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.

10 Products for a Better Night's Sleep

Amazon/Comfort Spaces
Amazon/Comfort Spaces

Getting a full eight hours of sleep can be tough these days. If you’re having trouble catching enough Zzzs, consider giving these highly rated and recommended products a try.

1. Everlasting Comfort Pure Memory Foam Knee Pillow; $25

Everlasting Comfort Knee Pillow
Everlasting Comfort/Amazon

For side sleepers, keeping the spine, hips, and legs aligned is key to a good night’s rest—and a pain-free morning after. Everlasting Comfort’s memory foam knee pillow is ergonomically designed to fit between the knees or thighs to ensure proper alignment. One simple but game-changing feature is the removable strap, which you can fasten around one leg; this keeps the pillow in place even as you roll at night, meaning you don’t have to wake up to adjust it (or pick it up from your floor). Reviewers call the pillow “life-changing” and “the best knee pillow I’ve found.” Plus, it comes with two pairs of ear plugs.

Buy it: Amazon

2. Letsfit White Noise Machine; $21

Letsfit White Noise Machine
Letsfit/Amazon

White noise machines: They’re not just for babies! This Letsfit model—which is rated 4.7 out of five with nearly 3500 reviews—has 14 potential sleep soundtracks, including three white noise tracks, to better block out everything from sirens to birds that chirp enthusiastically at dawn (although there’s also a birds track, if that’s your thing). It also has a timer function and a night light.

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3. ECLIPSE Blackout Curtains; $16

Eclipse Black Out Curtains
Eclipse/Amazon

According to the National Sleep Foundation, too much light in a room when you’re trying to snooze is a recipe for sleep disaster. These understated polyester curtains from ECLIPSE block 99 percent of light and reduce noise—plus, they’ll help you save on energy costs. "Our neighbor leaves their backyard light on all night with what I can only guess is the same kind of bulb they use on a train headlight. It shines across their yard, through ours, straight at our bedroom window," one Amazon reviewer who purchased the curtains in black wrote. "These drapes block the light completely."

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4. JALL Wake Up Light Sunrise Alarm Clock; $38

JALL Wake Up Light Sunrise Alarm Clock
JALL/Amazon

Being jarred awake by a blaring alarm clock can set the wrong mood for the rest of your day. Wake up in a more pleasant way with this clock, which gradually lights up between 10 percent and 100 percent in the 30 minutes before your alarm. You can choose between seven different colors and several natural sounds as well as a regular alarm beep, but why would you ever use that? “Since getting this clock my sleep has been much better,” one reviewer reported. “I wake up not feeling tired but refreshed.”

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5. Philips SmartSleep Wake-Up Light; $200

Philips SmartSleep Wake-Up Light
Philips/Amazon

If you’re looking for an alarm clock with even more features, Philips’s SmartSleep Wake-Up Light is smartphone-enabled and equipped with an AmbiTrack sensor, which tracks things like bedroom temperature, humidity, and light levels, then gives recommendations for how you can get a better night’s rest.

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6. Slumber Cloud Stratus Sheet Set; $159

Stratus sheets from Slumber Cloud.
Slumber Cloud

Being too hot or too cold can kill a good night’s sleep. The Good Housekeeping Institute rated these sheets—which are made with Outlast fibers engineered by NASA—as 2020’s best temperature-regulating sheets.

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7. Comfort Space Coolmax Sheet Set; $29-$40

Comfort Spaces Coolmax Sheets
Comfort Spaces/Amazon

If $159 sheets are out of your price range, the GHI recommends these sheets from Comfort Spaces, which are made with moisture-wicking Coolmax microfiber. Depending on the size you need, they range in price from $29 to $40.

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8. Coop Home Goods Eden Memory Foam Pillow; $80

Coop Eden Pillow
Coop Home Goods/Amazon

This pillow—which has a 4.5-star rating on Amazon—is filled with memory foam scraps and microfiber, and comes with an extra half-pound of fill so you can add, or subtract, the amount in the pillow for ultimate comfort. As a bonus, the pillows are hypoallergenic, mite-resistant, and washable.

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9. Baloo Weighted Blanket; $149-$169

Baloo Weighted Blanket
Baloo/Amazon

Though the science is still out on weighted blankets, some people swear by them. Wirecutter named this Baloo blanket the best, not in small part because, unlike many weighted blankets, it’s machine-washable and -dryable. It’s currently available in 12-pound ($149) twin size and 20-pound ($169) queen size. It’s rated 4.7 out of five stars on Amazon, with one reviewer reporting that “when it's spread out over you it just feels like a comfy, snuggly hug for your whole body … I've found it super relaxing for falling asleep the last few nights, and it looks nice on the end of the bed, too.” 

Buy it: Amazon 

10. Philips Smartsleep Snoring Relief Band; $200

Philips SmartSleep Snoring Relief Band
Philips/Amazon

Few things can disturb your slumber—and that of the ones you love—like loudly sawing logs. Philips’s Smartsleep Snoring Relief Band is designed for people who snore when they’re sleeping on their backs, and according to the company, 86 percent of people who used the band reported reduced snoring after a month. The device wraps around the torso and is equipped with a sensor that delivers vibrations if it detects you moving to sleep on your back; those vibrations stop when you roll onto your side. The next day, you can see how many hours you spent in bed, how many of those hours you spent on your back, and your response rate to the vibrations. The sensor has an algorithm that notes your response rate and tweaks the intensity of vibrations based on that. “This device works exactly as advertised,” one Amazon reviewer wrote. “I’d say it’s perfect.”

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This article contains affiliate links to products selected by our editors. Mental Floss may receive a commission for purchases made through these links.

Taco Bell Quarterly, a Taco Bell-Themed Literary Journal, Exists—And You Can Read It Online

What does the Crunchwrap Supreme have to do with queer politics? A lot, actually.
What does the Crunchwrap Supreme have to do with queer politics? A lot, actually.
Rachel Murray/Getty Images for Taco Bell

In August 2019, writer and “Editor Grande Supreme” MM Carrigan launched the first edition of a free online literary journal called the Taco Bell Quarterly. It wasn’t a publicity stunt—in fact, it wasn’t affiliated with the fast food chain at all—but rather a quality collection of Taco Bell-themed literary musings that ran the gamut from satirical to totally serious.

According to Food & Wine, about 1500 people downloaded that first issue, and viewership grew to 40,000 for the second issue, which was released in February 2020. The Quarterly is gearing up to launch Volume 3 in September, and it promises to be the most zeitgeist-y edition yet.

“Volume 3 will be very much informed by the state of the world. The pieces we're gravitating toward are foreboding, existing on the precipice of an alternate history in which we might have prevented the pandemic," Carrigan tells Mental Floss. “People think we're a joke, but this will be the issue that proves we're not. Writers are taking chances in writing in our magazine that I don't think the literary world has seen in a long time. We're writing with radical sincerity.”

Capturing the cultural atmosphere of this year through Taco Bell-related poems, essays, and short stories might seem like a tall order, but the Quarterly is no stranger to tackling tough topics. While some early pieces are silly and upbeat—take Alana Saltz’s poem “Ode to Nacho Fries,” for example—others use Taco Bell as a backdrop for deeper musings about “homelessness, suburban dread, poverty, American identity, and so much more,” as Carrigan told Food & Wine.

Carrigan chose Taco Bell as the journal's unifying thread because, to put it plainly, it was the first idea that popped into her head.

“Brands are a symbiote that live in our brains. We're telling that story,” she says. And, as far as brands go, Taco Bell's offbeat, innovative menu items and neon beverages are more “seductive” and “daring” than McDonald's classic Big Macs and smiling clown mascot. In other words, the subversive fast food chain is the perfect theme for an online journal that aims to subvert people's stereotypical understanding of “The Writing Life,” which Carrigan describes as a “journey of MFA programs, writing retreats, [and] rubbing elbows at conferences.”

As interest in Taco Bell Quarterly grew, Taco Bell itself began to take notice, and Carrigan says the company has sent the team hundreds of dollars' worth of free tacos as an unofficial "thank you" for all the free advertising. She distributes them to writers whose work has been rejected by other literary magazines.

While you wait for Volume 3 to hit the internet this fall, catch up on the first two volumes on the Taco Bell Quarterly website here.

[h/t Food & Wine]