and may
be examined in the context of a future now equal to a decade. The location
of the filming is known with certainty, and can be further plotted to
quantify the movement of the subject and the camera during the sequence,
as well as the dimensions of the image. The existence of several copies
of the film offers the opportunity to check for any tampering since it
was exposed and developed. The film may be duplicated/with ease and accuracy.
Most importantly, the film represents a well-understood and accepted form
of datum to biomechanics. Judging from the published record of analyses,
anthropology has a willing partner in the undertaking. And one that is
uniquely qualified to reach an authoritative judgment on the authenticity
of the film from a non-anthropological point of view.
For all of the above reasons a thorough and impartial biomechanical and
anthropological analysis of the Patterson-Gimlin film by the North American
anthropological community would appear appropriate. I would hope that
such an analysis would include a comparison between the locomotor pattern
of the Patterson-Gimlin film image and those hypothesized for the other
1974, Comments: The Troglodytidae and the Hominidae in the Taxonomy
and Evolution of Higher Primates by Boris F. Porshnev. Current Anthropology
Bayanov, Dmitri, and Igor Bourtsev
1976. On Neanderthal vs. Paranthropus. Current Anthropology
1970. Wild Men in the Middle Ages. New York: Octagon Books. Cronin,
Edward W., Jr.
1975. The Yeti. The Atlantic Monthly:47-53. November.
1973a. On the Track of the Sasquatch. New York: Ballantine Books.
1973b. The Sasquatch File. Agassiz, B.C.: Cheam Publishing.
Hunter, Don, with René Dahinden
1973. Sasquatch. Toronto: McClelland and Stewart.
Jolly, Clifford J.
1970. The Seedeaters: A New Model of Hominid Differentiation
Based On a Baboon Analogy. Man. New Series 5 (1):5-26.
Kirtley, Bacil F.1964 Unknown Hominids and New World Myths. WesternFolklore
Krantz, Grover S. Anatomy of the Sasquatch Foot. Northwest Anthropological
Research Notes 6 (1):91-104.
1972b. Additional Notes on Sasquatch Foot Anatomy. Northwest Anthropological
Research Notes 6 (2):230-241.
Morris, Desmond The Naked Ape. New York: McGraw Hill.
Napier, John R.Bigfoot. London: Jonathan Cape.
Poirier, Frank E.
Comments On The Troglodytidae and the Hominidae In the Taxonomy and
Evolution of Higher Primates by Boris F. Porshnev. Current Anthropology
1960. The Struggle for Troglodytes (in Russian). Prostor 4, 5, 6, and
1974. The Troglodytidae and the Hominidae in the Taxonomy and Evolution
of Higher Primates. Current Anthropology15 (4):449-450.
Robinson, John T.
1956. The Dentition of the Australopithecinae. Transvaal Museum Memoires
1972. Early Hominid Posture and Locomotion. Chicago: The University
of Chicago Press.
Sanderson, Ivan T. 1961. Abominable Snowman: Legend Come to Life. Philadelphia:
1975. Perceptions and Images of the Wild Man. Northwest' Anthropological
Research Notes 9 (2):281-298.
1979. More on Neanderthal vs. Paranthropus. Current Anthropology 20
Tchernine, Odette 1971. In Pursuit of the Abominable Snowman. New York:
1960. Diagnosis of the "Wild Man" According to Buddhist Literary
Sources From Tibet, Mongolia, and China. Man 60(10):153-154.
© Gordon Strasenburgh
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