"Why is it," I was asked on a radio show just a few days ago, "that Bigfoot, if it's real, has only been seen for the last few decades?" Those aren't the exact words, but they're pretty close. The clearly uninformed host had no idea that reports of large, hairy man-beasts in the United States (and also in Canada) date back not just decades, but centuries. Indeed, even a cursory search on Google for "19th Century Bigfoot Reports" will reveal a wealth of material. Evidently, for some radio-show hosts, the concept of a search-engine is completely and utterly beyond them. Some "oldie" cases are more famous than others. More than a few are downright infamous - such as the strange and very controversial case of "Jacko." And then there's this one...
In a 1908 edition of the Alaska-Yukon Magazine, there appeared a notable story from one Frank E. Howard. It was an article that told of an incident that occurred during the summer months, just a few years previously. The location was Alaska’s Malaspina Glacier. As he negotiated the perilous glacier, Howard had a disastrous fall into a deep crevasse.
Fortunately, Howard was not injured, but there was a problem. And, wouldn’t you just know it, it was a big problem, too. There was simply no way for him to climb out the same way he had fallen in. So, there was just one option left to him. He had to follow the crevasse, hoping that it would lead downhill and allow him to finally leave the crevasse and make his way down the glacier. That's exactly what Howard claimed happened.
Howard told the magazine: "I arose and started down the slope with the idea of reaching the water and following along its margin while the tide was low, in search of some crevasse leading out into the open bay. I was sure the great cavern was crevassed to the surface at some point beyond. As I kept going ahead I noticed a gradual increase of light, and in a few more steps, I stood in a broad wall of blue light that came down from above and, looking up, I saw there was no clear opening to the surface. But objects were now revealed some distance around."
He continued: "Then an object rose slowly out of the glimmer and took form – a spectral thing, with giant form, and lifelike movement. The object rose erect, a Goliath in the shape of a man. Then, watching me with a slantwise glance, it walked obliquely from me, until its form faded in the gloom of the cavern." It is Howard's final words that suggest strongly that the mighty creature was a Bigfoot: "With its shaggy light-colored fur and huge size, the creature in some ways resembled a bear with bluish gray fur, but that it had a roughly human form, and at all times walked erect."
Ed Ferrell, author of the book, Strange Stories of Alaska and the Yukon, says of the Frank E. story: "There is no further record of Frank Howard. Yet his account is consistent with other reports of Bigfoot or Sasquatch." Raincoast Sasquatch author, J. Robert Alley comments: "It seems plausible that this event may have happened in some form or another, as described…At any rate it is an intriguing tale, if not simply a good yarn, and Ferrell's summation, of the creature described as 'consistent with Sasquatch' seems quite appropriate."
A genuine encounter with a Bigfoot more than a century ago? Or a saga of Jacko-like proportions? Questions, questions. Whatever the merits or otherwise of such cases, we can say for sure that people were talking about Bigfoot-like creatures long before Bigfoot became a household name.