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Just in Time for Scary Season, Fisherman’s Wharf Has a New Bushman

Written by Morgan EllisPublished Oct. 18, 2022 • 8:00am
Passersby are scared by the Bay Area Bushman, or San Jose native Cory Barnette, when he shakes his branches at them unexpectedly on Oct. 14, 2022. | Morgan Ellis/The Standard

English

If you’re into watching “best scare pranks” on YouTube or TikTok, you may have noticed some new content coming out of Fisherman’s Wharf recently.

That’s because there’s a new Bushman in town—Cory Barnette of San Jose—who’s taken on the baton of scaring people while dressed in fake foliage, as his predecessors and former Bushmen Gregory Jacobs and David Johnson once did. (Jacobs passed away in 2014, and Johnson retired in 2019.)

@sfstandard

The Bushman is back! San Jose native Cory Barnette is filling the shoes of the previous San Francisco icon, who has been missed at Fisherman’s Wharf since 2019. Have you spotted him?🪴👀 #bayareabushman #sf #sanfrancisco #sfnews #fishermanswharf #pier39 #sfstandard

♬ Punch Tropical – Mellowdrastic

It’s an iconic, long-running San Francisco prank: A man disguised as a bush jumps at unassuming passersby—often tourists—as they walk nearby. Screams, shouts and eventually laughs ensue.

Now, Barnette arrives at Pier 39 early most weekends to settle into his alter ego as the “Bay Area Bushman” for an afternoon of spooking. 

Passersby laugh at the discovery of the Bay Area Bushman’s disguise near Pier 39 in San Francisco on Oct. 14, 2022. Cory Barnette, the person behind the revived prank, has been doing it for almost three months. | Morgan Ellis/The Standard
Cory Barnette dresses as his alter ego, the Bay Area Bushman, hopefully bringing back memories of the historic Fisherman’s Wharf icon in San Francisco on Oct. 14, 2022. Barnette, like the original Bushman, sits disguised in fake shrubs and scares people who pass by without seeing him first. | Morgan Ellis/The Standard

“When I first started, I was kinda nervous about the whole thing. Like, putting the bush suit on in front of people,” Barnette said. “But people are just smiling and laughing like, ‘I know what you’re doing.’” 

Barnette was inspired by social media content portraying the classic prank, and he’s been at it himself for almost three months. Now 33, Barnette also remembers watching the original Bushman as a child.

People walk by Cory Barnette, who is disguised as the Bay Area Bushman near Pier 39 in San Francisco on Oct. 14, 2022. | Morgan Ellis/The Standard
A woman playfully mocks the Bay Area Bushman as she walks by near Pier 39 in San Francisco on Oct. 14, 2022. | Morgan Ellis/The Standard

Nostalgia seems to be a shared theme, as numerous scare victims on a recent Friday could be heard exclaiming “The Bushman is back!” after recovering from being spooked.

Barnette approaches the Bushman identity with great care and positivity, scanning the streets only for people that seem up for the prank. Contrary to the arguably severe nature of the previous Bushman, Barnette often doesn’t try to frighten people when they’re by themselves. If they are alone, there’s no one to share the laugh with, he said, and it’s more embarrassing than fun. Rather, he’ll more subtly make his presence known with a “How are you doing?” or a “Have a wonderful day.’’

But it’s true that some passersby make better victims than others: People immersed in conversation or looking down at their phones are the most ideal candidates, said Barnette, as are blissfully unaware children. 

See Also

A child laughs after discovering the disguise of the Bay Area Bushman near Pier 39 in San Francisco on Oct. 14, 2022. Cory Barnette, the man behind the shrub costume, loves to see the reactions of families passing by because it reminds him of his own childhood memories. | Morgan Ellis/The Standard
Cory Barnette, dressed in his Bay Area Bushman disguise, shakes his branches at people walking by to try and surprise them. | Morgan Ellis/The Standard

“I call it next-level people-watching,” said Barnette. People’s reactions to the prank provide a glimpse into their personalities.

That was certainly the case Friday, when people mesmerized by the Bushman’s act lingered after their own scaring to watch others fall into the same fate.

“I talk to people all the time. People give tips, they watch for 30-40 minutes and say it was the best entertainment of the day,” Barnette said.

“I think people are looking for something like that, something to bring everybody together.”

English

Morgan Ellis can be reached at [email protected]


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