A New Look at America's Mystery Giant
By Ivan T. Sanderson
|True Magazine, March 1960|
Just across the border from California's Bigfoot country the Canadians have their own Abominable Snowmen the Sasquatch. Indians have been warning us about them for centuries and finally we're starting to listen.
Following his now-famous report on America's Abominable Snowman (TRUE December 1959) author Sanderson went up to British Columbia to personal investigate the centuries-old stories of the Sasquatch. Instead of old legends, he found a story as current as tomorrow's headlines. Sanderson is, in addition to being a highly respected research scientist, a zoologist, explorer, animal collector and author of numerous books and articles. As one of the foremost experts in the field of obscure animals, his report on Canada's "Snowman" is of particular interest.
BRITISH COLUMBIA, CANADA
On a sunny October day in 1955 a young man named William Roe decided to take a day off from his work on a road-building crew and go hunting. What he did on that day, and most particularly what he saw, electrified everyone who heard of it. For Roe came face-to-face with one of the huge, hairy human-like creatures which American's know as Bigfoot and which Canadians call the Sasquatch. Stories about Canada's version of the Abominable Snowman are almost as old as the country itself, but Roe's account was so detailed and convincing that it could not be laughed off by the cynics who cannot accept anything they do not understand. And form the day it became known, the Sasquatch began emerging from the misty land of legend into the cold light of the twentieth century. Roe's account of his remarkable experience is a matter of public record. He has described it in his own words and has made a sworn statement as to its authenticity before a public solicitor. Before letting him tell his story, there are two things I would like to make clear. First, Roe is a man who has spent most of his life in the outdoors, he is a veteran hunter, and when he sees a bear he does not get hysterical and think it is something else. Second, while "sworn statements" may not cut too much ice in this country, they mean a great deal in Canada and other parts of the British Empire.
Canadians have an intense respect for the Law, and their laws are quite
a lot more stringent than ours. If you make a sworn statement to legal
authority in the presence of witnesses you sign your honor to it. If you
lie, you are held responsible. If it is proved for any reason later that
you lied, you have committed perjury and you are liable for whatever injuries
your lies may have caused. A Canadian thinks more than twice before he
goes before a justice of the peace and makes a sworn
AffidavitStories about the Sasquatch have been appearing in print from time to time since the 1860's, and I have clipping in my files from almost every year since the early 1920's. But the modern history of the Sasquatch really dates from September, 1941, when one of these creatures paid a visit in broad daylight to an Indian family named Chapman. While the Amerindian stories have usually been dismissed as legend, or laughed off because Indians are not supposed to be reliable, this experience was accompanied by too much physical evidence to be ignored. The Chapman family consisted off George and Jeannie Chapman and children numbering, at my visit, four. Mr. Chapman worked on the railroad, and was living at that time in a small place called Ruby Creek, 30 miles up the Fraser River from Agassiv, British Columbia, in Canada's great western province.
It was about 3 in the afternoon of a sunny, cloudless day when Jeannie Chapman's eldest son, then aged 9, came running to the house saying that there was a cow coming down out of the woods at the foot of the nearby mountain. The other kids, a boy aged 7 and a little girl of 5, were still playing in a field behind the house bordering on the rail track. Mrs. Chapman went out to look, since the boy seemed oddly disturbed, and they saw what at first she thought was a very big bear moving about among the bushes bordering the field beyond the railway tracks. She called the two children who came running immediately. Then the creature moved onto the tracks and she saw to her horror that it was a gigantic man covered with hair, not fur. The hair seemed to be about four inches long all over, and of a pale yellow-brown color. To pin down this color Mrs. Chapman pointed out to me a sheet of lightly varnished plywood in the room where we were sitting. This was of a brown-ochre color. This creature advanced directly toward the house and Mrs. Chapman had, as she put it, "much too much time to look at it" because she stood her ground outside while the eldest boy on her instructions got a blanket from the house and rounded up the other children. The kids were in a near panic, she told us, and it took two or three minutes to get the blanket, during which time the creature had reached the near corner of the field only about 100 feet away from her. Mrs. Chapman then spread the blanket and, holding it aloft so that the kids could not see the creature or it them, she backed off at the double to the old field and down on to the river beach out of sight, and then ran with the kids downstream to the village.
I asked her a leading question about the blanket. Had her purpose in using it been to prevent her kids seeing the creature, in accord with an alleged Amerindian belief that to do so brings bad luck and often death? Her reply was both prompt and surprising. She said that, although she had heard white men tell of that belief, she had not heard it from her parents or any other of her people whose advice regarding the so-called Sasquatch had been simply not to go further than certain points up certain valleys, to run if she saw one, nut not to struggle if one caught her as it might squeeze her to death by mistake. "No," she said, "I used the blanket because I thought it was after one of the kids and so might go into the house to look for them instead of following me." This seems to have been sound logic as the creature did go into the house and also rummaged through an old outhouse pretty thoroughly, hauling from it a 55-gallon barrel of salt fish, breaking this open, and scattering its contents about outside. (The irony of it is that all those three children DID die within three years; the two boys by drowning, and the little girl on a sickbed. And just after I interviewed the Chapmans they also were drowned in the Fraser River when a rowboat capsized.) Mrs. Chapman told me that the creature was about 7 1/2 feet tall. She could estimate its height by the various fence and line posts standing about the field. It had a rather small head and a very short, thick neck; in fact really no neck at all, a point that was emphasized by William Roe and by all others who claim to have seen one of these creatures. Its body was entirely human in shape except that it was immensely thick through its chest and its arms were exceptionally long. She did not see the feet which were in the grass. Its shoulders were very wide and it had no breasts, from which Mrs. Chapman assumed it was a male, though she also did not see any male genitalia due to the long hair covering its groin. She was most definite on one point: the naked parts of its face and its hands were much darker than its hair, and appeared to be almost black.
George Chapman returned home from his work on the railroad that day shortly before 6 in the evening and by a route that by-passed the village so that he saw no one to tell him what had happened. When he reached his house he immediately saw the woodshed door battered in, and spotted enormous humanoid footprints all over the place. Greatly alarmed for he, like all of his people, had heard since childhood about the "big wild men of the mountains," though he did not hear the word Sasquatch till after this incident he called for his family and then dashed through the house. Then he spotted the foot-tracks of his wife and kids going off toward the river. He followed these until he picked them up on the sand beside the river and saw them going off downstream without any giant ones following.
Somewhat relieved, he was retracing his steps when he stumbled across the giant's foot-tracks on the river bank farther upstream. These had come down out of the potato patch, which lay between the house and the river, had milled about by the river, and then gone back through the old field toward the foot of the mountains where they disappeared in the heavy growth.
Returning to the house relieved to know that the tracks of all four of his family had gone off downstream to the village, George Chapman went to examine the woodshed. In our interview, after 18 years, he still expressed voluble astonishment that any living thing, even a 7-foot-6-inch man with a barrel-chest could lift a 55-gallon tub of fish and break it open without using a tool. He confirmed the creature's height after finding a number of long brown hairs stuck in the slabwood lintel of the doorway, above the level of his head.
George Chapman then went off to the village to look for his family, and found them in a state of calm collapse. He gathered them up and invited his father-in-law and two others to return with him, for protection of his family when he was away at work. The foot-tracks returned every night for a week and on two occasions the dogs that the Chapmans had taken with them set up the most awful racket at exactly 2 o'clock in the morning. The Sasquatch did not, however, molest them or, apparently, touch either the house or the woodshed. But the whole business was too unnerving and the family finally moved out. They never went back. After a long chat about this and other matters, Mrs. Chapman suddenly told us something very significant just as we were leaving. She said: "It made an awful funny noise." I asked her if she could imitate this noise for me but it was her husband who did so, saying that he had heard it at night twice during the week after the first incident. He then proceeded to utter exactly the same strange, gurgling whistle that the men in California, who said they had heard a Bigfoot call, had given us. This is a sound I cannot reproduce in print, but I can assure you that it is unlike anything I have ever heard given by man or beast anywhere in the world. To me, this information is of the greatest significance. That an Amerindian couple in British Columbia should give out with exactly the same strange sound in connection with a Sasquatch that two highly educated white men did, over 600 miles south in connection with California's Bigfoot, is incredible. If this is all hoax or a publicity stunt, or mass-hallucination, as some people have claimed, how does it happen that this noise which defies description always sounds the same no matter who has tried to reproduce it for me? These were probably the last words on the Sasquatch that the Chapmans uttered and I absolutely refuse to listen to anybody who might say they were lying. Admittedly, honest men are such a rarity as possibly to be non-existent, but I have met a few who could qualify and I put the Chapmans near the head of the list.
What on earth had they to gain by making up such a story? All they had ever gotten in return was ridicule and insults to their ancient race. And we had just walked up to them unannounced on a railroad track and they did not tell us what we "wanted to know," because we never said exactly what that was. And, besides, there were plenty of white men who went and looked at those tracks at that time, and they weren't all in cahoots and involved in some devilish plot to defraud the public. The experience of the Chapman family kicked the lid off a fairly large pot that had been brewing for a long time. A Mr. John W. Burns, now of San Francisco, had for many years been collecting every scrap of information on this subject and had published a number of articles on it. Actually, it was he who had bestowed the name Sasquatch on what the Amerindians had previously called, in their various languages and dialects, merely "Wild Men of the Mountains." Mr. Burns was a schoolteacher and had been an Indian Agent, and he is a man of much erudition. There was a long and rather full tradition about the Sasquatch in British Columbia, and especially on Vancouver Island, where so many sightings have been reported. Vancouver Island is enormous. It is very rugged, clothed in the densest forest, and is, even today, for the most part unexplored. What is more, it was the first part of the Northwest Pacific Rain Forest to be invaded by roads, and thus first of these unexplored regions where sightings could have been made. Getting back to the various accounts, I would like to emphasize again that they show a remarkable continuity and similarity that goes beyond the possibilities of coincidence. And you must bear in mind that the widely assorted people who saw a Sasquatch did not know what had been reported before; in fact, a great many of them were completely unaware that any such thing had ever been seen anywhere in the world. Why and how should responsible, sensible men like William Roe make up all these details, details which so exactly coincide with little incidental items recorded by Sherpas in Nepal, bulldozer operators in California, Amerindians on Vancouver Island, teenagers going home from a dance in Agassiz, and so forth? What, I ask the skeptics, is the idea? Is there some sort of international plot and. if so, why do the plotters persist in getting unknown people in obscure places to give out incredible statements?
Let me close with one final Sasquatch sighting, as this was the one
which first made news throughout the world. It happened in 1956 when a
Mr. Stanley Hunt of Vernon, British Columbia a man who had not
previously been in anyway interested in this matter, nor in fact, had
even heard of it outside of some joking references in local newspapers
was driving through the small township of Flood on the Fraser River.
Shortly after dark he saw a large humanoid clothed in "gray hair"
cross the road while another similar creature "gangly, not stocky
like bear stood in the bush beside the road." Flood is immediately
adjacent to Ruby Creek. So we are right back where we started. The matter
of Bigfoot in California is, at the moment of writing, a very live issue,
and several people are putting a good deal of money into an extensive
investigation. But the Sasquatch is no less important. This creature has
been told about by the Amerindians for centuries, and allegedly seen by
white men for more than a century, and it is still being encountered today.
Are we just going to let this thing slip through our fingers by sitting
back and laughing it off? Here is something profoundly alive in our very
midst that certainly needs proper and intelligent study, and some serious
effort expended upon it. And it is a matter that might produce one of
the greatest scientific discoveries of our time.