In search of Sasquatch
John Bringsli’s sighting was immortalized as one of the Six Mile Lakes
that came to be known as "Sasquatch Lake"
|(Greg Nesteroff photo) October 07, 2010 -- John Bringsli always maintained what stopped him in his tracks near the Six Mile Lakes that day in 1960 was “definitely not a bear.” Whatever it was, it made headlines 50 years ago this week in West Kootenay’s first — and still best documented — Sasquatch sighting.
Bringsli, a bartender at various Nelson hotels, staked his 35 years experience as a woodsman on the tale. It happened around 8 a.m. during a solo huckleberry picking expedition at the head of Lemon Creek.
“I had just stopped my 1931 coupe on a deserted logging road... and walked about 100 yards into the bush,” he recalled at the time. “I had just started to pick berries and was moving slowly through the bush. I had only been there about 15 minutes.
“For no particular reason, I glanced up and that’s when I saw this great beast. It was standing about 50 feet away on a slight rise in the ground, staring at me.”
The sight of the creature “paralyzed” him. He described it as seven to nine feet tall, with long legs and short, powerful arms. Its body was covered with hair.
“The first thing I thought was... what a strange looking bear. It had very wide shoulders and a flat face with ears flat against the side of its head. It looked more like a big hairy ape... [M]ost astonishing was that it had hands, not claws.”
Its hair, he said, was bluish-grey.
“It had no neck. Its ape-like head appeared to be fastened directly to its wide shoulders.”
Bringsli, 57, stood gawking at the creature for two minutes, and then it began to shuffle toward him. At that point, he hurled his pail into the bush, sprinted the 100 yards to his car, and sped home.
The next day he returned with friends, armed with high-powered rifles and cameras, but didn’t find the creature. They did locate one track that measured 16 to 17 inches long. It had no claw marks, but a “sharp toe” print, as Bringsli described it.
Once word got out, a local businessman offered $1,000 for the beast’s capture and said he was willing to provide lumber to build a cage for it. He later retracted the offer.
Another Nelson resident entered a bar claiming to have a picture of the animal, snapped at Canal Flats three years earlier. It turned out to a photo of a baboon he’d received the previous Christmas.
An anonymous caller told the Nelson Daily News that F.W. Klee of Nelson was “forming a group to take to the mountains in search of the beast.” Klee denied it, and said he was willing to let the practical joker lead the group if there was one.
Another businessman offered the Chamber of Commerce a donation to start a search party.
The Chamber, however, was more interested in finding a name for the creature. They received several suggestions, including two from prospector Carl Noel of Vancouver: “Being able to speak Kootenay Indian dialect and having lived among the Indians, he suggested the terms Windego, meaning wildman, originally from the Beaver tribe, and Keek-oolie-tyee, meaning Devil Man.” None of the names caught on.
Bringsli returned to the area that fall and the following spring, prowling the bush with a shotgun. But he endured ridicule for his story and ultimately stopped talking about it. He did, however, open up to John Green.
Now 82 and retired at Harrison Hot Springs, Green recalls Bringsli “was back there about a year later and saw an ape shape on the trail ahead of him at night.” He also has a file card quoting Bringsli: “‘Doukhobor man logging up Kokanee Glacier Road had logs dumped off a truck by a Sasquatch which they saw.’ He will not tell me names.”
Green considered Bringsli a credible witness — “I don’t have any doubt he saw it” — and included his tale in the book Sasquatch: The Apes Among Us.
When John Bringsli died in 1970, his obituary said nothing about Sasquatch, only mentioning his “special interest” in growing roses.
The body of water closest to the sighting was unofficially named Sasquatch Lake, and today signs denote the Sasquatch Lake recreation area.
The Columbia Brewery also adopted Sasquatch as its mascot for Kokanee beer and decided it must live on Kokanee Glacier, not far from where Bringsli saw it.
Sidebar: Politics and Sasquatch common interests for Kaslo family
Although they were best known for their involvement in politics, interest in Sasquatch also ran in Kaslo’s Green family.
John Green, considered the dean of Sasquatch hunters, is the son of Howard Green, an MP and cabinet minister in the Diefenbaker government. Howard’s father Samuel and uncle Robert took turns as mayor of Kaslo, and Robert also served as an MLA, MP, and senator.
John’s cousin Roy Green, another Kaslo mayor, made a plaster cast of what he believed to be a 17-inch long Sasquatch footprint in late 1978.
Rex Alexander, 19, discovered the tracks while deer hunting in dense brush.
“The first one was in fairly soft soil,” he said. “I could see three toe prints clearly and there were three others, all with toe prints. They were sunk way down and the shape of the foot was really different.”
He and Green were convinced they weren’t a hoax.
“A creature made it,” Green said. “There’s no way I can see it is anything but authentic. There’s no possibility of a hoax because it was in an area not subject to trespass.”
“They were way off in the bush,” Alexander added. “It was just a fluke that I came across them.”
Where is that plaster cast now?
— Greg Nesteroff
For more on John Bringsli see: http://www.bigfootencounters.com/articles/bringsli.htm
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