One of the most well-known and widely discussed cryptids of all time are the mysterious hairy, ape-like giants of North America, which are variously called the Bigfoot, Sasquatch, Skunk Ape, Grassman, and other regional names. Seen all over the continent, they may differ in appearance or behavior, but one thing that is usually consistent is that for all of their size and strength they seem to be mostly peaceful and benevolent denizens of the forest, much more likely to run away or hide than to confront. Yet there have been many accounts from at least the 19th century all the way up to the present of a different side to these creatures, that of a fierce, ferocious beast fully willing and able to attack or even kill if it has to. Although not as common as reports of more benign or gentle Bigfoot, the accounts or violent or aggressive Bigfoot attacks are rather scary and shocking, and show that there is perhaps more to these enigmatic creatures than meets the eye.
Perhaps the most widely known and publicized case of an attack on humans from an alleged Bigfoot occurred in the summer of 1924, when five prospectors by the names of Marion Smith, his son Roy Smith, Fred Beck, Gabe Lefever, and John Peterson were out in the wilds of Mt. St. Helens, in Skamania County, Washington. The group was out in the remote wilderness working on a claim in an area of a branch of the Lewis River, about eight miles from Spirit Lake, when they came across their first of many oddities to come. There embedded into the earth was a series of footprints reported as looking very human-like but much more massive, at around 14 inches in length, and with unusually stubby toes.
Not long after this, the men began to see some strange creature through the trees during their trek, with a hulking, 7-foot-tall gorilla-like figure seen on at least four occasions, which was described as being covered in long, black hair and sporting two 4-inch long ears that stuck straight up, which is an odd detail to say the least. At one point one of the spooked prospectors, Marion Smith, fired at it to send it lumbering off, but far from cowering it this seemed to only make the creature even bolder. On the morning of July 10, Beck purportedly sighted the creature standing some distance away near the edge of a canyon and decided to try and take a shot at it. He apparently managed to score a direct hit, and the bizarre figure apparently staggered and fell right over the ledge of the canyon, plummeting 400 feet down presumably to its death. It was perhaps this incident that would be the catalyst for what came next.
Later that evening the men were relaxing at their camp in the cabin they had built when they were startled by a sudden, urgent pounding on the roof that seemed to shake the whole structure. The prospectors were immediately on the alert, and grabbed their rifles, still wondering just what was going on. In addition to this pounding and thudding, the cabin began to be pelted by large rocks, some of which broke off pieces of the building or came careening straight through the windows and roof, and at least one of which struck Beck to purportedly knock him unconscious. According to news stories at the time, there were dozens of the creatures prowling about outside of the cabin, and Beck would later claim that the men had fired wildly out into the night in all directions and even up through the roof in a panicked, desperate attempt to drive the menacing creatures off. According to him the fight lasted all night as they cowered in their cabin shooting at the monstrous hairy intruders that were assaulting them from out in the night, which they called “Mountain Devils,” and it was not until the coming of morning that they were finally able to escape, leaving their cabin, equipment, and potentially very valuable claim behind.
As soon as the story was out, the area came to be widely known as Ape Canyon, and Natives of the area suggested that the men had come across a tribe of 7 to 8 foot-tall hairy wild men with supernatural powers, who they called the Seeahtik. According to these tribal sources, members of this lost tribe were typically shy and hardly ever seen, but would exact great vengeance on anyone who killed one of their own. Not only is this one of the earliest reports of Bigfoot violence, but it is the report that really got people interested in the phenomenon of massive hairy ape-men in North America, and the report really got people’s imaginations going at the time.
The story of the Ape Canyon Bigfoot attack has become a major part of Bigfoot lore ever since, but as dramatic and exciting as it is there are some inconsistencies to be found in later reports and retellings. For instance, in the original report of the attack it was stated that the creature that had been shot off the cliff had been killed the day before the attack, yet Beck would in later years insist that it had been killed the morning after the attack. The size of the footprints they had found also went up from an already impressive 14 inches all the way up to a staggering 19 inches in length, and Beck would claim that the original creature that had been shot at had been hit in the head three times by Smith, yet had been totally unfazed. The attack itself later also underwent an evolution from a brief shoot-out to a prolonged all night siege and attack, with the creatures trying to smash their way it and even reaching in through holes in the walls to try and grab the terrified men within.
In short, the story has gotten more and more exciting and action-packed over the years, and while this may just be down to Beck’s ailing memory in later years, it still smacks of trying to sensationalize and spice up the story, and makes any truth that much harder to glean from it. Interestingly, one of the people who interviewed Beck about his experiences in later years was none other than Roger Patterson, the man who managed to film the most famous pieces of Bigfoot footage of all time in October of 1967, and who published the interview in a 1966 book called Do Abominable Snowmen of America Really Exist? Indeed, it is said that the whole over-the-top account given by Beck was one of the reasons Patterson and his partner Bob Gimlin had developed so much interest in the creatures to begin with and why they had ended up out there at Bluff Creek looking for Bigfoot.
The Ape Canyon story will likely remain cloaked in mystery, and we will probably never know just how much of what was reported actually happened and how much is fiction. There is unfortunately not much evidence to go on other than Beck’s account, and even the location of the attack, the cabin, was supposedly destroyed in a fire in 1968 according to Beck, and by other accounts wiped out in the 1980 eruption of Mt. St. Helens. The exact location of the mysterious cabin continues to be searched for to this day, with some even claiming to have found it. The body of the creature that Beck allegedly shot to send sprawling to its doom on the rocks below was also never recovered, if it ever even existed at all. Due to this lack of evidence and any way to corroborate the events depicted, it seems that we are left to merely speculate and discuss the far-out tale of Ape Canyon.
In a bizarre twist that may or may not have anything to do with Beck’s story, in May of 1950 a mountaineer and skier by the name of Jim Carter suddenly and mysteriously disappeared in Ape Canyon while out on a climbing expedition with 20 other people on a warm, clear day. A subsequent search would turn up footprints that seemed to suggest that the missing man had been frantically running, as if being chased, even careening down steep embankments and hurdling recklessly across crevices. One searcher, mountaineer and member of the Seattle Mountain Search and Rescue unit, Bob Lee, has said that there was the constant sense of being watched from the woods during the search. He would say of the expedition:
It was the most eerie experience I have ever had. There was something strange on the high slopes of the mountain. I could feel the hair on my neck standing up. It was eerie. I was unarmed, except for my ice ax and, believe me, I never let go of that. Carter’s complete disappearance is an unsolved mystery to this day. Dr. Otto Trott, Lee Stark and I finally came to the conclusion that the mountain devils got him.
After a two week search by nearly a hundred rescuers, no signs of Carter other than that strange evidence of his mad dash down the mountain were ever found. Lee would go on to say that he was dead serious when he said that “The mountain devils got him,” and claimed that there had been 25 reports of being harassed or attacked by ape-like creatures at Mt. St. Helens over a period of 20 years, including a pack of visiting Boy Scouts from Centralia along with a Scoutmaster Pease, who were unharmed but supposedly scared out of their wits after being charged by one of the furious beasts. It seems that whatever they are, the “ape-men” of Ape Canyon do not appreciate human trespassers.
The original Beck account from Ape Canyon may be one of the older stories of aggressive Bigfoot, but there are actually even older accounts as well. In February of 1829 there were reports in several newspapers such as the February 9 edition of The Statesman and the Connecticut Sentinel, of an apparent attack by a “hairy giant” in the Okefenokee Swamp of the U.S. state of Georgia. Two men had apparently ventured out into the swamp to explore, bringing along with them a young boy. At some part they found strange prints measuring 18 inches long and 9 inches wide out in the deeper part of the swamp, and they made their way back home after being spooked by the enormous footprints.
Some local hunters then became interested in the tale, and one of the men who had seen the footprints accompanied them out to the site where he had found them. They did indeed find some vestiges of the tracks, and apparently followed them deeper into the wilderness for several days. One evening as the group was in camp they reportedly had a harrowing experience indeed, when some fierce creature charged them from the brush. Five men and the creature itself would end up dead in the ensuing battle, and The Statesman news report says of this thus:
The next minute he was full in their view, advancing upon them with a terrible look and ferocious mien. Our little band instinctively gathered close in a body and presented their rifles. The huge being, nothing daunted, bounded upon his victims, and in the same instant received the contents of seven rifles. He did not fall alone, nor until he had glutted his wrath with the death of five of them, which he effected by wringing the head from the body. – Writhing and exhausted, at length he fell, with his hapless prey beneath his grasp.
When the dead beast’s carcass was examined it was found to measure 13 feet tall and was covered with coarse hair, and the frightened men decided to retreat, as they were afraid it’s death would attract any others in the area. So hasty was their escape that both the mysterious monster and their fallen partners were left where they lay. Whether this incident really happened or not, the Okefenokee Swamp has long produced stories of such creatures from the Native tribes and sightings reports of Bigfoot-like beasts all the way up to the present day.
Another early report was uncovered by cryptozoologist Loren Coleman. The report comes from an article called “Terror in the Woods,” which appeared in the November 27, 1895 edition of the SanFrancisco newspaper The Call, and is a rather dramatic, violent account of several lumbermen who either went missing or were killed in a shockingly brutal manner by some wild beast in Northern California. The story goes that in November of 1895 a lumberman came out of the wilderness telling stories of missing men and a hairy wild man running amok. The article reads:
A lumberman who returned to-day from the forest in the north of the State brings the most harrowing intelligence of the doings of a wild man in the lumber region of the west branch. He states that great consternation has been caused and a large number of lumbermen have left the camps and returned to their cities rather than face the monster.
For over two months quite a number of men have disappeared from the camps and when found bore the semblance of having had an encounter with some wild animal, their bodies in every instance having been terribly mangled and torn. A lumberman who returned to a camp a little north of this city a week ago startled all by stating that while at work he had been attacked by this wild man, and it was only by the help of his ax that he had been able to defend himself from the murderous attacks. Since that time he has been seen by the crews several times, but on their approach he fled into the deep woods with the speed of a deer.
He is described as being so nearly like an animal that it is almost impossible to detect him from one. He has a long, shaggy beard, and is covered with a huge, skin coat. The general belief is that he is a sportsman who has become lost in the deep forests, and after wandering around for weeks has gone hopelessly crazy, and already there have been over half a dozen instances of a similar character in the State.
What is going on here? Another early report was published in 1892 in a book written by none other than former president and rugged outdoorsman Theodore Roosevelt himself, called The Wilderness Hunter. In one entry in the book, Roosevelt describes the frightening encounter of a frontiersman called only Bauman, who was allegedly out with a partner at an isolated area of Montana’s Wisdom River to do some trapping. The men made a makeshift camp and went out to trap, and when they returned found that not only had their packs been ripped open and rummaged through while they were away, but that their lean-to had also been destroyed.
The men perhaps foolishly decided to stay, and merely rebuilt the lean-to and tidied up the camp, and that night Bauman supposedly was awoken by something crashing through the brush and an oppressive, foul stink. Bauman grabbed his rifle and shot out into the night, after which the creature reportedly scampered off. The following morning, the men made preparations to leave, deciding that they had had enough of the strange goings on. Bauman allegedly gathered up their traps while his partner went on ahead to set up a new camp farther down the river, but when Bauman arrived he was met with the grisly sight of his friend dead, his neck twisted all the way around and horrific bite marks on his throat. Although this could have just as easily have been a bear attack as a Sasquatch attack, and was probably just meant to be a good yarn, it is a curious account nevertheless.
A very bizarre and much more recent report of an alleged attack happened in 1965 in Monroe County, Michigan, when a 17-year-old Christina Van Acker was driving home one evening with her mother. As they drove there was reported a loud thud that reverberated through the car and shook the vehicle. Thinking they had hit an animal or a person they stopped the car to take a look. According to the report, as soon as Christina rolled the window down a massive arm covered in black hair had then reached in through the window, grabbed her head, and then smashed it against the car door so hard that she was rendered unconscious. It is unclear just how much it had been prepared to push this attack, as Christina’s mother’s screams seemed to have startled it and sent it running off into the woods. The mother would claim that it was a hair-covered, ape-like beast around 7 feet tall, which had “growled like a mad dog.”
Still more recent yet is a somewhat well-known case that happened in 2000 in a rural part of Honobia, Oklahoma. The witness, known only as “Mike,” supposedly bought a farm there with his family, and several months after moving in strange things began to happen. One evening Mike claims that they started to hear loud bangs on the front door or even the sides of the house, and in the ensuing days he claimed that he had seen a shadowy figure that stood 8 feet tall lurking about the property.
After this things got more harrowing, when 30 chickens went missing rom the chicken coop and a load of deer meat stolen from the shed, which had had the door completely ripped off. In addition to this, on several occasions there were heard unearthly and deafening shrieking wails booming out from the forest at night. Mike asked his brother Tim for help, and the two men decided to try and set up a stake-out to shoot the intruder with rifles. After several nights of staying awake in the dark with their rifles held close, a man-like hairy face reportedly bloomed out of the darkness at the window to peer in and growl menacingly, after which the two brothers fired at it to send it fleeing. As the two men ran out onto the porch to pursue it, they saw it fall to the ground apparently dead, and three more of the massive beasts allegedly then materialized from the trees to carry away the carcass.
The next evening, they apparently came back for revenge, as the brothers reported having their house assaulted by the creatures, which hurled stones, punched walls, and violently rattled doors and windows, all the while howling in anger, and such attacks would persist until the family decided to move away. The incident has been commonly called “The Siege of Honobia,” and has several of the hallmarks of Beck’s Ape Canyon encounter, such as the dead Bigfoot inciting fierce vengeance and the attack on the home by several of the creatures who seem to have really wanted to get in. One wonders what would have happened if they had actually succeeded.
Most recent of all is an alleged scary encounter with Sasquatch that happened as recently as 2015 in East Texas Piney Woods, within the Sam Houston National Forest, near Houston, Texas. According to Bigfoot researcher Wes Germer, he had ventured into the area along with guides Bob Garett and sons in order to look for the elusive creatures, and that evening they were spooked by a large, hairy bipedal creature of some sort which exuded power and possessed great speed. Germer would say:
We hear this thing crash through the brush. And then we hear this thing start crashing, just crash! Crash! Crash! Crash. And you can hear it walking and you can hear it breaking branches as it’s going. This thing moved so fast, it probably covered 100, 150 yards like nothing.
Germer and some of the other men went to investigate armed with rifles, but they could not get a good view of it because the trees were so dense. They could hear it out there moving around, however, and could hear its breathing as well, and they estimated that it was only around 30 or 40 feet away from their position. They crept in closer on it, and that was when things got intense rather quickly, when they heard a sound like something whirling through the air, like “helicopter blades.” Germer would say:
And I knew what it was. It was a log coming, and it was a big log, and you could hear it being thrown. And I ducked down because I thought for sure it was going to hit one of us in the head. But it hit a tree right in front of us, and I just couldn’t believe that was happening. I knew what just threw that log at us.
The mysterious creature would continue to hurl logs and pieces of broken trees at them sporadically during their excursion, none of which ever hit their mark, leaving them to speculate if it was really trying to harm them or simply scare them off. Germer would say that on a different excursion he and his son had been assaulted by a barrage of logs that was so intense that they had been forced to cower in their truck. If these reports are true, then it would seem that something incredibly powerful must be at the source of these outbursts, and it fits in with the numerous reports of Bigfoot hurling boulders, rocks, and other heavy objects in an effort to frighten or possibly even to maim or kill.
Although the mysterious and elusive Bigfoot are mostly said to be shy and gentle creatures, it seems from accounts such as we have seen here that they are perhaps capable of great feats of ferocity and violence if they are provoked or so inclined. If they do exist, then just as any other large and powerful animal they are potentially dangerous under the right circumstances, perhaps even deadly. In the end we simply do not know the extent of the behavior of these creatures, what they want, or whether they are even real or not, and such tales certainly serve to put a new layer onto the Bigfoot phenomenon and a possible glimpse into a darker side of these mysterious monsters.