A 1970s Bigfoot photo submitted to The Oregonian by a hiker. (Oregonian archive)
Taken aback at the sight of the huge beasts, Fred Beck fired his rifle at one of the creatures, and, struck three times, the wounded animal toppled off a cliff. (Beck reportedly claimed years later that another member of the party fired the shots.)
The violence proved a mistake.
That night, the men said, they were awakened when huge stones began clomping against the outside of their cabin. Then they heard — and felt — giant bodies slamming against the walls and door. The ape-men were seeking revenge.
The beasts eventually tore a hole in the roof, allowing them to target Beck.
“Many of the rocks fell through a hole in the roof, and two of the rocks struck Beck, one of them rendering him unconscious for nearly two hours,” The Oregonian reported.
A sketch by Richard Brown of what he said he saw in headlights of car as he drove to the Pinewood Trailer Court near The Dalles in June 1971. (The Oregonian archives)
Rangers J.H. Huffman and William Welch hiked into the forest with Beck, who took them to the cliff where he said the wounded ape-man fell.
“[A] ranger scrambled down the supposedly inaccessible canyon and found — nothing,” The Oregonian wrote.
Beck and the rangers continued on to the prospectors’ cabin, and Beck pointed out the large stones that had been used in the attack. Huffman and Welch weren’t impressed, concluding that the gold miners had probably placed the large stones themselves.
But, an Oregonian reporter asked the rangers when they returned to Kelso, Wash., what about the 14-inch-long footprints found near the cabin?
Huffman created an imprint in the ground using the knuckles and palm of his right hand. “They were made that way,” he said.
In 1967, Bigfoot hunter Roger Patterson compared his foot with a cast he made of a footprint. (Oregonian)
Despite the rangers’ debunking of the story, people still wanted to believe — and the tale continued to spread.
“Friends and acquaintances of the five men who reported their experiences are of the belief that they actually saw something which cannot be explained,” The Oregonian reported later that summer.
Cowlitz tribe member Frank Wannassay told a reporter about “peculiar creatures” the tribe’s elders had often spoken about.
“Mr. Wannassay described them as between nine and ten feet tall, correspondingly large in stature and their bodies covered with long hair,” The Oregonian wrote. The report continued: “They were never seen, traveling only at night.”
The most famous alleged Bigfoot image, by Roger Patterson and Bob Gimlin. (CBS TV)
Wannassay insisted the animals were “harmless.”
In the years that followed, the prospectors’ story would be repeated time and again, inspiring various sightings of and theories about the beasts.
“Since then,” Oregonian reporter Anita Nygaard wrote in 1974, “tracks have been sighted on the Lewis River, attested to by rational and honest witnesses; occasional campers and motorists have been startled by glimpses of huge and mysterious hairy creatures walking like men, disappearing into the woods.”
— Douglas Perry