More Options

The Memorial Day Bigfoot Video: A Closer Look

Daniel Perez

Skeptical Briefs Volume 17.3, September 2007

Bigfoot, or at least his image on videotape, is again at the center of a great controversy. A number of people within the Bigfoot community are raising questions about a videotape made on May 26, 1996, by Lori Pate on a camping and fishing trip in Washington, just five and a half miles south of the Canadian border. It was later broadcast to millions in the documentary Sasquatch: Legend Meets Science (hereafter abbreviated as S:LMS). Shortly after the film was shot, the well-known Bigfoot hunter and author Peter Byrne commented, “A careful examination of this footage suggests to me that it was faked, not by the young couple who obtained the footage, but by others. . . .” So unmoved by the Memorial Day footage was the late Grover Krantz that he wrote nothing about it in the revised 1999 edition of his book, Big Footprints. Esteban Sarmiento, from the American Museum of Natural History, offered this: “It’s very difficult to prove with certainty that the creature is real or a man in a monkey suit.” And Washington’s resident Bigfoot enthusiast, Rick Noll, echoed Sarmiento’s critique: “there is not good enough resolution or detailed view of the animal on the video at this date to show anything but the gross body shape.” (Later, Noll would decide the footage showed tremendous detail.)

Supporters of the film disagree. Jeff Meldrum, who seemingly has been able to see more than other viewers, writes, “Also discernible were unmistakable breasts that gyrated with each running step.”

But what is certain is that the Memorial Day footage met popular science (or less than that) in the forensic examination of the footage. As Meldrum explains in his book, Sasquatch: Legend Meets Science, a companion to the television program of the same title: “this was perhaps the most high-tech [and costly] analysis of any film purporting to depict a sasquatch.”

To many who have viewed this short videotape, the figure looks like a man in a gorilla suit. And at about 5 feet 3 inches in height and a gait strikingly like that of a man, suspicion should be quick to set in. That the on-site forensic examiners didn’t get suspicious right out of the gate is surprising. What they should have done is place a man of the same height in a gorilla suit going over the identical route for comparison.

Instead, they used a man taller than the subject dressed in running apparel. The comparison wasn’t apples to apples. The test subject, Derek Prior, easily outran the subject over the same pathway. Prior, an accomplished athlete, sped the course at 17.1 mph, while the Memorial Day video subject lagged along at 8.56 mph—a little more than half the speed. Nonetheless, narrator Stacy Keach for S:LMS offered a complete contradiction: “The Memorial Day footage suggested that the creature was running at speeds across this rough terrain beyond human capabilities,” when in fact this was never the case.

Fortunately, the filming site, near Chopaka Lake, Washington, remains relatively unaltered from eleven years ago, and a man-in-a-costume experiment might answer a lot of questions about the alleged reality of the filmed subject, and should be done.

New evidence damaging to the validity of the videotape has come to light: an experiment recently conducted by M.K. Davis, a Bigfoot buff from Mississippi. Davis comments: “In regard to the Memorial Day footage: I don’t have the highest quality version of the footage, so I approached the problem from a color-scheme perspective. A little-known fact about synthetic fiber, such as many inexpensive ape suits contain, is that when it is dyed brown, there is a base coat of green. My computer imaging program has the capability of restoring faded photographs to their original vibrant colors. It is very sensitive to even very faint colors.

“When such inexpensive fibers are subjected to strong light, the base coat of green often shines through.┬áThis would be almost imperceptive to the naked eye, but the sensitive program does often pick up the faint green undercoat. Working with this principle, I assembled some of the frames in the Memorial Day footage to see if green would come through, and apparently it did. [To see these images readers are referred to the Web site: Bigfoot] Finding the green base coat in strong light is not always definitive. The process only works on some brown dyes. In some cases there may be bleed over onto the subject from surrounding vegetation. What I found with the subject running in the Memorial Day video, however, changes as the light and shadow does. This strongly indicates an inexpensive fiber that has been dyed brown.

“While not conclusive, it is enough to make me not want to go through a lot of expense and time to look at other points of interest.” Rick Noll, writing on the Bigfoot Forums Web site, charged back, “As far as a color shift in the subject, more information is needed. Like control tests showing that video tape doesn’t impart this characteristic on its own.”

Bobbie Short, a San Diego, California, Bigfooter, e-mailed me: “During the early Internet discussions of that film footage (circa 1996—1997), someone asked Dr. Krantz if he was going to address the Memorial Day Footage issue in his updated version of Big Footprints. He fired back with both guns drawn, saying he wouldn’t waste ink on that footage.”

Additional adverse testimony comes from Larry Lund. Owen Pate called Lund, perhaps the first Bigfoot investigator to hear about the videotape. When I spoke with Lund on November 19, 2006, he said, “Pate told me their primary interest was to see if they could get their Bigfoot videotape aired on television and how much money they would be paid.” After viewing the videotape, Lund stated it looked “pretty terrible” and did not encourage Pate.

The Pates were eventually compensated for their videotape when they agreed to have it aired on S:LMS. According to the producer, Doug Hajicek, “Owen [Pate] would have let us air the footage with or without the very small compensation [we paid].”

But why was the audio from the videotape left out of S:LMS? In S:LMS Paul Freeman’s alleged Bigfoot video is shown with sound, yet when the Memorial Day footage is displayed, the audio is silent without any narrative explaining why. If the producers of the program felt the remarks made on camera were racist, they could have bleeped the questionable dialog. The real reason, I believe, is that the audio is both illuminating and revealing.

Here are excerpts of the audio:

“He was right behind that small pine tree, right?”

“I’m freak.”

“Yeah, I’m scared.”

“I could make a million bucks.”

“That’s a guy with a big hair cut. . . .”

“Sure is ambitious, running a lot. . . .”

“It’s a Bigfoot.”

“That’s not a Bigfoot. . . .”

“It’s a Dickfoot.”

“It’s all on video!”

“I’ve only had two drinks.”

“Me, too, two too many.”

And somewhere in the audio, as the subject comes into view is this: “looks like a white boy to me,” a statement made without a doubt by the late Fred Bradshaw, an avid Bigfooter from Elma, Washington. Having known Fred Bradshaw since 1995, his voice is easily recognizable. Isn’t it convenient, or too convenient, that a Bigfooter would be present when a camping couple just happens to film a Bigfoot? What was Fred Bradshaw’s connection to Owen and Lori Pate? And why has the couple never acknowledged Bradshaw was there? Their reluctance to be interviewed or questioned on the matter speaks volumes.

In the end, the Memorial Day footage will probably always be controversial, but these latest revelations make it very questionable evidence for Sasquatch. A lot of time and money has been spent on this footage, and perhaps that is the real reason talk it might be a hoax only falls on deaf ears when it comes to its supporters.

Daniel Perez

Daniel Perez, a long-time researcher and investigator into the Bigfoot mystery, is the editor and publisher of the hard-hitting Bigfoot Times newsletter. He is the author of the cult classic booklet, Bigfoot At Bluff Creek and the reference work, Big Footnotes. His quest is in finding the truth about reports of Bigfoot.