It’s not all sunshine and farts in Humboldt. Life on the hill is not a Cheech and Chong paradise. Its idyllic, but it’s got its own brand of danger…
In the early 1980s, two “hippies” turned into spree killers while staying on Rancho Sequoia road, in Alderpoint, one of the major grow hubs in southern Humboldt. Their crimes left a stain on our community that never faded. The locals, and the media, has since dubbed the area “Murder Mountain.”
James Clifford Carson (a.k.a. Michael Bear Carson) and Suzan Barnes Carson (aka Suzan Bear Carson) claimed to have been pacifists and vegetarian yoga practitioners who converted to a form of Islam and described themselves as “vegetarian Moslem warriors.” Their murderous rampage apparently emerged from a shared mission: to exterminate individuals they believed to be “witches”. The press dubbed them “the San Francisco Witch Killers.”
In 1980, after a year-long trip to Europe, while the Carsons lived in the Haight-Ashbury, their roommate, Keryn Barnes (then only 22), was found dead in their apartment. They later claimed she was “draining Suzan of her health and yogic powers.” The Carsons were the prime suspects but had fled to Grants Pass, Oregon, where they remained until Spring 1982, unaccounted for by society. They then moved to Alderpoint, California, where they lived and worked on a pot farm. In May 1982, Michael shot and killed Clark Stephens, a worker on the farm. The Carsons again fled and were again considered the prime suspects. Upon searching the Carsons’ abandoned belongings, detectives found a manifesto they had written which called for the assassination of then-President Ronald Reagan.
In November 1982, Michael was picked up by police in LA after being seen hitchhiking by an acquaintance, but, through a police incompetence, he was released. The following March, the Carsons were hitchhiking near Bakersfield and were given a ride by 30-year-old Jon Charles Hellyar, who was driving to Santa Rosa. Suzan Bear Carson reportedly decided that Hellyar was a witch and had to be killed. A physical fight broke out, and then the fight escalated outside the vehicle, with Suzan stabbing Hellyar while he and Michael struggled over a gun, eventually shooting him dead in view of passing motorists. A high-speed chase ensued, but they were both apprehended.
On June 12, 1984, the Carsons were convicted and sentenced to seventy-five years to life. They were suspects in nearly a dozen other deaths in the U.S. and Europe.
The whole thing has stank up the area ever since. Things quieted down in the 90s, but no one stopped calling the Rancho Sequoia area “Murder Mountain.” The reputation has even transferred to most of the surround AP community.
Then, in the nineties, things got worse. Now five petite, blonde-haired, blue-eyed girls are missing in Humboldt. People are spooked. Some people say Humboldt has the highest rate of missing persons in the US. The truth is, Humboldt County has substantially higher percentage of unsolved missing adult cases with a 17.1 percent unsolved rate that the other counties in California.
Living up to its outback wild wild west reputation, southern Humboldt folks formed a posse. For some time, and some say still, Alderpoint had (has?) its own vigilante group, known as The Alderpoint 8, or just The Eight.
“It’s just like what it was back in the prohibition days. Many of these communities will try and solve their problems on their own,” the Sheriff once said about the 8. Although their identities have long been protected, one of them was killed last year. More about that another time…
I don’t say this because I want to be morbid, but because it’s the truth about how dangerous it can be. These stories are rarely told as usually only the locals talk about it (with other locals). Its frowned upon to tell newcomers stories like this. People just go, “Yeah I don’t work in Alderpoint, too crazy out there,” but don’t tell the whole story. This is why people think AP is crazy. Murder Mountain. And now, a spat of missing persons.
(Pictured: Typical grow scene in AP)