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.

7 Massage Guns That Are on Sale Right Now

Jawku/Actigun
Jawku/Actigun

Outdoor exercise is a big focus leading into summer, but as you begin to really tone and strengthen your muscles, you might notice some tough knots and soreness that you just can’t kick. Enter the post-workout massage gun—these bad boys are like having a deep-tissue masseuse by your side whenever you want. If you're looking to pick one up for yourself, check out these brands while they’re on sale.

1. Actigun 2.0: Percussion Massager (Black); $128 (57 percent off)

Actigun massage gun.
Actigun

Don't assume you need a professional masseur to provide relief—this massage gun offers 20 variable speeds and can adjust the output power on its own according to pressure. Can your human massage therapist do that?

Buy it: Mental Floss Shop

2. JAWKU Muscle Blaster V2 Cordless Percussion Massage Gun; $260 (13 percent off)

Jawku massaging gun.
Jawku

This cordless, five-speed massager uses a design that's aimed to increase blood flow, release stored lactic acid, and relieve sore muscles through various vibrations.

Buy it: Mental Floss Shop

3. DEEP4s: Percussive Therapy Massage Gun for Athletes; $230 (23 percent off)

Re-Athlete massage gun.
Re-Athlete

Instant relief is an option with this massage tool, featuring five different attachments made to tackle any muscle group. You can squeeze in eight hours of massage time before you have to charge it again.

Buy it: Mental Floss Shop

4. Handheld Massage Gun for Deep Tissue Percussion; $75 (15 percent off)

Massage gun from Stackcommerce.
Stackcommerce

With five replaceable heads and six speed settings, this massage gun can easily adapt to the location and intensity of your soreness. And since it lasts up to three hours per charge, you won't have to worry about constantly plugging it in.

Buy it: Mental Floss Shop

5. The Backmate Power Massager; $120 (19 percent off)

Backmate massage gun.
Backmate

Speed is the name of the game here. The Backmate Power Massager is designed for fast, effective relief through its ergonomic design. Fast doesn’t need to mean short, either. After the instant relief, you can stimulate and distract your nervous system for lasting pain relief.

Buy it: Mental Floss Shop

6. ZTECH Percussion Massage Gun (Red); $80 (46 percent off)

ZTech massage gun.
ZTech

This massage gun looks a lot like a power drill, and, similarly, you can adjust its design for the perfect fit with six interchangeable heads that target different muscle areas.

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7. Aduro Sport Elite Recovery Massage Gun (Maroon); $80 (60 percent off)

Aduro massage gun.
Aduro

Tackle large muscle groups, the neck, Achilles tendon, joints, and small muscle areas with this single massage gun. Four massage heads and six intensity levels allow this tool to provide a highly customizable experience.

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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. If you haven't received your voucher or have a question about your order, contact the Mental Floss shop here.


Eau de Space: Former NASA Scientist’s New Perfume Smells Out of This World

One small scent for man.
One small scent for man.
Eau de Space, Kickstarter

Soon, you’ll be able to spritz yourself with perfume that smells like a mixture of gunpowder, seared steak, raspberries, rum, and burned cookies. It’s not Chanel No. 5, but it is the closest you can get to smelling outer space without boarding a rocket.

According to NPR, a new Kickstarter campaign is now producing Eau de Space, a fragrance that NASA developed in 2008 to help astronauts acclimate their noses to the scent of space during training. It was created by Steve Pearce, chemist and founder of Omega Ingredients, a company that produces natural flavors for the food and beverage industry. CNN reports that Pearce concocted his formula based on firsthand descriptions from astronauts, many of whom have agreed that there’s something smoky or burned about outer space's aroma.

NASA has kept the fragrance under wraps for the last 12 years, but Eau de Space product manager Matt Richmond and his team were able to get their hands on it “through sheer determination, grit, a lot of luck, and a couple of Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests,” according to the Kickstarter page. They’re ready to share it with the public—and it’s for a good cause, too. Each $29 pledge covers two 4-ounce bottles of Eau de Space: one for you to use as you please, and another to be shipped to a school with a STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) program.

If you’re eager to support the next generation of space explorers but not keen on smelling like a charred grill yourself, you can donate $15 to the campaign, and the Eau de Space team will ship a bottle to a school without sending one to you. Orders are expected to ship by October 2020, and you can place yours here.

[h/t NPR]