Abominable Snowmen, by Ivan T. Sanderson, , at sacred-texts.com
In my opening remarks in the previous chapter I said that I was going to tell this story according to the chronology of discoveries made by the Western World, starting about the year 1860, rather than according to straight historical chronology. Having briefly outlined these discoveries from that date up to this year, I landed up in the northwestern corner of North America. I now find that this is just the place where I have to commence my detailed reporting and for several reasons. By way of explanation I resort to a map (Map I); a procedure that, I am afraid, you will discover I nearly always do.
ABSMs have now been reported from several dozen areas scattered all over five of the continents. * At first sight this distribution does not appear to make any sense at all. This is a misconception but to go into the whys and wherefore thereof at this juncture would not only be exhausting but more or less incomprehensible. Nonetheless, one cannot just go barging off all over the world reporting on this and that, both in time and space, without some ordered plan. Skipping around and back and forth over oceans just to point out similarities would be altogether aggravating. Some orderly procedure is therefore called for; and very fortunately there is a ready-made one that will serve many purposes. This is to adopt the travelogue approach
starting out from some specific point, visiting all the other necessary points, and ending up where we began. Doing this in the pursuit of ABSMs just happens to be most convenient, and for a number of reasons. If we take northwestern North America as our starting point, we will be able to dispense with a great deal of verbal garbage and duplication.
I therefore propose to take you on a journey starting from western Canada, south through the Americas to Patagonia, then back up to the southern edge of the Amazon Basin; then hop over the Atlantic to West Africa, proceed through or rather around the Congo Basin and over the eastern uplands to the forested coastal land of East Africa. From there, we will jump over the Indian Ocean to the island of Sumatra, proceed from there up the Malay Peninsula to the main body of the great Indo-Chinese peninsula, then turn sharp left in Assam and travel along the Himalayas to the vast Pamirs, and on southwest through Persia to the Caucasus. This will be a turnabout point from which we will return east to the Pamirs, on to the Kunluns, then to the Tien-Shans, Ala-Tau, Altais, and Sayans. From there we will go south through the Khangais and over the Ala-Shan Desert to the Nan-Shans and on to the mountains of Szechwan. Here will be another turnabout point from where we will go north again through the Tsin-lings and the Ordos to the Khingans. In this last lap on our way home we will be following a lot more than ABSMs, and in following these we will cross over the Bering Straits to and through Alaska and the Yukon back to our starting point in British Columbia and specifically to a small place named Yale, on the middle Fraser River.
It was near this place that something frightfully important happened in the year 1884; on the morning of July 3, as a matter of fact. The gorge of the Fraser narrows along this stretch so that rock walls tower on either side. Today, two railroads and the main west-to-east Canadian highway squeeze through this point and the little township of Yale clings to the bank of the river on one side, and is dotted about a narrow meadow on the other. Since I beg to be regarded exclusively as a reporter for the duration of the forthcoming journey, the
Click to enlarge
MAP I. CENTRAL WESTERN NORTH AMERICA
MAP I. CENTRAL WESTERN NORTH AMERICA
best thing for me to do is to quote the original report on what happened there on that day. This goes as follows, as taken from the Victoria newspaper, The Daily British Colonist:
The question naturally arises, how came the creature where it was first seen by Mr. Austin? From bruises about its head and body, and apparent soreness since its capture, it is supposed that Jacko ventured too near the edge of the bluff, slipped, fell and lay where found until the sound of the rushing train aroused him. Mr. Thomas White, and Mr. Gouin, C. B. E., as well as Mr. Major, who kept a small store about half a mile west of the tunnel during the past 2 years, have mentioned having seen a curious creature at different points between Camps 13 and 17, but no attention was paid to their remarks as people came to the conclusion that they had either seen a bear or stray Indian dog. Who can unravel the mystery that now surrounds Jacko? Does he belong to a species hitherto unknown in this part of the continent or is he really what the train men first thought he was, a crazy Indian?
Now, whatever you may think of the press, you cannot just write off anything and everything reported by it that you don't like, don't believe in, and don't want. Further, to a newspaperman
this report is excellent, being factual, giving names that were obviously carefully checked even to titles such as the C. B. E. of Mr. Gouin, and hardly being at all speculative. In fact, it is really a model report and one that some present-day newsmen might well emulate. Then, the persons concerned were not a bunch of citizens with names only to identify them; they were mostly people with responsible positions who must have been widely known at that time throughout the area, for the railroad played a very important part in the opening up and development of lower British Columbia. The reporter, moreover, himself took a very common-sense view of the business when he inquired what manner of creature this might be and stated flatly that it was completely human but for being covered with silky black hair and having exceptional strength in its arms. The asinine opinions of others—such as, that the similar if not identical creature seen before might have been a bear or a "stray Indian dog"—are recorded "straight" and without facetious comment. The whole thing cannot, in fact, be lightly dismissed. It therefore has to be most seriously considered.
The story has been publicized for some 50 years now, so that aficionados of ABSMery can often almost quote it verbatim but, although I must here class myself among these reportorial limpets, I wish to put on record one thought about it that has always stayed with me. This stemmed from a comment made in another paper shortly after the original story was published, and which asked quite without facetiousness also but with a slight air of mystification, how anybody could suggest that this "Jacko" could have been a chimpanzee that had escaped from a circus. This little aside puts the whole affair in a remarkably vivid light, for we tend to forget that it was penned 75 years ago in a country that was then only recently connected with the rest of the world. Also, it was written before palaeontologists had demonstrated that true monkeys and, more so, the apes (i.e. Pongids), never have existed in the Western Hemisphere.
This creature was captured, and it is absolutely sure that it existed in "captivity" for some time (a reporter in 1946 interviewed
an old gentleman in Lytton, B.C. who remembered having seen it): it was not human, yet it was more so than it was anything else; it had definitely been captured on the Fraser River; therefore, there had to be some explanation of how it got there and what it was. The standard answers to these questions today would undoubtedly be that it was (1) a hoax, or (2) a "cross"—though between what and what would doubtless not be suggested, (3) a throwback—and probably an "Indian" one, (4) a little boy who had been lost years before on a hunting trip and either managed to survive all on his own or been fed by wolves, (5) a mentally defective glandular case from an "institution," or (6), and most likely of all, an ape escaped from a bankrupt circus. Surprisingly, the locals and even hard-boiled newspapermen of the time did not indulge in any of these latterday foibles: rather, they asked a straight question and poo-poohed any outlander's suggestion that it was a chimp escaped from a circus. They even inquired as to whether it might be a very primitive form of human or an as yet unidentified species of great ape, and in either case indigenous to the area.
I may be properly accused of harping on this case, but I think that of almost all ABSM reports it is perhaps the most cogent. It took place just within the "age of reason" (today, perhaps, rather a misnomer) in a country then inhabited and being opened up by the most extremely pragmatic Westerners of predominantly hard-headed Anglo-Saxon stock, at a time when there was little call for phoney sensationalism. It was not just a report of tracks or other secondary items, nor even of an alleged sighting; it was a clear and definite account of a capture by known people with all the witnesses needed for confirmation. Quite apart from anything else, it alone sets at nought the constant refrain "Well, why haven't we ever caught one?"
This is by no means the only ABSM that has been caught, but it is the only one that I know of that was caught by what we must call for lack of a better phrase "Westerners," and it is this culture that is the most skeptical, the most stubborn, and at the same time the most interested. Of course, the more
aggravating part of the business is that there is no proper end to the Jacko story, and no physical evidence of his existence has come down to us—at least as far as anybody so far knows. What actually happened is not recorded; the only inkling that I have traced being a remark by Mr. Stephen Franklin, staff writer of Weekend magazine, in his excellent article dated April 4, 1959, in which it is stated (and I quote) that "The editor of the Inland Sentinel inopportunely chose this month (the one in which Jacko was captured) to hump his newspaper and his presses up the canyon from Yale to Kamloops, and didn't publish an edition for several weeks."
This statement is itself a kind of non sequitur since the original reports come from The Daily British Colonist, of Victoria. I made somewhat extensive search for any series on the forlorn Jacko in a Yale paper of old, but was unable to unearth even the morgue of the Inland Sentinel which moved to Kamloops. Jacko, sad to tell, just "dropped out of the news" without apparently further comment; perhaps the most enigmatic figure ever to appear on the pages of history and potentially one of the most important.
Would that we could unearth the end of this story and learn what did happen to him, for he must have either (1) escaped, (2) died, or (3) been killed, and in the two last events it is possible that some part of him may have been preserved and be lying either in somebody's attic trunk, or even in a museum. And do not for a moment get the idea that the latter is impossible. (See Chapter 20.)
Jacko, however, is not just an isolated imp that suddenly appeared upon the scene and then disappeared. Before his capture either he or one of his species had been reported from the same area by Mr. Alexander Caulfield Anderson, a well-known explorer and an executive of the Hudson's Bay Company, who was doing a "survey" of the newly opened territory and seeking a feasible trade route through it for his company. He reported just such hairy humanoids as having hurled rocks down upon him and his surveying party from more than one slope. That was in 1864. Many years later, 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 (see Map II) 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 ABSM 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. Nor is this woman's story unique. All the Amerinds of southern British Columbia Washington State, Oregon, parts of Idaho, and the Yuroks and the Hŭppas of northern California not only have similar tales to tell but a history of these creatures so complete and extensive that it would take a volume to tell in itself. The poor Amerinds have always been and still are regarded by Americans and Canadians as "natives," which indeed they are, but in the same light as the British used to regard the inhabitants of all countries other than their own or at least beyond the confines of western Europe. The stories told by, and the traditions of, Amerinds are not, therefore, regarded as of much worth or reliability. Nonetheless and despite the fact that these peoples did not previously write and have had even today little if any contact among themselves over any distance, their reports upon these local ABSMs are absolutely the same all the way from the Mackenzie Range of Alaska through the Yukon and British Columbia, down through Washington and Oregon to California, and back to
the western flank of the Rockies in Idaho. There are traditions and folk-tales spread over an even wider area among these people, but this is another matter. I am here speaking of perfectly straightforward, up-to-date accounts of encounters with such creatures that have been made by them ever since the white man first got to speak with them and which have come in from one source or another annually every year since the capture of Jacko. I will interject some of these as I go along.
Before doing so, however, I must put on record that I do not share the old British or what seems to be the current American opinion of "natives" and never have. Further, as a working reporter, having now been privileged to travel extensively throughout just the five continents with which we are concerned in this story, I would state that I find the so-called "native" in some respects on the whole more reliable than the foreigner, and the white foreigner in particular. First, they seem to me to know their country better; secondly, those of them that are country folk are almost invariably consummate naturalists and know their local fauna inside out (and much better than we do); third, if they like you and feel that you are not going to laugh at everything they say, they are very pragmatic and are willing to tell you, straight, what is what in their opinion; fourth, provided one appreciates the very basic fact that to many non-Europeans there is a nonmaterial world that is just as real as the material one, one can readily distinguish between stories of one and the other, and may even without giving offense ask the teller to which category any story belongs. When my job was collecting animals for scientific institutions in out of the way parts of the world—a profession I pursued for two decades—I always asked the natives for information on their local fauna. While all people may display, and often do so, lapses or gaps in their knowledge, and so just do not know an animal that has always been right under their noses, what they do tell has, I have found, invariably turned out to be the truth. More than this, some peoples, such as the Mayas of Yucatan, are absolutely incredible "taxonomists" in that they differentiate, and have names for every type of animal, so that in one case I found out after long and patient
recording phonetically that they even had the spiders of their country classified, all in just the same way as does our modern zoology. Then finally, I would also put on record that I have a particular respect for the nonprofessional American "Indian" as he is so incorrectly and lugubriously called.
My wife and I have lived with various of these peoples—and they are as varied a lot as "Europeans" if not more so—off and on for many years; we did so in rather exceptional circumstances in that we were neither their employers nor employees, were not interested specifically in their "culture," art, or anything else, but had several mutual interests with them in their crops, stock, local wildlife, and plants. My wife has an exceptional knack of learning languages by ear and under appropriate circumstances and in local costume she can look like almost any race on earth while I, as a "doctor" or "medicine person" was on the one hand unobtrusive and inoffensive to them while, on the other, having my wife with me I could browse around in the obscurer corners of life without giving concern to the elders or alarm to my male contemporaries. Thus, by simply living alongside these people—and going to their dances only for the fun of it, instead of to study their alleged implications, and so forth—we came to chat around the evening fire of many things. While I have found the African the most enjoyable company at such times of genuine relaxation, and the Malayan peoples the most informed (sometimes terrifyingly so to a European), it has been the Amerinds that I have found to be the most down to earth and pragmatic. Many of these peoples—and they are the first to admit it; roar with laughter at the fact; and will not be offended by a sincere friend saying so—love to drink alcohol and sometimes indulge in stimulants that we class as narcotics, and when they do so they can very readily become uproarious in all manner of ways. At these times they will concoct the most delicious imagery compounded of mysticism, ancient tradition, and personal whim, and, while there may be all manner of historical gems to be gleaned from such outpourings, none of it should be taken as "exact science." When, however, they are stone-cold "sober," in the strictest sense of that loose term, they can
give out information of a caliber that would do justice to a Yale professor. Don't ever underestimate the Amerind or his knowledge! I shall not forget a remark made to a partner of mine, who has also lived with these people and likes them very much, so that they seem to like him. He was making exhaustive inquiries into this very matter of ABSMs, when an old gentleman—a doyen of his tribal unit and a pillar of the local church —suddenly burst out with "Oh! Don't tell me the white men have finally gotten around to that?"
Let us, nonetheless, ignore the Amerinds for the moment and concentrate on the unfolding of ABSMery in and about British Columbia as reported by "white men" or allegedly witnessed by them. This history is now just about 100 years old, starting with Mr. Anderson of the Hudson's Bay Company. During this period some paleface appears to have reported an ABSM incident almost every year and they are now doing so in droves, to such an exaggerated extent that even Chambers of Commerce (vide that of Harrison Lake, the leading resort area for the vast city of Vancouver) have gotten into the act, and one sees large cutouts of the creatures along highways advertising everything from motels and garages to bakeries, cleaning services, and speedboats. Most notable contributions to this tradition have been made in the years 1901, 1904, 1907, 1909, 1910, 1912, 1915, 1924, 1936, 1939, 1941, 1948, 1954, 1955, 1956, and 1959. And all but two of these were "sightings" or rather personal encounters, but usually confirmed by more than one witness—not just dreary footprints found in snow or mud, hanks of hair, overturned barrels, or piles of excrement. This is really a pretty astonishing picture and makes affairs even in Nepal look somewhat picayune. All of this centers around the lower Fraser River and notably around Lake Harrison. Therefore, I resort, as usual, to a map in order to cut down verbiage. All of these reports have been published before, and often so many times that there are those who feel that the process has been protracted ad nauseam. Nevertheless, I am, as I have said, myself reporting and I do not know of any one place where all of them have been brought together in chronological order. That anything like
this could have been going on for a century right in our front yard—it being politically in Canada—is amazing enough but we are to get an even more profound jolt when we come to see that the very same thing has been going on in our own back yard—to wit, in Washington, Oregon, California, and, according to none other than Theodore Roosevelt, at one time at least, in Idaho.
The opening gambit was a sworn statement made by a highly respected lumberman who had also been most successful as a timber-cruiser and prospector, named Mike King. This gentleman had had to penetrate an isolated area in the north of Vancouver Island in 1901 alone, because his Amerindian employees refused even to enter it on any account but mostly because they said that it was a territory of the "Wildmen of the Woods." From other accounts of Mr. King it seems that he was not a man to be diverted from essential business routine by such stories, but that he had a profound respect for the local "natives" because they had guided him to a reasonable fortune on more than one occasion simply by their real knowledge of the country and the timber that grew in it. Some days after penetrating this wild area, Mr. King topped a ridge and spotted below a creature squatting by a creek washing some kind of roots and arranging them in two neat piles beside him, or her, on the bank. This should be compared with the specific remarks made by Mr. Ostman (Chap. 3) on the same subject. In my interview with Mr. Ostman, he stressed the collection of roots by the creatures and even named the plant most chosen, also the careful washing and stacking of these. Perhaps he got the notion from reading this account, but personally I doubt it. King's natural instinct was to raise his rifle and sight, for the creature was large, covered in reddish brown fur, and thus potentially dangerous. By the time the fact that brown bears don't wash roots and stack them up had penetrated, he realized that he had some kind of humanoid in his sights and he lowered the rifle. The creature took off, running like a man and, as Mr. King later reported: "His arms were peculiarly long and used freely in climbing and bush-running [i.e. scrambling on all fours through scrub]." King descended the
slope and inspected the spoor left by the departed one, and noted that it was a distinctly "human foot but with phenomenally long and spreading toes." *
On reading the original account from an old clipping to a company of easterners some years ago, I heard somebody murmur, "And so endeth the first lesson." And so indeed! For, although that statement has been repeatedly recounted and Mike King has been repeatedly said to have elaborated, no further direct quotes appear to be extant. This is the way that unexpected things happen. I know from the few that I have experienced. You are not prepared for them; by the time you have managed to bring your senses to bear upon them, they are up and away; and you are left gaping, with a blurred impression all around a single vivid centerpiece. What more can you add unless you want to be a tattler? Mike King apparently had both the decency and the common sense to say what he had to say and then shut up.
The next lot to have a similar encounter (in 1904) were out hunting near Great Central Lake on Vancouver Island. Their names were J. Kincaid, T. Hutchins, A. Crump, and W. Buss, four citizens of Qualicum. They were apparently beating the bush, and put up what they afterward described as a boy ABSM that was covered with brown hair but had long head-hair and a beard. This is a very odd report in that it otherwise crops up only once or twice in all the accounts of ABSMs, and is, categorically, contrary to all the other reports by everybody who has alleged that he or she has seen these creatures at close range.
The third classic report is dated 1907 and was made by the Captain and crew of the coastal steamer Capilano on their return from a routine cruise during which they had called at a small landing named Bishop's Cove. There, they said, the entire Amerindian population had come charging aboard begging for asylum or outright emigration due to a huge monkey-like, human-shaped creature that had been clam-digging
along their beach for a number of nights in succession, and which gave vent to most disturbing high-pitched howls. These people readily identified the creature but insisted that it had moved into their territory with its family, if not its whole clan, and that it would not brook any interference by a few poorly armed humans. The comments on this report are rather illuminating as they display a curious acknowledgement of the presence of such "Wildmen" and the fact that, while they are accepted as being basically peaceable and known to mind their own business, and while they avoid organized men in masses, they tend to adopt a nasty tone when it comes to hunting and collecting rights, and appear then to regard the Amerinds as interlopers and a nuisance. In 1907, however, the attitude of even the British toward real primitives was going through a peculiar phase; halfway between the concept of the "worthless native" and that of the "noble savage." The Amerinds had proved an unreliable labor force, while certain other non-Europeans had turned out to be far too civilized for rank exploitation. The idea of really primitive creatures had not yet been abandoned and everybody was still undecided just how to behave toward them. The thought that we might be dealing with sub-hominids did not, of course, occur to anybody professing any education (after all, Darwin was hardly cold as of then) but it remained in no way illogical to the uneducated, and it was played on by the press.
This may in some measure account for the solemnity with which a discovery made in 1912 was greeted. I got this report from Mr. Burns, mentioned above. It came to him from the principal, a Mr. Ernest A. Edwards, who states that he was residing at Shushwap, B.C., at that date, and that he and his wife had unearthed on the small island of Neskain a little way off the coast, a human skeleton that they found protruding from the bank of a river. The location was noted for its abundance of "arrowheads" of Amerindian origin. This skeleton is stated to have measured "from skull to ankel-joints-7 feet 6 inches, so with feet and scalp, the person must have been 8 feet tall." Mr. Burns received this information in a letter from Mr. Edwards in 1941, and this included the further comments
that "I, together with my wife, examined the jaw. The teeth were of huge size, but in perfect condition—no cavities noticeable. The jawbone was so large it would span my face easily at the cheek bones. Together with the help of Indians, I crated it and shipped it to Rexham Museum, North Wales, England, where I believe it still is. In his acknowledgment, the Curator of the museum was greatly astonished, remarking among other observations, that it was hard to believe such jaws and teeth `existed' in human beings."
The receipt of such intelligence as this naturally prompts an almost fiendish "Ho-ho! what is this?" on the part of any reporter, so I wrote to the Curator of the museum specified and got the following reply from the Librarian of the town of Wrexham (not Rexham, there being no such town in Wales or anywhere else in Great Britain): "With regard to your query, I have checked the Minutes of this establishment [i.e. museum and public library] for the years 1912, 1913, and 1914, and there is no mention of the receipt of a skeleton. Yours sincerely, Clifford Harris, F.L.A."
Reports of the discovery of the skeletons of giant humans or humanoids are extremely numerous, and have been coming in from all over this continent for many years. They constitute a subject of their own which I have endeavored to pursue for a long time now but, I regret to have to say, without any success. One and all have just "evaporated" like this, but, I must admit, very often within the portals of some museum which had acknowledged receipt of the relic. There is the famous story of the forty mummified giants in Mammoth Cave, Kentucky; of the giants in giant coffins in some unnamed cave in Utah; of others dug up in a peat bog in West Virginia and allegedly shipped to the Smithsonian; and of others "preserved" in sundry small county museums in Nevada. I have voluminous correspondence on file on these items but I have never yet managed to obtain sight of any single bone. This is odd because human giants are not really terribly rare [I have seen it stated that there are several thousand men over 7 feet tall living today in the United States] whereas such persons in the past would probably have been regarded with some awe
and might be expected to have been accorded rather special burial, so augmenting our chances of unearthing them. The matter of skeletal remains of ABSMs is, of course, of first importance and second only to the procurement of a whole living specimen. The chance of unearthing a skeleton of one is not quite so unlikely as one might suppose, for it now transpires that very primitive peoples indeed seem to have performed deliberate interments, if only to clear away refuse from a cannibalistic meal in a cave. Some ABSMs might well be or have once been at such a level of "cultural" development and it is constantly reported by the Amerinds in this area that their particular local variety indulge something akin to hibernation, or at least winter inactivity equivalent to that of the local bears, and that they do this in caves. This presents a dubious aspect of these traditions however, because, in the absence of limestone strata in the area, caves are rarities. Nonetheless, there are caves in volcanic rocks of certain kinds and some have been alleged to have been found in the mountains around Harrison Lake. There is one story of such that pertains to ABSMs. This again I got from Mr. J. W. Burns. It goes as follows and comes from an Amerind named Charley Victor, a resident of Chilliwack on the lower Fraser:
This story seems to me to have a certain ring of truth about it, and the idea of using a boulder as a door, either for protective purposes or for concealment of a breeding-chamber, is not in any way illogical or impossible, There is, however, it should be pointed out, a modern tendency to, as it were, chase anything elusive back into caves, and especially wild men; probably because of all that has been written, from archaeological texts to comic books, about "Cave Men." The majority of primitive hominids did not live in caves; simply, because the number of caves available was, except in a few special areas, very limited. [Further, they may have first entered them to get away from either heat or rain as much as from cold.] Yet, the remains of early men and animals are better and more readily preserved in cave floors than out in the open, while locating open-air camping sights is very chancy. The idea that men went through a cave-living phase, all over the world, has therefore gained wide credence. Sasquatches could just as well hole up in ice-caves made by themselves in deep snow, as some bears do. But caves should be searched most diligently for remains or other evidence of their occupation.
It was not too far away from this alleged cave site that the next encounter of which we have record and that is documented, sworn to, and witnessed by more than one person, took place in 1915. A Statutory Declaration of this was sworn to in September of 1957 by one of the participants, Mr. Charles Flood of Westminster, B.C. This goes as follows:
I am 75 years of age and spent most of my life prospecting in the local mountains to the south of Hope, toward the American boundary and in the Chilliwack Lake area.
Green Hicks, a half-breed Indian, told McRae and me a story, he claimed he had seen alligators at what he called Alligator lake, and wild humans at what he called Cougar Lake. Out of curiosity we went with him; he had been there a week previous looking for a fur trap line. Sure enough, we saw his alligators, but they were black, twice the size of lizards in a small mud lake.
Awhile further up was Cougar Lake. Several years before a fire swept over many square miles of mountains which resulted in large areas of mountain huckle-berry growth. Green Hicks suddenly stopped us and drew our attention to a large, light brown creature about 8 feet high, standing on its hind legs (standing upright) pulling the berry bushes with one hand or paw toward him and putting berries in his mouth with the other hand, or paw.
I stood still wondering, and McRae and Green Hicks were arguing. Hicks said "it is a wild man" and McRae said "it is a bear." As far as I am concerned the strange creature looked more like a human being. We seen several black and brown bear on the trip, but that thing looked altogether different. Huge brown bear are known to be in Alaska, but have never been seen in southern British Columbia.
This document brings up two questions that I should discuss briefly forthwith. The first is the matter of the Law. As I have already said, we in this country do not have much respect for this aspect of human organization and often tend to the observation that "laws are only made to be broken." This is not so in some other countries however, and the Canadians have an intense respect for their laws and for authority in general. Canadians will scoff at the suggestion that one of their countrymen is more likely not to lie before a justice of the peace than an American, but it is nonetheless a fact that a Canadian is more likely to make such a deposition if his veracity has been called in question and/or he wants to assert his sincerity. Also, he will think longer and more carefully about his statement if made before established authority because, should anything he say therein be mendacious and thereby cause any distress or harm to others, he will be held fully accountable. Thus, these sworn statements and others
that follow have a rather strong implication. The other matter is the introduction of an almost classic red herring.
As I explain at greater length in Chapter 19, an inexplicably high percentage of all esoteric investigations turn up other unexpected and apparently unrelated matters that are often just as weird, if not more so, than the original object of pursuit. In this case, the matter of "alligators" is quite extraordinary and quite beyond my comprehension. Alligators, per se, are only two in number, one species being indigenous to the Mississippi Valley and around the Gulf coast to Florida; the other to the Yangtse-Kiang Valley of China. The term "alligator" has, however, become a colloquialism for all the crocodilians, and it is also applied in some countries to various lizards that spend most of their time in fresh water. Popular names are also very dangerous in that they become displaced in the most outrageous manner, such as the designation of a species of tortoise in Florida as a "gopher," when that is the name for a group of small mammals otherwise called ground-squirrels. Reptiles are, however, cold-blooded, and the existence of an aquatic one in even southern British Columbia would be unlikely, to say the least. Yet, there is a species of salamander [an amphibian named Batracochoseps] found in Alaska, and the giant salamander of the mountain streams of Japan is customarily iced in every winter. The mere mention of such a creature as an alligator in this story tends to cast doubt upon its other features, but then who is to say what can or cannot be. There is volcanicity in the area, and there might thus be hot or warm springs and lakes there. Also, at some time, one or other of the present-day species of alligator must have gotten either from China to the Mississippi, or vice versa. The only route for such an emigration is over the Bering Straits; thus passing through what is now British Columbia along the way.
This matter of volcanicity and hot springs brings us to another really quite fabulous item of Canadian ABSMery. This is the matter of the lower Nahanni area of the Northwest Territories. If you go to the western part of the Northwest Territories you will sooner or later be told about the place where
banana trees have been grown. This sounds quite wacky but, if you pursue the matter diligently, you will learn that in the area of the junction of the Liard and South Nahanni Rivers (see Map I), lying against the vast mountain barrier which cuts our entire continent from the mouth of the Mackenzie River on the Arctic Sea to Vera Cruz on the Gulf of Mexico, abutting on to the central plains like a monstrous wall, there is a volcanic area where hot springs are found. There have been mission stations along the Liard for over a century and it is quite true that at these, magnificent vegetables are grown out in the open in the brief but intense summer. Also, they have been raised indoors, and among these vegetables have been a number of banana trees. However, this area, which lies at the south end of the vast Mackenzie Range, has long been one of myth and fantasy. The reports emanating from there cannot better be summed up than by quoting a column from a publication named Doubt, the periodical of the Fortean Society of New York. It was founded by the late author, Tiffany Thayer, in conjunction with several other notable persons such as Ben Hecht, in memory of, and to carry on the work of Charles Fort, that assiduous collector of borderline reports for so many years. This reads in part, when speaking of an expedition said to have been organized to visit the area:
Canadian police records show that Joe Mulholland of Minnesota, Bill Espler of Winnipeg, Phil Powers and the MacLeod brothers of Ft. Simpson, Martin Jorgenson, Yukon Fischer, Annie La Ferte, one O'Brien, Edwin Hall, Andy Hays, an unidentified prospector and Ernest Savard have perished
The "head-hunting mountain-men" are alleged locally [and for a great distance around, stretching to the limits of the mountain forest toward Alaska, * east to northern Manitoba, and south all the way to the lower Fraser and beyond], to be ABSMs of the Sasquatch type and with all its characteristics, such as winter-withdrawal, occasional bursts of carnivorousness, and so forth. I also have reports in the form of private letters of similar creatures from all across the Northwest Territories just south of the tree-line, and again in northern Quebec Province.
This is a somewhat irksome matter as I have been unable to obtain any casts of footprints or other physical evidence from these regions nor even sworn statements as yet. The reports are categoric and specific. Those from northern Manitoba are second hand only, and from Amerindian informants via white men who have hunted there for many years in succession. Those from Quebec have puzzled me for years. I have constantly heard about them but have only three pieces of paper to show for my exhaustive and prolonged inquiries and appeals. These are all letters from American summer visitors on serious hunting and camping trips by canoe, guided by professional Amerindian trappers and hunters. All three are substantially identical and all give somewhat similar accounts of events in widely separated places. One is from a lone man, a business executive from Chicago; one is from a party of four men of assorted professions who have hunted for years on their annual vacations together; the third is from the father of
a family of four—three grown sons and a (then) teenage daughter.
In each case, a tall, very heavily built, man-shaped creature with bullet-head and bull-neck, and clothed all over in long shiny black hair, with very long arms, short legs and big hands, is said suddenly to have appeared on the bank of a river in which the party was quietly fishing. On one occasion, the creature is said to have carried off some fish left on a rock on the bank; on another it chased the Amerindian guide out of the woods and into his canoe and then waded some distance out into the water after him. The family party seem to have become fairly familiar with two of the creatures over a period of several days. They say they constantly prowled around their camp, and showed themselves among the trees whenever they went out in the canoes. One seems to have shown signs of chasing the girl on one occasion but, the father told me, they gained the impression that this seemed to be more through curiosity than menace. Two of the Amerinds are said to have asserted that they and their people knew the creatures quite well and that there were quite a lot of them in those forests. The other guide, who was chased, appeared to be scared almost witless and swore that the thing was some form of spirit or devil. However, it smashed branches and hurled stones, it is reported.
I am frankly stymied over these reports. Two of the writers asked that I withhold their names in perpetuo as they did not want the reports to become known to their business associates. The third man I never traced. It was many months before I could get to the places from where these people wrote and although I traced two of them, they all stopped answering my letters and I am left with nothing to follow up. This is an almost chronic condition of laborers in the vineyards of ABSMery. People almost all just dry up in time. Of course, many probably write in the first place by way of a joke or just to see how gullible the inquirer is; but not all are of this ilk. Many people also, I believe, take fright at the possibility of ridicule, or even become alarmed about their own sanity, after they have once gotten something so unusual off their
chests. Others again, either consider the matter explained or just don't want it explained. It takes years of work to get at the facts and this is rendered almost futile when one is dealing with a new locale that is only just being penetrated by civilized people.
The ABSM tradition extends all across Canada but is concentrated in southern British Columbia; probably because that was the first area opened up and is still being probed from all around.
22:* For the definition of the continents and their delimitation in accordance with the distribution of land-masses, as well as an explanation of the misconceptions about their identity, see Chapter 18.
35:* This remark, and particularly the word "long" used to describe the toes, rather than the whole foot, is most pertinent as we shall see when we come to examine the tracks of the Oh-Mahs.
43:* The dividing line between two major types of vegetation forms a great curve to the north close to this area, and then bends down to the south, and even southeast for a stretch, along the Pacific coast. The southernmost of these is a type of forest that grows far up mountainsides; the northern type grows only in valleys, leaving the upper slopes bare. ABSMs are reported from all over the former in the mountains but not from the latter. (See Chapter 18.)