Night Crawlers-A Halloween Special
Mystery Casebook
By Dan Vierria - dvierria@sacbee.com

Published 12:00 am PDT Thursday, October 25, 2007

Huddled by the campfire, the screech of a creature unknown raises the mother of all goose bumps. Was it Bigfoot or Mothman, the Chenoo or Chupacabra?

Tales of these legendary forest creatures are not for folks who sleep with the lights on, peer under beds and inspect closets before bedtime. The rest of us relish a morsel of fright and a quality shudder.

Did you hear the one about Old Mossback or the superhuman Lemurians who inhabit an underground city of gold beneath Mount Shasta? Long sacred to American Indians, Mount Shasta also is believed to be the site of magic crystals, UFO landings and, gasp, the doorway to another dimension.

Lakes are said to be inhabited by serpentine creatures like Tahoe Tessie (Lake Tahoe) and Ogopogo (Lake Okanagan, British Columbia). And we'd be neglectful not to mention the outdoors-loving werewolf and the American Indians' Wendigo. Both are meat eaters.

Not that such things deserve credence, but do watch for exposed tree roots while sprinting for the car.

Chills in the West mostly are courtesy of Bigfoot, sometimes called Sasquatch. Thought to be a stinky, hairy, bipedal humanoid, Bigfoot mostly has been reported roaming from California's North Coast on up into Canada.

Reports of face-to-face encounters, awful odors, unearthly screams and humongous footprints are logged and investigated by people with degrees in science. And just try to convince the backpackers, the campers and the fishermen who have seen Bigfoot that it doesn't exist.

"I saw one when I was 4 years old, and I've since talked to about 200 who have seen one," says Michael Rugg, proprietor of the Bigfoot Discovery Museum in Felton, near Santa Cruz. "You see one of these things yourself and it takes away your skepticism."

Nonbelievers laugh themselves silly over such claims. Hazel Gendron, who lived in Happy Camp for many years, scoffs at the existence of Bigfoot. Happy Camp, 323 miles north of Sacramento and near the Oregon border, is Bigfoot country. Its backyard is the Siskiyou Wilderness area, a vast, forested region described as the most isolated and remote wilderness area in the United States.

"Not a believer," says Gendron, now living in Shasta Lake City. "I always backpacked in those mountains without a gun, sometimes camping eight or 10 days at a time. I never carried a gun, only a camera. It's not the animals I was afraid of, it was the marijuana growers out there."

Gendron, a historian and author, believes the Bigfoot story may have originated from the Tolawa tribe.

"The old Indians had ancient stories handed down which had moral themes and also themes to keep the kids in line," she says. "If the kids happened to wander off, this big, hairy man was going to get them. That was probably the beginning for the idea of Bigfoot."

Vinson Brown: 'Believe it'

Fear can be inspired by things living and allegedly living, things seen and unseen.

"The great majority of Bigfoot sightings are associated with extreme fear," Rugg says.

Maybe it was a shadowy figure, the snap of dry twigs, the rustling of brush that froze the soul of Vinson Brown. Something was out there, shrouded by the inky blackness of the Siskiyou Wilderness area. Brown and his German shepherd could feel its presence.

"The hair on the dog was standing straight up, and that dog wasn't afraid of anything," says Barbara Brown, relating her late husband's story. "He (the dog) even scared off bears."

Whatever was out there behind their home in Happy Camp that night made a believer of Vinson Brown.

"He didn't believe in Bigfoot, but he did after that night," she says.

Sightings or reports have been made in every state but Hawaii, according to the Bigfoot Field Researchers Organization (www.bfro.net). Washington leads with 414 incidents, followed by California (369) and Oregon (199).

More fascinated than scared

A BFRO investigator interviewed a backpacker two years ago after a Bigfoot encounter in the Desolation Wilderness area of El Dorado County. In part, the unnamed backpacker had this to say:

"My tent is about 4 feet tall, maybe a little less, and what I saw was more than twice as tall. At first I couldn't see any features, just the outline. Then it took a couple of steps towards me. I almost peed my pants right there. I picked up the .45 and took a shot off to the left of it. It stopped and looked at me. Then it started walking towards me again. ..."

Cryptozoologists, scientists who actually investigate the possible existence of undiscovered animals, have one point in their favor nobody has ever disproved the existence of Bigfoot.

Rugg's encounter with Bigfoot came during a family fishing trip to the Eel River in Humboldt County. He says he felt more fascination than terror and that the encounter began a lifelong hobby of collecting Bigfoot items. His Bigfoot Discovery Museum is a shrine to all things Bigfoot.

"Deputy sheriffs, forest rangers have seen them, even a few Ph.D.s on vacation," Rugg claims. "Smart people who aren't likely to mistake it for a bear or the rear end of a moose. It's pretty hard to continue being a skeptic."

Admitted Bigfoot hoaxes are discredited by Rugg, who claims those who suit up in a costume or "find" footprints are motivated by publicity.

"You could disprove some of the evidence, but you cannot disprove Bigfoot," he says.

Just a month ago, Rugg says, Bigfoot was sighted in the Santa Cruz area. He added that the sightings "usually start in August," when fruit begins to ripen on trees, and continue well into October. Bigfoot is a big fan of fruit, but then so are bears.

On plums and pots

Barbara Brown, whose late husband became a believer in Bigfoot, actually sleeps outdoors in the fall to discourage bears from eating and damaging her fruit trees. Her home backs up to the Siskiyou Wilderness area, but she's not concerned about Bigfoot.

"The dog barks, I get a flashlight and bang on a pot," she says. "Brown bears like plums and are a nuisance. They'll break off branches to get to the fruit."

Many wouldn't sleep out near Happy Camp for all the fruit in the world.

See more stories like this one at the Mystery Casebook, sister site to the UFO Casebook.

Source & References:

This story is taken from Sacbee / Lifestyle/Scene.

http://www.sacbee.com/107/v-print/story/452219.html

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