For centuries, indigenous storytellers across the western half of North America have told tales of wild giants who live solitary lives in the forests and mountains. The Hupa Indians of northwestern California called these creatures ‘Omah’. The Coast Salish of southwestern British Columbia knew them as ‘Sasquatch’. In Alaska, they are often referred to as ‘Hairy Men’.
Sighting Near Manokotak
Once a taboo topic which Northerners rarely discussed with outsiders, Alaska’s Hairy Man became the subject of numerous newspaper articles in late 1992 and early 1993 following a spate of alleged wildman sightings across America’s so-called ‘Last Frontier’. One such report appeared in the November 17th, 1992 issue of Anchorage, Alaska’s Daily News, in an article written by J. & L. Nicholson.
While flying from the village of Togiak, in southwestern Alaska, to the easterly community of Manokotak, passengers of a MarkAir Express flight spotted something large, hairy, and bipedal walking into a ravine. The passengers informed pilot Randy Quinto of their sighting, prompting him to circle around to get a better look. The exercise was futile; before he had time to complete the loop, the creature had vanished into the trees.
“I was always on the wrong side of the plane,” Quinto said. “I’d venture to say there was something there, but what it was, I don’t know.”
News of the aerial sighting spread quickly throughout Manokotak. In the interest of public safety, a local official, accompanied by Air taxi dispatcher Nicholai “Gwim” Alakayak and his son, flew in search of the creature several days later. Although they were unable to locate the creature itself, they did find 16-inch-long humanlike tracks in a frosty ravine about fifteen miles from the village.
When asked to comment on the story, Fish and Game biologist Larry Van Daele stated that the sighting was typical of alleged Hairy Man encounters, which were fairly common in that corner of Alaska. “It’s taller than a normal human being and covered with dark hair,” he said of Alaska’s elusive wildman. “It’s said to possess great speed and jumping ability… I’m not going to deny it exists. We know there’s a lot of country out there and lots of brush to hide in.”
Dana Jacallen’s Sighting
After the Manokotak sighting was printed in the press, newspapers across the state requested that their readers send in their own Hairy Man stories for publication. One respondent was 40-year-old Dana Jacallen of Kodiak, Alaska, a city located on the eastern shores of the eponymous Kodiak Island at the southern end of the state. One cold morning in 1979, while hunting deer with a friend on Etolin Island on the Alaskan Panhandle, Jacallen came face to face with Alaska’s Bigfoot.
Jacallen and his hunting partner knew that deer often frequented a certain meadow which sat at an elevation of 700 feet. By the time they reached that particular part of the island, the sun was beginning to dip below the horizon. Jacallen was for camping near the meadow itself, while his partner, afraid that something might befall their boat in their absence, decided to spend the night on deck. And so Jacallen set out for the meadow alone in the twilight, his partner agreeing to meet up with him in the morning.
The hunter reached the base of the hill leading up to the meadow without incident, found a suitable camping spot, and crawled into his sleeping bag. The last thing he saw before drifting off to sleep was the mast light of the boat bobbing with the tide.
“Around one o’clock,” Jacallen wrote, “my sleeping bag was jerked out from under me- instantly, like the magician does with the table cloth and the glass. I awoke the moment it happened, curled into a fetal position and freezing my fanny. I laid there for a few seconds trying to figure out what had happened. I figured something had either happened to the boat or my pal had somehow spotted a trove of fat deer.
“I sat up and pulled on my boots, looking for my mate to explain what was going on. I was still not fully awake, but for fear of scaring the deer, I refrained from calling to my friend.”
Rubbing his sleep-filled eyes, a groggy Jacallen looked about himself and spotted a pair of footprints in freshly-fallen snow leading up the hill to the meadow. Suspecting his partner had begun the hunt without him, he grabbed his rifle and followed the tracks.
“I was stepping in the foot prints in the snow,’ he wrote. “They were dark and easy to see… Then realization struck me and I was gripped with fear. The racks I was so carefully stepping in were not human. They were the imprints of bare feet but almost twice the size of my own size 10 boots.”
Terrified, yet half suspecting that he was the victim of some clever prank, Jacallen double-checked the safety on his rifle and continued uphill. Determined to get the better of his antagonists, he prepared to climb a tall hemlock tree which grew on the slope, whose crown overlooked the meadow. As he did so, he was overcome by a strange and powerful sensation. “I felt an unmistakable sense of warning,” he wrote, “as clearly as if someone had spoken. It wasn’t logic- it was communication.
“I stopped and looked up. Fifteen feet away, one hand on his hip, the other gripping a branch of the hemlock that was just above my head, was the biggest, hairiest guy on two legs I ever wanted to see.” Jacallen described the creature as measuring 7.5 to 8 feet in height. Its lean body was covered with long silky hair, which dangled at least six inches at the arms. Its skin looked like leather, and dark eyes glinted with obvious intelligence.
“Without thinking,” Jacallen wrote, “I started to thumb the safety off. He turned his head to stare at me straight in the eyes. His teeth were showing, but it was not a snarl or a grin. I want to say it was a knowing smile.
“I knew I could place a killing shot, but I know it would be wrong, even criminal. He was saying to me with all the power of the spirit, ‘Leave me alone.’ It was as a collective consciousness whispering with the same longing voice, ‘Leave me alone.’
“One instant he was there and the next he turned and fled silently into the woods.” With graceful movements, the giant strode up the hill and disappeared beyond the crest without making a sound. “At first I thought that it was a dream,” Jacallen wrote. “But then I could feel that spirit like a mist in the forest, wanting to be left alone.”
Shaken, the hunter retreated down the hill and informed his partner of his extraordinary experience.
A Traditional Yupik Story
Three days after the publication of Dana Jacallen’s story, another article on the Hairy Man appeared Anchorage, Alaska’s Daily News. The author, John Active, described an old Yupik legend about the wildman, referred to locally as the Urayuli [pronounced Oq-ra-you-lee] furnished by an elderly woman named Tunguyamarnan.
“Long ago,” the woman said, “we Yupiit were a nomadic people moving from camp to camp as the spring, summer and fall presented themselves. We relocated to our seasonal camps to hunt and fish, practicing our substance lifestyle.
“Once a family was at their fall camp, and one night after they had gone to bed, the Urayuli visited them. It was a moonlit night and the husband could not sleep. In the fall, after the first frosts, you can hear everything. The tundra moss is crisp and if you step on it, it cracks crisply underfoot, making a lot of noise.
“The moonlight spilled onto the tent and anything passing by would cast a shadow on it. By and by the man heard something walking slowly toward the tent and soon a huge shadow appeared at the entrance- outside.
“The man stared at it, paralyzed with fear. Wondering what it was that had come from nowhere, the man watched as it untied the ties to the tent.
“Whoever it was opened the flaps silently and a horrific stench reached the nostrils of the terrified man. It was huge and with the moon at its back the man saw that whatever it was, it was covered with hair. The creature’s arms were long, just like spiders. Its ears were also very long and pinted at the tips. Its eyes glowed in the darkness.
“It looked around the tent silently. Then with its long hairy arms it felt about on the ground with its hand and long, thin fingers.
“The huge hand touched the man’s feet and it covered both of them. The man cringed in terror, and sensing the movement, the creature withdrew its hand. The tent flaps closed.
“The man heard the giant run away. Jumping up, the man peered out the tent. The surrounding tundra was bright with moonlight and as he scanned about he spotted the creature running away, its huge arms swinging forward and backward.
“The man shuddered as he heard its cry, just like a loons, but deeper.”
The Berry Pickers of Hangar Lake
Active goes on to relate another Hairy Man story which took place on the shores of Hangar Lake, located about a mile north of the city of Bethel in the southwestern corner of the state. One fall day, a group of women went out to the lake to pick berries, which grew in abundance on its shores. The ladies gradually drifted apart from each other while they picked, and many lost sight of each other.
Suddenly, a strange cry erupted from the nearby woods. The unnerving wail resembled the call of the loon, but deeper. Certain they were trespassing on the haunts of the Hairy Man, the women left the area immediately, and vowed to never pick berries at Hangar Lake again.
Active ended his article with a story told to him by a close friend, who claimed to have been chased by a Hairy Man while driving his dog team one moonlit night, and with another local tale about a boy who ran away from an orphanage, fled to the wild, and gradually transformed into a Hairy Man. “So, you ask if we believe there is a Hairyman,” he concluded. “Yes, there is. And maybe he used to be human, and out of curiosity he is watching you if you are alone in the wilderness.”
- “Hairy Man or Not, That’s Sure a Big Foot,” by J. & L. Nicholson, edited by Don Hunter, in the November 17th, 1992 issue of the Daily News (Anchorage, Alaska)
- “Hairy Man Tells Hunter to ‘Leave Us Alone,’ in the February 25th, 1993 issue of the Tundra Drums (Bethel, Alaska)
- “Bellowing Forth Its Loneliness on the Tundra,” by John Active in the February 28th, 1993 issue of the Daily News (Anchorage, Alaska)