"The wild man of Vancouver Island has been seen again by a prospector while out in the mountains last week, near Cowichan Lake…"
So began a single paragraph in a 1905 issue of the Cowichan Leader. Note the reference to the "wild man" having been seen again.
The newspaper’s unidentified informant reported "seeing what he believes was the much talked of wild man. He saw something through the bush and at first sight thought it was a bear, and raising his rifle moved a little closer, when to
his surprise a man straightened up before him. He immediately lowered his gun and shouted to him but the wild man at once sprang into the thicket and was soon lost to view.
"The prospector tried to follow his track
but on account of the dense undergrowth was forced to give up the chase."
We’re talking Sasquatch, right? But wouldn’t you think that, after all these years, after all the credible sightings, the gigantic footprints, we’d have solved this mystery, one way or another, by now? Yet Sasquatch, Bigfoot, Yeti, whatever, remains as elusive as ever despite reward offers of up to $10 million for its capture.
Which is a pretty good trick when you’re said to range from eight to 18 feet in height and weigh from 500 to 1200 pounds. To date, despite countless sightings, numerous
close encounters and hundreds of plaster casts taken of footprints measuring up to 18 inches in length, no one has offered the conclusive proof that Sasquatch exists.
I’ve already told of Jacko, believed to have been a young Sasquatch captured by a train crew at Yale in the summer of 1884 and turned over to one George Tilbury for exhibition, only to disappear into limbo. I
could go on at length about some of the wilder theories as to the genealogical and geographical origins of Sasquatch but, for today, I’ll settle for the tale of the Spanish explorers who arrived off the B.C. coast with, of all things, a captive gorilla. Which
escaped, kidnapped a teenaged native girl, took up residence in the mountains and produced two children-Sasquatch.
Other legends attribute his origin to a white youth who vanished from Qualicum and became wild about the turn of the last century. Some Island tribes believed them to be descendants of the ‘Ahootzoos,’ tribesmen outlawed from Flores Island, near Tofino.
After Jacko’s capture, the next reported encounter with a ‘man-beast’ occurred
near Campbell River, about 1901. The Colonist carried a vivid account by pioneer Mike King, described by late historian Bruce A. McKelvie as having been "one of the most outstanding timber cruisers who ever operated in British Columbia…a fine type of a man with an enviable reputation for reliability".
King was alone that late afternoon, his native packers refusing to serve him in a region which was the lair of "monkeymen." Packing through the dense foliage, the cruiser was startled to see a weird creature washing edible roots in a waterhole. Hearing him approach, it wheeled about, shrieked a "human cry of mingled terror and defiance," and vanished in the twilight.
"His body was covered with reddishbrown hair," recounted King, "and the arms were peculiarly long and used freely in climbing and bush running. The trail showed a distinct human foot, with phenomenally long and spreading toes." In December 1904, "four sober-minded settlers of Qualicum" were hunting near Horne Lake when they spotted an "uncouth being whom they described as a living, breathing and intensely interesting modern Mowgli [Rudyard Kipling’s wild-boy].
"The wild man was apparently young, with long matted hair and a beard," the Colonist continued, "and covered with a profusion of hair all over the body. He ran like a deer through the seemingly impenetrable tangle of undergrowth, and pursuit was utterly impossible."
Further tribute to the Qualicum hunters’ veracity was the statement, "There is not the slightest deviation or variation in detail in the stories they tell with an earnestness that defies ridicule."
The following year, yet another encounter was recorded when a party of Indians, canoeing between Union Bay and Comox, told of having shot at a "deer" on the shore. When the creature jumped up and ran into the trees, the marksmen were shocked to see he was a "naked man".
In 1902 there was a report from Dawson
City, Y.T. that some Indians at Stewart River were "hurrying away…in terror of their lives from a strange beast, which, from the description, is as large as a prehistoric mammoth, and bellows with a noise like a fog signal".
Some conjectured that a mammoth which "had been slumbering for 5000 years in the great glacier beds, had come to life again to terrorize the natives". Alas, no further details were given.
Sasquatch seems to have remained incognito until 1924 when several prospectors sought refuge in Kelso, Wash., claiming they’d been chased and stoned by "a band of apes".
Although silenced by the derision of his colleagues until the 1950s, it was in 1924 that Albert Ostman of Fort Langley said he was kidnapped by a Sasquatch. Although his story would seem improbable, it’s considered by some to be "indestructible." When John W. Green, publisher of the weekly Agassiz-Harrison Advance, interviewed the old woodsman, he was accompanied by Harrison magistrate Lt.-Col. A.M. Naismith. A former criminal lawyer, Naismith used every device of cross-examination he knew to reveal a weakness in Ostman’s account- and found none.
(To be continued) www.twpaterson.com