Bigfoot Is Man In Suit: Nickell’s Old Argument

Posted by: Loren Coleman on August 13th, 2011

What does an “Alien Timeline” have to do with a “Bigfoot Timeline”? Apparently a lot if your research analysis works the same way with both databases.

Look, I personally have nothing against Joe Nickell. We have both gone out-of-our-ways to say nice things about each other (see here, for example). Still, I have to feel that sometimes he is out-of-his-depth when he wades into cryptozoology. Take this latest manufactured interview that he did to promote his new book.

In a new io9 article, Joe Nickell covers the same old tired ground in arguing the debunkers’ reality regarding the Patterson-Gimlin footage:

When it came time to talk cryptids, we started with the most famous, the “Bigfoot” depicted in the infamous Patterson film. Nickell has researched the issue and even befriended costume maker Phillip Morris, who claims he made a gorilla suit for Patterson shortly before the film was made. Corroborating this testimony is Bob Heironimus, who says he was the man wearing the suit in the footage. Finally, analysis reveals that the creature in the image looks like a man in a fake fur suit in many ways. “There’s an odd double-standard in that people subject the hoax claims to a high degree of skepticism without being as skeptical of some of the outlandish theories about the creature,” Nickell said.


“Corroborating this testimony is Bob Heironimus”? Okay, those in the field know Joe Nickell is in deep crap right here. Bob Heironimus’s $1000 Fox-TV driven story fell apart years ago. Phillip Morris has never been able to produce a suit that can match the Patterson-Gimlin Bigfoot. And to say that “analysis reveals that the creature in the image looks like a man in a fake suit in many ways” is a joke.

While researching his 2011 book Tracking the Man-beasts, he found a previously published catalogue of North American Sasquatch sightings. By organizing the sightings and their major characteristics into a continuum arranged by date and location, he was able to see patterns, and a fascinating theory emerged. At first, the creatures showed enormous variation in color, height, behavior, foot size and even number of toes. To suggest a single undiscovered hominid living in the North American wilderness was one thing. To suppose that dozens of different species existed, many of them in relatively populated places like Illinois and New jersey, “strains credulity,” as Nickell put it.

Then the Patterson film was made in 1967. It attracted widespread publicity and was shown on popular national talk shows. From that point forward, variations in Sasquatch sightings began to dwindle. Creatures sighted after the release of the Patterson film exhibited a great tendency to resemble the creature depicted in the film.

Okay, I thought all Lake Monsters were multiple otters, and all West Virginia Monsters (Mothman and Flatwoods Monster) were normal-sized owls, according to Joe Nickell. Now we are to view all Bigfoot as mere temporal manifestations of popular cultural imagery?

Of course, Nickell has tried to do the same thing with his “Alien Timeline,” in which anyone aware of both fields will see that he liberally adds and subtracts types and kinds to make the visuals more intriguing. Purists know that there are no direct UFO reports associated with some of the “entities” he includes on his “Alien Timeline” chart. He even throws in some non-UFO cryptids, now and then. The Lizardman, Trolls, and Mothman were never directly seen with UFOs. What has Nickell done with the sorting of data with the Bigfoot cases to complete his hypothesis assumed above? One can only imagine.

We all know that data can be viewed from different angles, just like photos of humans make be, in which heights vary due to camera position and what one stands upon:

Loren Coleman About Loren Coleman
Loren Coleman is one of the world’s leading cryptozoologists, some say “the” leading living cryptozoologist. Certainly, he is acknowledged as the current living American researcher and writer who has most popularized cryptozoology in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. Starting his fieldwork and investigations in 1960, after traveling and trekking extensively in pursuit of cryptozoological mysteries, Coleman began writing to share his experiences in 1969. An honorary member of Ivan T. Sanderson’s Society for the Investigation of the Unexplained in the 1970s, Coleman has been bestowed with similar honorary memberships of the North Idaho College Cryptozoology Club in 1983, and in subsequent years, that of the British Columbia Scientific Cryptozoology Club, CryptoSafari International, and other international organizations. He was also a Life Member and Benefactor of the International Society of Cryptozoology (now-defunct). Loren Coleman’s daily blog, as a member of the Cryptomundo Team, served as an ongoing avenue of communication for the ever-growing body of cryptozoo news from 2005 through 2013. He returned as an infrequent contributor beginning Halloween week of 2015. Coleman is the founder in 2003, and current director of the International Cryptozoology Museum in Portland, Maine.

115 Responses to “Bigfoot Is Man In Suit: Nickell’s Old Argument”

  1. crowmagnumman responds:


    I would be. I’ve read a lot of Mothman/Point Pleasant material, but nothing from Nickell about the subject yet.

  2. Hapa responds:


    I didn’t know Great Grey Owls got that big (!). I think that’s bigger than the great Horned owl. If that owl reserve was there at the time of the sightings, and had provided superb nutrition to such an owl since infancy, then like with humans that owl could have been larger than normal for the species, and even more so if the environment lacked a lot of stress (compared to the wild, a good wildlife preserve would seem like a country club. They’re not being hunted or having to stress over finding food or living without, after all). Don’t know for sure if birds respond to diet stress and growth the same way humans do, but it seems almost certain that they do. Plus there is that stuffed “Giant Owl” that was mentioned by Nickell. If it or perhaps a large snowy owl, “giant” due to nutrition, it could have been altered by human memory intricacies.

    How fast do they fly? If they can reach 100 mph or near it, let alone glide at that speed (though the eyewitnesses might have gotten the gliding aspect wrong to due to the fear and circustances: perhaps it did flap its wings) then that would be a likely canidate as well, even more so if it is not a common native animal (an exotic escapee from that reserve, not seen by the locals, would be more likely to frighten the locals and cause a crypto-flap).

    Is there any documentation of escapee owls from the reserve? Could they get in and out without being detected by the reserve staff? This needs to be invesigated before we can conclude a large variety of owl was indeed involved.

    Mr Coleman: Hello 🙂 I am a big fan! And yes I would like a new thread on Nickell’s views on Mothman. That would be interesting!

  3. CDC responds:


    I thinks it’s the Patterson/Gimlin film more than anything else.

    That film is the fuel to this and many other fires.


  4. flame821 responds:

    @ Hapa

    Looks like Great Grey Owls max out at 40 miles per hour, give or take, but like all owls, their flight is silent. (It was the silent flight that made me think ‘owl’ in the first place) GGO would not be native to that area, they tend to stay further North unless food is scarce then they go where the food is. But if that sanctuary had one or more I could easily see this being the first step in Mothman. Although GGO eyes tend to glow yellow, not red.

    @ Loren

    I would welcome a thread on Mothman. I hate going off topic, but its so nice to be able to discuss these theories without having people think you’re off your bean.

  5. flame821 responds:

    @ Hapa

    I’m not nearly as knowledgeable about Mothman, but do any of the reports mention Mothman making any noise? this site has a link to the known calls of GGO both adult and juvenile. They are known to fly low, usually 4 to 20 feet above the ground, and can be very aggressive when protecting their nesting area.

    As for escaping an enclosure? Your guess is as good as mine, but I can tell you from personal experience it varies greatly depending on the individual animal as well as the species. I keep ducks and the Mallards are forever getting out of my fenced in yard, while the Runners and Khaki NEVER get out. I can’t explain it, and I’ve tried to figure out how they do it but so far no luck.

  6. crowmagnumman responds:

    “I’m not nearly as knowledgeable about Mothman, but do any of the reports mention Mothman making any noise?”

    Not that I recall. I seem to remember it generally being reported as being completely silent; not even flapping its wings to fly.

  7. Hapa responds:


    Well the speed and eye glow is wrong but otherwise pretty close. Perhaps this owl’s eyes might glow red if a bright light was to shine on it? Or maybe it was a different type of owl. Either way, though it could account for some sightings (i.e. the stuffed giant owl), it would not account for the flying speed (though the silent flight might explain the witness testimony about the thing “gliding” at 100 mph, due to eyewitness mishap).

    Now back to the subject at hand: I’m still trying to figure out that website about the horse tracks comparable to the Bigfoot tracks. Horses hold while standing (and I would think walking) 60 % of their weight on the forelimbs, 40% on the hind. with a 1400 lbs horse Ive calculated that it would hold 840 lbs in the front (420 on each limb) and 560 in the back (280 on each hind leg). This is an upper estimate of the horse that Gimlin rode, due to the combined weight of the horse and Gimlin himself. Since the patterson creature is estimated to be 700 lbs, I tried to think up a scaled down equation: Which would make a deeper print: a 500 lbs horse (150 lbs each forelimb, 100 on each hind), or a 250 lbs man (I would reckon an oversimplified 125 lbs on each foot, But I don’t know how to compensate for the swinging arms) with flat feet (to replicate as much as possible the foot-build of the Sasquatch, complete with Midtarsal break)? I would think that the forelimbs would make a deeper imprint (due to more weight being held down, smaller area for the weight to go down on) and I would think very likely the hind limbs would do the same due to the smaller surface area of hooves despite the light weight load. That would seem to indicate that the Patterson creature could not have been 700 lbs, or half the weight of Gimlin combined with his 1200-1300 lbs horse. However, the weight of the horse is not certain, the soil itself did not show uniform depth of the sasquatch prints (one was 1.25 inches, others about an inch. Some, if not all in the woods were barely recognizable, just like at times when we walk over a great distance and make more noticeable tracks than others due to the variety of the oil around us) and thus raises the possibility for quirks in the soil giving away a misleading estimate of weight, and we still can’t fully discount yet Titmus estimate of 600 lbs based on comparison with a track made in the area by his 200 lbs brother in law (the math does not seem to me to show a 600 lbs creature, but then again I could be misreading that estimate).

  8. Hapa responds:

    Okay about the bigfoot tracks: the 1.25 mark was meant to be 1/2, as in 1/2 of an inch. Titmus’ brother in law managed that depth with the heel of his shoe and 1/8 or less of an inch elsewhere on the track. Based on that, and the fact the deepest bigfoot track went an inch and a half, he and his brother in law (a big game hunter who traveled Africa, Asia, etc) estimated the 600 lbs weight. That throws a new fastball into the horse/bigfoot track debate, considering that Gimlin said his horse’s track went “better than half” that of the bigfoot tracks. Seems like there was something to do with differences in parts of the soil where the men and beasts walked.

    Something to still think about, though…

  9. Hapa responds:

    BTW: this is the site where i got this info:

    Read under “Is the Patterson film a hoax or a film of a real creature?”, subsection “Roger Patterson’s Movie” and go waaaaaaaaay down, and you’ll eventually find Titmus’ notes about the measurements.

    Hope this helps to clear this mess about weight measurements up.

  10. Loren Coleman responds:

    Mothman, according to some ear-witness reports in 1966-1967, sounded like a large squeaky mouse. I mentioned this in my 2002 book on Mothman.


  11. Hapa responds:

    Large squeaky mouse. I don’t know of owls having that type of noise (never heard them make it, doubt they do). I also have no idea about the noise that Sandhill cranes make. Its hard to come up with a non-new species or paranormal explanation for the phenomena.

    The squeak does fit with that of a bat, and the wings of Mothman were said to be bat like. Mothman didn’t look a thing like a Flying Fox (biggest foxes in the world, though not native to North America, could be found in game reserves/zoos/private research facilities, though this is a guess). Perhaps the avian world is the wrong place to look.

  12. flame821 responds:

    Thank you Mr. Coleman 🙂

    A large squeaky mouse would make sense if Mothman (or at least some of the sightings) were of an aggressive mother (female owls tend to be larger than males) protecting her young.

    @ Hapa

    You’ve got me on the math. (Paging Charlie Eppes) We could probably do a decent estimate on height/width = mass going on the assumption that Patty seems to be rather robust and remembering that muscle weights more than fat. I would guess she’s large boned but would use a medium bone build to calculate just because its better to underestimate these things. However without knowing the composition and moisture content of the soil at the time the tracks were made you’re going to have the devil’s time trying to get any workable numbers out of the calculation. Not to mention that the mass spread out over a 15-18 inch foot will give different ppsi than one spread out over a 10-12 inch foot.

  13. PhotoExpert responds:

    Hey Ben! I have not forgotten about you or my journal! Quite honestly, it does not rank high on my priority list. I know the word was used as early as 1977 by native Puerto Ricans. When you know something, like 2+2=4, one does not really feel compelled to prove it. But just in order to set the record straight, it is worth taking “some” of my valuable free time to at least try and find that journal. So I am working on it as time permits.

    With that being said, I found the time to check several of my walk in closets and one of my environmentally controlled storage units. I still have four more storage units to check through and a couple of walk in closets. It may never turn up but if there is a chance, I am going to check it out at my leisure. Afterall, my businesses do not run themselves. It might take a year to find the time to do it and even then, I might come up empty handed. But I may actually find the journal and prove your facts incorrect.

    I do have to thank you though. I did stumble across a journal from my trip in the Amazon Jungle. I thought that may be missing but I did find it in one of the walk-in closets. So thanks for motivating me a bit and I found something that I forgot about.

    And I do appreciate you remembering the $250 offer. Hopefully, I will be calling you sooner than later in need of those finanacial resources to prove a point, one that I alreaedy know is fact.

  14. fooks responds:

    mothman, ok.

    @ hapa

    anyway, a horse could not make the prints unless the guy who designed the suit made the prosthesis for the horse, too.

    then trained the horse to walk in them to fake the vid.

    the film is real, it can’t be duplicated because it’s real.

    lucky shot? duh!

    harry and the hendersons and chewy were top of the line.

    big budget fx’s and forget about the planet of the apes. that was all face.

  15. bobzilla responds:

    Well, I’m sure my comments will be buried in amongst all the bickering, but I’ll post anyway.

    Hoaxes, Suits and SFX
    Two incidents come to mind. One, the infamous Alien Autopsy. This film was scrutinized quite a bit and even looked at by Stan Winston Studios. They said, they thought it was real, because they thought they couldn’t do as well. Later, it was found out to be a hoax:

    The other, the Gable film. To me, that looked pretty real. It showed just enough to make you wonder. But, alas, that was proven a hoax:

    I would have never imagined a man could run that well on all fours. This brings me to the PG film where “experts” say, no human can walk or move like that. To me, the walk looks more human than ape.

    Now, before everyone gets red faced, I do hope that we discover sasquatch as a real animal group living somewhere. I just have some problems with the PG film. I think the experts are using as many definitives as they accuse skeptics of using.

    The walk looks very nonchalant, like a man, not an animal. It walks more human than ape like. The head turn (which has been stated that no human can turn their head like) looks as if he is turning around for possibly some direction from the cameraman, or is turning on a queue from the cameraman.

    A close up of the face looks a lot like the caveman face that (I think) Bob Heironimus or Phillip Morris describe than it does an ape.

    All I’m saying is, I don’t think the PG film is “it”. Why was there no follow up to see where the creature went? Why was it out in the open? It still has a staged feeling to me.

    Hey, if it’s ever proven as the real deal, great! For me, I need a little more to go on.


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