Thursday, July 25, 2024

It Was 59 Years Ago When Children in the Mendocino County Woods Met the Legendary Bigfoot

Frame 352 of the Patterson–Gimlin film, is alleged to depict a female Bigfoot [Photograph from WikiCommons]

The towering redwoods, the misty mountains, the bluffs that plummet into the Pacific. Mendocino County evokes a primeval world untouched by modernity. It seems fitting North America’s elusive Sasquatch would roam here. 

Fifty-nine years ago, a group of children playing in the summer-time darkness of the Mendocino County woods encountered this ancient man learning how present the past is in these parts.

Bigfoot is the mythic creature of the West, walking on two legs, covered in fur. Some say the hairy biped is a remnant of ancient humanity. 

Believers point to photographs, videos, and audio recordings that prove something roams in forgotten lands. Skeptics dismiss any and all claimed evidence as anecdotes, hoaxes, and wishful thinking. 

Folklorists assert Sasquatch is one of many iterations of a wild man archetype found in Native American, European, Asian, and Australian cultures all centered around an ancient, proto-human that wanders the wild. 

In 1995, a passionate contingent of Bigfoot believers launched the Bigfoot Field Researchers Organization bringing self-described “amateur investigators” together to document, map, and analyze alleged sightings. 

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To assess the credibility of Sasquatch sightings, these researchers have created a classification system. Class A sightings of Bigfoot are clearly visible and corroborated. Class B sightings are when the creature was seen at a great distance or in poor lighting. Class C sightings are second or third-hand and unattributable.

Clearly, this group of researchers comes with an agenda: Bigfoot exists. A non-believer might dismiss their views as laughable. But, the mythos of the American West has adopted Sasquatch and the ancient ape’s gait is etched in our collective minds. 

The BFRO has collected over a dozen sightings of Sasquatch in Mendocino County. We want to tell them.

Far-flung residents of Mendocino County throw around “way out there” and “up in the hills”. Nothing says we live on the frontier like being on the edge of Bigfoot Country. 

[Image from Flickr user Basheer Tome]

On a summer night in 1963, a group of kids was hollering and roughhousing on a playground, camping out at Piercy’s Cooks Valley Campground just minutes south of the Humboldt County line. The crew of kiddos looked tiny in the center of a clearing surrounded by towering redwood trees.

For modern-day travelers who make passage through the Redwood Curtain, Northern Mendocino and Southern Humboldt are uninhabited. Imagine that sixty years ago. Beyond the picnic tables and tents of Cooks Valley Campground, the stars and sky met the deep and empty dark of the woods.

The intoxication of the summer night began to fade when the children suddenly caught a whiff of a god-awful smell—a rank mixture of rotting deer carcass and skunk. 

The crew followed the stench with their eyes and found themselves eye-to-eye with the legendary Bigfoot. 

Standing near the treeline, the creature was eight feet tall and covered in brown hair from head to toe. The children had caught the wild man watching them play standing near the base of a redwood.

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The children studied the Sasquatch, both strangers to each other. The creature hung tight to the tree line. Most kids in those parts had been told tales of Bigfoot. This was no bedtime story.

And then, it was over., Sasquatch simply turned around and walk into the dark, redwood forest.

The report was composed by a witness whose initials are “v.e.” and submitted to BFRO in 1999. Thirty-six years after the witness and his group of friends met the legendary Sasquatch, something moved them to share.

Bigfoot researchers have deemed the children’s experience that night as a Class A sighting. Multiple children attested to the experience, the shocking smell, and the ape-like man staring back at them.

But, it was dark and they were kids. The sighting was just long enough to convince the children of what they saw but short enough to escape the eyeball of an observing parent. 

Apparently, skepticism holds no candle to a child’s deeply imprinted encounter with the mythic man of the mountains. 

This is the first in our series of articles exploring the many encounters with Bigfoot that took place in Mendocino County. Check out the Bigfoot Field Researchers Organization for their archives of sightings and their approach to studying Sasquatch.

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  1. Kids are just as sharp and observant as adults, with much less practice lying about things.
    And all adults were kids once, though that often seems to be forgotten.

  2. When I was younger, occasionally this topic would be brought up. Though my mother had a personal Bigfoot sighting, apparently there were several sightings both west and north of Willits back in the ’60s… usually late at night, something big and gnarly crossing 20 or 101. Definitely not a bear.

    Wasn’t there a report a few years back just north of Pneumonia Gulch (north of Willits where 101 goes from two lanes to four)?

    Bigfoot is definitely part of the folklore that is the north coast. Love it.

  3. Important historic incident occurred in 1962 incident at a home outside of Fort Bragg. 11.5 inch muddy handprint on door was traced, fingerprint taken, plaster casts of footprints were displayed at the middle school that year. Sherrif investigated. 3 eyewitnesses. Family moved due to too much ridicule by community.

  4. My sister and I saw two very large and hairy bipedals across the Albion River chasing and killing sheep in 1967. I shared our story with BFRO, and it’s been classified as a Class A sighting. We were teenagers then, but I can still recall it like it happened yesterday. You have my permission to publish our sighting and our names. Let me know if and when you do, would love to read it. Ruth Ramsey-Juhola. Lava Hot Springs, Idaho. Please look up details of our sighting at the BFRO webpage. My contact number is: 208-283-1615

  5. It’s so interesting that the realm in which the NorthWest California Bigfoot dwells and roams should begin at a place that one of my literary protagonists visited in my fantasy some years ago. I heard that the Patterson/Gimlin- Film had been shot at Bluff Creek, so I decided to let my encounter with Patty happen somewhere in between Eureca and Mendocino. As I visited Fort Bragg some 20 years ago (coming from Germany)I let it happen there. And now it looks like I wasn’t that wrong….


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Matt LaFever
Matt LaFeverhttps://mendofever.com/
I have been an Emerald Triangle resident since 2006 and this is year ten in Mendocino County. Please, email me at matthewplafever@gmail.com if you know a story that needs to be told.

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