Scream Theories Abound, but no one is Certain
theories abound, but no one's certain "
The mother of all screams recently brought a blizzard of calls and letters ---the mother, as it were, of all reaction.
Everyone, it seems, has heard something strand in the woods - at least one unexplained, unearthly unnerving scream like one that frightened me in northeast Oregon shortly after dust on September 18th.
A fellow sportswriter who rarely reads outdoor columns was dragged into the column by the word "scream" in the crafty headline: "It was a scream that made an elk hunter forget about his prey."
"I've heard that before, too," said my compatriot. "It was when I came home drunk and it was really as horrible as you said. I turned right around and went back downstairs."
Darrell Bains of east Portland, an old friend who had called the week before my hunt for directions to Steens Mountain, said he was driving near Paisley at the same time I was hunting and thought the scream I heard was from him when he motored up to the rear end of a cattle drive in his brand new white Oldsmobile.
Other reaction was more serious. "Until I read your column, I vowed a code of silence about a very similar occurrence during archery season ten years ago," wrote Michael Lemley of Gresham. "We were hunting elk near Joseph and in the middle of the nigh a scream like the one you heard went out over the countryside. The screams, groans and grunts lasted for about 20-30 seconds and I've not heard anything even remotely similar since. Bigfoot gets my vote."
Ray Posey of Troutdale, a meat cutter for Albertson's, said he heard a noise just like the one I described in 1972 near Hood River. "Something cut loose behind me," he said. "I walked backwards for a while down to my truck, where I met my partner on the road. He had heard it too, it was that loud."
Everyone, he said, belittled them when they talked about it and it seemed a relief for the two of us to compare our screams' timber and pitch. The hair was back up on both of our necks when we hung up.
Tom McAllister, retired outdoor writer for The Oregonian, smiled his gentle smile and calmly announced we've all been taken in by nothing more menacing that a juvenile great horned owl.
At this time of year, young owls are being abandoned by their parents and - - like any teenager told there's no more free pizza - are understandably unhappy. "It's the most fearsome sound in the North American forests, said McAllister, a biologist by education and an accomplished bird person.
"Yeah but. . ." said David Johnson, the spotted owl biologist for the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife. Johnson incidentally was so happy to get his first telephone call in 6 months that was not about the spotted owl that he was a wealth of information about other owls.
Horned owls do, indeed, raise a ruckus when the feeding quits, Johnson said. But it's more of a rasping, warbling sounds without the power that my scream carried from the ridge top.
Its large cousin, the long eared owl has a wide repertoire of moans, screams, gurgles and warbles but it's more nocturnal than right after dusk, he said.
This led to Peter Byrne's call. Byrne is an Irish native, author and former professional hunter living in Hood River, Oregon. (Now in Los Angeles, California) He investigated Abominable Snowmen in Nepal and wrote a book about Sasquatch legends in 1975 called "The Search for Bigfoot: Monster, Myth or Man?"
He's rounded up some financial support from the East coast (where there are no Bigfoot reports, but the interest is high) and will soon launch a purely scientific investigation from a large van being converted right now at the Sassi Chassi shop in Milwaukee.
Byrne told me over breakfast Wednesday that he is developing three separate questionnaires to be sent for sightings, footprint discoveries and scream and sound reports like the one I heard.
If you have any more calls about sightings or screams please contact him. I have never believed in the Bigfoot thing all of these years in the field, but I'm not going to discount anything anymore. Especially not after 6:58 p.m. September 18, 1992.
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