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The term 'Bigfoot' did not enter the popular lexicon until 1958. Bigfoot hunters and Bigfoot believers are quick to point out that this fact does not mean that the creatures in question were not known in North America long before that, however. Indeed, the popular press of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries was replete with stories of hirsute giants, wild men, and gorillas that seem to fit the description of what would later be called 'Bigfoot.'

In his book The Historical Bigfoot, Chad Arment has tracked down many newspaper accounts of large, hairy, hominids that appeared at the end of the nineteenth and beginning of the twentieth centuries. For example, one report from the Newark, Ohio Daily Advocate of August 1, 1883 describes an encounter with such a creature in Ottawa, Ontario:

Man or Gorilla?

The Extraordinary Character Who is Scaring Canucks

Ottawa, Ont., Aug. 1 - Pembroke, about one hundred miles north of Ottawa, has a lively sensation in the shape of a wild man eight feet high and covered with hair. His haunts are on Prettis Island, a short distance from the town, and the people are so terrified that no one has dared to venture on this island for several weeks. Two raftsmen named Toughey and Sallman, armed with weapons, plucked up sufficient courage to scour the woods in hopes of seeing the monster. About 3 o'clock in the afternoon their curiosity was rewarded. He emerged from a thicket having in one hand a tomahawk made of stone and in the other a bludgeon. His appearance struck such terror to the hearts of the raftsmen that they made tracks for the boat which was moored by the beach. The giant followed them, uttering demoniacal yells and gesticulating wildly . . . It is more than probable that the townspeople will arrange an expedition to capture, if possible, what Toughey describes as a man who looks like a gorilla, wandering about in a perfectly nude condition, and, with the exception of the face, completely covered with a thick growth of black hair. (160-1)

Arment also records this story from the Fort Wayne, Indiana News of November 18, 1908:

Wild Man of the Mountains Robs Traps of Prey and Commissary of Supplies Peculiar Footprint Left by the Man-Animal as He Flees From His Would-Be Captor

Special Correspondence

Santa Monica - Nov. 18. - Is there a wild man roaming the mountains of the Santa Monica range? There is, according to the story told by

Bertrand Basey, who has just come down from the vicinity of Point

Dume, where he has been acting as commissary for the contractors who are engaged in the construction of the Malibu-Rindge railway.

Basey says that there were frequent losses from the improvised store house . . . He kept a strict lookout and was soon rewarded by the sight of a brown being fashioned after the form of a man, approaching the tent. The thing was on all fours, was devoid of clothing or such covering

as might have been provided by the skins of animals, and GAVE FORTH A GUTTURAL YELL, had a face covered with rose UPRIGHT ON ITS HIND

LEGs AND DIsAppEARED IN THE

gave forth a guttural yell, rose upright on its hind UNDERBRUSH 5

legs and disappeared in the underbrush.

Nothing more was seen or heard of the mysterious half-human beast, although the railroaders who went to the beach for a bath that morning are still wondering what manner of animal had been there before them to leave peculiar tracks in the sand. The tracks which they photographed were not unlike those that would have been left by the hands and feet of a man were he provided with long claw-like nails for each of his five toes and the four fingers and thumb. (106)

The Lincoln, Nebraska Star even managed to work in a reference to Edgar Rice Burroughs' famous Tarzan character in their report of October 22, 1922:

Tarzan Comes to Life on Western Slope of Rockies

Denver, Colo., Oct. 21 - Weird stories of the ravages of a reported 'wild man, half man, half beast' in the Naturita valley in a thinly settled district on the western slope of the Colorado Rockies, reached Denver tonight.

According to the 'eye witness' accounts, the strange hairy creature leaps across the waste places on all fours and subsists on the raw flesh of fowls and animals. Its body is gaunt and covered with hair and the eyes gleam ferociously from under shaggy brows, residents of the valley who claim to have seen the animal, declare.

The reported hybrid has invaded barnyards, killed chickens, robbed hens' nests and fled on the appearance of any person, the accounts stated.

Ranchers of the Naturita district are said to be planning a hunt in an effort to capture the creature. (109)

A quick review of just these three accounts reveals a less than homogeneous picture of the kind of creature that is the subject of the encounters. In two accounts the animal crawls on all fours like a dog (and leaves footprints, a staple of modern Bigfoot accounts). In the other it stands upright and wields weapons, demonstrating some technological accomplishment. In one account the apparition is covered all over with hair, with the exception of its face. In another the creature 'had a face covered with hair.' Despite these differences the stories do share basic features, however. All three newspapers report eyewitness accounts (though the Star places the term 'eye witness' in quotation marks) of encounters with strange creatures that, though described variously as wild men, giants, gorillas, and half-man/half-beast hybrids, are nevertheless large, hairy, hominids.

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