Bigfoot Hits the Headlines
By Rupert Matthews
The Bigfoot or Sasquatch is a cryptid (allegedly real animal as yet unrecognised by science) that lives in the densely forested wilderness areas of northwestern North America. Reports about this gigantic upright walking ape had been filtering out of the area for decades, but nobody really took any notice of it until events at Bluff Creek in 1958. The fact that the stories got such wide coverage was partly due to the fact that reports about the Yeti had been filling the international news media for some years. Cryptozoology – though the word had not yet really caught on – was an acceptable topic for coverage. It was also due to the dramatic and very photogenic evidence that was produced. Any reporter will confirm that a good photo will “give legs” to a story and ensure that it continues to run, while the same story without a photo would soon die down and lose public interest.
The trail of events actually began in 1957 when work began on building a road through the Bluff Creek area of northern California that was designed to aid the logging industry by opening the region up to heavy machinery. The head of the firm hired to do the job was Ray Wallace, who had his brother Wilbur as one of the team foremen handling the actual workteam tasked with clearing a flat roadbed through the rugged and densely forested terrain. The Wallace company was an established construction outfit in the area and was running more than one project.
With hindsight workmen at a Wallace site near Mad River remembered that in March 1958 they found some strange tracks. Nobody could recall exactly what they looked like, and at least one man said that they were bear tracks while another said that they were faked by some unidentified prankster who wanted to spook the workmen. At this distance in time it is impossible to state anything definitive about this event, except that it was odd but quickly dismissed at the time. It is only later events that have given it any importance.
On 3 August the workmen on the Bluff Creek Road turned up for work to find some of their equipment disturbed. A spare tire weighing around 700lb had been rolled about, causing the men to wonder who or what had been interfering. On 27 August the workmen found that the site had again been visited by something odd overnight, but this time it had left footprints.
It was Gerald Crew, known as Jerry, who found the footprints. They were impressed into the soft soil around his bulldozer. The footprints were later described as being exactly like those of a naked human foot, but much larger. At first Crew thought that they must be some sort of practical joke, but after following the tracks about and studying them move closely he became convinced that they had really been left by some huge man of some kind. He went to see his foreman, Wilbur Wallace, who came to look at the tracks. The other workmen also studied the prints. After some discussion it was decided to ignore the strange nocturnal intruder – so long as he did not turn up during daylight hours when the workcrew were on site.
On 21 September the local newspaper, the Humboldt Times, printed a letter from Mrs Jess Bemis about the events up at Bluff Creek. Jess Bemis was the wife of one of the workmen on the site. The letter was printed, and prompted the editor Andrew Genzoli to dig out some old stories along similar lines. Reporter Betty Allen then made the link between the mysterious giant footprints and the stories that had been circulating for years about a hairy man-ape that the white settlers and farmers called “Big Foot”. Allen went out to talk to people who had seen either the tracks of the man-ape itself. On 28 September she had a piece published about the creature she called “Bigfoot”, summarising the evidence known to that date. She also suggested that next time somebody found any footprints they should take a cast using plaster of paris.
Then, on 1 October, Jerry Crew and the work gang at Bluff Creek found more footprints that had been left overnight around their worksite. Two of the workers promptly quit. Wilbur Wallace sent for his brother, and boss, Ray Wallace to come up to Bluff Creek to inspect the situation and talk to the workmen. Meanwhile Jerry Crew had called an old friend of his, Bob Titmus, who went to see Betty Allen to get some plaster of paris and instructions on how to use it. On 3 October Titmus arrived at the worksite and, with Crew, poured the plaster into the clearest of the footprints.
The cast was taken down to the offices of the Humboldt Times by Crew. The man and the cast were photographed and the amazing photo used to illustrate an article by Andrew Genzoli. It was that combination of a stunning photo, solid evidence and well researched writing that propelled the “Bigfoot” into the national media. The story was taken up and reprinted across the USA and Canada, then filtered out to media in other countries.
Back at Bluff Creek, the excitement mounted when on 12 October two workers – Ray Kerr and Bob Breaezle – actually sighted the mysterious footprint maker. Driving along a local dirt road after dark, they momentarily caught a gigantic upright figure in their headlights. The creature ran off into the woods very quickly, but the two men described a hairy human figure well over 6 feet tall. Within 48 hours another 13 men had left their jobs on the road construction project.
Bob Titmus was meanwhile out in the forests looking for signs of the mysterious creature. So far as is known he was the first man ever to go out into the forests looking for Sasquatch. He found some more footprints, and took casts.
For more informaiton on the Bigfoot see the book written by Rupert Matthews “Bigfoot and Other Mysterious Creatures.” The book is available from Amazon.