Sasquatch

The 'Myth' that Won't Go Extinct

Of all the so-called myths in the world—unicorns, mermaids, trolls, dragons, et al.—Sasquatch is the most persistent. The subject matter is also regularly cited in the pages of various print media: books, magazines, newspapers. The Internet is flooded with numerous websites/pages and forums devoted to the subject. Skeptics readily dismiss the tall, hirsute and mostly docile apeman-like creatures as the product of misidentification, vivid imagination, or hoaxing. But no matter how you cut it, Bigfoot just keeps rearing its ugly head, leaving countless witnesses and common folk more than a little perplexed. Even some scientists express befuddlement.

No one knows when or where the subject of Sasquatch/Bigfoot arose in the first place. Although both names—Sasquatch and Bigfoot—originated in North America, sightings of some same or similar creatures have been reported worldwide. Suffice it to say, the subject of hairy, man-like monsters may have been here forever.

When Europeans arrived in North America, they quickly learned of Native beliefs in the presence of another biped hominoid (aside from humans) traipsing around in the woods. Soon, some of the new arrivals were also claiming sightings of these creatures. But it didn’t end there. Nearly all North American indigenous peoples have a word or two referencing what we now call Sasquatch or Bigfoot: the Lummi—C’amek’wes (“hairy man”), the Hopi—Chavcyu (“giant”), the Haida—Gagiit (“wild man that lives in the woods”), the Sioux—Iktomi (“the trickster or double face”), the Coast Salish—Sasahevas (“wild man of the woods”), and on and on and on…

Hairy giants, however, didn’t make a big splash on New-World maps until 1958, when press wires erupted with accounts from a Jerry Crew of Sayler, California. Mr. Crew produced a cast of an alleged Bigfoot print from the Bluff Creek area of ‘The Golden State.’ Crew’s photos were plastered on newspapers across North America and elsewhere. Predating the Bigfoot hoopla of 1958, however, ever-quiet Canada had produced its own piece of media coverage on the subject. In 1927, reporter John W. Burns wrote that ‘Sasquatch’ was a Chehalis word for the creatures. Arguably the first-ever Sasquatch researcher, Burns’ writings about the creature found their way into The Chilliwack Progress (a British Columbia newspaper), Canada’s Liberty magazine (not to be confused with the U.S. publication of the same name), and various pulp magazines including The Wide World and SIR!. In 1929 Canada’s Maclean’s published Burns’ first known magazine article, and funny enough, the date was April 1. Burns’ article, however, was not a joke—far from it. Titled, “Introducing B.C.’s Hairy Giants,” the article predated by nearly 30 years Bigfoots’s U.S. coming out party, and it recounted Chehalis sightings and encounters near Harrison Hot Springs, British Columbia. Burns had been employed on the Chehalis Indian Reserve as an educator since 1925, and in his spare time, authored articles for a few B.C. newspapers on local history and, sometimes, about wild-man reports from the area.

Even Burns, though, was not the first to write of wild-man reports. One of the earliest newspapers accounts describing a creature resembling Bigfoot was published July 21, 1818—surprisingly not in the western portion of the U.S. (where it seems the vast majority of sightings were occurring) but in the eastern U.S. The following brief notice in The Edinburgh Advertiser cites The Apalachicola Gazette stating, “that the habituation of some unknown animal has just been discovered in the upper part of that city [Apalachicola], which has given rise to many strange conjectures. The animal at the time of the discovery was in it, but made its scape. It is said by those who saw it to resemble somewhat the baboon; and from the size of the nest, it is judged to be five feet in height, and of a carnivorous description, as many bones were found about the premises. The nest was nicely made of loose cotton between several bales.”

In the mid/late-1800s, countless newspaper articles appeared throughout the U.S. and Canada describing hairy wild-men. The reports clearly differed from reports of feral or wild humans displaced and living on the fringes—and, too, based on accounts, it appears as though witnesses were not observing gorillas, orangutans, or other known nonhuman primates.

Even a former U.S. president had something to say about an incident involving what some believe to have been a Bigfoot. In 1893, Teddy Roosevelt, authored The Wilderness Hunter, a book in which he wrote of a man named Bauman who hunted and trapped along the Idaho/Montana border. Bauman’s hunting/ trapping companion was supposedly killed by a Sasquatch (or at least something resembling one). Roosevelt wrote that in the year prior to the reported killing, another trapper’s body had been found in the same general area, mangled and torn to shreds with large, human-like, bare footprints found around the body. Whether true or not, we’ll never know; but it’s quite astounding that a former U.S. president mentioned a report of what very well may have been a Sasquatch. The purported incident has become known as ‘the Bauman story,’ and several books/magazines and documentaries on the subject of Bigfoot cite the incident.

On July 10, 1924, a group of miners claimed to have shot a Bigfoot in the Cascade Mountains of Washington. The Oregonian newspaper picked up the story two days later and ran at least eleven articles about the supposed incident over the next few days. Fred Beck, one of the miners, co-wrote a book in 1967 about the encounter. Beck’s book, I Fought the Ape Men of Mt. St. Helens, is more of a booklet at a mere 21 pages. The miners claimed that in the evening following the daytime shooting, their cabin was attacked by ape-men who hurled rocks down from above. Beck writes that the creatures jumped on the roof of the cabin and then tried to break in through the door. The men fired their rifles through the walls, door, and roof of the cabin in hope of scaring the attackers away. By daylight the attackers were mostly gone, but Beck claims that he shot at one more and most likely killed it as it toppled over the edge of a cliff. The area of the incident supposedly became known as Ape Canyon.

Beck would go on to embellish the story leaving some to wonder just how factual was the tale. In his book he wrote, “Our time spent in Mt. St. Helens was a series of psychic experiences.” He also wrote about his clairvoyance and how he believed Bigfoot to be a “missing link in consciousness, neither animal nor human.” Many years later, in 1982 (in the Los Angeles Times), Rant Mullens claimed that he and his uncle had played a prank on the miners in 1924 by rolling some rocks onto the cabin roof. He then went on to claim that the miners had embellished the story to make it appear as a Bigfoot attack. But Mullens was not the only one who had an explanation for the Beck story. A July 22, 1924 Oregonian article told of two boys who stumbled upon the cabin the day prior to the alleged attack. The boys claimed that the miners greeted them with guns and were surprised that someone had found their cabin. The boys felt that the ‘ape-man’ attack was contrived to keep others away from the isolated cabin.

Whether an attack by Bigfoot, a prank by Mullens and his uncle, or the miners’ concocting the story to keep people away from their prospecting area, the Ape Canyon story has endured for nearly a century and continues to be included in TV programs, documentaries, books, and magazine articles about Bigfoot.

The year 1924 was busy for prospectors and Sasquatch stories. Albert Ostman of British Columbia claimed to have been abducted by a Sasquatch near Toba Inlet. However, it wouldn’t be until 1957 that the world would learn of the supposed abduction when Ostman signed an affidavit and attached a handwritten account of his experience. Ostman claimed that he was alone prospecting and that one night, while sleeping under the stars, he was picked up by Sasquatch and carried for about three hours through the night over rough terrain before eventually being set down. He recounted that when he was finally able to see, there were four Sasquatch in total—what appeared to be a father and mother, son and daughter. He wondered if he was chosen to be the mate for the daughter. After a few days of living with the Sasquatch family, Ostman said that he was able to escape by offering the father a sample of his snuff. Apparently the patriarch took Ostman’s tin of snuff and swallowed its contents whole. Overwhelmed by the burning sensation, the creature ran to a nearby creek to drink, and Ostman was able to make his getaway.

Much like Beck’s account, Ostman’s has appeared in numerous books and magazine articles, TV programs, and documentaries.

While reports of Bigfoot/Sasquatch date back centuries, there are still hundreds upon hundreds of reports made annually around the world. Spending some time on the Bigfoot Researchers Field Organization’s website (http://www.bfro.net), one quickly gets a sense of just how many reports there are. In the U.S., Washington leads the way with 631 published reports. California is second with 436. In Canada, British Columbia leads the way with 130 reports, and Ontario stands at second with 67 reports. But it’s not just in North America where we find reports. Russia has a long history of ape-men sightings. Referred to as Almas, even the government has been involved with funding conferences and expeditions. China’s search for the Yeren (a seemingly slightly smaller version of Bigfoot) has also been funded by the government. Australia has the Yowie; and, of course, the Yeti (or Abominable Snowman) haunts the Himalayan mountain ranges.

 

Could It Be Real?

One of the biggest misconceptions concerning Sasquatch, if they do indeed exist, is that there is only one. It certainly doesn’t help that the most commonly used name for the purported animal is ‘Bigfoot’—a singular name. But even researchers cannot agree to what the proper pluralization of either Bigfoot or Sasquatch should be. Some argue that two Bigfoot are ‘Bigfeet,’ while others prefer ‘Bigfoots.’ Others prefer to treat Bigfoot as they would a deer, moose, or fish, and keep the singular and plural the same. Sasquatch can also be used interchangeably either as singular or plural. Sometimes written is the word, ‘Sasquatches’ (or more commonly now, ‘Squatches’). Regardless, if Bigfoot (Bigfeet? Bigfoots?) are real, surely there is more than one—especially considering eyewitness reports are coming in from one end of North America to the other, and from Australia to Russia—and sometimes on the same day!

But the bigr question remains: Do these creatures actually exist? Without a type specimen, the answer is not so easy. Believers (who sometimes like to be referred to as ‘knowers’) and skeptics constantly argue back and forth. The ‘knowers’ cite the numerous reported eyewitness accounts by credible and fauna-friendly eyewitnesses from all walks of life (hunters, trappers, fishermen, Police Officers, etc.). The ‘knowers’ also refer to the long-standing oral tradition of the Native Peoples referencing hairy giants. The skeptics counter with one glaring question; where are the bones? And that scathing question has been the Achilles heel of many Sasquatch researchers. Some researchers reference Gigantopithecus, a known and presumed extinct hominoid, as a distant relative of Sasquatch. The skeptics argue that Gigantopithecus bones have never been found in North America. So, the argument is cyclical (if not silly at times) with both sides citing valid points.

Retired biologist, Dr. John Bindernagel of Courteney, B.C., has spent nearly half a century looking into the subject of Sasquatch. Bindernagel has concluded that there are, as yet classified, hairy hominoids running amok in North America. Among scientists, Bindernagel doesn’t stand alone. Dr. Jeff Meldrum of Idaho State University agrees with him. Even world-renowned geneticist Bryan Sykes of Oxford University has taken a serious interest in the subject. Dr. Jane Goodall gives credence to the matter; and on September 27, 2002, when interviewed on National Public Radio’s Science Friday show, Goodall said, concerning Bigfoot: “You’ll be amazed when I tell you that I’m sure that they exist.” However, it seems that the vast majority of scientists don’t even bat an eye, and instead roll their eyes, when the subject of Sasquatch is discussed.

DNA sequencing, much to do with the work of leading geneticist Bryan Sykes, has made many strides in recent years. With nothing more than a fragment of DNA (be it a hair sample, saliva, skin, etc.) geneticists can determine the species of an animal within minutes. But the process relies on matching known animals with known DNA samples. How do you match unknown DNA with an animal that’s not identified in the GenBank? Researchers find footprints, presumably left by Sasquatch; they cast them and present them to scientists. While the footprints and casts may be intriguing, they don’t provide DNA. Make no bones about it—we need bones!

As long as reported sightings of Sasquatch continue, the hairy giants will remain a topic of controversy. Inevitably, a cadaver and/or some bones must be retrieved before status quo scientists will take a serious look at the subject. Photos/videos, footprints, vocalizations, and eyewitness accounts are simply not enough to convince skeptics. Take, for example, the Patterson/Gimlin film from October 20, 1967, that is said to show a female Bigfoot strolling along a creek-bed of Bluff Creek, California. For 50 years now, it has remained a contentious topic and has certainly not ended the controversy. Bigfoot enthusiasts endorse the film, arguing that it shows a bona fide Sasquatch. Skeptics scoff at the endorsement and argue that the film shows nothing more than a man in a gorilla suit.

So for now, Sasquatch remains a persistent enigma—whether in the vastness of our minds or in the vastness of our wilderness.

 

Author Todd Prescott has, himself, been known to trek the wilderness in search of Sasquatch.

By Todd Prescott