Nevada City, CA — Not long ago, if you talked with some of the Nevada County old timers invariably the topic of  Red Dog Jim would come up. The circumstances behind James H. Barnes’ 1941 death are still a mystery. According to scant police records, Mr. Barnes was apparently walking alone towards Truckee during the early morning hours of September 6th, 1941 on what is now Highway 20. He was struck and killed by what the Sheriff assumes was another driver and died instantly. His body was thrown from the road, down the hillside and was not discovered until over a week later by a prospector.

Ever since that night, during the month of September drivers have reported seeing a ghostly apparition hitchhiking towards Scotts Flat Lake. Most people believe this to be Red Dog Jim.

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“I had to drive into town to get some toilet paper,” said Stacy Grant of Nevada City who was camping with her family and friends at Scotts Flat Lake over the Labor Day weekend. “And on my way back up the hill, I saw a woman hitchhiking in one of the turnouts. I thought, ‘well that ain’t right, I should at least stop and see if he’s OK.'”

It was then that Ms. Grant pulled into the turnout to see if the woman required help.

“But when I pulled into the turnout, he–how do I explain it–drifted away and down the hillside. When my car lights hit him, he was glowing and fuzzy. Then the car got real cold and I got real scared, so I just drove off. But not before snapping a picture of it.”

Over the years many people have reported the same apparition along that stretch of Highway 20. The circumstances are almost always the same:

  1. The driver is alone at night
  2. Red Dog Jim is spotted along the side of the road appearing to be hitchhiking
  3. When the driver pulls over, Jim appears to flee from the car and disappear down the hillside
  4. Most drivers report feeling very cold just before the apparition disappears
Photograph of Red Dog Jim taken by Ritchie Bivin in September of 1957.
Photograph of Red Dog Jim taken by Ritchie Bivin in September of 1957.

The first known photograph of Red Dog Jim was taken by Richard “Ritchie” Bivin on the night of September 14th, 1957.

Like Ms. Grant above, he was making his way alone when he spotted the ghost. Luckily he had an Agfa Super Isolette camera with him, which was a gift from his father who brought it back from the war. He managed to snap a photograph just before Jim disappeared. His photo, to this day, is the most terrifying version of Red Dog Jim.

What’s remarkable about Ritchie’s photograph, is one can make out the face of Jim although he appears to be horribly crippled. According to Mr. Bivin’s son Ken, his father never spoke about the incident, and other family members were forbidden from mentioning is.

“According to Mom, Dad was really messed up by it,” said Ken Bivin in a Beacon telephone interview. “He was not a superstitious man, but Mom certainly believed in spirits and ghosts. She insisted that he get the film developed, and he did. But no one was ever allowed to discuss that night. It wasn’t until after his passing in 2010 that I began to circulate his story and the photograph around the Internet.”

If you have any information about Red Dog Jim, and/or have pictures of the apparition, the Beacon would like to hear from you. We’re offering a reward for verifiable pictures. Please contact us if you have any additional information.