This edited article about the Sasquatch originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 750 published on 29 May 1976.
Canadian lumberjack Albert Ostman was stricken with gold fever. He knew that the Californian and Alaskan gold rushes were things of the past, but even so he was determined to find some of the precious metal for himself. So in the summer of 1924 he spent his holiday in the mountains of British Columbia, where gold had formerly been mined.
Taking a rifle, camping equipment and enough provisions to last a month, he went to Toba Inlet, opposite Vancouver Island, and spent a week trekking inland through the undergrowth. At last he came across a glade shaded by groups of cypress trees and containing a freshwater stream.
He piled his things there, crawled into his sleeping-bag and looked forward to a night’s rest under the stars. He fell into a sound slumber and was suddenly awakened by what he first thought of as “some kind of earthquake”.
It seemed to him that he had been pitched into the air and was being somehow “thrown along”. As he became fully conscious, and his eyes grew accustomed to the dark, he realized that he had been picked-up – sleeping-bag and all – and was being carried off.
“All I could see,” he said later, “was a huge hairy hand clutching the partly-closed neck of the bag.” He soon lost track of time but it seemed that at least an hour had passed before his kidnapper came to a halt. The bag was dumped on the ground and the bruised and frightened would-be prospector clambered out and examined the scene.
The first thing that struck him was that his captor was not a human being. It was a huge, apelike creature that was now prowling in front of him on two feet. The “monster” made strange guttural noises and pointed proudly to its “find”, as if Ostman were a new plaything.
Then, with increasing alarm, the Canadian saw that the creature was not alone. There were three other “apes”, smaller but no less fierce-looking, who apparently formed part of a family. The question was – to what species did they belong?
For much of his life, Ostman had heard tales of such animals living in the forests of British Columbia and northern California. They were called the Sasquatch, or Big Feet, and were said to be the North American equivalent of the Abominable Snowman, which supposedly existed in the mountains of Nepal.
For centuries the American Indians had spoken of such beings, and had used them as “bogeymen” to scare their children when they misbehaved. According to the stories they were anything from 7 to 12 feet in height, with footprints measuring an average of 18 inches.
There had been regular reports of Big Foot sightings ever since 1884, when one of the creatures was captured in British Columbia by a group of railwaymen. They put their prisoner in the guard’s van of their train and it was later sold to Barnum and Bailey’s Circus and given the name of Jacko.
Some sceptics dismissed Jacko as being no more than an oversized, brown-haired bear. But animal experts pointed out that while the bears found in the area had five toes on each foot, Jacko had only four, which suggested that he was of a completely different group.
Although no more Big Feet were caught, stories of the “wild men of the woods” appeared in dozens of newspapers and magazines. So far, however, no human had ever observed the animals at close quarters on their home ground.
This experience fell to Albert Ostman, who wished he had never gone looking for gold and who feared for his life. However, as the hours and then days went by, he realised that the giant beasts meant him no harm. Indeed, they treated him like a welcome guest and allowed him a welcome guest and allowed him a certain degree of freedom and some “privileges”.
As long as he stayed within their sight, he was allowed to explore the valley in which they lived. Fortunately for him, there were a few cans of food in his sleeping-bag and he was able to feast on baked beans and pieces of pork, in contrast to the Big Feet, who were vegetarians.
They existed on roots, tender tips from the spruce trees, and sweet grass. The father and head of the family was about nine feet tall, his wife somewhat smaller, and his son and daughter not yet fully grown.
For six days Ostman and the “monsters” dwelt together in peace and harmony. However, the lumberjack noticed that one of the creatures always seemed to be on guard over him, especially when the others went off on an exploration or food-seeking trip.
In an ironic reversal of the usual situation, he was the “human pet” of a family of large and condescending animals. But, Ostman told himself, he was not a domesticated dog or cat. He was a man and he determined to try and escape at the first opportunity.
This came one moonlight night a short while later. Waiting until the Big Feet were asleep, Ostman crept out of his sleeping-bag and made off as quietly as he could into the surrounding bushes and trees. He had no idea where he was, or which way civilization lay, and stumbled hopefully ahead.
Eventually, after travelling for some six hours, he found himself on the outskirts of a village. He spoke to some of the inhabitants, got his bearings, and made off in the direction of his original camp which was only a few miles away.
Until he had time to weigh up his adventure he did not want to talk about it, or to be quizzed on how he had come to be so lost. He held his silence until he returned to work in the lumber-camp, and even then he thought it best to say nothing about his weird and unique adventure.
He was frightened that no one would believe him, and that they would consider him a little touched in the head. So Albert Ostman kept quiet until he was an old man. Then, in August, 1957, he appeared before a magistrate at Fort Langley, British Columbia, and gave the details of his kidnapping and subsequent escape in a sworn statement.
By then, hunting for Big Feet had become one of North America’s most publicized “sports”. Millionaires in light aircraft, and animal experts on foot, had tried to track the creatures down to their lairs. However, despite the dozens of sightings made, no one had succeeded in doing more than photograph the beasts or to take plaster-casts of their footprints.
Ostman’s story was investigated by experts at the British Columbia Provincial Museum and they were unable to pick any very large holes in it. The only item that caused any doubt was his account of the Big Feet’s vegetable diet, which was thought to be insufficient to keep the Sasquatch family – which must have weighed around 2,000 pounds, or the rough equivalent of 14 adult humans or five fully-grown male gorillas – fully fit and active.
Apart from this, however, everything that Ostman said tied in with what was known of the Big Feet’s habits and living pattern. His only regret, he said, was that his experience had not made him rich. “You can keep all your Big Feet,” he remarked. “It was the gold that interested me!”
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