Abominable Snowmen, by Ivan T. Sanderson, , at sacred-texts.com
6. In Our Own Back Yard
Now that we are squarely back on the tracks, we might as well stay on them and skip, for the moment, all chronology. There is a business about giant, humanoid-appearing foot-tracks that has been going on in this country for far too long. It needs examination, and either exposition or debunking. It centers around the Great Basin, which is mostly now the state of Nevada, but it slops over in all directions and, in the form of giants capable of making such tracks, it reaches from Canada to Mexico, from the Pacific coast to Pennsylvania, and right on into the portals of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C.
As will be seen from the discussion of what I euphemistically call Myths, Legends, and Folklore (Chapter 17) such things are linked up all over a wide area from New Mexico to Puget Sound but center round the Sierra Nevada. They are linked by both traditional, early, and even recent accounts of a giant race of wild people, who inhabited this area in bygone days, and who not only were there before the Amerinds arrived, but persisted for a very long time after they had done so and, it is alleged, still linger on today. In tradition, these personages are not overly exaggerated. They are consistently reported as having been on an average about 7 to 8 feet tall (or its equivalent), but to have included outsized individuals, to boot, that were especially reverenced.
We have seen a record of a skeleton fitting these dimensions
Click to enlarge
MAP IV. NORTHERN CALIFORNIA
MAP IV. NORTHERN CALIFORNIA
allegedly found in British Columbia. There are plenty of others but we just don't talk about them. Unfortunately, I have not had the opportunity to follow up the notes given to me some time ago on this subject, regarding Nevada, by a good friend, a man with a genius for bibliographical research, a very wide and real knowledge of American prehistory and folklore, of Amerindian history, and of colonial tradition. It is a voluminous and very startling file, containing what seem to me to be endless references to what are classed as "giant burials" from all over the place. Many of these are said to be housed in small county and city museums dotted about the West, and most seem to have been lodged therein during the 19th century. A few are said to have gone to the Smithsonian, yet all have been totally ignored ever since. The reason for this ig-nor-ance, as well as a notable ignorance of the subject, is stated by this indefatigable literary groundhog to be the really abominable story of the foot-tracks of Carson City jail, a most odd affair. It goes as follows:
First, some of the tracks—there were others of elephantines, deer, cats, and "giant birds"—looked like those of a giant humanoid. This fact was published by Dr. Harkness of San Francisco through the California Academy of Sciences. In his report, the author gave some sketches of said tracks but stated that he had "filled out those areas not clearly shown in the originals." These areas happen very conveniently to go right around the front of the imprints and down their inner sides. As a result they look generally much more human than they would otherwise have done; at the same time just such areas would have cut out any imprints of toes (human or otherwise). Dr. LeConte, of California, agreed in print.
The result of these communications was an immediate response [as was almost invariable in that decade] from (Professors) O. K. Marsh and E. D. Cope. Marsh, of Yale, blasted the idea in his own inimitable style: he did not even bother to refute the matter; he simply stated that the tracks were those of a ground-sloth—either Mylodon or what he called Morotherium [sic]. No animal has received such a name, but there is, of course, the really giant Ground-Sloth (Megatherium); a detail of such a trifling nature would of course not hinder this paleontological free-boater. The most interesting part of this pat pontification is that he appears to have accepted Harkness' quite illegitimate touching up of the tracks, and then to have stated that they were manifestly those of a ground-sloth. Thus, he was, ipso facto, wrong in that, as touched up, they were not those of such an animal. He seems to have completely missed the further point that before touching up they could well have been so. However, he pulled still another boner.
Ground-Sloths—which were actually enormous kinds of shaggy, short-tailed, neotropical anteaters more closely related to the Giant Anteater (Myrmecophaga) than to the living Tree-Sloths—could apparently stand on their hind legs but they used their immensely thick short tails as a third prong of a tripod to do so. If they waddled along on their hind legs, their tails must have gouged a deep channel between the tracks of their feet. There were no such channels in the Carson City tracks. Marsh seems to have appreciated this fact so he conjured up some "smaller imprints, obviously those of front feet somewhat outside the main tracks." No such tracks were ever recorded, or sketched. [Cope, Marsh's most implacable
There is an official wind-up to this but it is almost as extraordinary and inexplicable as the facts themselves. For some reason serious-minded scientists—by which I mean those who still have open minds—have concluded that these beastly things are the tracks of one of the Giant Ground-Sloths. We have radiocarbon dated bones of some of these creatures killed and eaten by men of a pretty advanced culture in the Southwest—but I cannot understand how any paleontologist, let alone zoologist, could ever conceive of any form of such a creature [of which we have a foot] having ever either walked on its hind legs alone or left a footprint anything like those of Carson City jail. This identification, however, led to all the other large humanoid tracks being dismissed as "just those of fossil animals."
Would that we might pursue the matter of giant skeletons but at this juncture it would be inappropriate. It is (as of now) really a separate subject, and until we obtain a fresh skeleton of one of the large or giant ABSMs, or some competent, trustworthy, and really informed physical anthropologist happens to stumble upon one in a museum, it must be left dangling. So, again, we jump back onto the tracks.
This would be in the year 1890 at a place on the Chetco River about the border between California and Oregon. It appears that about that date and thereabouts, the citizenry had been bothered for some time by really gigantic foot-tracks that looked, according to the contemporary records, just like those that would be left by enormous naked human feet, which passed back and forth from the forests to the seashore. Then things began to happen at a mining camp some 50 miles inland. Large objects were moved at night and there were unpleasant noises, all naturally attributed to marauding bears, until one fine morning when, after a particularly rambunctious
night, during which somebody fired at something, two sets of large human-type tracks showed up all around the camp. A posse was organized and tracked these for a long way into the forest but eventually gave up. A short time later, however, a man was chased into camp by something very large, the looks of which he did not wait to investigate. A watch was set; two men at a time, for a few hours each. Then it happened.
One couple going to relieve a watch found their two companions dead and really grossly mutilated. They had in fact been literally smashed and apparently by being picked up and slammed repeatedly onto the ground so that they looked as if they had fallen off a high cliff onto rocks. The account particularly specifies that there was nothing anywhere near off which they could have fallen. The wretched men had emptied their rifles and there was both spoor and a large blood-trail leading off into the bush. This the whole camp personnel followed with the aid of Amerindian trackers. It led into the Siskiyou complex of mountains to a point far beyond that which any even of the Amerinds had previously penetrated. There, the men are said to have come upon a fresh lava flow. This is an astonishing item. There is volcanicity in the area and there had been an account 14 years before of a great quake and the sound of a far distant explosion, heard on the coast of Oregon, and of a dull glow said to have been seen in the sky for two nights but nothing definite about a volcanic eruption was even suggested at the time. What is more, this report by a party of ABSM hunters was also ignored and it was not till after World War II that lava beds, now re-vegetated but nonetheless of very recent vintage, were located in the area, although they had shown up on aerial maps as irregular patches of some unique form of ground-cover.
This rather gruesome incident appears to have satisfied even local curiosity for some time as nothing much is reported for quite a few years, though a very old Amerindian patriot told me with a whimsical smile of one Chester Johnny of his tribal group who in the year 1905 spent a happy hour watching
a large papa Toké-Mussi (as the local giant ABSM or Sasquatch is called) trying to teach his two youngsters to swim in a river, and to spike fish with sticks. The records I have—though they are, of course, very very far from complete—are almost blank until 1924 when a bunch of hard-boiled loggers came literally roaring into the small town of Kelso, Washington, from their advanced camp in the Cascades, and absolutely refused to go back nor anywhere else in the region out of sight of a highway. They said that their camp had been attacked by a number of enormous hairy wild men who had pelted them with stones and other debris. In view of their tough characters and stubborn attitude, a posse was formed and, well armed, went to investigate. No ABSMs were seen but they had left their enormous tracks everywhere and the cabin of the loggers was not just a shambles but in great part destroyed. That year there had been terrible man-induced forest fires in the region for the first time. I have often wondered if the ABSMs decided to give little "human" men a peremptory lesson in conservation—the best and only really satisfactory approach to which is the total eradication of said little men from the entire locality.
Now, here we are back again at the date 1924. Wherever we go, it seems, and it will recur, there was a marked turning point in ABSM history in the demi-decade 1920 to 1925. I think there must have been a great world-wide historical break at that time which perhaps will not become apparent to historians for many generations. What it was I can only conjecture but more and more I am coming to think that this was the real time of change-over from all that went before to what we call modern times, or the new world. Most of the things that have really affected the outlook of humanity, like the invention of the typewriter, electrical power, and especially light, radio, internal combustion engines, flying machines, and so forth, had taken place before this, but then came the social upheavals of the postwar era. Not even these things had really taken hold before the 1920's, and they took a few years to do so even after that. Man's outlook on life then changed radically everywhere, and he also took a completely
new look at his environment. A great number of the shibboleths he had previously held most precious just collapsed, while a whole lot that he had previously considered worthless or redundant suddenly acquired entirely new status. The change was technologically induced but it did not greatly affect basic science—funnily enough—but rather sociological attitudes. It was not that new things began to happen all at once so much as that people began to treat the old ones in an entirely different light. On the one hand, real exploration began: on the other, just plain, go-have-a-look exploration came to an end.
Things like abominable foot-tracks went into limbo. The age of "the Curiosity" was over and people were no longer curious. They demanded the facts and in some respects they got them. In others they got falsehood or nothing at all. ABSMs became definitely de trop, and gay souls like Prof. Khakhlov, Mr. Tombazi, and others, no longer went barging about the world recording curiosities and writing about them. This initiated the age of skepticism par excellence.
During the 35-year period subsequent to this strange historical turning point, a lot went on nonetheless, and this, due perhaps to its suppression, gradually built up a veritable explosion at the end of the 1950's. It is hard enough to suppress anything, but suppressing truth (i.e. facts) entails its own special hazards. People are more suspicious of truth than they are of falsehood and they almost invariably downgrade it if it clashes with belief or faiths. But "truth will out" seems not to be an altogether valueless cliché. Then again, both false facts, and the suppression of unpleasant facts is apt to be extremely costly; and, if you really want to get at the truth of anything, anywhere, reach first for a pocketbook. I seem to be full of clichés, but it is also perfectly true that if you hit anybody through his pocketbook you are more likely to loosen him up than by hitting him anywhere else. And, as I am in this rut, I might as well add that, while love of money may be the root of all evil, it is still by far the best invention yet for getting at the facts. The moment anything, however curious (or unpleasant) it is considered generally, develops a
value, it automatically develops a potential, and when it is founded on fact, it cannot forever be suppressed.
In our case, also, the facts have several special connotations. They impinge directly upon our most basic precepts, such as religion, ethics, politics, and science. A live ABSM would be the greatest propaganda weapon possible; at one fell swoop it would prove Darwinism, and set at nought a great part of religious belief and dogma, while it would also confound a great deal of that which science has written into its dogma. Quite apart from all of these high and mighty matters, plain ordinary people have finally become fed up with being called fools, liars, and idiots. The world is full of crackpots but it is rapidly becoming manifest that most of these make a specialty of pursuing beliefs, prejudices, and faiths rather than the facts of everyday life. If you walk into a truck and stagger home bleeding to death, it is quite useless anybody telling you that you are imagining things, that there is no such thing as a truck, or that you ought to be confined. It doesn't help your feelings (or matters as a whole) if somebody suggests that it was undoubtedly a bus and not a truck, or perhaps even a motorcycle. Either the damned thing was there or it wasn't, skeptics notwithstanding; and the average citizen becomes peeved when he is told that he, who saw the thing, is lying, especially by a person who was not present. During the last 40 years, plain, solid citizens have been getting pretty peeved.
During this period ABSMery in the United States contracted in upon itself and became concentrated in and around this Klamath district in northern California, which I described as an example of a virgin montane forest area. It now transpires that somebody has reported something about the matter every year since 1938 in this area while, of course, the Amerinds thereabouts just went steadily and stoically on living with the business and keeping their mouths shut. I won't go into all of these items because they are so exactly alike, and they are all just like the descriptions given of the Sasquatches. Hereabouts they are called, as I have said, Toké-Mussis by one Amerindian group, the Yurok or Yurock, and Oh-Mahs by
the Hŭppas; there are endless other names for the big ones in accordance with the number of tribes, sub-tribes, and familial dialects of the Amerinds. The name Oh-Mah, which is rapidly coming into universal acceptance, actually means something very close to "Devil" as used by our ancestors—a sort of large chap with nasty habits who is dangerous, bestial, potentially carnivorous, and smelly but definitely rather human. Non—Amerinds in the area have come to call them "Bigfoot" having the usually mistakes idea that there is just one giant of some kind loose in the countryside—just as people speak of The Loch Ness Monster, as if it were a lone individual that has been paddling about therein since Cretaceous times, mateless and possibly even parentless. But there is a complication here.
I would have had to come to this sooner or later in any case so I might as well introduce it now, even if it is not the place to go into it in full. To jump ahead, let me say that there are now some hundred separate and isolated areas in the world where or from which ABSMs have been reported—and this is apart from Myth, Legend, and Folklore. The creatures described vary considerably but, with a few notable exceptions, they appear to fall very clearly into four main types—a large (or giant, to us), a medium or man-sized, a small or pigmy, and an excessively bestial creature known as the Meh-Teh. These types are not set or patterned, and there is considerable variety in the actual sizes of each as reported. However, they would each seem to form a fairly well defined animal form, having certain particulars, characters, characteristics, and other perquisites all their own.
The giant ones are inhabitants of higher elevations and do actually go around in snow when needs be. They seem to be more carnivorous, at least in winter, like many Primates; they have very human-type feet; and they are clothed in short, thick, hairy fur. The medium-sized are very manlike but clothed in longer, darker hair, have very pointed heads, and very short, broad feet with large toes, the first being extra large and widely separated. They are vegetarian or omnivorous and live in upper montane forests but seldom go up
above the tree-line. The little pigmies are also forest dwellers, but in the valleys and bottoms, or at lower levels, and where it is much warmer. They have little manlike feet but with very pointed heels, are clothed in fur but have much longer head-hair that forms a mane down the midback. They are excellent tree-climbers and will take to water. They go about in small family parties and have a sort of primitive language and they may even carry palm leaves or bits of anything that will afford shade from sunlight. They are just about as nocturnal as chimps which move about and feed at night in fine moonlight weather. The giants seem to be almost wholly nocturnal; the medium jobs more diurnal or crepuscular. The Meh-Tehs are quite another matter (see Chapter 15) .
Again and again and again, these four types will crop up. In Canada I have so far heard only of the giants, and I thought that the same went for the Puget Sound to California area, but I am afraid that I have now to bring up the unruly suggestion that some reports from this area seem definitely to be, or try to be, speaking of both the man-sized and pigmy types. This, you may well think, is going a bit too far, in that it is bad enough to be asked to stomach the possibility of a bunch of giant "ape-men" running around half a dozen of our most up-to-date and worthy states, without being asked to accept also Neanderthalers and "Little People." I would have preferred, as I say, not to have brought this up just yet but, as a reporter, what can I do? The very definite footprints left near Roseburg, Oregon, during the night of October 23, 1959, were definitely of the man-sized type, while literally thousands of the little pigmy type are alleged to have started turning up along—perhaps appropriately—the Mad River Valley about 1950. Thus, as we go along, you must brace yourself for casual asides to the effect that such little ones were seen hither and yon. The Roseburg case is happily so far unique, so that we won't be bothered herein with others of its ilk and so, when I speak of ABSMs hereabouts from now on, it will be of the giant Oh-Mahs unless I clearly specify otherwise.
The outburst came in August, 1958.
There was, as usual, an unreported and steady build-up before the event, and there was the usual red herring almost at the outset. This latter was such a bizarre report and was given such wide publicity that it has both diverted public attention and caused many, who might otherwise have investigated the main stream of events with diligence and an open mind, simply to throw up their hands in horror at anything so impertinent. The case is very peculiar, has no precedent and no conclusion. It occurred 3 months after the outbreak of true ABSMery in northern California in August, and it took place 600 miles away from that area, near Riverside in San Bernardino Valley of southern California. Nothing of a similar nature has ever been recorded from anywhere near this place, while all the mountains from the Sierra Nevada south into Baja California may really be said now to have been explored and combed. [At the same time, we might note the proximity of Hollywood and several large mental institutions.] The following is an account from the Los Angeles Examiner which speaks for itself, though very facetiously and says everything that there is to be said about the business.
MONSTROUS! Driver Tells of "Thing" that Clawed at His Car
The build-up to the really valid events may be left till later, for it consists once again of accounts of all the same old things, though, withal, highly confirmatory, and showing that what happened at a place called Bluff Creek in August of that year was neither an isolated case nor anything novel. I will mention these more fully when I come to tell of the aftermath of the Bluff Creek affair.
Before giving the facts of this business I must just hark back for a minute to my description of this country. On Map IV you will see the main roads marked by their route numbers. Apart from the four that surround the area—Nos. 101, 299, 99, and the east-west route over Grant's Pass, there is really only one road through this block of territory. This runs from Willow Creek, diagonally northeast to join Route 99, via Happy Camp. Immediately north of Willow Creek it follows the Hoopa (Hŭppa) Valley and then forks, one small road going back to 101 at the coast, the other major route going into the hills. About 10 miles along this route a new road is being pushed north up a tight valley named Bluff Creek. This
road was begun in 1957. I visited the road end in 1959 and it had only gotten in 23 miles, so rough is the country. From this area, the following matters came to light.
In August of 1958—on the morning of the 27th to be precise—a very sane and sober citizen by the name of Mr. Jerald Crew, of Salyer township, Humboldt County, northwest California, an active member of the Baptist Church, a teetotaler, and a man with a reputation in his community that can only be described as heroic in face of certain almost unique personal tragedy, went to his work with heavy-duty equipment at the head of this new lumber access road being pushed into uninhabited and only roughly surveyed territory near the borders of Humboldt and Del Norte Counties. This huge block of territory is crossed kitty-corner from the south at Willow Creek to the northeast by a winding blacktop road, and from east to west by only four other roads of lower grade. Logging trails and some "jeep-roads" now finger into it from these roads and from the main arteries that enclose it to north, west, south, and east, but these are of very limited extent and are hardly used at all. "Jerry" Crew's crawler-tractor had been left overnight at the head of the new road, about 20 miles north of its digression from the narrow blacktop that runs north through the Hoopa [as it is on maps] Amerindian Reservation from Willow Creek to a place with the delightful name of Happy Camp up near the Oregon border.
Jerry was an older member of a crew bulldozing this new road into virtually unexplored territory for one Mr. Ray Wallace, subcontractor to Messrs. Block and Company who had, in turn, contracted with the National Parks Service to carry out the work. He is a local man. His fellow workers were for the most part also local men and included a nephew, James Crew, a very level-headed young chap, others whom I shall mention by name in a minute, and two experienced loggers of Hŭppa Indian origin. The crew had considerable heavy equipment at the scene of operations and had started work in late May as soon as what little snow there is in this area had
melted and the much more deadly mud had firmed up. The road had been under construction for two seasons already. The country is mountainous; though this is the understatement of the year, being to most intents and everywhere almost vertical so that you can only go up on all fours or down on your bottom. Unless you make an exaggerated and exhausting climb you cannot see more than about four square miles of the country because you are always on the side of something going either straight up or almost straight down and unless a tree has fallen or been cut out, you can't see anything because bare rock is confined to the uppermost summits of the peaks and ridges. The road crawls laboriously up the face of the western wall that encloses a stream known as Bluff Creek. It is still unsurfaced and when I visited it in 1959 was ankle-deep in ultra-fine dust that surpasses anything the deserts of Arizona can produce at their damnedest. All along this mountainous trail there are the stumps of vast trees cut and hauled out, and great slides of friable shales, gray, brown, blue, or even green that have been sliced out of the sheer valley side. The great dozers and crawlers clank and roar in the hot summer sunlight as they gnaw their relentless way into this timeless land. The great trees seem to recoil a little from their mechanical jangling and screeching, but day by day these bright yellow and red monsters munch away ever deeper into one of the last of America's real wildernesses.
Those employed on this work lived during the work-week in camp near this road-head. They had trailers or tents or prefabricated houses and some of them had their families with them and stayed there all week. Others with families resident in nearby communities normally went home on Friday night and returned on the following Monday morning. The younger fellows usually did likewise, for the drive to Willow Creek took only about 2 hours for those who knew the road. Jerry Crew's practice was to return to his family over the week end, leaving his machine parked at the scene of current operations. He had been on this job for 3 months that year before the eventful morning which blew up the storm that
literally rocked Humboldt County, California and made the pages of the world press but which then sort of folded in upon itself and was heard of no more for a year.
What Jerry Crew discovered when he went to start up his "cat" was that somebody had inspected it rather thoroughly during the previous night, as could be plainly seen by a series of footprints that formed a track to, all around, and then away from the machine. Such tracks would not have aroused his curiosity under normal circumstances because there were three dozen men at that road-head and the newly scraped roadbed was covered with soft mud areas alternating with patches of loose shale. What did startle him was that these footprints were of a shoeless or naked foot of distinctly human shape and proportions but by actual measurement just 17 inches long!
Of these, Jerry Crew took an extremely dim view. He had heard tell of similar tracks having been seen by another road gang working 8 miles north of a place called Korbel on the Mad River earlier that year and his nephew, Jim Crew, had also mentioned having come across something similar in this area. Being a pragmatic family man he felt, he told me, some considerable annoyance that some "outsider" should try to pull such a silly stunt on him. He at first stressed an outsider because, although his fellow workers liked a harmless joke as much as any man, he knew they were far too tired to go clomping around in the dark after the sort of working day they put in on that job, making silly footprints around the equipment. Then, he tells me, he got to thinking about this outsider and wondered just how he had got there without passing the camps farther down the road and being spotted, and how he had gotten out again, or where he had gone over these precipitous mountains clothed in tangled undergrowth. He followed the tracks up. And that is where he got his second shock.
Going backward he found that they came almost straight down an incline of about 75 degrees on to the road ahead of the parked "cat," then proceeded down the road on one side, circled the machine, and then went on down the road toward
the camp. Before getting there, however, they cut across the road and went straight down an even steeper incline and continued into the forest with measured stride varying only when an obstacle had to be stepped over or the bank was so steep purchase could be obtained by digging in the heels. The stride was enormous and proved on measurement to be from 46 to 60 inches and to average about 50 inches or almost twice that of his own. Jerald Crew was not only mystified; he was considerably peeved. He went to fetch some of his colleagues. Then he received his third shock that morning.
The majority of them, stout fellows and good friends that they were, refused to even go and look at this preposterous phenomenon that he told them he had found and he had a hard time persuading any of them that even the tracks were there. Eventually, some of the men, who had in any case to go that way to their work, agreed to go along with him and take a look. Then they got their shocks and, Jerry told me, some of them "looked at me real queer." But there were others who reacted differently, and it then transpired that all of them had either seen something similar thereabouts or elsewhere, or had heard of them from friends and acquaintances whom they regarded as totally reliable. The only Amerinds present said nothing at that time. Then they all went back to work.
Nothing further happened for almost a month, then once again these monstrous Bigfeet appeared again overnight around the equipment and farther down the road toward the valley, notably around a spring. About that time, Mr. Ray Wallace, the contractor, returned from a business trip. He had heard rumors on his way in that either his men were pulling some kind of stunt up in the hills or that some "outsider" was pulling one on them. He paid little attention to these reports but he was, he told me, somewhat apprehensive because the job was a tough one, skilled and reliable workers were not plentiful, and the location was not conducive to the staying power of anyone. When he reached the camp and heard the details of the Bigfeet he was more than just skeptical. He was downright angry. Moreover, all he encountered was more
talk which he at that time suspected was some sort of prank but just possibly one prompted by more than mere high spirits or boredom.
The matter was until then and for a further 3 weeks a purely local affair known only to the men working on the road, and their immediate families for they did not care to speak about it to casual acquaintances or even friends. Then in the middle of September a Mrs. Jess Bemis, wife of one of the men working on the road and one of the skeptics among the crew, wrote a letter to the leading local newspaper, the Humboldt Times of Eureka, which said in part "A rumor started among the men, at once, of the existence of a Wild Man. We regarded it as a joke. It was only yesterday that my husband became convinced that the existence of such a person (?) is a fact. Have you heard of this wild man?" Mr. Andrew Genzoli of that paper told me that he regarded this letter with a thoroughly jaundiced eye but that the longer he saw it about his desk the brighter grew the clear blue light of his built-in news-sense, until he could restrain himself no longer and ran the letter in a daily column that he writes.
There was little response where he had expected a near storm of derision; instead a trickle of tentatively confirmatory correspondence began to come in from the Willow Creek area. This was continuing sub rosa when, on October 2, the maker of the tracks appeared again on his apparently rather regular round leaving tracks for 3 nights in succession and then vanishing again for about 5 days. This time Jerry Crew had prepared for his advent with a supply of plaster of Paris and made a series of casts of both right and left feet early one morning. Two days later he took a couple of days off to drive to Eureka on personal business and carried the casts along with him to show to a friend. While there somebody mentioned to Andrew Genzoli that a man was in town who had made casts of the prints and he was persuaded to go and fetch Jerry. Andrew Genzoli is an old newshand but of the new school; he can sense a good story as fast as any man but he is properly averse to too good a story. When he met Jerry Crew and saw his trophies he realized he had some real live
news, not just a "story," on his hands, and he ran a front-pager on it with photographs the next day. Then the balloon went up.
The wire services picked it up and almost every paper in the country printed it while cables of inquiry flooded in from abroad. The first I heard of it was a cable from a friend in London: he seemed to be slightly hysterical. I get a lot of esoteric cables during the year about sea monsters, two-headed calves, reincarnated Indian girls, and so forth, the majority of which I am constrained to do something about because the world is, after all, a large place and we don't know much about a lot of it as yet, but this one I frankly refused to accept mostly because I rather naturally assumed that the location as given (California) must be a complete error or a misquote. I wracked my brains for any place name in Eurasia or Africa that might have nine letters, begin with "K" and end in "ia." The best we could come up with was Corinthia but this was even more unlikely. Then somebody suggested Carpathia, the country of Dracula and other humanoid unpleasantnesses, and we actually spent 6 dollars on a follow-up. There are few people interested enough in such abstruse matters as to spend that sum in pursuit of truth but I fancy there were many on the morning of October 6, 1958 who doubted what they read in their morning papers just as fervently as I did this cable.
The point I want to make is that this whole bit did sound quite absurd even to us, who became immune to such shocks years ago. It is all very well for abominable creatures to be pounding over snow-covered passes in Nepal and Tibet; after all giant pandas and yaks, and an antelope with a nose like Jimmy Durante, and other unlikely things come from thereabouts; and it is even conceivable that there might be little hairy men in the vast forests of Mozambique in view of the almost equally unlikely more or less hairless pigmies of the eastern Congo which are there for all tourists to see, but a wild man with a 17-inch foot and a 50-inch stride tromping around California was then a little too much to ask even us to stomach, especially as we had not yet got the news-stories.
The amazing thing in this case was that the world press took it seriously enough even to carry it as a news-item.
Not so the rest of humanity. One and all, apart from a few ardent mystics and professional crackpots, and including even the citizens of Humboldt County itself rose up in one concerted howl of righteous indignation. Everybody connected with the business, and notably poor Mr. Genzoli, was immediately almost smothered in brickbats. In the meantime, however, a number of other things had happened. Most notable among these was the reappearance of `Bigfoot" as he was called one night before Ray Wallace returned to his operations. Now it so happened that a brother of the contractor, Wilbur Wallace, was working on this job and he, besides seeing the foot-tracks many times, witnessed three other annoying and to him most startling occurrences, which he had reported to his brother. I will repeat these roughly in his own words which appeared to me not only straightforward but most convincing.
First, it was reported to him by one of his men that a nearly full 55-gallon drum of diesel fuel which had been left standing beside the road was missing and that Bigfoot tracks led down the road from a steep bank to this spot where it had stood, then crossed the road, continued on down the hill and finally went over the lower bank and away into the bush. Wilbur Wallace went to inspect and found the tracks exactly as the men had stated. He also found the oil drum at the bottom of a steep bank about 175 feet from the road. It had rolled down this bank and had apparently been thrown from the top. What is more, it had been lifted from its original resting place and apparently carried to this point, for there were no marks in the soft mud of its having been either rolled or dragged all that distance, Second, a length of 18-inch galvanized steel culvert disappeared from a dump overnight and was found at the bottom of another bank some distance away. Third, he reported a wheel with tire for a "carry-all" earth-mover, weighing over 700 pounds, had likewise been in part lifted and in part rolled a quarter of a mile down the road and hurled into a deep ravine. Ray Wallace, however, still remained skeptical even after hearing this from his own brother. However,
on his first morning at the location he stopped for a drink at a spring on the way down the hill and stepped right into a mass of the big prints in the soft mud around the outflow. Then, I gather from him, though he is a man with a wonderfully good humor, he got "good and mad." There was for him no longer any question about the existence of these monstrous human-like tracks but there remained the question as to who was perpetrating them, and why. Ray Wallace is a hard-boiled and pragmatic man and he was already experiencing trouble keeping men on the job. Handpicked as they were not a few had just had to leave for one apparently good reason or another. Only later did he learn that almost all of them did so not because they were scared by the Bigfoot, but either because their wives were or because of the ribbing they had to take when they went back to civilization, even for the evening to nearby Willow Creek.
Ray Wallace said he at first thought somebody was deliberately trying to wreck his contract and he was not alone. However, the local representative of the Humboldt Times, Mrs. Elizabeth (Betty) Allen, set about to investigate the possibility on her own, and discovered beyond a doubt that neither good nor bad publicity, nor any kind of "scare" actually made any difference to Mr. Wallace's contract. First he was a subcontractor; second he was more than up to schedule; third there was no time set on the job; and fourth, it was basically contracted by Messrs. Block and Company with the Forest Service on a performance, not a time, basis. Ray Wallace got so angry he brought in a man named Ray Kerr, who had read of the matter in the press and asked for a job in order to be able to spend his spare time trying to track the culprit. Kerr brought with him a friend by the name of Bob Breazele, who had hunted professionally in Mexico, owned four good dogs, and a British-made gun of enormous caliber which considerably impressed the locals. Kerr, an experienced equipment operator, did a full daily job: Breazele did not take a job but hunted.
Tracks were seen and followed by them. Then one night in late October, these two were driving down the new road after
dark and state that they came upon a gigantic humanoid or human-shaped creature, covered with 6-inch brown fur, squatting by the road. They said it sprang up in their headlights and crossed the road in two strides to vanish into the undergrowth. They went after it with a flashlight but the underbrush was too thick to see anything. They measured the road and found it to be exactly 20 feet wide from the place where the creature had squatted to the little ditch where it had landed after those two strides. Spurred by this encounter they redoubled their hunting forays but their dogs disappeared a few days later when they were following Bigfoot's tracks some distance from the road-head. They were never seen again though a story was told—but later denied by its teller—that their skins and bones were found spattered about some trees. Though this story was denied, there is as much reason to believe that this was done to obviate ridicule as to clear a conscience.
All this was, of course, taken with hoots of derision by everybody even in Willow Creek who had not seen any tracks—but with one notable exception. This was Andrew Genzoli and he sent his newspaper's senior staff photographer to Bluff Creek. The party saw fresh tracks at night and photographed them. They also found something else; as did Ray Wallace later. [I have this first hand from these professional skeptics.] At first, the photographer told me, he was more than just skeptical but when he found the tracks and inspected them he not only was convinced that they were not a hoax or a publicity stunt but, as he put it, "I got the most awful feeling that I can't really describe, but it was nearer fright than anything I ever felt when in service." But worse was in store for the newsmen for, in following the tracks down the road, they came across a pile of faeces of typically human form but, as they put it, "of absolutely monumental proportions." He then added, "I can only describe it as a 2-ton bear with chronic constipation." They contemplated going to fetch a shovel and some container and taking this back to Eureka for analysis but it was a very hot night and a 5-hour drive over a dangerous road and also, as they readily admitted, that strange laziness that so often intervenes in offbeat and rather alarming cases of this nature,
took over and cast the die. Press coverage had gone far enough, and they were not ecologists. Later, Ray Wallace stumbled upon a similar enormous mass of human-shaped droppings. He shoveled them into a can and found that they occupied exactly the same volume as a single evacuation of a 1200-pound horse.
Further foot-tracks and other incidents continued all that fall and throughout the winter until the spring of 1959 ending in February. However, later in the spring, two fliers, a husband and wife in a private plane, were flying over the Bluff Creek area. It was April and there was still snow on the mountaintops some of which are bare of trees. It is alleged that they spotted great tracks in the snow and that on following them up they sighted the creature that had made them. It was enormous, humanoid, and covered with brown fur, according to secondhand accounts. I tried, and am still trying to locate this couple, with the co-operation of local fliers, several of them having heard of the report, and despite the praiseworthy clannishness of fliers and their willing offers to help, I have not at the time of writing been able to identify this couple. The story may be a rumor or wishful thinking. So also may, three other recent and a whole host of past, old, and even ancient reports of actual meetings with one or more Big-feet in this area.
Among these are alleged statements by two doctors of having met one on Route 299 earlier in 1958; and of a lady of much probity who with her daughter saw two, one smaller by far than the other, feeding on a hillside above the Hoopa Valley. This lady, to whom a partner of mine talked but who does not wish her name publicized, also stated that when she was a young girl, people used to see these creatures from time to time when they went fishing up certain creeks, and she once saw one swimming Bluff Creek when it was in flood. She also stated that in the olden days people did not go above certain points up the side valleys, due to the presence of these creatures.
More important was a positive flood of further alleged discoveries of similar foot-tracks by all manner of local citizenry
over a wide area and extending back for many years that came to light as soon as the local press began to take this whole matter seriously. But as these came in, public resentment and ridicule mounted so that the reporters became ever more cagey. Finally, Betty Allen, who as an old-time resident and with experience as an Assistant U.S. Commissioner in Alaska, started talking to the Hŭppa and Yurok Amerinds about these matters and, little by little, an amazing picture emerged.