Frame 352 of the legendary Patterson Gimlin Film shot in 1967 allegedly showing a Sasquatch in Northern California

The Legend of Sasquatch in North America

As far back as 986 AD, the mythical and mysterious humanoid being known as Sasquatch has been documented to have been seen by many, but yet at the same time, seen by only a select few. The legend of Sasquatch remains consistent through history, describing the same thing, with little to no variation in the descriptions of these creatures, all describing the same basic thing: between six to eight feet tall, a hair covered body, with the color ranging from light brown to almost black, and a very human-like body structure. Not quite ape, but not quite man.

These types of creatures go by different names all around the world

These creatures that live and carry out very private lives are scattered all around the world, being known by several different names. Some are more well known, such as the Yeti (also known as the Abominable Snowman) found in Nepal, nestled in the foothills of the Himalayan Mountains, which is just as large as the Sasquatch, except this creature is documented to have silver to almost pure white hair. Some variants are lesser known to the general public, such as the Yowie of Australia, and the Orang Pendek of Indonesia. Even throughout North America, there are different varieties in different regions of the area. The version that is almost identical to Sasquatch lives in Florida near the Everglades, and is known as the Skunk Ape. According to the source, the name Skunk Ape is “earned due to their terrible smell, which some have likened to the smell of rotting garbage, methane or, quite simply, skunks.” The Skunk Ape is intertwined with Everglades culture, appearing on signs and in painted murals.

Sasquatch sightings pulled from the BFRO database

However, narrowing our scope to North America, and the version known as Sasquatch. These creatures seem to have large amounts of sightings in the Pacific Northwest, along with the Midwest. Six of the top eight states with the most Sasquatch sightings, according to the BFRO (Bigfoot Field Researchers Organization) database occur in these two regions. The name Sasquatch is believed to be an Anglicization of the Salish word Sasq’ets, meaning “wild man” or “hairy man.” Sightings and folklore of this creature have dated back thousands of years, and have been passed down from generation to generations. Native American tribes in the Northeast of America tell very similar stories to those told in the Great Plains, and all the way up to the Pacific Northwest. The BFRO says this phenomenon supports Sasquatches existing by saying, “The tribes are spread across all the linguistic groups of native languages. Every native linguistic group has its own name for these figures, suggesting the stories of these figures did not all arise in the same place.” If the tribes in the Pacific Northwest were able to tell the same story based off of things they saw, it can’t be pure coincidence that the tribes thousands of miles away that they had no way to communicate with were telling stories of the exact same creature.

Some population experts calculate the possible population of the Sasquatches to be as high as 10,000 animals in North America alone. While this number seems high, Canada has an area of 3.855 million mi². If based strictly on averages, an alleged population of 10,000 over the area of 3,855,000 square miles would only result in .00259 Sasquatches per square mile, or one Sasquatch for roughly every 386 square miles. The Mountain Gorilla was only discovered in 1902, and that was in the much smaller area of the African Congo. With a creature of that size evading humans for that long, it’s entirely possible that an even larger animal could evade humans in a much larger area that is much more difficult and dangerous to get to, in the Canadian backcountry. Even with all these numbers, the true story lies with the sightings and eyewitnesses. The chart above correlates with the prior information about the United States, where the Pacific Northwest continues up into Canada in the form of British Colombia, which sees a high spike in documented Sasquatch sightings.

Old Yellow Top, facing away, in the oldest known photograph of Sasquatch (1923)

As time progressed, and more and more immigrants and settlers came to North America, the numbers of these sightings grew. In July of 1771, Daniel Boone, famed frontiersman killed what he claimed to be a Yahoo (regional name for Sasquatch at the time), in the Great Smokey Mountains. He documented that it took three shots from the musket to bring it down. Throughout the years, Sasquatch sightings became more and more common. In July of 1923, the first documented photograph of Sasquatch was taken near Cobalt, Ontario. The subject in the image came to be known as Old Yellow Top in the Bigfoot research community. Once the 1940s and 1950s came around, the general public became more and more interested in the topic of Sasquatch, and the mystery that surrounds the creature.

Two of these people were Bob Gimlin and Robert Patterson. These two men were intreuged with the concept of Sasquatch, and they were able to team up and take to the forests of Northern California insearch of them. Bob Gimlin was the skeptic of the two men, doubting the exsitence of them, but was encouraged by the enthusiasm of his newfound partner. On October the 20th, of 1967, their lives would forever change. While riding horseback in along the east bank of Bluff Creek, they rounded a corner of the creek to find a sandbar and the figure in question standing on the opposite bank. Both men were in absolute states of shock. Their horses became very uncomfortable in the situation, and after Patterson was able to get the horse he was riding calmed down and removed the camera from his riding bag, he shot the most compelling bit of footage in known history.

The footage in its entirety begins with shaky camera work until Patterson was able to get the camera stabilized. When he did, he changed the Sasquatch research landscape forever. While shooting the creature, the subject in question turns around to look while walking away, providing us with the most iconic single frame in film. The female Sasquatch has affectionatly been given the nickname Patty by the Bigfoot research community.

Frame 352

After years of heavy scrutiny and analyzation, numerous scientists and film analysts have studied it. Between the way the muscles are seen to move under the layers of fur and hair, to the motions the animal makes, and how those movements are so different from a human, to how many costume designers say it would be impossible today to make a suit that looked that good today, much less the 1960s. Dr. Jeffery Meldrum of the Idaho State University has a B.S. in Zoology, specializing in vertebra locomotion, and is a Professor of Anatomy and Anthropology. Dr. Meldrum claims that, “At this point, I’m as confident as I can be short of standing on the sandbar with Roger and Bob, and witnessed it myself.”

When compared side by side to a suit made in a similar time frame for the 1970 film Beneath the Planet of the Apes, the difference is staggering. In the body of the Planet of the Apes version, the skin and fur is clearly baggy, with no real defined muscle structure, and it plainly looks like a costume. Dr. Meldrum explains, “they [the muscles] start at the head and they can see the trapezius, they can see the deltoid … erector spine down the back, shoulder blades moving under the skin … the quads contract when they’re supposed to contract.” Perhaps the most telling sign of these two is if in fact the Patterson Gimlin footage was a fake is that Patterson was not a wealthy man, so he had seemingly no way of being able to afford the construction of such a detail as the one on film. On the same token, how could a studio with excessive Hollywood funding only be able to make something that looks like a baggy set of hairy pajamas.

While the initial craze and facination of of Sasquatch has depleated over the recent years, with the digital age in the 2000s, there began a renaissance period with the creature. In this timeline created by Thomas Morgan, the interactive feature clearly shows a spike in Sasquatch sightings around 2010.

Will this Sasquatch renaissance help push more researchers to seriously devote time and effort to discovering more about this possible missing link between apes and humans, and lead an Earth shattering breakthrough in the scientific community? Only time will tell if Sasquatch will be uncovered thanks to modern science, or continue to remain hidden, and all we can do is pass stories and legends down to the next generation, much like the Native Americans did for thousands of years.