The California Desert Sasquatch
It was near 2:00 in the morning on a clear autumn night in 1977 when Corey Rudolph and I pulled up to the dead end street in Corona; on the northeast slope of the Santa Ana Mountain Range in Southern California. Only two years had passed since the reports offered by Alan Berry and Anne Slate of several good Bigfoot reports at this location. Corey and I were still neophytes at this, yet extremely interested in learning as much as we could about these desert man-beasts. Although neither of us were sure of our beliefs in such animals, we were determined
to find the truth.
(PHOTO COURTESY: DANIEL PEREZ. DOUGLAS E. TRAPP, 1980).
This road was long and winding, and after several miles it came to an abrupt end. According to the reports, high school students in the area used this place as a necking site. For a period of about 5 years, several of these students had claimed to have been confronted by a very tall, hair-covered man-like ape that walked on two legs. Below the dead end was a citrus orchard where this "manimal" had also been seen and heard. No one had ever had the nerve to search for footprints, and this was our goal. We realized that this creature may long be gone, but we thought that a chance would offer us some evidence.
We sat quietly in the Datsun Pickup Truck with windows rolled down, the dome light on, reading literature collected from Slate and Berry and old newspapers. Suddenly, the hair on our necks arose, and a loud crashing noise was heard coming from below us in the orchard. We were frozen with awe as this "thing" lumbered through the trees with great force, breaking and snapping limbs with its girth. As we listened we estimated that this animal was very large, and very fast. It could be a deer, we thought at first. Then came the loud grunt and low moan of something that could not be a deer. Corey looked at me, turned the ignition key, put it in 1st, and popped the clutch. We almost did a wheelie in the little truck, and neither of us looked back. The reports we had read indicated that this previously seen monster might be dangerous and aggressive. It had, on more than one occasion, approached necking teenagers and rocked their vehicles. Neither of us were willing to let this thing rock our truck. The fear was real, almost instinctive, like there was some sort of inherent warning. The reports we read had mentioned similar feelings by prior witnesses. We never returned to this site, but continued to engross ourselves with investigating Sasquatch reports throughout southern California.
Corey and I founded the Southwestern Bigfoot Research Team in 1977. At first there was no real team, per se, only Corey and myself. Soon after we were joined by Danny Perez, a high school student who was very interested in the same. Danny did a lot of the research for us by looking up old reports, and giving Corey and I valuable hints as to where we should look, and whom we should talk to.
[Daniel Perez: it is hard to believe that this much time has gone by. Back then we never had any discussions if the Bigfoot mystery would be solved and now, 2012, it just appears there is no end in sight. I remember Bill Dranginis telling me in the late 1990s at Don Keating's Ohio meeting that he felt it would be just a matter of years before the mystery would be solved, but having been around the block a few times already, I told him I begged to differ. Plainly, the mystery continues].
It turned out that there were at least two more Bigfoot Research groups looking for these desert Bigfeet, and we eventually met all of those involved. Some of the most notable were Rich Grumley, Pat Macey, Peter Guttilla, and Constance Cameron. By gathering together several of these researchers, we founded the Bigfoot Co-op, which today still exists. During some of our desert excursions, we were joined by other friends who were mainly interested in simply getting away from the Los Angeles area for the weekend. Not wishing to conduct "Ghost Hunts," frightening our friends while simply repeating what we had read and heard, Corey and I continued to travel to several desert areas by ourselves in order to talk to people who had seen these animals, and we gathered some amazing, very interesting and compelling stories.
During the period from 1977 to 1980, Corey and I interviewed about 20 credible eyewitnesses in southern California. Most of these reports were from desert regions surrounding Los Angeles; from the Bakersfield area to as far south as San Diego. From these accounts we were able to develop a profile of these man-beasts of the desert as illustrated below. This compilation describes the average desert Sasquatch in appearance and behavior, of which the latter appears to be somewhat unique in comparison to Sasquatch profiles from other areas of North America. Although our research ended in 1980, sightings and footprint discoveries continue to this day in these same areas...
General Description: Very tall (10 to 12 feet high), covered with short dark hair except the face (ape-like). Conical shaped head (sagittal crest?). Very broad shoulders. Slim waist. Long legs. Arms reaching the knees. Ape-like hands (no opposable thumb). Palms and base of feet hairless. Feet very large (18 to 24 inches long) with five and sometimes three toes. Has an odor described by many to be skunk-like or like a dead animal.
Behavior: Curious of people and man made objects (cars, trucks, trains, trash cans, road signs, houses, etc.), and sometimes aggressive. Reported to pick up and throw trash cans, and bend road signs and light posts. Reported to rock occupied vehicles, and pound on hoods, leaving hand prints on windows (some were actually photographed). Shows' teeth in aggressive manner. Runs at occupied vehicles and sometimes gives chase to retreating vehicles. Apparently fearless of man. Reported several times picking up hot sticks from campfires and throwing them into the air. Reported stealing fish hung out to dry by native Americans on several occasions. Reported killing and/or chasing dogs on several occasions.
Activity: Strictly nocturnal, witnessed only at night, usually around midnight or later. Walks mainly on rocks or pavement, apparently to hide its tracks according to some. Can walk up boulders with ease and without the use of hands. Walks at a very fast pace and disappears into the dark quickly. Often reported to have red glowing eyes in total darkness, without external light sources. Sometimes seen in groups of 3 or 4 in open desert from a distance by military personnel (see below). Apparently nomadic, although certain individuals had been repeatedly seen in the same vicinity by different eyewitnesses over long periods of time (2 months to a year). Nocturnal activity appears to be dedicated to food search, including campsites, trash cans, dump sites, etc.
Areas of Activity: Southern California desert and mountain region area encompassing and bordered by Highway 178 to the north and across to Pioneer Point (Trona), then southeast to Baker (Highway 127 & I-15), then south-southeast to Desert Center (Highway 177 & I-10), then south-southwest to the Petrified Forest (Mountain Spring @ I-8), then northwest to Riverside (I-60 & I-15E), then northwest through Angeles National Forest to I-5, then north to Bakersfield (I-99 & Highway 178). By drawing a line, point to point as described above, the interior area will be revealed more clearly. Areas where credible reports originated include Lake Isabella, Piute Mountains, China Lake Naval Weapons Center, Fort Irwin Military Reservation, Tehachapi, Monolith, Mojave, Edward’s Air Force Base, Rosamond, Lancaster, Palmdale, Victorville, Hesperia, Pearblossom, Valyermo, Apple Valley, Twenty-nine Palms Marine Base, Joshua Tree National Monument, Colton, Corona, Riverside, Ontario, Redlands, Beaumont, Yucaipa, Hemet, Lake Elsinore, Indio, Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, Superstition Mountain, Manzanita Indian Reservation, Cleveland National Forest, and Cahuilla Indian Reservation.
Areas of Key Interest: Throughout the 1970's several good reports came from the Palmdale-Lancaster area of the Mojave Desert. Of key interest here was the activity reported on and around Edward’s Air Force Base where several military personnel reported to us that they had watched Sasquatches walk through the base at night through starlight scopes. This activity was "Classified" by the military, as it was on the other bases mentioned above. The personnel who reported to us did so anonymously, and further stated that these animals were not reported to the public in order to avoid embarrassment on the government's behalf, since they could not explain what these creatures were, or how they got on the base in such a high security area; admitting this would show a lack of security. The personnel told us that they were told not to fire upon the creatures, just observe. They said the creatures walked through the area nightly, sometimes for several nights in a row, then would stop appearing. They had also been filmed by surveillance cameras, but the tapes were classified. Edward’s has hundreds of miles of underground tunnel systems, and these creatures often found their way into the tunnels as well. Nothing was done to them other than observance. In Palmdale and Lancaster they were witnessed in small residential areas during the early '70s, especially at the end of Avenue J in Lancaster. There were more than 50 eyewitnesses during this period in this area, and some footprints were cast. All footprints were over 18 inches long and some had only 3 toes; most having 5 toes. Most residents in this area were Lockheed Employees, and very credible. We found three Los Angeles County Sheriff's Deputies (one Lieutenant) who were also eyewitnesses and were very convincing. We also found that the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department was willing to reveal any report of a Sasquatch they had on file, and the deputies were very willing to discuss the matter with us. Most of those we talked to would not discuss what they saw unless they knew we were seriously interested, and in many cases, demanded to remain anonymous.
In Hemet we actually saw and cast 18 inch long footprints left by a Sasquatch just two nights before our arrival in 1979. These tracks were spaced about 6 feet apart, and each foot was facing directly forward in each step, unlike a human stride that usually shows each step with a slight outward position. There were 17 tracks that ran along the edge of a dirt road that had been muddy on the night of the incident. The distance from the first to the last of the 17 tracks was 101 feet. These tracks indicated a 3-toed creature, although this may have been caused by the weight shift in the mud, making the actual number of toes indiscernible. We camped out at this location on several occasions, but had no Sasquatch encounters. The reportees claimed this animal returned about 2 weeks after Danny Perez & I made our first weekend visit, but the ground was too dry to leave tracks.
One notable point in all of the cases we investigated was that the reportees' dogs often cowered under tables and beds when the creatures were nearby. A couple of the eyewitnesses had multiple encounters that only occurred upon investigating what their dogs were cowering from. Looking out the window, a Sasquatch would be seen either standing or walking within close proximity (from 10 to 100 feet away). Several witnesses said they found their trash cans moved around or dumped after the sighting. One Sasquatch in Palmdale bent a street sign with its weight.
Height judgments were often made by estimating the creature's size compared to a nearby tree, road sign, or other familiar object. The Hemet creature was estimated to be 12 feet tall, and the footprints and stride between them indicated likewise, based on where the crotch of the animal must have been. Picture a man walking and leaving tracks 6 feet apart, and draw a line between the steps to meet the crotch ... then visualize the total height of that man!
Some witnesses described screams and roars that were associated with the creature seen, all of which were very similar in description. We also interviewed several witnesses mentioned in Slate and Berry's book "Bigfoot" who reiterated their stories with more details than the book could possibly allow.
We found very few witnesses who appeared to be hoaxers, yet there were some. One gentleman admitted to us that he and his high school friends made the story up. But others interviewed in the same area appeared to be honest, and often extremely nervous and visibly afraid as they described what they saw.
Corey moved to Apple Valley and remains interested, yet not active as an investigator. Danny Perez remains in the same area, and heads the Center for Bigfoot Studies, and decided to put his collection of report references together in a published book entitled, "Bigfootnotes."
I moved from southern California in 1980 to Lake Stevens, Washington, then to Iowa; South Dakota, Nebraska, north-central Washington, central California, Maryland, Alaska, Everett, Washington, (all due to my work with the U.S. Government) and now Texas.
Today I have become more of an "armchair" researcher, mainly do to my present location in Dallas, where very little Sasquatch reports originate. I am still very seriously interested in these creatures, and have interviewed several more witnesses while living in these other States since the 1970s. I continue to collect reports, and attempt to filter through the redundant and ridiculous, and offer my assistance to newcomers primarily through the Internet. I am very interested in keeping people informed of the Sasquatch, and help newcomers overcome the neophytic stages in a quicker way than I did.
I have dedicated one of my pages on the World Wide Web to Sasquatch and other Cryptozoological phenomenon, primarily based on the Patterson-Gimlin film of 1967, as my interests through time have broadened quite a bit. However, there is no question in my mind as to whether or not Sasquatches exist. My questions are more on the realm of "what exactly are they?" ... "when will a body or bones be found?" ... "when will the day come when I can honestly laugh out-loud at all the skeptics who have the strange, unjustified notion that there is some massive world-wide hoax being conducted by some secret society"? The latter question intrigues me more than the others, because it appears the real answer to the question of the Sasquatch remains hidden just under the noses of the skeptics who could better serve our time by seeking those answers. Honestly, I would like to see the proof that Sasquatch is a hoax. That would be a lot more intriguing to me than finding the body of something I know exists.
As far as the desert Sasquatches are concerned, they appear to be a bit different than most others reported in North America, mainly due to their more than usual curiosity with humans and man-made objects. This may indicate a separate race or sub-species that may well have survived in this area for centuries. This too would indicate that this race has a home range, and perhaps that the other sub-species do as well. Since we know of two sub-species of Great Ape in Africa, the Mountain and Low-land Gorillas, it would appear logical that Sasquatches too may have sub-species divisions.
To me, I know they are out there in real life form, whether it be in the desert southwest, the Cascades, Florida or Texas. Accordingly, the only two States where there have been no sightings or footprint discoveries are Rhode Island and Hawaii. Perhaps there are several sub-species. However, there appear to be a large enough number of these animals to assume that we will have a very difficult time learning anything about their natural activities ... with one extreme exception.
This idea has come up several times during conversations with other scientists and colleagues ... the use of spy satellites. Since my father was involved in developing one of the first spy satellites during the mid 1960's, I have been very interested in this technology.
Although it has been only recently that most of us have learned what exactly these satellites can do, we now know that they can practically take a picture of a fingernail from 200 miles above, or identify an individual from such an altitude by a tattoo on his left shoulder has he lies sunbathing in Buenos Aires. Used during Operation Desert Storm, spy satellites were instrumental in identifying Iraqi advances, SCUD missile deployments, and hidden "secret" chemical weapons plants. There are scores of these satellites in circumpolar orbits, used by the U.S., Russia, China, India, South Africa, and other countries. As the cold war dissipates, so too will the use of these satellites become less common. There is a chance that some of these satellites may be placed on loan to scientists for friendly purposes. If such becomes the case, is it feasible that we could use this technology to locate and track Sasquatches in North America, or around the globe wherever they may be located? In light of what I have offered in this article, the desert southwest appears to be one of the best places to begin such a study via satellite.
Think of all the advances the space program has offered the world to date; calculators, computers, cable TV, microwave ovens. Now imagine what spy satellite technology can offer us. If I were to predict the day that we actually prove to the world that Sasquatches exist, it would be based on the day we were allowed to use these satellites, if even only one, to locate and track one or more of these animals. No need to kill or capture. Even if the proof did come from physical evidence, we could only learn about these obviously intelligent, nomadic, yet gentle giants from technology yet to become available to us.
Douglas E. Trapp