The Legends and Mysteries of Siskiyou County

It’s well documented that the areas surrounding Mount Shasta are full of legends and mysteries. From paranormal encounters to treasures lost in history, dramatic tales seem to have found a welcomed home in Siskiyou County. There are stories of mystical creatures, a presidential extramarital rendezvous, missing gold and horses at 14,000 feet.

Through history, Siskiyou has been a place of lore and legend, and we have the stories to prove it. Here are 10 legends and mysteries surrounding the area:

Black Bart’s Hideout

Hedge Creek Falls. Photo: Flickr/Eric Leslie

Charles E. Boles was Northern California’s most famous stagecoach robber in the 1800’s, famous for leaving poetry behind at the scene of the crime and going by his robber name – Black Bart. Although his resume included robbing 28 stagecoaches all the way from Calaveras County to Oregon, he spent three years of the 1880’s doing his work in Siskiyou County, politely grabbing any cash he could from Wells Fargo coaches traveling along the Siskiyou Trail.

As the story goes, Black Bart’s hideout was in the 12-foot cave below Hedge Creek Falls in modern-day Dunsmuir. While the cave gave him the prefect shelter for inclement weather or a posse looking to lynch him, he could also use the flowing water of Hedge Creek for sanitation purposes. It was the perfect hideout for the famous robber.

Charles Boles aka “Black Bart”

Eventually, Black Bart’s luck ran out as he spent 4 years in San Quentin for his crimes. Following his release, he left his belongings in San Francisco and was never heard from again. He may have gone in search of his hidden loot, and there’s even rumors that Wells Fargo paid him off to leave the area. But maybe, just maybe, he returned to his old hideout to spend his final days in the beauty of the Northern California wilderness.

Lemurians

Depiction of a Lemurian in front of Mount Shasta

One of the more prominent legends surrounding Mount Shasta is that of an advanced society of survivors from an ancient continent called Lemuria, which prospered in the days on Atlantis. There are many different theories behind these people, dubbed Lemurians, but most believers say there are over a million living in the mountain, and they have telepathic powers.

Much of the theories surrounding Lemurians comes from the Frederick Spencer Oliver book A Dweller on Two Planets, which claimed they live in a series of complex tunnels beneath the mountain. Two eye witness accounts in the early-20th century brought the idea into the mainstream, and today many people visit the mountain from around the world to get close to the advanced society. Modern day beliefs say that Lemuria can be felt and contacted through spiritual practices. 

Learn more about the legend of Lemuria in Mount Shasta

Mill Creek’s Missing Gold and Totem Poles

Photo: Flickr/Steven Bratman

For many years, Chinese immigrants worked on Mill Creek near Happy Camp during the Gold Rush, claiming much of the area’s gold. In 1929, an old Chinese man emerged from the woods, claiming there was a rich ledge of quartz at the head of the old gold mining operations. A man took him up to the area with his digging tools, but the old Chinese man was never seen again.

Thinking the Chinese man was lost, the Forest Service went out searching for him and eventually found his camp, but no sign of him. They also never found the quartz ledge the man had talked about.

In lieu of a gold discovery, the Forest Service officials did find something very interesting near the camp. The trees in the 3 acres between the forks of the creek had been cut down into totem polls, a massive undertaking for anyone in the area. It was never explained who carved the totem polls or why, and the gold was never found. A mysterious place, indeed.

President JFK and Marilyn Monroe’s Rendezvous in Dunsmuir

It’s no secret that President John Kennedy and Hollywood sex symbol Marilyn Monroe were rumored to be having an affair during his presidency. In a time of fewer cameras and no social media nonsense, the two could schedule secret rendezvous while the president was on official state business. One of those very places was right in Dunsmuir, where relics of their love affair remain today.

In 1962, the owner of Mike’s Place bar in Castella, Mike Padula, claimed that the then famous Monroe entered the bar and chatted with regulars for three hours. Before she was picked up by a big limousine out front, she signed her name on the bar’s wall in red lipstick. According to the bar patrons, JFK was in that limousine.

From there, it’s said the two shacked up in Engle Inn Resort, now named Cave Springs, for two days. During a visitor’s stay at the hotel, they were said to have found hidden photos of Monroe and JFK in Cabin #5.

Although the concrete proof behind their extramarital affair is lacking the pizazz heard in the stories, multiple eyewitness accounts in Castella claim the two indeed spent time there. It may just be legend today, but it seems like a pretty likely story.

Rattlesnake Dick’s Lost Treasure

Rattlesnake Dick

Richard Barter lived a life of crime in the Gold Rush era of the 1800’s in California and one of his stagecoach robberies may have left a large sum of loot buried in the Trinity Mountains. In legend, he is known simply as “Rattlesnake Dick.”

In 1856, the bandit learned from a drunken miner that gold shipments were being sent down Trinity Mountain from Yreka to Shasta and assembled a gang to intercept the shipment. While Dick was rounding up mules to take the gold down the mountain, his gang of five masked bandits stole $25,000 from a Wells Fargo stagecoach. They took the loot and buried it in multiple places along the mountain, hoping to retrieve it with pack mules later.

About $15,000 of the loot was eventually retrieved in a ravine on the headwaters of Clear Creek, but the melting of the snow in the springtime changed the landscape so much, that the rest was never found. Rattlesnake Dick was eventually gunned down in Auburn in 1859, without revealing the whereabouts of the loot. Is it still up there?

John Wayne’s Favorite Bar: Black Butte Saloon

If you’ve ever been to Weed, California, there’s no wonder why legendary actor John Wayne vacationed in the area in between movies. The high desert landscape is reminiscent of many of Wayne’s movies, usually set in a Wild West scenario. And when Wayne stayed in Siskiyou County, he clearly had a favorite watering hole he liked to visit.

The Black Butte Saloon is a time capsule into the town of Weed that was known for Wild West shootouts, gambling and ladies of the night during the Gold Rush. And John Wayne apparently had an affinity of the world he lived in in the films. It’s said that he frequented the bar during his Hollywood career and got cozy with the locals in the area he grew to love.

The bar was also said be haunted, even investigated by professional ghost hunters in 2012. It’s too bad the saloon didn’t stay open.

The Horse that Summited Mount Shasta

Tom Watson, Jump-Up and crew at the summit of Mount Shasta

Anyone familiar with the mighty Mount Shasta knows that it’s a very difficult endeavor to climb to its 14,179-foot peak. But for Tom Watson, he liked to bring his four-legged friends with him. Watson first brought a mule to the summit of Mount Shasta in 1883 as part of a federal government geological survey. From that point on, he wanted to be the first person to reach it with a horse.

In the early 1900’s, there was a “signal” at the peak of Mount Shasta, but climbers had noted in early 1903 that is was leaning badly. Watson thought his only chance to prove he brought a horse to the summit was to take a photo next to the signal, so he dedicated his life to the publicity stunt. On September 3rd, Watson and his horse Jump-Up were able to reach the summit and take a photo with the signal. The photo was eventually used for postcards and even considered for submission by Ripley’s Believe it or Not.

Unfortunately, the climb proved so brutal on Jump-Up, they were forced to put the hobbled horse down upon return. But for Watson, he had fame and beer money for the next few years.

Bigfoot

Marble Mountains

Northern California is the unofficial home of Bigfoot and many of the most famous sightings took place in the remote mountains of Siskiyou County.

In the January 1887 Del Norte Record the following article told of a close encounter with Bigfoot, then called Wild Man, in the area between Marble Mountain and Happy Camp. The experiencer, Mr. Jack Dover, was considered an upstanding and trustworthy citizen with a high credibility factor.

“The range of the curiosity is between Marble Mountain and the vicinity of Happy Camp. A number of people have seen it and all agree in their descriptions except that some make it taller than others. It is apparently herbivorous and makes winter quarters in some of the caves of Marble Mountain.” – found in The Hermit of the Siskiyous by L.W. Musick.

Another sighting came when a youth group was camping in the Marble Mountain Wilderness when their leader Jim Mills noticed a strange-looking creature skulking along a ridge nearby. He filmed it for nearly seven minutes, making the somewhat-grainy footage the longest video of an alleged Bigfoot sighting.

The Marble Mountains is also home to Bigfoot Cave, which is a massive cave system known to be the 12th deepest cave in the United States. Going 12 miles deep into the remote mountains, many Bigfoot enthusiasts say it’s the perfect dwelling for the mystical creature, who has had sightings all around Siskiyou, Del Norte and Humboldt Counties.

Babe Ruth in Dunsmuir

This story is far from a mystery, as there’s still plenty of photos and pamphlets to remember Babe Ruth’s big game in Dunsmuir. But the story is certainly something of legend, as the Great Bambino always had a flare for the dramatic.

The town of Dunsmuir was once the stop of Babe Ruth’s west coast exhibition tour, where he and Yankee teammate Bob Meusel travelled through California playing local teams. One of those teams was the Dunsmuir baseball team, which played the Babe on October 22, 1924.

If you were to visit the Baseball Hall-of-Fame in Cooperstown, New York, you would find a poster promoting the event, with admission costing $1.10 for adults (plus a war tax) and 25 cents for children. Dunsmuir Mayor Cornish declared a half holiday on that day for the town to attend the event.

According to legend, Ruth took it easy for much of the game, until he got a pitch right down the middle. They say he hit the ball so far that it was never found, possibly still lying in the dirt near the Dunsmuir Park.

Active NorCal

Northern California's Outdoor Digital Newsmagazine

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