The Canadian Village Where Sasquatches Are Said to Roam

iStock
iStock

It was a beautiful, calm evening in early summer 2001 when Doug Neasloss and four companions pulled their boat up to a sandy beach in Kitasu Bay, an ancient site where members of the Kitasoo/Xai’xais First Nation have been harvesting herring and halibut for thousands of years. The bay lay on the ocean side of Swindle Island, opposite Klemtu, a village on British Columbia’s pine-forested inside passage. They got a big driftwood bonfire going, a warm light against the blackness of the forest and sky, where the Milky Way glittered like a dusting of powdered sugar.

As they told stories and laughed around the fire, Neasloss noticed something—half of a face, partly hidden behind a large tree up the beach—illuminated by the flickering light. He stared at it, trying to understand what he was looking at. His younger brother stopped talking to him and followed Neasloss’s gaze. The others turned and looked too, toward the figure that now appeared to be crouching at the treeline, locking eyes with them. At that moment, the sasquatch stood up. “It was huge, at least 7 feet tall. The footprints were about 15 inches long,” Neasloss remembers. The creature slowly backed into the forest, out of the firelight, and disappeared.

Neasloss, who was Canada’s first licensed Indigenous bear guide and is now the Kitasoo/Xai’xais’s elected chief councilor and resource stewardship director, has had other encounters with sasquatches. The first one, though, stands out. “I’ve had humpback whales come right up under my kayak,” he tells Mental Floss. “But this was the scariest moment of my life.”

Klemtu, British Columbia, Canada
Klemtu
Kat Long

For more than half a century, Klemtu (population 350) has been known to outsiders as a reliable locale for seeing sasquatches. To the Kitasoo/Xai’xais, the hairy, human-like creatures have always been there, living in the dense forests and remote areas across the nation’s traditional territory. They’re a part of the community, and part of the stories the Kitasoo/Xai’xais elders tell to impart their traditions and history, to pass on knowledge to younger generations and to share with the larger community. Some stories are meant to teach lessons about respecting elders, ancestors, and the environment. But some recount actual events that have become ingrained in the culture over decades or centuries; most of the sasquatch encounters fall into that category. In Smalgyax, the Kitasoo language, the creatures are called puk'wis or ba'gwis—words that also describe their ape-like appearance. Elders warn against going to certain places called wilu’bu’kwis, “where there are sasquatches.” Many people know the stories, even if they don't talk about them much. "They were seen more often when people would travel and harvest food or material resources,” says Vernon Brown, the Kitasoo/Xai’xais resource stewardship manager in Klemtu.

Most Western scientists do not believe that sasquatches exist, in part because no bones, hair samples, or other conclusive biological evidence has been found. But Neasloss points out that bears are quite common, and despite his many years as a wilderness guide, he has never found a bear skeleton in the woods, either. All the evidence the Kitasoo/Xai’xais people need is in the stories; he no longer wastes time trying to prove sasquatches’ existence. "I know they're out there," he says.

“It’s a real living creature to a lot of the elders here,” Brown tells Mental Floss. “We’re an oral culture; people don't waste time creating false stories. People don’t have any reason to lie.”

 

Klemtu sits in the heart of British Columbia’s Great Bear Rainforest, a 40,000-square-mile expanse of intact temperate woods, the largest left in the world. At the foot of the Coast Mountain range, ancient glaciers shredded the coastline into a jumble of rocky islands and peninsulas. Deep fjords harbor whales, Steller’s sea lions, and sea otters; bull kelp flows in the current and teems with marine life. Old-growth conifer forests, where the bare silver tips of red cedars poke up like giant toothpicks, are home to grizzly, black, and rare spirit bears. According to the Kitasoo/Xai'xais, when the Raven created the world, he made all of the black bears black. Then the Ice Age came. After the glaciers receded, the Raven decided to make one of every 10 black bears white to remind the people of the way things were in the past.

Carving depicting a sasquatch near Klemtu, British Columbia
A centuries-old carving depicts ba'gwis at a place near Klemtu called "where there are sasquatches."
Vernon Brown

Vast sections of the Great Bear Rainforest are protected from exploitation thanks to a historic 2016 agreement between First Nations, whose traditional territories encompass the area, and British Columbia’s government. Indigenous communities continue to sustainably manage natural resources for "conservation; food, social, and ceremonial practices; and economic prosperity" as they have for millennia.

“We’re lucky to have all the clam beds left, we’re lucky to have Dungeness crab, and decent hunting,” Brown says. “I think part of the reason why sasquatches are so common here is because of the resources that are here. That’s probably the same reason that we’re here.”

Around Klemtu and in the Great Bear Rainforest, the hairy hominids have it all [PDF]: lush stands of cedar, fir, and spruce to hide in; caves for shelter; soft cedar bark for nests; pristine waters that nourish salmon and herring; and untrammeled sandy beaches flush with shellfish.

Around 1960, a journalist named John Willison Green arrived in Klemtu. He had come from Harrison Hot Springs, a small town east of Vancouver where, 40 years earlier, a local teacher had published one of the first recorded accounts of the “hairy men of British Columbia” and said the local Indigenous people called the creatures “sasquatch.” Green and fellow investigator Bob Titmus were in Klemtu to find those hairy men in the flesh.

For about a week, they stayed with Tommy Brown, then the head chief of the Kitasoo Nation. Green found that Indigenous people all along the coast were quite familiar with the sasquatch. “A few minutes of casual conversation was all it ever took to find someone with an ape story to tell,” Green wrote in his 1968 book, On the Track of the Sasquatch. But though they saw sets of large footprints and heard eyewitnesses’ stories, Green and Titmus never saw a wild man in Klemtu. “It is probably the best area in the world for a chance meeting with a sasquatch,” Green wrote, “but a hopeless place to try to track one.”

A spirit bear (or Kermode bear) fishes for salmon in the Great Bear Rainforest
A spirit bear is a black bear carrying a recessive gene that makes its fur white. The rare white bears live only in the Great Bear Rainforest.
iStock

That hasn’t stopped folks from trying. Les Stroud, best known from his television series Survivorman, heard stories about a rash of sasquatch sightings in Klemtu just a few years ago. Residents had seen them prowling around some homes and heard one knocking on trees by the river. After Vernon Brown and Doug Neasloss shared the community’s oral histories, Stroud filmed an episode of Survivorman at Klemtu Lake and Kitasu Hill, both reliable sites for encounters.

“In the area, it’s not just a couple of eyewitness references," Stroud tells Mental Floss. "It’s pretty much the entire village—and it's taken in stride by everyone, as well as being tied to their ancient history.”

 

Vernon Brown, Tommy Brown’s grandson, was Canada’s second licensed Indigenous bear guide, after Neasloss. They co-founded the tourism outfit that grew into the Spirit Bear Lodge, now an award-winning destination for wildlife viewing and cultural experiences. As part of those duties and his responsibilities as the nation's resource stewardship manager, Brown started digging into Kitasoo/Xai’xais cultural history and noticed how often sasquatch lore turned up in the community’s stories.

Spruce trees in the Great Bear Rainforest near Klemtu, British Columbia
Vernon Brown

The “typical” encounters in the stories, he says, involve tall, hairy creatures with black fingernails and dark eyes that walk on two feet. People often see them standing still on beaches or peeking out from the treeline. “In our database, you can hear some of the elders doing their best to describe what they’re looking at,” Brown says. One man called it puk’wis. “He said it means—you can hear him thinking about it, in English—‘it means ‘ape,’ like an ‘ape-man.’ Down south I think they call it ‘sasquatch.’”

The Kitasoo/Xai’xais's encounters with them emphasize respect. Bad luck comes to anyone who shoots or harms a sasquatch, and the various places elders call “where there are sasquatches” are off-limits. “They say ‘no, don’t go over there, because that belongs to the ba’gwis,’” Brown says.

Even if people don’t see them, they know sasquatches are around by certain signs. One is the sound of tree knocks, when sasquatches want to protect their territory. They’ll also throw rocks as a warning when people are too close to their favorite clam and cockle beds. Another clue is their repulsive smell. “I’ve smelled bears, and they stink,” Brown says. But around sasquatches, “I’ve smelled something, horrible, pungent. It’ll stop you in your tracks, and then all of the sudden”—he snaps his fingers—“it’s just gone.”

Vernon Brown and Les Brown
Vernon Brown (left) and Les Stroud in Klemtu
Vernon Brown

Sasquatches also scream in terrifying, high-pitched tones. Neasloss remembers going on a clam-harvesting trip with a group of other young people and a highly respected and knowledgeable elder. The low tide, the best time to gather clams, occurred in the middle of the night, so the elder pulled his boat up on the sand and the people fanned out across the beach. As they filled their buckets, those on the edge of the group heard a piercing scream in the distance—then another. But the elder, who was rather hard of hearing, seemed unfazed. Everyone in the community looked to him for guidance; when he seemed unconcerned, there was nothing to worry about. They kept gathering clams.

But the screams grew louder, and eventually the entire group was huddled around the boat. The elder asked why they weren’t harvesting, and they told him about the shrieking. “I don’t hear anything,” he said. But then one wail, very close, punctured the stillness.

Neasloss recalls, “He picked up a 5-pound lead cannonball [the boat’s anchor] and starting banging it on the side of the punt, to scare it off." When he and the others saw their leader lose his cool, they immediately jumped in the boat and sped away.

Rock face of a fjord near Klemtu, British Columbia
Vernon Brown

Despite the fright they can cause, ba’gwis appear curious and shy. Brown mentions a man and two of his friends who went hunting for mountain goats in the mid-1990s, in an area laced with massive fjords about two hours by boat north of Klemtu. This location, with its sheer rock faces and sparse trees, was known as a good spot to find the animals. While his two friends stayed in the boat, the man killed four goats—enough to feed his family for a while. He piled the animals on a narrow beach and then packed his gear into his boat for the trip home. He turned around to retrieve the goats, but stopped dead in his tracks. Standing next to the animals was a child sasquatch, umajay in the Kitasoo language, just staring at the hunter with its black eyes.

“He jumped back in his boat really quick, and he said that whatever it was didn’t run off. This thing was just looking, not running, just motionless. You could see it blinking every now and then,” Brown says. “It scared the s*** out of him.”

Quickly, the hunter backed his boat off the sand. He and the two stunned passengers turned their gaze back to the beach, and the umajay was gone. The man left all of his goats—after spending money and time to hunt them—on the beach where they lay. The man later told Brown that “he’s never gone back since.”

This story was made possible in part by the Institute for Journalism and Natural Resources.

The Massive Elvis Festival That Rocks One Tiny Australian Town Every January

Ian Waldie/Getty Images
Ian Waldie/Getty Images

For one weekend each the year, Elvis Presley is alive and well in Parkes, Australia. The tiny town hosts the Parkes Elvis Festival during the second weekend of every January to mark the music legend's birthday on January 8. In 2019, the event attracted a record 27,000 guests to the showground—more than twice Parkes's usual population of 11,400, Smithsonian reports.

Elvis fans Bob and Anne Steel held the first-ever festival in 1993 at their restaurant, Gracelands. On top of being an excuse to throw a birthday party for their favorite celebrity, they set up the festival to draw tourists to Parkes during the region's brutally hot off-season. (During a record heat wave in January 2017, Parkes experienced a high temperature of 114.6°F.)

While the first festival lasted one night and had an attendance of just a few hundred people, it has since grown into a five-day affair with an international reputation. Visitors come from around the world to celebrate the music, fashion, and dance moves of The King. It's a large enough event that festival-goers have the option to travel to Parkes from Sydney via special trains dubbed the Blue Suede Express and the Elvis Express. On board, they're treated to the company of Elvis impersonators and performances by Elvis tribute artists for the six-hour journey.

Guests who made it to this year's Elvis Festival from January 9 to 13 took part in ukulele lessons, Elvis-themed bingo, "Elvis the Pelvis" dance sessions, and a Q&A with Elvis impersonators. This year's Northparkes Mines Street Parade, one of the festival's main events, included more than 180 floats, vintage vehicles, bands, and walking processions paying homage to the icon.

Competitions are usually a big part of the festival, with both Elvis Presley and Miss Priscilla look-alikes facing off on stage. This year, the "Ultimate Elvis Tribute Artist' crown went to 22-year-old Brody Finlay, the youngest winner in the event's history.

Each year, the Elvis Presley festival returns to Parkes with a new theme, giving Elvis fans an incentive to keep coming back. This year, the theme "All Shook Up" celebrated the 1950s era. In 2020, festival organizers are preparing to celebrate the 1966 Elvis comedy Frankie and Johnny.

Can't make it to Australia? Grab a bite of Elvis at one of these American eateries inspired by The King.

[h/t Smithsonian]

The Most Expensive Properties in 11 Special Edition Monopoly Games

Amazon
Amazon

The board spaces on the original Monopoly game—which was released on February 6, 1935—were based on locations in Atlantic City, New Jersey. Through the game, the hoity-toitiest spots for property development in there, Boardwalk and Park Place, came to symbolize the uppermost reaches of real estate value.

Since Parker Brothers (and later, Hasbro) began licensing the game for alternate versions, there have been hundreds of Monopoly offshoots, and they all have to pick something to serve as their own Boardwalk and Park Place. If it’s a city, they will usually correspond to the fanciest intersection. If it’s a country, they’ll be the two most powerful cities. But Monopoly special editions cover a whole range of areas beyond simple geography. You want to know what’s considered valuable in a particular area of interest? Look to the Boardwalk and Park Place of its Monopoly edition. Here are the most valuable spaces from 11 special edition Monopoly boards.

1. THE .COM EDITION

Monopoly: The .Com Edition
Amazon

In 2000, just before the end of the dot-com boom, Hasbro published .com Monopoly. Boardwalk was Yahoo! (costing $400 million) and Park Place was Excite@home (costing $350 million). Anyone remember what that was? (Didn't think so.)

2. THE PHINEAS AND FERB EDITION

Monpoly: The Phineas and Ferb Edition
Amazon

Naturally, the most valuable properties are Phineas and Ferb’s backyard and The Tri-State Area.

Find the game on Amazon for $199.

3. ELVIS 25TH ANNIVERSARY EDITION


Amazon

Of course Graceland is going to be Boardwalk, but what about the number two spot? Viva Las Vegas, baby.

Find the game on Amazon for $109.

4. NATIONAL PARKS EDITION


Amazon

How do you determine the value of a National Park? Yellowstone and Yosemite are the Boardwalk and Park Place of this version of the game. Sure, those are great parks, but there’s something unsettling about developing properties in some of the country's most famous stretches of unspoiled land, and raking in profits!

Find the game on Amazon for $130.

5. BASS FISHING EDITION


Amazon

If you know bass fishing, you know it’s gotta be Lake Fork and Lake Champlain.

Find the game on Amazon for $90.

6. SEINFELD EDITION

Monopoly 'Seinfeld' edition
Amazon

A show about nothing still needs to take place somewhere. Jerry’s Apartment and Monk’s Restaurant are the center of this world.

Find the game on Amazon for $100.

7. MY LITTLE PONY EDITION


Amazon

Friendship is magic, but it won’t pay the rent. Stake your claim early on Canterlot and Crystal Empire.

Find the game on Amazon for $80.

8. SOUTH PARK EDITION


Amazon

Cartmanland and Imaginationland, where else?

Find the game on Amazon for $350.

9. A CHRISTMAS STORY EDITION


Amazon

The properties in this version are important objects from the movie, like a frozen flagpole, a bar of soap, and a pink bunny suit. But in this world, BB Gun and Leg Lamp get top position.

Find the game on Amazon for $76.

10. KISS-OPOLY


Amazon

What is true value? A KISS Platinum Gold Box Set and a Japanese Vinyl Box Set.

Find the game on Amazon for $190.

11. MONOPOLY HERE & NOW: THE WORLD EDITION


Amazon

If you’re going to make a World Edition of Monopoly, you’ve got to be diplomatic about how you decide what the two most valuable places in the world should be. Hasbro decided to let the world decide for itself, holding an international vote in 2008 to determine which cities would be included on the board. That’s how it came about that Montreal, Canada, and Riga, Latvia—the two cities with the most votes—became the Boardwalk and Park Place of the world.

Find the game on Amazon for $85.

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER