In the 1939 film version of The Hound of the Baskervilles, Dr. Watson and Sir Henry Baskerville arrive on Dartmoor on their way to Sir Henry’s ancestral home, which he has inherited following the mysterious death of his uncle. With the two men is the local physician, Dr. Mortimer, who tells them of the legend that says nothing ever really dies upon the moor. When asked if he believes that, Mortimer replies, “No. If I believed all the legends about this place, I wouldn’t live here.” He pauses for a moment, then adds quietly, “I wouldn’t have the courage.”
I don’t know how many people believe in the legends told about Sasquatch, or Bigfoot, but if they do believe, and they choose to live in some of the more remote parts of this area, then they have a good deal of courage. The creature has, according to reports, been seen all over the province; in this area there have been sightings from Hope to 100 Mile, and from Lillooet to Merritt.
Some of the stories are fairly mundane, consisting of reports of a tall, hairy creature glimpsed at the side of the road, particularly in the Pavilion-Lillooet area. In 1993 a group of Cub Scouts camping overnight in nearby Upper Hat Creek were awakened by “blood-curdling screams of intense volume”, and in September and October 1994 there were two separate reports from hunters at Leon Creek near Lillooet, describing in the first instance a Sasquatch walking in a logged-off area, and in the second a Sasquatch digging for roots in a clear-cut area (the same one as in the first case?). The creature then took huge strides and disappeared into the bush.
In 2000 a couple camping near Logan Lake reported several incidents of their campsite being disturbed, as well as missing food and clothing. At first they thought it was bears or coyotes, but one morning they found 18” long, barefoot, human-like footprints beside their camper. A couple of days later they were out in their boat, fishing. They could see their campsite, and as they watched they saw a reddish-brown, 7–8 foot tall Sasquatch in their campsite, throwing things around. They waited in the boat until they were sure it had gone, then returned to the campsite, tossed everything into their camper, and quickly departed.
In the Jan. 20, 2009 issue of The Journal a front page story headlined “RCMP deny Sasquatch capture” reported on the furor created by a report that a pickup truck travelling on Highway 1 south of Cache Creek had struck something. When the occupants of a vehicle travelling behind the pickup stopped to see if help was needed, they found that the creature was a “big hairy thing laying in the road, arms halfway down his legs and huge hands and feet and was walking upright before the guy hit it. It smelt really bad.” The creature was supposedly loaded into the back of the pickup, and the driver was going to take it to “the RCMP in Cache Creek [sic] to find out what the heck it is.”
When the story broke, Ashcroft RCMP detachment commander Sgt. Dave Prentice had to assure people that no creature fitting that description had ever been brought to the attention of the police. Both the RCMP and the Journal received inquiries about the story, from as far away as Washington state, and rumours persisted that the creature was actually being kept “on ice” somewhere in the recesses of the Ashcroft detachment. Prentice was quick to dismiss the story, saying that the only cooler in the building was a small fridge in the lunchroom. While he admitted it occasionally contained blood samples, he said there were no Sasquatches in it.
And yet the legends persist, with the area bounded (roughly) by Harrison on the south end and Yale on the north having yielded up a rich trove of sightings over the decades. In 1884 there were reports of a small creature, “half-man, half-beast”, captured by a crew working on the CP line near Yale Tunnel, although “Jacko” (as the beast was named at the time) appears to have been about as real as the Cache Creek monster 125 years later.
More persuasive is the 1941 sighting at Ruby Creek, between Agassiz and Hope, when a mother and her children were terrified by a strange creature that wandered out of the woods towards their cabin, causing them to flee. Those who were first back to the site reported seeing huge, bare, human-like footprints in the mud around the cabin, and a barrel of salted salmon had been torn apart. The area around Ruby Creek continues to throw up more than its fair share of people claiming to have seen large, hairy, upright creatures that aren’t bears, and are far too large to be people. Someone close to the author reports seeing such a thing, crossing a field towards the river at dusk.
Another person close to the author recalls hearing, many years ago, a strange scream one evening, near a cabin located in Oregon Jack Valley south of Ashcroft. It was about 9 p.m., and the cry — which sounded like a screaming baby, and was unlike any animal he could remember hearing — seemed to come from a spot near where the road leading away from the cabin turned right and disappeared into the trees. “I don’t know what it was, but it sounded pretty close, about two or three hundred feet away. It was dark enough that I wasn’t going to go out there to look.”
This would have been in the early 1970s, and not many years later, in conversation with someone who used to live in the area, another, even stranger, story surfaced. The person in question used to live further up Oregon Jack, and had been in hospital in Kamloops. She got into conversation with another patient in the same room, an elderly First Nations woman who, when she found out where my correspondent lived, said that she had lived for a time in the nearby Three Sisters area. When she was a teenager, she said, she had encountered a Sasquatch while out in the woods, and the experience had so terrified her that she had left the place immediately, and never been back.
Are the legends and stories true? Is something out there, roaming the woods, or can everything be explained away in a perfectly rational fashion? I don’t know. But keep your eyes open and your camera handy, next time you’re out in the woods, or driving along area roads. And if you believe the legends, you might want to find a more populous place to live.