Teddy Roosevelt vs. Bigfoot
Did America’s most outdoors-y President have a close encounter with a Sasquatch?
With Halloween approaching, there’s no better time to explore how one of our most famous presidents might have drifted into the orbit of one of our most famous (mythical?) beasts.
Theodore Roosevelt (1858–1919), who emerged on the American landscape as a symbol of exuberant —some might say manic —masculinity before tumbling into the Presidency as a consequence of his predecessor’s assassination, was an active outdoorsman for nearly his entire life. He not only loved hiking, camping, and shooting big animals with high-powered firearms —he loved writing about those experiences. His books included The Wilderness Hunter, Hunting Trips of a Ranchman, and Ranch Life and the Hunting Trail.
In The Wilderness Hunter, Roosevelt describes a peculiar incident with a Native American guide while hunting in the Selkirk Mountain range (which extends through Idaho into eastern Washington):
Ammal objected strongly to leaving the neighborhood of the lake. He went the first day’s journey willingly enough, but after that it was increasingly difficult to get him along, and he gradually grew sulky… finally he gave us to understand that he was afraid because up in the high mountains there were ‘little bad indians’ who would kill him if they caught him alone, especially at night. At first we thought he was speaking of stray warriors of the Blackfeet tribe; but it turned out that he was not thinking of human beings at all, but of hobgoblins.
Indeed the night sounds of these great stretches of mountain woodland were very weird and strange… I never before so well understood why the people who live in lonely forest regions are prone to believe in elves, wood spirits, and other beings of an unseen world.
Something was lurking out there… but what? It’s easy enough to chalk up those odd “night sounds” to conventional animal cries, distorted by distances and mountains. But Roosevelt was also an experienced outdoorsman; something clearly spooked him, to the point where he keeps this reminisce relatively short (in contrast to some of his other tales, which go on… and on… and on).