Submitted on May 30, 2008
Young hunter has dawn encounter in Sam Houston National Forest near Stubblefield Campground. Read more...
While hunting on the Sam Houston National Forest, I encountered a weird ape-like animal that was like nothing else in the forest. I saw it a couple of times as it followed me and finally I saw it really good from about 10 to 15 yards away after I had tripped on a log. This thing was the size of a brown bear except that it was on two legs! It was huge and I remember it like it was yesterday.
It huffed and grunted.
10:00 am - It was very cold. It had sleeted and snowed the night before and the ground was covered with a thin layer of snow and ice. I had always wanted to hunt in the snow.
Michael C. Mayes and Dave Dion
This investigation was conducted as a result of an incident that allegedly occurred in Walker County, Texas, in the Sam Houston National Forest, 20 December 1983.
The witness is a camp host at one of the improved campgrounds located in the Sam Houston National Forest. He has hunted the SHNF regularly since 1966. NAWAC Associate Member Dave Dion met the witness while staying in his campground. While there, Dion decided to engage the host in conversation and asked him flatly, “Have you ever seen anything strange out here?” The witness replied quickly and without hesitation, “You mean one of those woods apes?” The pair went on to have a lively conversation in which the host related several odd events that he had experienced over his more than four decades of hunting the SHNF. Dion contacted me and we arranged a formal interview with the witness. The host related the same events to me that he had shared with Dion. The most intriguing account, and the only one which involved a visual, is related below.
The witness told me that he had always wanted to hunt in the snow. As a Texan, he had few opportunities to do so but on 20 December 1983 he finally got his chance. It was a very cold day. The night before had brought sleet and snow flurries which had created a very light dusting of white on the ground. The witness decided to hunt an area east of the Stubblefield Recreation Area. He had been walking for about 15 minutes on an old logging road when he heard something move off to his left. He turned to look and spotted an animal of some kind in the underbrush. The animal was reddish brown and seemed to be hunkered down as if trying not to be seen. The witness had his rifle slung on his shoulder and decided to glass the animal in the hopes of identifying it. He glanced down briefly to bring his rifle up to the high ready position; however, in the short interim during which he had taken his eyes off the subject it had disappeared.
The witness did not think too much of the incident and continued on his way. He had only walked 50 yards, or so, when he heard a large limb-snap to his left. He wheeled around to catch a glimpse of something upright approximately 90 yards away. The upright figure was partially obscured but the witness was able to get a fairly good look, as much of the underbrush was not green at the time. Again, the witness swung his rifle up in order to glass the subject. Unfortunately, the result was the same. The figure was gone and despite waiting and looking for several minutes the witness was unable to get another look at the figure. When asked to describe the upright figure, the witness said it was very big, very tall, and very wide. He said it was the same reddish brown color as the first subject he had seen. When asked if he thought it was the same subject the witness said he could not be sure but felt it was likely.
The witness was now mildly disturbed by these events but decided to continue to his hunting spot. He continued to ponder the events of the last half hour as he walked and decide he must have seen a black bear. He knew there were not supposed to be any black bears in East Texas anymore but he had heard stories from hunting buddies and acquaintances from time to time relating bear sightings in the region. The bear theory fit, he thought, as the first visual was of an animal down low to the ground and the second, assuming it was the same animal, was upright. “What other animal could stand up like that?” the witness wondered. Also, he knew that black bears could be reddish-cinnamon in color. Satisfied, and feeling a bit more relaxed after coming to this conclusion, he walked on.
The witness had trudged on another 100 yards, or so, when he encountered a large tree that had fallen across the logging road. While holding his weapon in the low-ready position (he had decided not to sling the weapon again), he went to step over the tree. His lead foot slipped on an icy spot and he fell hard on his backside. He said he cursed loudly and had begun gathering himself to get up when he heard something big approaching his position from his left.
The witness sat stunned as a huge, hair-covered, bipedal figure walked from the woods on his left directly toward his location. He watched the creature cover 20-25 yards very quickly and smoothly. The animal stopped just behind several small trees on the edge of the logging road. As the witness sat amazed, the animal pushed two trees apart and stepped into the gap. No farther than 10 yards away, the animal’s hands remained on the trees as it leered at the witness and huffed/grunted twice. The animal then stepped back, released the trees, which snapped back into place, turned and walked back toward the woods. The witness said it never looked back once it turned to leave. “It seemed very confident that I was no threat,” he said.
The witness described the animal as absolutely huge. He compared it to the overall size of a Kodiak brown bear “only upright.” He estimated the creature stood between seven and eight feet tall. The animal was covered in hair from head to toe. He could not recall seeing anything that might identify the creature a male or female such as breasts or genitalia. He did state that the animal did not appear to have a neck and the arms were very, very thick. The witness was struck by the sheer amount of air that the creature apparently exhaled as it huffed/grunted at him. He could see the vapor pour from the creature’s mouth due to the extremely cold temperatures that day so much so that it obscured the animal’s face for a couple of seconds before dissipating.
When asked if he could describe the subject’s face in more detail, the witness again noted how hairy it appeared. He said, “There was no skin showing like on a gorilla’s face—just hair.” He noted that the hair below the nose and around the mouth was white from ice that had formed due to the cold temperatures. “It looked kinda like some of those football players with beards get up in Green Bay and places like that,” he said. The witness then added that the eyes of the animal were huge. He struggled to come up with something comparable in size to which he could compare the eyes. I offered up the example of one of those old football-shaped coin purses that you would squeeze at the ends to open. He said he knew exactly what I was talking about and that the eyes were not quite that big but not too much smaller. He then added that the eyes were a “bright aqua-marine” color. When asked if he was sure about the color, he remained adamant that they were a very light bluish-green.
The witness did add one more detail that he noticed as the creature walked away. He said that the torso was long and the legs relatively short. He noted, “The torso to leg ratio (length) was opposite of what you see in most people.”
The description of the creature’s eyes being a light aqua-marine color is something unique that I have not come across before. I admit to being a bit troubled by this detail. I have considered the possibility that the witness observed some sort of reflected bluish eye-shine due to the snow and ice on the ground that day but do not find that possible explanation particularly satisfying. I have discussed the matter at length with NAWAC colleagues. None of them have ever heard a witness claim a wood ape had anything but dark eyes. Many opinions and possibilities were bandied about. Could the ape have had cataracts? Maybe the witness caught some sort of daylight eye-shine? My previously mentioned theory on the color having something to do with light reflecting off snow or ice was brought up as well. Perhaps the witness was colorblind or was wearing tinted glasses that distorted the eye color? Did the individual observed by the witness carry albinism—admittedly a rare phenomenon among higher-order primates—in its genetic composition due to close breeding?
In the end, my NAWAC colleagues and I were left scratching our heads.
Except in the rare case of albinism, it is true that none of the other great apes (gorillas, chimpanzees, orangutans and bonobos) have light colored eyes; however, other primates do, and Sclater’s Lemur (Eulemur flavifrons) serves as one such example. Homo sapiens also exhibit light colored eyes thanks to a mutation that occurred roughly 10,000 years ago. If such a mutation could occur in us then why could it not occur in another large primate species?
The witness is quite a colorful individual who was very open and straightforward in his recounting of the events of 20 December 1983. My NAWAC colleague Dave Dion was present for this interview and told me that there were no discrepancies between what the witness originally told him and the account the witness gave me. I did not detect any signs of deception on the part of the witness. In fact, I saw goose bumps rise up on his forearms as he recounted the events of 30 years ago. He remains rattled by the experience even now. Moreover, nothing the witness told Dion and me as far as the creature’s behavior gave us any pause. While an ape approaching a human so boldly is atypical based on my own personal experiences, it is not unprecedented, particularly when considered in the context of the collective experiences of NAWAC investigators during the course of the group's prolonged observational field studies in the Ouachita Mountains. In summary, Dion and I are convinced that the witness encountered a form of wildlife for which he has no explanation.
The NAWAC continues to collect and investigate reports of encounters, both contemporary and historical, with strange, bipedal ape-like creatures in Walker County and surrounding Big Thicket Counties. This part of Southeast Texas continues to make up the most prolific region in the four-state area for reports of encounters with creatures fitting the traditional description of the wood ape.
(Michael C. Mayes is an educator and host of the Texas Cryptid Hunter blogsite (www.texascryptidhunter.blogspot.com); Dave Dion is a former USAF SERE School Instructor and is now a commercial airlines flight attendant.)
Walker County is in the southeastern portion of Texas, where annual rainfall is between 40 and 55 inches, and where all of the state's national forests are located.
The witness was hiking along an old logging trail near the Stubblefield Recreational Area when he allegedly encountered a huge and very bold wood ape.
The witness lost his footing when he attempted to step over a down tree, much like this one, in icy conditions. The wood ape ostensibly approached him immediately after the fall as he sat on the ground.
The blue-eyed, black lemur—also known as Sclater’s lemur—is one of the few species of primate known to exhibit light-colored eyes.
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