This is the third in a three-part series exploring TV shows and movies filmed in Snohomish County. Part one focused on Everett and part two was on Monroe.
INDEX — Mark Klein was driving down U.S. Route 2 three decades ago when a for sale sign caught his eye. He knocked on the door of the property outside Index and was met by a man in a cowboy hat with a shotgun in arms reach.
It was only later Klein learned the man he spoke to was not the owner — he was a squatter — and one of the buildings on the lot was a piece of Hollywood history. About five years earlier the film “Harry and the Hendersons” was shot there. And Klein’s purchase turned it into a tourist attraction.
“Harry and the Hendersons” (1987)
This comedy starring John Lithgow follows a Seattle family who adopt a Sasquatch after accidentally hitting it with their station wagon. Shenanigans ensue. “Harry and the Hendersons” won an Oscar for Best Makeup and had a spin-off TV series.
In one scene, Lithgow’s character drives past Lake Serene to visit a Bigfoot expert at the “North American Museum of Anthropology,” a roadside attraction consisting of a worn-out shack covered in wooden signs and the kinds of multi-colored stringed flags seen at car dealerships.
Part of the structure is a Quonset hut, a type of prefabricated metal structure in the shape of a half cylinder. Klein said the film studio installed it on the site of a former gas station near Index. It’s also shown earlier in the film when the expert is confronted by a legendary Bigfoot hunter. In both scenes, the hut’s insides are never shown and the outside is on screen for a little over 30 seconds total.
Patrica Fay, of Camano Island, worked on the film as a location manager. Most of it was shot at a house in Seattle’s Wallingford neighborhood. She remembers Lithgow as nice, funny and “great to work with,” but doesn’t recall anything about the museum scene, saying “I might have once, but I don’t know now.”
Behind where the museum stood is a gorgeous view of Mount Index, which is one of the reasons Klein wanted to buy the land. He believed it to be a prime location for a coffee cart, and time would prove him right.
Klein launched Espresso Chalet in 1991 and is one of the longest-running coffee stands in Snohomish County. Beverages are sold out of an eight-by-eight 1961 Lil Loafer trailer parked underneath a shelter Klein built where the main part of the museum once stood. The Quonset hut still resembles the museum from the movie. The main difference is color. Klein said it “was brown and ugly” so he repainted it to a “bright and cheerful” green.
The hut is closed off to the public and is only used to store extra cups and lids, but that hasn’t stopped people from coming to see it. A big draw are the three wood carvings of Harry on display. Klein said half of his visitors come to snap a picture next to his most recent carving. It is 14 feet tall and an exact copy of the Sasquatch from the film.
“That’s the one I always say Marshawn Lynch can’t knock over,” Klein said. “He is a brute, and has stood up to 80 mile an hour winds.”
Klein said “Harry was so iconic.” By having a place to buy merchandise, take photos and see a place from the film, “We carry on a tradition from Hollywood here.”
“Captain Fantastic” (2016)
Viggo Mortensen, most notable for his role as Aragorn in “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy, traveled to the Sky Valley to film a dramedy about a family living off-the-grid trying to assimilate back into society.
The Monroe Monitor and Valley News reported on the filming near Index and Gold Bar. Electric City Entertainment executive Jess Engel told the newspaper their location manager Dave Drummond lived in the area and scouted it for the film crew.
“We couldn’t have done it without him,” Engel told the Monitor. “The director and producers are from out of town, so we rely heavily on locals who know the hidden gems to find our locations.”
The fields next to Espresso Chalet were used as a staging ground for cast and crew. During a conversation with a crewmember, Klein mentioned he freelanced as a professional sports photographer and shot for the Seattle Seahawks. He was then asked to shoot a rafting trip Mortensen would be a part of, “and of course I was delighted to do so,” Klein said.
Mortensen was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actor for his role in “Captain Fantastic,” which premiered at the Cannes Film Festival.
“Z Nation” (2016)
This series that aired on the SyFy channel is about a group of survivors in a zombie apocalypse also filmed in the area in 2016. The season 3 episode titled “Everyone Dies in the End,” opens with the group picking up a hitchhiking zombie and then driving down the roads and fields near Index. The Whidbey News-Times reported the show typically filmed near Spokane but spent about three weeks in Snohomish and Island counties for a change of scenery. A show producer told the newspaper the season finale, the episode following the one filmed near Index, was 95% filmed at Fort Casey State Park.
Peter “Drago” Tiemann, of Albuquerque, New Mexico, worked on “Z Nation” as a stunt performer and special effects coordinator. He said the filmmakers set their sites on Snohomish County as they needed plenty of space and Index was “really open to filming.”
Espresso Chalet, again, was used as a staging ground by the crew. Tiemann said they were looking for a “nice show car” for the opening scene when they noticed Klein’s 1966 Chevrolet Chevelle, and he agreed to rent it to the production.
“It happens a lot in film, you’d be surprised,” Tiemann said. “A lot of times you’ll be out looking at cool things, and all of a sudden something else catches your eye.”
“The Stairs” (2021)
Espresso Chalet makes another appearance in this indie supernatural horror film about a group of hikers who stumble upon a mysterious staircase deep in the woods. Klein said he cameos as a “creepy old barista” in the movie. His cart is shown covered in missing posters and he warns two hikers that people disappear on nights when the blood moon is out.
The film, starring Academy Award nominee Kathleen Quinlan, was a passion project Tiemann co-wrote and directed. At the time he lived in Washington and he and his writing partner decided to shoot near Index because they wanted a rural forest and were familiar with the area. Tiemann remembered Klein from his time working on “Z Nation” and consulted him about potential film locations.
Three-quarters of “The Stairs” was filmed near Index, with the rest shot at Shoreview Park in Shoreline and at a friend’s property in Snohomish. During pre-production, Tiemann got the idea to not just use Espresso Chalet as a base camp, but to incorporate it into the story and cast Klein and his wife Sandy.
“He’s just a character in himself, him and Sandy,” Tiemann said. “They’re really personable, really nice people, and I just really wanted to throw them in there.”