Saturday, July 03, 2010

A Special Bonus

Of course I wouldn't leave you all hanging on a holiday weekend! Or would I?

Here is a special bonus from the author Thom Cantrall on "Counterfeit Cryptids".

Counterfeit Cryptids
How to Recognize Them

Thom Cantrall

It is a sign of our times that anything good will be counterfeited and offered to the public at a reduced price or for reduced credibility. For some reason it has become camp to be a naysayer and to belittle the efforts and experiences of others. I suppose there are myriad reasons for this to happen but among the uppermost are profit and notoriety.
It seems that virtually any time someone comes on the scene with “irrefutable proof” of Sasquatch that “proof” comes with a price tag attached to it. Only recently we had a case of two men in Georgia, at least one of whom was a former deputy sheriff, who had a “body” in an ice chest. This body was for sale to the highest bidder with no takers. Just prior to that was a “must see” video coming out of Canada… for the highest bidder… In both cases, it was nothing more than a hoax and why those involved were not prosecuted for fraud is beyond me.
Another form of hoax that I know personally of being perpetrated was done repeatedly by one of the major timber companies in the Pacific Northwest. To understand why this company would perpetrate hoaxes on its own land, one must look at the actions of our government in the face of controversy as pertains to timberlands and private entities. One only has to look as far as the Spotted Owl fiasco and what is happening in the Central Valley of California with a tiny fish, the Delta Smelt, that has a major portion of the irrigated farmland lying dry and fallow.
The last thing this timber company wanted was an obscure species being discovered in the middle of their prime timber so they went to the trouble to fake tracks and sightings for no purpose other than to create doubt in the minds of the public. After, all, if one case is proven a hoax, doesn’t that prove that all reported sightings are also hoaxes? I know the logic is faulty, but nobody ever went broke overestimating the gullibility of people.
In light of the fact that we know hoaxes exist and are often reported as the real thing, I feel it is important to investigate some of those ruses used and arm ourselves with a set of benchmarks by which we might measure for ourselves the probability of a sighting, still photo, video or track in the soft earth being actual. There are certain things that many valid researchers use as criteria for determining the validity of the various claims that come before us.
The first thing I look for in a photograph is an overall view of the creature. If it is very far removed from the appearance of Patty, the creature in the Patterson-Gimlin film, I’m immediately suspicious. The sightings I have had are as near in overall appearance to Patty as one crow is to another. Perhaps I do disservice to creatures from other areas of the country, but until some better similitude comes along, I’ll maintain my bias and test all visual images against the one I know best.
A careful perusal of the image shown in Fig. 1 above shows too many anomalies for me to be comfortable with its authenticity. First, there appears to be wrinkles or folds on the “creature’s” back. The shoulders are just too square. The stature, though wide, does not appear tall and lastly, the arms are much too short. Without knowing more that this, I would label this to be a fake.
In this day of PhotoShop and other great photo manipulation software pieces, almost anything is possible. A good technician can work wonders with photographs to create many illusions. Compare the two individuals in Fig. 2 and Fig. 3. At first look, the creature in Fig. 2 would appear to be a new, unseen photo of a Sasquatch in a forested/brush biome. The first look at the animal meets all the criteria I presented above… until you look at the view of Patty in Fig. 3… It would appear to me that someone has borrowed this image of Patty and placed it into a new background create a new scenario for one reason or another. One can even see the same reflected light patterns on each photo as well as the muscle ripple on the upper leg, just below the buttocks. The same “shiny nose” syndrome is evident in both instances.
We are blessed with many pictures of purported Bigfoot tracks. Many are, obviously, very proper in appearance and what we would expect to find in a Cryptid footprint. Others really tax our imagination. Some things I look for in any picture of a purported track include the regularity of the prints. Where was the print found? How are the individual prints arranged on the trail?
I recently found a photograph of a supposed trail in the snow. This photo is shown here as Fig. 4. Look closely at the individual “tracks”… they are absolutely identical. They are identical in shape, in form and in placement. There is no slippage and each of the four (?) toe prints are unique and separate. The line of prints shows a definite left and right foot orientation. This is so wrong on so many levels that I hesitate to even lend credence to this by denying its existence. Fig 5 and Fig 6 show how a real Sasquatch walks… one foot inline with the other. There are imperfections in the prints. When we walk, we do not do so without making smear marks and slip marks. If one should doubt this, I would advise him to take his shoes off and walk down a wet sandy beach then examine the resultant prints. There are variations. Not all steps are exactly as the previous ones. Prints in the snow are relatively simple to forge, as it takes no great amount of weight to sink to the bottom of two inches of wet snow. This is not the case, however when walking in more solid soil, or even in mud.
Recently, i.e. within the past few years, I watched a program on Discovery Channel, I believe, wherein Autumn Williams, noted researcher and blog manager, escorted a group of TV types into a place in Oregon where Sasquatch was known to frequent. One of these people was the designated naysayer. He was the “skeptic from New York” who was certain he could don a costume and leave tracks that would fool anyone. As part of the program, he attempted to do just that… and failed miserably. First, once he had the suit on, he could not maneuver. He had difficulty even walking, let alone traversing rough terrain. But, the ultimate failure was that his prints did not show well in the soil. He simply was not heavy enough to sink far enough to leave a viable print.
Following is an excerpt from the Essay I wrote about an encounter I had in the Dickey River country of Washington’s Olympic Peninsula. After the creature left, I made careful measurements of all aspects of his being… this illustrates why that doubter could not duplicate real tracks…
The last measurement I wanted was the depth of his footprint in the soft ground as it compared to my own. I knew that my shorter, narrower foot should penetrate deeper than his long, broad feet. To test my hypothesis, I removed my boots and socks and walked as he did over the same ground, just being careful not to obliterate his tracks. I was amazed that my foot did not sink deeper nor, interestingly enough, did his sink deeper than my own. In fact, we made very similar tracks separated only by size. Both showed the balls of our feet, five distinct toes, a marked arch and a round heel. The only real difference was in the fact that he seemed to place his foot more evenly on the ground than did I, not rolling from heel to toe as I did in my paces.
As I sat and replaced my boots, it struck me to measure my foot and compare that to that of my non-existent visitor. When I did so, I made what was, to me, a startling discovery. I computed my foot to have covered approximately thirty square inches. And, since I weighed two-hundred-twenty-five pounds fully dressed at that time, I was exerting approximately seven point five pounds per square inch of pressure on the ground. When I measured my imaginary guest’s footprint, I judged it to be approximately eighty square inches and, while I did not know exactly what he weighed, as he didn’t seem prone to staying around while I found a set of scales, but I could estimate the weight of cattle quite accurately and I felt I could be just as accurate with this myth. When I divided my estimated weight of six-hundred pounds by the eighty square inches of his foot print, I came up with an identical seven point five pounds per square inch! No wonder we sank so nearly the same in the ground, we were exerting virtually the same pressure per square inch on it as we walked.
Notice, please, in Fig 7 that there are natural perturbations in the appearance of the print. It is not even and perfect by any stretch of the imagination, but shows the vagaries of a track in a muddy bottom. Compare this with Fig. 8 and notice that the person standing next to the purported track does not even leave a mark on the soil whereas the animal print is sunk well into the soft ground.
Another part of the tracking of this animal that is difficult to counterfeit is the stride on the animal. He is huge by our standards and his stride is commensurate with his leg length. I have, on three occasions, had the opportunity to compare my stride to Sasquatch.
In my capacity as a professional Forest Engineer developed my stride to the point that I could cover long distances using nothing but my stride length to measure that distance. My former partner used to be amazed at my accuracy. One particular such trek involved setting the boundary between a piece of property we were buying and Olympic National Park. In order to do this, I had to lay out a line from one section corner to the next, a distance of one mile. Normally there are posts set every half mile, but they were seldom found in this heavily forested ground and did not show on the survey maps from which we were working. In that traverse, when I had paced out what I felt was a mile, I told him that we should be very close now. He uttered an incredulous laugh and pointed to an iron stake about thirty-five feet from where I stood. I say this only to let all know that I understand strides and pacing. I have developed mine so that one full pace, left foot and right is exactly five feet. Every twenty paces equal one-hundred feet.
In all three instances to which I referred, the creature’s pace exceeded eight feet and one was nearly ten feet. No mere man is going to make that kind of stride without leaving some kind of marking. To do so would require leaping from one foot placement to the next and, in softer materials, would be readily apparent. Consequently, I am very skeptical of any mention of stride in a photo where no means of measurement are provided for comparison.
Fig. 9 illustrates all that is right in a good representation of tracks in the snow. The tracks are in one line, they are not uniform in appearance and one could determine the stride by measuring the individual print and computing a ratio of that figure to the distance from one left foot to the next.
Limb Length
In 1998 the BBC in England aired a show to refute the veracity of the Patterson-Gimlin film. Their hypothesis was, simply put, that it was possible today to produce a suit that would be so life-like that it could not differentiated from a real animal. Certainly, they postulated, Hollywood could create such a costume that would exactly simulate life itself. After all, these were the people who had given us Wookies, Jabba the Hutt and the Apes on their planet. Just to look at what Hollywood could create would convince the world how easy it would be to fake such a creature.
Many thousands of dollars were spent on this pursuit and the result was, as expected, stunning. Just to look at the results would be enough to amaze even the most ardent witness of the Sasquatch phenomenon. A mere glance at Fig. 10 would tend to convince anyone that, indeed, it would not be difficult to simulate a Sasquatch in the wild… until one compares it with the real thing.
Fig. 11 below is the same picture of the suit produced by the BBC program in 1998 alongside one from of the Patterson-Gimlin film with Patty in a similar pose as the fake. This photo appeared on the website and is used with permission. The differences are obvious. Just look at the length of the arms as compared to the body length and the length of the legs.
Not so long ago, in a paper I read with great interest, Professor Jeff Meldrum of Idaho State University in Pocatello, ID addressed this issue. In his essay Dr. Meldrum introduced to me the concept of the Intermembral Index or IM Index. This Index is the ratio of the arm length (Humerus plus the Radius) to the leg length (Femur plus the Tibia) times one hundred. Typically in humans this yields an IM Index of Seventy-two (72). It should be noted here that this index remains constant when persons of various heights are tested. The fact that this ratio is height independent makes it a valid determinant of interspecies parameters. It also makes it possible to take measurements off a photograph to make the calculations so long as these measurements are done on a portion of the photo where the limbs are flat to the plane of the camera to reduce the effect of foreshortening of the limbs.
Professor Meldrum indicated further that the Index for a chimpanzee is one hundred six (106) and for a gorilla a whopping one hundred seventeen (117)! Fig 12 shows Patty in a retreating mode. This is included because it is a pose where the limbs are vertical and therefore in a flat plane with the camera. This would yield a situation where foreshortening is eliminated and accurate measurements can be made. After careful examination and measurement of this rendering I ascertained an IM Index of eighty-four (84). This places our large friend directly between humans and apes on the scale.
Quite recently I was watching a report wherein the IM Index was dismissed by two Hollywood movie costumers as being quite immaterial as all they would have to do to gain the required length would be to add arm extensions. Yes, they are correct that this action would increase the overall arm length but it would introduce a further anomaly that they chose to ignore. If one watches the Patterson-Gimlin closely they would see that the arm articulates normally. There is a wrist, an elbow and a shoulder that all move, bend and flex independently and as needed. I am six feet four inches tall (6’4”) and to achieve the IM Index that Patty displays, I would have to add approximately eleven (11) inches to the length of my arm. Any arm extender that I could use to achieve this would mean that my Humerus would remain the length it now is and my Radius would be increased by ten (10) inches. My arm would now measure approximately twelve (12) inches from the point of my shoulder to my elbow and another twenty-three (23) inches from my elbow to my wrist. Since my humerus and my radius are now approximately equal, I would then be a bit disproportionate. That is, unless they can also install an new elbow about five (5) inches below where my elbow now resides!
Fig 13 and Fig 14, left and right here demonstrate graphically the concept. I performed the aforementioned exercise on both of these photos and came up with IM Indices of seventy-one (71) and seventy-three (73), respectively. It does not take a lot of imagination to figure out what these two pictures portray.
It is my fervent wish that no one would ever perpetrate a hoax such as that pair in Georgia did along with a known researcher. It gives every person involved in this research a black eye and sets us back in our efforts. Even though prominent people stepped forth quickly to refute their claims, damage was done to all our reputations in the view of the press and the public. Autumn Williams was one of the very first to deny the veracity of their claims, but I still saw her name in print in a negative tone from people who should know better but were too lazy to do their own research.
With this group of people, the thought of personal gain overshadowed integrity and, as such, the field was soiled. I trust that by invoking some of the techniques I have passed on here, this can be minimized in the future.
I have been asked often why I would continue to speak out when I knew how strong and intransigent the opposition really is. Let me relate something I learned many years ago and told of in my book, “Ghosts of Ruby Ridge”.
When I was much younger, I lived on Washington’s Olympic Peninsula in the town of Sequim (pronounced skwim). Being located on the Straits leading from Puget Sound to the Pacific Ocean, seafood was a major part of my diet. One of my favorites was Dungeness Crab. On a minus tide, when the water fell below the mean low tide level, I would walk the tidal flats inside Dungeness Spit and pick up the crabs from the eelgrass that grew there in profusion. It was but a matter of an hour to capture a limit of ten crabs. As I was wading in the water, I used a wash tub floating on the water to contain my catch. I’d simply pick up the crab with my catch pole and drop him into the tub. I tethered the tub to my belt so it simply floated along and was no impediment to me in any way. The only problem with this arrangement was after catching the first crab. That first critter had to be watched closely or he would crawl out of the tub and escape back to the water. Believe me; I lost several in this manner. The solution was very simple… catch another crab and put it in the tub. As soon as there were two or more crabs in the tub, none could ever escape because as one would begin to climb above the others, they would immediately pull him back down to their level. They would never allow one to rise above the rest.
So it is with people. As long as no one attempts to stand above the others, peace is maintained, but let one person try to get ahead and the masses will do all they can to pull him back down to their level. That is what we see in this field as well. There is a huge segment of the population that does not believe, therefore, NO ONE is allowed to believe and they will scoff and deny facts forever while doing all they can to pull that person back to their own level. For over twenty-five years, I never mentioned what I knew… what I had learned. I kept strictly to myself the encounters I had had with these wonderful creatures when, one day, it dawned on me. I KNOW what I know. I don’t even care if another person knows that or not. If they do not know then they can either learn or keep their mouth shut. It is no concern to me which. If they choose to do neither and, instead, become a naysayer or impediment, they are to be pitied. That in no way changes what I know is true or the experiences I have had.
I associate now with others who also know what I know… not to PROVE the existence of these creatures, but to share our common bond and to revel in the joy of our own knowledge. It is my fervent prayer that each and every reader can reach this point in his own pursuits, be they what they are. Have the courage to know that what others scoff at, they do not understand. Pity them… offer them help… and if they refuse… ignore them for, after all, though the dogs bark, the caravan continues to roll.

Friday, July 02, 2010

Del Norte County

And now I present the third story of the encounters of Thomas D. Cantrall

Del Norte County Sasquatch Encounter
May 1978
By Thom Cantrall
In the spring of 1978 I worked for a timber company located on the California-
Oregon border at Highway 101. My job required that I drive from the mill yard inland to
our logging jobs west of Orleans, CA. To get there, I had to drive a huge circular route.
Leaving the yard, I drove south on US 101 for just over sixty miles through the coastal
Redwood groves to the Bald Hills Road just north of Orick, CA. I followed the Bald
Hills Road for about thirty-six miles to Weitchipec, CA and Highway 96 where I turned
north for approximately fourteen miles. At Orleans, I turned back to the west and drove
for about twenty five miles to our job sites. Since much of this was driven on gravel
roads, the trip required four to five hours to complete,
depending on the amount of traffic on the highway. I was
required to make this trip an average of three times a
There existed at that time a road that ran directly
from the small town of Gasquet, CA, up the south fork of
the Smith River and past Doctor Rocks and on into
This direct route shortened my trip to about ninety minutes and was known as the
Gasquet-Orleans Road, or more familiarly, the G-O Road. It was paved on both ends, but
there was, in the middle, from east of Blue Creek to the west of Doctor Rocks a stretch
that had never been constructed beyond a bulldozed trace through the timber. The U.S.
Forest Service had plans to finish this road, but was being fought vigorously by the
lunatic fringe preservationists who pretty much control California, it would seem. The
final result being that, looking at a current map of that area, it shows that road still not
being completed.
Much of this primitive section of the road was at sufficient elevation that winter
snows drifted deep and kept the track closed until early summer, at least, under normal
circumstances. This particular spring, the shortcut being so important to us, we hauled a
D-7 Caterpillar as far in the west end of the road as we
could before the snow stopped us. There, we unloaded
the Cat and let him clear snow across the ten miles or so
until he broke out of it on the east end. We used a rubber
tired road grader to clear what drifts were amassed on the paved section east of the
primitive road. At the beginning of the pavement, we reloaded the Cat back onto its
trailer and hauled it on to our road construction site.
With the G-O Road open to Four Wheel Drive vehicles, our crews could leave
home two hours before time to be at work on Monday morning, work their time, spend
the week in Orleans at a logging camp we’d set up there and return home after work on
Friday. If there were something sufficiently
important to do at home, they COULD make
the trip in midweek, though this was frowned on.
On the week in question, I had meetings scheduled
with the U.S. Forest Service Sale Administrator on
Thursday to set where the roads into the next unit
would be located. I then had a conference with our road construction boss set for Friday
morning. I determined to drive over on Thursday, have my USFS meeting, spend the
night at our camp in Orleans, meet the road boss on Friday and drive home Friday
Since I was meeting with government workers on Thursday, I knew I could sleep
in a bit longer as they would not leave their office in Orleans any sooner than 8:30 am.
Since I knew I would be staying over, the pack I always carried with me in my
truck in case of emergency was especially plush that Thursday morning as I pulled out of
the mill yard at 7 am. The sun was well above the eastern rim when I reached the snow
line on the G-O Road. That I was the only vehicle to cross this morning was evident in
the icy slush that was on the road in various places.
I had traveled about a half mile from the point the snow began and was on a slight
uphill grade traveling west to east. I spotted tracks
in the snow. The tracks came from the north,
dropped down into a shallow swale that opened
onto the road in a very muddy stretch. They
continued on south, up the slight bank on the south
side of the road and disappeared into the distance.
My first thought on seeing the tracks was
that a bear, just out of his winter’s sleep had been
on a trip of exploration, probably for his morning
meal. I am always interested in locating sizable
critters, and especially since there were no cub tracks I could see, it would most likely be
a lone boar, I stopped short of where the tracks crossed in the mud of the road to measure
this bear. As I walked up to the tracks, my jaw dropped like a rock! There in the muddy
slush was not the bear tracks I expected to see, but a very large, very human shaped foot
print... not just one, but a whole series of them. For several moments I just stared! Bare,
humanoid foot prints that measured just over eighteen inches in length with a stride that I,
at six feet, four inches could not begin to emulate. For me, a full stride, left and right is
exactly five feet in length. I’ve measured it time and again in my capacity as a forester.
The stride on this creature was well over eight feet in length! That was an awesome
stride! My first inclination, after regaining mobility, was to follow them to see where
they led, and, hopefully, what was making them.
I had but little time to devote to this. A multi-million dollar logging operation
could not be left to falter because I wanted to chase a Sasquatch. I did flag the spot well,
so I could find it easily on my return trip. I knew I could be done by noon on Friday
because I did not have to wait on the USFS and
could meet the road boss on the job at six am.
Noon Friday found me in my little truck,
climbing the last grade out of Blue Creek
Canyon that led to the crossing… not that I was
anxious or anything. When I reached my
markers, I found a secluded spot without much snow where I could park my truck out of
sight of the road. I knew the cutting crew, the logging crews and the road building crews
would be passing through here tonight and, knowing that most knew my truck, I did not
want them to know what I was about doing here.
When I was ready to travel, I set out on the now day old tracks with little hope of
catching up with this particular creature, but I had to follow. Down the ridge we went in
the snow. Within a half mile, we broke out of the timber onto a sunny, south-facing slope
that was clear of snow except in the very shaded areas. Every few hundred yards there
would be a patch of snow varying in size from a few feet across to
some that probably covered more than an acre. Although it was not
difficult tracking in the bare trail that varied from damp to muddy,
these snow fields served to let me know I was still on the same animal.
Very late in the day, when I felt I had hiked about eight or nine
miles from the G-O Road, hunger was beginning to rear its demanding
head so I decided to look for a good campsite, enjoy my dinner and take a little time to
explore my immediate area before dark spread its tentacles and drove me back into camp.
The area I was in was populated with stands of magnificent old-growth Douglas Fir of
huge proportions. Some of these were more than seven feet in
diameter and it was obvious that they had survived many, many
fires. Between the stands, especially on the south facing slopes,
the scars of those fires were very evident. When I dropped down
onto a flat gravel bar adjacent to a beautiful, clear running stream,
I thought I had probably found my campsite and when I noticed
that several of the huge old behemoths had their trunks burned
out, leaving a warm, dry, cave-like den, I determined that I was at
home for the night. This had everything I normally look for in a campsite, level ground,
cover from possible lightening storms that the current increasing clouds could certainly
deliver, and abundant fresh, clean water.
The only disconcerting thing about my campsite was a rather putrid smell that
wafted through from time to time and, in searching the den burned from the tree trunk,
there was a large number of long, black hairs lodged in the bark and wood. I thought I
had probably found a bear’s winter den and, since they were out and doing now, they
would not mind sharing quarters with me, since I was determined I would not be there
when next they needed it for hibernation. This area, as I have described it here was the
model for the second Sasquatch camp in the narrative to follow.
The first thing I did after getting out from under my pack was to hike up the
stream for a couple of hundred yards, checking closely for dead critters lying in the
The coming night was just beginning its tenure when I heard from the timber the
most god-awful, gut wrenching, piercing, high, ululating cry. It was absolutely stunning
and bone chilling to hear. I had, at the time, absolutely no idea what could be singing
that song and I wasn’t really sure I wanted to know. I had heard descriptions of the call
of the Sasquatch, but, believe me, no description I had ever heard even began to prepare
me for the reality of it. The first call went on, varying in pitch and modulation for what
seemed like minutes, but which was probably between thirty and forty-five seconds. It
then ended by fading away in volume to zero.
I was sitting by my fire, completely at attention, eyes and ears under full strain to
learn more when it began again though not in the same place. Where the first call was to
the south, this call was from the northwest. Again, the same high ululations, almost a
warbling sound followed by a steady tone
only to be varied again. This time I was
able to be a bit more clinical about it as I
was not quite so in awe of the sound in
and of itself. I timed this scream at
twenty-five seconds when it again faded
When the calls ceased, there was not a sound to be heard from any source save
two. The bubbling of the small creek which was wholly unimpressed with the nocturnal
display I had just witnessed was one sound. The other was the thumping of my heart in
my chest. I judged the calls to be just up the ridge from my lair, not over two hundred
yards away from me.
After these two calls, nothing more was forthcoming. I built my fire up slightly
so that it afforded more light. When about two hours had elapsed with no more contact, I
noticed a shadow flicker across one of the openings to my den. A moment later, another
shadow. They were not really close to my tree, but just at the edge of the light cast by my
fire. I quickly searched my pack for the flashlight I always carry there. Unfortunately,
when I found it, I could not get it to work. My pack seldom leaves my truck so that I
always have it in an emergency. Normally, I remove the batteries from the hand light and
store them separately in a plastic baggie to prevent what I had just discovered. Evidently,
at some prior time, I had broken my own rule.
Without artificial light, I was relegated to making the most of the light my little
fire afforded. By sitting near the opening with my fire at my back, I was able to see my
“guests”. There were three of them that I watched most of the night. Evidently, I had
unwittingly commandeered their den and they did not appear overly pleased with the
prospect of sharing it with me. At any rate, they were with me all night long, a night that
lasted, I might add, approximately one hundred and seventy seven hours.
Towards morning, I dozed in short catnaps that were often interrupted by the
sounds of woofs and yips that I heard from outside my
nest! Somewhere near dawn, these sounds stopped and,
my fire built up to last a bit more, I slept soundly for a
time. When I woke, light covered the land, my fire was
burned down to coals and the only sounds to be heard
were those common to the mountains in the daylight
On emerging from my retreat, the first thing I
saw were myriad tracks. From these tracks, I discerned that there where, indeed, three
separate creatures of three separate size classes. My assumption is that it was a family
group, however, that is strictly an assumption on my part. As soon as I had completed
my breakfast and morning ablutions, I hoisted my pack and my butt and hied out of there
and back to the road and my waiting truck. I have always wanted to go back in there and
check that place out, but I left that job and that area within a month of this incident, and
have not been back in that area for any period of time since this occurrence.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Olympic Peninsula, October 1977

Here is the second story of Thom Cantrall's encounters with Sasquatch.

Who Is Sasquatch?
Thom Cantrall

Olympic Peninsula October, 1977

He was large, over eight feet tall and easily weighed six-hundred pounds… he was covered with long, dark hair. His massive head seemed to sit directly on his broad shoulders with little or no neck between. Oversized crystal-brown eyes surveyed me diligently as I stood transfixed. We watched each other at a range of less than twenty-five feet with my mind cataloging all I was seeing even while my brain was telling me this was an impossibility. “This creature does not exist and anyone who states otherwise is either lying, perpetrating a hoax or is misidentifying what they are seeing,” the so-called expert had said with authority.
Well, at this moment, deep in the swampy morass known as the Dickey River country, I wished fervently that I had this “expert” with me. I was over two miles from the nearest road and more than a mile from anything that could be considered even a ghost of a trail on a trek that no one other than my partner knew I was taking. My partner was nowhere within reach. He was probably sitting in my truck on the road eating my sandwich and drinking my coffee. One thing I knew for a fact. He was not going to be anywhere near this far from a soft seat and dry cab. I knew that no one was going to know anything of what I was seeing except I tell them.
I was here in the capacity of a Forest Engineer to do a bridge site survey for a local timber company who planned to build a road into this stretch of virgin timber. As that road crossed a salmon spawning stream, a hydraulics permit was going to be required to satisfy the requirements of the state in order to obtain the necessary permits to build this road. A bridge site survey involves measuring the size, width and depth of the stream as well as the soil types that are found. In short, everything that will go into the design and construction of the bridge and adjacent road was to be enumerated and recorded.
Sasquatch… Bigfoot… Swamp Ape… Yeti… they were the same creature and they did not exist. I was told so by experts… So, why was something that does not exist standing there watching me so intently? Didn’t he know he was an imaginary creature… a myth? This was evidently not true, for he began to move slowly away from me. He was walking upright, just as I do. He began a slow retreat towards the nearby timber and away from the berries he had been feeding on when I first spotted him. He did not totter in a lumbering fashion as a bear does when he walks on his hind legs but walked smoothly with a strange little hitch in his gait. In abject awe, I watched as he walked surely and directly to the heavy cover. As he went, he turned occasionally without stopping to assess my actions. He need not have worried for I was not moving from where I stood. It was as if I had taken root on that spot.
This encounter etched itself into my brain as I realized that this was probably what that expert called panic hysteria induced by some event in my childhood that caused me to hallucinate and think I actually was seeing what my eyes were recording… but, why wasn’t that expert here? In fact, I wondered if that expert had ever been here… or any similar place anywhere in North America? Somehow, I don’t really believe he had been.
When this creature of my imagination disappeared into the darkness of the timber I stood and watched as his image seemed to be burned into my retina. When a few minutes had passed and this after-image abated, I decided to see if I had actually been hallucinating and moved to where he had been eating berries. Unfortunately for my reasonable expert, the first things I saw were tracks… large, wide tracks there in the soft ground. Five toe prints were clearly visible and from heel to toe, the track measured seventeen inches in length and was approximately five and one-quarter inches in breadth across the ball of the foot. It tapered to a width of about two and three-quarters at the heel. I could see a series of his tracks between where I now stood and the timber across the way. The first thing that struck me was the length of the creature’s stride.
I was a Forest Engineer and, as such, had taught myself to walk with a measured pace. I was able to measure long distances by pacing and be accurate within fifty feet in a mile. I had done so many times, often to the amazement of my partner. My pace, left foot then right was exactly five feet. I could maintain this pace accurately uphill and down.
Using my calibrated paces, I carefully measured the stride of my visitor and found his pace, from the heel of his right foot to the left and back to the heel of the right again was within two of my paces or over nine feet and below ten feet. As I had watched the creature walk away, I knew he had not been alarmed and was not running, but merely walking steadily on his way.
The last measurement I wanted was the depth or his footprint in the soft ground as it compared to my own. I knew that my shorter, narrower foot should penetrate deeper than his long, broad feet. To test my hypothesis, I removed my boots and socks and walked as he did over the same ground, just being careful not to obliterate his tracks. I was amazed that my foot did not sink deeper nor, interestingly enough, did his sink deeper than my own. In fact, we made very similar tracks separated only by size. Both showed the balls of our feet, five distinct toes, a marked arch and a round heel. The only real difference was in the fact that he seemed to place his foot more evenly on the ground than did I, not rolling from heel to toe as I did in my paces.
As I sat and replaced my boots, it struck me to measure my foot and compare that to that of my non-existent visitor. When I did so, I made what was, to me, a startling discovery. I computed my foot to have covered approximately thirty square inches. And, since I weighed two-hundred-twenty-five pounds fully dressed at that time, I was exerting approximately seven point five pounds per square inch of pressure on the ground. When I measured my imaginary guest’s footprint, I judged it to be approximately eighty square inches and, while I did not know exactly what he weighed, as he didn’t seem prone to staying around while I found a set of scales, but I could estimate the weight of cattle quite accurately and I felt I could be just as accurate with this myth. When I divided my estimated weight of six-hundred pounds by the eighty square inches of his foot print, I came up with an identical seven point five pounds per square inch! No wonder we sank so nearly the same in the ground, we were exerting virtually the same pressure per square inch on it as we walked.
Armed with all this data, I continued on to complete my bridge site survey and began my hike back towards my truck… When I arrived, I was right… my lunch had been ravaged and my partner was sleeping contentedly in his corner of the truck.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Encounters with Thom Cantrall

While in Oregon, I was fortunate enough to meet the author and sasquatch witness, Thom Cantrall.

Thom has graciously agreed to allow me to share stories with you of his encounters.

I will present these in a series, posting a new story every day. Please enjoy.

Winter’s Wonderland


Thom Cantrall

First off, let me say that I am pretty much a “live and let live: kind of guy. This is especially true of God’s small creatures. If I am out hiking and happen upon a rattlesnake, I’ll simply back up, tip my hat to him and wish him happy hunting. The fact that for the next hour or so I jump about a foot off the ground if even a small branch should happen to snap against my leg in no way compromises my calm demeanor in these matters. It’s simply that in some things
what the brain knows logically is not necessarily retransmitted to the reactive nervous system, let alone to the feet and legs that cause these leaps of unfaith.
Probably the worst case of this “Induced Reaction Syndrome” as I like to call it occurred in a good friend of mine who is now passed on. This latter fact making it much safer to relate the tale as it occurred without fear of reprisals or at least, a swift kick to the posterior.
Frank and I had decided to take advantage of the late elk season on the very north end of Washington’s Olympic Peninsula. The weather was ideal for this January outing… snow, snow and more snow. It snowed all day the day of our evening departure from our Port Townsend area homes. By the time our gear was loaded, the trailer attached and we were on our way, there was more than a foot of fresh, white tracking snow on the ground with more on the way. Frank, being from Missouri and unaccustomed to the rigors of tracking elk while ploughing through hip-deep snow, was positively jubilant at the prospect.
Throughout our four hour drive to the Hoko River country, normally about a two hour drive, sans snow, he regaled me with tales of his misspent younger years in the “Show Me” State. If I were believe one-tenth of the antics he related to be “gospel true”, his companions had to have had intellects such that, by comparison, an earthworm would be considered an over-achiever and a cucumber could graduate high school with honors. Some of these tales made Paul Bunyan and his Blue Ox, Babe, seem absolutely plausible by comparison. All in all, though, it was a delightful drive through falling snow with Nirvana waiting for us at the end of our trek.
It was fully dark by the time we arrived at our planned destination, the end of a logging road that led to two clearcuts, one freshly logged and the other about three years old, affording perfect feed for many head of deer and elk. This little road wound its way up the mountain a mile (1500 m) or so to the older unit, then on through standing timber to the freshly logged unit at the end of the road. My original plan had called for us to drive in on this road past the first unit to a wide spot by a small stream where we would set up our trailer. Clallam County Road Dept., being reluctant to expend time and effort clearing private logging roads, forced us to alter these plans and camp just off the paved road, blocking all access to the snow-choked logging road. After setting up camp which, for us, consisted of unhitching the trailer, making it somewhat level fore and aft, turning on the gas and lighting the pilot lights on the stoves and refrigerator, the work of about twelve minutes flat, we retired for the night.
I should note at this point that the reason for choosing this particular area was that a good friend of mine had logged that back unit and had seen elk nearly every day feeding in the front unit just at daylight. Our plan was to be in that unit just above the Hoko Road well before first light and see if we couldn’t ambush one of the big Roosevelt Elk that live there. To that end, we were up well before daylight, had a bite to eat and were headed up the road, climbing the mountain in the diminishing snowfall. Just about the time we were leaving camp, our bowstrings safely tucked into an inside pocket where they would stay warm, dry and serviceable, the falling snow changed to rain. It was not a heavy downpour like that ultra-wet country is capable of generating, but a soft, steady drizzle. It soaked everything… Snow… Trees…. Hunters….
On and on we slogged through the white expanse, climbing the steep grade that led to our goal. Although there was no moon out, the glow off the now melting snow afforded us ample light to see into the dark night without the use of flashlights. Careful we were to not get off the edge of the roadway for a fall into the adjacent canyon in the gloom of night could prove fatal. We were reluctant to show any light lest it be visible ahead of us and into the clearcut.
About thirty minutes before dawn, we reached the edge of the clearcut and decided to wait there where we could see the entire unit and await daylight. There were no tracks on the road, but we had expected none as we had the end of that road blockaded by our camp. The light, steady drizzle was doing its very best to work up into a full-blown downpour and the temperature had risen to well above freezing. That alone would make any tracks encountered to be very recent, indeed. In fact, I don’t believe a track in the open would be at all crisp and delineated after as little as a half-hour in these conditions.
Slowly, the skies began to grow brighter with the promise of a new day, a new creation, even. Stumps began to emerge from the black of night to belie Frank’s profound belief that they were a herd of elk feeding in the pre-dawn air. Just as one particularly majestic six-point bull disintegrated into its component parts consisting of a very nice Western Hemlock stump, a short length of cull log left as useless by the loggers and now sticking out of the snow at just the right angle to make a beautiful elk body topped with an advantageously placed branch pointing skyward in just the right place.
While watching the disintegration of the nice bull, a deer came off the bank behind us and walked slowly and quietly between Frank and I at a range from me of less than thirty feet (10 m). It was as if this deer knew that his season was closed and, hence, he was safe. More likely, the heavy air and falling rain did not allow our scent to travel far and I doubt he ever knew either of us was there.
He was not a large buck, merely a forked-horn, probably a two-year-old that weighed not more than a hundred pounds (45 kg) soaking wet, which he certainly was, along with everything else in these environs. These Columbian Blacktail Deer are not large deer under the best of circumstances and this particular animal was a youngster to boot. Slowly and cautiously he ventured step by precarious step past us and into the snow covered brush that was the clearcut. He was being extra cautious in his trek. I assumed then it was because of the poor conditions. Many times I have seen animals in similar diminished conditions behave in a like manner. When scenting and hearing conditions deteriorate, they become ultra-wary and extremely reluctant to trust their usually keen senses. Often they will lay up tight and not move until conditions improve for them.
When this little buck had placed enough distance between us that he was beginning to blend in with the stumps, he suddenly came to a stop, his head up, his ears erect as he stared into the darkness before him. What he was seeing, I had no clue. But, seeing something he certainly was. As he peered intently before him, he slowly raised one front foot then quickly stomped the snowy ground before him while emitting a quick snort through his nose. This is a behavior I have observed many, many times when a deer has spotted something out of place before him, but cannot decipher what he is seeing. Personally, I believe it to be one of two things… either it is an attempt to get whatever it is seeing to move, the easier to identify it… or, it is a warning to other deer in the area that something is amiss. This would be similar to the stotting of the Mule Deer, the stiff-legged bounce that can be heard for a considerable distance, putting every deer around to flight. Perhaps it is a combination of the two, but whatever it is, it was effective in this case as there came a “woof” out of the night sounding like, but not precisely the same as the huffing of a bear as he feeds his way among the rotted logs and such. I heard it quite clearly and I have heard the wuffing of many bears and the point must be made that, while it was reminiscent of that, it was not that! It was enough different that I immediately shot straight up off my stump/seat. The deer, too, was alarmed as he wheeled quickly and sped back towards us, passing so close that Frank had to dive behind a stump into the snow to avoid being hit by the escaping deer.
Frank hurried over to my position as fast as he could negotiate the snow. “What in Holy Hell was that?” he yelled loudly with his eyes approximately the size of dinner plates.
“Shush,” I admonished him. “I don’t know what it was, but I do know that deer didn’t like it, so I think we should stay right where we are. It will be light enough to see within the next thirty to forty minutes to possibly an hour, depending on the density of the cloud cover. We can see what’s up then.
Reluctantly, Frank retraced his steps to his stump and resumed his vigil. It was a vigil, he later related to me, “that took so damn long that I was sure I’d have a beard down to my belt line before it ever got light!”
When light covered the land sufficiently, I whistled to him to come to my position. When he got there approximately one and a half seconds later, I was moved to ask if he had been shot there by a large rubber band. Frank was shaken, I could see that. It was so much so that I asked him if he wanted to go back to the trailer. His head bobbing up and down so hard that I thought his wool stocking cap was going to shoot right off his head told me that he’d done about all the hunting he was up for on this morning. I told him to just follow the road right back down the mountain and he’d run right into camp.
“You’re not coming?” he asked plaintively.
“Oh, heavens no,” I answered. “I came out her to arrow an elk and the conditions are almost perfect for hunting, so I’ll be danged if I’ll quit now. Besides, I want to find the tracks and see what it was that made that sound.”
“Damn it, Thom,” he pleaded, “don’t do that! It’s just too spooky. Let’s go back to camp now.”
“Go ahead, Frank,” I suggested, gesturing down the trail, “but I’m going on. There are elk here. I’ve caught their odor a few times this morning and I want one.”
With that, I simply turned and started walking up the road, intending to cross the cutting unit and then glass it from the far side. Also, if my deductions were correct, whatever had made that noise should have crossed the road either coming or going. I was a bit amused to hear a thoroughly exasperated Frank immediately behind me… so close that if I’d have reached into my hip pocket for a handkerchief, I’d have shaken hands with Frank!
We had moved less than a quarter-mile (400 m) further into the snowy expanse when I spotted something on top of the snow just ahead. As I made my way to it, I wondered what it could be. What I discovered amazed even me. What had caught my eye was fresh mud on top of the snow. And, what had been the source of the fresh mud were fresh tracks in the snow… Humanoid tracks… approximately seventeen inches (43 cm) long and a third to a half as wide. The distinct impression of five very human-like toes so clearly defined told me that these tracks were no more than an hour old, probably less.
Investigation told the story. This humanoid creature was carrying/dragging something with him. The hairs I found indicated it was, most likely, a deer. At the base of the fill over the culvert at the intersection of his trail with the road, he had stepped into a muddy spot, sinking deeply into the slushy muck found there. Obviously, he had stopped on reaching the level surface of the road, placed his burden on the ground and had taken time to clean some of the mud from his lower body. It was this mud he had cleaned off himself that had drawn my eye. He then recovered his load and, stepping off the road, continued on to the south from that point. His stride was tremendous, nearly twice mine and I am six feet four inches (193 cm) tall and cursed by those that hike with me for my long strides. Yet, mine were as a child’s when compared to his.
I had been talking softly to myself while working out this scenario as is my wont at such times. Finally, satisfied that I knew all there was to know about this, I turned to Frank. The specter that greeted me was absolutely hilarious and told me that he, too, had a good idea what had transpired here. He was as white as the snow itself. His mouth was opening and closing seemingly of its own volition, with no discernable effort on his part. Poor Frank looked very much like he was trying to articulate great words and thoughts but nothing was coming out. It was as if his mouth had been disconnected from the rest of his being and was left on its own. The poor guy looked very much like a goldfish without the bowl! I’m sorry now that I did it. At the time I had no real choice… it was all I could do… I laughed… Oh, how I did laugh. My sides hurt and my eyes ran with tears. It is a small wonder that I did not wet my pants, such was my laughter… I was totally beyond control. I have never in my life, before or since, seen such a sight.
When I finally calmed enough to control my mirth, I said, “Well, Bud, there is the source of our “woof” from earlier.”
He just looked at me, his eyes wide. Finally, at long last, he found words and uttered a shaky, “I-is t-t-that what I t-think it is?”
“Yes,” I responded with a grin, “It certainly is! Exciting, isn’t it?”
With a look of sheer dread in his eyes, telling me he knew the answer to his question before he asked it, he said quietly, “Can we go now?”
I explained to him that he was free to go if he wished, but I was following those tracks. I simply wanted to learn more and this was the closest I had ever been to one of these creatures. I was not about to lose this opportunity. I had him close and had perfect tracking conditions. This was my best opportunity to get much closer to the creature we knew as Sasquatch. While this news did not seem to rank among the top ten things Frank wanted to hear just then, he was not about to go off by himself any time soon, so I was blessed with a partner in my quest… at least for the near future.
As I could see the direction of our creature’s travel led back to the standing timber very near the point where our road entered that timber, I chose to follow the road to that point, intending to leave the road there and enter the dark timber on his track and see where it took us.
One positive aspect of this state of affairs, I suppose, was that at no time did I ever have to wonder where Frank was or to where he had wandered. I don’t believe he was ever more that six feet (2 m) from me and this was on wide open ground. It was to be expected then, I guess, that when I stopped suddenly he would ram me from behind.
This is precisely what happened when, just at the edge of the timber, I spotted a cougar track and stopped to point it out to Frank. In retrospect, I probably should not have further burdened his already over-taxed central nervous system with this rare and chance find. He did not take the news well. I never thought, however, it would cause the reaction that followed for the track was hours old… only still there because it was back under the protection of the canopy of snow-laden trees, safe there in a pocket away from the falling water. Already, nearly all of its mates were gone. A few were mere smudges in the snow, recognizable for what they were only because of the presence of that one clear print. As I started to explain to Frank, this was a younger cat, not yet full grown… probably just on its own away from its mother.
All this logic and calm thinking was lost on poor Frank. That the track was many hours old did not even register in his over-fevered mind. All he could do was begin muttering, “GET me out of here…Get me OUT of here… Get me out of HERE…” The volume rising with each iteration, of which there were at least ten.
At this point with a half-crazed man in my care, I had no choice but to abandon my search and see to Frank. Besides, by now, he was shouting at the top of his lung capacity, causing snow to fall from the branches of the trees around us. He had obviously reached the limit of his endurance. To continue further could have been dangerous, if not to me, at least to him.
“OK, Frank,” I smiled calmingly at him, “let’s head on out. You stay close behind me (some of the most superfluous instructions ever uttered… somewhat akin to ‘take cover’ on December Seventh in Pearl Harbor…) and we’ll head back for breakfast. I think every critter within five miles (8 km) knows exactly what and where we are after that outburst.
By this time it had rained sufficiently that the snow load on the brush and trees was beginning to slip off, allowing the weighted down shrubs to spring back to their “pre-snow” positions. Each time this happened there was the sound the snow falling off and the whoosh of the branch popping up. This is what triggered that involuntary reaction in poor, overwrought Frank… With each release, he would utter a loud, sharp yelp… somewhat like what one would hear upon inadvertently stepping on the tail of small dog… and he’d jump straight into the air while simultaneously executing a perfect 360 degree spin while airborne.
“At least,” I smiled to myself and thought silently, reluctant to share negative thoughts concerning his demeanor with Frank just now, “I don’t have to worry about anything sneaking up on us from behind!”

Upcoming Events

The Believe It Tour will be hosting the first ever Champ Camp in Button Bay, Vermont.

The event will take place the weekend of July 23-25 and the registration price of $58 will include a campsite for the weekend, a cruise on Lake Champlain aboard the Spirit of Ethan Allan (not his ghost, but a boat named after him) and admission to attend all of the workshops.

Limited space available! ACT FAST!