Sasquatch in the Mountains: A Tale Older Than America

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Photo Credit: Mary Horning, U.S. Forest Service.
Photo Credit: Mary Horning, U.S. Forest Service.

On any given day in Southwest Virginia, a grey and turquois colored 20+ year old van can be spotted cruising the backroads of Appalachia.  The van sports a very eye catching message on its side, “Big Foot Hunter.”  Laughed at by some and the subject of intrigue by others, the apparent owner of the van isn’t alone in the belief that not all of Appalachia’s wildlife has been discovered.

On more than one occasion, I’ve even had someone lean in toward me and whisper, “I believe there’s something up in the mountains like that,” anytime the conversation went in the general direction of Sasquatch.

Though the weight of evidence for the existence of such a creature is a matter of personal opinion and perspective, in truth the number of sightings and tales of such mysterious beasts beg — at the very least — an honest and fresh look.

According to the Bigfoot Field Research Organization, a team that collects and investigates reported sightings of mysterious ape-like humanoid creatures, “The term Sasquatch is an anglicized derivative of the word Sésquac, meaning wild man… Indian tribes across North America have a total of more than sixty different terms for the sasquatch.”

The organization goes on to state, “Bigfoot was a journalistic term generated in the middle of the last century during a rash of sightings in Northern California. The word has come to be recognized widely… Many different terms have been used by native peoples and later pioneers of North America, including ‘skookums’ and ‘mountain devils’.”

According to historians, human-like creatures we would refer to today as “Bigfoot”  have been predominate throughout the cultures of the indigenous people of North America and though they all had localized words for these creatures the names often were a variation meaning Wild Man or Hairy Man.

Tales of individuals spotting these passive and mysterious creatures were largely confined to the Pacific Northwest for centuries.

Several native American tribes from the region even passed along stories of Ts’emekwes, a local version of Bigfoot.  Other names for these creatures included stiyaha or kwi-kwiyai, who were a nocturnal race. Children were warned against saying these names outloud out of a fear that the monsters would hear them and come carry them away.

Tales of large manlike beasts roaming the earth are not limited to the native peoples of America’s Pacific Northwest, however.  Even the Bible references “There were giants in the earth in those days; and also after that…” in Genesis 6.4.

Closer to home, in the Appalachian Mountains, numerous native peoples maintained a belief either in small fairies or a hidden humanoid race wandering the lush hillsides of America’s eastern mountain range.

Though for some these stories may seem like merely nothing more than tall tales, in truth, there have been thousands of documented sightings of a mysterious – often black and hairy – standing upright on two legs slinking through the mountains.

While many would argue these are nothing more than a black bear sighting, if anything, there have been several reports which clearly are not.

Most notable of these reports is a string of “devil monkey” sightings in Southwest Virginia.

At the top of the many twilight tales to spring forth from the 1990s was one woman’s claim to have spotted a mysterious black “devil monkey” in Roanoke, Virginia, in 1994.

According to multiple sources, an Ohio woman was driving through Roanoke around 2:30 a.m. when a construction detour sent her down a dark two-lane country road. As she drove the wilderness terrain of Southwest Virginia, a creature that looked like a hybrid wolf-monkey leaped in front of her car.

“The creature was all black with very short sleek fur, pointy ears and had a long thin tail. She described it as catlike, and yet not like any cat she had ever seen…  The creature was very tall, because she saw it when it was standing on its hind legs and was easily 6 feet tall. She indicated its torso looked very much like that of a very thin man and its head resembled a man almost with a pointy beard. However, the creature’s hind legs were like a wild cat or dog. It was very muscular and thin,” writes one source.

The woman later shared her story with US Game & Wildlife officials who insisted it must have been a feral dog or wolf, but the woman was emphatic that the creature she saw was neither of the two.

A few weeks following the woman’s ordeal, livestock in the area around the location where the alleged incident took place began disappearing.

Granted, this seems like a bizarre story that could easily be attributed to midnight AM talk radio and a case of some bad gas station coffee; however, it is interesting to note that a half century earlier, just down I-81 in Smyth County’s Saltville, Virginia, various individuals claimed to have spotted nearly the exact same creature.

In 1959, a couple driving down a back road in Saltville, Virginia, reportedly had their car attacked by a large, powerful creature they claimed chased their vehicle and left deep scratches along the door.

According to their account, an ape-like beast attacked their car, leaving three scratch marks on the vehicle… [the couple’s daughter] described the terrifying attacker: ‘It had light, taffy colored hair, with a white blaze down its neck and underbelly… it stood on two, large well-muscled back legs and had shorter front legs or arms.’”

A handful of years later, an almost exact same claim was made in the Smyth County, Virginia, community when two nurses from the Saltville area were driving home from work one morning and were attacked by an unknown creature who reportedly ripped the convertible top from their car. Luckily the nurses — though surely frightened out of their wits — were unharmed.

The mysterious monkey-wolf hybrid beast would come to be known as “the devil monkey” and in the decades that followed, numerous alleged sightings of these animals were reported.

In recent years, devil monkey sightings have waned, but from time to time, an occasional sighting of these mysterious creatures is quietly whispered about in corner barbershops or over an Appalachian campfire.

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