1893 (pre.): Theodore Roosevelt Reports a Monster

Teddy Roosevelt
"Teddy" Roosevelt, ca. 1885 [Larger image here]

Theodore Roosevelt [1858-1919] was a unique individual: physically capable, brave, and adventurous, while also intelligent, well learned, and well thought... little surprise he made a great president! Roosevelt not only had adventures, but he wrote about them, as well as about things he valued and believed; and he was a prolific writer.

        In 1893, eight years before he became president, Roosevelt published his book The Wilderness Hunter, which was both a 'how to' about hunting wildlife (and surviving encounters with it!) and a collection of anecdotes and tales he had picked up during his many years exploring the wilds of America... and therein lies a rather odd account that Roosevelt heard from a man identified only as Bauman.

        Bauman, Roosevelt tells us, was "a grisled, weather-beaten old mountain hunter," who lived his whole life on the wild frontiers of America. The event happened when Bauman was a much younger man, and clearly believed what he told Roosevelt to be true, though Roosevelt himself had some hesitations about which I'll discuss later.

        Bauman and his partner were trapping for furs in the Beaverhead Mountain Range separating the Salmon River from the Big Hole River (which was called the Wisdom River at the time Roosevelt wrote his book), by the border between the states of Idaho and Montana. The two men decided to try their luck in a rougher pass that had a stream said to be abundant in beavers... ignoring the fact that a year before a solitary hunter had been found dead there, apparently killed and half-eaten by a wild beast. The hunter's body had been discovered by some mining prospectors that had passed his camp the night before and were passing back by.

        The two men left their ponies in an open field at the base of the pass, and proceeded in on foot. After a few hours they found a little open glade with signs of plenty of game in the area; they set up camp, then headed upstream to explore a little before dusk. When they returned later to their campsite, they were surprised to find it in disarray... something large had visited, rummaged through their packs and scattered their things, and destroyed the lean-to shelter they had put together earlier. Bauman and his partner proceeded to clean it up, re-built the lean-to, then laid out their beds and built a fire... after which, while Bauman was making supper, his partner started to examine the tracks left by their visitor.

        These tracks interested Bauman's partner so much that he took a burning stick from the fire to light his way, and followed the trail some to look at it closer where they had not been cleaning up. The tracks followed a game trail that passed through their chosen campsite; when the stick burned out, Bauman's partner came back, took another burning stick, and returned to his examination... and then soon returned with an odd observation. He explained to Bauman that, whatever the animal had been, it had been walking on only two legs, not four.

        Bauman tried to laugh the suggestion off, but upon looking had to admit it did seem like that might be correct; still, it was late and dark, so they could be mistaken. Given that impression, after some thought they both agreed that the tracks did not look like those of a human being. The whole matter didn't alarm the two men as much as it could have, as they were used to surprises like this out in the wild, so they eventually just dropped the matter and lay down to sleep.

        Around midnight, Bauman was awakened by a noise. He sat up and, as he did so, smelled up a "strong, wild-beast odor," and saw what he took to be a large body at the opening to the lean-to the men were sleeping under... he grabbed his rifle and fired at the figure as fast as he could; the body took off, and Bauman could hear it crashing through the underbrush as it vanished back into the surrounding forest. Not surprisingly, the men soon re-kindled the fire and sat up the remainder of the night; nothing more was seen or heard.

        As they did their work the next day, the two men stayed close to one another. When they returned to their camp as evening approached, they were little surprised to find it disturbed again. Everything had been scattered, the lean-to torn down, and clear tracks had been left by the creature by the nearby brook that looked clearly as if they had been made by an animal walking on just two legs. Bauman and his partner gathered a "great heap of dead logs," and kept a big fire burning through the night, taking turns sitting on guard. Around midnight they could hear the thing moving in the forest across the brook from them, where they heard it on the hillside for around an hour. Several times it uttered a "harsh, grating, long-drawn moan..." but the animal did not come near the fire or into view.

        That was enough; by morning, Bauman and his partner were agreed they would be gone before nightfall. The area had failed to yield any game, so it was no loss to them... but they did need to gather up the traps they had set out before they could leave. They worked together gathering the traps, all of them empty, and had the disagreeable sensation of being watched as they did so. Occasionally they heard sounds nearby in the forest that seemed to indicate they were being followed.

        By noon the two men were back within a couple of miles of their camp. The sun was out and shining bright, and their fears had dissipated greatly... nonetheless, they were leaving that day. There were just three more traps to retrieve from a small pond nearby, and they decided that one would get the traps while the other finished packing up the remaining camp items... Bauman headed to the pond to get the traps.

        At the pond, the traps had actually caught three beavers; feeling better with this change of luck, Bauman took the time to skin the beavers and rescue one trap that had been partially pulled into a beaver lodge before heading back to camp. It had taken some hours to do all of that, and Bauman hadn't realized the sun was getting low... it was time to get their packs and go, so he hurried back to camp. As he came near the camp, he gave a call out to let his partner know he was back.

        There was no answer.

        The packs were wrapped and ready to go, sitting next to the fire which had only recently sputtered out. Bauman stepped into the camp and shouted again... and saw his partner lying next to a large fallen tree. Bauman immediately rushed to the man, but found him utterly dead... and still warm. There were "four great fang marks" in the partner's neck, which was broken.

        At a glance, the tracks of the beast showed that Bauman's partner had sat down on the log facing the fire; the creature had approached him from behind with long, and likely noiseless, steps. It then attacked from behind, either breaking the man's neck with its forepaws before biting him, or possible breaking his neck with the bite itself. The creature then danced and played on and around the body, rolling over it a few times, and then ran back into the woods. And all of this must have happened only a short time before Bauman discovered the still warm body.

        Bauman abandoned everything but his rifle and fled, until he reached their ponies in the meadows below; he mounted, and rode through the night, not stopping until he was very, very far away.

BIGFOOT!!!!

        Not surprisingly, the account above has been claimed as an early report of the mysterious hairy humanoid of the American northwest wilderness, commonly called either 'Bigfoot' after the large human-like prints that have been found, or 'Sasquatch,' a Native American title for the tall creatures. A little more unusual have been claims that the creature encountered is a 'Wendigo,' which is a legendary Native American monster that is created when a human is driven by desperation to cannibalism, and is doomed to eat nothing but human flesh for eternity as punishment.

        In regards to the Bigfoot claim, I'd like to point out that neither Bauman nor his partner felt the bipedal creature was human. Given they only had its tracks to judge by at that time, then the tracks likely didn't look human, big or otherwise... and Bigfoot got its title from the fact that the discovered prints associated with it look like they were made by very large human-like feet. In addition, reports of a violent Bigfoot are rare and, when one does attack, I have never heard of any claim of one biting. They throw things, grab things, and hit things... but I haven't seen any reports of a Bigfoot biting. As for the association with Wendigos, there is not enough evidence to say Wendigos exist/existed yet; besides, Wendigos would likely have human-like footprints if they did exist, as transformed people in the legends still remained humanoid in basic shape.

        Roosevelt himself thought that Bauman may have added to his story over time, turning an unusual attacking animal into a monster in his imagination. He noted that Bauman was of German ancestry, and supposed that he may have been raised with a large variety of the fairy and monster tales of the old world which could have colored his memories over the decades that had passed between the event and his telling Roosevelt the story.

        It would be nice, of course, to learn more about Bauman himself; but we don't have enough information to find out more, assuming there is more to discover... very few frontiersmen of the 19th Century were likely to be noted for anything other than service during the Civil War, and such notes would likely not add to what can be said of the reported events above. In 2014, however, a writer for the Week In Weird website tentatively proposed an identification of the Bauman that Roosevelt had talked to.

       Ken Summers, the author, had found records for a pioneer named Carl L. Bauman, who had been born in Germany in 1831 and moved to Montana in the 1860's. This Bauman died in 1909, still in Montana. Unfortunately, this is nowhere enough information to show a connection between the Bauman Roosevelt talked to and Carl L. Bauman...and it certainly offers nothing new to the account above. If we follow what Roosevelt himself said, it was implied that the Bauman he had talked to had been born in the United States even though of German ancestry, and lived on the American frontiers his whole life; which, if true, puts Carl out of the running as a possible identification.