Documentary filmmaker David Holthouse told Joe Rogan he was inspired to make his latest project by a wild story he overheard from two methheads while he was crashing at a marijuana grow operation in northern Mendocino County, California, in 1993. The docuseries, Sasquatch, premiered on Hulu on April 20, 2021, and as Rogan pointed out, is not what it seems from its title.
“You look at it on Hulu and you go, ‘Oh man, it’s a bigfoot documentary.’ … Not really. No. It’s a lot scarier,” Rogan said to Holthouse during a conversation on the Joe Rogan Experience podcast published on May 6, 2021. Holthouse told Rogan:
I was visiting a buddy of mine who was working on a dope farm. It was harvest season, which is a particularly dangerous time of the year up there. But he kind of got me a hall pass with the guy who owned the farm and vouched for me. For me to parachute in for about a week. Something that didn’t make it in the show is that I went up there to do a heroic mushroom trip with the guy. The day that the s*** went down, we took about an eighth of mushrooms each and went tripping around the redwoods.
Now that didn’t make it into the show. But, that night, as we were coming down, we were in the cabin, the a-frame cabin that belonged to the guy who owned the farm. And these two dudes showed up late at night, covered in mud, splattered with mud, soaked. Claiming that they had just been to a nearby dope farm where they’ve seen three bodies that were torn up. Mutilated.”
And these guys were freaking out. They seemed legitimately traumatized to me. They were exuding this energy of terror. And of having just seen mutilated bodies, to the point where I was just trying to shrink into the couch where I was. I was just really not happy to be in that room at that point.
Holthouse told Rogan he was 23 at the time, “I was just getting going in journalism. The owner of the farm kind of pulled them off to the side and they were having a conversation in the kitchen. And they were trying to keep their voices hushed, but these guys, they were so rattled, and also, I didn’t know the signs at the time but looking back, they were on crystal (meth). They were tweaking. Their voices were going up and down in volume, but they were clearly saying that they’d just seen these three bodies and they had seen sasquatch footprints at the murder scene. And they knew it wasn’t a ripoff, they were saying, because all the weed had been harvested, but it was still there. Some plants had thrown around, but the bud was still there. Hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of weed.” Holthouse continued:
At one point the guy was like, ‘Are you sure they’re dead?’ And they were like, ‘Are you f****** not listening to us? They were torn to pieces, man. They’re f****** dead. And a bigfoot killed these guys. And he kind of got them out of the farm and sat down and was like, ‘Well, that was really f****** weird.’ And we had a laugh.
Holthouse is a longtime gonzo journalist for alternative weekly newspapers who wrote about being sexually assaulted as a child and his plot to murder his rapist. That story was published in Denver’s Westword newspaper and turned into a piece on This American Life and a play called Stalking the Bogeyman. Holthouse has also worked on several documentaries with another recent JRE guest, Tiller Russell, and has worked with the Southern Poverty Law Center investigating hate groups.
The three-part Sasquatch docuseries is available on Hulu.
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Holthouse Told Rogan He Went Back to Mendocino County to Try to See If the Story He Remembered Was Real
Holthouse told Rogan, “That story stuck with me for the next quarter-century. And I told it like a ghost story around the campfire kind of thing a few times. But a friend of mine, and a guy I collaborate with, Joshua Rofé, who is the director of this series, Sasquatch, we were just finishing up another project together and he texted me out of the blue. He had become a fan of this podcast Sasquatch Chronicles. And he was like, ‘Dude if we could find some sort of true crime story wrapped up with a sasquatch angle, we’d really have something.”
He said, “I hit him right back and was like, ‘I might have one.’ The next step was to get ahold of my buddy who was working on the farm up there.” Holthouse told Rogan:
Get ahold of anyone I could find who was working in the dope game up in northern Mendocino County, it was near a town called Branscombe, who worked in that area at that time in the dope game. And be like, ‘Did you ever hear a story like this?’ Because our thinking was, we can’t do a series if it’s just me hearing that story in the cabin that one night. But it’s the kind of story where you think that probably spread beyond just that one cabin. Those guys didn’t seem like the type who were going to keep that to themselves. So, after drawing a lot of blanks, we finally hit this one information ecosystem, subcircle up there if you will. Where people had heard that story. And they were like, ‘Yes, three guys did get killed, but there’s more to it.’ There’s a story beyond that and it doesn’t really involve a sasquatch killing those three guys. I don’t want to spoil the show for anybody who hasn’t seen it.
Rogan said about the documentary, “For anybody who hasn’t seen it, it’s well worth (the time). It’s very intense. It also brings you to this weird realization that the war on drugs ruined this sort of utopian community up there.”
Holthouse said that in 1993, “This was at the time of the DEA’s “Operation Green Sweep,” where they had injected a lot of narcs into the scene. So they had undercover guys. They also had these paramilitary squads out in the woods looking for patches. Or if they found one, they’d set up on these guys, Rambo-style, for days, until someone came to work the patch and then nail them. There were a lot of shootouts. It was liked armored troop carriers parading down the main streets of these little towns up there.”
Rogan Told Holthouse He Had to Sit on the Couch ‘Shaking His Head for 5 Minutes’ After Finishing the Sasquatch Documentary Series
Rogan told Holthouse that watching the documentary series, “They come down on these people. And you see these cops. I don’t think these cops are bad people, I think they’re just clueless. I just don’t think they understand. I just think they were in that cop culture of like, ‘These are bad people. These are hippies. These are the other.’ And they were dehumanized. It was one of the darkest parts.”
Rogan added, “There’s a lot of dark things about this series that you put together. It’s really good by the way. At the end of it, I was like f***. I shut the TV off and I just sat on the couch for like five minutes shaking my head. There’s a lot of documentaries like that, where at the end of it you go, ‘What have you humans done? What have we done?’ And that’s one of them.
Rogan asked Holthouse if there was anything that surprised him while he was making the documentary.
“I was surprised by just how dangerous a place northern Mendocino County is. I have pushed my luck in reporting stories more than a few times over the years. It’s a dangerous place to be under any circumstances. That place being the backwoods of northern Mendocino County dope country,” Holthouse said. “But to be up there asking questions about unsolved homicides, you have to tread pretty carefully. And I knew from my experiences in the early 90s up there, there’s an element of danger up there. But it’s only gotten worst, I think. It’s only gotten more dangerous once you’re kind of off the beaten path up there.”
Holthouse told Rogan he was always worried he would get too close to finding out the truth about an unsolved murder and be set up by the killers and walk into a trap. “There were a few times where I was like, ‘I don’t know if I’m getting off this mountain this day,” said Holthouse, who worked on the documentary series for more than two years.
“I tend to gravitate toward deep, heavy subjects,” Holthouse told Rogan. “But it’s not a lighthearted bigfoot show. If you go into it expecting to be entertained on that level, you’re not going to get what you’re looking for.”