One of the most famous things to go bump in the night in the Pacific Northwest is Sasquatch.
They have reportedly been sighted in northern California, Oregon and Washington and inspired the names at least two brands of beer. The local Boy Scouts of America has adopted Sasquatch as the totem for its Order of the Arrow lodge.
In the most recent session of the Legislature, Sen. Ann Rivers introduced a bill that would have designated Sasquatch the state’s official “cryptid.” The La Center Republican’s bill — which recognized Sasquatch’s “immeasurable contributions to Washington state’s cultural heritage and ecosystem” — failed to get out of committee.
Locally, people have claimed to have seen Bigfoot in the area around Rimrock Lake and on the Yakama Reservation. A 911 call taker once told me of a man who reported that Bigfoot was trying to break into his house.
But it was two Yakima County residents who Bigfoot believers say provided definitive proof that the creature exists.
On a trip to Northern California 50 years ago this month, Roger Patterson and Robert Gimlin captured an almost one-minute movie purporting to show a large female hominid walking through a forest.
Patterson, an old rodeo friend of Gimlin’s recruited him to go on a trip to find the elusive Sasquatch after reports that a highway crew in Northern California had spotted the creature.
Patterson was a true-believer, with a set of footprint castings. He even self-published a book, “Do Abominable Snowmen of America Really Exist?”
Riding on horseback in the Six Rivers National Forest Oct. 20, 1967, the pair said they encountered the creature about 100 feet away. Patterson shot the 16-mm film while Gimlin provided cover with a rifle.
The film shows the creature ambling across the shaky field of view before disappearing into the forest.
They and Patterson’s brother-in-law then went on a national tour to show the film, hoping to raise funds for an expedition back to the location to find Sasquatch.
Gimlin eventually sold his share of the film to another researcher.
Over the years, the film has been heavily scrutinized to determine if it was a fraud. Some have suggested that the “creature” was really someone in a costume.
Another Yakima man, Bob Hieronimus, said Patterson actually filmed him walking around in a gorilla suit, and in the 1990s, his attorney said he passed a polygraph examination. But other experts say they creature’s movement in the film was too fluid to be someone in a costume.
Patterson died of cancer in 1972, while Gimlin, who lives in the Tampico area, endured harassment for insisting the film actually showed a Sasquatch. In interviews, he said people would drive by his house shouting about Sasquatch, and his wife endured comments at her job in a local bank.
Today, Gimlin still makes appearances speaking about what he saw. When I tried to call him, I was told he was in California at an event marking the film’s 50th anniversary.
• It Happened Here is a weekly history column by Yakima Herald-Republic reporter Donald W. Meyers. Reach him at 509-577-7748 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/donaldwmeyers.