Today I’m sitting down with William (Bill) Munns, author of When Roger Met Patty. No, it’s not exactly a romance. It’s actually a very intensive non-fiction investigation of the famous Bigfoot sighting in Northern California in 1967. You may not remember hearing about it back then, but I’m pretty sure you’ll recognize the most iconic frame of the video that was shot that day.
So, Bill, can you give us a quick rundown of the events of that fateful day as they were reported?
Munns: Roger Patterson had a strong interest in researching the Bigfoot phenomenon for over seven years, and he spent a tremendous amount of time exploring wilderness areas where sightings and trackways were known to have been. Bob Gimlin was a very experienced horseman and had some tracking experience as well, so Roger frequently enlisted Bob’s participation in these excursions. In August, 1967, a trackway was found in the Blue Creek Mountains near Bluff Creek, CA. and Roger was told of this so he decided his next trip would be Northern California in October. Bob Gimlin agreed to come along and other men were invited but couldn’t be away from home for several weeks. So Roger and Bob began exploring the Bluff Creek region in early October and spent weeks searching but finding nothing. On that fateful day, October 20, 1967, they were on horseback riding north along Bluff Creek when they encountered “Patty” (as she is known to Bigfoot researchers), an apparent female Bigfoot. Roger had a 16mm camera loaded and set to film on a moment’s notice, and he grabbed it, chased Patty and filmed as he ran after her, capturing the most controversial home movie in history, the Patterson-Gimlin Film.
What’s the genesis of this book? What made you want to tackle this very controversial subject?
Munns: My interest in the film, and Patty, has been casual since the filming was announced in 1967, because I was in college and studying filmmaking and makeup for films. There was immediate suspicion the film was a hoax, and Patty was just some guy in a fur ape suit, and because I was learning about “creature effects” and ape suits, I was curious about why Patty didn’t look like any ape suits I was aware of. But it wasn’t until around 2008 that I thought about contacting one of the prominent Bigfoot researchers and simply offering my appraisals based on my work as a “creature guy” (a makeup artist who does creatures and special makeup effects). But once I actually researched the film images in depth and the controversies around the filming, I felt that I could make a valuable contribution to this research. Once I applied myself to this project, I soon became recognized as a researcher who could bring a unique perspective and professional expertise to resolving the controversies.
The arguments for and against this being real are very complex. What expertise do you bring to this discussion?
Munns: My expertise in the special makeup effects profession was initially what I felt I could contribute, but as I studied the film controversy more, I realized that there were issues of cameras, lenses, film editing and image analysis that I could also apply to the analysis of this film and the suspicion of hoaxing. In my seven-year effort, I also assembled the finest film image scan database of research material ever held by any researcher, and so I was able to study and analyze issues that no prior researcher could resolve.
I believe the general public thinks the sighting was faked. Can you tell us why you disagree?
Munns: The subject figure in Patterson’s film (called a creature by many) is a real biological entity as she appears, and is not a human in a fur costume, to a certainty. There are many specific aspects of her anatomy which could not be accomplished with a human in a fur costume back in 1967. The most compelling are: (1) The head shape and size presents a challenge for a costume mask that no makeup artist creating ape suits has ever successfully done, even now; (2) the breasts have a fluidity and natural shifting of form when she walks that no costume prosthetics in 1967 could replicate, and this has been tested scientifically; (3) the skin along the side of the torso going down the leg to the knee has an elastic shifting that occurs on real human anatomy, but no fur materials of the 1960s could replicate; (4) the contours of the back and lower spine area have a shape that was never designed into costumes but perfectly matches human anatomy, when the combination of muscle mass, adipose tissue deposits, and posture are all factored together.
All of these considerations scientifically support a real biological body and refute a fur costume worn by a human performer.
There are also many subtle but meaningful facts that can be revealed by analysis of the film simply as filmed footage, and what the camera operator did, and these facts also verify the event was spontaneous, frenzied, and not staged or planned.
What would someone have to do to prove this is all a fake? What would they have to do to prove it’s real?
Munns: To prove the film is a fake, one simply has to find evidence in the film of some kind of act of deliberation on the part of the filmmaker, editing the original before copying, taking more time than just a minute or two for the whole event filming, or some discontinuity between the actions of the camera operator in relation to the actions of the filmed subject. Any of these would be an absolute and factual proof of a faked film, a hoax. But the film has been meticulously examined for such and no evidence was found.
The primary proof that the film is real lies in the analysis of the filmed subject figure, “Patty”, because there are many subtle aspects of her anatomy that simply could not have been created with a human in a fur costume in 1967 (and some couldn’t even be done today). But the proof requires an extensive knowledge of makeup effects technology of the 1960s and few researchers today truly understand how things were done back then. I started makeup work in 1967, so I can confidently say I am truly familiar with the materials, processes, and effects that could be accomplished then.
You’ve got some very technical arguments in your book. Would you say this book is more written for film insiders or for anyone who has an interest in this fascinating subject?
Munns: I tried to find a balance between the general reader and the more technically astute reader, and give both an explanation in layman’s terms, as well as a more detailed and technical explanation. But for the more technical matters, I also tried to include some foundation knowledge to educate the reader as to the basis for the technical discussions. So in many respects, the book is an educational text as well as a remarkable investigation into one of the great mysteries of the 20th century.
What else are you working on? Any more books in the future?
Munns: I am considering a follow-up book with a higher level of technical discussion of the research work, and a primer for future researchers and people wanting to study this in depth. But I also have interest in other varied factual topics, and do enjoy writing fiction stories based on humanistic themes and offering some measure of hope. I am intrigued by what people can accomplish, and I am attracted to ideas that inspire people to reach for the highest accomplishments they are capable of. But this book, this whole endeavor, is quite unique, because there is no other controversy quite as profound and bizarre at the same time. My satisfaction dwells in the confidence that I made a difference, and helped find a truthful answer to a question people have been asking for 48 years.
Bill, thanks very much for taking the time to explain to us about your book and the fascinating mystery it's based on. If people want to find out more about you and the book, where should they look?