Your True Stories of Encounters with Ghosts, the Unexplained, and Small-Town Folklore, from America and Beyond

The Big, Hairy Primate in the Room

Now it’s time to talk about a piece of folklore that we have all grown up hearing about, that one bit of folklore that makes us all feel slightly awkward. If we believe in it, we’re weird. If we don’t believe in it, we’re closed-minded. There is no winning. Yes, you know what I’m going to say. I’m going to talk about the big, hairy elephant in the room. Or should I say, the big, hairy primate. You all know him. You all love him. I’m talking about Bigfoot! Sasquatch! Or his less tall and more Southern counterpart, Skunk Ape!

I’m sure some of you out there will remember, in your younger days, your eyes stuck to the television as you avidly listened to Leonard Nimoy hosting the odd and wonderful 1970’s television show In Search Of. (Bigfoot was covered on Season 1, Episode 5, for those of you who want to view it again on YouTube.) I remember feeling an ambivalent sense of both wonder and horror as I watched the show.

I even had a Bigfoot cuddly toy which Santa Claus brought me at Christmas when I was nine years old, an adorably goofy-looking and…well, big-footed…stuffed animal that snuggled into bed with me at night and held many of my youthful tears when I cried into him on bad days.

Bigfoot Cuddly Toy, just like the one I had.

We all grew up hearing the stories, watching the television shows with eye-witness accounts. Now, I have had many encounters with the paranormal and things far stranger than Sasquatch. So it’s a bit of a puzzlement that when it comes to the big, hairy primate, I’ve always been guarded with myself in my opinion, if not out-right skeptical. I have spent years reasoning that while it would be wonderful if such a creature existed, wouldn’t we find anthropological evidence, such as skeletons? Evidence of habitat? Etc.?

However, the stories have been around for a while. They seem to feature most prominently in the Native American folklore of the Pacific Northwest. Native American stories were recorded by Paul Kane back in 1847 of skoocooms, a race of wild men who lived at the top of Mount Saint Helens. Native Americans in Spokane (eastern Washington) also had stories, recorded seven years earlier by a Protestant missionary, of giants who lived high up in the mountains, descending on occasion to steal salmon from fishing nets.

But they are just stories, right?

So it was with great surprise, and even greater humor, that when I took my kids to visit Mount St. Helens last winter, I found this sign posted, roadside, in the forest. This sign for the Gifford Pinchot National Forest lists fun things to do, like biking, fishing, geocaching, Sasquatch…wait, what?! My opinion at the time is evident.

Forestry-sponsored sign?

Yep. There it is. Right in the middle of this obvious list of things you do whilst you’re in the wilderness.

After I laughingly posted the picture of the sign on Facebook, I forgot about it. Months went by, and then my husband and I took a much needed trip to Lake Quinault Lodge, a beautifully rustic lodge nestled in the Olympic National Forest.

The morning after we checked in, I decided to go downstairs to enjoy the great room with its views of the lake and its blazing fire in one of the larger fireplaces I have ever seen this side of the Atlantic. After I grew bored, I decided to wander down the hall to the gift shop, and that is when I saw the display.

Bigfoot Display by the Olympic Project Bigfoot Research at Lake Quinault Lodge

Again, I viewed the display with a sense of humor, taking close-ups of the articles in the case, and then posted the pictures on Facebook with the caption, “I just don’t know what to think.” What does that phrase even mean? Was it more, “I’m going over this in my mind,” or was it more, “How can people be so gullible?” Even now, I can’t really say.

That’s when my friend Rachael contacted me.

She had once seen the big, hairy primate. She related to me, “I have seen a Sasquatch while driving down Highway 101 through the gorgeous Hoh Rainforest. It was just barely dusk out, still very light and one of those rare, amazing non-rainy northwest days. I was keeping my eyes peeled for deer and elk as I drove; I’m terrified of hitting one and killing us both (animals and humans!). I saw movement on the edge of the woods off to my left, yards ahead. I slowed down, expecting a deer to jump and run across the highway. By this time, I’m down to 20-25 miles per hour.

“Instead emerges what looked to be a…bear, mixed with a gorilla. It ambled on all fours like that but was still at least far more than six feet tall. I was shocked and excited and thought, HOLY MOLEY!!! I slowed the car all the way down to a rolling California stop. I slugged my passenger in the arm to confirm that we were, in fact, awake.

“The Sasquatch just ambled across the highway and disappeared into the forest while we were still in awesome disbelief and excitement.

“It crossed the road right in front of me. True story. Scout’s honor.”

Rachael is a reliable sort, and not the type of person who would joke to make fun at someone else’s expense. If she said she saw it, well, then…she saw it.

I leave you with this thought.

Although I have encountered ghosts, am a practicing witch and a lover of all things paranormal, I also have a skeptical bent. I always question what I experience. I don’t randomly believe in something, just because it might be posted by someone I love or trust. (Go and Google the Internet Research Agency, a Russian government-sponsored agency based in St. Petersburg, whose sole purpose is to wage a misinformation war. Their purpose is to push and divide Americans to opposite extremes, in hopes of causing chaos, all the while, wrapping their nonsense up in red, white, and blue. This is happening, folks, and it isn’t even a conspiracy theory. It’s out there for you to read from reliable sources.)

But I digress. Where was I? Oh, yes.

I have a skeptical bent. And yet I went from being cautious about the existence of this cryptid to…to scratching my head in wonderment, still not sure what I think. Could there be evolutionary descendants of the Meganthropus or Gigantopithecus out there? Is it possible?

I just don’t know what to think.

With special thanks to Rachael Grove for bravely sharing her story with me.

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