Inside the gorilla suit

Greg Long, The Making of Bigfoot: The Inside Story, foreword by Kal K. Korff, Prometheus, 2004.

In this fascinating book, Fortean and journalist Greg Long sets out to find the truth about the famous or infamous 1966 Patterson bigfoot film. Long does what few, if any, bigfoot hunters have done before him, search out and interview just about everyone who knew the film maker, Roger Patterson.

What emerges certainly from this research is that Patterson, who died of cancer in 1972, was what in Britain would be called a Jack the Lad, or wide boy. A guy who never seemed actually to ever work, but was full of get rich schemes which never actually got him or anyone else rich, and who had a habit of never paying his bills, and rather sponged off those around him.

What very probably emerges is that the famous film was a fake, indeed one of Patterson’s companions, a guy called Bob Hieronimus ends up claiming to be the fellow who played the Bigfoot, and a magician-cum-theatrical couturier, Philip Morris swears that he made the suit. There are all sorts of other discrepancies and the story, even without these claims, looks ever more ropey.

Of course, without employing teams of private detectives to double check every statement, it’s not possible for a humble book reviewer to pronounce as to the truth of all the claims made here, and the usual caveats have to be entered when dealing with 30-plus year old “memories”. Clearly some Bigfoot hunters will be satisfied with nothing less than a smoking gorilla suit, and even then some will hang on to their belief to the bitter end. Indeed what emerges quite emphatically here is how little critical thinking some of the true believers actually employ; far too many take the classical mysterian line that everything must be assumed to be mysterious and exotic unless someone can prove otherwise, and that anyone who tries to prove otherwise is a skeptibunker/pelicanist or whatever.

If, as seems very likely, Long has solved the Patterson film, then those who endorsed it are going to have some nice egg on their faces, and Grover Kranz in particular will join the long roster of academics who have been fooled by one of those yokels who couldn't’t possibly have had the nous to pull off a hoax capable of fooling the great professor. The lamentable history of psychical research shows just how common and how damaging this attitude is.

The cynical Magonia approach of when faced with a spectacular claim, assume a hoax unless someone can prove otherwise, seems very justified here. Of course just because a witness is not as obviously a fly boy as Patterson was, and there are no confessions, does not mean that the claim is genuine.


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