Thursday, August 15, 2013

"A Skeptic's Look At The PG Film Part 1"

Roger Patterson and Bob Gimlin

(Here's a skeptic's point of view regarding the famous Patterson-Gimlin film. These opinions do not necessarily express the opinions of Rick Dyer or any Team Tracker member. Again, These are the opinions of a skeptic and his point of view of the PG film.)

You've seen it a hundred times: the iconic picture of Bigfoot striding heavily through the clearing, arms swinging, head and shoulders turned slightly toward the camera. This famous image is frame 352 of a 16mm silent color film shot in 1967 in northern California by rancher Roger Patterson, accompanied by his friend, Bob Gimlin. The impact that this film has had on Bigfoot mythology is inestimable; and correspondingly, so has its impact upon paranormal, cryptozoological, and pop culture mythologies in general. I might well not be doing this if the 1967 Patterson-Gimlin film had not turned legend and fancy into concrete, tangible, see-it-with-your-own-eyes reality.

Whether or not Bigfoot exists is one question — the answer to which has not exactly whitened the knuckles of science — but the authenticity of the Patterson-Gimlin film is something else. If Bigfoot were known to be a real animal, an investigation into the authenticity of the film would make sense. If Bigfoot were known to not exist, then it would be logically moot to study the film at all; it must be a fake. But for today's purpose, we're going to brush aside the larger question (which should never be done in real science) and focus only on this detail. We'll assume that the existence of Bigfoot is an open question (a big assumption), and just for fun, let's see what we can determine on whether this famous film clip is a deliberate hoax, or whether it shows a real animal, or whether there might be some other explanation. Maybe it's a misidentification, or an elaborate film flaw, or an unknown third party hoaxing Patterson and Gimlin. There are many possibilities.

Roger Patterson died of cancer only a few years after the film was shot, and never offered any clue other than that the film was genuine. Bob Gimlin remained silent for 25 years, and ever since he began speaking about it in the 1990s he has firmly stated that he was unaware of any hoax, but allowed for the possibility that he may have been hoaxed himself. Nobody else is known to have participated, and so the only two people whom we can say for certain were present when the film was shot are both stonewalls. So we must look elsewhere.

The original film no longer exists (only copies), and there is no record of anyone ever having possessed the original print. We don't know why, but we're left without the original film's leader, which would have included the date when it was developed. Thus, we have only Patterson's word for when it was developed, so we can't verify that the film was shot and developed on the days he claims it was. The original also would have included any other shots that were taken, such as possible alternate takes. If these were ever seen, we'd know for a fact that it was faked. So that's one more line of evidence that is unavailable to us.

No one has ever produced documentation like receipts showing when and where the film was developed. We know when and where Patterson rented the camera, but that's not really in dispute. He had it in his possession for plenty of time before and after the alleged date of the filming. So that's yet another dead end. Patterson covered his tracks very effectively (no Bigfoot pun intended).
(Part two to be contined)