Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The Incredible Story of Albert Ostman

In 1924, a young Scandinavian named Albert Ostman spent several days prospecting for a lost gold mine near the head of Toba Inlet in British Columbia. He had heard that there were several of these old mines in the British Columbia area, and thought it would be a great vacation experience if he could locate one.

He took the Union Steamship boat to Lund, British Columbia, where he hired an old Indian to guide him the rest of the way to the Toba Inlet.

In Albert's own words: "This old Indian was a very talkative old gentleman. He told me stories about gold brought out by a white man from this lost mine. This white man was a very heavy drinker — spent his money freely in saloons. But he had no trouble in getting more money. He would be away a few days, then come back with a bag of gold. But one time he went to his mine and never came back. Some people said a Sasquatch had killed him.

At that time I had never heard of Sasquatch. So I asked what kind of an animal he called a Sasquatch. The Indian said, "They have hair all over their bodies, but they are not animals. They are people. Big people living in the mountains. My uncle saw the tracks of one that were two feet long. One old Indian saw one over eight feet tall.

I told the Indian I didn't believe in their old fables about mountain giants. It might have been some thousands of years ago, but not nowadays.

The Indian said: 'There may not be many, but they still exist.'"

Albert made it to Toba Inlet and was happy to have this time to himself. He figured that he would scour the forest during the days looking for the mine, and at night he would map out the areas he covered and make plans for the next day's exploration. He had plenty of food that he had bought from a grocer in Lund,which consisted mostly of canned items, but also some bacon, a bag of beans, four pounds of prunes, six packets of macaroni and cheese, three pounds of pancake flour, six packets of Rye King hard tack, one quart of butter and two one-pound cans of milk. The grocer in Lund also gave Albert some tin cans in order to keep his sugar, salt and matches dry. Then he had a sleeping bag, a Winchester rifle, a small frying pan, an aluminum pot, and three rolls of snuff. He would bundle all of this together before he set out in the morning and carry it with him as he set up a new camp each night. It would require alot of stamina to lug around an eighty pound bag each day, but Albert didn't really seem to mind so much. He was after all on "vacation." He would travel like this for about three days until he found a spot suitable to be his permanent camping spot.

Toba Inlet, British Columbia

Albert was sleeping in his sleeping bag when he was suddenly awakened to a terrifying realization. He was being "carried"... He had been scooped up and transported off... By something much bigger than he. At first he thought that he must be dreaming. But as he became more and more aware of the experience, he realized that he was not dreaming, but very much awake.

Wrapped up tightly in his sleeping bag, it was impossible for Albert to determine what was carrying him, but he could determine this much: He was being carried over the shoulder of a large bi-pedal creature that seemed to possess super human strength and amazing dexterity.

"My first thought was - it must be a snow slide..." Albert recalled several years later. "Then it felt like I was tossed on horseback, but I could feel whoever it was, was walking."

"I was in a very uncomfortable position — unable to move. I was sitting on my feet, and one of the boots in the bottom of the bag was crossways with the hobnail sole up across my foot. It hurt me terribly, but I could not move.

It was very hot inside. It was lucky for me this fellow's hand was not big enough to close up the whole bag when he picked me up — there was a small opening at the top, otherwise I would have choked to death."

Too afraid to move or to try to escape, and simply dumbfounded, Albert didn't move for several hours as the creature carried him away from his camp site. Then, very suddenly, he was dropped to the ground. He could hear some incoherent chatter, but couldn't make out what was being said, if anything. He was terrified for his life, and still wasn't able to comprehend what was happening. He continued to fight off the notion that he was still sleeping and just having a bad dream.

The next day Albert found himself in an area that was surrounded by cliffs on all sides. And he was not alone. There with him was what he considered to be a family of Bigfoot... 4 specimens of different sizes and shapes... An enormous creature that Albert figured to be the "old man" of the group, an "old lady",  and two younger creatures that appeared to be children. Albert figured the old man to be over 8 feet tall and to weigh about 800 pounds. He judged the old lady to be slightly smaller at about 7 feet tall and 600 pounds. The children were much smaller in stature, and were obviously lacking in the maturity of the older beasts.

"I had never heard of Sasquatch before the Indian told me about them. But I knew I was right among them.

But how to get away from them, that was another question? I got to see the outline of them now, as it began to get lighter, though the sky was cloudy, and it looked like rain, in fact there was a slight sprinkle.

I now had circulation in my legs, but my left foot was very sore on top where it had been resting on my hobnail boots. I got my boots out from the sleeping bag and tried to stand up. I found that I was wobbly on my feet, but I had a good hold of my rifle.

I asked, "What you fellows want with me?" Only some more chatter.

I had my compass and my prospecting glass on strings around my neck. The compass in my left hand shirt pocket and my glass in my right hand pocket. I tried to reason our location, and where I was. I could see now that I was in a small valley or basin about eight or ten acres, surrounded by high mountains, on the southeast side there was a V-shaped opening about eight feet wide at the bottom and about twenty feet high at the highest point — that must be the way I came in. But how will I get out? The old man was now sitting near this opening.

I moved my belongings up close to the west wall. There were two small cypress trees there, and this will do for a shelter for the time being. Until I find out what these people want with me, and how to get away from here. I emptied out my pack sack to see what I had left in the line of food. All my canned meat and vegetables were intact and I had one can of coffee. Also three small cans of milk — two packages of Rye King hard tack and my butter sealer half full of butter. But my prunes and macaroni were missing. Also my full box of shells for my rifle. I had my sheath knife but my prospecting pick was missing and my can of matches. I only had my safety box full and that held only about a dozen matches. That did not worry me — I can always start a fire with my prospecting glass when the sun is shining, if I got dry wood. I wanted hot coffee, but I had no wood, also nothing around here that looked like wood. I had a good look over the valley from where I was — but the boy and girl were always watching me from behind some juniper bush. I decided there must be some water around here. The ground was leaning towards the opening in the wall. There must be water at the upper end of this valley, there is green grass and moss along the bottom.

All my utensils were left behind. I opened my coffee tin and emptied the coffee in a dishtowel and tied it with the metal strip from the can. I took my rifle and the can and went looking for water. Right at the head under a cliff there was a lovely spring that disappeared underground. I got a drink, and a full can of water. When I got back the young boy was looking over my belongings, but did not touch anything. On my way back I noticed where these people were sleeping. On the east side wall of this valley was a shelf in the mountain side, with overhanging rock, looking something like a big undercut in a big tree about 10 feet deep and 30 feet wide. The floor was covered with lots of dry moss, and they had some kind of blankets woven of narrow strips of cedar bark, packed with dry moss. They looked very practical and warm — with no need of washing.

Photo: Lori Simmons (Used with permission)

Albert found himself in this incredulous situation, but yet he somehow managed to keep his bearings. The "old man" was very large and menacing, and Albert seemed to understand that if he panicked and freaked out, it could result in him taking a severe beating from this creature. He was able to gauge his surroundings and figured that he would bide his time until it he had a plan to escape.

The first day was pretty uneventful. He wasn't tied down and he had the freedom to rouse through his belongings at will. He ate his food without cooking it, always under the watchful eyes of the two younger creatures. He had an empty can of snuff, and tossed it over in the direction where the young boy was. The boy sprang to his feet and grabbed it, and took it over to his sister. The two of them played with it for a long while, and they discovered how to open and close it. After awhile, the boy took it over to the father and showed it to him. It seemed to be a subject of considerable attention, as the two "had a long chatter" about it.

The next morning Albert realized that he only had enough food to make it out of there and back to Toba Inlet. He knew had to leave - even if it meant shooting his way out. He wasn't sure what direction he would have to travel but figured that if he went downhill, he would eventually find civilization someplace. He put the rest of his food in his pack, and loaded a shell into the barrel of his rifle. With a deep breath, he started for the opening where the "old man" sat. The father stood up and pushed Albert back... It became very apparent that Albert wasn't allowed to leave. Albert pointed to the opening and told the old man that he wanted to pass through. The old man kept pushing, and said something that Albert would later describe as sounding like "Soka Soka".

Albert backed up to about 60 feet. He would need the space he figured, if he was going to shoot his way out. Then he remembered that he only had six shells, and wasn't perfectly sure that the first one would kill the old man. What it might do, Albert figured, is make the old man extremely angry, and thus wouldn't allow time to get another shell injected into the barrel before Albert took a shellacking. Albert figured that there must be another way out of there, without killing the old man. He went back to his campsite and started to work on plan B...

"I could make friends with the young fellow or the girl, they might help me. If I only could talk to them. Then I thought of a fellow who saved himself from a mad bull by blinding him with snuff in his eyes. But how will I get near enough to this fellow to put snuff in his eyes? So I decided next time I give the young fellow my snuff box to leave a few grains of snuff in it. He might give the old man a taste of it.

But the question is, in what direction will I go, if I should get out? I must have been near 25 miles northeast of Toba Inlet when I was kidnapped. This fellow must have travelled at least 25 miles in the three hours he carried me. If he went west we would be near salt water — same thing if he went south — therefore he must have gone northeast. If I then keep going south and over two mountains, I must hit salt water someplace between Lund and Vancouver.

The following day I did not see the old lady till about 4:00 p.m. She came home with her arms full of grass and twigs and of all kinds of spruce and hemlock as well as some kind of nuts that grow in the ground. I have seen lots of them on Vancouver Island. The young fellow went up the mountain to the east every day, he could climb better than a mountain goat. He picked some kind of grass with long sweet roots. He gave me some one day — they tasted very sweet. I gave him another snuff box with about a teaspoon of snuff in it. He tasted it, then went to the old man — he licked it with his tongue. They had a long chat. I made a dipper from a milk can. I made many dippers — you can use them for pots too — you cut two slits near the top of any can — then cut a limb from any small tree — cut down back of the limb down the stem of the tree — then taper the part you cut from the stem. Then cut a hole in the tapered part, slide the tapered part in the slit you have made in the can, and you have a good handle on your can. I threw one over to the young fellow, that was playing near my camp, he picked it up and looked at it then he went to the old man and showed it to him. They had a long chatter. Then he came to me, pointed at the dipper then at his sister. I could see that he wanted one for her too. I had other peas and carrots, so I made one for his sister. He was standing only eight feet away from me. When I had made the dipper, I dipped it in water and drank from it, he was very pleased, almost smiled at me. Then I took a chew of snuff, smacked my lips, said that's good.

The young fellow pointed to the old man, said something that sounded like "Ook." I got the idea that the old man liked snuff, and the young fellow wanted a box for the old man. I shook my head. I motioned with my hands for the old man to come to me. I do not think the young fellow understood what I meant. He went to his sister and gave her the dipper I made for her. They did not come near me again that day. I had now been here six days, but I was sure I was making progress. If only I could get the old man to come over to me, get him to eat a full box of snuff that would kill him for sure, and that way kill himself, I wouldn't be guilty of murder.

The old lady was a meek old thing. The young fellow was by this time quite friendly. The girl would not hurt anybody. Her chest was flat like a boy's — no development like young ladies. I am sure if I could get the old man out of the way I could easily have brought this girl out with me to civilization. But what good would that have been? I would have to keep her in a cage for public display. I don't think we have any right to force our way of life on other people, and I don't think they would like it. (The noise and racket in a modern city they would not like any more than I do.)

The young fellow might have been between 11-18 years old and about seven feet tall and might weight about 300 lbs. His chest would be 50-55 inches, his waist about 36-38 inches. He had wide jaws, narrow forehead, that slanted upward round at the back about four or five inches higher than the forehead. The hair on their heads was about six inches long. The hair on the rest of their body was short and thick in places. The women's hair on the forehead had an upward turn like some women have — they call it bangs, among women's hair-do's. Nowadays the old lady could have been anything between 40-70 years old. She was over seven feet tall. She would be about 500-600 pounds.

She had very wide hips, and a goose-like walk. She was not built for beauty or speed. Some of those lovable brassieres and uplifts would have been a great improvement on her looks and her figure. The man's eyeteeth were longer than the rest of the teeth, but not long enough to be called tusks. The old man must have been near eight feet tall. Big barrel chest and big hump on his back — powerful shoulders, his biceps on upper arm were enormous and tapered down to his elbows. His forearms were longer than common people have, but well proportioned. His hands were wide, the palm was long and broad, and hollow like a scoop. His fingers were short in proportion to the rest of his hand. His fingernails were like chisels. The only place they had no hair was inside their hands and the soles of their feet and upper part of the nose and eyelids. I never did see their ears, they were covered with hair hanging over them.

If the old man were to wear a collar it would have to be at least 30 inches. I have no idea what size shoes they would need. I was watching the young fellow's foot one day when he was sitting down. The soles of his feet seemed to be padded like a dog's foot, and the big toe was longer than the rest and very strong. In mountain climbing all he needed was footing for his big toe. They were very agile. To sit down they turned their knees out and came straight down. To rise they came straight up without help of hands or arms. I don't think this valley was their permanent home. I think they move from place to place, as food is available in different localities. They might eat meat, but I never saw them eat meat, or do any cooking.

I think this was probably a stopover place and the plants with sweet roots on the mountain side might have been in season this time of the year. They seem to be most interested in them. The roots have a very sweet and satisfying taste. They always seem to do everything for a reason, wasted no time on anything they did not need. When they were not looking for food, the old man and the old lady were resting, but the boy and the girl were always climbing something or some other exercise. A favorite position was to take hold of his feet with his hands and balance on his rump, then bounce forward. The idea seems to be to see how far he could go without his feet or hands touching the ground. Sometimes he made 20 feet.

Albert Ostman in 1977

Albert couldn't stop wondering what they wanted with him... Had he become their pet? Was he livestock?

He never once felt threatened, but still wondered how this ordeal was going to end. They surely must have known that he couldn't stay there indefinitely. Interestingly enough, the old man was coming closer and closer to Albert each day. He seemed very interested in Albert's can of snuff, and one morning after breakfast, the old man and the boy came over and sat down just ten feet away from Albert. He was making a pot of coffee, with shag and branches for kindling, and with a match, he ignited the labels from his cans to start the fire.

The coffee was brewed very strong and once it started boiling, it emitted a nice fog of aroma. Albert sat there eating his hard tack which was slathered heavily with butter and sipped his coffee. The old man and the boy continued to watch. Albert smacked his lips... Over dramatizing the effect of the taste of the food. He wanted his captors to really think that he was eating something delicious, and exaggerated this by rubbing his belly and smacking his lips. Albert actually enjoyed the curiosity of his captors.

He set his coffee down and pulled out his can of snuff. He took a small pinch - he only had two cans left - and before he could close the lid, the old man reached out for it. Not wanting to waste it, Albert held it out to him, allowing for him to take a pinch. Instead, the old man grabbed the entire can, and poured it into his mouth. Then, with his tongue, he licked the inside of the tin.

After a few minutes his eyes began to roll over in his head, he was looking straight up. I could see he was sick. Then he grabbed my coffee can that was quite cold by this time, he emptied that in his mouth, grounds and all. That did no good. He stuck his head between his legs and rolled forwards a few times away from me. Then he began to squeal like a stuck pig. I grabbed my rifle. I said to myself, "This is it. If he comes for me I will shoot him plumb between his eyes." But he started for the spring, he wanted water. I packed my sleeping bag in my pack sack with the few cans I had left. The young fellow ran over to his mother. Then she began to squeal. I started for the opening in the wall — and I just made it. The old lady was right behind me. I fired one shot at the rock over her head.

I guess she had never seen a rifle fired before. She turned and ran inside the wall. I injected another shell in the barrel of my rifle and started downhill, looking back over my shoulder every so often to see if they were coming. I was in a canyon, and good travelling and I made fast time. Must have made three miles in some world record time. I came to a turn in the canyon and I had the sun on my left, that meant I was going south, and the canyon turned west. I decided to climb the ridge ahead of me. I knew that I must have two mountain ridges between me and salt water and by climbing this ridge I would have a good view of this canyon, so I could see if the Sasquatch were coming after me. I had a light pack and was making good time up this hill. I stopped soon after to look back to where I came from, but nobody followed me. As I came over the ridge I could see Mt. Baker, then I knew I was going in the right direction.

I was hungry and tired. I opened my packsack to see what I had to eat. I decided to rest here for a while. I had a good view of the mountain side, and if the old man was coming I had the advantage because I was up above him. To get me he would have to come up a steep hill. And that might not be so easy after stopping a few 30-30 bullets. I had made up my mind this was my last chance, and this would be a fight to the finish ... I rested here for two hours. It was 3:00 p.m. when I started down the mountain side. It was nice going, not too steep and not too much underbrush.

When I got near the bottom, I shot a big blue grouse. She was sitting on a windfall, looking right at me, only a hundred feet away. I shot her neck right off.

I made it down the creek at the bottom of this canyon. I felt I was safe now. I made a fire between two big boulders, roasted the grouse. Next morning when I woke up, I was feeling terrible. My feet were sore from dirty socks. My legs were sore, my stomach was upset from that grouse that I ate the night before. I was not too sure I was going to make it up that mountain. I finally made the top, but it took me six hours to get there. It was cloudy, visibility about a mile.

I knew I had to go down hill. After about two hours I got down to the heavy timber and sat down to rest. I could hear a motor running hard at times, then stop. I listened to this for a while and decided the sound was from a gas donkey. Someone was logging in the neighborhood.

I told them I was a prospector and was lost ... I did not like to tell them I had been kidnapped by a Sasquatch, as if I had told them, they would probably have said, he is crazy too.

The following day I went down from this camp on Salmon Arm Branch of Sechelt Inlet. From there I got the Union Boat back to Vancouver. That was my last prospecting trip, and my only experience with what is known as Sasquatches.

(The italic portions are lifted from a conversation Albert had with author John Green. The story was later recounted in John Green's book, Sasquatch: The Apes Among Us.)



Anonymous said...

i had to re-read this, i don't get how he could have all that stuff with him, riffle, food etc, please explain!? i've never heard of putting that stuff inside a sleeping bag, but is that what they do? interesting story for sure!

Lance Taylor said...

Makes perfect sense to me. Here is a link to the full story so you can understand better why he slept with his rifle.