If you came down to the Jack London Bar one cold January night in 2014, you might have seen a live show I performed where I talked about “Disastrous Oregon!” At said show, I talked a little about one of my FAVORITE Conspiracy Theories Ever – that the United States Forest Service, Weyerhaeuser, or some other forest-y organization, possibly in conjunction with some elements of the US military, flew several Bigfoot corpses out of the 1980 Mt. St. Helens blast area to hide the existence of these beasts from the public (that would be YOU). I. KNOW!
This story has been whispered about for some time, but unlike many of the age-old yarns that we do enjoy, there is something of a written accounting of said rumor (this crazy ass blog post is one). While it is far from being considered a peer reviewed tome, Linda Coil Suchy’s Who’s Watching You? An Exploration of the Bigfoot Phenomenon in the Pacific Northwest, addresses several Mt. St. Helen’s eruption and resulting Dead Bigfoots stories.
As some of you know, at Kick Ass Oregon History, we like to really get into some of these storied legends and see if there is any meat to them. We decided to dig a bit into this amazing tale.
One account from the Suchy book details a Mr. Bradshaw, whose father was a supervisor for Weyerhaeuser. After the eruption, he was sent to the Spirit Lake area, to help keep the curious folks out of the way of a helicopter landing zone that was hastily constructed. He describes how the National Guard collected the carcasses of dead animals in heaps, and piled them up high for eventual cremation (via napalm). “Deer in one, elk in another, and so on.” The corpses were covered with tarps. Mr. Bradshaw
was placed in charge of one pile of dead animals in particular. The pile was covered and no one was allowed to come near it. Armed U.S. National Guard personnel were guarding this pile. On the day that they were going to move this group of bodies, [Bradshaw] was standing very close to the pile and was told to keep his mouth closed about what we was to witness.
When the tarps were removed, he was amazed to see that the bodies were those of sasquatch. Some badly burned, and some not. They were placed in a large net and lifted into the back of a truck, which was then tarped over. [Bradshaw] asked a guardsman what would happen to the bodies, and the guardsman replied, “They’ll study them or whatever. I don’t want to know. It’s like other stuff, you don’t ask.” Later that day, his father and the rest were debriefed, told not to talk about what they had witnessed there that day, and sent home. (Suchy, 73, 74)
Wow! Quite a bit going on there! There’s really so much to unpack, but I thought I could start my investigation with the United States Forest Service. I filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request, hoping that I could flesh out some more of this tale, and see if there was anything to it… at all! Of course, I wanted to find the Dead Bigfoots The Government Has Been Hiding. But baring that, was there any other thread of this tale that might be true?
Fifty seven bipedal beasts of the human variety were killed in the volcanic eruption. Obviously, the blast would have caused massive damage to the Bigfoots. It’s logical to think that if there are Bigfoots (and yes – that is a leap for some), that some would have been killed in the eruption. And logically, some of those Dead Bigfoots may have been found in the recovery efforts. My FOIA request specifically requested “information that Bigfoot or Sasquatch bodies were discovered and or recovered just after the eruption of Mt. St. Helens in WA State, 5/18/1980.” The Forest Service was fairly prompt in replying to my request (attached below). The response was quite clear that:
“there were no documented reports of big foot [sic] or sasquatch carcasses and there were no projects to attempt to locate and/or recover any bodies.”
My second question dealt with the recovery of other beasts killed in the eruption, of the four legged variety. In the awesome story above, it would appear that the Dead Bigfoots were kept at some sort of makeshift morgue that was created to dispose of the rotting animals killed by the blast. The FOIA response indicates that there was no known infrastructure to deal with four legged corpses. It says, “two documents … were located that are partially responsive to Item 2 of your request. Those documents were created by researchers outside of the Forest Service and are related to work done to locate carcasses of elk and deer for studies they were conducting.” So while the FOIA response does not clearly and conclusively say “THERE WERE NO COLLECTION AREAS FOR THE DISPOSAL OF FOUR LEGGED ANIMALS AFTER THE ERUPTION,” one must infer that this was the intent of providing 50 pages of documents by non-USFS researchers on studies of dead animals in the blast zone.
One of the documents forwarded to me was a 1982 report from the College of Forest Resources out of Seattle titled, “Wildlife-Forest Interactions, Mt. St. Helens Blast Zone, 1981-1982.” This specific study examined mainly dead elk killed from the May 1980 blast, and it is important to note that the elk bodies examined were “located exactly where the individual was at the time of the blast” (3). Eighty elk and nine deer individuals were located. Included in the study were lands overseen by the Weyerhaeuser Company, the US Forest Service and Washington State Department of Natural Resources. From this line, it would indicate that at least not ALL animal bodies were collected in a blast zone located morgue.
The second article sent was from an academic journal, titled “Taphonomy of Cervids Killed by the May 18, 1980, Volcanic Eruption of Mount St. Helens, Washington, U.S.A.” In a rather sobering line, the author states that, “Many, but not all, animals occupying the Mount St. Helens blast zone died from suffocation, explosive shock, traumatic shock, and falling timber or pumice blocks” (150). All of the bodies examined were partially burned. The team working on that study located over two dozen locations that had dead animal bodies – and the short report seemed to indicate that they were in the blast zone itself, where they fell (some under 20 – 60 cm of ash), as opposed to a centralized, morgue-type location.
Another two accounts in the Suchy book deal with Dead Bigfoots and Mt. St. Helens. One details some dredging in the Cowlitz River two months after the blast. In this account, two Bigfoot corpses were found in the sand, and a helicopter associated with the Army Corps of Engineers came and removed the bodies.
The other Suchy yarn was from a man visiting an aunt who lived outside of Spokane, near Fairchild Airforce Base. He saw a large, double rotor helicopter fly overhead at about 100 to 150 feet, with a cargo net hanging below that contained at least three dead Bigfoot bodies. Hairy, grey ash coated arms and legs were seen. “I got a real good look at them,” the witness said. He reported the sighting to several federal agencies, and threatening phone calls were returned a few days later. “There were no bigfoot or sasquatch parts in there!” (Suchy 323, 324)
So, is this research done? Have we cleared up this tantalizing tale that could possibly prove the existence of Bigfoots? Certainly not. I have reached out to Weyerhaeuser’s press folks to see what they know about Dead Bigfoots (for the record, they have no standard, boiler plate Bigfoot encounter response). I filed three more FOIA requests as well – to the US Army and Air Force (active and reserve). I would like to see all rotary wing assets that were used for rescue and recovery in the disaster and if anything looks a little, well, spooky, right? Like a big ass Chinook around Fairchild, baby. Full. Of Dead. Bigfoots. And another request went off to the US Army Corps of Engineers to find out about dredging in the Cowlitz River in the Summer of 1980. Dredging Up. Dead. Bigfoots.
The Army has already replied with, “We don’t know. Check with the National Archives.”
The search continues. Hashtag spooky. This is what you pay us for, folks! And we will keep you updated on the progress.
Original art by George Folz. Thanks George!!!