December 7, 1998
Cliff Crook has made a clay model of an item that he says, under extreme magnification, appears on the hip of a dark figure some believe to be Bigfoot.
Staff photo by Andrew Walgamott.
by Andrew Walgamott, staff reporter
For some, it might be like dethroning Elvis as the king of rock and roll.
Cliff Crook, a former Bothell man, is claiming that a large, hairy figure some believe to be Bigfoot caught on film is really just a man in a monkey suit.
"It has to be. What is it doing with a man-made object on it?" Crook said. He said that in four frames of the famous Patterson film, magnified 100 times, there appears to be an inch-long device. Attached to the figure's hip, Crook says it may be a clasp, a bell, or a fastener. The object appears in different places in each frame, indicating it is flopping around, he said.
While the film has been analyzed by an expert in bio-mechanics who remains convinced that it isn't just a man in a suit, Crook boldly predicts, "It will go down as the Bigfoot hoax of the century" and promises more evidence soon.
"It's not all that's been found, but that's all I'm supposed to tell the media at this point," Crook added. Cryptically, he said perhaps the man in the suit would be named.
The Patterson film records a dark, bipedal figure striding across a northern California creek bed. It was taken by Roger Patterson, a Bigfoot hunter, who, along with another man, happened onto the creature on October 20, 1967. Patterson died in 1972.
For those scratching their heads, Bigfoot, or Sasquatch as it is also known, is ... well, it's hard to say what exactly it is without a specimen for scientists to study, or even the bones of one. Some regard it as a myth. Others say it is probably an ape. A few dedicate their lives searching for it.
Best known for the large footprints it leaves behind, Bigfoot is said to be elusive, smelly. There are numerous stories of men encountering hairy beasts from the turn of the century. Similar beings are recorded within local Indian cultures, and in Asia.
Professor stands by own conclusions
The subject of Bigfoot draws emotions from derision to open-minded skepticism to unquestioning belief. The Internet, as can be expected, is loaded with bizarre Sasquatch encounters, everything from terrifying howls to Bigfoot/UFO collaborations.
One man who has treated the subject scientifically is Grover Krantz, a Washington State University professor of anthropology. He told the Weekly that despite Crook's claims, he stands by conclusions he made on the Patterson film in his 1992 book Big Footprints: A Scientific Inquiry into the Reality of Bigfoot.
There, he writes that the creature had a standing height of six-feet, six-inches, weighed around 500 pounds, had shoulders over 28 inches wide, and was probably female.
"There's simply no way to fit a man in that suit," Krantz said last week, adding, "A normal description of Sasquatch fits perfectly."
Krantz, who analyzed the film, based his measurements on film speed, distance from camera, the subject's stride, size of footprint, comparative body volumes, typical human statures, and the distance between the creature's armpits. He said a padded suit would make a person's arms stick out, rather than hang down, like the figure's do.
Blowing up images of the film is nothing new, Krantz notes, but he says there a limit to how much it can be magnified. "If they see a button, it's obviously something else," Krantz said.
Krantz believes Bigfoot is probably a living representative of Gigantopithecus, a primate known in the fossil record.
Whether you buy into Bigfoot or not, you've probably seen the Patterson film. Said to be the second-most viewed film of all time next to the Zapruder film of President Kennedy's assassination, it still inspires people to lope across rooms with stooped backs and swinging arms when their memory is jarred.
Author and biologist Robert Pyle calls the film "extraordinarily important" in Bigfootology. "It's one of the more substantial pieces of evidence and isn't something to easily dismiss," said Pyle.
In his book, Where Bigfoot Walks, Pyle detailed Bigfoot-like beasts specific to various local Indian cultures as well as writing about the so-called "Bigfoot hunters." The importance of the film, he notes, is not only that it was made before the Planet of the Apes era, but it "deeply impressed" Hollywood movie studios at the time. In fact, Krantz writes that Disney executives said they couldn't duplicate the film two years after it was made.
For those like Chris Spencer, a southwest Washington man interested in Bigfoot, a lecture on the film by Krantz convinced him of the woods-walker's reality. "If that film didn't exist, I'd still have my hands up in the air," Spencer said.
Pyle is a little more cautious. He says that while he leans towards the possible existence of some as-yet-to-be-discovered animal, he's not now prepared to accept it outright. But he warned against the fallacy that debunking the film would mean there was no such thing as Bigfoot.
"It would hurt the case for Bigfoot, but would it suggest he's apocryphal? No. There are still too many tracks to account for," he said. Krantz has found dermal ridges on some tracks.
Still a believer
Despite his assertions, Crook remains a believer in Bigfoot. He said he saw a "forest giant" while camping in 1956 and has searched ever since. A 58-year-old cartoonist, Crook runs Bigfoot Central, a sort of information clearinghouse for reports and data, from his home in Mill Creek. He takes credit for "taking the first step on the Bigfoot trail by anybody."
In his upstairs office, pins on a map of the state denote recent sightings, including one in eastern King County for which he gave no exact location.
Crook says he gets about 300 to 400 reports of Bigfoot a year, which he distills down to about three or four "legitimate" incidents for investigation. Most sightings, he says, are cases of mistaken identity--stumps, bears, an elk in the dark.
But a recent incident in Wahkiakum County has caught his attention. On Nov. 8, elk hunters made plaster casts of deep imprints they found in the woods, according to the Longview Daily News.
Downstairs, in a cool basement, Crook keeps a number of plaster casts of giant footprints, newspaper clippings and Bigfoot memorabilia.
War of words
Like the aura of Bigfoot himself, Crook's proof is rather shadowy and hard to make out. He admits so much: "It's like a photo that, if you look at long enough, you see it." The object was discovered by Christopher Murphy, a British Columbian. Amidst shades of black and red, there appears to be something geometric, something vaguely bell-shaped.
Crook said he has long doubted the Patterson film. "It was too much like a man in a fur suit. I just couldn't put my finger on it, though," he said. He said it didn't look like the figure he saw in the 1950s.
Still, as a group, Bigfoot hunters tend to find what fits their mindset. "Most of the Bigfooters begin by gathering all the information they can find, then rejecting those reports or references they deem groundless or unsupportive of their biases," Pyle writes.
Krantz writes that many hunters are motivated by greed, personal vindication, fame, or science. With public skepticism and media snickering, those like Spencer are loath to go public with their own stories lest they be looked on as wackos.
"There are lots of people with good evidence who aren't willing to come forward because they'll be labeled as nutcases," Spencer said.
As it is, Crook's announcement predictably has sparked a war of words within the Bigfoot community.
Rene Dahinden, a Canadian who owns part of the Patterson film's copyright and receives royalties when still photos of it are published, told the News Tribune of Tacoma, "Any idiot who says it's a man in a fur suit doesn't know what he's talking about."
Dahinden and Crook were formerly friends. Both claim to be portrayed as the Sasquatch hunter in the movie Harry and the Hendersons.
Now, Crook has made a clay mold of the trinket, hoping someone will recognize it. He says a reward may be offered soon for information. "We think someone will identify this bell-shaped object. When they [do], we'll have them then," he said.
Crook says the hate mail is already coming in.