Peter Guttilla is a freelance writer, author of several books
and a veteran field researcher from Southern California
GUTTILLA: Actually it all started with a remark I made to nuclear physicist, Stanton Friedman, in the early '70s - the winter of 1972, I think. Friedman had formed the California UFO Research Institute and I ended up designing, editing and typing a newsletter for him. If memory serves, it was during one of the usual deadline crunches in Stan's apartment - a small upper-story flat in Lawndale (Ca.) cluttered with stacks of printed material from just about every quarter of the contemporary UFO scene - that a couple of news clippings about Bigfoot-like 'monster' sightings in the Midwest caught my attention. I told Stan I had a hunch there might be a connection between those Bigfoot reports and UFOs which were seen at low levels in the same locations. He shrugged it off, agreeing that anything was possible but he preferred to deal with one mystery at a time. Friedman's reaction was understandable, for the moment anyway, since we were overwhelmed with more UFO reports than we or anybody else for that matter had seen in a half-dozen years. Still, I was nagged by an abstract 'something' in the mysterious night time shenanigans of Bigfoot. For me, in those days, just to smell a rat in the rafters was enough to set the pulse atwitter, and however naive it sounds today it occurred to me that if you substituted the word 'UFO' for 'Bigfoot' in the dialogues of Bigfoot witnesses, the descriptions sounded or 'felt' eerily similar to the flying saucer and occupant encounters already well-known to UFO aficionados. It was a hunch, and a wafer-thin one to boot, but it bugged me nonetheless.
QUESTION: What was your reaction to those early Midwestern Bigfoot reports?
GUTTILLA: Well, as the months went by Bigfoot stories trickled in from across the country, and quite a few appeared to coincide with UFO reports which gave life to my up-to-then peripheral interest in Bigfoot sightings. Friedman made good his promise to avoid a scuffle with hairy bipeds, and it wasn't until he introduced me to the late B. Ann 'Bobbie' Slate in 1973 that events took a more progressive turn. Bobbie, whose married name was Barbara Gironda, was a chatty dancer-turned-writer who lived with her husband, Vince, a body-building ex-Mr. Universe and owner of the famous Vince's Gym (a pre-Gold's favorite among Hollywood actors), and their 10-year-old son, Guy, in North Hollywood. Bobbie was an inspiration to me for the simple reason that she didn't show a speck of timidity when it came to hashing around controversial issues. She was one of a kind and her premature death from stroke in 1979 was not only a personal sorrow to me, but a loss to the entire field in my opinion...
Before going on I'd like to add something here for the record. In Bobbie's book, BIGFOOT, which she co-authored with a newspaper reporter named Al Berry, there's no mention of my contribution to the events of the time, this in spite of the fact that virtually all of the Southern California mystery-tape sounds, below-ground recordings, the use of psychics, sighting report and track-find investigations at Big Rock Campground, Little Rock Dam, Sycamore Flat and Edwards Air Force Base were attributable to me and my groups: ESPER and the California Society for the Exploration of the Unexplained (CSEU). Bobbie apologized effusively for the omissions, saying that she'd been pressured by Berry who refused to write the book if my name appeared anywhere in it. Berry, she said, was compulsively litigious and specifically bitter at me for failing to credit him in an article I'd written for Saga Magazine. Because she desperately wanted to do the book, Bobbie acquiesced in Berry's demands, fully aware that doing so would imperil her relationship with me. In any case, that was her excuse, and after listening to her explain the situation rather emotionally, I accepted her apology and dropped the subject, figuring there were more important things to do than quibble over spilt milk. Unfortunately at the time I didn't realize my compassion for Bobbie would place me in the awkward position of endlessly defending my (and others) role in some of the events described in her book...
...Anyway, having said that, back to your question. From early 1972 through 1973 stories placing UFOs and Bigfoot in the same locations at the same time were coming in from the Midwest and East Coast, with most of the noise - in the newspapers, at any rate - being generated out of southwestern Pennsylvania and a research group there headed by a man named Stan Gordon. Meanwhile, similar reports were turning up in Southern California and it was obvious to me and Bobbie that something weird was happening in '73, and whatever 'it' was it was trumpeting in a strange phase of UFO and Bigfoot activity. For the next five years, until late in 1978, the two of us pursued dozens of interesting cases involving UFOs and Bigfoot in California and other places across the country. Little did we suspect that we were alienating ourselves from conservatives in both camps, a stigma that would have us sitting in the back of the bus for a long time to come.
QUESTION: I take it the idea of a link between UFOs and Bigfoot wasn't very well received?
GUTTILLA: That's putting it mildly. Some UFOlogists were intelligent about it and willing to look at all the data, but hard-core Bigfooters reacted with almost unanimous loathing. In their minds any suggestion that UFOs played a role in the scenario was too freakish to be taken seriously. Of course these same stalwarts saw nothing freakish in devoting their lives to chasing hairy, screaming, malodorous, glowing-eyed giants that can run at speeds approaching 50 miles an hour and in one jump vanish into thin air. I found the double-standard laughable and annoying. While people calling themselves 'researchers' clambered over rocks and rills in search of a slavering super-ape, witnesses talking about UFOs in their Bigfoot sightings found themselves in a dead-zone with only a handful of small-town newspapers and a few UFO researchers willing to pay them any mind.
QUESTION: Didn't the first reports of Bigfoot originate from Northern California? Were there any UFOs reported in that area at the time?
GUTTILLA: Briefly, let me give some background. The modern Bigfoot controversy - 'modern' meaning less than 40 years ago - was born in August of 1958 in the woods a few dozen miles west of the little town of Orleans in Northern California's Del Norte County. A catskinner - that's a guy who drives a Caterpillar or bulldozer - named Jerry Crew found a string of big, barefoot, man-like footprints near his tractor. Later on more tracks were found and in October, 1958, a reporter from Eureka (Ca.) interviewed Jerry Crew and the rest is history. As for UFO reports, keep in mind, Northern California's 'Bigfoot Country' as well as other regions of the Pacific Northwest - particularly Oregon and Washington - were hallowed lands to conventional Bigfoot hunters. 'Ain't nothin' but plain ol' hairy apes up there,' they chorused with pride. But it wasn't so. UFOs in the air and on the ground were present in substantial numbers throughout the Pacific Northwest before, during, and after Jerry Crew's track find. All anyone needed to do was check the record - that is, interviews with local people, old newspaper clippings, and formal reports taken by early UFO organizations and researchers. In the 30 years I've been scuffing my shoes in Bigfoot Country I've heard hundreds of reports of UFOs ranging in description from structured craft to mysterious lights of every size, shape, color, magnitude and duration. These have been seen on the ground, near the ground, high in the sky and all points in between. There have been close encounters, occupant encounters, low-level fly-by's, hoverings and so on. Be that as it may, one well-known Bigfooter and author was so convinced UFOs played no part in the search that he virtually accused me of tampering with the reports, adding for logic that nobody had ever told him about UFOs in all the years he'd been on the track. My response to him was simple: Ask the right question, get the right answer. Notice I say "right question," not "leading question." From bias or ignorance or both, apesters never ask witnesses if 'anything else' happened to them during the experience cycle. In at least half the cases I've looked into personally, Bigfoot witnesses or people living in or near sighting locations told of seeing UFOs in the vicinity before, during, or immediately after the experience.
QUESTION: There have been a lot of UFO sightings in Anza, California and several Bigfoot reports over the years as well, are there indications to look for, signs that might otherwise go unnoticed?
GUTTILLA: Yes, apart from those already recorded in the area, i.e., distant screams, animal reactions, foul odors, heavy footfalls, etc., over the years throughout the Pacific North and Southwest Bigfoot witnesses or local residents in sighting areas have, in addition to UFOs of the classic types, reported to me the following with consistency. And I might add I've experienced some of these phenomena myself...
...Strange sounds, usually at night and usually mechanical, some from 'everywhere' and some from underground. The sounds, which often occur in combinations, are described variously as buzzing, beeping, whirring, humming, heaving 'like a diesel locomotive on a steep grade,' like 'wheels turning,' like an idling car motor, like muffled helicopter rotors, explosions, rumbles, popping and distorted or garbled voices from below ground or in the distance...
...Nighttime lights, including sudden flashes that illuminate wide patches of ground; faint glows, wisps and 'elf' lights; large and small white, yellow, gold, orange and red balls of light, usually seen rising from woods, from old and new mines or rock quarries and bodies of water, or hovering near or over livestock; high-flying blue or blue-white points of light that stop or change direction or brighten and dim and disappear directly overhead, and assorted horizontal or vertical beams that emanate from no visible source...
...Unusual physical, emotional, or psychic states experienced before, during, or after sightings by witnesses and others, such as strange dreams or disturbed sleep that occurs before and after the experience; sleepiness, fatigue, dolor, fever, flu-like symptoms, diarrhea, headache, nausea and the sudden onset of anxiety or panic before the event. One long-time researcher, a tough old bird, told me he once visited a sighting location and was inexplicably overwhelmed by a feeling of 'panic.' The experience puzzled him because initially he didn't know where the exact location was, and only found out later that his panic attack erupted as he stood squarely on the spot where the creature had been seen...
QUESTION: Are you saying most of the evidence for linking Bigfoot to UFOs really is just a matter of two unusual things happening in the same place at the same time? Does that make a connection?
GUTTILLA: Of course not, and remember I've never said I'm convinced Bigfoot is from another planet, or skulks around collecting specimens for UFOnauts. What I've said is there appears to be a link to UFOs in some reports and those reports deserve attention, not only from UFO enthusiasts, but from Bigfooters as well. Typically, Bigfooters wax simplistic on the issue of UFOs because the majority of them know nothing or very little about the subject. Their favorite line is, 'Why complicate matters with UFOs?' But consider that question in another context. Imagine a medical researcher on he trail of some deadly disease saying, 'Don't bother me with the facts unless the facts simplify my job and agree with what I find acceptable.' That attitude wouldn't only be silly, but indefensibly dangerous. My point is, if somebody's going to call himself a researcher, he's obligated to look at all the data, and when you look at all the data there seems to be a link between some Bigfoot reports and UFOs. Of course exactly what that connection is, if one truly exists, is anybody's guess.
QUESTION: Have there been any reports with a direct link between Bigfoot and UFOs?
GUTTILLA: There have been a few. One I found especially interesting happened near Seattle, Washington, in 1980. I'd gone to a rural area east of Seattle where all the symptoms were present: beeping and whirring sounds at night, panicked animals, foul odors, high-pitched screams from the woods at night, big 5-toed and 4-toed footprints, etc. I interviewed a local man who said he'd met with a disturbing surprise after seeking help for migraine headaches from a medical hypnotist. Under hypnosis he told of watching two UFOnauts descend from beneath a huge hovering disk-shaped UFO and walk casually into the woods followed by a tall, hair-covered ape-like creature that seemed subservient to them. For weeks preceding the experience the witness said he was often roused at night by a loud whirring noise that originated in the sky above trees near his home. Neighbors also heard the sound which was recorded on tape, and in one of the recordings a high-pitched wailing cry can be heard behind the drone of the sound-maker.
QUESTION: Have there been any recent sightings or signs of Bigfoot in the area of Anza, California?
GUTTILLA: Absolutely. Tracks were found recently near Palomar and across the valley near Tacquits Peak and in the Hemet area. Wailing cries have been reported from outlying ranches and animals have panicked or howled and bellowed en masse for long periods of time, usually at night. There have been a number of good sightings, too, including one involving two teenage boys who at night spotted a large, dark man-shaped form at the Ramona Bowl. They thought it was a gag at first and threw rocks at the shadowy thing which loped away with heavy footfalls. When the running figure passed through a lighted area the boys could see that it was big and hairy and definitely not a prankster in a fur coat. They were scared and ran home. As it happened the mother of one of the boys was a respected local psychiatrist who said she'd never seen her son so terrified and believed his story.
Another case involved a lone jogger on Bautista Canyon Road between Hemet and Thomas Mountain. The man rounded a bend and literally plunged into an enormous hairy creature that caught him, lifted him into the air and tossed him onto a soft patch of ground a dozen feet away. The witness went from jogging east to sprinting west and didn't look back. Local police investigated and said the man refused to return to the site. And a retired engineer and ex-military officer found big 5-toed tracks 18 inches long by 8 inches wide on the summit of Mount Cahuilla. The man said that while camping at night at the site he heard a sound similar to a diesel engine coming from within the mountain, or so it seemed.
QUESTION: So Bigfoot sightings go back a long way in Anza, California?
GUTTILLA: That's true. Reports of hairy giants in the southern counties go back more than 200 years. Spanish priests in the 1700s recorded that a stretch of river front along the Santa Ana River near Riverside was called Camp of the Devil. The devil reeked of sulfur and brimstone, let out piercing screams and wandered the bottom lands at night. In the early 1800s priests in charge of the mission at Warner Springs allegedly buried a hair-covered man-like beast whose body was found sprawled on a hilltop by local Indians. Convinced it was the Devil's work, the good friars held rites at the site and interred the corpse where it fell. This story was told to me years ago by a former resident who'd heard about it from Indians living in the vicinity. And of course the Yorba family, Spanish grantees whose lands included present-day Yorba Linda, who were said to have seen creatures described as two-legged, hairy and twice the span of a man come down from the slopes of Sierra Peak to the river, investigate wells and panic livestock. There are more but these are some of the oldest accounts.
QUESTION: Do you have any words of advice for people in Anza?
GUTTILLA: Well, I suppose the best way to sum it up is that where you have one, you just might have the other. Since UFOs have had Anza residents looking up for a long time, it wouldn't hurt to look down occasionally, too. After all, footprints are where you find them.
May 4, 1996
to post this interview was granted by Peter Guttilla, April, 1996. The
references to "Bobbie" are in reference to the late bigfoot
investigator Barbara Ann "Bobbie" Slate and should NOT be confused
with this website owner Bobbie Short. Should you have questions regarding
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