The climactic ending of Merian C. Cooper’s King Kong remains forever etched in our memories: a massive, hulking ape scrambling up the Empire State Building, clutching poor Ann Darrow in one hand, while attempting to protect his terrified captive against the bullets and buzzing of encircling planes.
This motif of a giant gorilla as kidnapper has a sort of counterpart in Native American myths and legends, where in many instances the mythical creature known as Sasquatch was believed to have taken Indian women off into the mountains, claiming them as wives. Stories such as those featured in the legends of Paiute Native American history tell of such things, one of which involved a young woman that was said to have been kidnapped by a Pahi-zoho, another of the regional names for Sasquatch:
She told the people that as she was picking berries along the meadow by the edge of the forest when a Big Foot or Pahi-zoho had come out behind a tree and grabbed her. He was big, reddish and hairy and she screamed and screamed. He had carried her off and she thought for sure he was going to eat her, but instead he took her into the bushes and forced himself on her. She said he stunk so bad, that it was making her sick and it was extremely painful, that he didn’t talk but grunted all that time.
In more recent times, the stories of Sasquatch kidnappings have sometimes featured male captives, rather than women. Such instances were highlighted in the stories of Albert Ostman’s alleged 1924 kidnapping near Toba Inlet, British Columbia, and a less-well-known incident that involved a trapper named Muchalat Harry which is said to have taken place in the same region four years after Ostman’s adventure.
Anecdotal stories about “kidnappings” have continued over the years, and many readers of the popular Missing: 411 book series by author David Paulides interpret cases discussed by the author, involving strange disappearances in National Parks, to be evidence of Bigfoot’s continuing efforts to capture humans; whether this is presumed to be for companionship, or for consumption, remains unclear.
There have been a few weird incidents that occurred within the last few decades too, where allegations of Sasquatch kidnappings have been made. One odd story that began to be circulated in the 1970s and 80s reportedly appeared in an adventure magazine; it told of an outdoorsman who, while honeymooning with his new bride, flew into a remote Alaskan airport on their way to their getaway destination. They had stopped to refuel, and as the man exited the plane, his wife joined him on the runway.
Turning his attention to the plane, he was suddenly alerted by the sound of his wife screaming. As he turned, he watched a massive “ape” moving quickly toward the nearby forest, carrying the frightened woman away into the darkness with it.
The story, quite obviously apocryphal, resolved in the outdoorsman grabbing his rifle and pursuing the creature, but he was unable to find the creature, or his wife. The heartbroken man, it is said, lost his mind in the aftermath of his wife’s abduction by this Pacific Northwestern “King Kong”. While details about the story have been offered a few times here and there, nobody seems to quite be able to recall the adventure magazine that first published it (although if anyone out there happens to know, you can email me about it here).
An even stranger story of alleged Sasquatch kidnapping occurred in June 1987, near Fresno, California, although the more likely solution in this case had involved a different kind of bipedal kidnapper. The story was reported on September 30, 1987 as follows:
Fresno County authorities said they were forced into letting Russel Welch, 44, back on the streets to “avoid double jeopardy if they later choose to charge the man with murder.”
Welch is accused of abducting Theresa Ann Bier, 16, last June. The two went camping in the Central Sierra and the girl did not return.
Welch told authorities that the legendary apeman, also known as Sasquatch, had taken the girl. Detectives say Welch apparently sincerely believes in Bigfoot creatures and claims to have had continued contact with a tribe of them.
Deputy District Attorney Elvoyce Hooper Friday offered Welch a one-year term on child-stealing charges if he would sign a waiver allowing for a murder trial in the event the girl’s body is found.
The most disturbing aspect to all of this is the fact that it actually involved a missing girl, and that the likely suspect had been released, pending any further evidence of kidnapping, which never surfaced. No clues about Beir’s ultimate fate have surfaced since her disappearance (further details about the case can be found here).
Beir’s disappearance was not the only case that involved an alleged Bigfoot kidnapping in recent times. One other incident, the details of which appear to be at least as likely (or perhaps, rather, as shady) as those of the aforementioned, had taken place a decade prior to Bier’s disappearance. Consider the following Chicago Tribune news item, dated Tuesday, May 25, 1976:
EUREKA, Cal.—A widespread search continued Tuesday for a woman who was reported carried off by a large apelike creature. More than 150 searchers on horseback and in Jeeps scoured the densely wooded mountains of “Bigfoot country” for the woman, who used the names Cherie Darvell and Cherie Nelson. She was a member of a film crew attempting to photograph the legendary beast, and authorities were not discounting the possibility of a expensive hoax. The cost of the search could run as high as $15,000.
Fortunately, three days later Miss Darvell/Nelson did finally turn up at a rural resort, where she was found “screaming hysterically.” While she was gone, she claimed to have had little recollection of what happened, apart from being grabbed and carried off by a large, hairy creature, as reported in The Stanford Daily on May 28, 1976:
She passed out in fear but woke up during the night, alone, somewhere in the forest. “1 don’t think it meant to hurt me at all,” Darvell told a reporter. “It could have if it had wanted to.” The woman said she never got a good look at the creature’s face. “It was just big and hairy.
Humboldt County Sheriff Gene Cox has disputed Darvell’s story and has threatened to press charges if he can prove it was a hoax. Cox said the woman was wearing fresh perfume and clean clothes when she turned up at a rural resort Monday night-, screaming hysterically. Darvell speculated that the perfume of a woman who had held her close to calm her at the resort had rubbed off on her. “I smelted bad, let me tell you,” she said testily. She also insisted that her clothes were slightly soiled, suggesting that the carpet of leaves in the forest prevented her from getting very dirty.
Miss Darvell had purportedly refused to take a polygraph test, which added further suspicion to an already very suspicious disappearance.
A final hilarious footnote to the odd “disappearance” of Cherie Darvell/Nelson appeared the following year, in a strange little book titled Wildman of the Woods: An Encounter with Bigfoot, by Ed Bush and Terry Gaston, the very same gents who had headed the film crew Cherie was a part of at the time of her disappearance. The book’s cover, featuring a crudely-drawn rendering of Sasquatch carrying Darvell away into the forest, features the caption, “A YOUNG WOMEN (sic) IS ABDUCTED AND A LEGEND BECOMES REALITY.” You can read a humorous review of the poorly-edited book over at the Odd Books blog.
In such cases, it would seem that these modern counterparts to the fabled “Sasquatch kidnappings” of yore do bear a particular similarity to Ann Darrow being kidnapped by mighty Kong and being carried away: the stories, after all, appear to be fictional homages to our lasting fascination with bigger-than-life monsters.