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The Peckatoe Journal
“The Lost Cannibals of Mount St. Helens.”
What were the Skoocooms? We know little about them, and what we do know has been pieced together over a century of picking up a tattered cloth of legend. They were first described by the Indians to artist Paul Kane in 1847. It was so ambiguous he could describe them in no other way than by the great redundancy “race of beings of a different species, who are cannibals.”
The oldest stories about some other “species” than man but like man living in the Pacific Northwest actually long antedate Canadian reports about the tribe of Saskahaua Men. Are Canadians prepared to denounce this as another American upstaging? I don’t think so. They have actually proven very tolerant of their brethren below “the line.” Truth be known, the Skoocoom appear to be something very different from the Sasquatch anyway. In fact, it is they who seem to be the quintessential candidate for “Bigfoot.” But more on that later. . . The Skoocooms get their names from the Chinook and Klickitats of Oregon and Washington State. Like their Canadian counterparts, they weren’t exactly Indians. Nor were they a people the Indians dealt with. Skoocoom is Chinook for strong or swift. This at least tells us something about them. But more details, though confusing they may be, come from the 1847 journal of artist Paul Kane. He was enchanted with the distant image of Mount St. Helens in Washington State and tried to get Indian scouts to take him there. Each time this ended in failure. No Indian would tread near the mountain. Their excuse? They said that another type of people lived there who were cannibals. Kane actually had such difficulty in understanding what they meant that he translated their regard for the Skoocoom as being a “race of beings of a different species.” He wasn’t told they were giants or hairy. But since they were considered cannibals for eating a trapper, it seems undeniable that at least Kane believed the Indians thought that the Skoocoom were some kind of humans. This is all we have on them. The only other bit of information is that by 1847 they lived only on Mount St. Helens. For 77 years we hear nothing about them. As far as White Man was concerned, the gist of it was that they were “evil spirits.” Skoocooms became the “Mountain Devils” of both Whites and Indian legend, and it is in that form they entered local frontier legend. It is in a very different form that they emerged from obscurity in 1924. In July of that year five miners had a bizarre encounter on the Mount. They had built their new cabin near a cave. For sometime they had noticed they were being stalked by “something.” Finally it came to a head one day and the leader of them, Marion Smith, fired at the “mountain devil.” He and Fred Beck tracked it, but apparently it was not hit and escaped. That evening, each member of the party noticed they were being stalked. The sound of heavy footsteps could be heard in the underwood. There was weird howling, but mostly whistling. They ignored it and locked themselves in their cabin. At dark it happened. A hairy hand pushed through the log cabin chinking (the stuffing insulation between the log beams), and grabbed an ax. The chinking had fallen on Marion Smith and he quickly jumped out of the way. As soon as he did, the door pounded and great rocks hit the roof. The cabin was under attack! As the others bolted the shutters and braced the door, Smith quickly turned the handle of the ax so the hairy hand could not withdraw it through the chinking groove. Then he fired at the handle and the hand let go and withdrew. There was no question in the miners’ minds but that a couple of the “devils” were also on the roof. The attack went on throughout the night. The roof of the cabin was pounded by boulders. The devils also ran around up there causing a commotion. Next morning when it seemed clear they opened their cabin, there to find the clearing under the cliff to be strewn with boulders and impressed with large footprints. The cabin was severely damaged, and boulders also dotted its cracked roof. Frayed and spent from defending themselves against the night marauders, the miners quickly packed up, got down the mount to their car and made off to the ranger station. There one approached Bill Welch, the ranger. “They were all pretty wild-eyed,” Welch later recalled. The one who approached him told him flat out that he shot one of the “mountain devils.” Welch had recalled him well enough, for he had visited him about 3 weeks before to get a fire permit for their new cabin. At that time the miner had told him of the “mountain devils” stalking them, but Welch couldn’t figure out what he meant. Welch thought he meant a cougar or wolverine. He told him that if they should see one of them again, he should contact him. The miner was doing just that now. The miner didn’t elaborate aside from saying “mountain devil.” Apparently he assumed Welch knew exactly what he was talking about. In any case, Welch was very leery and didn’t pursue it. Rather he followed the miner back to the car and saw all the others sitting in there “clutching their guns.” They were just as wild-eyed as he was. Welch bid them farewell and was glad they were gone. When the miners got to town, they started talking about hairy bipedal mountain devils. It was clear the miners weren’t too educated. But their story was good enough for the wire service. It hit the newswires and the reporter linked it to old stories of “fabled mountain gorillas of Mount St.Helens.” “Mountain gorillas” was more than Welch had heard! After being told this, he decided to contact his district supervisor, Jim Huffman. Together they were going to go to the cabin area. Then two Seattle newsmen arrived, Frank Lynch and Burt Hammerstom (Clarence Darrow’s brother-in-law). Meanwhile the Portland Oregonian was preparing the story: “FIGHT WITH BIG APES REPORTED BY MINERS.” Some things in the story can be taken with a grain of salt, but Welch and Huffman’s investigation is a little different. In 1963, commemorating the history of the Mount St. Helens’ “legendary gorillas,” the local Longview Times did a series of articles. Welch was interviewed therein. Welch and the other 3 confirmed the large size of the footprints, the largest measuring 19 inches. Fortunately, another responsible official, like Joe Dunn, was able to confirm some tangible evidence. The problem here is that the men confirmed it was long but with only 4 stubbed toes. Is that the print of the Skoocoom? In 1924 people started calling them “hairy apes” just as a reference marker. But was that the rationalization of the more educated newspaper staff? The miners really didn’t know what they had encountered.
Beck in 1969.
Mount St. Helens as Kane would have seen it in 1847
The strange footprints of Mount St. Helens, however, do not stand alone. The Chronicle of Wilkesboro, North Carolina, reported the following as an oddity in the news. It is dated 5 February 1902.
The residence of the little town of Chesterfield, located in an isolated portion of Bannock County, Idaho, are greatly excited over the appearance in that vicinity of an eight-foot, hair-covered human monster. He was first seen on January 14, when he appeared among a party of young people, who were skating on the river near John Gooch’s ranch. The creature showed fight, and, flourishing a large club and uttering a series of yells, started to attack the skaters, who managed to reach their wagons and get away in safety. Measurements of the tracks show the creature’s feet to be 22 inches long and 7 inches broad, with the imprint of only four toes. Stockmen report having seen his tracks along the range west of the ringer. People in the neighborhood, feeling unsafe while the creature is at large, have sent 20 men on its track to affect its capture.
This 4-toed footprint links this “human monster” to the Skoocoom, but what does a 4-toed print look like? The next step in the evolution of the Skoocoom only complicates the matter. This was in 1973, during the height of Bigfoot mania. In far away Manitoba an interesting print was found in the boondocks by the conservation officer, R.H. Uchtman. He took a photo and wrote the Museum of Man, describing it as 4-toed but manlike. The tracing of the print from that photo shows the astounding similarity to the reports of Bannock County and the 1941 Ruby Creek Print, traced by deputy Sheriff Joe Dunn. Yet it is 4-toed. In 1988 the Royal Canadian Mountain Police enter the picture. They found and dug out of a muddy access road another set of 4-toed prints. These were found 200 miles north of Winnipeg and were certainly not forged. In 1980, another set of 4 toed prints had been found by Lake Berriere in the land of the Sasquatch, British Columbia The Ruby Creek Print and the Skoocoom Print are very similar but different. But neither are the feet of apes or anything in between. Is this the foot of the Sasquatch or do 2 tribes truly tread the same land? Alexander Caulfield Anderson recorded in 1846 that his party was thwarted from advancing beyond a certain point of Harrison Lake because they encountered the hairy Indians. He wrote that they were often as wary as animals, but when his party advanced too far into their territory they were stopped by a bombardment of rocks. Is this not the same as the Skoocoom attacking at Mount St. Helens in 1924? The image of the Skoocoom is a muddled one. It was first known only as a “race of beings of a different species;” then as 4-toed human monsters; then as “hairy apes;” then again the footprint removed it from being anything apelike. Its behavior seems identical to the Sasquatch. Both seem more manlike in proportion than any ape, but in behavior more monkey-like.
The Peckatoe Journal: as investigated and kept by Gian J. Quasar. Content Copyright Bermuda-Triangle.org and PNE&S