| Bigfoot Encounters
Meet The Sasquatch
Early on an evening in mid August of this year (1968) two men from Stewart, British Columbia were driving down an old mine access road. They had been hunting grouse but were also on the lookout for bear.
Still above 4,000 feet when the daylight started to wane, they rounded a corner and jumped from the truck as what they thought was a bear started to move off into the bush above the road.
Guns in hand, they stopped short as they realized that their quarry was walking up the hill on its hind legs, then gaped in astonishment when the hairy beast swung to look back at them, twisting its wide shoulders around because it had no neck to twist.
They had a brief glimpse of a dark face with a wisp of beard, a flat nose and a "What the Hell are you doing here" expression. Then it turned again and quickly vanished among the trees.
It left behind an impression of great height and weight, and an overpowering stench.
One of the men later estimated its height at well over seven feet and its weight at over 300 pounds, it did not look fat,. but its build was very heavy. It stood straight, yet its arms swung several inches lower than its knees. Once it grabbed a tree with its left hand as it went uphill, but its hands never touched the ground.
On the body the hair looked thin, but on the head it was quite long, hiding the ears.
What can you make of a story like that'? Not much perhaps, because there's no way to prove it true or false. But there's one thing you definitely can not make of it. It is not a legend. It's a matter of fact, an account of something two ordinary people claim to have seen just the other day.
Perhaps that's the only point there's any real hope of making in a book about the " legendary" hairy giants of the Pacific Coast, they are not a story out of the past. The evidence of their existence, whatever it may be worth, is concentrated overwhelmingly in the present. Right here, right now.
I call giants "Sasquatch" because that is what they are called by the Indians living near my home at Harrison Hot Springs. Up and down the coast they have other names, and most of those names are also of Indian origin. But that doesn't make the Sasquatch an Indian legend.... the Indians had words for all the other animals too.
The difference is that for the other animals the white man brought his own names with him. He has never named the Sasquatch because no matter how often he sees them he refuses to accept that they are there.
Among Indians there are other names with much wider distribution than "Sasquatch", which seems limited to the south, western corner of British Columbia, and is an Anglicized word at that. But "Sasquatch" has gained wide acceptance in the white community rivaled only by the "Bigfoot" of Northern California---because it was under that name that the creatures received their first press notices, back in the 1920's and 1930s
The man who did the writing was J. W.Burns, who was for many years a teacher at the Chehalis Indian Reserve, on the Harrison River near Harrison Hot Springs. His articles achieved wide circulation in newspapers and magazines in the United States and Canada.- Like most native British Colombians, I read some of his stories as. a child. Burns got his stories from his Indian friends, and some of them smacked heavily of the supernatural.
Thus Burns deserves not only the credit for introducing the Sasquatch to the general public, but also the blame for affixing firmly to it the label of "Indian Legend."
When I bought a weekly newspaper at Agassiz, B. C. 14 years ago, I was aware that I was in the area occupied by Mr Burns' Sasquatch; in fact I once wrote an "April Fool" story for my paper about one of the hairy monsters kidnapping a beautiful guest from the Harrison Hot Springs Hotel.
Of course I never took the subject seriously. Mr. Burns had left the area so many years before; the Sasquatch Days held at Harrison Hot Springs were a thing of the past and about the only reminder of the old stories was the "Sasquatch Inn" a small hotel on the highway No. 7 near the Harrison River.
That situation continued for four years until Rene Dahinden, a Swiss immigrant is mid 20's- turned up at my office in Harrison with the announcement that he intended to go in to the mountains and look for the Sasquatch. I tried to persuade him that the whole thing was just a tall story and referred him to a couple of veteran woodsmen whom I knew would assure him that there was no such thing to be found.
He declined to be discouraged, but another man he had brought with him from his home town of Lumby, B. C. backed out, and after a few days Rene went home.
The following Year the subject came up again when the Village council at Harrison Hot Springs was discussing what to do with about $600 available for a "permanent project" to mark British Columbia's hundredth birthday. Not much of a permanent nature can be built for $600, and one of the council members suggested using the money for a statue of the Sasquatch.
The next suggestion was that the money be used for a" Sasquatch hunt". This was greeted with enthusiasm , but since it was not the type of thing authorized by the provincial government for a project, permission had to be sought from the British Columbia Centennial Committee. It was, of course, a bid for publicity, and it was tremendously successful. Papers all over Canada played the story on the front page.
There were numerous offers from would be Sasquatch hunters, even from young ladies prepared to act as bait....
Perhaps never before has a tourist resort achieved such publicity without actually doing anything. Rene Dahinden came back to lead the search. Newspaper and radio reporters flocked around, and a tide of delighted stories rolled round the world touching Sweden, India, New Zealand and points between. No matter that the prov- incial Centennial Committee turned down the whole project and the "hunt" never took place.
Public attention remained focussed on the Sasquatch for months, with the news media doing their own digging to come up with fresh angles to keep the subject alive. In the process they dug up some stories that didn't fit the accepted pattern.
The Sasquatch with which Mr. Burns' readers were familiar were basically giant Indians. Although avoiding civilization, they had clothes, fire, weapons and the like, and lived in villages. They were called hairy giants it is true, but this was taken to mean that they had long hair on their heads, something along the lines of today's hippies.
William Roe, of Cloverdale, B. C. , claimed to have seen something quite different. He described a six-foot female weighing somewhere near three hundred pounds and covered from head to foot with dark brown, silver-tipped hair less than an inch in length.
This creature, which he had encountered in a mountain clearing in the Fall of 1955, made a meal of leaves which it stripped off a bush with its teeth. It wore no clothes.
Following its tracks, he could find no sign that it had any tools or weapons. It slept on the ground without shelter.He was left in doubt whether it was animal or human.
Publication of his story brought him a letter from Albert Ostman, of Port Langley, who claimed to have been carried off by one of the creatures, and to have spent several days with four of them in an alpine valley. He described in detail a mature male -and female, a young male and an adolescent female.
All were clothed only in short hair and the big male was eight feet tall and very heavy. He thought that they were some sort of humans, but they lived on roots and leaves. Certainly these were not the Sasquatch of the earlier newspaper and magazine stories. Nor were they characters from Indian legends.
The men concerned were not Indians and they claimed to have been personally involved in the events they described.- Mr. Roe's experience had taken place only two years before.
The Ruby Creek Incident
The Roe and Ostman stories were interesting, but they were only stories. There was no one else involved with whom they could be checked, and no records from the time and place where they were supposed to have happened. It was another incident altogether that forced me to begin taking the-subject seriously---one in which there were plenty of supporting witnesses and even a certain amount of documentation. The events had taken place some 13 years before, and had been brought to public attention, as was usual in those days, by Mr. Burns. The story, in the Vancouver Province, October 21, 1941, was inconspicuously placed on Page l2, under the heading-.
"Huge Bear Terrorizes Indians"
A child's scream, the uproar of dogs and a frightened woman's hurried glance led to tales among Ruby Creek Indians today of a huge hairy monster preying on their encampment.
"It turned out to be a bear--but a huge one.
"Rosie, small daughter of Mrs.George Chadwick, an Indian, was playing in her garden, half a mile east of Ruby-Creek when she suddenly looked up to see the enormous beast approaching. She screamed for help.
"Her mother rushed to her, got one glimpse of the monster, swept the children her arms and dashed into the bush, where she remained for three hours before venturing home again.
" On her return she found the racks of salted salmon scattered in every direction, but nothing else about the premises was touched.
"In describing the animal, Mrs.Chadwick declared it was 10 feet tall, hairy, with a human face.
"Little credence was given to the story until the beast returned. This time it left tracks revealing it to be one of the largest bears ever known in the vicinity. Its hind foot marks measured eight inches across and eighteen inches long. The span between the strides was five feet.
"The Indians have requested the assistance of a game warden to destroy the monster.
That isn't a Sasquatch story, of course. No mention of a Sasquatch anywhere in it. In the first paragraph it started off promisingly enough, talking of "a huge hairy monster", but in the next line "it turned out to be a bear. "
Still, a little study makes it look like a doubtful sort of bear story. "Ten feet tall,. . . with a human face" cannot successfully be applied to any bear. Then we come to the tracks "revealing it to be one of the largest bears ever known in the vicinity. " It had hind feet "eight inches across and eighteen inches long. The span between the strides was five feet. "
No bear on record could account for that set of statistics. Presumably the reporter and editors responsible for the story were city-bred and not observers of nature.
In some ways this story is typical of newspaper accounts dealing with this subject. It uses words packed with excitement, playing up to the readers' taste for the exotic and mysterious yarn, but on the other hand it makes a point of emphasizing the commonplace explanation. It was only a bear after all.
Four days later, this time on Page Two, the same newspaper carried another story, headed "Heres That Sasquatch Again", with an overline reading "hairy monster stalks".
"Chilliwack--The Sasquatch giant monster of the Harrison Lake area is on the rampage.
"Three canoes of Indians who arrived terror-stricken at Harrison Hot Springs after a flight from Port Douglas at the head of the lake are prepared to swear to that.
"According to Indian officials here a Sasquatch, probably the biggest ever seen by man, turned up at the historic village this week and sent the Indians fleeing for- their lives.
"The huge, hairy monster had not appeared for several years, and his sudden arrival struck terror into the hearts of the Indians.
"Jimmy Douglas and his family were among those who saw the almost legendary man-beast. They report that it was almost 14 feet high, almost double the height of the average Sasquatch. The Indians fled to their canoes and paddled furiously down the lake.
"J. W. Burns, one of the world's most eminent authorities on the Sasquatch reports that it is entirely probable that the huge beast is the same one which appeared a week ago at Ruby Creek, forty miles or so away. Subsequent investigations into the Ruby Creek incident have definitely established that it was a Sasquatch and not a giant bear that terrorized the Indians there. "
Now things are beginning to look a little complicated. It would be much simpler, and much more in the usual pattern, had the order of these stories been reversed. The Sasquatch giant and the fleeing canoes should have been in the first story, then the matter-of-fact explanation about the bear could have tidied the whole thing neatly away.
As it is the reader is left with two conflicting stories, both sounding rather unbelievable in themselves, and the final flat statement that the cause of the excitement was a Sasquatch, not a bear. To most readers, however, this would be unlikely to cause any problem. Introducing the bear at any stage would give the reader an acceptable explanation- -in fact had the bear never been mentioned he would probably have supplied it himself.
In any event the editors cannot have been under any illusion that there really was a Sasquatch at Ruby Creek, since they did not have the story followed up in any way.
Until the Harrison Sasquatch Hunt hit the headlines I had never heard of this incident, although Ruby Creek is only twelve miles up the Fraser River from Agassiz. But with-all the publicity going on, the subject of Sasquatches tended to come in many conversations, and it did so when my -wife and I were visiting Jack Kirkman, game guide at Harrison Hot Springs, and his wife Martha, who is an Indian.
Martha Kirkman told us the story of the Sasquatch at Ruby Creek as it had been told to her by her cousin Jeannie Chapman, (not Chadwick), the woman who saw the creature. Mrs. Kirkman also said that when she was young there were places, in the woods the children were not allowed to go because the Sasquatches were there.
She did not say that she herself believed such creatures existed, but she did impress on us very strongly that Mrs. Chapman was serious in telling her story, and indeed had suffered a shock that changed her whole life.
On the same weekend, Bill Rae, a printer who worked for me, was told the same story by Esse Tufting, the head custodian of Agassiz High school, who had lived at Ruby Creek at that time. He had not seen the creature itself but was one of many local people who had studied the footprints it left behind, and had found that the tracks confirmed Mrs. Chapman's account of the creature's movements.
Thoroughly intrigued, I went to see, Mr. Tufting, who repeated his story and drew an outline of the footprint for me on the floor of a room he was building. His story, and the size of the print he-drew, were impressive. He was a man whom I already knew, and whom I knew to have a good reputation in the community. When he said that he had actually seen these huge footprints I had no grounds to doubt him.
Through him, I was also able to locate half a dozen more people who had been present at that time and had seen the prints. Their recollections varied considerably, but all but one agreed that the prints could not have been made by any man or known animal. The lone exception insisted it must have been a bear, but he agreed with the others that it had walked on its' hind legs and had stepped over a four-foot fence.
I also went to see Mr. and Mrs. Chapman, and talked to them on two occasions, and I visited the Chapmans' house--which had stood abandoned since that time.
Mrs. Chapman told me that one of her children hid come to the house shouting about a "big cow coming out of the woods." She looked out the window and saw a manlike creature about eight feet tall and covered all over with fairly dark hair. It was walking across a field towards the house. She did not see its face from close up, but she was sure it had a flat nose not a snout like a bear.
Bears were very common around Ruby Creek At that time, and she was thoroughly familiar with their appearance.
Although terrified, Mrs. Chapman was still able to think clearly. She took the children and led them out the front door, keeping the house between her and the creature. They crossed a stretch of field and got down to the river, where a high bank shielded them from view.
She didn't know if the Sasquatch saw them but it did not try to follow. The tracks later showed that the creature had circled the house and entered a shed where there was a barrel of salt salmon.
He sampled this- there was some disagreement about whether he had lifted and-dumped it, but in any event there was torn fish scattered around. Then he went down to the river, perhaps to wash the salt out of his mouth , and returned to the mountain.
I did not consider her story reliable as to detail, particularly as it was not entirely consistent, and I have since read accounts in which she is quoted as having said things that do not agree with some of the things she said to me.
I have noticed since that time that some people with scientific training tend to reject an entire story if they can find fault with something in it--even a detail that has nothing whatever to do with the subject at hand. Several years as a reporter covering court cases have given me a more realistic view of the average person's ability to remember.
No two witnesses, however impartial, ever have the same recollection of details of the same event, and it is rarely that a witness who is testifying at any length gives precisely the same information at the trial that he gave at the preliminary examination.
On the other hand most people (some politicians excepted) do not lie very convincingly under questioning, and I was quite certain Mrs. Chapman believed what she told me.
Later I talked to a son of the late Joe Dunn, a deputy Sheriff of Whatcom County in Washington, who had investigated the Ruby Creek incident at the time. Apparently Sheriff Dunn was already inter- ested in the subject through experiences of his own. At his home I found a report written by him generally confirming-what I had learned myself and was able to copy a tracing of a footprint.
But that time I had also been in touch with William Roe and Albert Ostman, and had heard two or three more reports of sightings of something that was more like an erect ape than the giant hairy Indians of the Sasquatch stories.
Interviewing people and gathering facts is my regular occupation, and if I were being fooled very often my readers would be bringing it to my attention. 'These stories rang true to me, but I took the additional step of having them legally sworn to.
In the case of Albert Ostman. and the people involved at Ruby Creek, I even had them cross-examined by the local magistrate, formerly a trial lawyer of considerable reputation. I took what I had gathered to the University of British Columbia, expecting that scientists would want to investigate the matter. I still had a great deal to learn.
Green, "Meet the Sasquatch," On the track of the Sasquatch.
Agassiz, British Columbia: Cheam Publishing Ltd. 1969, p. 1-8.
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