; Phantoms and Monsters: Pulse of the Paranormal

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Battle in Ape Canyon

Ape Canyon is actually a gorge along the northeast shoulder of Mount St. Helens in Washington state. Of course, the name “Ape Canyon” didn’t come from just anywhere. The name refers to a supposed encounter between a group of miners and several 'apemen' in 1924, an event eventually integrated into Bigfoot folklore.

Fred Beck, one of the miners, claimed they shot and possibly killed at least one of the creatures. The death resulted in an attack on the miners' cabin. According to Beck, the men had just settled down to sleep for the night when they were awakened by an attack on their cabin, during which the creatures bombarded it with rocks and tried to break in. The fighting continued all night long, but none of the men were seriously hurt. By morning, an eerie quiet had entered the camp and as the men cautiously exited the cabin, they saw an ape-man in the distance. They shot at the beast several times and it finally fell over the cliff into the canyon. It was the only one of their attackers they would see. The men packed their belongings in a hurry, leaving most things behind, and made their way home, promising each other not to speak of the incident to anyone. The pact didn't last long because the story was leaked and within a few weeks it was reported in the July 16, 1924 issue of The Oregonian, which dubbed the beasts the 'Ape-Men of Mount St. Helens.'

The miner's encounter in Ape Canyon is documented on the BFRO website.

There was another mysterious incident in Ape Canyon that took place in 1950. It involved world ski champion Jim Carter, who disappeared while on a ski trip in the Canyon. He was with some companions and then went off by himself to take some photos. But only his camera case was found. Searchers later reported finding his ski tracks in the snow. Carter had apparently taken off at an incredible rate of speed performing jumps and maneuvers that no skier would have taken unless he was very frightened or being pursued. One of the searchers reported an eerie feeling that he was being 'watched' the whole time. Carter's disappearance remains a mystery.

In the June 27-28, 1964 editions of the Longview Daily News, the following article appeared:

Legendary Mt. St. Helens Apemen Called Legitimate

The legend of the apemen of Mt. St. Helens returns, like hay fever, with summer weather.

The story of the apemen of the beautiful conical mountain situated in the Cascade Range of Southwest Washington, is a favorite in the area, but it just may have some basis in fact.

There is more basis to support it than Nepal's Yeti or northern California's "Big Foot" and probably as much as Loch Ness' monster.

Last summer, two different Portland groups who visited the region reported sighting the monsters, usually described as from 7 to 10 feet tall, hairy and either white or beige-colored.

Three persons in a car on a lonely forest road said they saw one of the creatures when it flashed across the headlight beams of their car near the wilderness area which includes such places as "Ape Canyon."

A Portland couple fishing on the Lewis River south of the mountain saw a huge beige figure "bigger than any human" amble off into the brush.

Old timers aren't surprised, just amused. The apeman legend actually is older than the white man's habitation of the Pacific Northwest.

Indian Legend

Forestry employes have investigated many reports of the strange creatures. According to Indian legend, the "apes" were the ferocious Selahtik Indians, a band of renegades much like giant apes in appearance who lived like wild animals in the secluded caves of the Cascades.

The first recorded encounter of the apes with white men was in 1924. A group of five prospectors rushed into Kelso to report that a group of great, ape-like creatures had attacked them in the middle of the night.

The miners said they had been working a mine on the east slopes of Mt. St. Helens. During the daytime, they saw some of the apes and fired at them to halt an apparent attack. One of the apes appeared to have been hit and rolled into a deep ravine. That night, according to the account, the apemen hurled rocks onto the cabin and "danced and screamed until daylight."

Then came the "great ape hunt 0f 1924." Law enforcement officers and a flock of newspapermen made up a posse that went into the area. The armed searchers fired at anything that moved, so the report went. They returned to tell of finding huge footprints, but no apes.

The legend grew from that point for several years, then subsided with only sporadic reports of traces of the apes. Responsible persons, experienced mountaineers and skiers, have given credence to the story.

Bob Lee of Portland, a leader of the 1961 Himalayan expedition and adviser to last year's Himalayan expedition, said last year he had a strange experience. Lee has never claimed to have seen the apes, but said "there was something strange on the high slopes of the mountain."

He was a member of a party that searched for Jim Carter, an experienced skier and mountaineer, who vanished on the mountain in 1950. His disappearance remains a mystery.

Somebody Watched

At the time, Lee was a member of the Seattle Mountain Search and Rescue unit. He described the search for Carter as "the most eerie experience I ever had." He said that every time he was cut off from the rest of the search party he felt "somebody was watching me."

Carter, he said, had climbed the mountain with some companions on a warm, clear Sunday. He left the group to take a picture and said he would ski to the left of the group. He was never seen again.

His tracks, however, indicated that he suddenly took off down the mountain in a wild, death-defying run that no experienced skier would make — unless he was pursued, Lee said.

The track went in the direction of Ape Canyon. But no trace of Carter or his equipment was found although the area was combed for two weeks. Lee recalled stories of about 25 persons who claim they had encountered the monsters during a 20 year period.

The canyon named for the apes, is a lonely, ominous spot in a wild area. It extends to a point near Ape Cave, thought to be the longest unitary lava tube in the world.

There have been many reports of footprints in the area. Some are described as being about 18 inches long and seemingly human.

Unless the creatures are really fuzzy throwbacks, the lost Indian tribe theory seems most likely to some of the fans of the mystery. It has given rise to some suggestions, one of which is to leave well enough alone. The government might take over and shove benefits and subsidies at them — retroactive to the Ice Age.

And that, as well as costing a lot of money, would ruin a very good legend.

Beck detailed his claims in a 22-page book written in 1967 titled I Fought The Apemen of Mt. St. Helens, in which he identified the creatures as 'mystical beings from another dimension'. Beck explained that he had experienced psychic premonitions and visions his entire life of which the apemen were only one component.

William Halliday, director of the Western Speleological Survey, claimed in his 1983 pamphlet Ape Cave and the Mount St. Helens Apes that the miner’s assailants were actually local youths throwing rocks, which camp counselors bringing kids on hiking trips to the Canyon also tried to impart.

In July 2013, the Dark Waters Paranormal Group claimed on their Facebook page that Ape Canyon and remnants of the original cabin had been found. They held back directions to the location:

All surface evidence of the cabin is gone. A 1936 trail map told us that one could see the cabin from the trail. But that was only 12 years after the incident. In 1968, Fred Beck had heard that the cabin had burnt to the ground. In 1972, hikers told Peter Byrne that they had visited the cabin. Today, it’s rock, steep slope and trees.

The nature of the site carries a high probability of very little human impact. The area has never been commercially logged as there are so few trees and these are very difficult to get out. The danger of traversing the area makes a high rate of human camp sites unlikely..

..the excitement began with the discovery of the wire, about 16″ long with a coiled loop at one end, like for a bailing or a handle, sticking vertically in the ground.. The excitement grew with a nail, a shank nail about 4 inches long.. jumping up and down and yelling and vigorous hand shaking ensued with the spoon. A single spoon. Just an old spoon. About 6″ underground...

But this was the clincher. We started finding more and more nails and finally got to a rotten horizontal log, again about 6″ underground WITH THE NAILS DRIVEN IN TO IT. As best we can tell, we probably found the long, 20 foot side of the cabin, guessing the uphill side.


Bigfoot!: The True Story of Apes in America

Bigfoot and Other Ape-Men (Paranormal Files)

Track of the Bigfoot (The Cryptids Trilogy)

Bigfoot Exposed: An Anthropologist Examines America's Enduring Legend