Greetings From The Bigfoot Capital of Northern California
A mountain hamlet at the junction of Highways 96 and 299, Willow Creek is the gateway to Bigfoot Country. The townspeople know it, and they’ve put themselves on the map with what must be the strangest town-square statue in California.
Standing in front of the Tourist Bureau office is a life-sized wooden sculpture of the Hairy One himself, carved by a local man, Jim McClarin, in honor of the area’s most famous resident. It’s a traditional first and last stop for Bigfoot hunters, who usually console themselves after fruitless quests by shooting pictures of each other in front of the wooden replica.
Locals will usually tell visitors their favorite stories about the big brute; it seems as if everyone in town has either seen him, or knows someone who has. Store clerks, outfitters, gas station attendants, and Hoopa Indians recount tales of huge footprints left in front yards, eerie humanlike screams echoing through the wilderness, and hairy, shambling animals caught in headlight beams at night.
A lot of their stories might just be made up for the benefit of tourists, but there are still probably more sincere Bigfoot-believers per capita here than anywhere else in the state. To Willow Creek residents, he’s their neighbor and friend, albeit a shy, retiring one. –MM
The Big Hairy Man Of Cherokee Road
The beast was seven to eight feet tall, had large breasts, and was covered with three-inch-long grey hair except on its hands and face. The Jacksons, only fifteen feet away at the time, said that after it spotted them, it walked up to the outhouse, looked around, and suddenly ran back into the woods.
Another Cherokee Road resident had a run-in with the “apeman” around the same time as the Jackson incident. For weeks, Homer Stickley’s farm had been haunted by something that screamed in the woods at night and stole apples from his trees. Then, one moonlit night, Stickley saw the culprit: a tall, hirsute, two-legged creature who walked through a nearby meadow, pausing to stand by a stump.
By September, at least a dozen people had reported giant ape-things running around Oroville, but the Cherokee Road sightings remained the most documented and credible of the lot. Six years later, people were still seeing the beasts and finding their huge footprints in the area, but the creatures remained at large. By then, Oroville had established itself as another home of North America’s most famous land monster, Bigfoot. –MM
Bluff Creek: Bigfoots Don’t Fear To Tread
Bluff Creek, a cliff-lined mountain stream which flows through the Six Rivers National Forest wilderness, is the capital of Bigfoot Country.
By now, most Americans have heard of Bigfoot, the North American Abominable Snowman, usually from sleazy weekly tabloids or dubious TV documentaries. Still, a brief recap of the stories and legends is in order:
Bigfoot, AKA Sasquatch, Oman, Skunk Ape, etc., is a wild, hairy, apelike creature who’s been sighted sporadically in the forests and mountains of North American since Indian times. He’s between seven and eleven feet tall and, judging by the deeply imprinted giant tracks that gave him his most famous moniker, weights several hundred pounds. Bigfoot is often accompanied by an evil odor that that resembles the stench of garbage or rotten eggs. Both “male” and “female” Bigfeet have been reported, and in 1924 a Canadian miner named Albert Ostman claimed to have been kidnapped for a week by a British Columbian Bigfoot “family.”
Nobody quite agrees on just what the hairy beasts are. Some researchers think Bigfoot is a primitive hominid species that retreated into North America’s forests and swamps when modern men began occupying the continent many thousands of years ago. Others believe he’s a surviving relative of Gigantopithecus, an extinct giant ape. A third faction suspects the Sasquatch is a mirage-like phantom formed by unknown geophysical forces. And of course, there are the skeptics and debunkers, who write off the whole phenomenon as a product of overactive imaginations and yellow journalism.
Indian tribes are usually the most reliable authorities on Bigfeet. Traditionally, they tend to regard the beasts as evil, and avoid them. They in turn generally avoid us. Unhappy with human incursions into their territories, Sasquatches have been known to vandalize backwoods construction sites and lob rocks at hunters who invade their domain. One “tribe” of Bigfeet even attacked five miners and destroyed their cabin near Washington State’s Mount St. Helens many years ago.
These creatures have been spotted in every state of the U.S. save Hawaii. Though they’re most often associated with the Pacific Northwest backcountry, northern California has the highest number and concentration of sightings.
The “hot center” of Bigfoot Country in Northern California is Bluff Creek, which flows about 20 miles southward from the Siskiyou Mountains to the Klamath River. In the 1978 book Sasquatch: The Apes Among Us, veteran Bigfoot hunter John Green wrote that over 60 people had seen some 70 sets of tracks along the creek, and had spotted the beasts eight times. This made the mountain stream the most active area for Sasquatch in North America.
Though there had been rumors of mysterious giant footprints and “ape-men” in this land of steep, heavily forested coastal mountains all the way back to Gold Rush days, the real excitement began in 1958. That year, a timber road linking the then-primitive and untrammeled Highway 96 with Highway 199 was being carved out of the uninhabited wilderness along Bluff Creek. Around late August, work crews began noticing that something with 16-inch fee and a four-foot stride was leaving tracks around their camp at night.
A bulldozer operator named Jerry Crew became intrigued by the tracks and made a plaster cast of them. He took them to the Humboldt Times, told a reporter about the mystery animal, and had his picture taken with the mystery footprints. The story soon got onto the AP and was reprinted all over the country. The press appropriately dubbed the beast “Bigfoot,” and the name stuck.
For years afterwards, road workers and loggers at Bluff Creek kept finding giant prints along the road and creek bed. Some of them reported that they’d seen huge, hairy, humanoid creatures loping around in the woods.
During daylight, the Sasquatches fled from humans. But at night they raided human outposts and scared crewmen with their aggressiveness and strength. In the Laird Meadow region, Bigfeet toppled loaded trailers, overturned 450-pound barrels, and threw a four-foot concrete culvert into a ditch.
Many expeditions to capture the beasts have been mounted. Yet to this day, none have definitely proved that they exist. There are only plaster print-casts, eyewitness accounts, tapes of what purport to be a Bigfoot screaming eerily, a couple of blurry photos – and the Patterson film.
The Patterson film is the most powerful evidence the Bigfoot supporters have. The 30 feet of 16mm color film, which show a large, apelike creature shambling away from the cameraman, have been shown countless times in movies, TV documentaries, and news programs to millions of people. The film remains the best suggestion to date that huge, hirsute monsters are wandering around northwestern California’s wilderness. Not surprisingly, it was taken on Bluff Creek.
The late Bigfoot hunter Roger Patterson shot the film during a close encounter with Bigfoot. In the early afternoon of October 20, 1967, he was out horseback riding with his friend Bob Gimlin at Bluff Creek. As they rounded a bend in the creek, the two men spotted a Sasquatch sitting calmly beside the water. Patterson’s horse reared in fright, and he dismounted quickly, scrambling for the movie camera. Gimlin remained mounted, readying his rifle for action. Then Patterson quickly turned on his camera and ran about 80 feet towards the animal.
The camera caught a hairy biped with simian features, virtually no neck, and pendulous breasts. Standing still for a moment, looking back at the camera, it then strode off into the brush, its long arms swinging at its sides. Right after this encounter, the men found 14-inch footprints where the beast had walked.
The Patterson film is highly controversial – dismissed as a clumsy fake by some, and embraced as undeniable evidence by others. Most of the latter maintain that the creature in the film is female, because of its distinctive breasts. Argosy magazine, the first to publish the film stills, dubbed the beast “the Adorable Woodswoman.”
In the wake of the Patterson film’s release, searchers have tried mightily to photograph, capture, or kill the Hairy Ones. They’ve used every hunting technique imaginable, from baited traps, to infrared-scoped high-powered rifles, to helicopters – all to no avail. Bigfoot has eluded all captors, and though sightings in the area have become less frequent in recent years, it’s likely that he still roams free along the steep banks of Bluff Creek – the most persistent and frustrating zoological mystery in the Western Hemisphere. –MM
The Hairy Giants Of Big Rock Canyon
This rugged canyon on the San Gabriel Mountains’ northern side is a sort of Bluff Creek South. The area is believed to be the home base of Southern California Sasquatches who have terrified hikers and homeowners in the San Gabriels and the Antelope Valley.
These creatures had been rumored to exist in the Southern California backcountry for many years. During Spanish colonial times, Indians told Spanish padres of the “hairy giants who supposedly live up certain dry arroyos.” In 1876, white hunters spotted an apelike beast roaming the mountains near Warner’s Ranch in San Diego County.
But Southern California’s real Bigfoot epidemic hit in the mid-1960s. In 1966, newspaper reports told of a girl pawed by a seven-foot-tall, slime-covered beast in the Lytle Creek wash north of Fontana. A few weeks earlier, two boys hiking in the wash had seen “an ape in a tree” there. In 1965, two picnickers had been chased from their campfire by a nine- or ten-foot-tall, hairy creature on the north side of the San Gorgonio Mountains. And in Quartz Hill, on the west end of the Antelope Valley, two young men told L.A. County Sheriff’s deputies that they had seen a dark, giant biped silhouetted against the sky on a hill.
Hunters picked up the Southern California Bigfoot trail in Big Rock Canyon in 1973. That year, huge, apelike creatures were spotted all over Antelope Valley. Frightened homeowners and frustrated lawmen were never able to capture any of the beasts, and believed that they hid out in the neighboring San Gabriel Mountains.
Sasquatch expert Ken Coon hired a plane, flew over the mountains, saw forested, creek-fed Big Rock Canyon, and guessed that the wild mountain valley was probably the Sasquatches’ Los Angeles County lair.
And sure enough, Bigfoot turned up in Big Rock Canyon. On April 22, 1973, three young men from the San Fernando Valley, William Roemermann, Brian Goldojarb, and Richard Engels, saw him there near the Sycamore Flats campground. Richard and Brian had been riding in the back of their pickup truck that night, at about 10 PM, when an 11-foot Sasquatch jumped out of the bushes and chased the truck for about 20 seconds, its long arms swinging in front of its chest.
The boys reported the incident to the Sheriff’s office in Lancaster and went straight back to Big Rock Canyon. There they located the spot where the big ape had appeared, and were amazed to find hundreds of huge footprints along the road, some of which they later preserved in plaster of Paris. These prints were especially odd, in that they were three-toed. To date, all other Bigfoot tracks were five-toed.
Then came the inevitable tapering-off of reports. Once again, the hairy giants retreated from public view, and headed back to whatever strange twilight world they inhabit. They were seen one more time each in 1974, 1975 and 1976 around Big Rock campground at the top of the canyon. William Roemermann, who had become Big Rock Canyon’s answer to Roger Patterson, made the last two sightings.
The Rebob Monkey Men of Napa
A year ago I heard the local legend of the Rebobs in Napa County, California. They are said to be monkey men that stalk Partric Road in Napa. As the legend goes, two lovers were making out by the cemetery on Partric Road when they heard something on the roof. They were scared so they didn’t get out. When a driver drove by, he stopped and got out and took out a shotgun. Then the couple heard something jump off the roof of the car. In the headlights they saw what looked like half monkey, half man. It ran. –Ethan Rogers