Bigfoot Encounters

Argosy Magazine, April 1969

Wisconsin's "Abominable Snowman"
by Ivan T. Sanderson, Science Editor


Argosy investigates a startling report of a dozen reliable witnesses, and finds these remarkable tracks. My question was addressed to six of the men seated around the microphone, and it was deliberately somewhat vague. It was: "Gentlemen, before we get down to the facts, I want each of you who were on the hunt to tell me, one at a time, what you first thought this creature was when you spotted it."

Richard and Pete Vanderberg, Bob Parry, Dick Bleier, Bill Mallo and Dick Telloch took their time in answering, but all their answers were legitimate because they gave me their first impressions first and then their efforts at rationalizing. For three of those present, it was a second encounter, which I did not discover until later. These three are local men and were bow-and-arrow hunting on the nineteenth of October last year in the same large swamp, known as the Deltox Marsh, in which they, in company with nine others, encountered the creature again on a deer drive on November thirtieth. All three spontaneously said that their first impression was one of complete incomprehension. They "didn't know what it was." Bob Parry, who was up in a tree scanning the huge swamp with its stands of trees and meandering tongues of bushes and scrub, saw it first and had it under observation at the closest range and for the longest time. He said his second impression, when he had recovered from his initial surprise, was that it was a lone hunter dressed in a very silly way. Both Dick Bleier and Bill Mallo, having seen it from the ground and much less clearly, due to the patches of bushes, could only give rather long accounts of their first attempt at rationalization, and during this both thought it might be a bear but, they added, they had immediately changed this to "some crazy hunter" or "more like an ape."

By the time of the deer drive six weeks later, these three had all come to the conclusion that it was not a bear, because of its very long legs and the speed and silence with which it moved — which our black bear cannot do when standing upright — nor a hunter. This puzzled me, especially because the other three present, who had seen it only once on the drive, all said that their first impression had been of a bear standing upright, but when it "sort of danced around and then got in behind the bushes," as Dick Telloch put it, their second thoughts also were that it was a man. When it came to third and subsequent thoughts, all six reached the conclusion that it was neither bear nor man, and they debated the possibilities for us around the microphone. Finally, they came up with a combined notion (approved by all present) that it was some kind of a man that behaved like an ape, and more particularly like a chimpanzee. This, of course, prompted my next and most obvious question:

"You mean a man wearing a monkey suit, putting on a sort of act?"

There was a guffaw from everybody at the table except my traveling companion, Dr. Bernard Heuvelmans of the Royal Institute of Natural Sciences of Belgium, who has spent a lifetime tracking down reported but as yet uncaught animals. Joining most heartily in this explosion was Larry McKevit, a police officer and local game warden, who had actually supervised the drive. Accompanying this outburst were cries of "It would have been suicide!"

Somewhat taken aback and asking what this was all about, I got the answer: "You don't know the hunters who come up here in the deer season." And it's the truth. Anybody who dressed himself up in a monkey suit and then danced around in the open in front of a line of even local hunters, giving his famous imitation of a dancing bear or a distraught, escaped ape, could only be intent on suicide. Not even an "escapee" from a city on his first hunt would wear his wife's fur coat or a furry parka.

Twelve men made a drive through this Deltox Marsh, moving abreast at about twenty paces apart. The game warden was out to observe the start of the drive just to check out the hunters and see that all was legal and in order, but he remained on one of the roads that surround the swamp. He did not see the creature, and he had gone elsewhere by the time the party came out at the other end of the swamp about three miles away. This swamp, some four by two miles in extent, is surrounded by farmlands dotted with numerous woods, thickets, and marshes which are overgrown with three- to four-foot-tall canary grass. There are two large, springfed "dew ponds," locally called "fountains," in this swamp — one to the north, one near the center.

In addition to the six men already named, there were on the drive, Kurt Krueger, Artie Telloch, Lester Zuehlke, Don Svacina, Romy Svacina and a visitor from Milwaukee. An interesting point is that their ages ranged from twelve to fifty-five, and three of them have been in the armed forces. All saw the thing at the same time though some closer than others and some for a longer time, while Don Svacina and Artie Telloch got too dim a sight of it to comment.

Shortly after entering the more open grass-filled central area of the swamp, the three on the left wing suddenly spotted something black standing in the grass which reached only about half-way up its thighs. They didn't shoot; it was manlike. Confused, they called the line to a halt and passed the word along. The creature then began to walk to their left. Moving forward as quietly as possible, they wheeled around and got very close to it.

The creature then began to retreat but, when they stopped, it stopped, and when they moved back, it came toward them. It finally moved into the thickets in the direction of some woodland to the northwest. They tried to follow but the brush was too thick so they circled around as fast as they could with a view to heading it off or to be waiting for it to emerge on the road beyond — on which, incidentally, they had left their cars. There they watched for a considerable time but it did not appear.

The composite description of the creature that emerged was that of a large and powerfully built man covered with short, very dark brown or black hair and (as invariably in descriptions of these creatures) with a lighter and hairless face and hairless palms. The head appeared smallish, also with short hair, but the neck appeared to be enormous and so short as to be almost nonexistent. The shoulders were very wide and large and the torso barrel shaped. In a six-way discussion at our interview some time was spent on the proportionate length of the arms, body and legs. Analyzing this exchange (from the tape), it seems that while the body seemed to be very long, this was due to the absence of any noticeable waist. All of them said that it tapered from the shoulders right to the hips. As for a description of the legs, they could only guess since the creature was standing in grass which they estimated to be between three and four feet tall. Some at first said the legs were short; others that they were long — but this was before they decided that they should speak of their length in proportion to the body rather than in comparison to a man or an ape. Then they agreed that they would be of about average length for a tall man, since the grass did not reach to the crotch. But it was concerning the arms that all seemed agreed, feeling that they were exceptionally long for a man.

I can vouch for these young men's honesty, their sincerity and exceptional intelligence because we gave them a pretty thorough and skillful interrogation. Bernard Heuvelmans was once nicknamed "The Sherlock Holmes of Zoology" on his French TV Science Series. Trained zoologists can set some deadly traps for non-zoologists.

This may be summarized. First, they agreed, it did not seem to be afraid. And they felt sure it had seen them from the outset. Its movements were almost leisurely and it seemed to deliberately come out from behind the bushes several times to observe them. Altogether it impressed them, as it had done the three previously in October, as being distinctly curious and even inquisitive and rather bold in its approach to them, though duly cautious in that it retreated before them and kept at a safe distance. Of its body motions, they had much to say. It walked just like a man, but slightly forward and with a sort of swinging motion of the arms. On more than one occasion, it seemed deliberately to try to attract their attention "by sort of jumping around."

Now, all this, and a tremendous amount of further hints and details contained in our taped record, on analysis, adds up to but one thing — a Hominid. This means something on the human branch of the general anthropoid tree rather than on that of the apes or Pongids. In view of the fact that there never have been any wild apes in North America, and that they are such very valuable specimens in zoos, circuses and laboratories that, if one got away, it would be immediately reported and also because it is very doubtful that any known ape could survive in Wisconsin into the fall, this leaves us with only two alternatives: either it was a deranged person in a monkey suit attempting suicide, or it was one of the half-dozen or so kinds of man-creatures that we call collectively ABSMs [Abominable Snowmen].

Finally, it came as a considerable surprise to us to learn during the interview I describe above, that this particular specimen or one just like it was seen on no less than five occasions in that immediate area last fall. Sometime in the early fall a Mr. Freeman encountered just the same thing in an area known as the Lebanon Swamp; Parry, Bleier and Mallo ran into it on the nineteenth of November; there was this drive on the thirtieth of November, and the next night, a Mr. and Mrs. Stan Penkala almost ran into it on one of the nearby roads. Then, as we were concluding our interview, four young local men came in to say that some youngsters had just led them to two long trails of tracks in the fresh but slightly crusted snow, again adjacent to the Deltox Marsh.

I am afraid that this development seemed too pat. We went to see the tracks and they displayed some very dubious features that would have been puzzling enough if they had been found on the top of the Himalayas. By this I mean they looked more than suspiciously "man-made" in that they were enormous individually but had exactly the same stride as my own, while both sets either appeared out of deep wood into which we had not the time or means at night to follow them back to their point of origin, or started from a blacktop road and cut across open fields to another thick wood. Also, on one occasion, they stepped over a waist-high barbed wire fence without messing the snow or leaving any hairs. But perhaps we went to look at these tracks in too skeptical a mood, and our appraisal may have been prejudiced.

© Argosy Magazine, Ivan Sanderson

Sanderson, Ivan Terrence. (1911-1973)
Sanderson received degrees with honors in geology, zoology and botany and headed six expeditions in all parts of the world for such groups as the British museum, Cambridge and London Universities, the Linnaean Societies of London and the Chicago Natural History Museum. He was the author of many books; one, "Animal Treasures" was a Book Of The Month selection in 1937. Others include,
The Hairy Primitives of Ancient Europe” 1967," "Caribbean Treasure,"  "Animals Nobody Knows," "Living treasure," "Animal Tales," "How to Know American Mammals, "  "The Monkey Kingdom," and "Living Mammals of the World.” The Abominable Snowmen, Legend Come to Life” written in 1961 and countless articles for various publications and Argosy Magazine where he was ‘science editor.'

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