Do Aliens exist? What about the Lock Ness Monster? 50 years ago two guys were “strolling through the forest” and caught video evidence of Bigfoot.
IT lasts for only 59.5 seconds – but the Patterson-Gimlin film is one of the most infamous and heavily scrutinised works ever produced.
The year was 1967, and two cowboys from Washington’s apple country were deep in the forest of Northern California in search of a large, hairy, bipedal humanoid known as Bigfoot.
Roger Patterson and Bob Gimlin had read headlines of unidentifiable footprints, and were navigating Bluff Creek on horseback with a 16mm Kodak camera.
The search paid off when the pair discovered a gorilla-human hybrid walking along the creek bed, just 30 metres in front of them.
Patterson disembarked from his horse, scurrying along the uneven terrain as he attempted to film the beast in the wild.
Steadying himself, the explorer managed to focus the camera on the strange creature just long enough to capture footage of it returning to the dark forest.
The film was quickly airmailed back home to be developed – before Gimlin, Patterson and his brother-in-law Al DeAtley took the film on a national tour.
All three men took equal shares in the film and hoped to raise funds for a full-fledged expedition back to the location where it was captured.
However, soon after the collective hit the road, Gimlin sold his share of the rights for the film for less than $10 to another Bigfoot researcher.
Almost five decades have passed since the footage was captured – and it has faced heavy scrutiny from sceptical scientists, forensic analysts and special effects experts.
But despite the great attention, the film is yet to be conclusively debunked.
Out of the two men who witnessed Bigfoot all those years ago, Bob Gimlin is the only one still alive, as Roger Patterson died of cancer in 1972.
The was 1967 and having completed two tours in the Korean War, Gimlin was living near the Yakima Reservation in Washington with his second wife, Judy.
The then-35-year-old was driving a truck, roofing and taming wild horses in order to make a living when his old rodeo friend, Roger Patterson, spoke to him at a service station.
“He said, ‘Let me show you something’,” Gimlin told Outside Online.
“He went over to the truck and brought out a plaster cast of a big foot.”
Obviously excited by the prospect, Patterson asked Gimlin if he would be interested in joining him on a horseback expedition in search of Bigfoot.
“I said, ‘Roger, I just don’t have time.’”
In the years that followed, Patterson and Gimlin became close, riding horses through Washington’s back-country.
During these rides, Patterson would continue to try and lure Gimlin into the search for Bigfoot, with real-life recorded testimonies of encounters and related books.
The following year Patterson told Gimlin of a road construction crew claiming to have spotted tracks deep in the Six Rivers National Forest.
Despite his hesitations, Gimlin finally decided to try and track down the mythical creature, so he and Patterson drove to Northern California.
“I wanted to see these footprints that these people talked about,” he said.
The gamble would ultimately pay off – with the duo capturing the infamous footage of Bigfoot during that trip, yet Gimlin wishes he had never agreed to partake in the expedition.
“It ruined me,” he said.
After Patterson’s death in 1972, Gimlin was the only living connection to the footage, which made him the sole target for abuse.
Everyone viewed him as crazy – and on numerous occasions cars full of people would head to his family home to taunt him.
“They’d come driving in my driveway all times of the night and go ‘Bob! We want to go out Bigfoot hunting’,” he said.
It wasn’t long before his wife also started to fall victim the abuse.
“My wife was a teller at a savings and loan institution. Of course, she was sitting right there and the public would come in and make smart remarks,” he explained.
“This went on and on and on until she come home crying. She’d say, ‘I’m not tough enough.’ A couple times we were going to split up over this.”
The problem only became worse and Gimlin found himself isolated from the outside world.
Recalling a conversation with prominent Canadian Bigfoot researcher John Green, Gimlin admitted to understanding why people had been acting the way they had.
“I can understand why they don’t believe in it — because I didn’t believe it either,” he said.
“But I saw one. And I know what I saw. And I know it wasn’t a man in a suit. It couldn’t have been.”
The constant abuse would take its toll on Gimlin, who was faced with the conundrum of standing by his footage and being labelled as crazy or staying quiet and having people think the footage was fake.
One of the most seething criticisms came from Greg Long, the author of The Making of Bigfoot.
“I’m going to be blunt with you,” Long told Outside Online. “I consider Bob Gimlin a liar. I think he’s a con artist.”
The author suggests anyone claiming to have seen Bigfoot is just trying to make the myth a reality.
“They need it to be real,” he said. “[They] are driven emotionally, I believe, to find Bigfoot.”
But while Gimlin’s hometown might not have been responsive to the recorded footage, over the past 49 years a community of believers have embraced the belief that Bigfoot is real.
Running conventions across the globe, these people trade evidence-gathering techniques and share stories related to the creature.
And after decades in hiding, Gimlin was roped into attending the 2003 Willow Creek International Bigfoot Symposium – where he found what he had been looking for all these years.
“It’s not a fairy tale to them. It’s serious business,” he said.
“When I met those people down there, they accepted me with what you call open arms.”
Feeling comfortable, Gimlin addressed the conference with anecdotes of his encounter with Bigfoot.
“There wasn’t a sound in the room while I was talking,” he said.
“I thought, ‘I can’t really believe this. This is almost like seeing Bigfoot.’ God, I felt like I was 10 feet tall.”
Today Gimlin lives the life of a retired-rancher, spending his days riding his horses and taking care of his property.
However, he still finds time to appear at conventions across the country, telling the story of his and Patterson’s encounter to congregations of the faithful, which is often met with a standing ovation.
“They want to talk to me, they want to tell me about their experience,” he said.
“This turned my whole life around.”