Perspective: "Amazing but true"
Editor's note: For the last few months, a team of West Linn Tidings and Lake Oswego Review writers and correspondents have worked to put together stories for our annual "Perspective" magazine. The stories were all based on general theme: "Amazing but true." Inside today's newspaper, readers will find the culmination of that effort; 104 pages filled with stories about people in West Linn and Lake Oswego (Oregon) who have revealed something out of the ordinary. Fifteen writers crafted 25 stories for the special section. In addition we have combed the archives for unusual stories from the past. Finally, we asked out readers to submit some interesting tales of their own. While we were unable to include all of these, we tried to give a good representation of what local residents had to say. We hope you will enjoy the offerings of the 2004 "Perspective." It represents some hard work by a group of people interested in sharing some amazing stories with the community. Ray Pitz, Tidings Editor West Linn, Oregon
sightings abound in West Linn and Beyond
There is a highway running through Lake Oswego and West Linn. An invisible highway lined not with service stations but with roots and berries and crawfish to fuel the journey of those who travel along it. Travelers who do not cloak themselves in tons of steel, rubber and glass, but instead go naked. They travel by foot. Big feet.
The highway is the Tualatin River. But if those who study it are correct, it may as well be called the Bigfoot Expressway.
Thom Powell, a Clackamas County resident junior high school science teacher and author of The Locals: A Contemporary Investigation of the Bigfoot/Sasquatch Phenomenon has never seen a bigfoot. He is a skeptic. But in years of research, he's convinced there's no reason the creature - if it exists - could not freely roam up and down the Tualatin River. As Powell sees it, the river is a natural migration route for animals traveling back and forth between the Coast Range and the Cascades. Given the elusive and nocturnal tendencies attributed to Bigfoot, as well as the heavily wooded ravines that cris-cross the area, a large and intelligent animal could go all but undetected. "All bets are off at night," Powell said. "We are absolutely not inhabitants of the landscape at night, so whatever's inhabiting it, we have no awareness of it, we can't do anything about it, and we absolutely can't document it."
But bigfoot sightings have been documented locally. Oregonbigfoot.com, a website maintained by Eugene based researchers Bob and Autumn Williams collects witness reports from people who claim to have encounters a bigfoot. Their site features three reports submitted by local residents.
A report from sometime between the 1950's to early 1960's recounts the experience of a young boy living near Boones Ferry Road in Lake Grove, Oregon. The boy was with his brother in the attic of the family home when they spotted an apelike face ringed with white hair looking at them through a window nine feet off the ground. The report concludes: The two boys fled down the ladder to the ground floor and hid in the shower until their father returned. The ape was gone and their mother, a deeply religious Southern Baptist, was convinced they had seen the devil.
Fast forward to June 1987. A couple living on Troon Drive, atop the hill overlooking Marylhurst University were settled down to sleep when a warbling scream, came wafting through their open windows. The noise seemed to be coming from a cul-de-sac downhill from the couple's home, a popular make out spot for local high-schoolers. Concerned that a young girl had gotten in over her head, the husband put on his clothes and went down to investigate: I ran down to the cul-de-sac (approximately 200 yards and the sound was now clearer. There were no cars and no teenagers. It seemed to be coming from an area of greenbelt heavy in brush, blackberry bushes and Douglas firs. The screams stopped after about 4-5 minutes. The police arrived and I told them about the screams and they flashed some lights around and said they'd check it out.
At midnight on July 12, 1995 a man and his dog were near the Willamette River in the Willamette area of West Linn: Along a sewage stream with brambles and swamp off the freeway, lit by arch street lights, he saw a large white creature moving around. It kept bobbing up and down in different locations and seemed to just be looking at him, moving around to different places 100-200 feet away. It was about 7 ft high, had three inch long white dirty hair, head the shape of a dome.
The sightings don't end there, according to one local man. An amateur bigfoot tracker, the man is now maintaining a low profile in order to protect his family's privacy and requested his name not appear in print. Like Powell, he subscribes to the river-as-a-highway theory and maintains it's easy for clever animals to hide in the city, noting that a cougar lives on the south side of West Linn. The man knows of two additional local Bigfoot sightings both within the last three to four years. In the first, a local siding installer was fishing with friends on the Tualatin River near the low-head dam about three and a half miles upstream from the Willamette.
Across the river on the south side they saw an ape-like creature crouches in the reeds using its hand to scoop water into its mouth. The men took pictures with a disposable camera - their prints were "pretty indistinct" said the anonymous man, but "with the right equipment you could probably do something."
The second sighting involves what the anonymous man calls a "pretty stable" kid who shot a video of a suspected Bigfoot near Wanker's Corner. The video is less than perfect, he says, but the boy's recollection of the even has convinced him the tape is not a hoax.
The young man would have had to do tons of research over many years to come up with some details that are generally known only to enthusiasts. He said.
Both men are sure there are more sightings out there than have been reported. Many people, the anonymous man included, keep their encounters to themselves for years, fearful they'll be branded as delusional.
"If a person sees one of these things, the typical pattern is they'll sit on it for 6 months to 6 years then they'll go "uh-oh, I gotta find out," said the anonymous man.
Trying to find out often leads to more questions than answers. Even among those who believe Bigfoot exists, there's no consensus as to what it might be. Many believe it's a relative of modern apes, Gigantopithecus blackii, a towering southeast Asian primate that went extinct -maybe - around 300,000 years ago. Lesser circulated theories hold that it is something altogether different from any other animal, a creature capable of altering its own physical form and vanishing into thin air.
Powell is of the opinion that any real life Bigfoot is likely a hominid, the scientific classifications for all animals on the "human" side of man's evolutionary divergence from the ancestors of modern apes, an even believed to have occurred some 15 - 30 million years ago. "Neanderthals may not be as extinct as we think" he said.
The anonymous local man says he wouldn't be a researcher, let alone a believer if not for his own experiences. "It's an interesting phenomenon. But the bottom line is you have no bones, no bodies and no reputable good photographs except for the Bluff Creek one," he said.
The Bluff Creek photographs come from the 16mm movie shot in 1967 by Roger Patterson near Bluff Creek California. The validity of the film has been in question ever since it became public and definitive answers have eluded both skeptics and believers.
Perhaps the truth will never be known. But the question of just what, if anything, is out there goes back far further than 1967. Powell's interviews with Native Americans on nearby reservations have unearthed stories of "stick Indians," a lost Native American Tribe bearing an uncanny resemblance to the modern Bigfoot legend. And their stories speak to a local connections, a long-lingering dispute over fishing rights at the base of Willamette Falls.
"Native American Lore holds that they would fish the east side of the falls and avoid the west side because they believed it was the domain of the hairy man" Powell said.
mailed courtesy Joe Beelart,
West Linn, Oregon April, 2004
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