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Geographical Index > United States > Washington > Yakima County > Article # 178

Media Article # 178


Tuesday, January 19, 1999

Sasquatch: Man in a Monkey Suit?

By Joseph Rose
Wired News


YAKIMA, Washington -- The scratchy movie footage shows a big, brown, hairy creature retreating over a stream bed into dense forest. But wait. Is that the glint of a belt buckle on Bigfoot? Or have skeptics gotten carried away with Photoshop?

Loyal Bigfootologists and some computer-imaging experts are giving disapproving grunts to two researchers who claim that a computer analysis of a famous 1967 film shows a man in a monkey suit, not the legendary giant of the Northwest woods.

Bigfoot buffs Cliff Crook of Bothell, Washington, and Chris Murphy of Vancouver, Canada, say enlargements and computer enhancements of the film's frames reveal an object hanging from the fur that resembles metal fasteners used on clothing at the time.

"When the guy in the suit turned to look at the camera, it probably snapped loose and dangled from the fur," said Crook, who has been searching for the elusive creature for 42 years. "It's a hoax. Why would Bigfoot be wearing a belt buckle?"

The claim has howling-mad Bigfoot enthusiasts branding Murphy and Crook as traitors on Internet newsgroups and attempting to discredit their findings as a publicity stunt.

"It's like picking a sheep out of the clouds," said Western Bigfoot Society president Ray Crowe of Portland, Oregon. "They've blown up the images beyond the size of recognition. So, they can pretty much see anything they imagine."

At issue is the footage taken 32 years ago, when Bigfoot trackers Roger Patterson and Bob Gimlin of Yakima were investigating reports of sasquatch footprints in Six Rivers National Forest, near the California-Oregon border. They purportedly spotted a female Bigfoot darting across a sandbar, and Patterson let his 16-mm Kodak movie camera roll.

The minute of jerky, grainy film and the plaster-cast footprints Patterson made that October day became the veritable gold standard for trackers and enthusiasts, the evidence by which all things Bigfoot are measured.

Murphy began questioning the film's validity after discovering an aberration in the footage while helping his son with a class project in 1995. Using a computer, he zoomed in tighter and tighter on the frames, finding what appears to be a glimmering ornate latch in the shape of a bottle opener.

Four sequential computer-scanned frames on the film appear to show the object in motion, said Crook, who reviewed Murphy's findings, which were released 12 January. He said the object appears to be cinching a costume.

Murphy said he's convinced "there's something out of place" in the film. "I have now sent my material to an expert in the [photo-enhancing] field," he wrote in an email.

Steve Armstrong of Tampa, Florida-based Pegasus Imaging said he would like a shot at examining the evidence. He believes the film is such that it wouldn't capture an image of something as small as a buckle. And then there's the bit-mapped nature of digital compression and enlarging.

"Zoom in on an image too much, and you get a lot of blocky artifacts," Armstrong said.

The result, said Jennifer Polanski of Adobe Systems, might be "a blob" that looks something like a belt buckle. Even with Adobe's popular Photoshop software, it's hard to see how someone can take a faraway figure like that in the Patterson-Gimlin film and zoom in on a metal fastener, she said.

In Yakima, on the edge of the wooded east slope of the Cascade Mountains, there have long been rumors that the late Roger Patterson paid a Hollywood costume designer to make the suit and a big Yakima Indian to wear it for the film. Just last week, there was talk that the owner of the suit had hired a local attorney and was getting ready to bring it out of the closet for the world to see. Like the other rumors, that one has yet to be proven true.

While Patterson died years ago, Gimlin, 67, still lives in Yakima. He dismisses the rumors and the new computer analysis as "wacko."

"I was there. I saw [Bigfoot]. The film is genuine," Gimlin said in a telephone interview. "Anybody who says different is just trying to make a buck." And he hung up.

Washington State University anthropologist Grover Krantz, one of Bigfoot's stalwart backers in academia, agrees that the Crook-Murphy analysis is amateurish and irrelevant.

"Look at the way it walks," Krantz said, referring to the figure in the Patterson-Gimlin film. "Even if Patterson had hired someone to get in a suit, there's no way he could have trained him to walk in this manner. I know, I've tried to reconstruct the motion."


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