Bigfoot Encounters

Monster Sightings rekindle interest
in Mt. St. Helens Hairy Giant Saga

1962 -- Are the legendary Hairy Giants of Mt. St. Helens, which reportedly terrorized early visitors to that area, on the march again?

Strange unidentified monsters reportedly sighted by two different groups of Portland visitors to the Washington area during the past weekend brought knowing nods from old-timers.

These "things" have been seen before.

Three persons driving along a remote mountain road east of the Cascade wilderness area early Sunday said they saw a 10-foot, white, hairy figure moving rapidly along the roadside.

It was caught in the headlights as their car passed, but they were too frightened to turn around to investigate.

Another Portland woman and her husband fishing on the Lewis River south of Mt. St. Helens saw a huge beige figure, "bigger than any human," along the bank of the river. As they watched, it moved into a thicket with a lumbering gait.

"These reports are shades of the famous Mt. St. Helens apes," according to retired Forest Ranger Marshall Stenerson, who was stationed at the ranger station for many years.

He has listened to and investigated many reports about the strange monsters that supposedly inhabit the slopes and the remote, wild country around the beautiful mountain.

Stenerson is now stationed in Portland, but while he was in charge of the mountain ranger station he instigated an investigation into the history and legends of the St. Helens area.

This investigation revealed that the stories of the hairy giants on Mt. St. Helens are older than the white man's inhabitation of the Northwest.

The Clallam Indian tribe claims these giants are the ferocious Selahtik Indians, a tribe of renegade marauder-like people , who lived like animals in the caves and lava tunnels in the high Cascades.

Evidently the white man's first encounter with the creatures was a wild one.

In 1924 Marion Smith and five miners rushed into Kelso, Washington to report that a band of great ape-like creatures had attacked them in the middle of the night. Smith said they had been working in a mine on the east side of Mt. St. Helens.

They encountered some of the hairy giants on the mountainside during the daytime and fired on them to halt an attack at that time.

One of the huge creatures was believed slain, and the body rolled over a cliff into a deep ravine, destined thereafter to be known as Ape Canyon, located on the southeastern slope of Mt. St. Helen.

The attack continued after dark, Smith reported to the Cowlitz County Sheriff, the hairy giant ape men pelted their cabin all night with rocks, and danced and screamed until daylight.

They described the mountain "devils" as being at least 7 feet tall and covered with long, black hair. Their arms were long and trailed, they said.

The "great ape hunt of 1924" followed but no apes were ever found. Reference to apes is the white man's term, the local Indians say they are renegade outcasts, -people. The sheriff led a large party out of Kelso on an eerie trip to Mt. St. Helens, with all participants armed.

They found huge footprints around the miners' cabin, but never saw what made the footprints.

Nevertheless, the miners never went back to mining in the area. Inspired by this "white man legend," an employee at the ranger station later had a lot of fun with a large foot form. From time to time he left its imprints on the lakeshore. This caused a lot of excitement, and later, when someone discovered all tracks were of the same right foot, he admitted the hoax.

However, the hairy giant legend persists today and more fuel has been added to the fire from time to time as intermittent reports have come in about persons sighting strange figures on the mountainsides, or hearing weird noises in the wilderness.

The sightings last weekend were the first reported for several years. Are the old-timers right when they surmise that the hairy ape-men may be on the move again?

© The Oregon Journal, 1962

Mount St. Helens is in Skamania County, the best access routes to the mountain run through Cowlitz County on the west. State Route 504, ... connects with the heavily traveled North-South bound Interstate Highway 5, about 34 miles to the west.

That major north-south highway skirts the low-lying cities of Castle Rock, Longview, and Kelso along the Cowlitz River and passes through Vancouver, Washington - Portland, Oregon, metropolitan area less than 50 miles to the southwest.

The community nearest the volcano is Cougar, which is in the Lewis River Valley about 11 miles south-southwest of the peak. Gifford Pinchot National Forest surrounds Mount St. Helens, but some land is Washington State land or are privately owned.
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