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LOCATION DETAILS: Approximately 15 miles west of Gypsumville, just southeast of Basket Lake.
NEAREST TOWN: Gypsumville
NEAREST ROAD: #328
OBSERVED: This report is submitted by BFRO member, Curt Nelson, and is based on two visits to and many phone conversations with the witness. The body of the report can be seen below.
OTHER WITNESSES: No
TIME AND CONDITIONS: Mid day
Patchy snow on the ground
ENVIRONMENT: Thick bush
Follow-up investigation report:
At the beginning of May of 2003 I took a trip into Manitoba to stay with a man with whom I’d been in telephone contact on and off for about a year. He was interested in sasquatch. Sasquatch in Manitoba, Canada, that province above western Minnesota and eastern North Dakota, which stretches north along Hudson Bay where polar bears make their living. It’s hundreds of miles of bush laced through with lakes – including the giants: Lakes Winnipeg, Manitoba, and Winnipegosis. In the winter it’s no place to be without a good plan, for keeping warm and fed and out of trouble, and the means to carry it out. Manitoba’s position in the upper middle of the North American land mass is too far from any reasonably warm winter grounds to imagine it as anything but the year-round home for animals found there, including sasquatch.
The man, “Peter,” had become interested in sasquatch because he told me he knew for certain they are real, and that they live there in Manitoba. He knew this for sure, he said, because he had a chance to look at one up close, after he’d shot and killed it: he flipped its hand over with the toe of his boot to have a look at its palm. It was very large and there were five fingers – one a thumb, like a man’s hand, he said.
The following account of the event came mainly from two visits I had with Peter: first in early May of 2003 when I stayed with him for three days, and in September of that year when he put me up again for two days. We also talked about the shooting incident several times by phone, before and since my visits. The word-for-word questions and Peter’s answers presented here were mostly from the May visit; we sat together in his home where he lives alone now. I taped our conversation. The reader will note a leading tendency in my questions. The prior discussions, I believe, are the cause of this.
It happened the first week of November, 1941, 62 years ago, when Peter was 17 years old. He’d gone hunting for moose with two friends around Basket Lake, a small lake about 15 miles west of Gypsumville, the town near where Peter grew up and has always lived. The two friends hunted the east side of Basket Lake; Peter wanted to go to the west side, which he knew was good for moose and elk. There was patchy snow on the ground and Peter found ambling moose tracks criss-crossing the area, indicating feeding animals.
The spotty snow made tracking difficult but he moved ahead: “…Sure enough, I did see one in the willows feeding with its head down, and it was a cow moose – no calf, I didn’t see a calf, and no horns, so I knew it was a cow. At that time the bulls still have their horns. But, in 1941 yet before the major fires, there were bush and willows so thick that you couldn’t believe it. So you had to shoot through willows, there’s not… you didn’t always have an open shot, so… take a chance. So I did shoot, because I knew… take one or two steps and… [It would be gone].”
Q: Where did you shoot, where did you try to hit her?
P: In the chest.
Q: Was she broadside to you?
P: Pretty well, but not fully broadside… and I did shoot, fired a shot… and I walked slowly and, yes, there was a little bit of blood on the right side, you know, as it’s running, you could see where it sprinkled a little. It didn’t look good; I could see I didn’t hit it properly. The bullet deviated from the brush. But I had no choice, then, and the blood made it a little easier to track it. There was blood here and there; you could tell you were on the right track. So I tracked her slowly, I’d say for a half hour, but very slowly.
And… I looked in the willows… again, and I could see all this hair, so I thought to myself ‘Well, I’ll slow you up,’ and I took a good aim and I fired. It disappeared… looked like I got it, so I walked up to it slowly… It wasn’t far, 45 yards, only – ‘cause that’s about as far as you could see in that stuff – if it was that far. But I took my time, because when you approach a big game animal you have to approach carefully. You carry your gun across your chest with your hand on the breach, ready to fire. If it wants to jump you, you have one good shot, point blank. Don’t raise the gun to your shoulder, just turn it and pull the trigger. That’s the last chance you got. Because a big game animal, he gets you, you’ve had it.
So I looked, I could see him… what the hell is this? Holy buckets! He’s lying there and one foot was up, you know… So I nudged him in the foot and slowly walked on this side, still hanging onto my rifle like I was supposed to, and I picked the hand up with my right foot, to see the bottom. And I walked around and I could see where I hit him, in the back, high in the back, between the shoulder blades, right in the back. It must have been bent over… because – to look at the moose track and the blood or something like that – I didn’t see a head.
I interrupted here, and to find out just how the thing was lying, I lay down on Peter’s kitchen floor and, according to his instructions, adjusted myself to match the creature’s position: I was on my right side with my right arm and hand pinned under my body. My left arm lay along my side and bent at the elbow so the hand was palm down on the ground in front of my belly. My face was pointed mostly at the ground but the left side showed fairly well. And my legs lay with the left foot’s sole showing (the foot was caught and held that way by brush, he said).
Peter explained that when he shot the animal he thought he was looking at the rear end of his moose (Peter's view of the animal: http://www.patbarker-art.com/1lores.html) and that, given that shot, he tried to put the bullet just above where the anus should be. He said it’s the only shot in that situation; the bullet travels above the gut just under the spine on up into the chest cavity where you want it. The creature had stood with its back to him; apparently it had been looking down (at the wounded moose’s trail?) because he didn’t see its head. And the big shoulders and back… he thought he was looking at the moose’s rump. His bullet, meant to enter and travel just below a moose’s back bone, had hit the animal between the shoulder blades, killing it on the spot. And this 1941-vintage 17-year-old who never heard of anything like a sasquatch looked upon the creature he had slain and wondered, and worried, and then became frightened. And he got out of there.
Q: What did you do then, did you literally run out of the woods?
P: No, I walked very fast… with three foot strides, I can tell you.
Q: What kind of gun were you using?
P: 38-55 Winchester.
Q: Oh, do you still have that gun?
P: No… in fact the RCMP man bought it for repairs because the barrel was wore out.
Q: An elk is real hard to turn over once it’s dead – to turn it over to skin it. It’s a lot of work. What about this creature, how big was it? Could you have turned it over?
P: Well, there’s a knack, like you say, about turning an animal over… It depends on how the brush is, but… I always carried a piece of stiff cord, good cord, where you could tie the leg up to a willow or a tree, one leg… and you could roll him over like nothing. In a half an hour I’ll dress a moose for you - not skin him, but ahh, gut him.
Q: So how big was this creature?
P: He was very… between… I would say… like, I’m a straight six feet, and he’d have been a foot and a half to two feet taller than I was – you know, just estimating.
Q: How about heaviness, I mean, could you have turned him over?
P: I didn’t try it – oh yeah, I could have turned him over but I’d have had to cut some willows to do that… See it’s very hard to estimate the weight when he’s covered with hair. I walked around him and thought, ‘Holy God, what the heck am I gonna do now? If there’s anymore of these things around I don’t want to be here.’ And I just got the heck out of there so fast you wouldn’t believe it. I don’t think I spent more than, maybe, eight minutes with him.
Q: You’ve seen a picture of the Patterson creature; do you think it looked about like that?
P: Very much so… well, I can describe his body. He has a big round chest. Huge! He’s got a big chest – really big.
Q: And there’s no skin showing?
P: No, I didn’t see any bare skin except a little on his face, on the side.
Q: What about the palms of his hands?
P: They were bare.
Q: And the bottoms of his feet?
P: Yeah [they were bare]… but they weren’t white… well, let’s see… he’s not a very hygienic creature, you know, he doesn’t wash or anything, so his skin is dirty and a little brown, but white like my dirty hands. Not only a little dirty… and heavy fingers, and big palms, and… opposed thumb. And a big palm, like… when I close my hand like this and cover my face…
Q: Really, so his palm was proportionately bigger than a human’s palm? That’s what you’re saying?
P: Yeah, it’s longer and deeper like it’s a big palm.
Q: What about the foot, does it match the footprints people have been casting?
P: Absolutely. The foot had five toes… on it, and the foot looks very flat foot, like, I have a high arch, you know, and his is completely very flat. And the foot… well I’m pretty good at estimating the lengths of different things – or at least I was – because when you’re a carpenter you get used to that. And I’d say his foot was around fifteen inches, fifteen and a half.
Q: So, did his coat look warm, his fur coat, was there a thick, dense, good undercoat?
P: Most animals have a underfur… and I didn’t notice that on that animal… that he had short fur underneath – of course I wasn’t… didn’t touch him and didn’t look at that.
Q: Witnesses always say, whenever they talk about it they say, ‘it was covered in hair,’ and I think, well you’d never describe a bear as being covered in hair, you’d never say that. You’d say it had fur. So why do people always describe bigfoot as being covered with hair?
P: Because it looks like hair.
Q: Well, that’s what I’m trying to get at… is why people say that, because it’s an animal, it’s covered in… fur, and yet for some reason, I don’t know, because it’s shaped like a man or something, they describe it as hair. And, you know, one of the characteristics of fur that makes it fur is that undercoat, that makes it dense. And if it didn’t have that undercoat you maybe would refer to it as just hair.
P: Well… it looks like hair, not like fur.
Q: I think that’s curious, that a northern animal like that, that has to survive here wouldn’t have a coat that was essentially like a bear’s, you know, with a good undercoat… that’s good and thick.
P: Well… you know what? You’re talking about a humanoid animal… But, all I can say, it looks like hair… not fur. You know, like a man lets his hair grow straggly and… you know, long… well that’s what it looks like, a hair. That’s why I say it’s hair, because it looks like hair.
Q: I think you told me before that the hair was about eight inches. Is that right? Maybe you can just tell me something about the general appearance of the fur – or hair, as you describe it.
P: I would say it wasn’t that long all over. But the hair hangin’ from his head, you know, and down his shoulders… and down his arms were quite long. You know when he was laying, like, sideways, well the hair from his head kind of covered the side of his face right down to his shoulders, you know.
Q: So how long would you say that that longer hair was?
P: Well, I would say it has to be six to eight inches long. I didn’t measure nothing… but it looked fairly long. You couldn’t see an ear of any kind, you know, but I still could see part of his face on one side.
Q: And then describe the hair on the rest of the body, was it uniform in length?
P: Well, no, not really. It seemed to be kinda long on the arms, you know? It was hair down the top of his hands, you know, and partly down his fingers, but shorter, you know, half inch to one inch, I would say roughly, but not right to the very tips, you know… But the top of the hand was covered… But… it was fairly long hair down the arm, too, you know, four, five, six inches, you know.
Q: Do you think it was also four, five, six inches along the legs and the torso of the animal?
P: Yeah, down the legs, too, you know, it was fairly long, about five to six inches, and it was… I noticed on the, the one leg that was up a little, you know, well, it was right down low, you know, to the bottom of his foot, the hair.
Q: And the color, the color of the hair… I think you told me was, ah, was reddish, didn’t you?
P: No, it was a dark brown.
Q: Dark brown. Okay.
P: Yeah, a dirty dark brown, I can’t say, but a dark brown, and it seemed to be a little… had some… the tops… well, I can’t remember exactly where… ah, had a, like a reddish overtone, you know?
Q: Oh yeah, okay. I understand.
P: Top of the hair in places, not all over, but in areas, you know, it was... looked to me it was kinda reddish.
Q: I need you to comment, again, about your thinking in not telling anybody about it. I mean that’s a very important point, and it’s an obvious question that everybody has.
P: Well, for one, I was very shocked… to see this thing. And, it was during the war years – World War II – and the thing was, people can be very funny, if you talk about something that’s out of line… right away you’re crazy, you’re not all there, you know. And I did a lot of thinking – myself, I could not place an animal in my brain, like that. Was it half human, half ape, or something like that?... The thing is, just a year or two ago people were calling me stupid in believing in such a thing… ‘you’re crazy to believe in those things’… Today! Never mind sixty years ago.
Here Peter told me how for a while he’d worked aboard an aircraft outfitted with skis, and traveled all over northern Manitoba where he talked with a lot of aboriginal people. From them he heard stories about something they saw, something that sounded like what he’d shot (“…and from their stories… they were seeing this thing, too, what I shot, I could make out…”).
Q: Okay, go back, though, to immediately after the killing occurred. Were you, ah, somewhat afraid of being prosecuted for killing something like that, or was it mostly a matter of, um, being thought crazy for?…
P: Not only that…
Q: But of course, Peter, also you have to… anyone would say that anybody that would have called you crazy… you could have brought them to the animal and proved that you really did it, that you weren’t crazy. So I need you to discuss why you didn’t do that.
P: Well, in the first place, I was with two older people. They were hunting going in a different – in the opposite direction. And it was not easy to do at that time, (Peter means it would not have been easy to show his hunting partners – or anyone – the animal since it was far from where the other two had gone, in a very remote spot). But, for one, I was hunting illegally. Do you know what I’m talkin’ about?
Q: No. In what way were you hunting illegally?
P: Well I had no license to hunt for moose.
Q: Oh, uh-huh.
P: I had no license… I may have had, I don’t remember, a deer license. But I didn’t… wasn’t fussy about shooting deer because they’re a small animal and you don’t get very much meat for a day’s work. You know what I mean?
Q: Sure, yes.
P: So I go… as long as I could get in the bush – well there was days I’d get two-three. Well, for a large family (Peter had 10 brothers and sisters) it was enough to supply meat for the winter... But I was strictly hunting illegally.
Q: So you didn’t want to reveal that fact by…
P: No, that fact alone. But, another thing, you hear these weird stories, especially in old days, about these guys living in hermits in the bush and… all that stuff. So you don’t really know what to think.
Q: So you thought, in some corner of your mind, you considered the possibility that it was one of these… one of these hermit-type people and you might have killed a…
P: It was a, a cross or something, one of these hermit people, people used to talk about. I didn’t want to be charged with shooting a hermit, or something human.
Q: So you thought that it was a possibility that it was something like that and that you could be in legal trouble for revealing it, is that right?
P: That’s right. See, because, at those days nobody talked about a Sasquatch or… or a, a Bigfoot.
Q: So when you walked up on that animal and you were looking it over and stuff, did you determine where its tracks came from, whether it had been tracking your moose?
P: No. It would be hard to see tracks, because there were small amounts of snow – hay and everything… and I didn’t look. I was too scared.
Q: And so… it was done breathing, it was not alive?
P: Oh no, it took me…
Q: Do you think you shot it through the heart?
P: Well, the bullet didn’t enter the body at a ninety degree angle… He had to be bent over because when you hit a animal on a angle it will shear part of the fur before it will enter. And that’s what it looked like to me, of course it was so much hair it was so much harder to tell.
During a recent phone call Peter said: “The bullet had to go through the spine, because it was dead center in the back. And when a bullet hits bone like that it expands and it would have gone into the chest and done tremendous damage.” The creature was “stone dead,” lying crumpled where it had been standing when he fired.
(How the creature looked: http://www.patbarker-art.com/2lores.html)
Q: Can you still go back in your mind and remember that scene in your mind’s eye; is that memory still vivid for you?
P: Oh… certain things in your memory – it coulda happened yesterday. You don’t forget things like that. The most shocking part about it is the sheer size of the animal.
P: Yes. It’s just unbelievable because anything that big should have been seen and reported and in books and everything. You think you’re on a different planet or something.
Q: Was it a male, do you know?
P: Yes, it would be a male, because I’d have seen the breasts.
Q: Did you see genitals?
P: No, because the way he was laying on the side, kind of folded up.
(Front view of creature: http://www.patbarker-art.com/3lores.html)
Q: So tell me a little bit more about the appearance of it, you said it had a real big chest, barrel chest…
P: Big barrel chest. A human body, like yours, the chest, you know, well it’s flat in front to back. But theirs is big, round, barrel chest…
Peter was just shy of his 79th birthday (he’s just 80 at this writing) when I visited him. The next two days he took me around to show me places where others have had bigfoot (or windigo, as some of the natives call it) sightings. Two of the witnesses were women, residents of the Fairford Reserve, who had had recent sightings – one just two days prior to my arrival and the other about three weeks before that.
In the late sixties/early seventies, after the Patterson-Gimlin film brought bigfoot into the public consciousness – and into Peter’s consciousness – he realized what the animal was that he had shot. When he saw the hair covered creature in that film he immediately knew that what he killed in 1941 was the same kind of animal. It was not some strange hybrid person, a thought that had occurred to him as he looked, puzzled, worried, and then frightened over the huge man-like creature his bullet had cut down. No, it was the same kind of animal as the one in the film taken by Roger Patterson in northern California. That’s what it was! A bigfoot.
After Peter’s life loosened up some, when the children had gone and he’d cut back on his work and had a little time, his interest in sasquatch developed. He talked freely about the 1941 incident around his community. Others offered their own stories of sightings of such a creature or its tracks.
I’d asked Peter if that early life incident, the killing of such a thing, as frightening and upsetting as that must have been, had troubled him during his subsequent life before he’d come to realize what it was. No, he said. He got married, they had eight children, he worked hard as a farmer, carpenter, and commercial fisherman on Lake Winnipeg; he just didn’t have time to worry, he explained. So for about 30 years Peter lived his life and told no one about the 1941 killing. But he didn’t forget. And when he saw the Patterson-Gimlin film and knew what a bigfoot, a sasquatch – a windigo – was, he knew they were not just in the Pacific Northwest; they were there in the Manitoba bush, too.
We’ve gone over it many times and I’m convinced Peter did what he said he did: he shot a good-sized male sasquatch to death in 1941 when he was just 17. There has been no hint of untruthfulness or indication that he was or is not thinking clearly about that event. If anything, Peter has been understated and overcautious in his statements to me about that day. At first I had a hard time getting him to tell me about it. Instead he has wanted to talk about recent sightings. He just wasn’t interested in it anymore; it’s old news to him. And he has told a lot of people about it (local people, mostly), and the response he’s gotten from them has been pretty negative; he’s been called stupid, crazy, and a liar. That is how it goes for people like Peter who have had a close encounter with a sasquatch – and talked about it. It’s punishing.
Beyond that Peter has the attitude that since he can’t prove it happened, his story isn’t really worth telling, that it’s just another unsupportable claim. (Undoubtedly he has come to that conclusion over the years – because he has talked about it, told the story, and instead of being believed he has gotten grief for it.) So Peter doesn’t care whether or not his story is told because he doesn’t think it matters. What matters to him now are the current sightings, the ones that could yield evidence to prove sasquatches are there, have always been there, in the Manitoba bush.
And recently, when I commented to him on what a remarkable experience it was, how fortunate, (obviously apart from the fact that it involved the killing of such a creature), he was to have seen a sasquatch close up… he said, not really, that it wasn’t a situation where he could appreciate it, and that he was scared. He wishes he’d seen it alive and moving, like the William Roe sighting, he said. But in the more than sixty years since, with all the hunting and time in the bush he’s spent, he hasn’t seen another one. He has seen a track, one good track, however.
That was in association with a 1979 sighting in which several other people saw the creature when it moved through the area. It was near where Peter lived and he got onto it and was able to track the animal’s movements through a strip of bush and out into a hay field where it stepped on an ant mound and left a good impression of the front part of its foot, toes and all (he didn’t cast or photograph it). He tracked the creature to a stack of big, circular hay bales – the rolled type, which weigh about 1000 pounds. Peter surmised that the creature had rested there inside the stack of bales: two bales had been pushed apart and one showed a clear compressed area, as if an enormous back had leaned into it.
The only explanation I have for what Peter says happened is that it did happen. At one point during a conversation about “the sasquatch problem,” when we were particularly struggling with its difficulty, I blurted in exasperation, “Did that really happen?”
Peter replied emphatically, “Yes, it really did.”
I pushed further; “Was there any possibility at all that it was a bear… a man?”
“No.” He was certain it was some other kind of animal, the same kind as what’s on the Patterson-Gimlin film, “a bigfoot,” he said.
In Canada during the period from WWI through WWII there was, and still lingers today, an open prejudice against immigrants from the Ukraine, Germany, and Austria. Under the 1914 War Measures Act Ukrainian Canadians were held in internment camps (1914 – 1920) as "enemy aliens,” as the United States government held people of Japanese descent during WWII. The First World War prompted racist attitudes against Germans and Austrians by some Canadians who saw the war as a defense of Anglo-Saxon “civilization” against German and Austrian aggression and militarism. And Peter’s father was an Austrian immigrant. Therefore Peter’s family fell under this prevailing negative gaze.
He described to me what it was like: You didn’t draw attention to yourself. “As long as you plowed and picked stones and kept your mouth shut, you were okay,” he said. And with regard to his shooting the creature: “You couldn’t talk about it. It was so out of place that… you couldn’t talk about it.” Implicit in Peter’s explanations on staying quiet: You did not announce that you had just shot to death a… man-like thing – not at that time when no one had heard of bigfoot (save the aboriginal population with their windigos, among other things). No, not when you’d been hunting moose without a license, and you were 17 years old. And certainly not when your father was Austrian.
And the other obvious question – Did I go to the spot where Peter shot the creature? – can be answered with a qualified yes. The first time I visited him, Peter told me that the country had changed a lot since that day. There had been big fires, and beavers had been re-introduced after a massive die off (contained in wooden boxes, they were dropped into lakes from helicopters, which they just chewed their way through, Peter explained). Years without their tree cutting and damming left the landscape and vegetation quite different from how it is now, with beavers. And the Interlake area is very flat; one acre looks much like the others. There were simply no landmarks for Peter to mark the spot by.
Of course I wanted to go “there” anyway, and asked Peter about it. “I don’t want to go into the bush anymore,” was his reply. He meant he’d had enough of the bush, that he was feeling too old for it. He said he thought it would be easier to find a new bigfoot than to locate his from 1941. That might have been so; it was really a matter of symbolism for me to go there, at least approximately (maybe exactly), where the thing had fallen – for the feeling of being in such a significant place.
When I visited him again that fall (when he was a few months older), I persuaded him to take me. And we did go… as far down the trail as his four-wheel-drive pick-up could make it, and on foot from there... deep into crazy-thick willows, aspen, black spruce, and cane near the lake: bush the type of which Peter had had his fill. We worked our way to the south-west “shore” of Basket Lake, (a low-water, tall-cane morass, frightening for its clear potential to hopelessly swallow any person who might go a little too far into it – and to imagine it on fire), then southwest a good half mile – about a half mile, give or take in most directions, Peter thought, from the spot. It was the best he could place us.
This is about the area, he said. And of course I looked at the ground, walked ahead and looked some more… for the skull, the foot bones, the jaw – all of it – any of it. No. I didn’t really expect to find anything, for the bones to even still be there. And I saw that if any of it did still exist that it would be impossible to find… under the forest duff, where ever it was within that square mile or so (or maybe not, maybe further this or that way) of monstrously thick bush. And, yes, I did feel a little bit bad pushing Peter into that, into making him take me there. I fixed him a fabulous roast beef dinner that evening, and he loved it.
Actually we had a terrific time together. One night we stayed up until 1:00 AM talking about bigfoot. Peter is a wonderful old guy: generous, intelligent, and well informed – the kind of person who in different circumstances might have gone far. But Peter has had a successful life by any measure. To feed his family he always grew a big garden (and still does), and for meat they had moose, deer, elk, and woodland caribou, which he provided with his gun. Now Peter is working on getting another 100,000 miles out of his 200,000 mile Chevy truck. I’m betting they’ll both make it.
Thanks to Michelle Baril, who lives not too far from Peter and introduced me to him. Michelle is a dedicated collector of Manitoba bigfoot sighting stories and continues to help me by generously sharing all that she has learned.
And thanks to Pat Barker, the Canadian artist who made the painting of the creature Peter shot, which are included in this report. Pat traveled a long way with her husband to visit Peter at his home, where they spent the day while Pat made sketches with Peter’s feedback to try and produce an accurate picture of the slain creature. Pat and I compared notes and discussed our impressions of the scene, and both Pat and I had follow-up phone conversations with Peter about things we wanted to understand correctly. I must say that Pat extracted many details about the creature’s appearance that I did not. Those are conveyed by the exquisite paintings she made in which she endeavored to accurately depict all she gathered.
Thanks to K.C. Charnes for introducing me to Pat Barker and for his help in preparing her painting images for display.
And finally, thanks to Peter; my friend. Thanks for telling your story, for enduring all the scornful treatment it has caused you, and for keeping your enthusiasm for this mysterious creature despite it.
The included photograph is of Peter showing me construction detail on a shed built by his father.