Robert “Bob” M. Titmus
Bigfoot Veteran woodsman
December 24, 1918 - November 15, 1997 age 79
Titmus' marriage to Margaret "Magi" L. Berscheid/Titmus lasted only four years, from 1957 to 1961. " Magi" remarried and moved to San Bernardino in Southern California where she remarried....B. Short
By Peter Byrne 2009
In the last week of 1959, relaxing in the Royal Hotel, Katmandu, after a 200 mile walk from the northeastern Himalaya and three years up there searching for the Yeti, I received a cable form Tom Slick, of San Antonio, Texas, the sponsor (with another Texan, Kirk Johnson, of Dallas) of the Himalayan Yeti expeditions, asking me to close down the Nepal searches and come to the U.S. and design and run a research program of investigation into the Bigfoot/Sasquatch phenomenon. I did as he asked and in the first week of 1960 flew to San Antonio. There we sat down and together planned the first properly organized and intelligently structured research project on the Bigfoot phenomenon.
The planning included instructions for me to go without delay to northern California and set up a project headquarters there, with a post office box and an office and telephone and paid office staff, as a base from which a permanent field search team would operate. I was to recruit people for the field team and also assemble a local team of interested people who, working as volunteers, would be available for field work and at the same time provide a conduit for all Bigfoot related intelligence, both historical and current. In addition I was to purchase outdoor clothing and office and field equipment, which latter would include two 4X4 vehicles, two off-road motorcycles, cameras, binoculars and camping equipment that would include all-weather sleeping bags and tents.
However, as soon as our headquarters was established, my first task was to try and sort out the disorder and confusion surrounding the work of some persons previously hired by Tom to investigate the phenomenon, and who, supposedly working in the Pacific Northwest, were being paid monthly retainers, with expenses, for field work ( of which, he told me, it seemed little or none was being done) general research (none was apparent) and regular reports (conspicuous by their absence) to Tom in San Antonio. This group consisted of Rene Dahinden, John Green, Robert Titmus, Ed Patrick and two men named LePay and Gatto. With the exception of Titmus, I was to contact all of them as soon as possible and then, on a hire-or-fire basis, either incorporate them into the new project, or release them from their association with Tom and his Bigfoot research interests. One of the group, however, (the exception as mentioned) Robert Titmus, was to be bypassed and allowed to continue on his own; he had, it appeared, a special project for which he was answerable only to Tom. It was highly confidential and he was to be given free rein to work on it as he pleased and was under no obligation to share his work or finds with anyone but Tom.
The first person I contacted (by phone, he was in British Columbia) was Rene Dahinden and after listening to ten minutes of puerile excuses as to why he was not doing the work he was being paid for, combined with resentful and abusive overtures concerning my appointment as head of the new project, I fired him. The second person (again by phone, in BC) was John Green, whose wife told me that he would not speak with me and did not want to have anything to do with me; at which I informed her that in that case her husband would no longer be working with us. The third was Ed Patrick, who seemed like a pleasant young man and who, I discovered, had left the Northwest to live in San Francisco. After a short talk with him, pointing out to him that it was a little difficult to carry out northwest forest field work from such a distant base, I let him go. The fourth and fifth were LePay and Gatto, to whom Tom had advanced $5000.00 for supplies and equipment and I eventually found them after prolonged searching that was only successful when I turned for help to the local sheriff's department; they were in the country jail in Eureka, arrested and indicted for fraudulent check writing, a “paper trail, all across California,” is how it was described to me, and were being held pending trial.
This left Titmus and soon after we had settled in at our new headquarters (at a small settlement called Salyer, on the Trinity River, a couple of miles south of the now well-known little town of Willow Creek), I went to see him at his home and workshop, where he practiced his trade of taxidermy, in Redding. There, I met and talked with him and he quickly made it clear that he would not work with me or my new team, under any circumstances; that he would answer only to Tom; that he had a very special and high confidential Bigfoot project that was the result of his decades of Pacific Northwest field work experience and expertise, and that when the time came, by which he meant when he was ready, and not before, he would reveal his findings. Not to us, of course. But to Tom and only Tom.
I met him only twice again after that. Once by accident, when camping in Bluff Creek with two of my BF project staff-Steve Matthes, a retired US Fish & Wildlife professional lion and bear hunter, and Gerry Crew, finder of the original BF prints in upper Bluff Creek-and again, once more, for the last time, when he met with Tom and I to reveal what would be the extraordinary details of his unique project.
At the time that I and my staff met Titmus in Bluff Creek, intrigued with the secrecy of his project, and its potential, and what obviously must have been the extraordinary know-how and expertise that had enabled him to develop it, we took advantage of what little time we had him in hand, so to speak (he was in a hurry, he said and had little time to waste on the kind of research that in which we were engaged, being as it was so far behind the advances he had made in his pending great find) to ask him as many questions as we could about his knowledge of Pacific Northwest wildlife, local conditions, Bigfoot lore and history. We did this because he has been described to us an expert woodsman and a veteran in forest lore (and indeed, was being employed as such by Tom Slick) and we were very keen to gauge the extent of his knowledge and, if possible, of course, apply it to our own work. To this end we managed to detain him long enough to get him to reluctantly agree to a short walk with us down a dusty logging road near our camp, one on which, within ten minutes of walking, we found a set of Black Bear paw prints. The prints, about six inches in length, were old, faded and were typical bear, with the short forefoot print and the elongated “banana shaped” rear imprint. Titmus, however, looked at the prints for two or three minutes and then promptly declared them to have been made by a young Bigfoot.
None of us said anything but it was very clear to the three of us, both Matthes and I being professional hunters with lots of bear experience, his in the Pacific Northwest and mine in the Himalaya with Himalayan black bear-an animal very similar in shape, size and weight to the American Black bear-and Gerry Crew with not a few years in the woods behind him, that the prints were undoubtedly made by a medium sized bear. Nevertheless, Titmus photographed and measured them and later we heard that he had sent the photographs to Tom and described them as genuine prints of a young Bigfoot.
Over the course of that first project we met other several people who had experienced Titmus' so-called expertise in the forest and the general opinion-one that began for us in the above-described very brief interlude we had with him in the forest-was that as far as forest lore was concerned the man was a buffoon. At the same time he was clever enough, in letters and private reports to Tom, to parley his non-existent expertise into a reputation as an expert tracker and woodsman, something which, we all agreed, indicated a certain lack of integrity. He enhanced this reputation even further by claiming a personal encounter with a Bigfoot, which same he reported to Tom some time in 1960. What was odd about this claim was that he never told any of us about it and we only found out about it when Tom's secretary, Jeri Walsh, happened to mention it in conversation during one of her visits to the northwest with Tom.
Again, not long after our forest meeting with him, some time in 1960, he claimed a find of Bigfoot hair and, without informing any of us at the project, sent a set of hairs to Tom, stating that they were such. However, a careful examination of the hair by Tom and his associates in San Antonio, including a visual comparison of it with the hair of other known wild species of the north American continent, proved it to be moose hair and it is was interesting to note (a discovery made by Gerry Crew, on a visit to Redding) that about the time Titmus made this BF hair “find”, he was working on a moose trophy in his taxidermy workshop, in Redding.
I think that Titmus had been developing (or claimed to be developing) his secret project for about a year, and was being paid a monthly retainer for same, plus travel and other expenses (including overnights in motels, with restaurant costs, in California, Oregon and Washington), when Tom decided that the man had had enough time and money to conclude it and ordered him to being it to a close ... which essentially meant revealing to Tom exactly what it was that he had discovered and where it was and what was going to be done about it.
Tom called me from San Antonio and told me of his decision and asked me set up a camp at our usual Bluff Creek campsite, an old logger's camp called Louse Camp, near the creek's junction with Notice Creek, pending an immediate visit by him. A few days later, he and his boys, Thomas and Charles, flew to Eureka, where I picked them up and drove them to the Bluff Creek camp. At the camp, waiting for Tom, were my field men, Jerry Crew and Steve Matthes, my brother Bryan and also a professional camp caterer, Red Mathis and his wife, from Weaverville, (?) a couple that Tom employed to manage the camp and cook for us whenever he visited. We all spent a pleasant night together-which meant that we had a well-stocked bar and excellent food provided by Red and his wife-and next day, at about eleven in the morning, Titmus drove in from Redding and joined us. Driving up on the road outside our campsite, he stopped, got out of his car- a large, battered old Plymouth, I seem to recall-walked quickly into the campsite, shook hands with Tom, and then, completely ignoring the rest of us, led Tom to the vehicle, got in, slammed the doors and took off up the lower Bluff Creek road, one that in those days ran parallel to and west of the creek itself and a few hundred feet above it. (It was subsequently closed by the USFS and has since fallen into disrepair.)
We waited about two hours, in excited speculation, for Tom to return and sure enough, about two o'clock, Titmus' car reappeared, coming down the road fairly fast. It stopped on the road outside our campsite and Tom got out. Then, to our surprise, the car accelerated and, in cloud of thick brown logging road dust, roared off down the road to the south.
As the car disappeared, Tom came into the campsite and, walking quickly past us, went straight to the bar and poured himself a healthy measure of scotch. Topping it off with a little branch water he came over and sat down with us, his face grim and unsmiling and one look at him told us that something was wrong, or had gone badly wrong, and that for the moment it might be better not to say anything, at least until he was ready to talk. So we sat quietly around the campfire talking of other things, and waited until he was ready to speak.
After about five minutes, and another scotch, Tom suddenly relaxed and began to laugh. Then, shaking his head from side to side in what looked like puzzled amusement, he told us what had happened …
What Titmus said he had discovered, his secret project from which we were all excluded, was something extraordinary. It was, simply a place in the mountains where a Bigfoot-and maybe more than one-came to defecate on what appeared to be a regular schedule. In other words, a permanent Bigfoot toilet. As Tom talked, I could see disbelief on the faces of the others. Nevertheless, we listened politely as he went on. The plan, he told us, had been for Titmus to show him the place in question, after which an operation would be designed, one that would include a 24/7 watch on the area and possibly the use of planes and helicopters and additional support teams, including scientists, as needed. We would all be part of it and the object of the plan would be, at the very least, to document any BFs coming or going to the site, via still and motion-picture photography. There could be a possibility, Tom thought, of making face-to-face contact with one and even, farfetched though it might sound, the exciting prospect of communication.
Leaving camp, he and Titmus had driven up the lower Bluff Creek road about a mile and then stopped and parked the car. From there, Titmus said, they would go on foot, up through the brush for about half a mile, to where there was a small clearing in which reposed the BF toilet. That it was a genuine BF toilet, Titmus said, there was no doubt; a huge pile of droppings marked one end of the clearing and some of it, when he had last seen it, was quite fresh.
Leaving the car, and with Titmus leading the way, they plunged into the thick, hot Manzanita brush and slowly forced their way up a long, steep hill. When they were what Titmus estimated was about two hundred yards from the clearing, he made Tom go down on his hands and knees, warning him to go as quietly as possible, and together they covered the remaining two hundred yards or so to the clearing … an exercise that Tom described as being considerably uncomfortable; even on foot, Manzanita brush is nasty stuff to get through.
Arriving at the edge of the clearing-in what Tom said was a lather of sweat-Titmus whispered and pointed and sure enough, down at the end of the small, level opening in the brush, under a little, green-leafed tree, was a huge pile of dung. It was very quiet, Tom said, an eerie stillness with no bird or animal sounds and, lying on his stomach in the brush, soaked in sweat, he felt the hair on the back of his neck prickling. There was no wind but faintly he could smell the odor from the dung pile, under the little tree, at the end of the clearing. He whispered to Titmus that for a start they should take as many pictures of the place as possible, and then maybe some measurements, and Titmus was about to reply when suddenly they both heard the sounds of heavy, thumping footsteps coming from the brush off to their left. Tom said then that if at first he had felt the hair on the back of his neck prickling; now he guessed that it must have been literally standing up on end.
He said that Titmus was wide-eyed with what looked like fear and as the footsteps got closer and closer, he had to admit that he was not far off panic himself. Then, suddenly, out of the Manzanita brush to their left, a large brown object walked into view. It was not, however, as Tom expected, a Bigfoot, but a medium-sized, brown-colored pony on the back of which sat a medium- sized old man, a Native American, dressed in a leather jacket and a battered felt hat and with a thick black ponytail hanging down his back. The old man rode up to the little tree, got off his mount, removed two small baskets from the back of the pony, tied the pony to the tree and then turned around to stare directly at the two men lying prone at the edge of the clearing.
Tom, feeling a little foolish, immediately stood and walked up to the old man, who greeted him respectfully and shook his hand. When asked what he was doing there, the man told him that he was a Yurok Indian, from the Hoopa Indian Reservation, come to collect wild herbs-which was what his baskets were for-and that he had been coming to this same place for many years and, he added with a smile, pointing to the little tree, tying his pony right there, in the middle of the animal's dung pile.
To which, at this precise moment, Tom told us, the pony made a generous contribution.
We never saw Titmus again. We heard that he went straight back to Redding, packed up and then drove his battered old car all the way to Bella Coola, in northern British Columbia, where he took up residence, and employment, as a taxi driver. We did hear, later, that he tried once more to develop an association with Tom, dubiously claiming another sighting somewhere, this time, he said, of two of the creatures. But Tom was not about to have anything more to do with him after what we all laughingly called “The Great Pony Poop Caper.” Nor was I, or any of my associates.
SUMMARY. The basis of this account of the Titmus affair was a report compiled by me in early 1962 at the request of Tom Slick. The actual details of the account were supplied by him personally, firstly at the campsite on the afternoon of his return from his excursion with Titmus and later during subsequent visits to me and my team in the Northwest. The account itself was corroborated by both Gerry Crew, my brother Bryan, Steve Matthes and Red Mathis with his wife, all of whom were present at the campsite when Tom returned there. .
Later still, an analysis by myself and my team of Titmus' work and behavior produced two conclusions. One, that he had discovered the clearing and the dung pile by accident and that his background and experience in the northwest forests were so limited and immature that he really believed that his great find was something other than what it really was, i.e., equine feces.
Or, two, that the whole episode was nothing less than a clever scam, from beginning to end, one that gave him a year's comfortable earnings via a healthy retainer and expenses and, in addition, temporarily at least, his longed-for reputation as a master tracker and expert on the Bigfoot mystery.
Of the two, the latter conclusion seems the more likely for it seems incredible that anyone who has spent more than a day in the outdoors could mistake horse or pony droppings for anything other than what they obviously are. <<< Peter C. Byrne, 2009 >>>