I thought everybody knew that. In fact, I thought so at 13 years old, when I saw the raw 1967 footage of a guy in a lumpy gorilla suit ambling through the woods for 60 seconds. That clip, known as the Patterson-Gimlin film, is apparently the shaky rock on which Bigfoot believers have built their pseudoscientific church. But the documentary "Hoax of the Century" kicks it apart, and a Charlotte man plays a key role.
The apparently ageless Philip Morris, who looks the same on camera now as he did when I first met him 33 years ago, sold the Bigfoot suit in the summer of 1967 to Roger Patterson. (Morris Costumes, still open at 4300 Monroe Rd., has been in business since 1960.) Patterson adapted it for a pal, who donned it for a ramble in the woods and laughs about it today.
Morris, thinking the whole thing was a goofy prank, didn't tattle on the prankster. But when directors C. Thomas Biscardi and John L. Johnsen sought him out for their debunking documentary, Morris spilled the beans about the way a glass eye could be made to reflect light and an industrial-sized zipper line could be concealed from the camera.
You can find the DVD at www.searchingforbigfoot.com, where you can also obtain a camouflage Bigfoot hat and Bigfoot welcome mat. I'm not sure this is really the "hoax of the century" -- I'd put the subprime mortgage market up against it any time -- but I was fascinated by the seriousness with which people exploded a myth I'd always thought was silly from the get-go. (Another man, the most famous person to "discover" Bigfoot tracks, admitted in 1969 that he'd made them himself.)
Perhaps unintentionally, this film reveals how desperately people cling to things they want to believe, regardless of how little evidence supports them and how much mounts up on the other wide. Believing in Bigfoot isn't as self-destructive as refusing to believe tobacco is harmful or the Earth is warming up, but it's a symptom of the crazy stubbornness that plagues our species.
Monday, February 4, 2013