Meet The Skoocoom: Evil Genies or American Gorillas?

“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.”

It was an isolated event. As an oddity, it earned mention in various papers over the country, the above account taken from The Chronicle of Wilksboro, North Carolina, on 5 February 1902.

Back and another miner pose in tableau (then the fashion) to recreate a scene from their harrowing night on Mount St. Helens.
Fred Beck and another miner pose in tableau (then the fashion) to recreate a scene from their harrowing night on Mount St. Helens.

There would be no other reports of such a giant with a 4-toed footprint until 1924. Five miners on the shoulders of Mount St. Helens would encounter the frightening “Mountain Devils” and even suffer attack in their cabin on the night of July 11-12. The incident is famous within Bigfootery. It came long before the hype of Bigfoot in 1958 and Bluff Creek. And in truth it is radically different from the cleaned-up legend of the berry-eating Bigfoot of 1970s glory. When the account was first reported in the Press (Oregonian), the next day, July 1924, it was written up as:

Fight With Big Apes Reported By Miners.

“The strangest story to come from the Cascade Mountains was brought into Kelso today by Marion Smith, his son Roy Smith, Fred Beck, Gabe Lefever and John Paterson, who encountered the fabled ‘mountain devils’ or mountain gorillas of Mount St. Helens this week, shooting one of them and being attacked throughout the night by rock bombardments of the beasts.”

Ape Canyon holds its name to this day because of the encounter in 1924.
Ape Canyon holds its name to this day because of the miners’ encounters in 1924.

” . . .Smith and his companions declared that they had seen the tracks of the animals several times in the last six years and Indians have told of the ‘mountain devils’ for 60 years, but none of the animals ever has been seen before . . .”

Actually 80 years since Paul Kane’s Wanderings of an Artist was published in 1859 and detailed his encounters around the mountain in 1847. The dreadful creatures were the “race of beings of a different species who are cannibals.” He would later qualify that: “These superstitions are taken from the statement of a man who, they say, went into the mountain with another, and escaped the fate of his companion, who was eaten by the ‘skoocooms,’ or ‘evil genii.’ I offered a considerable bribe to any Indian who would accompany me in its exploration but could not find one hardy enough to venture there.”

By 1924, however, pioneers had ventured around the mountain and encountered something frightening enough to give it the name Mountain Devil and saw it clearly enough to call it something like a gorilla. This description could not have been inspired by Kane’s old book in 1859, since he never referred to the “race of beings of a different species” as apelike. Kane is the first to give us the word “Scoocoom” [sic], but he had such a hard time understanding Indian regard that he thought the Skoocoom might be evil spirits. However, Kane didn’t fully understand the native languages. Skoocoom means strong and swift and the name was given to these creatures for that reason. They were also very violent creatures. Casanov, chief of the Klickitat, kept a hired henchman to enforce his biddings. The other Indians referred to the hated toady as “Casanov’s Skoocoom.”

Although Kane did not described them as apelike he must have heard some descriptions, enough to understand they were hairy and even had beards. When he was along the Columbia River, he noticed Indians were warily regarding him from the distance behind bushes. “As I sat upon the packs taken from the horse, nodding in silence, with fixed stare at them whichever way they turned, my double barrel gun cocked, across my knees, and a large red beard (an object of great wonder to all Indians) hanging half way down my breast, I was, no doubt, a very good embodiment of their idea of a scoocoom, or evil genius.”

It is not a giant leap to assume these strange “Mountain Gorillas” of White Man’s legends must be one and the same as the dreaded swift and strong Skoocoom of Kane’s diaries.

Fred Beck, 1970.
Fred Beck, 1970.

Fred Beck, one of two miners still alive in the 1960s, later spoke with Bigfooters. He described the “Mountain Devils” as gorilla-like but quite differently than any cone headed Bigfoot. They were big, he thought close to 8 feet tall, hairy all over, the color of “black turned brown by the sun;” they had visible ears, beards, thick, broad chests and narrow hips.They were muscular.

From reports at the time of the incident we also know they left large prints, one 19 inches long, and these had the imprint of four toes. (Local ranger Bill Welch went up with his superior, District ranger Jim Huffman, plus Seattle journalist Frank Lynch and freelancer Burt Hammerstrom (Clarence Darrow’s brother-in-law.)

Clearly that’s not Bigfoot of Bluff Creek or any such print made famous during the Golden Age of Bigfootery. It sounds more like the obscure “human monster” of Bannock County, Idaho. In fact, the whole idea of 4 toed prints was so forgotten that Grover Krantz expressed his surprise at seeing casts of such prints taken in Manitoba in 1988.

Manitoba Print, 1988.
Manitoba Print, 1988. Found by the RCMP.

An earlier incident had occurred around Lake Dunn near Beriere in 1980 (British Columbia), in which a hairy “monster” described as close to 9 feet tall was seen in the woods. Tim Meissner took a shot at it. It made a squealing type of yelp and fled. A few days later agricultural teacher Jack Wood went exploring to see where this happened. He came upon a track of footprints in the mud. They were huge and showed the imprint of only 4 toes.

None of these casts or reports ever gained any high profile in the dossier of Bigfoot because the pursuit was one of a cone headed Yeti giant from the Patterson Film, which, like all other footprint casts that had been taken, sported some odd foot that was like a comical human foot with 5 toes.

Left foot of Patterson's Bigfoot.
Left foot of Patterson’s Bigfoot.

Beck’s description also didn’t fit the cone headed Yeti image. Granted, it was a long time after the fact that he gave it, but he still made no attempt to make his description conform with the current belief Bigfoot was a Yeti.

There is, however, a very old report that comes from the land of Bigfoot– northern California. This comes from Happy Camp, 1886. It gives us a description that also doesn’t fit 1958’s Bigfoot. It is found in the Del Norte Record, dated January 2 of that year:

“I cannot remember to have seen any reference to the “Wild Man” which haunts this part of the country, so I shall allude to him briefly. Not a great while since, Mr. Jack Dover, one of our most trustworthy citizens, while hunting saw an object standing 150 yards from him picking berries or tender shoots from the bushes.  The thing was of gigantic size— about 7 feet high— with a bulldog head, short ears and long hair; it was also furnished with a beard, and was free from hair on such parts of the body as is common among men. Its voice was shrill, or soprano, and very human, like that of a woman in great fear. Mr. Dover could not see its footprints as it walked on hard soil. He aimed his gun at the animal, or whatever it is, several times, but because it was so human would not shoot. The range of the curiosity is between Marble Mountain and the vicinity of Happy Camp.  A number of people have seen it and all agree in their descriptions except some make it taller than others. It is apparently herbivorous and makes winter quarters in some of the caves of Marble Mountain.”

Bull dog head, long hair, beard, visible ears, very humanlike, tall. It is certainly not the Yeti, nor is it loysi, the one native American anthropoid represented in a photo and in Indian artwork that has a very good chance of being accepted one day as having been a real living species.

Bull dog.
Bull dog.

Jerry Crew and Betty Allen, both central to the reporting of Bigfoot in October 1958 (Crew cast the first print) at Bluff Creek, dug into the history of the local Indians discovering such a thing was known as Omah. It was noted for its loud and eerie howls.

Robert W. Morgan gives us one other clue. From his 5 year search around Mount St. Helens (which culminated in his American Yeti Expedition) he said that the local Indians said that “Bigfoot” had five fingers and no thumb, that is to say, that the thumb was jointed like the fingers and was not opposable as in humans. Since Morgan confined himself to around Mount St. Helens he has to be referring to the Skoocoom.

Black Howler Monkey.
Black Howler Monkey.

The descriptions above, though they do not fit the cone headed legend, all seem to be similar and of a large anthropoid. It does not have a cone head and it resides along the Cascades.

Curiously, all of them also fit the description of a known species of South American monkey called the Howler. The bulldog head and beard with visible ears is especially suggestive of the Howler. The Howler’s thumb is not opposable. It is jointed like a finger.

Have we found the Skoocoom? Like the loysi is it a native American anthropoid similar to a known species of small monkey?

The one photo to have survived. The ape like creature sits upon a fuel crate about 16.6 inches tall.
The ape like creature sits upon a fuel crate about 16.6 inches tall.

Controversial, yes, but then we have the picture de Loys took and which most certainly is not a hoax. The same features are extant in the Dsonoqua masks of the Pacific Northwest. No one ever suspected a connection and, indeed, I was the first to make it. South American Indian stories also spoke of these anthropoids whistling and traveling in male-female pairs. The Dsonoqua masks also show the Dsonoqua with puckered lips, whistling.

Tattooist Ben Yanok did this sketch for me, his impression of a Skoocoom based on my descriptions and the Howler Monkey,
Tattooist Ben Yanok did this sketch for me, his impression of a Skoocoom based on my descriptions and the Howler Monkey,

There are other stories in South America of something much larger and more fierce than the loysi. Is the Skoocoom another species of South American anthropoid that has migrated north? How many species of monkeys exist in the Old World and how man species of apes? How many species of monkeys exist in the New World and how many species of apes?  The last question raises the peculiar point. There are many species of native American monkeys, but no known apes.

The picture Francois de Loys took in 1920 Venezuela gives us an image of a monstrous spider monkey morphed into an ape, one whose features are reflected in artwork of the Dsonoqua thousands of miles north of Venezuela in the Pacific Northwest. Skoocoom and the Omah have given us descriptions that suggest a Howler, only a monstrous anthropoid “version.”

Bigfoot/Sasquatch is also said to make an unnerving and loud howl. Outside of the Blue Whale, the Howler monkey is the loudest mammal known on Earth.

What to make of the Skoocoom? Is this the actual Bigfoot? Is it the giant 7 feet tall (which is incredibly huge for a primate) Omah? Wouldn’t this be regarded as being the genuine impetus for the legend? Then Bigfoot would actually be 4-toed and not 5 toed.

Yet we cannot deny that the Sasquatch, at least what we have come to accept as the Sasquatch, has 5 toes and a humanoid foot. This was preserved best in 1941 long before all the hype of Bigfoot and Bluff Creek. The tracing was made by sheriff Joe Dunn at Ruby Creek, British Columbia (The Ruby Creek Incident). This cannot be the four toed human monster of Bannock County. It doesn’t seem it would be the 4 toed Skoocoom of Mount St. Helens.

We must soon Meet the New Sasquatch and try and start sorting this all out.

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