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Sunday 30 March 2014

Patterson-Gimlin Film: Fake or Fact?

The subject of Bigfoot – the existence or non-existence thereof – is a complex and thorny one. It’s also a highly emotive subject, as last week’s BBC documentary demonstrated. It’s an emotive subject in Bigfoot’s home territory of North America, anyhow. The strongest reason for believing in something is having seen it with your own eyes... and thousands of Americans say they’ve done just that. People who haven’t seen Bigfoot – and that includes most people on this side of the Atlantic – are more likely to be skeptical: “If you can’t produce physical evidence, then it doesn’t exist.” Personally, though, I prefer to keep an open mind.

Of the few things that come close to providing “physical evidence” of Bigfoot, the Patterson-Gimlin Film (PGF) from 1967 is among the best known and most thoroughly analysed. I just read a new ebook on the subject – Patterson-Gimlin Film: Fake or Fact? by Larry Jaffer. I hadn’t come across Larry Jaffer before, but he’s written several of these short ebooks under the general heading of “Cryptid Casebook”. Other titles in the series include Bigfoot in Michigan, The Beast of Bodmin and Marozi: Africa's Spotted Lion. These ebooks are short (equivalent to 20 – 30 pages of a printed book) but astonishingly cheap – less than a dollar each!

I found Patterson-Gimlin Film: Fake or Fact? to be intelligently written and thought-provoking. The title, of course, goes right to the heart of the matter. While many of the other video clips purporting to show Bigfoot may have innocent, down-to-earth explanations (e.g. a bear), that simply isn’t the case with the PGF. The footage either shows an unknown bipedal primate, or it shows a human being dressed up in a costume.

There’s an awful lot that Larry Jaffer could have put in his ebook but didn’t, presumably for reasons of space. There’s only a brief mention of the numerous detailed analyses of the video that can be found on YouTube and elsewhere. There’s nothing at all about the various claims, made long after the film itself, by people who allegedly helped Patterson and Gimlin stage a hoax. So if you’re looking for a complete, up-to-the-minute account of the entire PGF saga then this little ebook is going to fall short of your expectations. The author’s aim is more limited than that – but what he does do, he does very well.

Essentially this is a book about circumstantial evidence in and around the “scene of the crime”. It doesn’t concern itself with things people may have said decades later, or with state-of-the-art image processing techniques. It just looks at the facts of the case as they unfolded at the time, and asks “Is it likely that things would have happened this way if Patterson and Gimlin had set out to perpetrate a hoax?”

I don’t like giving out spoilers, but I was sufficiently surprised by Larry Jaffer’s conclusion that I’m going to repeat it here: “So far as this writer is concerned the circumstantial evidence surrounding the Patterson-Gimlin Film indicates that it is not a fake nor a hoax, but is a genuine film of a Bigfoot.”

What makes him say that? You’ll have to splurge 99 cents on his book if you want to find out!

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