ON THE TRAIL OF THE SASQUATCH,
America's Abominable Snowman
by Bryan Stevenson
© True Frontier, December 1975
In October of 1967, Roger Patterson, a former rodeo contestant on the Northwest circuit, and his trail partner, Bob Gimlin, shot a strip of film footage so amazing that it may rewrite all the world's anthropology, biology, and zoology textbooks and add another limb to man's family tree. In one of the United States' last remaining great wilderness areas, northeast of Eureka, California, the two men took 16-mm pictures of a giant, primitive, hair-covered human being the legendary Bigfoot, or Sasquatch, America's own "Abominable Snowman."
Patterson had been pursuing this elusive sub-human species for seven years. When the Yakima, Washington, Eagle interviewed him before he set out on his successful expedition, the ex-rodeo rider firmly stated his hope that he would be able to drop a lasso around the immense, hairy limb of a Sasquatch and bring to a close the mystery of the forest giants that many have seen but no one has--yet--captured.
"I know it seems fantastic to have giant hairy creatures roaming around this country," Patterson told the Eagle, "but if people could have been with me the past years, they would have no doubt about the existence of these huge creatures."
Patterson said that he had taped interviews with more than twenty people who had confronted Mr. Bigfoot face-to-face. "Literally thousands of folks have found their tracks. There are dozens who have made plaster casts of the footprints. Many people are afraid to tell their story for fear of being ridiculed--otherwise I would have much more information."
The Bigfoot hunter went on to say that he had yet to find a person, no matter how skeptical, who had not become a believer after he had looked into the matter. "I just wish people would be willing to approach the subject with an open mind and give it some serious thought. This is going to be the greatest scientific find in the history of mankind."
Patterson's words may prove to be prophetic, but it is as difficult to find scientists with open minds as it is to find laymen with that most precious of commodities. American scientists on the west coast gave little evidence of being seriously interested in the film that two young men had taken of the Sasquatch, but Patterson and Gimlin were at last given their da)' in court by the University of British Columbia in Vancouver.
The Vancouver Province published the reactions of the Canadian scientists the day after they had seen the startling film.
"It is about as hard to believe the film is faked as it is to admit that such a creature really lives," commented Don Abbott, an anthropologist with Victoria's Provincial Museum. "If there's a chance to follow up scientifically, my curiosity is built up to the point where I'd want to go along with it."
"The more a thing deviates from the known, the better the proof of its existence must be," said Dr. Ian McTaggart-Cowan, Dean of Graduate Studies at the University of British Columbia.
Frank Beebe. a naturalist, stated that he was not convinced of the existence of the Sasquatch after viewing the film. "But," he added, "I think the film is genuine. And if I were out in the mountains and I saw a thing like this one, I wouldn't shoot it. I'd be too afraid of how human it would look under the fur."
Beebe concluded his remarks by classifying the creature as a primate. This fact, Beebe felt, was "... one of the hardest facts to go against, there is no evidence anywhere in the western hemisphere of primate (ape, monkey) evolution .... "
Interesting, the scientific community seemed to be saying, but impossible. Patterson and Gimlin decided to bring their controversial film to the east coast where they could show it to zoologist Ivan T. Sanderson, a man who possessed an open mind as well as the academic credits and in-field research experience to qualify him as a serious scientist.
Sanderson, who authored Abominable Snowmen--Legend Come to Life, has been researching accounts of Sasquatches and Bigfoot and crag-climbing apes since 1930. As Sanderson extended his interest to the legendary Himalayan "snowmen," he found records of such primitive and giant humanoids in the literature of numerous cultures--including the Bible!
It is Sanderson's conclusion--at this point--that the Sasquatch of the United States and Canada is a creature quite different, zoologically, from the Abominable Snowman of the Himalayas and the Asian continent. Sanderson believes the Sasquatch to be a form of primitive human that was driven into the Wilderness by civilization, while he holds the Himalayan Yeti to be some species of huge, rock-climbing ape.
Patterson and Gimlin agreed that the man-creature they had photographed in the wilds of California stood nearly seven feet tall. The depth to which its tracks sank into the hard sand along a creek indicates that the creature would weigh about 350 pounds. The Bigfoot, which Gimlin and Patterson believe to be female because of pendant breasts, was covered with short, shiny, black hair. Both men described the Sasquatch as being muscular and broad. In addition to the motion picture film, Patterson and Gimlin acquired evidence of their sighting by making plaster casts of the creature's tracks. The Sasquatch's footprints measure seventeen inches from heel to toe!
Sanderson and his associates showed the filmstrip in Washington, D.C.,' to a panel of distinguished experts in biology, zoology, and primate research. In the February, 1968, issue of Argosy, Sanderson presented a report on the whole business in an article entitled, "First Photos of 'Bigfoot,' California's Legendary 'Abominable Snowman.'"
Dr. John R. Napier, Director of the Primate Biology Program, Smithsonian Institute, was quoted in the article as saying that, in his opinion, nothing about the film would point conclusively to a hoax. He also stated that he was satisfied that the walk of the creature shown in the Patterson-Gimlin film was "... consistent with the bi-pedal striding gait of man." Napier also conceded that the bodily proportions of the creature "appeared to be within normal limits for man."
To Dr. A. Joseph Wraight,
Chief Geographer, U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey, the presence of such
large, hairy humanoids in North and Central America, appeared:
"Its erect attitude in locomotion, the gait, stride and manner of that locomotion, as well as the relative proportions of pelvic to pectoral limb, are all manifestly human," commented Dr. Osman Hill, Director of Yerkes Regional Primate Research Center, and Emory University.
Could the Patterson-Gimlin filmstrip be a hoax? According to Sanderson's article, Dale Sheets, head of the Special Effects Department at Universal Pictures (the Hollywood studio that gave the world King Kong, Frankenstein, the Wolfman, the Mummy, and a host of fictional monsters) staged that their makeup men would find it hard to reproduce the appearance of Bigfoot.
"Maybe if allotted a couple of million · bucks, we could try," Sheets said. "But we'd have to invent a whole set of new, artificial muscles, get a gorilla's skin and train an actor to walk like that." Sheets and his special effects men allowed that such a feat might be accomplished. "But offhand," he concluded, "we'd say it would be nearly impossible.''
By a strange publishing coincidence, the February issue of. Saga magazine carried an article by Brad Steiger and Joan Whritenour' which detailed accounts of a strikingly similar creature, Florida's "Abominable Sandman." Steiger and Whritenour noted the connection between the appearance of these creatures and the reported landings of UFOs in the same areas, but the descriptions of the "Sandman" that they gleaned from eye-witnesses in Florida were virtually identical with those provided visually by the Patterson-Gimlin filmstrip.
In their article, Steiger and Whritenour reported the experience of a Miss M.B. who, on the night of November 30, 1966, was changing a tire on a lonely stretch of Route 491 near Brooksville, Florida. It was about ten p.m. and the nearby wooded area made the scene a very eerie one for a lone woman.
The woman gradually became aware of a very unpleasant odor. Then there was a loud-crashing sound in the brush and she turned and saw a large, hairy creature lumbering toward her. The woman was terrified, but the monster appeared to be more interested in the automobile than in her. Within a few moments, another automobile came along and the creature walked back into the woods as two men stopped to offer assistance to the near-hysterical woman.
During the fall of 1966, Florida newspapers provided their readers with running accounts of the "Abominable Sandman," which, in the words of the Orlando Sentinel, had bred a "Loch Ness-like atmosphere" in parts of the country.
Staff writer EMs Lane wrote that two hunters claimed to have wounded the giant creature, but although it had left a trail of blood, the monster had seemed virtually unharmed by their volley.
In another instance, the son of a farmer had gone to investigate the sounds of someone opening the family garage and had surprised the hairy intruder raising the door. When the young man shouted in fright and alarm, the monster threw a heavy tire tube at him and ran away.
In the Saga article, Steiger and Whritenour quoted Mrs. Eula Lewis, a long-time resident of the Brooksville area, as she described her own encounter with the "Sandman." At first Mrs. Lewis heard a heavy rustling sound to the west of her home, then she saw a heavy outline--a huge head and rounded shoulders.
"It was not moving,
just standing there," Mrs. Lewis said. "I moved toward the back
door, and it moved toward me. I heard loud, thudding footsteps. It had
an extremely fast lope and took very big steps. It was too dark to distinguish
the features, but I had the impression that it was very hairy."
Steiger and Whritenour examined the stories of many area residents who claimed to have seen the brute staring at them through their windows at night, but perhaps one of the most 'interesting incidents which they discuss concerns Ralph Chambers. a young ex-serviceman, who seems as determined to capture Florida's "Sandman" as Roger Patterson was to lasso the Sasquatch in the Northwest.
Chambers had his first, contact with the giant in the summer of 1966 when he was walking in the woods near the Anclote River. The creature crashed into the palmettos near the riverbank, then stopped. Chambers waited, listening. He heard the monster emit a harsh; coughing sound, but the "Sandman" seemed content to laze about in the palmettos. Chambers ran to get a gun and a friend.
The creature had moved on by the time Chambers returned with a witness but it was easy to track with its huge footprints and an odor that Chambers described as "rancid, putrid, like stale urine."
In spite of the fact that they were later joined by two !aw enforcement officers, Chambers and his friend found nothing further but finger-like markings where the creature had slid on a slimy river bank.
About 4:30 a.m. one morning early in 1967, Chambers got a good look at the monster as it emerged from the swamp. It stood about seven feet tall and was very broad in the chest.
By the summer of 1967, the creature was growing so bold that Chambers, awakened by the howl of his dogs, looked out one morning to see it standing in his back yard. "The thing just seemed to stare straight ahead," Chambers told Mrs. Whritenour. One dog began snapping at the creature's legs, "... but the thing did not take any notice at all of the dog. The dog kept biting at its ankles and feet, and the creature very slowly and methodically turned and started walking down the road that leads back to the swamp and the river."
The Indians of the United States have known about the Sasquatch for centuries and have built legends and myths around its presence. Sightings of the elusive forest giants can be found recorded in the journals of the early settlers and woodsmen in the Northwest Territory.
Perhaps the first detailed account appeared in a Canadian paper, the Daily British Colonist, on July 4, 1884. The news story tells of a "creature that may' truly be called half man and half beast" which was captured by a Canadian Pacific train crew. Evidently "Jacko," as the creature was called, was a youthful member of his species. He stood about four feet, seven inches in height and weighed 127 pounds.
"He has long,
black, strong hair and resembles a human being with one exception,'' reported
the Daily British Colonist, "his entire body is covered with glossy
hair about one inch long. His forearm is much longer than a man's and
he possesses extraordinary strength, as he will take hold of a stock and
break it by wrenching or twisting, which no man living could break in
the same way."
In 1901, a Sasquatch was seen washing roots in a creek on Vancouver Island by Mike King, a timber baron and prospector. "He was covered with reddish-brown hair," King recalled years later. "His arms were peculiarly long and were used freely in climbing and bush-running, while his trail showed a distinctly human foot but with phenomenally long and spreading toes."
The prospector remembered that he would have shot the creature if something humanlike about the way it looked and moved had not caused him to lower his rifle.
Sasquatch sightings have been made so frequently in the area around Mt. St. Helens in Washington State that the local residents have named a canyon in the high foothills "Ape Canyon."
Certain lumberjacks have claimed to have run into' love-sick female Sasquatches, but none have topped the tale told by Albert Ostman, who vows that he was kidnapped by a giant Bigfoot in 1924 and brought home to serve as an unwilling bridegroom for the monster's 250-pound daughter. As Ostman tells the story, he was held captive for over a week before he made his escape after his "father-in-law" ate some tobacco and became violently ill.
In 1941, a seven-foot Sasquatch stomped across a potato patch near the village of Ruby Creek, Washington, and began crashing around in a lean-to shed at one end of the George Chapman cabin. Mrs. Chapman and her son Jimmy fled from the cabin while the Bigfoot's attention was diverted, and the)' ran along the railroad tracks until they met Chapman and a section gang.
Thinking a marauding bear had frightened the hysterical woman and boy, the men grabbed rifles and went in quick pursuit of the beast. When they arrived at the Chapman cabin, they were forced to make an immediate reappraisal of the situation. A bear's paws had definitely not formed the deeply imprinted tracks. The prints measured sixteen inches in length and eight in width across the ball of the foot. The tracks sank into the firm soil to a depth of two inches, and the creature's stride varied from four to five feet!
It was in October of 1955 that William Roe, a trapper from Edmonton. Alberta, Canada, saw his first Sasquatch. Roe states that his initial impression was of a strapping six-foot man, weighing nearly 300 pounds.
"It came to within twenty feet of where I was hiding, squatted down on its haunches, pulled the branches of bushes toward it with its hands, and stripped the leaves with its teeth, which were white and even. The head was higher at the back than front, the nose broad and flat, the lips and chin protruding, its ears shaped like a human's, its eyes small and black like a bear's."
Roe said that he had intended to shoot the creature for the purpose of obtaining a specimen for scientific evaluation, but he felt that the thing was human and couldn't fire.
In June 1964, a monster
was reported by several residents in the Sister Lakes, Michigan; area. "It was so grotesque as to stagger the imagination," said one
woman who had come face-to-face with a Bigfoot. "It was over seven
feet tall and weighed, I'll bet, 500 pounds," reported another frightened
eyewitness. "It had a black, leathery face and eyes that glowed in
Mrs. John Utrup told of being chased into the house by the monster. "Lucky for me the dogs were home. They rushed him and forced him back into the woods." Three young girls were frightened into hysteria in Silver Creek Township when Bigfoot paid them an unexpected, and most unwelcome, visit. "We found tracks measuring three and three-quarters inches at the heel and more than six inches across the ball of the foot," reported Deputies Howard Sjeline and Daniel Behrman, who investigated. "We couldn't identify them at all."
A month later, in July, 1964, the Oregon Journal carried the story of a man and two women who were driving the desolate stretch of road between Satus Pass and Toppenish when they were confronted by a huge, shaggy, man-like creature that came at them from a ditch. The Journal subsequently ran a series of articles by Marge Davenport and Martin Clark, which presented a formidable collection of Bigfoot sightings in the area.
In August of 1965, the Sasquatch had returned to Michigan. At least fifteen people claimed personal encounters with the hairy giant. Seventeen-year-old Christine Van Acker of Monroe told newsmen that the creature had jumped into the road and reached into an open car window to grab her by the hair while she was driving with her mother. Teen-aged Christine sported a black eye as physical evidence of the nightmarish incident.
Reports of the Bigfoot are by no means limited to the North American continent and the Himalayan Mountains. Early in 1967, Dr. Jeanne-Marie-Therese Koffman read a paper at a session of the Geographical Society of the USSR, which detailed for her colleagues the results of her five-year search for the Abominable Snowmen in the Caucasus Mountains.
Dr. Koffman, who is considered to be one of Russia's top surgeons, had prepared a presentation of 219 eyewitness accounts from those who had seen the humanoid creatures roaming about the Caucasian region.
According to reporter Nino Lo Bello, writing from Moscow, the persistent Dr. Koffman had also examined the skeletal remains of a captive female Bigfoot who died in the 1870s. Long-lived residents of the Caucasus have kept alive the memory of Zana, the "wild woman," who was captured by Prince Achba during a hunt in the mountains. A man named Jadgi Genaba is said to have kept Zana tethered in a hut for several years until she had adjusted to people.
Covered with thick, black hair, Zana had a large and powerful body. Although she obeyed Genaba's verbal commands and aided him in the heavy manual labor of his estate, Zana never learned to talk and she refused to wear clothes. Even on the most severe winter mornings, Zana could be seen bathing in an icy mountain spring on Genaba's estate.
It is recorded that Zana gave birth to five children, but it is uncertain whether or not all of the children died. Some contend that at least one of the children ran off to join his mother's people in the desolate mountain regions of the Caucasus.
What, then, is the Sasquatch, and where did this enigmatic monster come from? Some years ago, giant teeth and skulls were unearthed in Northern China. Anthropologists determined that the remains belonged to, huge man-ape creatures, which, according to carbon testing, were roaming around at least 500,000 years ago.
"The Sasquatch is evidently the descendant of those giants that walked across the peninsula which once extended to Alaska," Roger Patterson has said.
In an interview given before he and Gimlin returned with their remarkable film. Patterson revealed certain items of information about the habits of the Sasquatch from the extensive dossier on the creature, which he had been keeping over the years:
Until some determined monster-hunter, such as Roger Patterson, Bob Gimlin, Ralph Chambers, or Dr. Jeanne-Marie-Therese Koffman brings in conclusive proof that the Sasquatch exists-and to convince some skeptics, it will require an appearance of Mr. Bigfoot himself right in their laboratories-the controversy will continue to range as to whether the creature is a species of giant ape or a surviving ancestor of modern man.
At this point, only
one thing is certain: we have not heard the last of the Sasquatch, America's