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Scaring Up Bigfoot for Halloween

Philip Morris with a replica of the Bigfoot costume. hspace=2

If you bought your Halloween disguise online or from a seasonal shop, chances are very good it came from the Morris Costumes warehouse in Charlotte. It is a top wholesaler in the costume business with legendary roots. You can see why from old TV clips like this. . . "it looks like a man in a suit, but so would the Bigfoot of legend. . . " Philip Morris, the founder of Morris Costumes, remembers seeing that clip for the first time. "I'm sitting in my living room, watching television and I recognize the suit!" says Morris with a laugh. He claims to be the maker of Bigfoot. "My wife's in the kitchen and I say 'Amy, come here look, look, we're on television!' She comes in and she says 'Look! There's our gorilla suit! There it was!" In 1967, Morris and his wife were sewing gorilla suits in their basement for traveling circuses and magicians. "So one day, I'm sitting in the costume shop and I receive this telephone call and the man introduced himself as Roger Patterson," recalls Morris. "He said he wanted to buy a gorilla suit And he said, 'Does it look like a real gorilla?' And I said, 'Well it looks like a Hollywood gorilla.' He wanted something that looked more like a Neanderthal." What he wanted, was Bigfoot. A few months later Patterson was all over the news with video he captured of Bigfoot while hunting in the woods. The film ignited a craze, but Morris kept mum. Because he says Patterson was no different than his other customers - magicians doing gorilla tricks. "I didn't set out in the lobby of the theater and say look folks, first of all that's not a real gorilla and second of all there are two gorillas, that's why you can't tell how the trick was done," explains Morris. "I couldn't do that. This was their job." Only after Roger Patterson died in the 80s, did Morris start telling his side of the story. Bigfoot aficionados insist he's making it all up. But exposes by National Geographic - and soon TVLand - have featured Morris as the maker of the Bigfoot suit. Today, Morris' office is a shrine to the legend and he loves to show off pieces of the Bigfoot costume to visitors. But these days, gorillas are just a fraction of Morris' sales. Hollywood is much hotter. "This one here a deluxe Batman suit, just like the one in the movie," says Morris employee Jamal Heath. "You've got your deluxe cape and mask." Heath is one of hundreds of workers packing, taping, labeling and shipping costumes 24-7 in the Morris warehouse. While other retail sales are down sharply, Halloween is hopping. The National Retail Federation says people are spending about three-percent more this year on their costumes, candy and decor. Morris says sales at some of his Charlotte stores are up 20-percent. The Halloween Express store in the University Area is full of people who say their money is tight and their jobs at risk. And yet, store manager Mary Mansfield says very few customers leave empty-handed. "It's just one of those where, you want to have fun," she reasons. "And it's just an excuse to let everything else fade away and have a good time." It turns out a bad economy is just what the mad doctor ordered for Halloween. . . and for businesses like Morris Costumes who promise to make you anything you want for one night. Even Bigfoot.