Instead of returning to Greenland, the strong waves of the Atlantic carried Lief Eriksson to the shores of North America around 1,000 AD. The viking, along with his men, disembarked to explore the area.
He marveled at the green land bordered by chilling waters and wet weather. Finding the terrain abundant in grapes, he named the land Vinland. The coastal wind pushed through the lush trees and scattered the top layer of sand around the beach. Eriksson and his men gazed at the area in wonder, forgetting their home country for a moment.
They were on a long journey––ordered by King Olaf I––traveling to Greenland to spread the news of Christianity. Despite arriving on the wrong continent, they spent some time there, enough to rest before disembarking again, as well as long enough to witness something they’ve never seen before.
It was “manlike, horribly ugly, hairy, swarthy, and with great black eyes,” Eriksson described. They didn’t give the creature a name or attempted to sketch its likeness. They probably left Vinland soon after their encounter with it.
Travel southward to the Chetco river in Oregon. A small logging community comprised of around a dozen families set up camp in 1890. Trees and tranquility went hand-in-hand in this small yet content community. The tranquility, however, was never taken for granted.
Bears roamed the forest and carried threats on their backs. Children were never left alone. Even when they went to the shallow river to find refreshment in the summer heat and play, adults escorted them, casting anxious glances over their shoulders every now and then.
It was a community of people who lived cautiously, a community that respected the dangerous environment they lived in.
When enormous footprints were discovered among the river one morning, part of the community studied them in silent terror, another part set out to find who they belonged to. Resembling those of a man’s, some theorized they belonged to an isolated, ill-tempered old man living nearby who often walked about hatless and barefoot.
People accepted this theory to quell their fear, or to at least abate it. Then, in the dead of night, chilling noises raised the possibility that those footsteps might have belonged to something less human.
The noises reached out of the forest and into the people’s hearts, squeezing them, throwing them against their chests. The people looked into the copse, but couldn’t see past their shadows. One or two children may have looked out against their parents’ orders, wondering if they’d see glowing yellow eyes staring at them. Fear crept up with each inhuman noise, tapping and tapping on the nape of everyone’s necks.
Several people assumed it was a wounded bear. No one lit a lamp or entered the forest to see if it was true, afraid the light would attract it. While the chances of it being a bear were high, it didn’t quite distill that tapping, heart squeezing fear.
Hours later, the sun streamed through the trees and the noises ceased, as if the sunlight melted them. Regardless of whatever may be sharing the woods with the people, the men ignored their fear and went to work. That was when they discovered their logging equipment smashed and dented. The men looked around for the cause or even the culprit, and the only thing they found were sticks so large strewn about the sight; sticks no average man could lift them on his own. The men gaped at the splinters by the sticks and the machinery as if they were discarded toothpicks.
It was quickly becoming obvious that something in the woods did not want them here. These were warnings. But the community wasn’t simply going to pack up and leave. They came here to start a life, achieve that abstract American Dream, be pioneers and provide for their families. Man’s resolve was too strong for whatever monster was trying to scare them away.
Testing their will, the strange noises started up again in the woods. Everyone listened inside their cabins with pressed lips and sweaty palms stuck together, praying their doors were strong enough to prevent the animal from knocking it down.
Just like the first night of noises, no one dared light so much as a candle in fear of attracting whatever might be beckoning them. No one except one man.
His wife––if he had one––probably pleaded for him not to go. Eventually accepting his stubbornness, she possibly settled on giving him one more kiss before he met his fate. Like any other man, he probably took one deep breath before entering, perhaps even uttering a silent prayer between his lips.
With a rifle, he entered the forest.
His fate was terror so intense he could barely speak of it. He returned in a state of shock, ashen, lips trembling, and eyes bulging. He might have held his rifle limply in one hand, the butt of it dragging in the pine needles and dirt. The man described seeing an eight feet tall beast covered in hair, with yellow eyes and fangs.
Panic plays like a disease, spreading rapidly within a community already afraid of what lurks in the woods. The community’s panic lead to constructing a huge bonfire in the middle of camp, assuming the beast feared fire, though they had no evidence that was true.
Of course, like most well-written plots that drag on to build up the audience’s anxiety, nothing else occurred that night. The man’s experience didn’t exactly inspire others to follow what he did. If anything, furniture was moved in front of doors and children were kept indoors.
Two men, however, were determined to find the beast.
They probably brought their own rifles with them as they went, perhaps even a lantern to light their way. Their wives might have also pleaded with them not to go. The men probably told them that something needed to be done about this, that they couldn’t keep living in fear.
They entered the forest, but they never came back.
Shouts were heard, echoing through the trees and reaching the camp. Other men ran in after them, most likely with their own rifles, as if that would help them.
Blood splattered trees and the ground. Clothes hung in tatters off branches swaying in the night’s breeze. The flesh of their friends were ripped to pieces, unsalvageable or even able to be put back together.
And whatever animal––whatever monster––had done this to them, it was nowhere to be found.
Dozens of stories have surfaced since this one in 1904, some bloody, others brief sightings, many of them hoaxes. Some Native American tribes who have recorded this beast in their folklore regarded it as the perfect balance between animal-consciousness and human-consciousness. Books have even been written about the creature, as well as search teams dedicated to finding what some call Bigfoot or Sasquatch.
Jim Yuskavitch, author of Oregon Myths and Legends: The True Stories Behind History’s Mysteries, writes, “Not limited merely to the past, Oregon encounters with this legendary creature have continued, unabated, into the 21st century. A beast that has held on since the Pleistocene epoch is certainly not going to be deterred by a new millennium.”
Apparently this beast hasn’t gone extinct yet, at least not from storytelling.