Anderson Valley AdvertiserOctober 27, 2004

The Attack Of

The Naked Painted People

by Saffron Blue Fraser

It was dark when Monica Schulte-Bisping was driving home on Highway 128 from Mendocino after picking her son Leandro up from school last Friday evening. As she rounded a corner she was surprised to see two young women waving her down from the roadway.

The two young gals were soaked through, wet, muddy, and obviously exhausted. They were panicked, terrified and hungry. They had been lost in the Navarro hills since early that morning. The two young women had left earlier in the week from Davis or Martinez (one is said to have been a student at UC Davis, the other a coffee shop owner in Martinez) for a relaxing country weekend. One of the women, an "environmental biologist" from Davis was writing a paper on some sort of nature issue and had plans to do some research while in the woods. They had planned to stay out near Lake Berryessa, but got lost and decided to just head out to the Mendocino coast, stay the night and head back via Montgomery Woods. While on the coast (presumably, the town of Mendocino) they asked around for directions to Montgomery Woods. Satisfied they were headed in the right direction, they took off early Friday morning to find their destination. Clearly their directions were wrong...

The young women turned left (east) onto Navarro Ridge Road. They drove approximately eight miles on a paved road, then an additional two miles on dirt. At this point the road became very muddy, and not being comfortable on the terrain, they tried to turn around. They got stuck. As they were trying to get turned around and out of there, a man in a Honda CRV passed. They waved him down, while he never offered to help them to turn around, he did offer to cut the lock on the nearby gate stating that if they "went down that road, they would find a clearing; it would be easy to turn around, then they could drive right out." They took his word, but did not drive right out. They found, as they followed the road past the gate, that it became wetter and muddier — they were now, straight up, stuck in the mud. At first the gals were undaunted and energetic as they tried to free the little Ford Focus from the deep Navarro muck.

They tried the traditional tricks of rocking first forward and then back. And here's where the story gets spooky.

They began to have that unexplainable creepy feeling that someone was watching them. They began to see forms, and then faces, peeking at them from the trees, receding and hiding when spoken to. The two young women pleaded with the specters in the trees to please help — to no avail. The women became more frightened and frantic. They decided to try to rip branches from the trees to try to gain traction. As they tore small branches and leaves from the wooded forest, the ghostly faces came forward again. The young women report seeing many naked people with painted faces — black and white, some looking like mimes, some with dog features, some with cat-whiskers. There were faces like masks, with fur on noses, whiskers — and feathers. The painted people came out of the trees, apparently annoyed with the young women for tearing the branches from their trees. The cat/dog-people were making clicking noises, either in their mouths or somehow with their hands. They threw a bird at the young women, a live bird with its wings removed, and, by one story, its feathers charred or singed. (One of the young women took the bird in her hands and snapped its neck to take it out of misery. )

The young women, now fully scared and lost, feared for their safety and decided to leave — quickly. Abandoning the immobilized car, it's not clear in what direction, they ran to find safety. The woman who claimed to be an environmental biologist, and later a "military trainee," had a compass. So they took off in a direction she thought would be helpful. She had brought her mountain climbing gear, and a helmet.

Bear with me here. Parts of this story were later confirmed by people who went back to the site the next day.

The two women set off down a road, seeing the painted people either following them, or maybe new painted people were appearing along the tree-line. The women were becoming more and more alarmed and frightened. They decided to head down a creek bed hoping to make it to the road. As they stumbled through what they were sure were carved stakes and spears in the stream and along the banks, the women came upon an encampment. They described a huge tent or fort, made of camo tarps, branches and sticks.

A man came out towards them. They heard beeps and clicks like "Morse code." The man advanced toward them, with an object in his hand. The young women, afraid that violence might be in the cards, fled — again. They ran and, this time, found themselves in the middle of what they described as another village, with small huts built into the ground at the bases of huge redwood stumps. The painted people were still following, menacing, sometimes approaching close enough to push or poke at the fleeing women as they tried to get away. The small huts decorated with feathers, shiny trinkets, and lined with what looked like stakes. The fleeing ladies said they tried to hide in one of the huts, only to find a skeleton or bones, possibly of a human fetus. They reported seeing stakes and altars, with animal offerings, decomposing skeletons of wildlife, some charred and burned, some mummified on stakes.

They ran as fast and as hard as they could. And, luckily, found themselves on Highway 128. And, fortunately, Ms. Schulte-Bisping, wife of Franz Schulte-Bisping who runs Starr Automotive and the local tow service, happened to pass and rescue these unlucky travelers (victims?). The two women were delivered to Starr Auto, where law enforcement was called, and a room was acquired for the frightened women at the Anderson Valley Inn, where they were fed and got a night's sleep. The following morning the car was found to be way deeper in the mud than Starr's tow truck could handle. The big 4x4 tow rig from Dorsey's from Ukiah was called in. The young women have left town.

I don't expect them to be back in Anderson Valley real soon.

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