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The Grinning “Gorilla” of Canada

Way back in 1933, a writer named Elliott Merrick told of a Bigfoot-style monster roaming around Happy Valley-Goose Bay, Labrador, Canada, around two decades earlier. The location was land near the Traverspine River. Merrick’s story began in appropriately chilling and monstrous style:

“Ghost stories are very real in this land of scattered lonely homes and primitive fears. The Traverspine ‘Gorilla’ is one of the creepiest. About twenty years ago one of the little girls was playing in an open grassy clearing one autumn afternoon when she saw coming out of the woods a huge hairy thing with low-hanging arms. It was about seven feet tall when it stood erect, but sometimes it dropped to all fours. Across the top of its head was a white mane.”

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The beast gave the girl an eerie and unsettling grin, which allowed her to see its large, white teeth. It was when the animal reportedly “beckoned” the girl towards it that the girl, hardly surprisingly, fled for her life, and for the safety of the family home. The family quickly responded but the creature was already gone. It had most definitely left its mark, however, as Merrick noted:

“Its tracks were everywhere in the mud and sand, and later in the snow. They measured the tracks and cut out paper patterns of them which they still keep. It is a strange-looking foot, about twelve inches long, narrow at the heel, and forking at the front into two broad, round-ended toes. Sometimes its print was so deep it looked to weigh 500 pounds. At other times the beast’s mark looked no deeper than a man’s track.”

According to Merrick, hunts for the creature were quickly organized, which involved local lumbermen, armed with rifles, scouring the woods, fields, and the nearby Mud Lake, by day and night. The beast remained oddly elusive. Even bear traps proved to be utterly useless.

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Such was Merrick’s interest in this story, he pursued it with vigor: “A dozen people have told me they saw its track with their own eyes and it was unlike anything ever seen or heard of. One afternoon one of the children saw it peeping in the window. She yelled and old Mrs. Michelin grabbed a gun and ran for the door. She just saw the top of its head disappearing into a clump of trees.

“She fired where she saw the bushes moving and thinks she wounded it. She says too that it had a ruff of white across the top of its head. At night they used to bar the door with a stout birch beam and all sleep upstairs, taking guns and axes with them.”

The presence of the creature also provoked a significant reaction in the local dogs, too, a matter that Merrick was careful to document:

“The dogs knew it was there too, for the family would hear them growl and snarl when it approached. Often it must have driven them into the river for they would be soaking wet in the morning. One night the dogs faced the thing, and it lashed at them with a stick or club, which hit a corner of the house with such force it made the beams tremble. The old man and boys carried guns wherever they went, but never got a shot at it. For the two winters it was there.”

A gorilla? Most unlikely. After all, it could stand in a completely upright position, was almost seven feet tall, and was seen in the wilds of Canada – hardly the regular haunt of a gorilla! The skeptics might suggest an escapee from a traveling menagerie. But, frankly, accounts of “circus escapees,” in connection with strange creature sightings, abound and (the occasional genuine case aside) are clearly a staple part of modern day folklore.

Bigfoot? That’s what my money is on. Although, as a result of the extensive passage of time, we’re unlikely to ever know for sure.

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Nick Redfern works full time as a writer, lecturer, and journalist. He writes about a wide range of unsolved mysteries, including Bigfoot, UFOs, the Loch Ness Monster, alien encounters, and government conspiracies. Nick has written 41 books, writes for Mysterious Universe and has appeared on numerous television shows on the The History Channel, National Geographic Channel and SyFy Channel.
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