An often stated, though fundamentally misinformed viewpoint, entails that the mythical hairy giants of the Pacific Northwest known as Bigfoot had been birthed from a crude hoax that occurred in the late 1950s.
More specifically, on August 27th 1958, one Gerald Crew of Salyer in Humboldt County, was heading in for his shift on a construction site near Bluff Creek, California, and in the fresh mud nearby, Crew spotted what appeared to be large, barefoot human prints, which measured 16 inches from heel-to-toe.
This incident became darling among news agencies at the time, despite the fact that even early on, the more critically-minded believed it had been a hoax. This was later confirmed in decades that followed, the culprit having been a man named Ray Wallace who, in revealing his involvement in the hoax, similarly laid to claim to the genesis of modern belief in Bigfoot as the result of such foolishness.
Less often discussed are those stories of the supposed creatures that predated Wallace’s escapades. Logic would indicate that Wallace, hoaxer though he was, had drawn inspiration for the prank from someplace, after all. It had likely been the preexisting legends about the region that had helped inspire the 1958 hoax, which became one of the first significant events to have brought public attention to the idea of Sasquatch or, as the prints discovered at Bluff Creek had helped inspire, “Bigfoot” as it is commonly known today.
There had been others, however, who became interested in the Sasquatch legends prior to the 1950s. J.W. Burns, an agent and teacher who lived among the Chehalis near Harrison Lake, began writing about the legends natives had shared with him decades before Wallace tossed his hat into the ring with his hijinks. Among the stories related by Burns are tales of creatures much more like humans than beasts, which had even spoken a dialect recognized by the Chehalis as the Douglas tongue.
“She Aggravated it So Much”
However, perhaps one of the most curious stories Burns recounted had been that of a woman who claimed not only to have seen or interacted with one of the Sasquatch creatures, but literally said she had been kidnapped by one of them. In his book Abominable Snowmen: Legend Come to Life, research Ivan Sanderson revisits the Burns account as follows:
Mr. J. W. Burns (now retired and living in San Francisco) who had devoted a lifetime to the study of this business, unearthed an old Amerindian woman from Port Douglas at the head of Harrison Lake who alleged, and brought some seconders to confirm, that she had been kidnapped by one of these creatures in the year 1871, kept by it for a year, but finally returned by it to her tribal homestead because she “aggravated it so much” (though, she said, it had treated her with every consideration). This old lady died in 1940 at the age of 86. When abducted she was 17 years old and was, she stated, forced to swim the Harrison River by the [creature] and then carried by him to a rock shelter where its aged parents dwelt. This account comes from Mr. Burns who had for years enjoyed the confidence of this retiring Amerind. It has been embellished in various ways by others to the effects that the girl had rosin plastered over her eyes by the creature; that she became pregnant by it; and that she subsequently gave birth to a half-breed that either was stillborn, died shortly after birth, or is still hidden by her people from the eyes of the white man. She never said any of these things to Mr. Burns but adhered to her straightforward story till her death.
Straightforward though it may have seemed to Sanderson, the tale certainly bears apocryphal characteristics; namely that idea that the woman stayed with the Sasquatch up until her return because she “aggravated it so much.” Nonetheless, the motif of human coupling with Sasquatches that the story presents is one that is familiar throughout other American Indian legends from the region. This is not to say, however, that the concept has been exclusive to such indigenous cultural mythologies.
Beginning in the 1920s, non-native stories of alleged Sasquatch kidnappings would begin to emerge (though it should be noted that many of these legends did not emerge until decades later, once the Wallace affair and similar happenings had brought significant attention to the affair, which casts doubt on the stories for some). Among the most famous alleged kidnappings are the 1924 Albert Ostman story, involving a prospector who claimed a large male Sasquatch kidnapped him and forced him to spend several days with his family. A similar story, which purportedly took place four years later in 1928, was related to researcher Peter Byrne, involving a man named Muchalate Harry who, much like Ostman, was taken from his encampment one evening and carried away by a large male Sasquatch. Harry escaped, like Ostman, after staying with the creatures for a short period.
Into The Pit
While these incidents both involved the familiar motif of kidnappings, neither made explicit mention of the more unsettling notion of coupling between the Sasquatch and their human captors (though Ostman is believed to have felt he was intended as a mate for the young female among the family that held him captive). However, another 1920s-era report, related a number of years later to Bobbie Short of the Bigfoot Encounters website, did make such references. The story was sent along by a man named John Lewis, and if true, it would present us with what may arguably be one of the most eerie, but thought-provoking, stories of its kind:
Grandpa was working for Southern Pacific Railroad and building track in the northern California -Oregon border area in the early nineteen hundreds, I do not know the year; during this work project, he was dispatched to work on a line camp in the woods, they had a base camp that the work crew worked from and each week the work crews would split in to two man teams that would work an area clearing logs and ground and at the end of one week they would go back to the base camp to check in and replenish their supplies and then set out after the weekend for another week in the woods.
During this time, one of the two-man teams came back to base camp with only one man, they were told that the other man had disappeared. The group at the base camp apparently gave a brief search to no avail.
The next week the crews went out in two man crews and continued the work on the railroad line clearing. Some weeks later, I am not sure how long this was as the camp moved north and the group of railroad workers came upon the missing man; he was naked and hysterical/crazed, and apparently died soon after he was found. He told of being abducted by a female ape that kept him in a large open pit. During the time he was in the pit the man told of being forced to have sexual contact with the ape many times and said that the ape kept him in the hole or pit by licking his hands and feet raw, so he was not able to escape from the pit. Apparently my grandfather saw this man’s hands and feet, and said that they were completely raw.
The legends involving Sasquatch kidnappings are, unto themselves, particularly interesting within the broader folklore surrounding these creatures. More interesting, perhaps, are the purported abduction incidents that do involve this element of coupling; an element with possible implications that extend well beyond the present discussion.
As always, I am interested in hearing whether any of the Mysterious Universe readership may have views and perspectives on this subject; in particular, I would love to hear from people who may have had family members, like John Lewis recounts in his story above, who recall such stories or legends. I can be reached directly via email here, or you may use the comments section below to share your stories as well.