Legends and Folklore
Virtually every community has its fable of spectral phantoms; according to local legend the Heriot Bay Inn on Quadra Island is home to one of the most active ghosts on the entire west coast.
The Inn was built in late 1894, in the sheltered cove of Drew Harbour on the east coast of Quadra Island. The protected waters of the harbour and easy access by boat insured that the Heriot Bay Inn would quickly become a popular hub for loggers, fisherman, prospectors and settlers who congregated from the entire central and North Island region.
At the turn of the century, law and order was thin on the northern reaches of the district, the population was largely transient, the land was largely crude and un-colonized, and life was harsh and unrelenting. Stories of outlaws and murder were not rare and the dispensing of justice was sluggish owing to the distances, elements and hardships in preserving solid evidence.
At that time, the Heriot Bay Inn was a principal drinking location for dozens of lonely men whose only respite from long stretches of hard work in isolation was to drink themselves silly, play a few games of cards or pool and carouse with the local women (if there happen to be any).
A Body Never Found
It was a typical Saturday night and the patrons of the pub weren't’t any drunker than they normally would have been. A bar room brawl broke out between an unknown logger and a few other better known but elusive transient fishermen; the skirmish was quickly dispensed out of doors to keep the damage to a minimum inside the pub.
There is no account of what happened after the fight was taken outside but it was rumored that the lone logger, who was never to be seen again perished that night, he never went back to his room and his body was never found. It was the buzz that his body was buried in a vacant lot close to the Inn.
Since then and on frequent intervals, the lone logger walks the corridors of the Inn, he is not particular as to how many people hear him and his activities are varied and reported to be somewhat noisy.
A prodigious number of people over the past 100 years have heard or seen this tall thin man, wearing old style rather worn out Standfield long johns with suspenders and logger type falling pants overtop ankle high top steel toed style boots.
The Bartenders Tale
“I had just come on shift in the pub and was cleaning up and preparing for the day when I looked up and saw a logger standing in front of the inside of the door to the pub. I turned and said to him, “Sorry fella; I am not ready but if you give me 15 minutes I should be able to get to you.” I turned around to face the mirror behind the bar ready to count the cash and I glanced at the mirror, there was nobody there. He couldn’t have left because the door was locked and he didn’t have time to walk across the room. I thought “Oh My God I’ve just spoke to a ghost.”
Three are Better than One
“It was a stormy night, the kind of south-eastern storm that can only happen on the east coast of Vancouver Island and rather spooky as storm ridden, dark nights in the middle of winter can be. There was no-one staying at the Inn which was OK because there were the three of us and we had a lot of maintenance work to do. It was coming onto evening when we heard a real ruckus upstairs and being that we knew no one was staying at the inn we thought the wind had broken a shutter loose so all three of us went upstairs.
What we found startled us a little. All the doors to every room were open, all the window shutters were secure, so we shut all the doors and went back downstairs to the dining room, thinking that that was a little odd. About a half an hour later we heard the banging again so once more all three of us went upstairs to find all the doors to all the rooms wide open again. It gives me shivers just to think about it; needless to say we did not stay in separate quarters that night”.
Accounts of the haunting of the Inn are as numerous as there are perspectives and even today people request the rooms over the pub in the hope that they too may have a close encounter with an old time logger whose whereabouts was never confirmed and whose bones have never been found.
The logger is not the only spectral being seen at the Heriot Bay Inn, there has been numerous sightings over the years of an older woman knitting, and although no-one seems to know why, it seems she is actually waiting for someone.
Located in the Strait of Georgia, just off the southern shores of Quadra Island, this small island is also a designated Provincial Park, often referred to as the Galapagos of the north this minute rock of an island (only 1 km in circumference) is a venerate bird sanctuary and a resting place for both Steller and California Sea Lions on their journey north, as well as a number of species of seals.
Once upon a time in the days before the arrival of the white man, the Cape Mudge First Nations people besieged, stricken and timorous, were the constant prey of the surrounding war-like tribes.
One day a starving stranger stumbled in upon them and was fed, clothed and befriended. The stranger revealed himself to be no less a personage than the messenger of the Great Spirit. In time he departed, in gratitude for the kindness the village had given him he bestowed riches and protection upon his benefactors, but he also warned them to remember well their past humility.
In time the tribes people flourished and became wealthy, with their new found wealth they also became indolent and forgetful.
At length the tribe were again attacked by the fierce Cowichan Indians and were only saved from certain destruction by the timely reappearance of their friend, the stranger.
Angrily; he berated them for their forgetfulness and as a constant reminder of his presence, he performed a great miracle. Turning a princess of the tribe into stone, he placed her where all could see, and there she stands today in the hazy distance of the Georgia Straight. She was bestowed the name of Mitlenatch, which means “calm waters”.
Many anthropologists describe native stories about Sasquatch as being part of superstition. First Nations tribes up and down the coast of the Pacific Northwest say they are living, breathing creatures and not mythical.
The northern tribes of Haida call it Gogit. The Kwakiutl call it Bukwas. It is said to look like a small gorilla that lives in the bush. In legend the creature was known to steal food, throw rocks and shriek at night. The most common sightings are along the coast where claims are plentiful.
Recognized in dozens of different cultures worldwide, assorted names indicate the same mysterious creature. Locally he is known as Sasquatch or Big Foot. Around the world, he is known as Almas in Mongolia, Amomongo in the Philippines, Barmanou in Afghanistan and Pakistan, Chuchunaa in Siberia, Fear Liath in Scotland, Mono Grande in South America, Orang Mawas in Malaysia, Orang Pendedk in Sumatra, Woodwose in medieval Europe, Yeren or Hubei in China, Yowie in Australia and the most famous of all, the Yeti of Tibet.
How do I know if I see one?
First Nations elders of Vancouver Island describe the mysterious creatures to be about two hundred and fifty kilograms in weight, with long brown to reddish hair, a rank smell, flat faces, human-like footprints, large eyes that are sometimes yellow and pronounced brow ridges. There seems to be a saggital crest in the males where the skull meets in the middle forming a pointed ridge, much like a male gorilla.
Solitary and elusive creatures, they holler out loud with their heads tilted back and hands pressed to their throats. Reportedly, they can never stand still and are constantly in motion. Throughout British Columbia and particularly, Vancouver Island, there have been sightings of possible Sasquatch dens, feces, shrieks, rock throwing and footprints. So far, footprints provide the bulk of physical evidence that Sasquatch actually does exist.
Plaster casts of extremely large bare feet ranging in size from 14 to 18 inches have been made from all over the world, with one famous cast of a footprint from Vancouver Island in 1988 that was 18 inches long.
People have seen the creatures on the lone stretch of highway between Port Alberni and Tofino. They have also been seen on Radar Hill and Long Beach on the west coast. They have been heard howling in Indian Bay and having been watched foraging for food at Shoen Lake. An elderly woman witnessed one of the creatures crossing the road in front of her car. The gigantic biped allegedly stopped in front of her car and looked straight at her before disappearing into the underbrush on the other side of the road.
One group of seasoned hikers reported watching a creature with binoculars for over half an hour foraging for food on a mountain slope across a valley in Shoen Lake. They said: “It could not possibly have been a bear, bears are uncomfortable on their hind legs and this one did not move on all fours.”
A timber cruiser on Texada Island said: “It came crashing through the bush, I did not get a clear sight of it but it was very tall and stank to high heaven. The dog was freaking out and it left quite a mess in its wake.”
The Nuu-chah-nulth people on the west coast tell a story where one Hupacasath ancestor went into the mountains and encountered a sasquatch. As the story is told, the man tried to hide from the beast by wrapping himself in a blanket. While wrapped in the blanket, the man was picked up by the great creature and twirled around before being set back down again.
It is known that sightings of Sasquatch, or cacuuqhsta as the Nuu-chah-nulth language call it, are not unheard of but are usually confined to the west side of the island.
True or not, the more I researched the possible sightings of Sasquatch the more I believed in their existence.
Quite obviously positioned on the rocky shores of the beach along the Rotary Sea-walk, two kilometres south of the downtown core of Campbell River, rests the “Big Rock”. This forty foot tall monolith is the proprietor of numerous local First Nations cultural legends in relation to its origin. The scientific explanation is that Big Rock is an erratic, which was embedded in an iceberg during the last ice age and was carried to its present location where it was deposited.
The Largest of All Grizzlies
The first fable purports that in ancient history scores of grizzly bears yearned to travel to Vancouver Island, in search of greener grass, but alas the waters were treacherous and the distance too great to swim. The Great Spirit decreed that if a grizzly could stride to the island in one leap without touching the water it would be granted permission to live there, but if the great bear lay a foot or hand in the water the great bear would turn to stone.
The bravest of all grizzlies was selected and without fear leaped across the channel, but alas the tide was to strong and he had miscalculated the distance and his back paw come to rest in a small tidal pool. Hence the largest of all grizzlies was transformed into the enormous boulder that is known as the Big Rock today.
The Mink and the Whale
The second legend is of “Mink and the Whale”. Mink was a young First Nations boy who was swallowed by a huge whale while on a fishing trip approaching Mitlenatch Island. In an effort to free himself, Mink managed to kill the whale which caused the whale to beach itself. In punishment for eating the small boy the Whale community transformed him into a huge boulder to remind all whales and humans for a millennium to practise respect for one another, the rock is now known as “Big Rock”.
The third legend is of Kumsno’otl, the transformer. Long ago, Kumsno’otl went to a place where a huge octopus-shaped monster lived in a lake and devoured the people who went near the water. Kumsno’otl noticed the suffering of the villagers and decided to destroy the monster. He cut the monster up and threw the monster’s stomach on the beach where it transformed into a big stone, otherwise known as “Big Rock”.
More than 20 years ago, while enjoying a couple of beers with a few old time logger friends, the conversation turned to the existence of fabled giant turtle rocks. This legend tugged at my curiosity for many years and being an intrepid explorer, I eventually embarked on a mission to search out the fabled giant turtle rocks.
I discovered very little at the archives of the local museum and the forest service. I spoke to several old timers who worked for road building companies long ago who were very helpful but in a general sense. Knowing that all fossils (including giant turtles) are found in Karst deposits, I checked out the Canadian Geological Survey to determine which veins of shale or Karst ran through possible sites.
Where did they come from?
There were three of us searching that cold, wet, autumn day on the south-eastern shores of Patterson Lake, a small but beautiful lake, about 35 kilometres west of Campbell River. We were employing a grid method to navigate the area looking for karsts or cave formations and possibly giant turtle rocks. In an effort to cover more ground we stayed within whistle shot of each other but just out of direct line of sight.
One of the people who had joined our intrepid group of explorers was a novice in the bush and just a little nervous. She began blowing her whistle and we reacted quickly. However, it was a few minutes before we arrived to help her.
As it turned out, we were not the only ones listening to her whistle. Slowly advancing across the lake, out of the mist was a hand-made ferry; made of logs and wood planking with a five horsepower mercury engine on the back. On this ferry, and covered in plastic, was a barn like structure that housed an ancient truck. The two dogs at the bow of the “boat” were very big and very friendly. The gentleman who ran the barge had lived by himself on a small island in the middle of the lake for fifty years, with his goats, dogs, horses and chickens. He was reacting to what he thought was a distress call and had come to the rescue.
After landing his barge on the banks close to our gathering spot, he explained to us that we were way off the area for finding the turtle rocks. His directions to us were to travel south east on the former logging road, proceed into the bush at the big gnarly fir tree with three peaks, (there are only a thousand gnarly fir trees in the area) turn left at the elk bedding grounds, circumnavigate the swampland that covered about fifteen acres, then a path would be revealed in a deactivated logging road, with a collapsed bridge over a gorge some fifteen meters deep. Follow that path for ten kilometres and you will see the turtle rocks on the left hand side of the excavated gravel pit.
The next attempt was a different story
The directions we received from the ferryman were accurate despite the fact that we were to “proceed into the bush at the big gnarly fir tree with three peaks”. We spooked approximately eighteen elk that had bedded down near the marsh. We used our ropes to secure ourselves while descending the slippery slopes of the collapsed bridge and by late afternoon, we were standing amongst hundreds of large turtle shaped formations that were scattered around the pit, protruding from the wall that had been excavated many years ago. Apparently the contractor had ceased the digging of the pit when he came across these anomalies.
They looked like giant turtles. They ranged in sizes from one to three meters in diameter. The pit was littered with thousands of fossilized rock shards of trilobites, seashells and other such creatures. Much of the area had grown over with alder trees and in a few more years much of what was there would be concealed with lichen and moss.
It was determined that the pit was over 150 million years old and similar to the rest of Vancouver Island, at that time, it was a part of the ocean floor. The turtle structures showed no signs of skeletal fossils but consistently displayed the markings of a shell on the upper side. Several of the structures were broken in half and there seemed to be nothing but solid rock inside. All the shapes were consistent with being turtles but had varying sizes.
A palaeontologist from the Courtenay Museum suggested that the next big discovery on Vancouver Island could well be from that pit should it continue to be excavated. It was also suggested that these structures were bubbles from heated Karsts rising up from super heated water millions of years ago. Although the position of the embedded structures that protruded from the cliff side were more saucer shaped than rounded like a bubble and when Karst or Shale is heated it turns to marble and there structures showed no marble like formations in the area at all.
No-one knows the truth, but it makes a good story.
Although it is quite common to pick up stories concerning UFO sightings on the north end of Vancouver Island, the subject is much like other unproven phenomena in the world of the unexplained.
Historically, governments have disregarded unidentified flying objects as hoaxes and conjecture. However, in this new age of cameras, cell phones and palm pads that are as common as wallets in every pocket, escalating quantities of hard evidence is being amassed for the case of extraterrestrial visitation.
UFO hotspots exist in specific parts of the world and Vancouver Island is one of them. More often than not, the evidence of sightings is unclear but on October 8, 1981 at 11:00 o’clock on a bright, sunny morning just north of Campbell River this changed. Mrs. Hannah McRoberts, with her husband and young daughter paused to take a break on the side of the road. They noticed that a cloud passing over the top of a mountain peak created the impression of an erupting volcano and they took a picture.
A picture is worth a thousand words
When the photograph was developed, they noticed that there was a discoid object in the sky just beside the mountain that they did not see when taking the picture. The mark on the photograph was not a scratch or defect in the film and a close scrutiny of the shot showed a distinct disc like object to the right of and above the peak and the plume of cloud.
The photograph was submitted for inspection to the staff of the McMillan Planetarium in Vancouver, BC and to APRO in Tucson, Arizona. Both groups are respected UFO investigators. The consensus was that the 35 mm photograph was a “legitimate classical type UFO photo”.
This single photograph consigned Vancouver Island and the lower mainland of British Columbia onto the radar for UFO sightings and many people who in the past would be quiet began to report having seen them. People were no longer considered pariahs for having seen a UFO or professed to have had contact with one; probably due to media hype and extraterrestrial television shows.
Keep your eyes to the sky!
You may be the person taking the next picture that proves that visitors from other planets exist.