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Happy 91st Birthday, Bob Gimlin
And Many Bigfoot Returns
On Oct. 20, 1967, a horse breeder and trainer named Bob Gimlin (photo by Bluff Creek Project) claimed he saw a hairy, six-foot-tall creature walking upright through the woods adjacent to Bluff Creek in Northern California. That would have been just two days after his 36th birthday.
No 36th birthday party for Gimlin that year. Roger Patterson told a reporter at the Eureka Times-Standard the pair had spent the past week in a truck pulling three horses in a trailer, scouring Bluff Creek for reported sasquatch tracks. The splashy, energetic Patterson described Gimlin as his part-Apache tracker.
“Last Saturday [Oct. 14] they arrived to look for the tracks themselves and to take some films of these,” the newspaper related in its Oct. 21, 1967 edition, “riding over the mountainous terrain on horseback by day and motoring over the roads and trails by night.”
Gimlin didn’t get a belated birthday cake on Oct. 22, when the freshly developed film was screened in the Yakima basement of Patterson’s brother-in-law and film business partner, Al DeAtley. By most accounts, Gimlin was exhausted by the drive home from Bluff Creek and skipped the premiere for a good night’s sleep.
The whirlwind didn’t end. Five days after the Bluff Creek encounter, Gimlin and Patterson were heading to a screening of the film at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver. On Oct. 26, the pair were grilled by Canadian radio host Jack Webster and the Associated Press in Seattle.
“She seemed just a bit leery of us rather than frightened,” was Gimlin’s sole quotation in the newspapers. “She just walked with strides that averaged about 42 inches, until she was out of sight around a bend in the creek.”
Patterson and DeAtley were off and running, selling film rights and making movie deals. Gimlin – a skeptic literally dragged into the Bigfoot world by Patterson – disappeared from view just like that beast in Bluff Creek.
Patterson died in 1972. Neither he nor Gimlin ever backed down from their story.
“My dad is a very honest man and he has told me the same thing he tells everyone,” says Hugh Gimlin, one of four kids from Bob Gimlin’s first marriage. “He believes that she was real. Being a cowboy that did most of his own veterinary work and being an avid hunter, he knows animals.”
Hugh Gimlin (left) with his Old Man in 2019
Hugh was 5 when Bob and Ellen Gimlin divorced. The kids lived with mom, who remarried in 1963. Hugh says his stepfather tried to discredit Bob out of jealousy and the kids rarely saw him. After he became an adult, Hugh reached out to his biological father and got to know Bob very well. The subject of “Patty” and Bluff Creek came up many times, he says.
In 2003, Bob Gimlin finally emerged onto the Bigfootery scene at the Willow Creek International Bigfoot Symposium in Humboldt County. That was about a year before Gimlin’s Yakima neighbor, Bob Heironimus, went on the record as the man wearing the gorilla suit in the Patterson-Gimlin hoax.
“It was in July or August of 1967,” Heironimus tells Greg Long in The Making of Bigfoot. “Gimlin said that Roger was going to make a film and they needed someone to wear a suit. Since Bob and I were pretty good pals, well, Gimlin suggested me.”
Heironimus said Patterson promised him $1,000 if he would meet them in Bluff Creek, wear the suit and never tell a soul. Ironically, Heironimus said his coming out after 35 years was to cash in on some of that Bigfoot fortune and fame.
Bob Gimlin has dismissed Heironimus’ claims for 20 years.
“If it was a hoax, my dad knew nothing of it,” Hugh insists. “He never received royalties from the film and has not gotten rich from the film. He and my stepmom (Bob’s second wife, Judy) have mostly been ridiculed.”
One day, Gimlin’s full story may come out. His business manager, Russell Acord, says he’s working on a documentary that will include interviews with Heironimus – to try to tell both sides of the story in one place. But that won’t be on Gimlin’s 91st birthday. He’ll be having some cake and getting ready for the first-ever Yakima Valley Bigfoot Con, Oct. 21-22 at the Legends Casino Hotel in Toppenish, Wash.
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