Killers’ Sasquatch Sketches

Posted by: Loren Coleman on June 23rd, 2006

Two of the more bizarre pieces of art on exhibition at Bates College Museum of Art’s “Cryptozoology: Out of Time Place Scale” may be the drawings linked to killers who reportedly have seen Bigfoot. From San Quentin prison, I received one set of sketches and notes from the Yosemite Killer. From researcher Robert Schneck, I obtained the other, linked to a mass murderer that inspired the character played by Martin Sheen in Badlands (1972), and directly protrayed in director Bryon Werner’s Starkweather (2003). The background to these two stories is rather creepy, be forewarned, but, nevertheless, belong within the broader context of modern Bigfoot lore.

Here’s an extract from my 2003 book, Bigfoot! The True Story of Apes in America about them both:


Since Bigfoot is part of the fabric of our culture, it was only a matter of time before the dark side would venture into the Sasquatch realm. Take the case of Charles Starkweather, well known from the Martin Sheen and Sissy Spacek movie, Badlands. The true sad saga of Starkweather and his fourteen year old girlfriend Caril Ann Fugate began, in earnest, on January 21, 1958, when Starkweather killed Fugate’s mother, stepfather, and her two year old sister. Before their Nebraska-to-Wyoming murder spree was over, eleven people were dead.


In the journal Starkweather kept in prison, awaiting death in the electric chair in June 1959, he told of seeing, as a boy, a strange creature outside his Midwestern window in the mornings. He described it as a female whose hairy body “tapered off from a big chest to a small pointed head.” The visitations were accompanied by strange whistling sounds. Starkweather thought it was Death visiting him, and said of the sounds: “It was close and loud at first, but it got further and further away and the sound became mournful and sad until I couldn’t hear it no more.” Death did not make him afraid, however: “The world on the other side couldn’t be as bad as this one.”

Robert Damon Schneck’s article “Death Had a Sagittal Crest,” which appeared in the February 1999 issue of Fate magazine, points out that Starkweather’s Bigfoot sighting was, in many ways, classic. “It would be easy to ignore this story, considering the source,” Schneck writes, “if it weren’t a classic Sasquatch sighting from before the name ‘Bigfoot’ was ever applied [my emphasis]. Starkweather had no idea what he was seeing. Since he was the kind of person inclined to mass murder, he decided it must be death come to howl at his window.”

Could mass murderer Starkweather have actually seen Bigfoot? For Cary Anthony Stayner, the confessed brutal slayer of four women in Yosemite in 1999, there is no doubt. Stayner stalked the forests of Yosemite. He told of seeing a Bigfoot in the woods and being “possessed” by the hunt for these animals, a feeling that obviously reflected a wild rage within himself.

Stayner was obsessed with something else – media attention and celebrity. His brother, Steven, seven, was kidnapped on December 4, 1972. Search parties and news reports did not lead to Steven, and he remained missing for seven years. The media storm that erupted when Steven re-appeared was intense for the quiet Mormon family, especially for the father Delbert and his once-missing son, as is clearly portrayed in the 1989 made-for-TV docudrama I Know My First Name Is Steven. Steven Stayner died on September 15, 1989, when someone hit-and-run his motorcycle, shortly after the film was completed. On December 27, 1990, Cary Stayner’s uncle Jesse was found murdered in Merced, in the home he shared with Cary Stayner. The murder remains unsolved.


Then on Valentine’s Day weekend of 1999 Cary Stayner went on a killing spree. Later that year, he was arrested for murder — charged with killing three Yosemite National Park tourists and a ranger. The victims, Carole Sund, forty-two, her daughter, Juli, fifteen, both of Eureka, and Silvina Pelosso, sixteen, an exchange student from Argentina, were guests at the Yosemite lodge where Stayner worked. Stayner is now serving a life sentence in federal prison for killing the Yosemite park guide, Joie Ruth Armstrong.

As it turned out, Cary Stayner had used Bigfoot as his lure to approach and talk with Armstrong. Soon after his arrest, Stayner freely discussed his Bigfoot ploy in an interview with San Jose television newsman Ted Rowlands. Stayner was no longer in his dead brother’s shadow. And Stayner kept telling anyone he could about Bigfoot. He told the cab driver on his taxi ride home the February night he says he dumped the bodies of the Yosemite tourists. Stayner talked about Bigfoot with everyone.

Stayner even imitated the call of the Bigfoot for reporter Sean Flynn, who wrote a January 2000 article in Esquire on the killings: “‘A horrible shriek,’ Cary tells me, animated now, eyes flashing, reveling in the memory. ‘Like a woman screaming through a bullhorn right next to the car. And it went on for a long time. And then it faded away to this low growl.’”

During Stayner’s 2002 trial for the death of the three tourists, defense witness Dr. Jose Arturo Silva testified that Stayner often would visit Foresta, a town on the southwest edge of Yosemite National Park, where Stayner believes he encountered a large, hairy, human-like creature and also decapitated nature guide Joie Armstrong. Silva detailed a long history of mental disorders as the forty-year-old motel handyman’s attorneys tried to bolster their insanity defense. “He lives in a quasi-magical reality, which involves Bigfoot and premonitions about the end of the world,” Silva told Stayner’s jury.


If you visit the exhibit in Lewiston, Maine, or later in Kansas City, you will see by the marginal notes Stayner addressed to me with his drawings, Stayner is not happy with some things I wrote above about him. Nothing like having a convicted killer as a critic of your work, I guess. On another level, I do appreciate that he took the time to share his drawings, now in exhibition at Bates, as a significant insight into his mind. It goes to show, perhaps, that anyone can have a Bigfoot sighting. Anyone, the good, the credible, and the evil.

Loren Coleman About Loren Coleman
Loren Coleman is one of the world’s leading cryptozoologists, some say “the” leading living cryptozoologist. Certainly, he is acknowledged as the current living American researcher and writer who has most popularized cryptozoology in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. Starting his fieldwork and investigations in 1960, after traveling and trekking extensively in pursuit of cryptozoological mysteries, Coleman began writing to share his experiences in 1969. An honorary member of Ivan T. Sanderson’s Society for the Investigation of the Unexplained in the 1970s, Coleman has been bestowed with similar honorary memberships of the North Idaho College Cryptozoology Club in 1983, and in subsequent years, that of the British Columbia Scientific Cryptozoology Club, CryptoSafari International, and other international organizations. He was also a Life Member and Benefactor of the International Society of Cryptozoology (now-defunct). Loren Coleman’s daily blog, as a member of the Cryptomundo Team, served as an ongoing avenue of communication for the ever-growing body of cryptozoo news from 2005 through 2013. He returned as an infrequent contributor beginning Halloween week of 2015. Coleman is the founder in 2003, and current director of the International Cryptozoology Museum in Portland, Maine.

11 Responses to “Killers’ Sasquatch Sketches”

  1. timi_hendrix responds:

    What an interesting tale

  2. chrisandclauida2 responds:

    the whistles outside a window are truly a common description of an encounter.

    too bad we dont have the first tale of a Bigfoot actually killing one of these idiots before they got started on their murderous work.

    you are absolutely correct we cant discount them just because of what or who they are. their reports have to be added to the evidence as a whole.

    very interesting thanks Loren

  3. eyeofnewt responds:

    If memory serves, from research on my 1998 biography of Starkweather, he was living in Lincoln, Nebraska, at the time of his “sighting.” That setting and his unstable mind should probably be considered in evaluating his experience (or delusion).

  4. twblack responds:

    you just never know!!

  5. davemcc responds:

    Very interesting indeed, you have to ask the question, What do either have to gain by telling of a bigfoot encounter? Answer….Not very much. reply #4 is right, you just never know!

  6. Forever_Elusive responds:

    hmm….looks like you better watch your back loren! we don’t want our blogger to get it as well lol !!

  7. shovethenos responds:

    This topic of “killers n’ Bigfoot” has come up before, and as before I think it is just coincidence.

    Regarding Starkweather’s alleged sightings: According to the BFRO database there are 6 documented sightings in Nebraska. Interestingly, several of the documented sightings occurred in the county Starkweather lived in and the ajacent counties to the north and south. There is not much activity in the rest of the state. This doesn’t prove anything, but it is interesting.

    Regarding Stayner’s alleged sightings: Mariposa County and Tuolumne County, the two counties that contain Yosemite National Park, have 3 and 29 documented sightings, respectively, recorded in the BFRO database. That’s a relatively active area, so his claims aren’t outside the realm of possibility. Especially if they occurred ajacent to the park as reported.

    With regard to Stayner’s background: The phenomenon of his brother being abducted and then recovered, then his unusual, if not suspicious, death, is pretty bizarre. When you throw in the unsolved murder of the uncle it makes one wonder if there was something strange going on there that hasn’t come to light yet.

  8. Mnynames responds:

    Seems to me that if someone wanted to make a bigfoot horror film, THIS would be the logical place to start…In any case, using some of this as reference material would stand to make a better film that the recent schlock films on offer…

  9. driftinmark responds:

    Hi, first time poster here, lol………

    this might be a little off topic, but I read a book a while ago about some bank robbers that dressed up as presidents? maybe, any way, they had a big tree house in washington state that they lived in and used as their hideout, for some reason , I seen to recall, that the gangs leader was afraid of large “monsters” that used to chase him through the woods at night with “glowing red eyes”……….I often though this was a strange part of the book and the way the author was trying to portray the gangs leader ofhaving a mentle condition, but given the location and all the sightings in the area of washington state, I guess my only belief is that he had seen susquatch, but the book never made the correlation……….I guess it was interesting to me and i wanted to post it…………

  10. Jeremy_Wells responds:

    hmmm. An interesting intersection of cryptozoology, psychology and popular culture…
    Something tells me there is more “meat” on these bones for someone willing to do the digging.

  11. Judy Green responds:

    I think you are right, Jeremy, and if I am not mistaken, Loren has done some research along those lines regarding this matter so I am looking forward to his response also.

Sorry. Comments have been closed.

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