The Patterson-Gimlin film is the most compelling piece of evidence for Bigfoot's existence, which also means it's been subject to intense scrutiny. It's been dissected frame by frame by Bigfoot believers and skeptics alike, all of them looking for evidence to prove or disprove the creature's existence. Unfortunately for enthusiasts, no clearer footage has been found. Questionable Bigfoot pictures are all anyone has to go on, even though smartphones are ubiquitous and it seems like somebody ought to have caught better footage by this point.
But the question of "is Bigfoot real?" still persists, in part because the Patterson-Gimlin film is so interesting. It doesn't look quite like a human in a gorilla costume, but its shakiness, lack of focus, and aged film grain mean viewers also never get a good look. Anthropologists and other experts have studied the film extensively, and Patterson himself died still swearing it was genuine. There's compelling evidence for both sides, lending this longstanding evidence of Bigfoot credibility even decades after its creation.
Patterson's Claim Of The Creature's Size Increased With Later Tellings
Memory is fallible, and the shakiness of the Patterson-Gimlin film means people have to rely on what they see as well as the filmmakers' testimonies. But Patterson in particular developed some inconsistencies in his story as time went on, especially regarding the size of the creature in the film.
The more time that passed, the larger Patterson's estimate got. At first he claimed the creature was six-and-a-half to seven-feet tall, and later he claimed it was seven-and-a-half feet tall, according to The Bigfoot Film Controversy by Christopher L. Murphy. While his memory of the figure may have grown exaggerated with time, an entire foot is a pretty large difference. These kinds of inconsistencies mean that it's hard to have faith in Patterson's testimony – it feels like an exaggeration rather than an error, leading people to question what else may have been exaggerated to sell the story.
Patterson Remained An Active Bigfoot Hunter
Though people doubt the veracity of his film, Patterson, at least, seemed to believe wholeheartedly in the existence of Bigfoot. According to Michael McCleod in Anatomy of a Beast, rather than coasting along on one piece of evidence, Patterson instead spent the remainder of his life searching for further proof, admitting publicly that he wished he'd shot the creature to have more of a case.
Patterson continued to pursue evidence of Bigfoot, even sacrificing his own health to do so. Though he was suffering from Hodgkin's Lymphoma, he spent the rest of his money on booking a trip to Thailand to investigate a reported specimen in captivity, only to find out it was a hoax.
Patterson Was Known As A Liar
Though Patterson may have genuinely believed in Bigfoot, he also had a reputation as a liar. According to journalist Greg Long, Patterson was a con man. His interviews with people who know the filmmaker during his life show that he owed numerous people money. He was repeatedly sued by over 20 different people and creditors, and owed $850 to Vilma Radford in exchange for funding to start filming a movie about Bigfoot. Even Gimlin sued to recoup profits after Patterson's death. He won the case against Patterson's widow in 1976, receiving one-third of the profits he said he had been denied.
Experts Think The Film Would Have Taken Lots Of Time And Money To Fake
The simplest explanation for the Patterson-Gimlin footage is that it's a man in an ape costume. But experts in the film and costuming industries don't believe that's the case. The footage was shot in 1967, just one year before the debut of Planet of the Apes. John Chambers, the designer of the flexible masks for the film, is quoted as saying even he isn't good enough to create a costume like the one alleged to be used in the Patterson-Gimlin footage.
In The Mysterious Monsters, Robert and Frances Guenette stated that Ellis Burman, owner of a costume company, said it would have cost $10,000 to make a costume like that. But it was well-known that Patterson struggled with money. While the suit could be fake, many agree that it would have been an incredible feat to pull off, even with the backing of a big studio.