Patterson’s Little Known Deathbed Confession

Posted by: Loren Coleman on October 20th, 2009

Tuesday, October 20, 2009, marks the 42nd year since the now famous so-called Patterson-Gimlin Bigfoot film footage was taken at Bluff Creek, California.

Needless to say, it was on this very day, in 1967, that Roger Patterson and his field partner, Bob Gimlin, filmed what still to me appears to be a female Bigfoot walking alongside Bluff Creek, located in the Six Rivers National Forest of northern California. One cannot seriously study the subject of Sasquatch without being familiar with this footage.

But, of course, behind the camera were men. And men are only human, with human failings.

Roger Patterson (above), as you will recall, was born in Wall, South Dakota on February 14, 1933, and died of cancer on January 15, 1972.

Bob Gimlin is still with us. The genuine gentleman, Gimlin, has been pushed to the forefront, as far as becoming a reluctant spokesperson, who only first began coming to conferences on hominology and Sasquatch studies in 2003.

I happily got to appear at another Bigfoot conference recently with Bob Gimlin, during the gathering in Texas in September 2009. Since I am an early bird, and actually, because most people were sleeping in late, I would find myself down in the lobby eating early light breakfasts almost always alone. It happened twice that only one other person was there, and that was Bob Gimlin.

Naturally, Bob and I shared a table and conversations. We had a great time swapping stories about Ivan Sanderson, Roger Patterson and the good old early days of Bigfoot hunting and the other personalities involved. Sometimes I talked, but more often than not, I enjoyed intensively listening to what Bob wished to say and asked a few pointed questions.

One thing that has always interested me is how the whole situation was handled after the October 20th filming. The fact there were people involved resulted in the addition of the “human element.” This caused the usual tendency of people to muck things up. Of course, this is the human factor that enters into just about any field of strong egos and groundbreaking discoveries, often characterized, for example, in anthropology with phrases like “bones of contention.”

During my early morning talks with Bob Gimlin, he shared with me, for the record, a story that I do not recall having ever heard before. It involved a little schism that developed between Patterson and Gimlin, and the hard feelings that resulted thereafter for the two men.

Bob and I were discussing the confusion that sometimes occurs with people mixing up who is who in the field. Bob then stopped me short by sharing a startling turn of events he once found out about, regarding his buddy Roger.

It was a couple years or so after the film had been taken, and Bob got a call from a friend of his with a strange tale. It seems the friend heard about a talk on Bigfoot, which was to take place in a little hall in a Southwestern town near where the guy lived. It happened to be a road appearance by Roger Patterson, who was taking around the raw footage and showing it for a little admission price on a haphazard lecture circuit.

The talk and film were interesting, the friend told Gimlin, but it was what occurred next that really got the guy a bit hot under the collar.

All of a sudden, in an apparently scripted scenario, after Patterson showed the Bigfoot film, up on the stage strolled out a man dressed like a Western ranchhand. To the friend’s and most of the audience’s surprise, the cowboy introduced himself: “Hi everyone. I’m Bob Gimlin and I saw the Bigfoot too, like Roger did. I was there.”

Bob Gimlin’s friend said that he felt like standing up and yelling out something like, “Hey, damn it, I know Bob Gimlin and that’s not Bob Gimlin.”

Instead of a confrontation, the friend decided to call up Bob about what he had just witnessed with his own eyes with this staged act.

Bob, a quiet man, never pressed Roger on it, but the two grew apart. And Bob waited.

It wasn’t long before Roger Patterson’s health started to decline, and dying, Roger called Bob to his bedside. Weak, obviously near death, and apparently wanting to die with a clean slate, Gimlin told me that Roger said to him, “Bob, we did you wrong. I shouldn’t of had that fella act like he was you. I did wrong.”

Both men only had a few words about it, and that was it. Soon Patterson was gone. Bob Gimlin thought it was an apology, and he was sad to see his old friend die. He really never held it against Patterson, but just thought it was not a “right thing to do.”

Gimlin only let go of his upset about the “bad blood” after Patterson called him to his bedside as he was dying, for that little talk.

So, yes, Roger Patterson did once give a “deathbed confession,” but it never had a thing to do with faking the film. It only was about Patterson having used a fill-in “Bob Gimlin” because the real Bob Gimlin had a horse business and family that never allowed him to get away to go on the lecture circuit. Besides, Gimlin hated public speaking back then (and really still does, he told me).

Is it something that Patterson shouldn’t have done? Of course it is.

Did doing what Patterson allegedly did during his lectures mean that he faked the footage itself? No.

The images on the right in this montage are from the docudrama Sasquatch, the Legend of Bigfoot. The top left image is Bob Gimlin; the top right image is “Techka Blackhawk,” played by Joe Morello from the movie. The images on the left are of the real people and are here compared to the docudrama’s frame captures of the fictional actors and scenes.

This docudrama was Joseph A. Morello’s only acting job, ever. He was born in Springfield, Massachusetts, on July 17, 1929. He went blind in 1967, and apparently remains alive today. He appeared on over 120 albums and CDs, of which 60 were with the Dave Brubeck Quartet (1956-1967) and three with legendary guitarist Hank Garland, including the landmark album Jazz Winds From a New Direction.

Bob Gimlin and Roger Patterson look over the casts from the 1967 filmsite.

Bob Gimlin, circa 1973.

Bob Gimlin, 2008.

On the left, in the checkered shirt, is Roger Patterson. The man, second from the right end, with the long hair, is Robert Gimlin, who is part Native.

I don’t know what Bigfoot/Sasquatch are, but I know that Roger Patterson and Bob Gimlin are only human.


An additional comment:

This morning, after reading this, John Green wrote me, saying: “Didn’t know about the confession, but the substitution is an old story.”

Well, yes.

While I did not overtly say it, the entire reason I wanted to put this on the record is to make the point that for those debunkers who talk about a rumored Patterson “deathbed confession” about any fakery, it was about the substitution, not about the film being a fake!!

The Bluff Creek Bigfoot articulo mortis does exist.


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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.

17 Responses to “Patterson’s Little Known Deathbed Confession”

  1. mrmiloboy responds:

    Hey Loren great post. My mother-in-law had both Patterson and Gimlin as students in Yakima and has often vouched for their character. She does not believe they would have created such a hoax. She says they were both good students and couldn’t see them both basically telling such a lie. Human yes, liars no.

  2. MountDesertIslander responds:

    Wow. I can’t tell you how disappointed I am in that revelation. Why is it that the pursuit of chump change needs to super-cede credibility?

    I can’t imagine there was enough money in the “taking around the raw footage and showing it for a little admission price on a haphazard lecture circuit” to justify discrediting everything else Patterson had done. All he did was exchange the verification from a false witness for his long term credibility. That’s a bad bargain.

    I can understand the sceptics’ argument about a man in a suit, staging the encounter, or even conspiracy to hoax. I am happy to consider those and accept or reject their claims based on merit and evidence. What I wasn’t prepared to face is trying to reconcile this serious lack of ethics and judgement on Patterson’s part. This is really bad if it is a true story.

    The only thing I can say about Patterson is maybe he understood the idea of hype, hype, hype to succeed. I have been to his birthplace; Wall, South Dakota. That is the location of the famous Wall Drug, home of “Free Water”. I have rarely seen a place with such an impressive ability to create buzz around itself. I remember seeing roadside billboards right outside of Chicago counting down the miles to Wall Drug. I see bumper stickers in Maine claiming to have visited the “World Famous, Wall Drug”. Maybe Patterson learned early on that half the battle is hype.

    The problem is that credibility, once lost, can’t be bought back with any amount of money. That must be guarded like a treasure. It is more valuable than gold.

  3. JJ responds:

    Many people — often younger ones who weren’t there — tend to forget that we once lived in a world without the internet and instant-communications-everywhere. Access to broadcast TV was limited to the chosen few. In those days, taking a film on the screening circuit was a grand tradition practiced by filmmakers of all types, probably most often those with travel films to show. The venue would be a school auditorium or community center such as a grange hall. The presenter would show a 16mm film, often silent but sometimes with a music track, and stand near the screen to narrate while the travelogue (or other subject) ran. It was a fun, and very personal, way to enjoy such a presentation in a live venue.

    I remember seeing the P-G film at a screening in high school (Oregon City Senior High) sometime during the ’69 – to ’72 time frame, but it could have been a couple years earlier in junior high. It was fun and interesting to see, and as an Oregonian who camped a lot, it hit close to home for me.

    Roger Patterson making that lecture circuit with Patty on 16mm parade did nothing to harm his reputation or credibility. It was what some filmmakers did back then. I don’t know if they were paid by the show or the number of people in the presentation, so the pseudo-Gimlin guy may have been there for “show” more than financial gain.

    The pseudo-Gimlin guest and Patterson’s reputation, yes, that’s something else again, but I don’t remember if he appeared at our show or not. My memory is just one guy talking. It’s good to hear Patterson owned up to it later, even on his death bed.

  4. red_pill_junkie responds:

    Is heartening to find out that the two old friends reconciled in the end.

  5. korollocke responds:

    I still have a hard time buying all this, if it was so real why did bob wait till 2003 to start with the appearances and so forth? Did run into money problems? Bob being all “rock star” and hugging people at that recent event shows a man very comfortable with appearances.The prints look like they were pressed straight down and then lifted straight up; what walks like that? In the film it looks like there is a lighter colored area along the waste line were top half of a suit would be joined to bottom. Just my thoughts nothing else. It would be truely great if it’s real. For me with 28 years of hunting in the mountains and never finding a single shred of eveidence of anything other than deer,elk,bears and such all this is hard swallow.

  6. shownuff responds:

    no matter what angle i hear the story i will always love it..

  7. alanborky responds:

    I know what you’re getting at, MountDesertIslander, but there’s a story about about a Sufi from the Middle Ages who was teaching his students a series of startling insights about Muhammed and the Koran.

    A Number of other Islamic scholars demanded he be put on trial and proceeded to hammer him from every angle with questions intended to convict him as a heretic.

    When he answered everything they threw at him, their leader said, “If you have had any confidence in your arguments and been a true scholar, like us, you’d’ve set them down in a series of learned tomes, extensively quoting your references, thus allowing us to take them away to critique at length.”

    “As it happens, gentlemen…” said the Sufi, clapping his hands, “Here is precisely what you demand,” whereupon his students filed in and set down countless hundreds of documents. “The small pile is a faithful record of what I teach my students, the other considerably larger pile is of all the authorities of Islam I use to source those teachings.”

    The committee’s leader now triumphantly proclaimed, “Ha! The very fact you felt the need to so extensively quote others to justify your position proves you have no confidence whatsoever in what you teach!”

    Or, as Bart Simpson would say, “You’re damned if you do, and you’re damned if you don’t…”

  8. DWA responds:

    Whoo brother. And again with the personalities.

    And of course the skeptics – still looking for their first piece of evidence that their loony conspiracy theory of hominology holds water – will be all over this one.

    I’m still with Dahinden: what’s on the film?

    No one’s come up with a dot of evidence pointing to anything other than 100% authenticity; the tracks lifted from the site are as valid as any found anywhere; and that’s where it is, until the animal is confirmed. At least we can safely presume that, given the skeptics’ success so far.

    Patterson’s slip-up can be easily understood: he couldn’t believe the across-the-board dismissal of the film effectively without analysis. He almost certainly had some sort of profit in mind; and this was his way of manufacturing the credibility he should never have been denied in the first place. Anybody who dwells on this, beyond tsk-tsk (and yes it was a rotten thing to do) is grasping at straws, which a true skeptic should never do but “bigfoot skeptics” seem exceedingly good at.

    Korollocke: “The prints look like they were pressed straight down and then lifted straight up; what walks like that?”

    Um, I do, lots of people do, practically everyone on earth in fact, most of the time, and tracks look like that unless the striding foot pulls through the substrate to leave drag marks, which usually doesn’t happen unless you are exhausted or the substrate (e.g. snow) is deep. Most tracks I have seen – and you don’t want to compare tracks seen with me – are “pressed straight down and then lifted straight up,” no matter what makes them. Drag marks happen frequently, but they simply aren’t in most tracks.

    OK. What’s on the film?

    Sorry about that, Bob. Durn shame. It is the easiest thing in the world for me to understand, with what he’s had to endure, why it took him so long to start showing up at squatchfests. I might have quit them entirely, for life, if I were him.

  9. cryptidsrus responds:


    Gimlin suffered considerable ridicule for telling his tale. His wife almost divorced him .Maybe it was fear of public MOCKERY that kept him from speaking out more all those years???

    Alanborky: Great tale. And sadly, all too true. 🙂

  10. Fhqwhgads responds:


    No, it’s more a matter of “fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me”.

  11. lukedog responds:

    So either Gimlin was a man of conviction and feared being mocked, or he was afraid the hoax would be exposed and be mocked. Hardly a win win situation for him.
    Guess we just have to wait for his death bed confession.

  12. DWA responds:


    “Gimlin suffered considerable ridicule for telling his tale. His wife almost divorced him. Maybe it was fear of public MOCKERY that kept him from speaking out more all those years???”

    Exactly. That’s the most logical and immediately self-evident explanation, because as we all know, ridicule and sasquatch go together like snow and winter.

    The most inexplicable plank in the platform of the “bigfoot skeptics” is the one that goes: Bigfoot is a gold mine. Why the shyness about cashing in…? Hmmmmm….CONSPIRACY!!! Well, good point; Patterson died rich rich rich!

    Um, no. One gets sick of being made fun of. That extraordinarily simple. Hey, extraordinary claims, extraordinary evidence. Besides, what is so extraordinary about this animal that lots and lots of people see? (Sounds like a plain ol’ ape to me. The gibbon? Now that’s weird. I want proof on that one. And the orangutan? No WAY something that big lives in THE TOPS OF TREES. Come ON here. What kind of fool do you think I am? An ape that big should be on the ground, and bipedal. Like, you know, us. Talk about weird.)

    “Bigfoot skeptics” is an intentional pejorative, hence the quotes. (Plus one gets tired of “scoftic” occasionally, despite its handiness and summing-up quality, and wants to try something else.) “Bigfoot skeptics” aren’t skeptical at all; anything that furthers their non-case, they swallow hook line sinker rod and fisherman. If you really listen to them, credulous conspiracy theorists is more how they come off.

    Meet Gimlin and you know the likelihood this sucker got faked. As in, don’t bet it.

    (Who would go to all this ridiculous trouble to fake an APE?)

  13. MontanaMtnMan responds:

    Interesting commentary Loren. Thanks for clearing that up for the uninformed. As a solitary man living in the wilds of Montana, I have had one encounter with “Mr Big Stuff” aka Bigfoot. Once you have an experience and realize that you really just saw and smelled what others have tried so hard for many years to describe, you learn to tune out the skeptics and/or disbelievers and their special brand of BS. I’ve always kept my mouth shut about what I experienced anyway. I never reported it or told anyone else except for my partner and he’s been passed on going on 11 years now. It’s enough for me that I saw what I saw and know it. It was more of a spiritual thing for me ( I’m 1/4 Mandan ) I guess and therefore personal. I haven’t exactly figured out if BF is really from this dimension, planet etc. It sure as heck looked like it was, but that sure don’t mean a thing. What I mean is, it looked like a real being because it was one, it moved like one and it made noise as it walked ( branches cracking, etc. ) The smell? Well, I can’t rightly say I have ever smelled something from a different dimension or planet. Then again, if that’s where BF comes from to here, maybe I have. I still don’t know what to think after all these years but I’ll go to my grave knowing I saw something most folk don’t get a chance to experience. Sure glad I was born here and live where I do! Peace to all – BJM

  14. mystery_man responds:

    DWA- Well, I wouldn’t say JUST an ape.

    If sasquatch are indeed real, and are even apes at all (I don’t think we can say with any certainty), then they are a very unique type of ape. Completely bipedal like humans, larger than any known living ape, and living in North America, which is not known to harbor apes in the first place. There are no known living examples of apes in North America or animals related to something like a sasquatch, and no solid fossil records of such creatures (although you know I don’t think that means they don’t exist), let alone one that does all of the things sasquatch can purportedly do. Also, the sasquatch would be unique among apes and in fact primates in general in that it inhabits temperate zones. If the sasquatch is real, its apparent range would encompass the most northern known habitat of any primate (other than man, of course), a record currently held by the Japanese macaque.

    This isn’t even all of the things I am considering, but you get the picture that there are quite a a few things that I think stand out here. These are all points that when taken together would make the sasquatch a very unique, extraordinary, and paradigm busting animal indeed. This is why finding sasquatch (or perhaps more accurately, proving it) would be such a groundbreaking discovery for biology and zoology. There would be some serious re-thinks and shifting of paradigms with regards to what we think we know.

    This is where I think ridicule comes in, because the sasquatch is so far outside of the percieved norms of what to expect in an ape or within wildlife in North America. All things considered, I don’t think the orangutan or gibbon are really as bizarre as the sasquatch seems to be, and this is bound to raise some eyebrows.

    It has been discussed again and again here that, no, as far as biology is concerned no one thing about the sasquatch is IMPOSSIBLE. The bipedalism, range, size, ability to remain undiscovered, and other prominent characteristics all have a possible basis in science. Such properties are all plausible to a degree, but when taking in all of the characteristics present, it is hard to deny that sasquatch certainly would be extraordinary when compared to the precedents we have and the living apes we see today.

    So is sasquatch at least theoretically possible? Yes. JUST another ape? I don’t really think so. Of course there are unique species among apes and I don’t think ANY of them are just another ape, but I do think that sasquatch would be something pretty special.

    You said- “Why the shyness about cashing in…? Hmmmmm….CONSPIRACY!!! Well, good point; Patterson died rich rich rich!”

    This is a great point. I think most people in the field of bigfootery could tell you that this is not exactly an area to pursue if getting rich is your desire. Even the tops of the field who publish extensively, such as Loren, aren’t raking in the cash. For anyone to say that Bigfoot is a cash cow, well, that’s just obviously not true. This is not a goldmine for anyone here. Second of all, it doesn’t matter because the people within cryptozoology, those out there doing the research and the fieldwork, do this out of passion rather than a desire for financial gain.

    In fact, I’d say the only people who are making any serious money off of Bigfoot are the ones spectacularly hoaxing it. Those who are out to decieve rather than truly enlighten are seeing the biggest monetary gains. It is unfortunate that the people making the most money off of the field of cryptozoology seem to be the ones that are showing the least respect for the work others are trying to do and holding it back from becoming a respected, legitimate science.

    Maybe I’m worng and there are respected, dedicated cryptozoologists making loads of cash, but I don’t know of any.

    So yeah, saying that Bigfoot is a goldmine is pretty silly.

  15. DWA responds:

    M_m: Well, you know, and I think you say this, nothing is really JUST an ape.

    I just try out the reverse reasoning sometimes, and imagine how out of this world weird the orang and gibbon would seem if we had confirmed the sasquatch and yeti first.

    You make good points, although I think “ability to remain undiscovered” might owe more to another ape’s astonishing propensity for seeing things as it wants to rather than as they are. 😉

    But, yeah, could the skeptics please stop talking about all the money to be made from an animal no one believes if you say you saw one?

    I know why Patterson did what he did, wrong or no: he was incredulous at the reaction his film got, and decided to manufacture some credibility. Which, yeah, just saying it tells you what a good idea it was.

  16. JA responds:

    I’m not sure if what is being said here is that this “deathbed confession” supplants the possibility of any other deathbed confessions Patterson may have made. Was Gimlin present the entire time Patterson lay near death–even his last moments? It’s still possible Patterson may have had other visitors at different times while near death, and made other confessions, no?

  17. Mikey D responds:

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but I think the actor that played “Techka” was named Joel Morello, born February 22, 1950. (As given on IMDb) The named given as Joseph A. Morello, and having gone blind, is a totally different person ENTIRELY. A jazz musician drummer I believe?

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