In 1967, a couple of men filmed a creature unknown to science that has become affectionately known as Bigfoot.
Bill Silverfarb/Daily Journal
Belmont resident Jerry Hein has been searching for Bigfoot for years. He and a group of other locals meet regularly to discuss the creatures possible whereabouts and what to do if they find the elusive primitive man.
Shot by Roger Patterson and Robert Gimlin along the Klamath River in the far north reaches of California, scientists mostly dismiss the film as a hoax but those who contend the creature is real say the film is the best well-known piece of evidence that shows the hairy human-like creatures are indeed real.
Frame 352 of the film shows what appears to be a female Sasquatch staring directly at the camera. Coupled with footprint castings of an abnormally large creature found in Northern California nearly 17 years before the film was shot, believers contend there is plenty of proof the creatures are real since there have been Bigfoot sightings in practically every state in the country and Canada, too.
Belmont resident Jerry Hein first saw the Gimlin-Patterson film in 1971 and became convinced the creature was real.
Forty years later, Hein and a group of local theorists meet monthly to discuss the phenomenon and have even gone out on search expeditions together.
Together, the group makes up the Bay Area Bigfoot Research Organization, which is affiliated with the Animal Planet television series "Finding Bigfoot.”
Hein knows the cast of characters in the television series and they are all serious about finding Bigfoot.
"The goal is to prove they are real without killing or capturing them,” Hein, 59, told the Daily Journal.
And there are thousands of such creatures, he said.
Although they are not known to inhabit San Mateo County, Hein said there may have been a sighting in La Honda once. They certainly have been sighted in the Santa Cruz Mountains but most have been seen in Northern California and the eastern parts of Washington and Oregon, he said.
While the Gimlin-Patterson film stoked Hein’s curiosity into the creature, his personal visits with Gimlin, now 82, have convinced him that the film is not a hoax.
Film, ancient Native American cave paintings of the creature and footprint castings aside, Hein knows the creatures are real because he has seen a Bigfoot firsthand.
"I stood 20 feet from an 8-footer,” he said.
It was a rainy night near the Willow Creek Bigfoot Bookstore along the Klamath River when Hein was headed toward Yreka and saw two deer running frantically from the river’s edge trying to obviously get away from something, he said.
He was driving his Sasquatch Research Team truck, equipped with spotlights and camera when he turned his head and saw a male Bigfoot standing next to a berry tree with its head down.
Hein hurriedly flipped the truck around to try and get a better look at it and to snap a picture — but it was gone.
He pulled out his measuring tape to see how tall the berry tree was, however, and determined the Bigfoot he saw was at least 8 feet tall.
Hein’s ultimate goal, although silly sounding, is to get a picture of himself with a mother, father and child Bigfoot all together.
He is not interested in turning the creatures into a "circus show” for people to gawk at.
When he and other searchers go out on expeditions, the group simply sets up camp and waits for the creatures to come to them.
"We don’t go looking for them. We let them come to us. They are interested in what we do,” Hein said.
The group even sings Bigfoot-themed songs meant to attract the primitive humans.
Pleasanton resident Tom Yamarone is also part of the Bay Area Bigfoot Research Organization and has been interested in the creature since the late 1990s.
Yamarone calls the search for Bigfoot "amateur CSI” stuff.
When the group assembles locally, they learn how to cast footprints and learn other skills needed when they are out searching for the creature.
Yamarone is hoping the local group grows and that more people take interest in the creature. He even puts together a newsletter for the group, which has about 15 committed members.
In September, the group went camping in the Stanislaus National Forest outside of Long Barn to search for the creature. On the ride up, along Highway 108, there is a store in Strawberry with a large Bigfoot statue out front, evidence you are approaching Sasquatch territory.
But no Bigfoot was found on that trip.
Through the year, Yamarone said, most in the group do their own research on the subject. The gatherings allow for members to share their experiences related to the primitive creature. This Sunday, the group will discuss the possibility that DNA evidence exists after someone claimed to have shot a Bigfoot dead and forwarded samples to a Texas veterinarian named Melba Ketchum. Ketchum, after a five-year study, claimed recently that she had more than 100 DNA samples she believes comes from the elusive creature. She gave an in-depth interview two weeks ago with the Huffington Post on her findings but the scientific community has yet to endorse her findings.
Nevertheless, Hein knows they are real because he saw one with his own eyes.
The local Bay Area Bigfoot Research Organization was started by Hein, Yamarone and San Francisco resident Joyce Kearney, who attends conferences all over the country related to the Bigfoot experience.
The Bay Area Bigfoot Research Organization meets once a month at Round Table Pizza, 61 43rd Ave., San Mateo. For more information call (650) 504-1782.
Bill Silverfarb can be reached by email: firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone: (650) 344-5200 ext. 106.