The Humboldt expedition was one that I was looking forward to for many reasons. Much of my time bigfooting in the 1990’s and 2000’s was spent in Humboldt County, so I am pretty familiar with it and love the area. Over these two decades, many nights were spent in various areas of the county, so it is always a pleasure to go back to this part of Northern California. But this trip was going to be special because of good friends on the show and some interesting photographs surfaced from the area of Avenue of the Giants. Analyzing photographs is a special challenge, and one that I enjoy engaging in.
The photographs in question came from a friend-of-a-friend of Bobo’s. “Friend” might be too strong a word, though. Perhaps “acquaintance” would be more accurate. Maybe even “a guy my friend met” would fit this one. Anyway, three interesting photographs surfaced that were worthy of investigation.
Long before this episode was filmed, Bobo met with the John Johnson, the witness, at the location along the 101. Bobo went through the recreation with Mr. Johnson and found that if the witness was telling the truth, the creature had to be close to ten feet tall. He assured us that there were no mossy stumps in the area where the thing walked, so a misidentification was unlikely.
When the team and I arrived at the scene with Mr. Johnson, he took us to where he shot the picture and told us where he heard the creature coming down the hill. The witness said he was sitting up in the fork of an ancient redwood tree when he took the pic. Bobo said that Mr. Johnson’s story was the same that day as it was several months earlier when Bobo came here for his first recreation. There were no obvious stumps in the line of sight from where the witness said he was standing.
After our first shot at recreating the photograph, we could not come to agreement about what the photo shows. I was trying to make sense of where the background trees were in the picture compared to what I was seeing in person. Something was not adding up.
During the filming day of Finding Bigfoot, individual cast members are taken aside to do interviews about what we just did. These appear in the episode as us talking to the camera. After this recreation, I asked if I could be taken for interviews second. I often do this so I can return to the sighting location and photograph the scene for field notes such as this one (the producers all know that I take bigfooting pretty seriously, and they allow me this extra time to satisfy myself with the investigations). In this case, something was not sitting right with me, so I returned to the site with park ranger and bigfooter, Robert Leiterman.
Robert and I scoured the area with a copy of the photograph to uncover any clues about where we might have gone wrong. We noticed in only one of the original pictures that there was a yellow line to the right of the figure that seemed out of place. Upon closer scrutiny, we discovered that this was most likely the dividing line of a road! The only road visible from this location was downhill to our left, but Mr. Johnson told us the photo was taken looking uphill to the right. That was when I saw it.
While sitting in the crotch of the redwood tree, a strange looking stump covered in moss was in plain sight, but only if it was seen from up in the tree and looking down in that direction. That is why the entire team missed it on our first go round. From the side, the stump does not stand out at all. Nobody saw this because I was the only one to get up in the tree, and I was focused in the other direction! (Look through the photo gallery below and read the captions to see the stumpsquatch after we discovered it!)
I immediately went back to base camp to notify Bobo and Ranae of the discovery (Matt was elsewhere at the time). We had already filmed the entire scene, so I was worried about picture making the episode as a real bigfoot photograph. I spoke to the head producer in the field about how to fix this, and he had me call Chad Hammel, our “show runner” back at the office. Chad gives great effort to make Finding Bigfoot as authentic as humanly possible, so after a bit of brainstorming with him we came up with a solution. While Matt was out solo camping, Bobo, Ranae and I would revisit the site on camera and make the hoax discovery together as a team for television purposes. (A strange thing about television is that “if it doesn’t happen on camera, it doesn’t happen” in the show. Robert Leiterman and I discovered the hoax off camera, so we had to rediscover it on camera if the truth was to be known about the photograph. So, even though the team really didn’t make the discovery together, we set it up that way for the sake of the story. I was OK with this decision because I knew that I would be writing these field notes to tell the entire story later.)
I find it strange that the witness lied about the photograph and his story, but told the truth about where he was when he took the picture. He probably should have lied about where he was altogether so as to not be discovered as a hoaxer. Then again, maybe he’s not a hoaxer in the true sense of the word. It’s possible that the witness may not have been totally sober when he took the photograph (it is Humboldt County, after all). Perhaps he tried to deceive us, but to do so on television is taking a great risk, especially when the stump was right there in plain view if one looked at it right.
A great thanks goes to my friend and bigfooting buddy, Robert Leiterman for helping me get to the bottom of this mystery.
The rest of the episode was pretty great, too. We heard really good vocalizations in the southern part of the county outside of Honeydew, CA. The location is off-limits to civilian traffic, so we are pretty sure we were the first bigfooters to make noises in that valley which probably contributed to our success there.
It was also great to have both Bart Cutino and Bobo’s father, Fireball on camera with us. Bart and I have been in the woods dozens of times together all over the western United States. I met Fireball for the first time many years ago while on a footprint investigation in the Southern Californian Mountains. This is one of the many great pleasures of doing the show. I get to see old friends that I don’t often see.
While we didn’t get any bigfoot action on our last night investigation, I did get to finally meet Heavy Metal Pat face to face. I had been hearing about HMP for literally years. He was often the topic of many a campfire story while bigfooting with Bobo over the years. Honestly, I was a little nervous about meeting HMP, but all my apprehensions were extinguished upon our introduction. HMP, like many of Bobo’s friends (and Bobo himself) is a thing of legend, and I am happy to call him a friend. I would be terrified to call him an enemy, though.
Oh, and in case you were wondering… Those off-road Segue vehicles are a lot of fun.