Early Bigfoot Tales
By Rupert Matthews
By Rupert Matthews
The oldest contemporary account of a sighting that seems to be of a Sasquatch so far traced comes from the Watchman newspaper of New York state on 22 September 1818. This report states that a few days earlier, near Ellisburgh, a “gentleman of unquestionable veracity” saw “an animal resembling the Wild Man of the Woods”. This would seem to indicate that the supposed Wild Man of the Woods was already a well known figure of legend or rumour. The creature was described as being like a large man, but covered in hair. It walked out of the woods on to a road a few yards in front of the witness. Seeing the human, the creature turned and ran off, leaning forwards as it did so. The creature left behind footsteps that were human-like but very wide at the toes.
In 1851 two hunters out in Greene County, Arkansas, watched a Sasquatch apparently trying to catch calf from a herd of domestic cattle. They described the creature as being “an animal bearing the unmistakable likeness of humanity. He was of gigantic stature, the body being covered with hair and the head with long locks that fairly enveloped the neck and shoulders.” As soon as the creature realised that humans were in the vicinity it stopped chasing the cattle and instead stared at the hunters, then turned and ran off at high speed. It left behind human-like footprints that were 13 inches long.
The newspaper that reported the incident speculated that the creature was a human survivor of an earthquake that had taken place in 1811. It was thought that he had taken to an animal-like existence to survive and so had acquired animal-like hair and appearance. It was a not uncommon theory in the 19th century.
In the 1860s similar creatures were reported in Michigan newspapers as having been seen several times around the Lake Saint Claire region. In 1869 “wild men” were reported being seen in Iowa. In 1874 Pennsylvania newspapers carry similar stories, and Indiana newspapers carried reports in 1895 and 1897.
One of the most detailed and interesting of these mid-19th century reports was made by a hunter who had been out near Antioch, California, in 1869. He found a good area and pitched his camp. He soon noticed that while he was out hunting during the day something had come into his camp, scattered the ashes of his fire about and left footprints that looked like those of a man, except for their immense size. Curious, the man decided to secret himself in a patch of brush which gave him a good view of his camp from a distance of about 70 feet. After two hours of waiting he was rewarded when the mysterious intruder arrived.
“The creatures, whatever it was, stood five feet high and disproportionately broad and square at the shoulders, with arms of great length. The legs were very short and the body long. The head was small compared with the rest of the creature and appeared to be set upon his shoulders without a neck. The whole was covered with dark brown and cinnamon coloured hair, quite long on some parts, that on the head standing in a shock and growing close down to the eyes.”
After looking around carefully, the creature kicked the embers of the camp fire. It bent down and picked up a stick which it whirled around its head producing a circle of smoke. After the glowing end of the stick had gone out, the beast threw its head back and whistled. Then it picked up a second stick and again swung it around. After about fifteen minutes the creature “was joined by another – a female unmistakably – when both turned and walked past me, within 20 yards of where I sat, and disappeared into the brush.” Given the date of the encounter, the writer’s reference to the second creature being unmistakably female would probably mean that it had breasts.
The hunter concluded by saying that he had met one other hunter who had seen the creatures, and about a dozen more who had seen mysterious gigantic human-like footprints. This acceptance of the reality of the creatures by those who spent a lot of time in the forested hills is a feature of theses early cases that surfaces again and again. The educated townsfolk who wrote and read the newspapers were amazed by the stories of wild men, the hunters and trappers were not.
In 1895 a man named of Riley Smith was picking berries near Winsted, Connecticut, when his bulldog came dashing out of a patch of woodland whimpering and trying to hide behind Smith. Wondering what had caused this, Smith stood up to see “a large man, stark naked and covered with hair all over his body” emerge from the trees. The instant the “wild man” saw Smith it gave a terrifying yell, then turned and fled back into the woods. Smith later admitted that he had been paralysed with fear.
Meanwhile, newspaper reports were beginning to term these unusual creatures “gorillas” in deference to the newly discovered great apes of the African forests. The idea that the sightings were of men gone wild was gradually dropped in favour of the idea that they were gorillas or similar apes escaped from zoos or travelling shows. A newspaper report from Arkansas ended with the words “If this meets the eye of any showman who has lost one of his collection of beasts, he may know where to find it. At present it is the terror of all women and children in the valley. It cannot be caught and nobody is willing to shoot it. ”
This last comment is interesting as it is the first appearance in print of a feature of many later Sasquatch sightings. Several hunters have had a Sasquatch square in the sights of their rifle, only to find themselves unwilling to shoot. There is something about the Sasquatch that seems to be very human, which would make killing one something like murder. Others have been less squeamish and have blasted away at a Sasquatch without compunction but also, at least to date, without much effect.
For more informaiton on the Bigfoot see the book written by Rupert Matthews “Bigfoot and Other Mysterious Creatures.” The book is available from Amazon.