The wildlife film company, American National Enterprises, turns out to have been pivotal. Patterson had been driving down to Hollywood a lot, trying to sell the idea of a pseudo-documentary about Bigfoot; based on Patterson's own self-published 1966 book Do Abominable Snowmen of America Really Exist? Studios wouldn't bite, but ANE did. It was with their money that Patterson rented his camera and took some pre-production stills of his buddies allegedly on a Bigfoot hunt, but actually in Patterson's own backyard. They included Bob Gimlin costumed up as a native American guide. ANE's movie was to be titled Bigfoot: America's Abominable Snowman.
Bob Heironimus was a sturdy, hulking 26-year-old laborer who lived a few doors down from Bob Gimlin. One day Gimlin told Heironimus that Patterson would pay him $1000 for a day's work on a film set wearing a costume. Heironimus readily agreed; that was a lot of money. He met with the men once or twice to try on a gorilla suit and make some adjustments. Then one day, he drove down to Willow Creek. He spent the night at their camp, and the next day they shot the footage.
ANE's money had also been used to buy the gorilla suit. It came from Philip and Amy Morris, established makers of gorilla suits for carnivals. Patterson called Morris and tried to pull the old "You send me the suit, if I like it, I'll send you a check" Morris fired back with "You send me the money and I'll send you the costume."
Morris told Greg Long that they had recognized the suit when they saw Patterson's film on television, and that Patterson had asked their advice in modifying the suit to make the arms longer. They'd even shipped him extra synthetic fur, made from a material called Dynel. They also advised him to put a football helmet and shoulder pads on the suit wearer to make him look enormous. Not surprisingly, when Greg Long asked Bob Heironimus about the suit, he also mentioned that he wore a football helmet and shoulder pads inside of it.
Bob Heironimus then went home, where his mother and two brothers also saw the suit, and waited patiently for his $1000. In accordance with his character, Patterson never paid Heironimus a dime. When he saw the film hit it big, Heironimus feared prosecution for fraud for his role in its production, and so made no further efforts to collect, nor ever spoke up about it to anyone. A groundless fear perhaps, but very real for an honest and innocent young man. Years later Heironimus passed a lie detector test
|Heironimus taking a lie detector test|
The camera store had to file charges for theft against Patterson to get him to finally return the camera. ANE lost every penny of their investment; Patterson immediately abandoned their pseudo-documentary and, in essence, stole the film clip that was rightfully their intellectual property. It was only 30 years later that Greg Long was able to piece together the entire story by talking to all of those involved. Holes still remain; for example, Al DeAtley claims to have no recollection of where or when he supposedly developed the film, or how he received it from his brother in law. The October 20 timeline is clearly impossible as given, but no evidence could be found to provide actual dates for when the film was actually shot or developed. With much credit going to Greg Long, we now have a reasonably solid reconstruction of the film's complete history, with plenty of space in the gaps to fill with anything more plausible than the Patterson-Gimlin claim of the world's luckiest Bigfoot hunt.
(More coming in the final installment next)