Friday, September 8, 2017

Ape Canyon 1924 ~ Revisited

I Fought The Apemen of Mt.St.Helens, Wa. -Fred Beck's Story

The website Bigfoot Encounters posted this important story, written by Beck in 1967 in it's entirety and it's worth discussing again because of it's paranormal aspects.

'I Fought The Apemen of Mt.St.Helens, Wa.' is a classic of Sasquatch literature now, along with Ivan Sanderson's 'Abominable Snowman - Legend Comes to Life' published in 1961, the short story 'The Old Man in The Crater' by E.S. Ingraham circa 1895 (reproduced in full on this site) and perhaps could also include Teddy Roosevelt's 'The Wilderness Hunter' from 1892. The reader should note that it is possible Fred Beck and his friends were aware of those stories before he wrote his own encounter.

I will relist here now the introduction and a few excerpts throughout this posting followed with my perceptions of the overall event as experienced and cataloged by Fred Beck.

I urge the reader of this blog to read Beck's story in it's entirety first. It can be found at the link below:

I Fought The Apemen of Mt.St.Helens,Wa.
By Fred Beck - 1967

'It is my intention in this book not only to tell you about the historic encounter I had with these mysterious creatures, but also to reveal to the public what I believe they are. Truth often is stranger than fiction, but the strangeness comes from the clouds surrounding our minds, not from the mystery itself.
This is not a large book, but may the largeness be conveyed by the picture I hope to paint of truth. Much has been written about that day in 1924, and I feel it right that I express my views at last.
Chapter One - The Attack
First of all, I wish to give an account of the attack and tell of the famous incident of July, 1924, when the "Hairy Apes" attacked our cabin. We had been prospecting for six years in the Mt. St. Helens and Lewis River area in Southwest Washington. We had, from time to time, come across large tracks by creek beds and springs. In 1924 I and four other miners were working our gold claim, the Vander White. It was two miles east of Mt. St. Helens near a deep canyon now named "Ape Canyon" — which was so named after an account of the incident reached the newspapers.'

Ok, first of all Fred Beck and his four prospector friends built this cabin in the early 1920s while staying high up on the mountain in tents. They hewed the pine logs over the course of the summer months and chinked them and braced them into a 'very sturdy' structure with a rock fireplace at one end and no windows whatsoever. After the cabin was completed the men continued prospecting in the area for the about six years, but during that time they found tracks in creekbeds and around springs that made them apprehensive.

What they made of those tracks is not reported, but if Fred and his fellow miners were not aware of the previously mentioned stories, we might assume that indian legends were the source of any framework to compartmentalize the assortment of huge footprints left in the mud there. Either way, it would be reasonable to assume that seeing the large tracks would ramp up the imagination of anyone camping in the remote mountains and so some suspicion to the claims of an Apemen attack is relevant.

While the story was leaked to the press nearly immediately after it happened, it is curious that Beck himself remained silent about it until 43 years later.

'Hank asked me to accompany him to the spring, about a hundred yards from our cabin, to get some water, and suggested we take our rifles — to be on the safe side. We walked to the spring, and then, Hank yelled and raised his rifle, and at that instant, I saw it. It was a hairy creature, and he was about a hundred yards away, on the other side of a little canyon, standing by a pine tree. It dodged behind the tree, and poked its head out from the side of the tree. And at the same time, Hank shot. I could see the bark fly out from the tree from each of his three shots. Someone may say that that was quite a distance to see the bark fly, but I saw it. The creature I judged to have been about seven feet tall with blackish-brown hair. It disappeared from our view for a short time, but then we saw it, running fast and upright, about two hundred yards down the little canyon. I shot three times before it disappeared from view.'

Beck claims that all of the men on the mountain during the encounter were crack shots, owning well-made hunting rifles and this is not unusual in itself, but why the men fired at the creature, standing across a creek at the length of football field away seems suspect.

'Each of us settled down in his crude, but welcomed bed, and soon fell asleep. About midnight, we were all awakened. Hank, who was sleeping on the floor was yelling and kicking. But the noise that had awakened us was a tremendous thud against the cabin wall. Some of the chinking had been knocked loose from between the logs and had fell across Hank's chest. He had his rifle in his hand and was waving it back and forth as he kicked and yelled. (Hank always slept with his gun near by — it was a Remington automatic, my gun being a 30-30 Winchester, which I still have).

I helped to get the chinking off him, and he jumped to his feet. Then, we heard a great commotion outside: it sounded like a great number of feet trampling and rattling over a pile of our unused shakes. We grabbed our guns. Hank squinted through the space left by the chinking. By actual count, we saw only three of the creatures together at one time, but it sounded like there were many more.'

Keeping in mind that the five men were inside a windowless cabin, asleep when the first noise happened. We could assume that a low lantern was burning inside to allow them to move about during the night if necessary, but how would the prospectors be able to see anything clearly through cracks in a log wall in the dead of night, even with moonlight, which is not mentioned?

'The attack ended just before daylight. Just as soon as we were sure it was light enough to see, we came cautiously out of the cabin.
It was not long before I saw one of the apelike creatures, standing about eighty yards away near the edge of Ape Canyon. I shot three times, and it toppled over the cliff, down into the gorge, some four hundred feet below.'

At this point in the story, shooting one of the creatures who apparently attacked the cabin seems understandable, but in subsequent searches during return trips by interested parties alerted to the story, nothing was found.

 'When Hank shot the one peeking around the tree, he exclaimed, 'Don't worry about that devil, Fred, I got him right in the head!' Later on I examined the tree and there were three nicks where the bark had been grooved by his bullets. The one I shot by Ape Canyon, I had plainly in my sights. He just tumbled over into the deep gorge. Some people think the melting snow water, which flows heavily summer afternoons, washed him away. Some others think the creatures came and packed their own away, and retired with them back to hidden lava caves. My views are plain on the subject."

Fred Beck explains why he thinks the Apemen were not wholly physical creatures at about this point in his 22 page booklet, stating, “Abominable Snowmen are from a lower plane.” So clearly, Beck had read Ivan Sanderson's book by the time this was written in 1967, prompting his use of the term, but his description of the creatures differs from Sanderson's version of a white-coated, light skinned monster.

'Question: "Can you tell a little more about the Apemen's physical appearance?"
Answer: "They are about seven feet tall, but many people have seen larger ones. They had large ears and a head that was in proportion with their large muscular body. Their shoulders were tremendous but they had slim hips. They were hairy but not shaggy. In general they possess a very stout physical frame, but looked more like a giant human than an ape."
By the time Beck and his friends escaped to safety, the story grew legs rapidly. His friend Hank told the local ranger, who told someone else and soon the local newspapers got a hold of the story.
This version, from 1964 explains the Indian connection:

Longview Daily News (Sat-Sun, June 27-28, 1964)
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."

At this link, the BFRO posts the original news story printed in 'The Kelsonian' from 1924:

My main interest in the “I Fought The Apemen” story is how Beck went instantly for the inter-dimensional explanation. In the 1920s in this country spiritualism was a popular subject and there were a number of practitioners who offered seances and contact with departed loved ones.

Those modern mystics were motivated by money more than any real belief in ethereal beings, but Beck had to have been aware of the trends and practice. Nonetheless, he explains that he himself had a special connection to the otherverse.

'In this book I will reveal thoroughly what I know them to be. First of all I will say that 'they are not entirely of the world.' I know the reaction we experienced as these beings attacked out cabin impressed many with the concept of great ape-like men dwelling in the mountains. And I can say that we genuinely fought and were quite fearful, and we were glad to get out of the mountains but I was, for one, always conscious that we were dealing with supernatural beings, and I know the other members of the party felt the same.

The events leading up to the ape episode were filled with the psychic element. Since a young man I had always been clairvoyant. When just a boy I was in the pasture playing with my beanshooter. I had bought it with some long earned coins. It had a twisted wire handle. I lost it, and as I was crying, a kindly woman came up to me and put her arms around me. I felt warm all over. "Little boy," she said, "don't cry. Go home, you will find your beanshooter there."
I went home and found it, and as far as I knew then it was the same one. But years later I found the one I lost. It was weather beaten and the rubber was rotten.
I would be sleeping on the hard benches of the Adventist Church my folks used to attend, and I would have my head in a lady's lap, only when I mentioned it to my folks, they said there was no one else there and took it to be a boy's musings.
As I grew older, I saw visions and eventually I was holding spiritual meetings. After 1924 I spent many years in healing work.'

Fred Beck's apparent psychic abilities aside, he felt responsible for the sour turn of events admitting that the miners provoked the Apemen by shooting one at first sight. At the same time, he suggests, “No one will ever kill one,” nor would they ever by captured. This prognostication is still proving to be true which lends credence to Beck's non flesh and blood position. While he shares a similar assessment with First Nations people, his version veers away from a spirit form to a more science-based explanation that precedes quantum physics, as that science was not part of our regular vernacular in the twenties or even in the mid-sixties when the booklet was published.

Today Beck's cabin is gone aside from a bit of detritus left under the dirt at the site. But Beck left decent descriptions of the locations for anyone who wishes to visit for themselves.

Ape Canyon is well established today as a part of the Mt.St. Helens park system, and though the eruption of 1980 wiped out much of the north side, the areas Beck described where the Vander White mine was located are still there.

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