Abominable Snowmen, by Ivan T. Sanderson, , at sacred-texts.com
If you look out of your window one morning to find that it has snowed during the night, you may be happy or you may be sad. If then, while contemplating this quite natural phenomenon, you perceive upon its pristine surface a number of marks of regular shape, forming a set of tracks, the sundry relays, feedbacks, and synapses in your brain may snap open or shut in ordered patterns, causing you to register almost subconsciously such concrete items as man, dog, car, snowplow, or suchlike. You may even go so far as actually to think, saying to yourself "That's funny, Mary went out already." Foot-tracks are commonplace, and quite logical, and we consider them as objects. Yet they are not even quasi-objects; they are entirely negative physically; are purely subjective concepts; and in almost all cases are ephemeral things. Nevertheless, they are quite acceptable, provided we have a ready-made answer for them, ranging from vague terms such as "dog," all the way to "Mary wearing a particular pair of shoes." When, however, a set of foot-tracks turns up on snow, or any other surface for that matter, to which people cannot immediately put a label, they become quite hysterical, and in their frantic efforts to explain this appalling thing, they will indulge in the most terrifyingly illogical actions. They also say the silliest things.
Simple logic demands that a foot or any other print must have been made by something, and something which must
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MAP III. NORTH AMERICA
MAP III. NORTH AMERICA
have been at the point where the imprint was made. But sometimes, unfortunately for humanity, matters don't always work out that way, in either one or both of these respects. The second class of problems is the less awful. For instance, "How on earth did Mary get up on the barn roof?" may jolt you but can have all sorts of logical explanations. If one is sufficiently concerned about Mary's welfare, it is the common practice to investigate these in order of likelihood, starting by asking Mary, if she is around; and ending by calling in the long-suffering police if she has disappeared. Even in this class, however, there can be nasty ones. We once found a set of what looked like our tame porcupine's tracks, inside an empty cage, which was constructed of heavy wire in the form of a cube on all six sides, and had a firmly locked door. That took some investigation and it reduced a number of normally sane citizens to gibbering idiots in the meantime.
(Said porcupine had once been housed in that cage for an hour or so, while its own cage was cleaned and repaired, by an assistant who was not present when the bizarre discovery was made. The earth floor inside the cage had been wet at the time and the animal had left deep tracks in the claylike mud. This dried solid. The assistant had then, in accord with his routine duties, put a 2-inch covering of fresh earth over this. The night before the uproar there had been about 15
minutes of torrential rain, which had washed all this top layer exactly off the old hardened one and the tracks had appeared looking just as if they were fresh and, of course, once again in damp earth.)
The more abominable class is that of individual prints or sets of tracks—and the two items are quite different and should be at all times most carefully defined by the use of the appropriate term—for which there is not a ready-made explanation. A print (or imprint) is an individual item such as that of one foot. A set of tracks (or a track) is, on the other hand, a series of prints, either interrupted as in animals, or continuous as made by wheeled machines, left by some moving object. There are quite a lot of reports of single prints being found both in such positions as may be explained—as in a small patch of mud on a rocky path—but on occasion in places that cannot be explained. These last are, of course, very unnerving.
Sasquatch imprints and tracks, along with those of their relatives or congeners, by whatever name they were known, were perfectly all right by the Amerinds because they had just such a ready-made answer, all of them, as they readily tell one, knowing perfectly well that they were made by the big, wild, hairy men of the woods: or by their wives and children. As the Amerinds gave up being Americans and started to become, or were forced to become sort of bogus Europeans, they forgot to tell their own children about these personages. The result was that in time we even have Amerinds becoming for a time slightly disturbed. [Amerinds never under any conditions become "hysterical."] When, however, white men first saw these large ABSM tracks they invariably went into a fairly advanced trauma. This habit was apparently universal among Europeans and people of European origin, right up until the time when a ready-made answer became disseminated—namely, Sasquatches, Oh-Mahs, etc.—whereupon a happy reaction set in. This was simply to say: "Oh, those! Don't worry, they're made by runaway Indians; they have huge feet, you know, and sometimes grow hair to keep out the cold." (Amerinds, I should point out here, are either
wholly or substantially of Mongoloid ancestry, the group of the human race that is defined as being the most glabrous [almost without body hair], and having particularly small, neat feet.
It is rather interesting to note in passing that persons of African ancestry have behaved quite otherwise throughout. They possess ancestors who have always recognized a nonmaterial world just as widespread and as real as the material one. This is probably why they are such great pragmatists. What is more, according to them, entities in both worlds customarily muck about in the other, so that men's souls can range around "elsewhere" and chumbis—or what we in our innocence call ghosts, poltergeists, and spirits—can, in their estimation, quite well leave imprints and foot-tracks. Africans of the Negroid branch of humanity and their descendants are, therefore, the greatest skeptics throughout our story, they have never really been interested in or even much surprised about the matter, for they have a sort of built-in answer; and while they have always thought Europeans to be stupid for not carrying on with disembodied entities, they usually think the Amerinds quite batty for needing an embodied entity to explain these tracks. The few people of African origin whom I have met in the course of this business in North America, as well as in Africa appear, furthermore, to have accepted the physical appearance of ABSMs that they themselves have witnessed, with the utmost equanimity and simply as lucky or dangerous happenstances.
I bring all this up now because it has to be aired in any case sooner or later, and because from now on we are going to have all three major branches of the human race involved in the matter. Their reactions are indeed different, whatever anybody may say about generalizations. All three "races" are present in the United States, where our story now takes us, and since we are going to follow the foot-tracks of the ABSMs, clear through this country to tropical America, we are going to have to be prepared for some real surprises—both ways. You will see what I mean by this in a minute.
At this point I would ask you to glance at Maps III and XVI,
before proceeding, because, without some idea of the facts of vegetational distribution, very little of what I have to say in this and the next chapter will make much sense. I know by experience that it is quite all right for me or anybody else to say almost anything about foreign lands, and the farther away and thus foreign they are, the more outrageous the claims may be. This is the reason why such a high percentage of "explorers" are found, on proper investigation (if that is possible, which it seldom is), to be phonies, even if only mildly and innocuously so. When, on the other hand, anybody makes even slightly unusual remarks about the country in which he is speaking and to citizens of that country, he is almost certain to be disbelieved, probably ridiculed, and oftimes harassed for his pains. This applies to statements as innocent as "You know, the hillbillies down there don't wear shoes." Try it sometime, down there, but don't wait to see what happens, for you'll have the local State Department on your back if you have published your statement, and you'll find yourself excluded from private swimming pools if you have merely said it in family circles.
Since I have a private swimming (duck) pond of my own, and seldom wear shoes indoors in winter or either in- or out-of-doors throughout the whole summer and early fall as well as, for other reasons that I will not go into, I have made a profession of saying things about the country I am in. I am, in fact and as I said at the outset, a reporter and as I don't give a damn whether anybody wears shoes or not, nor what their opinions are on that or any other subject, and am interested only in facts, I am constantly saying things that annoy people. What I have to say now is going to annoy some types very much. Moreover, if you haven't as yet glanced at these maps, you may be so annoyed that you will just stop reading. I don't want you to do this, but for purely altruistic reasons—namely that these facts are such fun. To keep you reading, therefore, let me just tell you that, if you do so, you are going to get a really good laugh, specifically at the expense of just those people whom you have always thought were idiots in
any case. [Admittedly, this includes almost everybody other than yourself, which makes it all the more pleasant.]
Animals (and ABSMs) take no account of political boundaries even when they are physically erected by people in the form of barbed-wire fences or iron curtains. They do, on the other hand, not only take into account but conform absolutely to certain boundaries and dividing lines set up by Nature. No animal ever, it seems, transgresses such a boundary and these boundaries may often be so precise that you can stand with one foot in one great natural province and the other foot in another. There are animals that range over more than one and sometimes over half a dozen provinces. These are called catholic species; but most animals stay within the confines of just one province. Within the provinces, moreover, there are a number of natural niches or environments. Nature abhors a vacuum (as we have been repeatedly told) and she fills all her niches with an appropriate animal species. If any one dies out or is exterminated, some other animal will come in to inhabit its niche. As an example, the South American aquatic porcupine called the Coypu (Myopotamus coypu) the fur of which is called nutria, was introduced into North America 50 years ago and immediately started to fill up the niche previously occupied by the Beaver which had, at that time, been largely exterminated in this country by fur trappers.
Sometimes a species of animal will introduce itself into an area and do battle with the established occupants of the particular niche that it likes. Then again, men have introduced animals from one country to another and started virtual animal wars, usually with fatal consequences to one or the other party. In Australia introduced European animals, like the dog, cat, fox, and rabbit, have committed mass mayhem on the indigenous fauna: on the other hand, attempts to introduce the pheasant in certain parts of North America have repeatedly failed. The whys and the wherefores of these results have proved very puzzling in that there seemed to be no rhyme or reason for them. There is, nonetheless, a law governing the matter, and a very precise one. This is a botanical matter.
The whole earth is portioned out into different types of plant growth—different in the way the vegetation grows (in height, density, and so forth) rather than in what particular types of plants it contains—and these form great belts around the earth regardless of oceans, seas, and mountains. These belts, which meander about and broaden out or wither down sometimes almost to nothing, are also subdivided into blocks or provinces going from east to west, like the cross-stripes on a banded snake. Each one of these provinces has its own history, climate, weather, soils, flora, and fauna. What is more, it has now been discovered that all faunas are wholly dependent upon vegetation but not so much upon the constitution of that vegetation as upon the way in which it grows. Human beings are animals and they conform to these general principles too, even down to national types. So it seems, do ABSMs. (For fuller details of all this, see Chapter 18.)
Man, however, is what is called an adaptable animal. He is also incredibly tough, and can survive in more types of vegetation and in a wider variety of environments than most animals, being surpassed in this ability by only a few other animals, such as the spiders and their allies, which live in water and in air, and range from icecaps to still hot lava flows, and to the tops of mountains where even plants give up. Nevertheless, when man comes to settle down and try to earn a living and breed, even he conforms to the old pattern. Hollanders gyrate to coastal flats, and Norwegians to warm, wet fiords. However, man can survive an ousting from his natural environment and he has often done so. The Neanderthalers appear to have been driven back into the hills by the folk of Cromagnon-culture; and the Jews were blasted all over the lot, and have survived.
ABSMs, it seems, have also been driven back into certain environments. By the time my story is told, you will see why I say this and why it happened. There is nothing mysterious about it. It is simply that ABSMs are Hominids or, just as every benighted native has always asserted, human rather than animal, and thus are endowed in one degree or another
with human attributes, and most notably their powers of survival, their adaptability, their toughness, and their acuteness. The Pongids, or apes, on the other hand, though looking so like humans, are the lousiest adapters, are completely stuck with their special environments and in their particular provinces. They can hardly breed outside them, even with the very best and most modern human medical assistance—as witness the tiny number of gorillas born in captivity. In other words, about 50 million years ago, Nature started an experiment with a couple of Primate types now called the Hominid and the Pongid. The first made the grade, and mostly through the efforts and discoveries of ABSMs; the latter failed, and are doomed.
If there are ABSMs in North America, as well as Central and South America (as would appear from what follows), and they are Hominids, they must have come here from somewhere else, for we can say with almost absolute certainty that neither Man nor the Hominids was evolved in the New World. What is more, not so much as a single bone or other indication has ever been discovered suggesting that either the Pongids or any of the true Monkeys ever even got here. On the other hand, men got here, and at a rather early date. Bones of the animals he brought back from hunting forays have been dated certainly back to before the last ice-advance; some are claimed to be more than 40,000 years old. We have not yet obtained the bones of the earliest of these men themselves, but, if some anthropologists are right, there are some extremely old and quite primitive stone implements at the lowest levels, and we now know that a creature (such as East Africa's Zinjanthropus) was a toolmaker but most certainly would be called an ABSM if he were found running around today. Failure to find the bones of ABSMs is no cause for stating that they never existed. Tools of the types known as Chellean and Acheulian have been known from all over southern Europe and Africa since men started collecting such items, but it was not until the last decade that we found a single bone of the men who made them—if we have yet done so, as a matter of fact.
However, ABSMs seem once to have roamed much of North America. Why, then, should those alleged still to do so, although really very hominoid in form, appear to be without tools, fire, or speech? We have to look at it this way. They were probably here in the purely "animal" stage of their development, and they kept coming in waves [over the Bering Straits, if you like] at ever increasingly efficient levels of toolmaking and development, until they were replaced by their cousins who were so "something-or-other" that we, upon digging up their remains, call them Men. [Lots of these came too, making ever better tools, until the misguided Amerinds made the mistake of tagging along. At this point we enter history and the domain of other specialities.] As brighter and better ABSMs turned up, however, the previous occupants had to move out into less desirable environments—nasty places like deserts and mountains—and by the time proper Men arrived, these places were getting quite crowded. At that point another factor became operative.
ABSMs, both here and all over the world, had been getting "better"—which is another way of saying more complicated or mixed up—and, thus, in certain ways less efficient again. The more complex their culture became—and don't think that they didn't have a culture for Nutcracker-Man (Zinjanthropus) of 600,000 years ago in East Africa made splendid tools but had a brain somewhat more paltry than the average chimp—the more dependent they were upon an easy environment, which means one where it was easy to obtain a living. Chased out into a rough one by still more cultured chaps, they began to find the going very hard. In fact, the more "cultured" they were, the worse they fared when pushed up into the mountains; and the more advanced they were, the more easily and rapidly they gave up and became extinct. Thus, we have the extraordinary spectacle of the more primitive surviving and the more advanced wilting away. Today, only the most primitive have apparently survived, and in the remotest and ruggedest places where any other ABSM less rugged could not get along; where Man, however tough,
failed; and where even Modern Man, who has really got somewhere with his culture, finds it hard going. And just where is this?
The answer is very simple and absolutely definitive. It is what is called by botanists The Montane Forests. This is why I suggested that you take a look at the maps and see where such forests are, especially today, on our continent. From these you will note that their distribution coincides exactly with that of the reports of our ABSMs; as it does on all the other continents with their ABSMs. There is only one exception, from the botanical point of view, and this I would like to dispose of forthwith.
The last retreat on land of anything is a forest. In North America between those latitudes occupied by the United States, most lowland forests are woodlands, and anything unwanted in them has long ago been eliminated. [One can't speak of feral dogs because we introduced them.] In Canada, of course, such forests are still virtually impenetrable. There remain then the montane forests [which are not quite the same thing as mere forests on mountains] and one other type of vegetational growth. This is what are called technically the Bottomlands. By this is meant swamps at low level but mostly in river valleys and deltas, that are covered with a closed-canopy forest of some kind however short in stature, and which are either flooded all the time, seasonally, or from time to time, so that they are unpleasant for man to live in and a lost cause to try and clear, drain, and farm. It so happens that we have a very great acreage of just such country in the United States that is tacitly ignored by everybody and frankly unknown to most. This is concentrated along the Mississippi Valley and up the valleys of the tributaries of that great river.
The best road maps of the states that straddle these Bottom-lands look perfectly OK at first sight, being covered with roads of various grades, having names of counties, townships, and so forth scattered all over them and seeming, when viewed individually, to be quite consistent with all other road maps
of our country. If, however, you look more carefully at them, take a pair of dividers, consult the scale at the foot of the map, and then select your areas carefully you can isolate almost endless parts of the map that look like this:
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1050 square miles in Northern Louisiana
This you will not, of course, believe. It will also probably make you very annoyed. You might therefore assuage your fury by going out and buying or writing to one of the oil companies to obtain maps of such states as Missouri, Illinois, Kentucky, Tennessee, Arkansas, Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana, and spend a moment or two with a rectangle of the dimensions and the scale of the above. It will probably make you even more angry, but I said that I would name names, even if I am "down there."
The reason I bring this obnoxious subject up at this time is that, before we can get back to the main road of our travelogue, there is something that is really unpleasant that
has to be taken care of. This is the "Little Red Men of the Trees." How aggravating can I get; and how far out on what limb can I wriggle? You would be surprised indeed; but I warn you in the most friendly fashion, please don't forget that I am a reporter and, as of now, nothing else. It is therefore my duty to report to you; so here goes:
My name is James Meacham, I read the article that you wrote for True Magazine. * I have been planning on going to California in the same area that your article was about. I was a little surprised to read about such a creature as an abominable Snowman living so close to where I intended to visit. I have always liked to explore places that other people care little about. I would like to know all you can tell me about this creature if you can tell anything more than you did in the article. I am sure a man of your standing must have more information about this subject than was in those few pages. I will gladly pay the postage on the information you can send. I cannot offer more because I am not working at the present.
I have met a few strange things in my life; as I am still young, there are many more I will probably see. I would like to know if you can tell me anything about a creature that looks like a small ape or a large monkey that has hair the color of fur a reddish orange color. I saw such a creature when I was 15. A friend was with me but did not see it. Whatever it was did not have a tail like a monkey but it did swing like one by its arms. This may sound like something that I thought I saw but really didn't which I would believe except for a few details.
I had a .22 calibre semi-automatic with me. I watched this thing for about 5 minutes so I have to believe it. I put fourteen .22 long-rifle shells into whatever it was. From where I was standing I couldn't have missed. We found 1 bullet in the tree trunk so 13 of them hit it. The part that sounds more impossible is that whatever it was, did not even move while 13 bullets went into it. If I had missed all 14 bullets would have gone into the tree trunk.
I have told many people about this but nobody believes it. We found a few hairs where I had shot, but nothing else except the bullet. There was not a trace of blood. My partner thinks it was a squirrel but no squirrel grows that big. If it had been one, 2 of those bullets would have stopped it dead. Whatever it was did not even move till I headed for the
I searched for it for a long time after that but never saw it again. No one in that area knows anything about it or has ever seen it. It had a cry that was enough to drive a person crazy. That was almost 3 years ago [19571 and I still wake up in my sleep sometimes when that sound comes back to me. If you can give me any advice as to what it could have been I will greatly appreciate it. If I had not shot it myself I would not believe it, not being able to find any blood. I know you must receive a lot of letters about this sort of thing, but all I want to know is what animal in a marsh near Jackson, Tenn. could hold 13 long-rifle shells without even moving till you start to come after it? That is what started me looking for things most people think cannot possibly exist.
James M. Meacham.
In 1954 a young Orang-utan escaped from a shipment of apes to a well-known Florida organization, took off into the woods, and has never been seen again. I refrain from giving further details because the valuable ape was paid for, but reported as DOA, a trade term for "dead on arrival," and someone still might get in trouble. The incident is fairly widely known in certain circles, and has been a perfect nuisance because when anything like the above is reported, even as far away as Tennessee, it is immediately dredged up by way of explanation. I suppose it is just possible that a healthy young Mia [a better name for what we call the Orang-utan] could survive a succession of mild Southern winters and it could travel an enormous distance by trees alone, but what it would eat during most of the year I don't know. Much more important is that a lost ape that has once been in captivity for even a short period would be almost certain to head for the nearest human habitation the moment it got hungry or saw anything novel that frightened it. In all the years that I had a zoo, I never knew an escaped animal [apart from local fauna, and even many of those] not to return voluntarily to its own cage during the night. Of course this "ape" might have escaped from some zoo much nearer the place where this correspondent said he saw it, but the loss of a $5000 specimen
from a zoo would not go unnoticed; though, it must be admitted, it might well go unreported—to the Directors, that is. There is as much hanky-panky in the animal business as in any other. An escaped Mia is, however, I rather think, itself merely an escape mechanism as it is called, especially when we come to contemplate the following.
From Hoosier Folklore, Vol. 5, p. 19, March, 1946:
Although it is difficult to determine just where a story of this sort has its beginning, this one seems to have originated in the Gum Creek bottom near Mt. Vernon. During the summer of 1941, a preacher was hunting squirrels in the woods along the creek when a large animal that looked something like a baboon jumped out of a tree near him. The preacher struck at the beast with his gun barrel when it walked toward him in an upright position. He finally frightened it away by firing a couple of shots into the air.
Later the beast began to alarm rural people by uttering terrorizing screams mostly at night in the wooded bottom lands along the creeks. School children in the rural districts sometimes heard it, too, and hunters saw its tracks.… By early spring of 1942, the animal had local people aroused to a fighting pitch. About that time, a farmer near Bonnie reported that the beast had killed his dog. A call went out for volunteers to join a mass hunt to round up the animal.
The beast must have got news of the big hunt, for reports started coming in of its appearance in other creek bottoms, some as much as 40 or 50 miles from the original site. A man driving near the Big Muddy River, in Jackson County, one night saw the beast bound across the road. Some hunters saw evidence of its presence away over in Okaw. Its rapid changing from place to place must have been aided considerably by its ability to jump, for, by this time, reports had it jumping along at from 20 to 40 feet per leap.
It is impossible to say how many hunters and parties of hunters, armed with everything from shotguns to ropes and nets, went out to look for the strange beast in the various creek bottoms where it had been seen, or its tracks had been seen, or its piercing screams had been heard. Those taking nets and ropes were intent on bringing the creature back alive.
I listened to you on Long John Nebel's program last Thursday and was very much surprised that you talked about such things as Abominable Snowmen in America. I am a housewife but I majored in biology, attended our state university and have an M.A. in plain zoology. My husband is an experimental chemist employed by … [company name withheld for obvious reasons: Author.] and my eldest son is a technician in the Air Force. I come from Mississippi but we have resided here (in Kentucky) for ten years now.
I wonder if you have ever heard of the Little Red Men of the Delta? Nobody thought anything much of them where I was raised except that one had better be careful of shooting one because it might be murder, or so the sheriff might think if anything came of it, but I was surprised to find that the folks hereabout know it too though they took some years to talk about it to me. My husband is a New Englander and these folks don't talk much. They are [the Little Red Men of the Delta] said to be about the size of a ten year old kid and able to climb like monkeys and to live back from the bayous. They talk a lot but keep out of gunshot range and mostly go into the water. They are people and the muskrat trappers say they often wear scraps of discarded lines [linens?] old jeans and such.
If you have heard about them will you talk about them on the air as it puzzles me that nobody has ever talked about them but everybody in some places seems to know about them. There was sure nothing in my biology course about them but there's a lot folks don't know or don't talk about …
Mrs. V. K.
And you can say that again! Plain ordinary citizens just don't talk; they are born with too much sense. Ridicule is the
most dastardly thing and can ruin one's whole life in one small jump. It takes real guts to come right out and say you've seen the Loch Ness Monster; and you'd better have private means, if you do. Otherwise, humanity at large will round on one and jump in unison, and they have a collective memory that can last for a century. Don't do it, brethren and sistren! [That's why I always ask specifically whether I may publish a name.]
I could go on quoting tidbits like the above for quite a long time and give transcripts of some tape recordings that I have but what, frankly, is the use? No one will believe either the stories or me. Nonetheless, I would be failing in my duty—which, incidentally, I take very seriously; and please make no mistake about that—if I did not put this outrageous matter before the public. Like many other things "reported" it needs, and can stand, a good airing. I am not saying that there is even so much as a word of truth in any of it but there it is, and it is no good just ignoring it. If people "down there" will persist in penning such tripe, we had better get on with the job of showing it up for what it really is. But just what is it? You tell me: I am merely reporting, and I have not yet had the time, money, nor opportunity to go to those particular places to investigate the matter. Since others apparently have not either, perhaps it would be better that everyone shut up. Meanwhile, however, I refuse to just discount everything anybody from the states listed above says. That would be tantamount to calling them all liars and idiots; and I know for a fact that they are usually neither. What is more, that is their country, and I am prepared to accept the fact that they know more about it than all of us, however whacky what they say may sound. And then there is the matter of the road maps. Just what is anyone prepared to swear under oath he knows about the Bottomlands? I have been a little way into some for brief periods and I must say that I am not prepared to give out much about them at all—they are far too vast, complex, and incomprehensible to any "foreigner." The geodeticists have surveyed them; let them tell us. Their maps are excellent—they are made from points 60 miles apart and from the air. They show everything!
As a sort of parting shot, I quote a newspaper clipping of recent date:
Reform, Ala.—A mysterious creature is still roaming the woods around nearby Clanton. It eats peaches, makes sounds like an elephant, and leaves footprints like an ape.
This whole bit is really becoming very difficult because little squibs like this should not include so many splendid possibilities. Of course it would eat peaches, who wouldn't? And I must admit that a herd of elephants in a forest can sound exactly like a troop of chimpanzees having a ball. But who in Reform, Alabama [I like that name] is that good on the ichnology of the Anthropoidea? There is a sort of chatty approach about this story, giving the impression that among the citizens of Reform and Clanton there is a considerable understanding about this beast, and there is definite indication that its presence is not a new event. In fact then, are the Bottomlands full of runaway apes or do we have an indigenous and most particular abomination thereabouts? I could give an opinion but I shall refrain, for it would be even more loathsome.
Now, and with a certain sense of relief I may say, we can get back on the straight and narrow path, and pick up our foot-tracks again. These we first stumbled upon in southern British Columbia at the end of the Sasquatch trail. Thence, they went south over the border and, willy-nilly we have had to follow. This is going to get us into a most unpleasant labyrinth. It is, actually, a maze with several alternate correct routes, all of which cross each other and land us up in seemingly impossible predicaments. I follow the foot-tracks first.
In progressing in space we have first to retrace our tracks in time to even earlier than before—to the "49ers," in fact. It was about that date (1849) that Anglo-Saxon type Americans first descended upon the West in any substantial masses. It was, of course, the gold that did it. Actually, this area was the first to be penetrated and colonized by Europeans on this continent; the Spaniards having made some really astonishing
advances north through it from Mexico. Few people realize that these intrepid savages in their clanking armor carrying little more than their lovely and holy crosses, actually got into what is now Canada through the mountainous third of our country. This area is still giving our bulldozer operators trouble in crossing from east to west. But, here again, is another story. The point is that the Spaniards later, and very sensibly, contracted into the more fertile and pleasant areas and just left the rest to the benighted Amerinds.
During this long period of some 300 years no less, things went along much as they had done since the last ice-advance in this area—outside the Spanish Missions. There were, however, some most agile-minded priests who interested themselves enormously in the land and took the Amerinds quite seriously. They left records of some of the legends of their flocks that make most interesting reading. I have to mention the fact of the existence of these now because they constitute the earliest sight of our trail, leading, as always, from the Northlands on toward the salubrious climes of tropical America. They [the records] speak of great wild men of the dry upland arroyos and massed pinon forests, that tramped lugubriously about at night scaring adolescent Amerinds and leaving monstrous footprints on the sands of that time all over the region. But, after these ecclesiastical indiscretions, there is a complete blank as far as I know until the 1849 Gold Rush. Then things began to happen in typically Yankee fashion.
This particular facet or phase of ABSMery has, like the overall picture, to be tackled in retrospect and in the order of its rediscovery. The alleged incidents in some cases occurred over a century ago but the records came to light only in the last few years. They had been lying buried in newspaper morgues. What actually happened—and this is quite apart from the reports on individual incidents—is that a whole mass of Easterners, unacquainted with the Far West, suddenly appeared on the scene and went barging off into the outlands looking for gold. Prior to their arrival there had been plenty of people along the coast and idly dotted about the inner belt of the West, but they had stayed literally around the water holes in
the latter, while they had not gone back inland from the coast in the more northern and better watered areas—that is from the north end of the Sacramento Valley to Puget Sound. It was when the Easterners tried to penetrate these lands of mighty forests and seemingly everlasting mountain ranges, one behind the other, that things began to happen. Sometimes, they got a bit out of hand.
We are now back in the montane forests of which we have spoken so firmly, and we are going to stay in them for a very long time. Before we go any farther into them, though, I should state a few basic facts. Such types of forest—and there are actually about a couple of dozen of them between Alaska and Tierra del Fuego—are well-nigh impenetrable. That is why not only just substantial parts, but the greater part of them, even in our own country, are not yet "opened up." This is a loose term; so, to be more precise, let me give one example of the state of current affairs in what is just about the most accessible of all of them today. This is the 17,000 square-mile block of territory centered around the Klamath River area in northern California.
The extent, position, and boundaries of this area may be seen on Map IV. You may calculate its dimensions for yourself. This I beg of you to do, rather than writing to me about it. * Please note also that it starts at the bottom about Clear Lake which is just 70 miles north of San Francisco, and it continues on north into Oregon. Actually it is confluent with a much vaster block in the Cascades, and is nowhere completely cut off (by farmland or nonforested land) from other lesser blocks in Oregon and thence on to Washington. I should explain that in delineating these wilderness blocks I do not consider a road, even a main blacktop, to be a boundary for it does not deter any living thing that I know of from passing from one side to the other, provided there is cover on both
sides right up to its edges. This great area has been surveyed and there are maps of it down to very large scale in conformity with the best series published by the Coast and Geodetic Survey, National Forests, and other official agencies. There are neat county maps covered with names and a grid on a scale of 4/10 of an inch to the mile, that look perfectly splendid at first sight. However, I ran into a Federal agency surveying party when I was deep in the middle of this block in 1959, and spent several evenings with the Chief Surveying Officer who told me things and demonstrated certain facts that, metaphorically speaking, caused myself and my two traveling partners to lose our eyebrows—upward.
It transpired that this area has only once been "surveyed" and that was by unofficial surveyors under contract to the U.S. Government, in the year 1859! Further, the survey was ostensibly made on a 1-mile grid; that is to say the surveyor was supposed to walk a mile north, south, east, or west, take a fix and drive a stake, and continue doing this till he reached some previously selected line at the other end that linked up with the next survey. The original notebooks carried by these surveyors of 1859, and in which they recorded the facts and figures of their surveys in the field, a page to a mile, are on file in the Lands Office in San Francisco. They are a revelation. The surveyor whom we met told us that in one notebook he had found no less than 23 pages absolutely blank and without so much as a thumbmark on them, and he told us that all the books covering this area were like that. He stressed that this is no deprecation of the early surveyors as, he said, they actually did a remarkable job on the whole, managing to join up the surveys to the 60-mile triangulation made from mountaintops (and now corrected from aerial photography), but he pointed out that the greater part of the resultant maps are pure conjecture and most of them made by what surveyors call "camp-surveying." What, of course, happened was that the country was so rugged and impassable that the surveyors just went in as far as they could, then came back out, went around to the next possible entrance, and tried again. When they had enough fixes around the edges, they just ruled lines
connecting what they had, adjusted a bit for error, and then ruled in the rest of the grid. And this, combined with names given to visible mountains, ranges, Amerindian settlements in accessible valleys, and logging operations, filled the whole thing out nicely, so that on paper it looks almost like the outskirts of San Francisco.
Actually, this great block of territory is quite unknown. Nobody goes into it much except a short way from its edges, and practically nobody has gone through it. I interviewed one experienced locally bred woodsman who took a 3-week summer vacation to attempt this. He did cut across the southwest corner of the square but was a week late getting back to work. A friend of mine working in there at the time of writing did come upon a lone and unknown prospector of the old school some distance in, and he had a mule in there. One "scientist" from a "university" in California wrote a furious letter after I had published my report on the ABSMery of this area, stating that he had "collected animals all over every bit of the area during several seasons" and adding gratuitously that "its entire fauna has for decades been well known." This is a point at which I find it very hard to remain civil.
The whole of this country is clothed in a particular kind of montane, closed-canopy, mixed deciduous-coniferous forest, of magnificent proportions and containing some of the finest timber in the world. It grows in three tiers with an undergrowth. The tallest trees such as Sitka Spruce, and Douglas Fir, run up to 150 to 200 feet and stand pretty close together. Under them on the upper reaches there is a closed-canopy of smaller conifers, in the valleys of deciduous trees such as maples, madroñes, etc., and beneath both of these there is usually another closed-canopy of large saplings and smaller trees of mixed constitution. Beneath this again is another layer that is almost impenetrable, being composed of bushes and the dead branches of the spruces and firs which are as strong as spring steel even when leafless, and which persist right down to the ground like a barbed-wire entanglement. It took me half an hour with a sharp machete to get far enough from the one road in the country not to be able to talk to my companions
left on that road. I am a fair bushwacker, having been at it all my life, and I am pencil-thin and thus highly suitable for going through and under things.
But this is not by any means all. The whole of this country is constructed like a freshly plowed field on a monstrous scale. While its mountains and peaks are not high by Western standards they are immensely steep, and closely packed so that there is practically no horizontal ground throughout the whole country. The whole thing is a nightmare even to experienced woodsmen, and something much worse to road builders.
This is the real state of affairs throughout a huge block of territory within a hundred miles of one of our greatest cities, although almost everybody in that city would deny it positively, and even the majority of citizens of Eureka, a large and prosperous community right on its edge, have no idea of its true nature. Conditions are even more difficult in other montane areas but from now on I shall simply be saying of them, as we approach them, that they are either better or worse than the Klamath. This is going to relieve me of the necessity for a lot of verbiage. Readers may also find this useful in arguments; while it will give some sort of key to assess other forests in other lands. Actually, though, this Klamath forest is just about as difficult as I have ever run into, and that goes for the tropics too, but it, of course, pales before the British Columbian vegetation on the grounds of topography for, whereas we have here to deal only with little mountains, there we have enormous ones.
It was such topography, moreover, that was tackled by the greenhorns from the East looking for gold. They didn't get very far, but they did, according to the older Amerinds still living, and who got it from their fathers and grandfathers, cause the ABSMs to make a sudden mass withdrawal into the inner recesses of each of the blocks, at that time. This interesting information was first given to me by a Mr. Oscar Mack, doyen of the Yurok clans of the upper Hoopa Valley. The same statement has cropped up again and again during my investigations all over the Puget Sound to California area. If, moreover, you look at Map I you will note an extremely odd
fact. This is that early reports (and of various types) came also from what is now Idaho in what is called more technically the North Montane Province. Some very funny things happened there in early days and they seem still to be happening. Most of them center round the real wilderness area about the upper Salmon River which flows into the Snake River as shown on that map. It was in Idaho also that the first foot-track scare took place.
This is an interesting story in several ways, and has naturally been received with whoops of joy by the skeptics. The story is from the Humboldt Times of January 3, 1959, and reads:
The mother of Kenneth Bortles, vice principal of the Hoopa valley high school, Mrs. Bortles said that mysterious tracks of a tremendous size and human shape stirred the residents of Idaho in the early days. Just as with the "Big Foot" tracks of Northern California's Bluff Creek area, some believed they were genuine, others saw in them a clever hoax.
The "Big Foot" lived in the remote wilderness of Reynold's Canyon now known as Reynold's Creek. A thousand dollars was offered for him, dead or alive. Here the likeness to the local "Big Foot" ended for the "Gigantic Monster," as he was called in Idaho, was a killer. The full extent of the depredations of this Big Foot were never known, for many robberies and murders were attributed to him which he probably did not commit. The sometimes wanton killings that were the work of almost superhuman strength both with stock and humans, brought about his downfall. A thousand dollars was offered for Big Foot dead or alive.
John Wheeler, a former army man, set out to collect the reward. In the year 1868, he came upon Big Foot and shot him 16 times. Both legs and one arm were broken before he fell to the ground. As he lay there he asked for a drink of water and, because of his great fear, Wheeler shot him, breaking his other arm before giving the water to the creature. Before he died, he told Wheeler that his real name was Starr Wilkerson and he had been born in the Cherokee nation of a white father. His mother was part Cherokee and part Negro. Even as a very small boy everyone had called him "Big Foot" and made fun of him. At the age of
The foot length of this great giant of a man was 17½ inches and 18 inches around the ball of the foot. His height was 6 feet, 8 inches, with a chest measurement of 59 inches, and his weight was estimated at 300 pounds. He was all bone and sinew, no surplus flesh. He was known to have traveled as far as 60 or 75 miles in a 24-hour period.
Adelaide Hawes gives an account of Starr Wilkerson or "Big Foot" in her book, The Valley of the Tall Grass, written in 1950.
I have other old stories from Idaho, mostly of sheep being torn apart and monstrous human-like footprints by water holes, but nothing ever came of them. There is one story, however, that has always impressed me. This is told by none other than Theodore Roosevelt in a book he published in 1892 entitled Wilderness Hunter. Teddy was not a boy to be taken in by anybody much, and he was a great skeptic and debunker, especially in the field of wildlife, being the originator of that most excellent expression of opprobrium, "Nature-Faker." This story seems to have impressed him not a little and mostly because of the still noticeable terror of the teller, half a lifetime later. He was an old man when he talked to Roosevelt and the incident had happened when he was young. His name was Bauman and he was born in the area on the then frontier, and had spent all his life as a hunter and trapper. Roosevelt's account goes as follows:
When the event occurred Bauman was still a young man, and was trapping with a partner among the mountains dividing the forks of the Salmon from the head of Wisdom river. Not having had much luck, he and his partner determined to go up into a particularly wild and lonely pass through which ran a small stream said to contain many beaver. The pass had an evil reputation because the year before a solitary hunter who had wandered into it was there slain, seemingly by a wild beast, the half-eaten remains being afterwards found by some mining prospectors who had passed his camp only the night before.
There was still an hour or two of daylight left, and after building a brush lean-to and throwing down and opening their packs, they started up stream. …
At dusk they again reached camp. …
They were surprised to find that during their absence something, apparently a bear, had visited camp, and had rummaged about among their things, scattering the contents of their packs, and in sheer wantonness destroying their lean-to. The footprints of the beast were quite plain, but at first they paid no particular heed to them, busying themselves with rebuilding the lean-to, laying out their beds and stores, and lighting the fire.
While Bauman was making ready supper, it being already dark, his companion began to examine the tracks more closely, and soon took a brand from the fire to follow them up, where the intruder had walked along a game trail after leaving the camp.… Coming back to the fire, he stood by it a minute or two, peering out into the darkness, and suddenly remarked: "Bauman, that bear has been walking on two legs." Bauman laughed at this, but his partner insisted that he was right, and upon again examining the tracks with a torch, they certainly did seem to be made by but two paws, or feet. However, it was too dark to make sure. After discussing whether the footprints could possibly be those of a human being, and coming to the conclusion that they could not be, the two men rolled up in their blankets, and went to sleep under the lean-to.
At midnight Bauman was awakened by some noise, and sat up in his blankets. As he did so his nostrils were struck by a strong, wild-beast odor, and he caught the loom of a great body in the darkness at the mouth of the lean-to. Grasping his rifle, he fired at the vague, threatening shadow, but must have missed, for immediately afterwards he heard the smashing of the underwood as the thing, whatever it was, rushed off into the impenetrable blackness of the forest and the night.
After this the two men slept but little, sitting up by the rekindled fire, but they heard nothing more. In the morning they started out to look at the few traps they had set the previous evening and put out new ones. By an unspoken agreement they kept together all day, and returned to camp towards evening.
On nearing it they saw, hardly to their astonishment, that the lean-to
The men thoroughly uneasy, gathered a great heap of dead logs, and kept up a roaring fire throughout the night, one or the other sitting on guard most of the time. About midnight the thing came down through the forest opposite, across the brook, and stayed there on the hill-side for nearly an hour. They could hear the branches crackle as it moved about, and several times it uttered a harsh, grating, long-drawn moan, a peculiarly sinister sound. Yet it did not venture near the fire.
In the morning the two trappers, after discussing the strange events of the last 36 hours, decided that they would shoulder their packs and leave the valley that afternoon.…
All the morning they kept together, picking up trap after trap, each one empty. On first leaving camp they had the disagreeable sensation of being followed. In the dense spruce thickets they occasionally heard a branch snap after they had passed; and now and then there were slight rustling noises among the small pines to one side of them.
At noon they were back within a couple of miles of camp. In the high, bright sunlight their fears seemed absurd to the two armed men, accustomed as they were, through long years of lonely wandering in the wilderness to face every kind of danger from man, brute, or element. There were still three beaver traps to collect from a little pond in a wide ravine near by. Bauman volunteered to gather these and bring them in, while his companion went ahead to camp and made ready the packs.
On reaching the pond Bauman found 3 beavers in the traps, one of which had been pulled loose and carried into a beaver house. He took several hours in securing and preparing the beaver, and when he started homewards he marked, with some uneasiness how low the sun was getting….
At last he came to the edge of the little glade where the camp lay, and shouted as he approached it, but got no answer. The camp fire had gone out, though the thin blue smoke was still curling upwards. Near it lay the packs wrapped and arranged. At first Bauman could see nobody; nor did he receive an answer to his call. Stepping forward he again shouted, and as he did so his eye fell on the body of his friend, stretched
The footprints of the unknown beast-creature, printed deep in the soft soil, told the whole story.
The unfortunate man, having finished his packing, had sat down on the spruce log with his face to the fire, and his back to the dense woods, to wait for his companion.… It had not eaten the body, but apparently had romped and gambolled round it in uncouth, ferocious glee, occasionally rolling over and over it; and had then fled back into the soundless depths of the woods.
Bauman, utterly unnerved, and believing that the creature with which he had to deal was something either half human or half devil, some great goblin-beast, abandoned everything but his rifle and struck off at speed down the pass, not halting until he reached the beaver meadows where the hobbled ponies were still grazing. Mounting, he rode onwards through the night, until far beyond the reach of pursuit.
Judged by the time of publication of this story and what the old man said, this must have taken place in the early 1800's. Conditions changed radically about those parts in the 1850's, but then, strangely, they lapsed once more into a form of oblivion and, despite the incredible advance of civilization and the complete opening up of the whole West, until it stands today as second to no other area in the Union, parts of it are really less known now than they were a hundred years ago. I have observed this strange progress of progress in action in other lands, notably in the Republic of Haiti. The population of that small Caribbean country is so enormous that the whole of it, and right up its towering mountains, is virtually one great garden-city. You can stand anywhere and spit in three directions and be sure to hit somebody's compound. When the troubles took place in the 1920's and the American Marines took over, they built motorable roads in a network all over the country. Then they left; but at the same time there came the commercial airplane. By 1940 you just couldn't find any of the roads made by the Marines, while a new network was being built that went roaring straight through the country from one important center to another. All in between had gone right
back to conditions pertaining before the advent of the Marines, and in some large areas apparently to those pertaining before Columbus. So also with great pieces of our own country.
It was during this initial period of lapse, or collapse, that we once again pick up our tracks. The strangest story is that of Capt. Joseph Walker, an account of which lies in the files of a paper called the Eureka Daily Leader, dated February 14, 1879. This recounts that this gentleman, who was then a most renowned mountaineer, trapper, and guide, due to his many exploits in the Rockies, had recently returned from investigating a newly opened territory near the mouth of New York Canyon and had brought to the office of the Leader a slab of sandstone about 20 inches long and 14 inches wide and some 3 inches thick. "On the surface of this slab of sandstone was imprinted the clear form of a gigantic footprint [I am quoting here], perfect except for the tip of the great toe. The footprint measured 14½ inches from the end of the heel to the tip of the toe and was 6 inches wide across the ball of the foot. Captain Walker related how he had found the slab of sandstone formation under about 2 feet of sand."
This story has sundry rather odd features. First, a foot 14 ½ inches by 6 inches across the ball is hardly a gigantic foot compared to what is coming in a moment, but it has a plantar index of 2.42 which is much wider than a human foot and would give an impression of great size. The fact that it was impressed in a slab of sandstone might at first sound more than just suspicious because you can't impress anything into solid rock—you have to chip it out. However, and this should be borne in mind, sandstone can form in a matter of days under certain conditions. A surface of argillaceous sand may dry out under a hot sun and remain baked to the consistency of pottery for months. If then a flood brings down a layer of sand or other material and deposits this on top of it and also immediately dries out, you may get conditions similar to those that pertained in our Porcupine cage at my zoo. More drying, compression and the solution and percolation of, say, lime from the covering layer may then, in only a few years, solidify
the bottom layer and turn it to a sandstone. I have seen car tire tracks in sandstone so solid you needed a cold chisel to chip it.
Captain Walker was not a man to be fooled either and he retained a high reputation so that Walker River was named after him by the Federal Government. He was, in fact, solidly on the right track!
93:* "The Strange Story of America's Abominable Snowman," True, The Man's Magazine, Vol. 40, December, 1959.
96:* This is a funny word. Does it imply that sometimes it can be found?
100:* In the article mentioned above in True Magazine, an extra zero unfortunately became attached to the area given, a mistake that started with my typing but went clean through to the published story. This resulted in a deluge of several thousand letters. But, when it had been corrected, just as many people wrote scoffing at the true figure. Many of these were Californians; and some even from the counties concerned!