|Two still shots of the PG film, 3rd is an artist touch up of the face|
Patterson was quite a character, and had always been. He'd been a competitive rodeo cowboy, part-time rancher, and full-time slacker. Few who knew him had anything positive to say about him. His reputation was that he never paid his bills. He borrowed money, lied about it, and never paid it back. He was physically very strong — not an ounce of fat, and thick with muscles — and was fond of showing it off. He knew everything better than anyone, and nobody could tell him a thing. He never kept interest in one career very long. One day he'd build stagecoaches for miniature horses; the next day he'd repaint junk found at the dump and sell it. But his one saving grace was his wife Patricia. Patty had a brother in Yakima, WA, Al DeAtley, a successful asphalt contractor, who provided money whenever it was needed. It was this even keel that got Roger Patterson through.
The story goes that Patterson and Gimlin had developed a strong interest in Bigfoot, and in October 1967 they rented the movie camera and went off on horseback for a couple weeks to look for it. Next thing they knew, they'd become the luckiest Bigfoot hunters in history, when the creature obligingly stepped out of the woods and strode across the clearing for Patterson's camera, in the early afternoon of October 20th. Gimlin chased it on horseback, lost it, but found its footprints; then they rode about 5 kilometers back to camp for their plaster of paris. They rode back, poured plaster into the footprints, waited for it to dry, then went back to camp again. They loaded their horses into the trailer and drove 40 kilometers on rough fire roads back to Willow Creek, and posted the film off to Yakima to get it developed. It was about 4:00 in the afternoon.
The glaring impossibility of this timeline is what first raised suspicions among skeptics. In response, Patterson and Gimlin began providing all sorts of different versions of their story. Other suspicious cryptozoologists, such as Peter Byrne, found holes and contradictions in those stories. In the end, the version Patterson and Gimlin settled on was that they put the film onto a plane and flew it to Yakima, where Al DeAtley picked it up to have it developed. Byrne found that the only charter planes that could have flown that route that day were all grounded due to rain and bad weather. Since then, few serious researchers took Patterson and Gimlin's story seriously.
But the film had already grown larger than all of them. It was a sensation, and to this day, rakes in revenue in licensing fees. DeAtley backed Patterson and formed Bigfoot Enterprises on November 1, just 10 days after the shoot, and reported $200,000 in the first year. Make no mistake about it: for the late 1960's and a man who used dig through the dump, Bigfoot was big money. Throughout the 1970's, Patty Patterson, Al DeAtley, Bob Gimlin, and a wildlife film company fought numerous lawsuits with one another over the rights to the footage. The biggest winner was a Bigfoot fan named Rene Dahinden, who ended up with about half of the rights, and Patty with the other half.
It was in 2004 that author Greg Long dug into this mess to sort everything out. Over a period of six years, he actually went and met face to face with all of these characters who were still alive, and many other people — anyone he could find who knew Patterson or was involved in the film in any way. His entire adventure was published in his entertaining book The Making of Bigfoot: The Inside Story.
(More to come in Part 3)