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The Man Who Saw Bigfoot

How the legendary creature ruined this Washingtonian’s life, then gave him a fresh start

In 1967, Bob Gimlin of Yakima accompanied his friend Roger Patterson on a mission to track Bigfoot. The result is the world-famous footage of a hairy creature seen looking over its shoulder. It was looking at the no-nonsense cowboy, Bob. Photo courtesy KNKX.org

That turned out to be the first crack in their friendship.

They hit the road with the film, trying to interest investors and maybe sell the story to Hollywood. But Bob says his heart wasn’t in it. He had horses to take care of, and he headed home to get back to work.

Still, Roger and his associates continued the roadshow with, according to Bob Gimlin, one major difference.

“He hired some guy that said he was me!” Bob said, still incredulous after all these decades.

And that was it for Bob and Roger. Bob says the two didn’t speak again until Roger was on his deathbed.

“His brothers called me and said Bob, he’s asked to see you. So I went to see a little old dried up guy there in the bed and he rallied up a little. Bob, he said, I apologize,” Bob said.

“He said Bob, I’ve got the money and the means and the equipment. He said as quick as I get well you and I are going to go down to California and capture a Bigfoot. Well, that was in the afternoon and he was dead the next morning.”

All The Ridicule And None Of The Money

Bob says he forgave Roger at that point … but his anger still boiled. He seethed that this had turned to a payday for others but not for him. And Bob chafed at the mockery— the constant mockery—that seemed to follow him wherever he went.

He says people would occasionally screech into his driveway in the middle of the night and shout taunts about going Bigfoot hunting.

When the ridicule reached his wife at her bank job, that was a breaking point.

“They’d razz her about it where she was working, and she’d come home a bawlin’ and saying, oh God Bob, I wish you had never went down there with Roger. I said I do, too.”

So Bob disowned Bigfoot. He stopped doing interviews and answering mail about it. He basically wouldn’t talk about it for nearly 35 years.

But then, in 2003, along came a Russian scientist named Dmitri Bayanov.

Bob Gimlin Reemerges After 35 Years

Bayonov had written about Sasquatch as well as what they call the Russian Snowman. He came to the US to attend a conference in California, and he convinced Bob Gimlin to go along with him.

Reluctantly, Bob agreed to tell the story of Willow Creek to a room of attendees. In a video of the talk, you can see Bob, his mustache not yet white, clearly unsure of what to expect. For decades his story had gotten nothing but ridicule.

He finished the story, stood for a moment in uncertain silence, and then it came: thunderous applause.

“It was like lifting a weight off my shoulders,” Bob said. “Here’s all these people just anxious to hear what went on, and believed in me. And when I walked in the room, standing ovation. And I thought, wait a minute, how did this turn around in a few days?”