Photos of the Burbank Bigfoot

Posted by: Craig Woolheater on May 11th, 2006

It seems that the general consensus with special effects professionals in the movie industry is that the Patterson/Gimlin film depicts a man in a costume. Many state that it has been common knowledge in the industry for years that the film was faked. The name most often associated with this is veteran monster effects master John Chambers.

Chambers is probably best known for creating the apes for the movie Planet of the Apes. He also made "creatures" for Lost in Space, The Outer Limits and Night Gallery.

There are rumors that John Chambers created the suit that Patterson used to hoax the film. Director John Landis has been quoted as saying such. One of the rumors is that Chambers recycled one of the suits used for Lost in Space with a new of different head for use in the Patterson/Gimlin film.

Many industry insiders have said that they learned this from special effects veteran Rick Baker. Baker later recanted saying that he no longer believed it to be true.

Chambers himself denied having anything to do with the Patterson/Gimlin film. He stated that the only Bigfoot he had any hand in creating was the "Burbank Bigfoot". In an interview 4 years before his death in 2001, Chambers said that he wasn’t good enough to have created a costume that duplicated the subject of the Patterson/Gimlin film. He said that he allowed the rumor to persist because it "was good business."

The "Burbank Bigfoot" was a stone prop that Chambers created in his garage. It was allegedly used for a carnival sideshow.

John Chambers Burbank Bigfoot

John Chambers Burbank Bigfoot

John Chambers Burbank Bigfoot

The Burbank Bigfoot was a 900-pound, seven-foot-four-inch Bigfoot model created by Chambers and his crew in the makeup artist’s Burbank garage. According to makeup artists Tom Burman and Werner Keppler, the body was an alginate life casting of the actor Richard Kiel, best known for his role as "Jaws" in two James Bond films. Chambers worked on the face to create an "apeman" look and ultimately the whole body was cast in plaster. The plaster body was meticulously painted by Chambers and then covered in three pounds of human hair, the hair alone requiring a week of work. "Body hairs were placed on the figure a few at a time, and blended with various colors to match the patterns found on gorillas, monkeys, and humans. After the hair was set in place, Chambers and his men cut and trimmed it carefully, to give the entire hair covering an even natural look," according to an article in Hollywood Studio Magazine ("’Bigfoot’ Born in Burbank?," June, 1970). Werner Keppler clearly recalls the laborious fabrication process and the way that the huge plaster body was hoisted out of the studio-garage by rented crane.

Quoted from Strange Magazine 17, Summer, 1996. 

Did any of the Cryptomundo readers see this prop in a sideshow? 

About Craig Woolheater
Co-founder of Cryptomundo in 2005. I have appeared in or contributed to the following TV programs, documentaries and films: OLN's Mysterious Encounters: "Caddo Critter", Southern Fried Bigfoot, Travel Channel's Weird Travels: "Bigfoot", History Channel's MonsterQuest: "Swamp Stalker", The Wild Man of the Navidad, Destination America's Monsters and Mysteries in America: Texas Terror - Lake Worth Monster, Animal Planet's Finding Bigfoot: Return to Boggy Creek and Beast of the Bayou.


19 Responses to “Photos of the Burbank Bigfoot”

  1. twblack responds:

    I have seen and studied the P/G film and every time I see it and look at seems something new catches my eye as to a hoax or the real thing. To be honest I think it is the real thing but I also know that the truth of the film may never be known. I will say this if it was a hoax P/G missed their calling they would have been great in the film industry. As far as the Burbank BF I have read many articles that this was indeed a proven fabrication/hoax.

  2. Bishop responds:

    Very interesting to finally see stills of it. Got to say the hand positions happen the match those of the ice man sketches I’ve seen so I think that puts the ice man to bed.

    I’m always careful about commenting on the PG film because I’m usually branded as a heretic and strung up from the nearest tree. I was in special effects for 25 years and I don’t know of a single professional effects artist that thinks it’s real. Every time I see it I see more problems and signs of it being a suit. As recently as a couple of months ago I watched a GIF animation of the still frames and caught a major problem with it, the waist is stiff and actually sockets around the lower half. I was surprised because it’s kind of a rookie mistake and I never looked for it before. Generally on a suit of this type you’d do it in one piece or have it attach between the legs like some spandex outfits do. The suit was built shirt and pants style and fairly stiff so the top rotates seperate of the bottom. It’s really clear when it’s arm swings forward. Another major problem is flat white feet. It’s hard to make cosmetic soles that look right and don’t fall apart so a lot of older suits basically were built around shoes and little was done with the soles. There are other issues but those are two big ones. Anymore it’s more religion than anything and most have made up their minds. I say if you want to know if something is fake talk to the experts in faking. Scientist even can be fooled but those in the business rarely are.

  3. MattBille responds:

    Does anyone know the whereablouts of Chambers’ Burbank Bigfoot model?

    Matt

  4. peterbernard responds:

    Thank you very much for this, those photos match Sanderson’s drawing of the iceman, no? At least the “2nd” iceman. Also thanks to Bishop for an excellent and informative post.

  5. Jeremy_Wells responds:

    Hmmmm, the iceman sketches I remember seeing showed one hand up over the head and one resting near the genatlia. Whereas this construct appears to have been crafted with both hands on the chest. Of course this doesn’t “prove” that the Minnesota Iceman is real, but this is obviously NOT the Iceman I read about.

    As for the Patterson Gimlin film, I consider myself a skeptic overall, and I’m not a special effects expert, but for every piece of data that seems to discredit the film, one surfaces that seems to confirm it. While I don’t doubt that you saw what you report to have seen, you must remember you were viewing an animated .gif, and not the actual footage. While I don’t mean to diminish your expertise, isn’t this two piece suit the sort of “amateur” mistake other experts reviewing the film should have noticed immediately?

    I must also add that last weekend I attended a series of lectures in San Antonio associated with the TBRC’s “Bigfoot in Texas?” exhibit at the UTSA Institute of Texas Cultures where Dr. Jeff Meldrum displayed color seperated footage of the Patterson Gimlin film where you can actually see Patty dorsaflex her foot and splay her toes. This, combined with Meldrum’s exemplary explanation of the mechanics and morphology of primate feet, was, in my opinion, very compelling evidence.

  6. Jeremy_Wells responds:

    This does NOT match images of the Minnesota Iceman.

    The iceman was most certainly a sideshow con, but the construct pictured above in no way resembles the iceman observed and described by Sanderson and Heuvelmans.

  7. Batgirl responds:

    Throw cars, tomatoes, trees whatever you want at me…but I beleive that the P/G film is real. The end. Nuff said.

    BG

  8. joe levit responds:

    Bishop,

    You bring up a couple of interesting points, and I’ll be sure not to brand you a heretic, but I think you are drawing some conclusions with your ideas that aren’t necessarily the only explanation for what you see and hear.

    First, in regards to no professional effects artist that you know thinking it could be real – not really a surprise. To begin with, most special effects artists, like most people, are not going to give credence to the possibility of the existence of bigfoot in the first place. I’m sure a number of those artists also feel out of a sense of personal and professional pride that someone they know in the industry could accomplish that. You should ask them to try. No one yet has constructed a costume convincing enough to provide a compelling reenactment of the PG film.

    Second, although I can tell that the way the torso rotates or the feet look is almost an indication to you of a hoax, I think it is not outside the realm of possibility for an unstudied creature. Perhaps part of the reason they are able to move so quickly and yet silently through their environment has to do with these anatomical differences.

    Third, in stating that ‘scientist even can be fooled, but those in the business rarely are” you are ignoring something important. Scientists are very much “in the business” of contemplating animal morphology. And, are there a lot of effects professionals “in the business” of hoaxing bigfoot, and therefore they would know?

  9. cor2879 responds:

    I am a firm believer that the film is authentic. I’ve seen plenty of people try to state that this or that could be faked… but there is also plenty going on in that film that points to a real creature. For one thing, it is doubtful that a hoaxer would have thought to make a female suit. Not totally out of the question, I suppose, but doubtful. For another, the amount of difficulty involved with getting someone into those woods where the film was shot with the suit in tow… there are a lot of easier places, I would think, to fake a Bigfoot film.

  10. One Eyed Cat responds:

    I guess what is really getting to me with all this bringing Chambers name up is the absolute CHEEK in continuing to call the man a lier several years after his death wher he cannot explain more. His Final word was he did not do it.

    Hope some of thoses keeping his name in this have nothing to hide when they pass. Or they can ‘rest’ assured there lives will be spread everywher for all to see anyway

  11. Shadow Ink responds:

    I saw what was supposed to be the “Iceman” at a carnival many years ago. Even then I didn’t believe everything you saw at a carnival was real. Its been a very long time ago, but what you have pictured in Cryptomundo does not look much like what I saw. I realize that time can dull memories and what I saw was in a hunk of ice; but they just don’t look the same. The one in ice was much more decrepit looking.

  12. YarriWarrior responds:

    Hey Matt!(jeff here) About the patterson film: I have a friend that does make-up and “suits”,he worked on robocop, and a few other films you might know. He believes that the patterson film is real, and always has. He has got into a few heated conversations with others in the field about it, one being Bob Burns. My friend’s take is “if it is fake, then why can’t anyone duplicate it?” And I agree, 100%. I know that 30 or 40 years from now someone might come close, and that will be offered up as “proof” that Patterson’s film is bogus. Nevermind all the years in between. The Richard Keil cast above looks nothing like the original iceman, in my opinion. The body cast of Keil was in plaster-making the arms rigid. The iceman had one arm over his head. And was shorter in stance. Yarri

  13. MattBille responds:

    Now there’s an interesting question. Has anyone with budget and expertise attempted to replicate the exact appearance of the PG film creature using a suit? (The really bad suit on “The X-Creatures” must have been an attempt at humor.)

    Matt

  14. DWA responds:

    It’s pretty hard for me to believe the Patterson film isn’t the real thing.

    Remember, that film has withstood four DECADES of “look, this is fake.” It has never been debunked. Based on the reaction I’ve seen to the Oregon “Bigfoot” shot on this site, we sure ain’t gonna be the ones to debunk Patterson. Somebody needs to explain what that is. It isn’t a man in an ape suit. If it is, it would have been exactly duplicated — the ultimate “I told you so” — before most of us logging in here (not me!) were born.

    I don’t trust those “in the industry.” Reason? Look at a lot of the comments on the Oregon “Bigfoot” here. Too many people nowadays spend too much time on computers and not enough outside. Whatever the Oregon “cryptid” is, it isn’t a deer and it isn’t a bear. I’ve seen more than enough of those, up close and personal in the woods, and taken enough photos to know. That leaves: human, horse and sasquatch. Sorry, only choices available. Just look at the pic; don’t mess with it on Photoshop!

    The Patterson film proves one thing. We, each of us, would have to see one of these, alive and in our faces, to believe it. Or see tracks (like my wife and I did in the California Siskiyou in the spring of 1986).

    Or really look at the Patterson film.

  15. DWA responds:

    OK, can’t stop now.

    As to this: “…the waist is stiff and actually sockets around the lower half. I was surprised because it’s kind of a rookie mistake and I never looked for it before. Generally on a suit of this type you’d do it in one piece or have it attach between the legs like some spandex outfits do. The suit was built shirt and pants style and fairly stiff so the top rotates seperate of the bottom. It’s really clear when it’s arm swings forward.”

    The “rookie mistake” here is presuming Bigfoot should walk like a human! The peculiar gait is exactly what has brought primatologists, anatomists and anthropologists into the this-is-the-real-thing camp.

    “Another major problem is flat white feet.”

    Another “rookie mistake.” The flat, archless soles of Bigfoot’s feet have been shown to be a distinct anatomical advantage for moving quickly over rough terrain.

    And another thing: special-e professionals are some of the biggest cynics out there. They’d have to find Bigfoot raiding their pantry to give any credence to it. A film will never do it for them. Or for us, probably.

  16. sasquatch responds:

    I’ve worked as an animator and model builder in the film and television commercial realm as well as making my own independant films. I went to film school, have studied make-up and fx for over 30 years and I’ve never seen anything like the Patterson film. The more I study it, the less possible the actor in a costume idea becomes. As an animator I’ve studied movement very intensly; human, animal whatever. This is not a human. It is similar but it is not a human being. As a model builder I’ve had to study bone/muscle/fur relationships and again; this is not a human. The only answer is that it is what has come to be known as Bigfoot or Sasquatch. Like it or not.

  17. DaveK responds:

    I’m another effects guy with twentysomething years of experience in animatronics and suits. I am also the fellow who posted on a very old Omni Magazine forum years ago about how it was common knowledge in the effects industry that the PG bigfoot was created by Chambers. That led to a lot of hate mail and an e-mail from Mark Chorvinsky (rest in peace) at Strange Magazine which led to an article about the Chambers/PG connection.

    I just want to state for the record that I am totally convinced that bigfoot exists. I also think that the PG film is of a man in a suit. The exaggerated arm swing is due to trying to make the forearms longer. The way the hair lays and it’s direction seem unkept. The secret to keeping a hair suit looking natural is brush, brush and brush. It gives one an immense respect for how nature does it. Look again at how the rear 3/4 of the thigh intersects the buttocks. I could swear that in one of the early frames you can see the hair fabric buckling just next to the buttocks. Speaking of the buttocks, does it leave anyone else with the impression of a diaper full of goodness, rather than a massive muscle that should be working quite a bit. I also get the impression from this film that the creature has caucasian coloration of the face. Has this been reported often? The face also closely resembles a sketch that Patterson did of a Bigfoot for a book or pamphlet he published before getting this footage. That sketch of bigfoot was also light skinned. The white foot issue doesn’t bother me. That could be dust on a rubber foot as easily as it could be dust on a real foot.

    On the Burbank Bigfoot front, the figure in the photos is NOT the Minnesota Iceman. That figure had an arm over it’s head that had a compound fracture where the arm was almost severed mid forearm. Not unlike a plaster arm that broke in shipping. Just trying to draw some fabrication parallels between the pictured construct and the images of the iceman I saw years ago in a book.

    I would give my right arm to see footage of a real hairy hominid, the only problem is I don’t think the PG creature is one. IMHO.

  18. RipleyE responds:

    My sister and I attended the Minnesota State Fair the one year the Ice Man was actually on display and we paid to see it–really on a lark. We were both startled by what we saw–very realistic looking small, bearded man–slightly contorted face–part of the body could also be seen through the ice. Anyway, the Burbank model is too tall and and the shape of the face is quite different. In particular the brow ridge we saw on the Ice Man is not the same and it did not have the jutting jaw seen on the Burbank model. I didn’t realize until recently that we were among the few to actually see this exhibit. There is a photo on the web that I came across that is exactly what we saw and I will try to relocate that and provide a link here.

  19. RipleyE responds:

    The photo on the Argosy magazine cover seen elsewhere on this site is accurate.

    This was a disturbing experience – we were convinced what we saw was not a model or wax dummy but actually a real flesh and blood man. It is too bad it disappeared without resolution.




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