The headlines of the
small November 1963 issue of the "S. F. Territorial News" screamed:
"Story Behind the BIGFOOT MYSTERY complete in this issue".
How could anyone resist buying that? Especially as it seemed you could
unlock the "mystery" with only a ten-cent purchase. Of course
the fact that the November 1963 edition was on the newspaper rack in the
spring of 1964 might discourage some from buying it.
The paper didn't unlock the Bigfoot mystery for me, but it was perhaps
the best dime I ever spent. It pointed me to the Presidio Branch Library
in San Francisco where an exhibit of Bluff Creek plaster tracks was on
display. I had seen photographs prior to that time but never casts. It
also beckoned me irresistibly to the Fisherman's Wharf Office of this
newspaper were they had a few copies of Betty Allen's "Big Foot Diary"
hot off the press and available for fifty cents each. At that time I was
collecting anything I could find on Bigfoot and related creatures, so
this "Big Foot Diary" was a priority.
Before I go on, please
indulge me a personal flashback. A bit prior to this, in the late 1950s,
I was living in New York City. An associate of mine told me one morning
that he had seen a special on television the night before about a strange
yeti-like creature living in California. Since I was the only person he
knew that had spent much time in California he asked me if I had ever
heard of it. At that time I was firmly convinced of the existence of the
Yeti in Asia but had not yet heard mention of the names Sasquatch or Bigfoot.
I assured him that any such thing was certainly impossible, but to his
credit I didn't convince him. The special had impressed him enough to
leave him with an objective open mind. I really can't defend the stand
I took. In mitigation perhaps it's to my credit that I did think about
what he was saying for a few minutes, and then told him that I believed
that the one place in California where such creatures could best exist,
if they did exist, would be in the far northwest comer of the State. He
said that he thought that was the very area they were talking about.
Around 1960 1 moved to the San Francisco Bay Area from New York. A year
or two later I came across Sanderson's "Abominable Snowmen"
book which really began my education in Cryptozoology. Thus I was more
than ready for and receptive to the November 63 edition of the "S.F.
The article in the Territorial News was an account of a visit to Willow
Creek for their Bigfoot Daze celebration by George Wamsley, publisher
of the paper. The article included an account of a trip out along the
Bluff Creek road to see Bigfoot tracks. It wasn't very long before I was
at the newspaper's office on Fisherman's Wharf purchasing a "Big
Foot Diary" and meeting George Wamsley. It turned out that Betty
Allen was George Wamsley's aunt and the person that had arranged his Bluff
Creek outing. During our conversation that day I told him I was taking
my family on vacation up the California coast and inquired about the possibility
of viewing tracks. He encouraged me to contact his aunt and gave me her
address in Willow Creek.
Up to that time I
had hardly heard of Betty Allen. She is mentioned a couple of times in
Sanderson's book but so casually her name did not stick in my memory.
I certainly wasn't aware of the extent of her investigations and her other
efforts that were bringing such widespread attention to Bluff Creek. She
was about as unknown to me then as she seems to be to many of the Bigfoot
investigators and authors of today.
I wrote to Betty. There was no reply for awhile, then just a day or so
before heading out a letter arrived. It was dated July 17, 1964 and said
be glad to meet with you and though the news out of the area of Bluff
Creek is very sketchy this year, I know earlier the tracks were seen.
It would be a very interesting trip for you to take at any rate and there
is a fine camping spot at the Notice Creek Bridge. Workmen are going and
coming but with ordinary caution it is safe enough to drive. Loggers are
very polite and careful in this area. I wish I had more recent news and
more definite appearances this year but often I do not hear when they
come in and the men are so busy they pay no attention."
A couple of days
later I met Betty Allen at her home in Willow Creek. She looked very much
like someone's favorite aunt, but I soon discovered there was a very capable
level headed investigative reporter in this "favorite aunt image".
I also found, as others have, that she was very hospitable and more than
generous with advice and help. Early in our conversation I attempted to
test her by casually bringing up another type crypto-creature living in
the Klamath area. She paused for a few moments, seeming to consider possible
implications, and then quietly asked who I really was. Her quiet but matter-of-fact
attitude clearly set out the parameters. I had to satisfy her with some
answers as to how I knew some of the semi-secrets of her area before we
could continue with Bigfoot.
Betty told me that at first she tried to discourage people from going
to Bluff Creek, or anywhere else, to search for signs of Bigfoot. She
was afraid they would find nothing and spread the word it was all a hoax.
Some insisted on poking around anyway and in time she came to realize
that those that went into the field to search often found. She began encouraging
those that wanted to investigate.
She told me of three general areas that were good places to look for tracks.
One was on Notice Creek..I forget if she mentioned the location of a second
one, but the one she recommended to me was an area on Bluff Creek near
Louse Camp. She didn't tell me where to look but she did mentioned things
to look for besides tracks. She also told me exactly, to the tenth of
a mile, the best place to get down from the road into the steep-sided
Among the most interesting parts of my visit was hearing her relate much
of the historical Bigfoot investigations and experiences. She talked a
bit about searches for Bigfoot evidence not only in the area of Bluff
Creek, but as she put it "coming in from the other side". Incidentally,
it appears the term Bigfoot had been used in the Klamath area by non-Indians
for some time before the creature ever made the Eureka newspapers.
At the time of my first visit to Willow Creek, and for sometime previously,
Betty was a string reporter for the Eureka newspaper gathering news and
material from the areas near where she lived. The Yurok and Hoopa Indians
had known for a very long time about the strange hairy man-like giants
they called OhOhmah (my own spelling from verbal coaching of a Yurok friend).
Incidentally, it is a Yurok Indian that probably should get credit for
the quoted reaction when first informed about the white man's interest
in Bigfoot by replying that it was interesting that the white man had
finally gotten around to discovering this.
There are many accounts
from loggers, female cooks at the logging camps, hunters, fishermen, ranchers,
and other non- Indians in the area reporting sightings and tracks from
long ago. I have seen and heard some of these accounts that go back at
least as far as the early 1940s, and I have heard rumors of much earlier
incidents. Betty told me about one very old Indian woman she took up to
Bluff Creek to see the tracks. This woman carried the very old tattoos
on her face that I understand were applied to young children of her tribe
in the 1800s. The woman couldn't walk very far and then only with help.
When she saw the tracks she excitedly exclaimed, "All my life I've
heard about these things and now at last I finally get to see their tracks?
In the 1950s logging operations in Northern California were going full
blast. The one best known to Bigfoot buffs is one that was located in
the great "V" of the Klamath River where a new road was built
paralleling little known Bluff Creek and stretching back more than 20
miles from the Klamath River. For much of the time that logging operations
and road building were taking place near Bluff Creek and along Lonesome
Ridge the workers camped out or lived in portable accommodations in the
woods. They generally only went home on weekends leaving their woodsy
campsites deserted. It didn't take long before strange large footprints
started appearing, especially where new road grading had taken place.
Soon other incidents began to occur which have been previously mentioned
in various Bigfoot records. Betty told me that the Contractor was loathed
to have any word of these strange happenings reported to the outside world.
Partly for this reason, and partly not to be accused of being crazy, the
workers were reluctant to speak of the strange events that were taking
place. Some of the occurrences the workers found very alarming. At home
on the weekends some of the workers would confide their uneasiness to
their wives and, in time, some of these wives began to talk to Betty.
It is likely that Betty had heard about this Bigfoot creature prior to
the time when these wives began to fear for their husband's safety. I
do know that at some point Betty began her own investigation of whatever
evidence she could uncover that might prove or disprove the existence
of Bigfoot. Her efforts eventually convinced her that Bigfoot roamed her
area and his visits were not isolated or just occasional.
The reports from the worker's wives, coupled with information she obtained
by other means, enabled Betty to gather a considerable amount of data.
One time she was having dinner in one of the Willow Creek restaurants
when she overheard a man at the table behind her talking about huge footprints.
He had found these tracks around his snow bound construction equipment
out in the woods. He was telling how he had followed the tracks for several
miles in the snow in the dead of winter before mining back because of
a new storm threat. She told me that when she overheard this conversation
she turned around and politely asked a question or two. This led to an
evening's dinner where she spent about as much time conversing with the
table behind her as with those at her own table. She said that on the
restaurant wall near her table was a map of the Klamath area. This map
was used during this conversation to indicate various locations. Some
years later, while having dinner in one of the Willow Creek restaurants,
I noticed a map on the wall above my table. In looking closely at it I
notice a circle and several other pencil marks drawn in the upper Bluff
Creek area. I wondered if these marks were added to that map one evening
by a contractor and/or Betty Allen. I'm not sure that same restaurant
is still there, but I do know the map has disappeared.
With some of the
information she gathered Betty began a scrapbook. As the reports from
logger's wives and others accumulated she began to try to interest her
Editor, Andrew Genzoli, in her material. She wanted to do an article for
the Eureka paper. For some time Mr. Genzoli expressed no interest in such
an article. Finally, after repeated efforts on Betty's part, he stopped
putting her off. Betty sent a small sample portion of her material. Then
she waited for his response.
Some days later, Betty opened the Eureka paper to see an article Mr. Genzoli
had written using some of the material Betty had supplied. His article
featured an illustrated cartoon caricature, probably so that no one would
accuse the newspaper of seriously believing the Bigfoot material. Betty
was disappointed. When she talked with her editor by phone she learned
that he fully expected hoots and ridicule to result from the article's
appearance but decided to publish anyway. When letters from readers slowly
began to arrive, Mr. Genzoli was surprised that instead of ridicule the
writers told personal stories of Bigfoot experiences. Betty was surprised
at the extent of the readership reaction.
Later Mr. Genzoli got in touch with Jerry Crew regarding the casts he
had made and wrote a second article. It just might have been Betty Allen
that brought Mr. Genzoli and Jerry Crew together as she was there helping
Jerry Crew when he made his first cast. She said she came back the next
day to the casting site with her own material and made a cast from the
same series of tracks Jerry used. The article featuring Jerry Crew and
his cast was the one picked up by the Associated Press Wire Service that
resulted in changing the scope of Bigfoot investigations forever. Betty
had not gotten to write her article, but · her efforts to collect,
examine, and her attempts to publish had launched the modern Bigfoot era.
In Canada John Green and René Dahinden read about the Bigfoot in
Northern California and first John and later René came to investigate.
Tom Slick saw the reports and shifted his attention from the Yeti of Tibet
to the Bigfoot of California.
Betty didn't seem to have great admiration for Tom Slick's Pacific Northwest
Expedition. She didn't approve of hunting Bigfoot with guns, especially
since so little was known about it. She was relieved when the Expedition
members left without a Bigfoot specimen. It also may be that she declined
to share her information with the Slick Expedition. If this is so, it
may explain why members of that group have pretty much ignored her contributions
to the study of Bigfoot in their writings.
In 1958 Ivan Sanderson became aware of reported Bigfoot activity in Northern
California. In his book, "Abominable Snowmen, Legend Come to Life" Sanderson, on page 129, makes the following statement referring to when
he heard about the California Bigfoot for the first time:
"The point I
want to make is that this whole bit did sound quite absurd even to us,
who became immune to such shocks years ago. It is all very well for abominable
creatures to be pounding over snow-covered passes in Nepal and Tibet;
. . . but a wild man with a 17-inch foot and a 50-inch stride tromping
around California was then a little too much to ask even us to stomach,
In the forward to
his "Abominable Snowman" book Mr. Sanderson also states "Three
years ago" (his book was published in 1961) "I dismissed all
such evidence" (ABSM) "as either hoax or legend,..." Of
course that was before his trip to Willow Creek in 1959 and his meetings
with Betty Allen. She said Sanderson stayed in a motel in Willow Creek
for a week or two while she ran around lining up witness after witness
for him to interview. She opened her files to him. She offered to accompany
him to Bluff Creek but he wasn't interested in viewing anything for himself,
neither locations nor tracks. By the time Sanderson left, Betty had furnished
him with enough material for a book on the Bigfoot of Northern California,
which she expected him to write. Instead he used only a small part of
her material for a chapter or so in his "Abominable Snowman" book. She was disappointed once again.
It should be realized that the Bigfoot incidents at Bluff Creek in the
1950s and 60s were by no means unique. Similar happenings had been known
in many places in and outside the United States. Sometimes the occurrences
were, and still are, as frequent if not more so than at Bluff Creek. But
thanks to Betty Allen's efforts, it was Bluff Creek that got the big play
in the newspapers, thus attracting the attention of many investigators
and researchers and eventually Patterson and Gimlin.
Betty lived very modestly when I knew her. She did not even have a car.
She enjoyed going out into the field to investigate but to do this she
had to get someone to take her as the trip from her home to the prime
evidence areas was more than 50 miles over not the best of roads. Al Hodgson,
who was later to be involved with the Patterson/Gimlin filming and who
now is doing such a nice job of developing the Bigfoot Wing of the museum
in Willow Creek, was one of those that accompanied her on trips up Bluff
Today Willow Creek seems to me to be about the same size as it was in
the early 1960s. It is the southern gateway to the Bluff Creek area and
is the place where "The Bigfoot Scenic Highway", State Highway
96, starts and proceeds north towards the creek Betty so loved to visit.
_The Willow Creek Museum is well worth a visit as it houses Bob Titmus'
Bigfoot cast collection and other interesting material. It is a shame
that Betty's material is not there as well.
Willow Creek was Betty's home town until the mid 1960s when she moved
to Alaska. She wrote me sometime after the big Alaska earthquake telling
me of information she had received from Ivan Sanderson regarding Bigfoot
happenings on the Pacific Coast near where Alaska and Canada meet. I think
the idea of searching out Bigfoot in Alaska appealed to her.
I was at the dedication of the Bigfoot Wing of the Willow Creek Museum
in 1999. I had been to the museum once before and have visited it several
times since. The staff of volunteers is very helpful and polite, but with
the exception of Al Hodgson, none that I talked with seemed to have any
idea who Betty Allen was. I think it would be nice if her name was on
the outside of the museum in big letters. Maybe something like: "The
Betty Allen Bigfoot Museum and Research Center". What do you think?
There is a copy of
Betty Allen's small booklet "Bigfoot Diary" locked up in one
of the museum's display cases. Outside of that she seems pretty much forgotten
in her home town and most everywhere else.
Don Davis was
involved casually as a witness, investigator, and researcher in the field
of Cryptozoology since before Bernard Heuvelmans coined the term. The
article appearing here is the first draft for a chapter of a book he was
preparing about some of his more interesting Bigfoot experiences. Sadly,
Don died in February 2002 and this article was his last work to see print.
© Published in
Craig Heinselman's CRYPTO
Hominology Special Number II 2002
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