British Columbia's Hairy Giants
By J. W. Burns
© MacLean's Magazine
A collection of strange tales about British Columbia's wild men
Are the vast mountain solitudes of British Columbia, of which but very few have been so far, explored, populated by a hairy race of giants-men not ape-like men?
Persistent rumors led the writer to make diligent enquiries among old Indians. The question relating to the subject was always, or nearly always, evaded with the trite excuse: "The white man don't believe, he make joke of the Indian." But after three years of plodding, I have come into possession of information more definite and authentic than has come to light at any previous time. Disregarding rumor and hearsay, I have prevailed upon men who claim they had actual contact with these hairy giants, to tell what they know about them. Their stories are set down here in good faith.
The Wild Man at Agassiz
At Agassiz, near the close of September, 1927, Indian hop-pickers were having their annual picnic. A few of the younger people volunteered to pick a mess of berries on a wooded hillside, a short way from the picnic grounds. They had only started to pick, when out of the bush stepped a naked hairy giant. He was first noticed by a girl of the party, who was so badly frightened that she fell unconscious to the ground. The girl's sudden collapse was seen by an Indian named Point, of Vancouver, and as he ran to her assistance, was astonished to see a giant a few feet away, who continued to walk with an easy gait across the wooded slope in the direction of the Canadian Pacific railway tracks.
Since the foregoing paragraph was written, Mr. Point, replying to an enquiry, has kindly forwarded the following letter to me, in which he tells of his experience with the hairy giant:
"He was twice as big as the average man, with hands so long that they almost touched the ground. It seemed to me that his eyes were very large and the lower part of his nose was wide and spread over the greater part of his face, which gave the creature such a frightful appearance that I ran away as fast as I could. After a minute or two I looked back and saw that he resumed his journey. The girl had fled before I left, and she ran so fast that I did not overtake her until I was close to Agassiz, where we told the story of our adventure to the Indians who were still enjoying themselves. Old Indians who were present said: the wild man was no doubt a "Sasquatch," a tribe of hairy people whom they claim have always lived in the mountains - in tunnels and caves."
Do hairy giants inhabit the mountain solitudes of British Columbia? Many Indians, besides those quoted, are sincerely convinced that the "Sasquatch," a few of them at least, still live in the little known interior of the province. Peter Williams lives on the Chehalis Reserve. I believe that he is a reliable as well as an intelligent Indian. He gave me the following thrilling account of his experience with these people.
Peter's Encounter with the Giant, 1907
One evening in the month of May twenty years ago," he said, "I was walking along the foot of the mountain about a mile from the Chehalis Reserve. I thought I heard a noise something like a grunt nearby. Looking in the direction in which it came, I was startled to see what I took at first sight to be a huge bear crouched upon a boulder twenty or thirty feet away. I raised my rifle to shoot it, but, as I did, the creature stood up and let out a piercing yell. It was a man - a giant, no less than six and one-half feet in height, and covered with hair. He was in a rage and jumped from the boulder to the ground. I fled, but not before I felt his breath upon my cheek.
"I never ran so fast before or since - through brush and undergrowth toward the Statloo, or Chehalis River, where my dugout was moored. From time to time, I looked back over my shoulder. The giant was fast overtaking me - a hundred feet separated us; another look and the distance measured less than fifty - then the Chehalis and in a moment the dugout shot across the stream to the opposite bank. The swift river, however, did not in the least daunt the giant, for he began to wade it immediately.
"I arrived home almost worn out from running and I felt sick. Taking an anxious look around the house, I was relieved to find the wife and children inside. I bolted the door and barricaded it with everything at hand. Then with my rifle ready, I stood near the door and awaited his coming."
Peter added that if he had not been so much excited he could easily have shot the giant when he began to wade the river. After an anxious waiting of twenty minutes," resumed the Indian, "I heard a noise approaching like the trampling of a horse. I looked through a crack in the old wall. It was the giant. Darkness had not yet set in and I had a good look at him. Except that he was covered with hair and twice the bulk of the average man, there was nothing to distinguish him from the rest of us. He pushed against the wall of the old house with such force that it shook back and forth. The old cedar shook and timbers creaked and groaned so much under the strain that I was afraid it would fall down and kill us. I whispered to the old woman to take the children under the bed." Peter pointed out what remained of the old house in which he lived at the time, explaining that the giant treated it so roughly that it had to be abandoned the following winter.
"After prowling and grunting like an animal around the house," continued Peter, "he went away. We were glad, for the children and the wife were uncomfortable under the old bedstead. Next morning I found his tracks in the mud around the house, the biggest of either man or beast I had ever seen. The tracks measured twenty-two inches in length, but narrow in proportion to their length."
The following winter while shooting wild duck on that part of the reserve Indians call the "prairie," which is on the north side of the Harrison River and about two miles from the Chehalis village. Peter once more came face to face with the same hairy giant. The Indian ran for dear life, followed by the wild man, but after pursuing him for three or four hundred yards the giant gave up the chase.
Old village Indians, who called upon Peter to hear of his second encounter, nodded their heads sagely, shrugged their shoulders, and for some reason not quite clear, seemed not to wish the story to gain further publicity.
In the afternoon of the same day another Indian by the name of Paul was chased from the creek, where he was fishing for salmon, by the same individual. Paul was in a state of terror, for unlike Peter he had no gun. A short distance from his shack the giant suddenly quit and walked into the bush. Paul, exhausted from running, fell in the snow and had to be carried home by his mother and others of the family.
"The first and second time," Peter went on, "I was all alone when I met this strange mountain creature. Then, early in the spring of the fellowing year, another man and myself were bear hunting near the place where I first met him. On this occasion we ran into two of these giants. They were sitting on the ground. At first we thought they were old tree stumps, but when we were within fifty feet or so, they suddenly stood up and we came to an immediate stop. Both were nude. We were close enough to know that they were man and woman. The woman was the smaller of the two, but neither of them as big or fierce-looking as the giant that chased me. We ran home, but they did not follow us."
One morning, some few weeks after this, Peter and his wife were fishing in a canoe on the Harrison River, near Harrison Bay. Paddling round a neck of land they saw, on the beach within a hundred feet of them, the giant Peter had met the previous year. We stood for a long time looking at him." said the Indian, "but he took no notice of us - that was the last time," concluded Peter, "I saw him."
Peter remarked that his father and numbers of old Indians knew that wild men lived in caves in the mountains - had often seen them. He wished to make it clear that these creatures were in no way related to the Indian. He believes there are a few of them living at present in the mountains near Agassiz.
Charley Victor's Story
Charley Victor belongs to the Skwah Reserve near Chilliwack. In his younger days he was known as one of the best hunters in the province and had many thrilling adventures in his time.
Did he know anything about the hairy ape-like men who were supposed to inhabit the distant mountains? Charley smiled, and answered that he had a slight acquaintance with them. He had been in what he thought was one of their houses. "And that is not all," said he. "I met and spoke to one of their women, and I shot..." But let Charley tell the story himself.
"The strange people, of whom there are but few now - rarely seen and seldom met - " said the old hunter, "are known by the name of Sasquatch, or, 'the hairy mountain men'.
"The first time I came to know about these people," continued the old man, "I did not see anybody. Three young men and myself were picking salmonberries on a rocky mountain slope some five or six miles from the old town of Yale. In our search for berries we suddenly stumbled upon a large opening in the side of the mountain. This discovery greatly surprised all of us, for we knew every foot of the mountain, and never knew nor heard there was a cave in the vicinity.
"Outside the mouth of the cave there was an enormous boulder. We peered into the cavity but couldn't see anything. "We gathered some pitchwood, lighted it and began to explore. But before we glot very far from the entrance of the cave, we came upon a sort of stone house or enclosure: it was a crude affair.
Charley intimated that he hoped to have enough money some day to buy sufficient dynamite to blow open the cave of the Sasquatch, and see how far it extends through the mountain.
The Indian then took up the thread of his story and told of his first meeting with one of these men. A number of other Indians and himself were bathing in a small lake near Yale. He was dressing, when suddenly out from behind a rock, only a few feet away, stepped a nude hairy man. "Oh! he was a big, big man!" continued the old hunter. "He looked at me for a moment, his eyes were so kind-looking that I was about to speak to him, when he turned about and walked into the forest."
At the same place two weeks later, Charley, together with several of his companions saw the giant, but this time he ran toward the mountain. This was twenty years after the discovery of the cave.
I don't know if I should tell you or not about the awful experience I had with these wicked people about fifteen years ago in the mountains near Hazie." The old man rubbed his knee, and said he disliked recalling that disagreeable meeting - it was a tragedy from which he had not yet fully recovered.
"I was hunting in the mountains near Hatzie." he resumed. "I had my dog with me. I came out on a plateau where there were several big cedar trees. The dog stood before one of the trees and began to growl and bark at it. On looking up to see what excited him, I noticed a large hole in the tree seven feet from the ground. The dog pawed and leaped upon the trunk, and looked at me to raise him up, which I did, and he went into the hole. The next moment a muffled cry came from the hole.
In his description of the boy, Charley said that his hair was black and woolly. Wounded and bleeding, the poor fellow sprawled upon the ground, but when I drew close to examine the extent of his injury, he let out a wild yell, or rather a call as if he were appealing for help. From across the mountain a long way off rolled a booming voice. Near and more near came the voice and every now and again the boy would return an answer as if directing the owner of the voice. Less than a half-hour, out from the depths of the forest came the strangest and wildest creature one could possibly see.
"I raised my rifle, not to shoot, but in case I would have to defend myself. The hairy creature, for that was what it was, walked toward me without the slightest fear. The wild person was a woman. Her face was almost negro black and her long straight hair fell to her waist. In height she would be about six feet, but her chest and shoulders were well above the average in breadth."
Charley remarked that he had met several wild people in his time, but had never seen anyone half so savage in appearance as this woman. The old brave confessed he was really afraid of her. "In my time," said the old man, "and this is no boast, I have in more than one emergency strangled bear with my hands, but I'm sure if that wild woman laid hands on me, she'd break every bone in my body.
"She cast a hasty glance at the boy. Her face took on a demoniacal expression when she saw he was bleeding. She turned upon me savagely, and in the Douglas tongue said: "You have shot my friend."
"I explained in the same language - for I'm part Douglas myself - that I had mistaken the boy for a bear and that I was sorry. She did not reply. but began a sort of wild frisk or dance around the boy, chanting in a loud voice for a minute or two, and, as if in answer to her, from the distant woods came the same sort of chanting troll. In her hand she carried something like a snake, about six feet in length, but thinking over the matter since, I believe it was the intestine of some animal. But whatever it was, she constantly struck the ground with it. She picked up the boy with one hairy hand, with as much ease as if he had been a wax doll."
At this point of the story, Charley began to make pictures in the sand with his maple stick, and paused or reflected so long that we thought he had come to the end of his narrative, when he suddenly looked up, and said with a grin: "Perhaps I better tell you the rest of it, although I know you'll not believe it. There was a challenge of defiance in her black eyes and dark looks," Charley went on, "as she faced and spoke to me a second time and the dreadful words she used set me shaking."
"Her words, expression, and the savage avenging glint in her dark, fiery eyes filled me with fear," confessed the Indian, "and I felt so exhausted from her unwavering gaze that I was no longer able to keep her covered with my rifle. I let it drop."
Charley has been paralyzed for the last eight years, and he is inclined to think that the words of the wild woman had something to do with it.
The old man told how his "brave dog that never turned from any bear nor cougar," lay whimpering and shivering at his feet while the Sasquatch woman was speaking, "just," said Charley, "as if he understood the meaning of her words."
The old man said that she spoke the words "Yahoo, yahoo" frequently in a loud voice, and always received a similar reply from the mountain.
The old hunter felt sure that the woman Indian looked somewhat like the wild man he had seen at Yale many years before, although the woman was the darker of the two. He did not think the boy belonged to the Sasquatch people, "because he was white and she called him her friend," reasoned Charley. "They must have stolen him or run across him in some other way," he added.
"Indians," said Charley, "have always known that wild men lived in the distant mountains, within sixty and one hundred miles east of Vancouver, and of course they may live in other places throughout the province, but I have never heard of it. It is my own opinion since I met that wild woman fifteen years ago that because she spoke the Douglas tongue these creatures must be related to the Indian."
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