Bigfoot Encounters

The Hoaxed Ivan Marx Footage
as told by Peter Byrne, former head of "The Bigfoot Project..."


Some bumbling statements have recently been made via Internet lists about the original Ivan Marx 1971 Bigfoot film footage and my association with it. The origin of the statements, the person who made them, is unimportant. But in them the footage is described as an actual film and it is suggested that at the time Marx produced it, I am guilty, with the end in view of commercial gain, of exhibited it to local, “dignitaries” in Bossburg, northern Washington, where Ivan Marx lived at that time and of making, as a result, “Lord knows how much money.” The statements, like others that emanate from this same petulant source on a boringly regular basis are, as I can prove, blatantly untrue.

First, let’s set the record straight. When I was associated with Ivan Marx, which was for the brief three months that he worked for me in early 1971, there was no film. There was a short piece of 16 mm film footage made by him, of what he said was a Bigfoot, that ran for about 30 seconds. That, truly, is all there ever was.

Ivan Marx, an amateur cine photographer (and a mediocre woods - man), shot the footage in late 1970-or so he said- and when I came on the scene in early 1971 my job, as the primary focus of a new Bigfoot research program, was to examine the footage, determine its authenticity and then, like my work as designer and director of the original northern Californian Bigfoot project, -follow up with full time research.

When I first met Marx at the start of the 1971 Bigfoot Project - at which time I recruited him into my team as a salaried, full-time employee and provided him with camping gear, outdoor clothing, a snowmobile and a new International Scout - he told me that his BF encounter began with an early morning call from a railway train driver who said that his engine had hit a Bigfoot the night before; the man, Marx said, gave him the location of the accident and so the same day, without delay, he set out to track and find the Bigfoot. There was a blood trail, he stated, that led him up into some 4000/4500 high foothills, roughly six miles north and east of Bossburg, Washington. About midday, in bright sunshine and under a clear sky, close to the deep snowline of the upper hills, he caught up with the Bigfoot, which, he said, was limping and appeared to be injured. The creature, he stated, weighed at least 650 pounds, was covered with thick, dark brown hair and stood a minimum of eight feet in height.

Marx said that as soon as he saw the creature he turned his 16 mm movie camera on and shot about 30 seconds of footage, in three ten-second sequences, and then, dropping the camera, which he apparently carried on a shoulder strap, he quickly and with seconds to spare, pulled out his still camera and took half a dozen pictures. The Bigfoot then disappeared and so he left the area and walked back down to a main road. There, coming out of the woods, he met several people, among them Norm Davis, the owner operator of the Colville Radio Station, Bill Harper, a Department of Immigration and Naturalization officer and Don Byington, a local rancher who later joined my research team; he told them that he had caught up with the Bigfoot and had been able to get footage and still pictures of it.

Discussing the event with Marx, he told me that the place where he got the footage definitely had more Bigfoot living in it. He had, he said, seen several sets of fresh footprints while tracking the injured one and that as soon as it was spring and the snow drifts melted off, he would lead me in there and we could get more footage.

In the meantime, the area being too rugged for snowmobile access, he suggested we wait for the snow to clear; I agreed and in turn told him that in the interim he could work for me on full salary, with all expenses, on general research in the Bossburg and Colville area.

As to the footage itself, which he wanted to sell to the Bigfoot Project’s sponsors for $25,000, I guaranteed him this amount, to be paid after we had thoroughly examined it and were satisfied with its authenticity; in return, as a guarantee of good faith, he agreed to let us hold the master copy. He gave this to me in a sealed metal film container and I immediately sent it by registered mail to Washington DC, to the offices of my attorneys there, to be held in trust, unopened, until such time as we made a positive decision about the work. He also gave me, on request, a working copy of the footage, for study and analysis, allowing me to take selected 8X10 prints from this for the same purpose; in addition, he gave me enlargements of the still pictures he said he had taken of his film subject.

The first cracks in the authenticity of the footage appeared when I was about two and a half months into the project, in late March 1971 and they surfaced one evening during a study showing of the work copy of the footage at the home of Don Byington at his ranch about a mile to the east of Marx’s Bossburg home.

Present at the showing were Don, his young son Stephen-about eight at the time, Don’s wife, Alta, Dennis Jensen, a veteran Bigfoot research who had worked with Roger Patterson and was now a member of my research team, Bill Harper and Norm Davis with his wife. (These, incidentally, were probably the local “dignitaries” referred to by the accusatory source mentioned at the beginning of this article; at the least, I feel sure, they would all have been delighted to be have been given this elevating title.)

When the showing was over, I heard young Stephen whisper to his father that he recognized the place seen in the footage, the place that Marx said was the site of his Bigfoot encounter; the boy was puzzled, he said, because the place was not six miles north of Marx’s house, in the hills, as Marx had stated, but actually at the edge of the forest that bordered the northern boundary of their ranch.

Steven’s remarks were heard by others but were discounted at the time as the imagination of an impressionable young boy. But later that night, lying in bed in my research base house at Evans, a scattering of small houses about half way between Colville and Bossburg, and listening to the bitter winds of the end of winter howling in the frozen trees, I kept thinking about what the boy had said; and I found myself bothered by it.

Next day I went to see Don and his wife and a little later that morning, accompanied by Don, Bill Harper, Dennis Jensen and Norm Davis, young Stephen led us on a search for the place he thought he recognized as the footage site. Sure enough, we soon found it and, using the two sets of 8X10 enlargements, from the footage and the still pictures, were very quickly able to positively identify it via objects clearly seen in both the pictures and at the site itself. These later included large rocks, stones, dead branches, frozen cow droppings, a rusting piece of metal from an old tractor and, most important, a small tree past which Marx’s “creature” is seen moving in the footage, a tree with a horizontal branch under which it walks, without stooping, just before it disappears. The branch, it was noted by all, measured six feet from the ground; to walk under it, without stooping, the subject of the footage could only have been a maximum of five feet eleven inches in height.

We said nothing to Marx about our discovery, which was plainly that he had misled us about the site of the footage, but continued to employ him, his principal job being to search for footprints. (He reported finding several sets over the course of some weeks but for various reasons was never able to lead us back to them.) In the meantime we pondered on our discovery, and privately discussed it, and it worried us.

In the last days of March I got a call from Norm Davis. He said that he had made an important discovery about the footage and that I should come quickly to his offices at the radio station in Colville. I did so and there found Don Byington, Bill Harper and Dennis Jensen waiting.

Norm sat us down around his desk, on which he had laid out the aforementioned two sets of enlargements. He brought us all coffee, waited while we examined the pictures and then said, “So, do you see it? Do you see what I’ve discovered?”

We could not see whatever it was he wanted us to see and so he leaned forward and pointed. The film subject, in both sets of pictures, photographed in bright sunshine, had a distinctive shadow. And the shadow angles of each set were different, clearly indicating that the two phases of photography - the movie photography, and the still shot - had been carried out at different times and not, as Marx had told us, seconds apart.

We had a brief meeting and then decided that it was time to have a serious talk with Mr. Ivan Marx to ask him, among other things, how he could have been mistaken - to put it kindly - about the site of his filming and how it was that the movie footage and the still pictures appeared to have been taken at different intervals. And so next morning, at six am-to confront our enigmatic employee while he was still drinking coffee, so to speak, we all went to Marx’s rented home, a dilapidated tar paper shack just off the highway at Bossburg, to find out what he had to say about the little discrepancies in his story.

Alas, we were too late. In the night-as was clearly indicated by the discarded personal belongings strewn across his front yard, our quarry had got wind of our plans and, as they say, had upped and run for cover. And in a hurry he left a veritable river of trash running from the open, flapping-in-the-wind front door of the shack to where he parked his Volkswagen Bug, one that included ancient and tattered magazines and newspapers, old patched and re-patched gum boots, torn cotton towels, plastic rain coats, ragged shirts, woolen hats, ripped up, oil and grease stained work shirts and trousers, empty motor oil containers, rusting baked bean and soup cans, stained and ragged blankets, mayonnaise and jam and pickle jars and dog food cartons and half filled trash bags. (In answer to the unspoken question, no, the abandoned garbage did not contain a fur suit.)

Marx headed, as we heard later, for Burney, a town in northern California where he lived before coming north to make his Bigfoot film and find fame and fortune in the Bigfoot world and, yes, as was to be expected, we never saw or heard from him again.

Meanwhile, back in Washington DC, Marx’s original footage supposedly lay in the office safe of my attorneys and that posed a question… in the light of our discovery of the fact that the footage was obviously a total fabrication, were we justified in opening the sealed canister that he had left with us in good faith, pending its purchase by us for an agreed $25,000? I consulted with the members of my team and then made a call and told my attorneys to go ahead and open it. They did this, to find that the canister did indeed contain probably a hundred feet of neatly coiled film. Original Bigfoot footage of Marx’s immortal achievement? Alas no, or if you like, laughingly no… for what the wily Mr. Ivan Marx had given us was about a hundred small cut pieces of old Disney, black and white Mickey Mouse footage from the fifties and sixties.

The Marx “film” from which we all made “Lord knows how much money?” - There never was a film.
And there certainly was never any money made from it. How could there be, when it never existed?

Later, I understand, Mr. Marx went on to make several full-length Bigfoot films, which he distributed commercially. Some of them, I have been told, are quite extraordinary-hilarious might be a better word - and show Bigfoots swimming, running and jumping, bathing in a river, playing kick-the-can, climbing trees and, in one case, actually waving at the photographer! But this was later, and not while we were associated with him. Nope.

All we got for our honest efforts was Mickey Mouse and, darn it, not even in color.

Los Angeles, California
September, 2003

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