The narrow and swift-flowing Mattawa was a stark change from the wide and relatively placid Ottawa, and Henry and his crew were forced to make fourteen portages, some of them extremely difficult. The river’s shore was rocky and barren, stained red with hematite and punctuated by the occasional burial cairn. The blood-red hue of the riverbank and the Indian graves that dotted it gave the place an eerie atmosphere, augmented by the presence of a yawning black cave which Henry’s crew called “Porte de l’Enfer”, or Hell’s Gate.
“In the side of a hill,” wrote Henry of this sinister landmark, “on the north side of the river, there is a curious cave concerning which marvelous tales are related by the voyageurs”. Although Henry and his crew were fortunate enough to avoid meeting the demon whom fur trader lore designated the denizen of this stygian cavern, they were accosted by monsters of another sort. “Mosquitoes and a minute species of black fly abound on this river,” wrote Henry, “the latter of which are still more troublesome than the former. To obtain a respite from their vexations we were obliged at the carrying-places to make fires and stand in the smoke.”
Eventually, Henry and his crew reached Lake Nipissing, the headwaters of the Mattawa and the divide which separates the watershed of the Ottawa River with that of Lake Huron. After spending a very fruitful two hours fishing for pike and bass, they paddled over to the lake’s eastern shore, where they met and traded with canoe-going Nipissing natives.
When Henry and his men concluded their business on Lake Nipissing, they paddled to the lake’s western end, down the French River, and into Lake Huron, “which lay stretched across [their] horizon like an ocean”.
Henry and his companions rowed out into the massive lake, its “waves running high from the south, and breaking over numerous rocks”. They passed many islands, including one that the voyageurs called “La Cloche”, or “The Bell”, for the large quartzite rock that stood on it which, upon being struck by a rock, rang like a bell across the lake. The men spent some time on La Cloche, where they found an Indian village. The voyageurs bartered some of their trade goods for fish and dried meat. When they learned that Henry was an Englishmen, they proclaimed that the Ojibwa of Michilimackinac would certainly murder him. That done, they extorted a barrel of rum from him.
Nearly every native that Henry had encountered on his journey to Lake Huron had warned him of the Ojibwa’s hatred of Englishmen. Taking the advice of Etienne Campion, one of his voyageurs, he endeavoured to pass himself off as a French-Canadian when he arrived in Michilimackinac. “To this end,” wrote Henry, “I laid aside my English clothes and covered myself only with a cloth passed about the middle, a shirt hanging loose… a blanket coat, and a large, red, milled worsted cap.
“The next thing,” Henry continued, “was to smear my face and hands with dirt and grease; and this done, I took the place of one of my men, and when Indians approached, used the paddle with as much skill as I possessed. I had the satisfaction to find that my disguise enabled me to pass several canoes without attracting the smallest notice.”
The Island of Michilimackinac
Alexander Henry and his voyageurs paddled along the northern end of Lake Huron to the mouths of the Mississagi River. After purchasing fish from canoe-going natives, they paddled south across Lake Huron to the island of Michilimackinac (known today as “Mackinac Island”), which translates to “The Great Turtle”. There, they came to an Ojibwa village which boasted about a hundred warriors. To Henry’s dismay, the Ojibwa braves surrounded their canoe and asked if there were any Englishmen aboard. When the voyageurs assured the natives that there were not, they allowed them to continue south to the mainland. Before they did, however, one native looked directly at Henry, laughed, and pointed him out to one of his companions. “This was enough to give me some uneasiness,” wrote Henry, “but whatever was the singularity he perceived in me, both he and his friend retired without suspecting me to be an Englishman.”
The pair hiked through the night and arrived at a solitary wigwam by sunrise. This dwelling was occupied by a single native and his wife. The couple welcomed the men into their home and fed them a huge meal of venison and melted snow. “I resumed my journey,” wrote Henry, “full of sentiments of gratitude, such as almost obliterate the recollection of what had befallen me among the friends of my benefactors [the previous night].”
Henry and Bodoine trudged down the frozen river on showshoe for the rest of the day. At sunset, they came to a shallow, swift-flowing stretch of river which, in spite of the cold, remained free of ice. Nearby on the riverbank lay an abandoned birch bark canoe. The Frenchman suggested that, in order to save time and bypass a large Algonquin village located further downriver, they use this vessel to travel down the rapids. Despite the disaster which had befallen him on the St. Lawrence the previous year, Henry was anxious to avoid further confrontations with the natives and readily consented to his guide’s proposal. After performing a rough patch job, the pair embarked in the canoe and rowed out into the current.
Henry and Bodoine had not gone far downriver when their craft began to leak, and in no time the pair were ankle-deep in frigid water. After stopping briefly at a river island, the pair finally reached the end of the rapids and rowed over to the shore. Thoroughly shaken, Henry wrote that he would rather “have faced the wilderness and all its Indians” than relive the harrowing experience.
The following day, Henry and Bodoine encountered a toboggan-going French-Canadian who offered to take the New Englander to the village of Les Cedres, located downriver, for a fee of $8. Henry accepted the offer and, bidding his companion adieu, travelled on to the French settlement.
At Les Cedres, Henry was received by the settlement’s seignor (mayor)- a French fur trader named Jean-Baptiste Leduc. Through an interpreter, the Frenchman regaled Henry with tales of the fur trade and convinced him that the region of Michilimackinac, between Lakes Huron and Michigan, was the best place in the world to engage in this lucrative industry. Then and there, Henry resolved to become a fur trader.
Voyage Up the Ottawa River
Alexander Henry spent the rest of the winter in the Montreal. In May, he travelled south to Albany, New York, where he stocked up on trading goods. He then returned to Montreal, where he convinced British General George Gage to grant him a licence to trade with the Indians of Michilimackinac (or simply “Mackinac”) – a licence which Gage was reluctant to issue, as the natives of the Great Lakes had not yet made a peace treaty with the English and would conceivably be hostile to English subjects. Henry then secured the services of several French-Canadian voyageurs, who spent a day praying to St. Anne, the patron saint of Canadian river travel, and a night of hard drinking before setting out on the voyage to Mackinac.
Instead of following the St. Lawrence, Henry and his voyageurs headed up the Ottawa River, a waterway which empties into the St. Lawrence at Montreal. Habitant farmland soon gave way to wild forest as they pressed beyond the boundary of civilization. The men paddled past the confluence of the Rideau River, where the Rideau Falls cascade into the Ottawa, and beyond the spectacular Chaudiere Falls, which tumble from a cliff in the middle of the river. They portaged (i.e. carried their canoes and gear) their way around Chats Falls, where a hydroelectric generating station now stands, and paddled up the Lac des Chats, where the river’s current slows to a near standstill. There, they encountered several canoe-going Algonquins with whom they traded some of their goods for beaver pelts and maple sugar. The natives asked the white men for rum, but Henry, remembering his first night on the trail with Jean Baptiste Bodoine, refused to sell them any. During the exchange, the natives, through the interpretation of the voyageurs, warned Henry that the Ojibwa who lived further upriver would certainly kill him, as he was an Englishman. Heedless of the warning, Henry and his crew continued up the Ottawa.
The party made a gruelling portage at a place called Grand Calumet. They passed the derelict remains of an old French trading post, where they purchased dried and fresh fish from a band of Swampy Cree Indians camped in its vicinity, and portaged around the rapids of Des Allumettes. Finally, after a succession of minor portages, the voyageurs reached the confluence of the Mattawa River, up which they proceeded.
The Adventures of Alexander Henry the Elder: Part 1
A few months ago, I did some research on the mystery of the ‘Shaking Tent’- a spooky phenomenon mentioned in the reports of Jesuit missionaries, the journals of Canadian explorers, and the memoirs of early Mounties involving a particular variety of First Nations seance. While reading about this strange shamanic secret, which I hope to make the subject of a future article, I came across references to an 18th Century fur trader named Alexander Henry “the Elder” who paddled the rivers and traversed the game trails of Ontario in the wake of the Seven Years’ War. Not to be confused with his nephew, another famous fur trader called Alexander Henry “the Younger”, this Canadian adventurer documented his exploits in his 1809 autobiography Travels and Adventures in Canada and the Indian Territories Between the Years 1760-1776. Unlike some other Canadian frontiersmen of whom I’ve written in the past, Alexander Henry was an excellent storyteller and a remarkable wordsmith, and his memoir, in this author’s opinion, holds the same literary value as many of the great 18th and 19th Century classics. If you’re into the setting of The Last of the Mohicans and enjoy the flavour of classic literature, I strongly recommend that you check out his book. For those readers who prefer more modern language, or who don’t have time to read Henry’s long book in its entirely, I’ve decided to put together a Coles Notes-esque summary of Henry’s Travels in Canada, the first part of which will comprise the rest of this article. Enjoy!
The Voyage to Montreal
On September 13, 1759, British and French armies clashed on a grassy plateau just outside the walls of Quebec, exchanging musket and canon fire on a field called the Plains of Abraham. By the time the smoke cleared, British General Wolfe lay dead, French General Montcalm lay mortally wounded, and the city of Quebec lay in British hands. It was the death knell of the Seven Years’ War and the beginning of total British rule in Canada.
One year after the battle, three British armies converged on Montreal, the last Gallic stronghold in New France, by way of the St. Lawrence River. One of the men aboard the British ships, attached to the army of General Amherst, was a 21-year-old merchant named Alexander Henry. Henry was a New Englander who had spent the entirety of his adult life supplying the British army during the Seven Years’ War, and on this particular voyage from Lake Ontario to Montreal, he was in charge of three ships loaded to the gunwales with supplies.
At a turbulent stretch of the river known as the Rapides des Cedres, a number of British ships capsized, bringing more than a hundred of their crewmembers with them to the bottom of the St. Lawrence. Henry lost all three of his vessels during this disaster, and only managed to keep from drowning by clinging to a piece of wreckage. After several long hours in the water, he was rescued by one of General Amherst’s aids. He eventually made his way back to Fort William Augustus, a British military post situated between Montreal and Lake Ontario.
First Night on the Trail
The incident on the St. Lawrence was serious financial blow to the young New Englishman, and in order to rectify his situation, he took it upon himself to make a winter business trip to Montreal. Knowing that he would be travelling through wild territory occupied by potentially hostile natives, Alexander Henry decided to secure the services of a French-Canadian guide and interpreter named Jean Baptite Bodoine. Strapping on a pair of snowshoes- clumsy accessories with which he was not yet acquainted- Henry and his Gallic guide set off down the frozen St. Lawrence.
Near the end of their first day on the trail, the pair encountered an encampment of Algonquin Indians composed of six lodges and about twenty men. Knowing that these natives had likely fought with the French against the English during the war, Henry wanted to spend as little time in the encampment as possible. Bodoine, on the other hand, was adamant that they spend the night there, as he personally knew several members of the band. Henry reluctantly acceded to his guide’s wishes.
That night, while curled up in one of the Indian wigwams, Henry awoke to a violent kick in the chest. Bodoine, he soon learned, had opened a keg of rum and shared it with his hosts, many of whom were now roaring drunk. One of the Algonquins, in this lamentable state, had decided to slaughter the New Englander, but was restrained at the last moment by a fellow brave and several native women; Henry had awoken in the ensuing scuffle. Seeing murder in his assailant’s eyes, Henry rose to his feet and was rewarded for his efforts by a knife wound to the hand.
In the midst of the fight, an old woman took hold of Henry’s arm and led him out of the lodge. Then, using gestures, she indicated that he should hide in the woods in order to avoid being killed. Knowing that he would not last long in the cold, dressed as he was, he asked the woman to find his guide before concealing himself behind a tree. While waiting for his savoir to return with the Frenchman, Henry “beheld several Indians running from one lodge to another, as if to quell the disturbance which prevailed”.
Finally, Henry heard a familiar voice, thick with drink, call out is name. Bodoine, as it turned out, was “as much intoxicated and as much a savage as the Indians themselves”. The inebriated French frontiersman handed his charge his personal effects and directed him down a certain path in the woods which led away from the camp.
The youngest mad scientist on our list is Granger Taylor, whose mysterious disappearance in 1980 remains one of the greatest mysteries of Vancouver Island.
Granger Ormond Taylor was born on October 7, 1948, in the logging and fishing town of Duncan, British Columbia, situated on the southeastern shores of Vancouver Island about halfway between Victoria and Nanaimo. His biological father died when he was an infant, having drowned in northwesterly Horne Lake during a vacation at the family cabin. When he was two years old, Granger’s mother, Grace, married a widower named Jim Taylor, who had children of his own. Granger would spend his earliest years growing up with his seven siblings, including three biological siblings, three stepsiblings, and a half-brother.
From an early age, it became clear to Mr. and Mrs. Taylor that Granger was an unusual child. He was withdrawn and socially awkward, but what he lacked in social skills he more than made up for in an extraordinary aptitude and appetite for mechanics. Granger spent much of his childhood alone in his bedroom, dismantling toy gadgets in an effort to understand their inner workings.
Despite being extremely bright, Granger displayed little interest in his studies and dropped out of school after completing Grade 8. He began working as an apprentice for his neighbour, an auto mechanic, and eagerly absorbed all the knowledge the old tradesman could impart. After a mere year of apprenticeship, Granger decided that he had acquired all the skills necessary for him to strike out on his own. He set up shop on his parents’ forest-side property and began to tinker away on his own unconventional projects, many of which he would go on to sell to collectors or the provincial government for impressive sums of money.
It soon became evident that Granger Taylor had found his calling. At the age of fourteen, he built a single-cylinder automobile, which is now on display at Duncan’s B.C. Forest Discovery Centre. Three years later, he rebuilt an abandoned bulldozer that professional heavy duty mechanics had dismissed as unsalvageable. In his early twenties, he decided to resurrect a derelict steam locomotive he found rusting in the rainforest, with alder trees growing through the chassis. It took Granger two years to restore the train to full working order, whereupon he laid tracks for it through his parents’ garden and began taking neighbourhood children for rides in it, his workshop having become something of a local attraction. It seemed that there was no mechanical mystery too daunting for Granger Taylor; no kinetic conundrum he couldn’t conquer.
On New Years’ Eve, 1969, about half a year after Granger had finished hauling the last piece of his rusted train onto his parents’ property, something strange took place at the Cowichan District Hospital not too from Granger’s home. At about 5:00 in the morning, while tending to patients in the geriatric wing, four nurses working night-shift allegedly saw a silent, brilliantly-lit flying saucer hovering outside the window about three stories off the ground, near the children’s ward. Doreen Kendall, the first nurse to observe the object, claimed to have witnessed two humanoid pilots standing in the craft’s cockpit through its transparent window. The nurses gazed in amazement as the craft drifted behind a grove of trees before zipping away into the night sky like a shooting star.
Later that morning and throughout the following night, citizens from all over Duncan and the surrounding area, including a handful of elementary school teachers and a pilot of the Royal Canadian Naval Air Service, came forward with reports of a similar-looking UFO spotted throughout the region. For months following the incidents, flying saucers and visitors from outer space were the talk of southwestern Vancouver Island.
It seems likely that Granger Taylor was bitten by the same UFO bug that had smitten so many of his fellow Islanders in early 1970s. Not long after he applied the finishing touches to his steam locomotive, he apparently developed an interest in the dynamics of air travel, earning his pilot’s license and beginning restorative work on a scrapped WWII Kittyhawk fighter plane (which he would eventually sell to a private collector for $20,000).
By the late 1970s, Granger had wearied of conventional mechanics, which no longer seemed to challenge him. Instead, he turned his attention to the greatest aeronautical question of all- the propulsion of flying saucers. No engineer on earth had yet been able to conceive an engine which could enable a huge metallic disk to maneuver as tightly, rapidly, and silently through the air as the flying saucers described by UFO witnesses. Granger Taylor decided to tackle this enigma, which had apparently baffled the most brilliant minds of military aerospace, and start on his magnum opus– the construction of a real-life flying saucer.
Granger Taylor began his quest by building a private office the same size and shape as the quintessential UFO. Aided by the children and teenagers who often came to watch him work, he scavenged two radio tower satellite dishes from the local dump and constructed a cylindrical building at the edge of his parents’ garden, which he erected on stilts. After decorating the sides of the metallic structure with a lightning bolt design and a port-like window, he outfitted his UFO with a cast iron wood burning stove, a couch, and a television. Finally, Granger stocked his new study with science fiction novels and pseudoscientific books on UFOs, which were intended to stimulate his ingenuity. His office complete, the mechanical genius hunkered down with his books and his notes and began to consider the question of UFO propulsion.
Throughout 1979 and 1980, Granger Taylor spent much of his time alone in his backyard UFO, sitting in quiet contemplation or pouring through his many books. Then, after many months of deep pondering, something extraordinary happened. One night, while lying in bed, Granger was purportedly contacted by extraterrestrials.
According to Robert Keller- a troubled teenager whom Granger had taken under his wing, and one of the few souls with whom he shared his incredible experience- Granger explained that beings from beyond our solar system had introduced themselves to him telepathically. In the months preceding the incident, the machinist had attempted to contact extraterrestrials via a sort of radio he had devised. Perhaps, he surmised, his willingness to communicate was what prompted the aliens to choose him.
Granger would go on to have several more alleged telepathic conversations with the extraterrestrials. During these incidents, he repeatedly asked the aliens questions about the propulsion source of their saucer-like vehicles, but all they divulged was that the secret had something to do with magnetism.
In October 1980, an elated Granger Taylor confided in Keller and another friend named Bob Nielsen that the aliens had invited him on a trip through the Milky Way Galaxy. His younger friends couldn’t entirely believe Granger’s story, suspecting that the eccentric genius had simply experienced a strange dream or some sort of hallucination, but they couldn’t entirely discount it either; if an extraterrestrial intelligence were to contact anyone on earth, they believed that Granger would undoubtedly be their first choice. Despite their earnest entreaties, Granger refused to take his eager friends with him on his upcoming interstellar voyage, claiming they had too much to leave behind on earth. He disclosed that the aliens planned to pick him up on a rainy night so that the general public wouldn’t see their spaceship.
About a month later, on November 29, 1980, the town of Duncan was rocked by what newspapers dubbed ‘The Storm of the Century’. Thunder, lightning, torrential rain, and gale-force winds descended upon the city, uprooting trees and downing power lines.
At 6:00 that evening, right before the height of the storm, Granger Taylor paid a visit to Bob’s Grill, one of his favourite haunts. The waitress who served him his meal noticed that Granger was clad in his usual attire, consisting of jeans, logging boots, and a brown knitted sweater. He didn’t have a coat with him, and was clearly ill-prepared for the incoming tempest.
At 6:30, 32-year-old Granger Taylor paid his bill, left the diner, and drove off in his 1972 light blue Datsun truck. He was never seen again.
The following day, as the people of Duncan were busy clearing their roads and driveways of fallen trees and windblown debris, Taylor’s parents discovered that their son was missing. Jim Taylor found Granger’s last note to the world taped to his and Grace’s bedroom door. This bizarre document read:
“Dear Mother and Father,
“I have gone away to walk aboard an alien ship, as recurring dreams assured a 42-month interstellar voyage to explore the vast universe, then return.
“I am leaving behind all my possessions to you as I will no longer require the use of any. Please use the instructions in my will as a guide to help.
On the back of the note was a hand-drawn map which some have interpreted as a depiction of Waterloo Mountain, located about fifteen kilometres (10 miles) southwest of the Taylor home.
Jim Taylor and his sons searched high and low for Granger, checking hospitals and driving lonely logging roads in the hope of finding some clue as to the eccentric genius’ whereabouts. In accordance with his note, they looked through his will and found that he had replaced the word “deceased” with “departed” throughout the document. Try as they might, however, they could find no trace of the missing man nor his blue Datsun truck.
Months turned into years, yet the fate of Granger Taylor remained as mysterious as it had been on that fateful morning of November 30, 1980. On June 29, 1983- the date of Granger’s scheduled return from his trip through the cosmos- Granger’s stepbrother, Douglas Taylor, who worked for the Canadian Coast Guard at the time, sat out for half the night on the deck of his patrol boat, scanning the night sky for any sign of Granger and his alien spacecraft. His heart was heavy when he turned in for the night, the promised ship having failed to appear.
In April 1986, six years after Granger’s disappearance, a municipal works crew discovered an artificial crater several meters in diameter off Mount Prevost Road, on the slopes of either Mount Prevost or northeasterly Sicker Mountain (both of which overlook northwestern Duncan). Scattered in the vicinity of the crater were rusted and discoloured fragments of what appeared to have once been a truck. The local Royal Canadian Mounted Police subsequently investigated the scene and discovered two shards of what proved to be human bone not far from the depression. Many Duncan residents, including the police and several members of Granger’s family, believed that these bones constituted the last remains of Granger Taylor. As DNA profiling was in its infancy at the time and unavailable to the Force on Vancouver Island, that suspicion was never definitively confirmed or refuted.
In the wake of the sobering discovery, a number of theories were put forth pertaining to Granger Taylor’s last moments on earth. Many believed that on the night of November 29, 1980, Granger had packed his Datsun full of dynamite, which he used for removing tree stumps, driven into the wilderness, and either deliberately or accidentally blown himself and his vehicle to smithereens.
Some believed that Granger’s inability to solve the mystery of flying saucer propulsion had eaten away at him during the long hours of self-imposed isolation that typified his final months. Unable to cope with his failure, he set out with the intention of taking his own life, concocting the tale of his interstellar voyage in an attempt to ease the pain of the friends and family he would leave behind.
Some of those who knew him best, however, were adamant that Granger Taylor was not suicidal. If he did blow himself up with dynamite, then it must have been accidental. Perhaps he had brought dynamite into the wilderness with the intention of using it in some way to inform the extraterrestrial astronauts of his whereabouts, or to somehow facilitate his journey into outer space. Through some terrible accident, the explosives had detonated prematurely.
Others still, however, including Granger Taylor’s late mother, Grace, and his friend Robert Keller, believe that Granger Taylor was picked up by extraterrestrials on that stormy November night, just like he said he would be. Perhaps he is still hurtling through outer space in an alien spacecraft, exploring the galaxy and studying alien astronautics to his heart’s content. After all, according to Einstein’s theory of relatively, time dilates for objects travelling near the speed of light. Perhaps one day a 35-year-old Granger Taylor will return from his 42-month voyage to find a very different Duncan to the one he left, where phones are cordless, cars drive on their own, and residents still puzzle over the fate of that quirky genius who disappeared on a stormy night so long ago.
Spaceman (2019), by CBC Docs POV
The Man Who Went to Space and Disappeared: The Story of Granger Taylor, by Tyler Hooper in the June 30, 2016 issue of VICE
The Strange Disappearance of Granger Taylor, by Rob Morphy in the October 9, 2012 issue of Mysterious Universe
Night Shift Nurses and Flying Saucer Men, by Rob Morphy in the September 30, 2011 issue of Mysterious Universe
Granger Taylor: The Spaceman of Vancouver Island was last modified: May 30th, 2019 by Hammerson Peters
Although better known for its hockey players and comedians, Canada has a long and proud history of producing world-class scientists whose discoveries and inventions caused paradigm shifts in their respective fields. From Sir Frederick Banting, whose 1921 discovery of insulin revolutionized treatment for diabetes, to the engineers of SPAR Aerospace, who invented the Canadarm for use on NASA’s Space Shuttle and the International Space Station, Canada’s most famous scientists are generally held in high esteem throughout the scholarly world.
Like all erudite societies, Canada’s scientific community has had a few of its own black sheep- eccentric pioneers who operated on the fringe of accepted practice and refused to play by the rules, whose controversial theories and bizarre experiments straddled the narrow border between genius and insanity. These tragic characters are defined by their utter consumption by a single driving obsession- a particular goal which remained just beyond their grasp, the realization of which might have conferred upon them Edison-like acclaim, their failure to accomplish which consigned them to the exotic obscurity that is the lot of the ‘mad scientist’. Whether they were ahead of their time or simply stuck on a road to nowhere, these modern-day alchemists, despite embodying all the ingenuity, determination, and raw brilliance of the greatest of inventors, never had the pleasure of seeing their work come to fruition.
Although they may not have achieved their desired outcomes, the exploits of these colourful characters make for excellent stories that are legacies in their own right. Without further ado, here are the fascinating tales of three ‘crazy’ Canadian inventors.
For as long as human beings have inhabited Canada’s boreal forests, the wolf has occupied a place of special significance in the hearts and minds of subarctic Canadians. The native Dene peoples who pitched their moose hide teepees in the wilds of Northern Canada long before the white man made his appearance in that quarter believed that wolves were the reincarnated spirits of their ancestors, and often went to great lengths to avoid killing them. Many of those same Dene peoples, from the Han of central Yukon to the Slavey of the Northwest Territories, adopted the Wolf as the symbol of one of the two moieties into which they divided themselves (the other moiety usually being the Crow or the Raven); traditionally, a man of the Wolf moiety could only marry a woman of the Crow moiety, and vice versa. The Inuit who made their homes in the tundra north of Dene territory often trimmed the hoods of their parkas with wolf fur, since that substance, along with wolverine fur, is the only natural material on which humid breath will not depose into ice during wintertime. Even the white fur traders who began trickling into Northern Canada in the early 1800s, despite despising wolves for interfering with the trap lines of their native clients, often attempted to crossbreed their sled dogs with their wild subarctic cousins in the hopes of acquiring robust wolfdog puppies.
In addition to the domestic dog, Canada is currently home to twelve recognized subspecies of gray wolf. These subspecies can be roughly lumped into six categories based on their distribution and habitat: the Artic Archipelago variety; the tundra and barrens variety; the Newfoundland and Labrador variety; the Pacific Northwest variety; the Great Lakes variety; and the northwestern forests variety. Although some biologists have argued that a few of these subspecies share too many similarities with each other to be classified as distinct, indigenous legend and frontier lore suggest that an additional variety of Canadian wolf ought to be added to the list.
For years, tales of a strange lupine monster currently unacknowledged by the scientific community have been leaking from Northern Canada to the Outside, as northerners often refer to southerly civilization. Since at least the 1950s, traders, trappers, and aboriginal Canadians have returned from the northern wilds with stories of an enormous solitary wolf said to haunt the boreal forests of Alaska, Yukon, and the Northwest Territories. Often referred to as the ‘Waheela’, this creature is typically described as having a wide head, a powerful build, a snow-white coat, and a size many times the magnitude of that of the average gray wolf.
I detailed a number of alleged Waheela sightings in my book Legends of the Nahanni Valley, and am pleased to present a new, never-before-published sighting here in this article. Experienced and brought to my attention by Justin Watkins of Spruce Lake, Saskatchewan, this sighting takes place at the southern edge of Canada’s boreal forest, making it the southernmost Waheela sighting in recorded history, to the best of this author’s knowledge.
Justin Watkins’ Sighting
The following is Justin’s own account of the sighting, lightly edited my this author for the sake of fluidity:
“A simple 7-Eleven trip turned into a horror I will never ever forget…
“It was the spring of 2011, and me and my friends were returning home from 7-Eleven, which was an hour away from Spruce Lake. My friend was driving a 1991 Ford Mustang, a fairly small car. The time was around 3:00 a.m., and we were flying- going speeds of up to 140 km/h (87 mph).
“We were about a kilometer from Spruce Lake when something in the ditch beside me caught my eye. It was a wolf. I could barely make it out due to the darkness, but the headlight was shining a little into the ditch.”
Incredibly, the creature kept pace with the vehicle, loping effortlessly with huge 7-foot-long strides, exhibiting the easy grace of a mountain lion and the steady persistence of a husky. Justin, incredulous, asked his friend to slow down. His buddy tapped on the brakes, and the vehicle decelerated to around 130 km/h (91 mph).
“When we slowed down, the wolf-like creature ran in front of the vehicle. Illumined by the headlights, we saw the whole thing. It was a sight I will never forget. The creature stood around 5 to 6 feet tall on all fours. It had a silverish white body, with huge teeth and a very wide head, and had fairly small ears. It dug into the highway as if it was nothing. I’d estimate the weight to be around four to five hundred pounds. It was outstanding. The beast was bigger than the car itself. The tail on it alone was almost half the size of the car.
“I’m a hunter. I’ve seen wolves, bears, and coyotes regularly throughout my whole life. What I saw that night was not a wolf…”
Fearing ridicule, Justin kept the extraordinary experience to himself until 2017, when an older man who struck up a conversation with him at the bar described seeing a similar animal himself many years prior. Instead of loping alongside his vehicle, however, the animal that this man encountered had chased after his truck.
“There is something that lurks out here in these woods,” Justin said, stating that hearing Frank Graves’ Waheela encounter, as presented in our video Interview With a Cryptid Hunter, was what prompted him to come forward with his story. “I still go out in the woods with another of my friends to look for it. It sounds unreal, but I will pass a lie detector test… The creature that I saw was something otherworldly. It feels reassuring to know that I am not alone in this adventure.”
What did Justin Watkins and his friends see on that fateful night in 2011? Could the enormous wolf they witnessed have been a relict Great Plains or Manitoba wolf- a member of the two large subspecies of gray wolf which once haunted the prairies of Central Saskatchewan before their supposed extinction a century ago? Could it have been a freakishly large Mackenzie Valley wolf plagued by gigantism? Was it some sort of prehistoric remnant, like a dire wolf or an Amphicyon, as some believe the Waheela to be? Was it a supernatural entity, a trick of the light, or a figment of the imagination? Or was it a specimen of another species entirely, which has yet to make its appearance in taxonomic literature? Whatever the case, Justin Watkins’ testimony adds a tantalizing new piece to the ever-evolving puzzle of the Waheela- one of the greatest mysteries of Northern Canada.
Giant White Wolf Spotted in Northern Saskatchewan was last modified: May 29th, 2019 by Hammerson Peters
I’m going to tell you a story about a little adventure I had in the summer of 2014, which led to my accidental discovery of a ghost town in the wilderness of southern British Columbia.
That summer, I took a week-long solo road trip through the Canadian Rockies, in part for the purpose of acquiring photos for my own website. About halfway through my trip, I decided to pay a visit to Fort Steele, a living history museum just up the B.C. Highway 95 from the city of Cranbrook.
Fort Steele was once a town called Galbraith’s Ferry, established in 1864 by a ferry operator named John Galbraith, who made his living transporting prospectors across the Kootenay River. The settlement acquired its new name in 1888, when the famous Mountie Sam Steele came to town to settle a contentious dispute between a local prospector and a Kootenai Indian whom he accused of murder (Fort Steele was never a ‘fort’ in the truest sense of the term, although it did house a NWMP outpost). Although the original settlement dwindled into a ghost town in the early 1900s, a true-to-life replica of the frontier community was built in the late 1960s and opened to the public as the Fort Steele Heritage Town, a living museum designed to imitate Fort Steele as it appeared in the 19th Century. Today, visitors to Fort Steele can walk down the raised wooden sidewalks past horse drawn carriages, a steam engine locomotive, and actors dressed in period costume who appear baffled by the size of your tiny camera.
After enjoying the sights and sounds of Fort Steele, I set out to get a photo of the confluence of the Kootenay and Wild Horse Rivers, where an old CPR railway station once stood. Near a gas station graced by one of those goofy cutout board inviting passersby to transplant their faces onto the vacant countenance of a faceless prospector, I ended up taking a wrong turn and heading up a narrow and somewhat precarious logging road which runs along a cliff overhanging the Wild Horse River. This dirt road (which, in retrospect, must have been the Fort Steele-Wildhorse Road) was a bit of a one-way trail, and I had little choice but to follow it until it widened sufficiently to allow me to turn my car around. I drove on and on into the mountains, praying that I wouldn’t run into another vehicle bound for Fort Steele.
After driving for what seemed like an eternity, I came to a ‘turnoff’ which was really nothing more than an eroded bank leading down to the Wildhorse River. As I drove onto the rocky beach and prepared to turn around, I spied, to my astonishment, a man standing knee deep in the Wild Horse River, leaning forward with a pan in his hand. The man waved to me, and I got out of my vehicle and walked over to say hello.
The guy, who was dressed in knee-high rubber boots and waterproof coveralls, must have been a few years older than I was. He told me that he was panning for gold, and that he’d already had some luck that morning.
“Here, I’ll show you,” he said, producing a quantity of sand from a container. “See that?” He pointed to a cluster of tiny glittering gold nuggets that stood out from the surrounding sediment. “That’s fifty, sixty bucks, right there.”
For an instant, a primal flicker of jealously rippled through me- a startling and unexpected sensation which whispered of the power of the yellow metal that had driven conquistadors through the jungle and Stampeders to the arctic in centuries past. “Very cool,” I said, suppressing a shudder at my involuntary reaction.
“Oh yeah, the creek is full of it. Best place to pan in BC, hands down.”
“Yep.” The prospector looked up at me in surprise. “Don’t you know what this place is? This place used to be a boomtown. Right here, where we’re standing. You can still see some of the old graves. Just head back along the road you just came up and look for the sign on your left.”
I did as the prospector suggested and headed back down the one-way trail, barely managing to get my vehicle back up the steep embankment. Sure enough, about twenty seconds down the road, I saw a stock paper sign nailed to a tree on the left hand side of the road. The sign read “FISHERVILLE HISTORIC TRAIL” and included a picture of a finger pointing down a narrow trail leading into the woods. I guided by car down the steep trail, parked in a small clearing, and got out to do some snooping.
Wild Horse Creek- Canada’s Forgotten Gold Rush
As it turned out, I had stumbled upon Fisherville, the epicenter of the youngest offshoot of the Fraser River Gold Rush.
Back in 1857, when British Columbia was a cluster of fur trading districts and British colonies, gold was discovered near the confluence of the Fraser and Thompson Rivers not far from present-day Lytton, BC. In no time, prospectors of American, British, and Chinese extraction flocked to Victoria, took steamers across the Strait of Georgia to New Westminster (present-day Vancouver), and headed up an old Hudson’s Bay Company trail called the Douglas Road in what is known today as the Fraser River Gold Rush.
In the 1860s, some of the Fraser River prospectors who ventured off the beaten path in search of gold made strikes in the Cariboo Plateau of south-central British Columbia. In no time, prospectors from the Fraser Canyon were streaming into the interior of British Columbia in what is known as the Cariboo Gold Rush.
In 1864, a handful of Cariboo prospectors who had wandered east of the diggings around Barkerville and Williams Lake, the heart of Cariboo Country, discovered gold on Stud Horse Creek, a tributary of the Kootenay River. By the end of summer, nearly a thousand prospectors were panning for gold on this waterway, which would soon be renamed Wild Horse Creek (and ‘Wild Horse River’ many years later).
The Legend of Wild Horse Creek
According to one of the handful of CIBC-sponsored didactic posters erected throughout the ruins of Fisherville, there is an old Kootenai Indian legend purporting to explain the origin of the gold which lies scattered across the bed of Wild Horse Creek. Said to have been “passed on by Field Supervisor Bob Jeffrey” of Cranbrook, B.C., in 1965, the story goes:
“Once upon a time, the Spirit of the Red Man battled with the Spirit of the Mountains, and in that battle was sorely wounded. As he lay stricken, the Spirit of the Mountain sowed the floor of what is now the valley of Wild Horse Creek and all the creeks nearby with a yellow gleaming metal. ‘Mark you,’ said the Spirit of the Mountain to his foe as he cast in the last handful, ‘this will call thither men who will possess your land and enjoy your hunting grounds, and these men will be your masters.’ Truly the prophecy came to pass. Over 100 years ago came the Argonauts, who found the gold on the Wild Horse Creek, and discovered that this is a fair and delectable land.”
No one truly knows who first discovered gold on Wild Horse Creek, although there are a number of different stories which purport to be the true account. One of these stories was recounted by a miner named Dan Drumheller, who had participated in the rush of 1864. Drumheller’s story appeared in the February 22, 1932 issue of the Lethbridge Herald:
“The Wild Horse Creek discovery was made by a bunch of prospectors numbering about 60 men during March 1864. Many of these prospectors had been ordered to leave Montana by the vigilance committee. They headed for the Walla Walla country late in the fall of 1863. When they reached Frenchtown, a Canadian-French settlement, near where the city of Missoula now stands, they decided they were out of reach of the vigilantes and continued to spend the winter in the French settlement and hit the trail early the next spring for Walla Walla. I do not pretend to say all these men were bad, but many of them were hard cases.
“During the winter there came a mixed-breed Indian of the Finley tribe form the upper Kootenays of British Columbia to visit the French settlement. This breed had some small nuggets with him which he exhibited to this bunch of prospectors and of course they were interested. He told the prospectors he picked the nuggets out of seams on the bedrock at the bottom of a small clear stream of water flowing into the Kootenay River 40 miles above where Fort Steele now stands. The prospectors employed the half-breed to pilot them to his find. They left Frenchtown the first of March for the upper Kootenays.
“When they reached what is now Wild Horse Creek, many of their horses were fagged out. Here they left their worn horses and the greater portion of their supplies and three men, Pat Moran, Mike Brennan, and Jim Reynolds, to take care of their stock and supplies. The balance of the party went on up the Kootenay River to Finlay Creek. They did not find sufficient gold at Finley Creek to satisfy them. While the main body of men were at Finley Creek, the three men left with the supplies had begun prospecting on the Wild Horse Creek at the mouth. They found a little gold there.
“They then prospected up the creek some four miles to a box canyon and a perpendicular fall in the creek, but still without success. Then Pat Moran worked his way around above the falls and struck rich pay dirt. When the party returned from Finley Creek the discovery had been made. Then these men called a miners’ meeting and made their own mining laws according to the American custom, notwithstanding that they were in British Columbia, Canada. They made their claims large enough so the 60 prospectors could cover all of the rich ground on the creek…”
Fisherville, British Columbia
No sooner had gold been discovered on Wild Horse Creek than a boomtown called Fisherville sprouted up in the vicinity of the new diggings. Sir Arthur N. Birch, the Colonial Secretary of the newly-established Colony of British Columbia, travelled to Fisherville that summer and reported that the town boasted 700 residents, three restaurants, several saloons, and a large brewery.
According to another of the CIBC posters at the Fisherville ruins:
“Named after Jack Fisher, one of the first men to come to Wild Horse Creek, Fisherville was home to the 5,000 miners who would eventually try their luck here. From the beginning, the men who flocked to the Wild Horse rush were much the same as those who frequented other gold rush towns. These were often desperate men, with little money to show for their work, some one step ahead of the American or British authorities…
“In the first days of the camp, decisions and legal matters were often decided by elected committees. This followed miners’ traditions formed as far back as the California rush of the 1840s. Elected judges and sheriffs would often use force of numbers and arms to mete out laws created as circumstances arose…”
The Shooting of Tommy Walker
Unlike the crowd at Barkerville, which was made up of prospectors of chiefly Great British and Chinese extraction, the population of Fisherville in 1864 was predominantly American. The “wild boys” of Wild Horse Creek, many of whom had cut their teeth in the rough-and-tumble world of the California and Colorado goldfields, were notoriously rowdy. One incident which serves to illustrate the anarchy that reigned in the early days of the Wild Horse Creek Gold Rush is the shooting of Thomas Walker, an event described thus by one of the CIBC posters at Fisherville:
“… In the early days of the rush, before the Colonial authorities had arrived to assert British sovereignty, Fisherville was a fast and loose town. As some men toiled for a pittance and others grew wealthy overnight, tensions on Wild Horse Creek grew. On an August night in 1864, there was a bout of drinking in progress at one of Fisherville’s finer establishments. Words were exchanged, anger boiled over, and the name-calling began. The prospectors lined up behind two men, Tommy Walker and William Burmeister, known as ‘Yeast Powder Bill’. No one know why the fight started in Charlie Fortier’s saloon, but by the time it was finished, five men were terribly wounded and one lay dead [according to the aforementioned article in the Lethbridge Herald, men named “Overland” Bob and Paddy Side were hit on the head with hand spikes during this brawl, and a fellow by the name of Kelly was stabbed in the back with a knife].
“Walker fired first, shooting off one of Yeast Powder Bill’s thumbs, but Bill made his shot count, and Walker fell to the ground dead. Bill high-tailed it out of camp but was pursued by Bob Dore, president of the Law and Order Committee. Dore caught up with Bill and, aided by his six-shooter, convinced him to return to Fisherville. His wounded thumb was attended to and he and the other wounded men were put under lock and key. An angry mob gathered, hot for revenge, but Bob Dore and his men dispersed them by firing their guns into the air.
“In the democratic tradition of mining camps all aver the west, a judge and sheriff were elected, Yeast Powder Bill was provided with defense counsel, and a miner’s court was convened to try Bill for the murder of Tommy Walker.
“Conflicting accounts of what actually happened came out at the trial and the jury of prospectors found Yeast Powder Bill not guilty for lack of evidence. Bob Dore let Bill know that he had one half hour to get out of town and it is told that Burmeister was gone in half that time.
“A few days later, Judge John Carmichael Haynes rode into camp. An inquest was conducted into the death of Tommy Walker, but Judge Haynes came to the same conclusions as the miners. British law had come to Wild Horse Creek.
“Thomas Walker was a young 27 years old when he fell to Yeast Powder Bill’s bullets on August 6, 1864. He was born in County Donegal, Ireland, and like many of his fellow miners, had probably left the emerald Isle to find his fortune in the gold fields of the West.
“In the 1960s, Mr. and Mrs. Reg Egge of Fort Steele visited the grave and noted that it was in need of some care. They retraced the letters on the headstone and, with the East Kootenay Historical Association, constructed a protective case for the grave maker. Eventually, a replica was made and the original is now in safe keeping at Fort Steele Heritage Town.
“Tracked down in Ireland, the Walker family was grateful to finally learn what had happened to their long-lost relative. All trace of Tommy Walker had been lost to his family after his arrival in North America. His father made two voyages across the Atlantic from Ireland to New York in an attempt to find his son. Little did he know that Tommy had met his end here on Wild Horse Creek, buried in the lonely grave where he still lies today.”
The Grave of Thomas Walker
Tommy Walker’s grave lies a twenty feet or so from the poster detailing his demise. A plaque nailed to a nearby tree reads:
“Thomas Walker, a native of Donegal, Ireland, died at Wild Horse Creek, August 6, 1864, aged 27 years. He met his death in a gun fight with ‘Yeast Powder Bill’ Burmeister…”
Another crime alluded to by the CIBC posters at Fisherville describes the robbery of a wily gamester named Old Cuddy:
“One of the most popular ways to pass the time in the gold camps was gambling. One such gambler was an Irishman by the name of Old Cuddy. He ran a small store and held shares in a large placer mining company. Cuddy was not much of a gambler and owed money to many Fisherville residents, often refusing to pay his debts. However, as gambling was officially illegal, Cuddy’s card-playing compatriots could hardly go to the authorities to remedy the situation.
“Cuddy had managed to acquire 1,000 ounces of gold dust, a small fortune which he planned to take with him when he left Kootenay. He kept the gold in his store under the watchful eye of a trusty guard.
“Late one evening, two men approached Cuddy’s store and fired their revolvers. They let out a cry that someone had shot Old Cuddy. The guard ran from the store to a nearby saloon to save his friend, only to find Cuddy, playing poker, quite alive and well. When the two men ran back to the store they found the two men were gone and Cuddy’s gold along with them.
“There were rumours that the whole episode had been a scheme concocted by Cuddy to get his gold past the Gold Commissioner and the 50 cent per ounce export duty. The robbery did prove genuine, but there was little sympathy in the camp for Old Cuddy because of his infamous reputation for reneging on his debts.”
Kootenai Brown’s Tenure
Incidents like the shootout at Fortier’s saloon and the robbery of Old Cuddy prompted Sir Arthur N. Birch to dispatch a Constable of the Colonial Civil Service to the new diggings in an attempt to bring law and order to that wild frontier.
Wild Horse Creek’s first lawman happened to be 26-year-old John Brown, a celebrated Irish-Canadian frontiersman who would later take up residence at Waterton Lakes, where he would come to be known as “Kootenai” Brown in his later years. In his journal, Brown described one of his more notable brushes with the shady underbelly of Wild Horse Creek which took place in the summer of 1865:
“Three men came into Wild Horse and succeeded in passing several thousand dollars worth of bogus gold dust. It was an amalgam composed of 75 per cent copper, 5 per cent lead, and 20 per cent gold. It was a very good imitation…
“Well, these three fellows- Kirby, Conklin and a third whose name I forgot… these three brought in the amalgam, bought goods and paid for them with it. They were pointed out to me at once and I marked them as suspicious-looking characters. When it was discovered that a lot of bogus nuggets were in circulation on the creek, I went to arrest the three strangers. They were living in a one-roomed cabin and I knocked at the door. Getting no reply, I burst open the door and Kirby grabbed for his gun. I had him covered and I called out to him ‘Throw up your hands or I’ll make a lead mine of your carcass.’
“While I was getting Kirby out of the cabin, the other two escaped. After putting my prisoner under lock and key, I organized a posse and we were not long in locating Conklin and his pal, both of whom were also put behind bars.”
Following the arrest, Brown tendered his resignation from the Colonial Civil Service, unable to make a living on account of a sudden decrease in his pay eager to head east in search of gold. He described the unfortunate sequel to the arrest in his journal:
“My successor, whom I recommended… as a suitable man for the job, had a streak of bad luck with the three men I left him in the jail.
“Among the pieces of good advice I offered the young fellow was never to allow more than one prisoner out at a time and never, on any account, to turn his back on a prisoner. I regret to say that one morning he thoughtlessly disregarded this advice and let all three out at a time to wash for breakfast. He turned his back for a moment when Conklin ‘put the mug on him’ (threw his arm under his chin and held his head back) then gagged and tied him. Then they took his horse and what money he had, his clothes and his gun and made a clean get away. The jail was in a lonely part of the creek and their escape was not known till the butcher called for the meat order. He knocked at the door but got no response. Returning with a blacksmith, the lock was pried off and on entering they found the constable bound and gagged and locked in a cell, but the cells of the prisoners were empty. A search party was organized but no trace of the desperadoes was ever found.”
The Chinese Burial Ground
A short walk uphill from the grave of Thomas Walker is a small parcel of land punctuated by a number of equidistant coffin-sized depressions. Another CIBC poster explains that this area once served as a graveyard for Chinese prospectors who passed away in and around Fisherville during the Wild Horse Creek Gold Rush. According to the poster:
“Chinese miners came soon after news of the Wild Horse goldrush broke. They worked poorer claims or provided services to other miners. White miners seldom honoured Chinese claims; in fact, Chinese miners often could only secure rights on the ground previously exhausted by other miners.
“The Chinese founded and maintained this, their own ‘Chinese’ cemetery. In this ground the Chinese buried those who died far away from home, performing their traditional burial rituals. However, there are no longer any bodies in this cemetery.
“Chinese tradition at that time stated that a son or daughter of China must be buried in the land of their birth. Many Chinese arranged ahead of time that should they die here, their bodies would be disinterred and sent back to China for burial. Institutions such as the Chinese Benevolent Society would arrange such services, paid for ahead of time by those to be transported.
“Unlike white miners, the Chinese presence on Wild Horse Creek increased with the end of the gold rush. The sight of a Chinese placer miner patiently working with his rockerbox (or later with a hydraulic monitor) would have been common to many that visited Wild Horse in the years following the 1860s. The legacy of Wild Horse Creek that we have today was formed in part by the painstaking work of the Chinese miners.”
The poster goes on to describe a funerary custom practiced by the Chinese prospectors of Wild Horse Creek in a piece written by Mrs. Annie Yip of Fernie, British Columbia, in 1998:
“Qing Ming: The Chinese Meal for the Dead
“Each year the meal for the dead was prepared on the anniversary of a relative’s death. The meal was an old Chinese tradition venerating one’s ancestors. All children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren were expected to participate, forming a large group for the ceremony.”
“The meal consisted of:
Assorted and expensive fruits
Wine or whiskey
The deceased’s favourite food
“The meal would be taken to the cemetery and laid out as would a regular meal. Three bowls, three glasses, and three sets of chopsticks would be set. The whole family would bow and pray to the ancestor, asking for the security of the family.
“Once the table was laid, the youngest child present would pick up the glass with the alcohol and pour it onto the grave, providing a drink for the ancestor. Then all present would partake in the food, assuring that the dead would not have to dine alone.
“This ritual was performed to assure that the dead were not hungry on the other side, and provided good fortune for all attendants.”
The Rise and Fall of Fisherville
By 1865, the population of Fisherville and the surrounding area had swelled to nearly 5,000. Soon, rough women with names like “Axe-Handle” Bertha, Little Lou, “Gunpowder” Sue, and “Wildcat” Jenny began to move into town, establishing their own district called Toneyville.
Another CIBC poster at the Fisherville site attempts to give readers an idea of the harsh life led by the prospectors at Wild Horse Creek:
“…In the hills, the miners had to survive on poor rations while doing hours of tedious back-breaking work digging through rock and gravel immersed in ice-cold mountain water. There were few remedies for disease or injury and the 19th Century doctor was often of more harm than help to his patient…
“Few of these men actually made their fortune. Most of the gold they found went to pay the inflated prices of supplies. What they had left might be spent on a ‘spree’ in the dance halls and saloons of San Francisco. These celebrations were fueled with plenty of liquor and gambling and often ended in violence and death.”
The residents of Fisherville soon discovered that the town itself was built on gold deposits. The buildings were demolished so that the ground beneath them could be relieved of its auric contents.
By the end of 1865, many of the town’s residents began to move on in search of brighter prospects- namely Big Bend Country to the north and Helena, Montana, to the south- and as suddenly as it had boomed, Fisherville was abandoned. Despite being briefly resurrected as a Chinatown by Oriental prospectors who arrived to sift through the claims that the Americans had deserted, Fisherville was gradually devoured by the British Columbian forest.
In total, an estimated 48 tons of gold was removed from the Wild Horse Creek diggings in the short-lived rush of 1864 and ’65, worth about $907,000,000 CAD in today’s currency.
Fisherville’s Last Remains
Today, all that remains of the original Fisherville is a ruined stone chimney and a heap of hand-milled, age-silvered wooden planks which once comprised the Kootenay Post Office, abandoned in 1888 when the government of British Columbia moved their offices to Fort Steele.
Last but not least, the Fisherville cemetery is also intact. A sign near its entrance states:
“In this cemetery lie the remains of a number of Wild Horse Creek’s original residents. These men came from all over the world in search of fortune and faced countless hazards and hardships in the mountains of the Kootenays. Their only reward; a lonely grave here under the windswept pines of Wild Horse Creek…
“Small, forgotten cemeteries like this one are scattered across the West. Take a moment to reflect on the arduous lives led by the ill-fated adventurers who now lie beneath your feet and enjoy the silence of this, their final resting place, so far from home.”
Wild Horse Creek- Canada’s Forgotten Gold Rush was last modified: May 27th, 2019 by Hammerson Peters
Harrison Hot Springs- The Sasquatch Capital of Canada
If you drive east of Chilliwack, British Columbia, take a left on the B.C. Highway 9, cross the Fraser River, and continue north for about ten minutes, you’ll enter an enchanting corridor through the Coast Mountains known as the Agassiz-Harrison Valley. This stretch of farmland, flanked by dark green mountains covered from base to peak with thick coniferous jungle, leads to a little village hugging the southern shores of vast Harrison Lake.
If you meander through the streets of this tiny community and keep a vigilant eye, you may begin to realize that there’s something distinctly different about the place. For instance, you might notice the hairy sentinel who keeps perpetual watch at the village entrance, lounging contentedly on a wooden bench beneath the town’s welcome sign.
Perhaps you’ll catch a glimpse of another more startling village guardian standing further up the road, poised to hurl a wooden boulder at passing cars.
If you’re especially observant, you may detect a certain pattern in the titles of various establishments; the names of various inns, liquor stores, and ski resorts seem to suggest a recurring theme. Even the street signs are topped with a stylized silhouette of British Columbia’s most elusive resident. Welcome to Harrison Hot Springs, the Sasquatch capital of Canada.
Introducing the Sasquatch
“Sasquatch” is a household name in the Fraser Valley, inducing chuckles in some and primal shivers in others. Derived from an old Halkomelem (Central Salish) word meaning “wild man of the woods”, it denotes a legendary race of hairy giants which, according to First Nations tradition and regional folklore, roams the forests of British Columbia to this very day.
Although a number of explorers recorded variations of it in their journals and memoirs, the legend of the Sasquatch was first introduced to the general public by a school teacher and later Indian Agent named J.W. Burns, who began teaching at the Chehalis First Nation Reserve- located a mere fifteen minutes from Harrison Hot Springs- in 1925. Burns used the word ‘Sasquatch’ for the first time in an article published in the April 1, 1929 issue of Maclean’s magazine, and the name stuck.
The Sasquatch Capital of Canada
Throughout the 1930s and ‘40s, Burns published a number of accounts of Sasquatch sightings which were reported to him by his Chehalis friends. These sightings took place in the mountainous country surrounding the Chehalis Reserve, from the so-called ‘Mystery Valley’ west of Harrison Lake to the Sasquatch Cave outside Yale, B.C., far to the east.
Through what is probably sheer coincidence, the epicenter of the various Sasquatch sightings reported by Burns’ informants seemed to be Harrison Hot Springs, a resort community renowned for its thermal mineral waters, which had been used by the Chehalis for centuries and discovered by white prospectors during the Fraser River Gold Rush. The village’s community fully embraced its newfound status as the Sasquatch capital of Canada and began holding an annual summer festival called ‘Sasquatch Days’ with the neighbouring residents of the Chehalis Reserve- a cherished tradition which endures to this day.
The Sasquatch of Ruby Creek
Since the publication of Burns’ first article, Sasquatch sightings have taken place in the wilderness surrounding Harrison Hot Springs with casual frequency. Perhaps the most famous of these sightings is the one which took place just outside Ruby Creek, a tiny rural community situated on the banks of the Fraser River about 14 kilometres (9 miles) northeast of Harrison Hot Springs, as the crow flies.
In 1941, a Chehalis man named George Chapman lived in a cabin near Ruby Creek with his wife Jeannie and their three children. One day, while George was away from home, working as a tie gang labourer on the nearby railroad, the eldest of the Chapman children ran into cabin and declared that a cow had emerged from the woods. Alarmed by the inexplicable panic in her 9-year-old son’s tone, Jeannie stepped outside to investigate and spied what she first took to be a grizzly bear ambling along a distant hillside. Her two remaining children, aged 7 and 5, were playing in a nearby field at the time, and did not appear to be in any imminent danger. Nevertheless, Jeannie decided to call her children to the cabin as a precaution.
The bear’s strange physical appearance unnerved Jeannie, and so she decided to keep an eye on it from the cabin door as it made its way down the hill towards the railroad. Upon reaching the tracks, the animal, to Jeannie’s astonishment, reared up on its hind legs and began to stride towards the cabin like a human. Mrs. Chapman quickly realized that the creature was not a bear at all, but rather an enormous eight-foot-tall man covered with long brown hair. “I had much too much time to look at it,” she would later say of the incident. Jeannie described the giant has having an enormous chest and shoulders, inhumanly long arms, and a small head with a dark face.
Fearing that the monster was after her children, Mrs. Chapman unfurled a blanket and used it as a screen to shield her little ones from the wildman’s gaze. Ordering her children to stay behind her, she walked backwards from the cabin in the direction of the Fraser River. When they had put considerable distance between themselves and the giant, which had begun to examine the house, Jeannie and her children raced for the safety of Ruby Creek.
Two hours later, George Chapman, none the wiser, returned home from work to find that his home had been ransacked. Specifically, he found that his storage shed had been broken into, and that a heavy barrel filled with dried fish had been hauled outside and torn open, apparently without the use of tools. George knew from the pair of 17-inch-long, humanlike footprints which encircled his cabin that the intruder had been a Sasquatch, one of the legendary wild men of the woods of which his people had long spoken. The tracks indicated that the giant had loitered about the home for some time before finally heading back into the mountains, tripping over a barbed wire fence as it departed the Chapmans’ property.
To his relief, George quickly spied four smaller sets of footprints leading along the Fraser River in the direction of Ruby Creek. He followed the footprints to his father’s house, where he discovered his family had taken refuge.
Accompanied by George’s father, who armed himself with a hunting rifle, the Chapmans returned to their cabin the following day. In the nights succeeding the incident, they heard strange howls emanating from the nearby woods. Sometimes they would awake in the morning to find huge footprints in the vicinity of the cabin. When the terrifying nocturnal visitations persisted for a week straight, the Chapmans decided to abandon their cabin and relocate.
In 1957, the Ruby Creek incident attracted the attention of John Willison Green, a Canadian journalist and one of Canada’s most prominent Sasquatch researchers. Green was so impressed by the Chapmans’ testimonies that he decided to settle in Harrison Hot Springs, where he lived and carried out his research until his death in 2016.
Frank Dean’s Sighting
The incident at Ruby Creek, of course, was not the only Sasquatch sighting to take place around Harrison Hot Springs. Not by a long shot.
Back in March 1932, for example, several newspapers around Canada and the United States reported on an alleged sighting experienced by Frank Dean, a resident of Harrison Mills, located across the Harrison River from the Chehalis Reserve.
One night, the story goes, Dean was roused by the barking of his dog. He stepped outside to investigate the commotion and saw an enormous hairy man standing in the moonlight. The creature growled at Dean and began to advance towards him. Terrified, Dean stumbled back into his cabin and barred the door. The giant prowled about his cabin for some time before finally retreating into the bush.
Mrs. Caulfield’s Experience
In the summer of 1934, the experience of a Mrs. James Caulfield, who lived with her husband on a farm outside Harrison Hot Springs, hit papers across the continent. While washing her clothes in the Harrison River, Mrs. Caulfield heard a noise similar to that of a hummingbird. In her own words:
“I turned my head but instead of a bird there stood the most terrible thing I ever saw in my life. I thought I’d die for the thing that made the funny noise was a big man covered with hair from head to foot. He was looking at me and I couldn’t help looking at him. I guessed he was a Sasquatch so I covered my eyes with my hand, for the Indians say that if a Sasquatch catches your eye you are in his power. They hypnotize you. I felt fait and as I backed away to get to the house I tripped and fell. As he came nearer I screamed and fainted.”
Fortunately, her scream attracted the attention of Mr. Caulfield, who ran to her assistance just in time to catch a glimpse of a huge hairy figure darting into the woods.
The Ruby Creek incident, Frank Dean’s sighting, and Mrs. Caulfield’s experience are but a few of the many Sasquatch stories to come out of Harrison Hot Spring. From peeking through windows at hapless farmwives to hurling rocks at Chehalis fishermen, the Sasquatch made fairly regular appearances in the Harrison area throughout the 1930s and ‘40s. Some say that the legendary wild man of the woods pays the occasional visit to his old stomping grounds to this very day.
Things to Do in Harrison Hot Springs
If, like J.W. Burns and John Green, you find yourself enthralled by the mystery of the Sasquatch, consider paying a visit to Canada’s Sasquatch capital. There, you can hike the trails of Sasquatch Provincial Park- a natural area located about six kilometres (four miles) west of Ruby Creek- or brush up on your Sasquatch lore at the local Sasquatch Museum. A long relaxing soak in Harrison’s thermal waters makes for an excellent wind-down after a long day of Sasquatch hunting, and Sasquatch Days, with its canoe races and traditional salmon barbeque, offers a tantalizing glimpse into the culture of the Chehalis people, from whom the legend of the Sasquatch derives.
If you do decide to pay a visit to Harrison Hot Springs, remember to keep your eyes peeled. If you’re really lucky, you might just catch a glimpse of the most famous forest-dwelling denizen of the Sasquatch Capital of Canada.
Harrison Hot Springs- The Sasquatch Capital of Canada was last modified: May 24th, 2019 by Hammerson Peters
The Curse of Oak Island: Season 6 Finale- Lost and Founding
The following is a Plot Summary and Analysis of Season 6, Episode 22 of the History Channel’s TV series The Curse of Oak Island.
Rick Lagina, Marty Lagina, and Dave Blankenship pay a visit to the home of Dan Blankenship. There, they inform the veteran treasure hunter of the results of the dendrochronological analysis of the wood from the U-shaped structure, namely that the wood was determined to have been cut in 1769. The elder Blankenship exhibits some surprise, explaining that he was never quite sure whether the structures at Smith’s Cove were built before or after the 1795 discovery of the Money Pit.
Later, the treasure hunters gather at Smith’s Cove, where the search for the convergence point of the box drains is underway. While excavating with his trowel, Laird Niven discovers what appears to be a wooden wall composed of horizontal boards, the whole structure ensconced in clay. Shortly thereafter, the archaeologist uncovers a vertical support beam on the far side of the wall which appears to indicate that the structure was intended to resist the tide. The team decides to dig behind the structure, which Rick dubs the ‘Mystery Wall’, and soon discovers another wooden wall, this one composed of vertical boards.
After spending a night at the swamp, where members of Eagle Canada carry out the final step of their seismic survey, the Oak Island team meets in the War Room with researcher Bruce Lindahl; Bruce’s brother, author Cort Lindahl (via video conference); and treasure hunter Justin Cannady; who have come to brief the Fellowship of the Dig on their own Oak Island theory. First, Cort Lindahl expresses a belief in the Duc D’Anville theory, citing Zena Halpern’s map as evidence. Next, he suggests that the Duc D’Anville’s son, Louis-Alexandre de La Rochefoucauld, revealed the secrets of Oak Island to his American friends, Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin, who hoped to use Oak Island’s treasure to finance the American Revolution. As evidence to support this theory, Lindahl cites the ‘Evans Stone’- a particular boulder, introduced for the first time in this episode, which is located on Oak Island’s northeastern shore. The Evans Stone bears several inscriptions, including the date ‘August 9, 1897’, the word ‘CHESTER’, the name ‘E.W. EVANS’, and the image of what appears to be a horizontal pine tree. Lindahl explains that the stone’s tree bears remarkable resemblance to the pine tree on a particular variation of the Appeal to Heaven flag, a battle standard used during the American Revolution which represented a belief in the right to revolt, and suggests that the image on the Evans stone was carved by an American revolutionary who came to Oak Island in the hope of retrieving its treasure.
After the Lindahl brothers and Justin Cannady finish presenting their theory, Marty Lagina and Doug Crowell take Bruce and Justin to the Evans Stone, which lies on the beach of Lot 14. The theorists count the branches on the stone’s tree and find that there appear to be thirteen of them on each side- the same number of branches, they claim, which grace each side of the tree on the particular version of the Appeal to Heaven flag to which they likened the carving in the War Room. The number 13, the theorists suggest, was significant to the American revolutionaries not only because the republic they fought for was composed of thirteen states, but also because the Knights Templar, to which many Founding Fathers were allegedly connected, were arrested on Friday 13, 1307. Although the narrator does not mention it, a closer look at the two trees shows that neither of them have thirteen branches on any side; the tree on the Evans Stone has 17 branches on its top side and 15 on its bottom side, while the tree on the Appeal to Heaven flag displayed in the show has eight branches on each side.
Later that afternoon, Rick and Marty Lagina meet at the swamp with the Eagle Canada crew. The crew’s leader, Alex Gauthier, informs the treasure hunters that, although they have finished collecting data on the island, they will need about a month and a half to analyze the data. By that time, the narrator tells us, the Fellowship of the Dig will have packed it in for the season.
At Smith’s Cove, Billy Gerhardt and Laird Niven discover a third wall paralleling the other two found earlier this episode, this last one being located furthest from the ocean. This newly-uncovered wall and the one preceding it appear to constitute the sides of a shallow shaft. Gerhardt and Niven are soon joined by Marty Lagina, who likens the structure to a “sluice box”- a tool used by prospectors to separate gold dust from dirt through the use of gravity. The narrator then erroneously states that sluice boxes are devices “designed to channel and regulate the flow of water”- perhaps an indication that Marty actually meant to suggest that the structure was built for the purpose of diverting water.
Later, the Oak Island crew members meet in the War Room for their final conference this season. Marty Lagina begins the meeting by stating that the season is rapidly coming to an end, and asks his fellow treasure hunters what they would like to do with Smith’s Cove. The crew members all agree that the analysis of the wood from the Smith’s Cove structures is particularly intriguing and ponder over whether the people who built them circa 1769 were the depositors of the Money Pit treasure or pre-1795 searchers. The treasure hunters then discuss whether the discoveries they have made so far justify further search efforts. With the exception of a somewhat skeptical Marty, who appears to suspect that the Oak Island treasure may have already been retrieved by the creators of the U-Shaped Structure, the treasure hunters unanimously agree that the evidence indicates that there is still something worth finding on Oak Island.
Cort Lindahl’s Theory
In this episode, author Cort Lindahl presents his own theory on the nature of the Oak Island mystery. Lindahl appears to subscribe to the theory that the crew of Jean-Baptiste de La Rochefoucauld, the Duc d’Anville, buried treasure on Oak Island during their disastrous expedition of 1746. Lindahl also appears to believe that d’Anville’s son informed America’s Founding Fathers of the Oak Island treasure, and that George Washington dispatched a crew of Patriots to retrieve the treasure in order to finance the American Revolution.
Cort Lindahl has written a number of books in which he outlines his theory, the latest being Oak Island and the Arcadian Mysteries (2017). Although Lindahl neglects to clearly define his theory in his 2017 book, raising suggestive questions instead of making arguments or suppositions, he succeeds in creating an extremely complex web of associations connecting all sorts of famous historical figures- including, but not limited to, Sir Francis Drake, Mary Queen of Scots, Mary Sidney Herbert, Admiral George Anson, Nicolas Poussin, the Jacobite Stuarts, Edgar Allan Poe, and Sir William Alexander– to Oak Island.
The Evans Stone
In this episode, we are introduced to the Evans Stone- a boulder located on Oak Island’s northeastern shore, on Lot 14, bearing several inscriptions, namely the date ‘August 9, 1897’, the word ‘CHESTER’, the name ‘E.W. EVANS’, and the image of what might be a horizontal pine tree.
The inscription ‘August 9, 1897’ appears to indicate that the stone was inscribed by a member of Frederick Blair’s Oak Island Treasure Company during a particularly fruitful season of treasure hunting; the summer of 1897 saw the discovery of the supposed Chappel Vault, the piece of parchment bearing the letters “vi”, and the mysterious stone triangle on the South Shore Cove.
The word “CHESTER” is likely a reference to the nearby town of Chester, Nova Scotia, presumably the hometown of the man who made the inscriptions.
The name “E.W. EVANS” is probably that of the man who made the inscriptions.
The meaning of the etching of the horizontal pine tree is somewhat more enigmatic than the other inscriptions on the Evans Stone. In this episode, theorists Bruce Lindahl and Justin Cannady attempted to connect this image with the Appeal to Heaven flag, a battle standard used by the Thirteen Colonies during the American Revolutionary War, in an effort to bolster Cort Lindahl’s theory.
The Curse of Oak Island: Season 6 Finale- Lost and Founding was last modified: May 14th, 2019 by Hammerson Peters
When I told him that I was working on a second edition of my 2016 book Oak Island, my friend and fellow researcher Gary Mangiacopra, who owns what I believe might be the largest personal Fortean archive in North America, sent me reams of old magazine and newspaper articles on the subject of Canada’s greatest treasure hunt. I’ve spent the past few months going through these articles and found that many of them contain unique theories regarding the contents of the Money Pit and the identities of those who buried them. I’ve decided to compile the more notable of these forgotten Oak Island theories and present them here for your consideration. Enjoy!
Treasure is Buried in a Cave on the Side of the Island
In an article published in the April 1951 issue of the magazine Fate, reader Lionel Goodwin of Laguna Beach, California, tells of a trip he made to Oak Island fifteen years prior (i.e. around 1936, at the start of Gilbert Hedden’s treasure hunt).
“A party of us sailed out to the island in a large sloop,” Goodwin wrote, “anchored off-shore, and rowed into land. It was summer, and just growing dusk. There was a moon to light up the surroundings.”
“We climbed the hill,” Goodwin continued, “and came to the side of the island where the digging was now going on. That part of the island was literally honeycombed with huge pits. We counted 15 in one locality.”
Goodwin described how workers used an elevator in one 101-foot-deep shaft to haul mud up in buckets, which they then wheeled along a wooden boardwalk to anther shaft, into which they dumped it. “The whole scene was one of romance and fascination,” he wrote. “The night had come and the moon was now bright. The men digging in the pit below kept clanging the elevator bell when they wanted the man at the winch to bring up the next load of mud.”
Goodwin concluded his story by claiming that the prevailing theory at the time was that pirate Captain William Kidd “had buried his treasure in a cave at the side of the island, now completely inaccessible because of tidal changes and shifting land structure.” The treasure hunters, he claimed, planned to descend on this trove from above.
The Little Island to the West
In his article “A Real Live Treasure Island: S&M offers it readers a previously unpublished and undiscovered clue to locating a long-lost buried treasure on a tiny island near Nova Scotia”, published in the November 1968 issue of the magazine Science and Mechanics, author Franklynn Peterson presents his personal theory regarding the location of Oak Island’s elusive treasure. This theory involves five flat stones located on the western end of the island and a tiny, circular spit of land in Mahone Bay just west of Oak Island.
Near the end of his long article, in which he outlined the history of the Oak Island treasure hunt, Peterson wrote:
“One clue has not appeared in the wealth of literature purporting to explain the history of Oak Island; a clue so easy to find, under proper conditions, that someone like Anthony Graves [a one-time resident of Oak Island] could have found it during his long stay on the puzzling knoll of clay and trees. At the western extreme of Oak Island there is a sandy point jutting out at low tide. Just off the sandy point is a tiny island, almost perfectly round and peaked. In line with this island’s peak and Oak Island’s western point, there are five huge, flat stones almost buried in the dirt. The stones are too large to have been casually dropped there, in all true alignment to have been shoved there by nature. Right alongside the five stones is the remains from one of the buildings used by Anthony Graves! Did Graves solve the enigma of Oak Island?
“The line drawn from the pointed island to the sandy point and through the stones would seem to be aimed directly at the Money Pit some three-quarters mile away. Or is it pointing somewhere else? To a new pit? Or maybe it points the opposite way, to the top of that tiny island overshadowed all these years by bigger Oak Island.
To our knowledge this clue has never before been published. It’s yours, courtesy of this poor writer who can ill afford another trip to Nova Scotia. Happy Hunting.”
Another Look at Fred Nolan’s Theory
Avid fans of The Curse of Oak Island may recall that the late Fred Nolan believed Oak Island’s treasure to be spoils from the 1762 Battle of Havana, seized by members of the British Royal Navy and buried in the swamp. An article in the March 1979 issue of the magazine Lost Treasure by Al Masters, entitled “Is There Another Oak Island Money Pit?”, may shed some light on the reason for Nolan’s theory.
According to the article, Fred Nolan stumbled upon an old carved stone surveyor’s monument in the Oak Island woods sometime in early 1977. The stone bore chisel scars and scorch marks and had a shape vaguely suggestive of a Spanish treasure galleon.
“The discovery of it was purely accidental,” Nolan said of the find. “We were following a survey line from one of our other reference points which led us right through the woods. I was crawling along on my hands and knees and came across this stone sticking out of the ground directly along the survey line. We felt the monument was placed in its position for a purpose…”
After placing the stone marker on a survey map of the island containing other objects of interest, Fred Nolan became convinced of two things: that whoever buried the Oak Island treasure had training as a surveyor, and were therefore almost certainly former army or navy personnel; and that the bulk of the treasure was actually buried in the swamp.
“There is so much loot still in the swamp,” Nolan claimed, “that it would take you a long time to count it… The swamp is man-made and at one time was completely dry. Chests of gold and jewels of unimaginable wealth were buried when it was dry, then flooded with sea water for concealment. Who would have thought to look in an old, inconspicuous swamp that’s full of mud and flies and bugs? That’s why they buried it there.”
Nolan went on to explain that he was unable to drain the swamp in order to test his theory on account of a disagreement with Dan Blankenship. Said the latter regarding Nolan’s discovery of the stone survey marker when pressed by author Al Masters: “Of course, we have taken it into due consideration, but we have our own ideas, so the discovery will not change our present plans.”
In his article “Oak Island”, published in the January 1990 issue of the magazine Treasure Search/Found, theorist Jesse E. Boyd puts forth the hypothesis that the notorious English pirate Edward Teach, better known by his nickname “Blackbeard”, and his one-time partner in crime Stede Bonnet, are the men behind the Oak Island mystery.
Blackbeard is perhaps the most famous pirate to sail the Atlantic in the wake of the War of Spanish Succession- the final wave of the so-called ‘Golden Age of Piracy’. From 1716 until his death in battle in battle two years later, he and his crew plied their nefarious trade in the Caribbean and along the eastern coast of North America, attacking and ransacking more than thirty English, French, and Spanish merchant ships. A firm believer in the power of appearances, Edward Teach wore a long black beard which he tied into pigtails, and is said to have tied lit slow matches (slow-burning wicks used in old matchlock firearms) under his hat during battle for dramatic effect.
Jesse Boyd suggested that Blackbeard used Oak Island as a haven at which he could careen his ships and clean their barnacle-encrusted hulls with little fear of being harassed. After recovering a portion of the treasure of a Spanish treasure fleet which was dashed to matchwood off the coast of Florida during a hurricane in the summer of 1715, he and his crew, unable to immediately fence their tremendous treasure, buried much of it on Oak Island in the hope of retrieving it in the future. As fate would have it, each member of Blackbeard’s crew was killed in battle or hanged before any such retrieval operation could be made.
Unfortunately, the six pieces of evidence which Boyd used to support his theory are extremely weak and circumstantial, the most compelling of them being the legend that two Nova Scotian fishermen disappeared while investigating mysterious lights on Oak Island sometime around 1720. If Blackbeard and his crew are indeed the men behind the Oak Island mystery, then they appear to have left behind very little implicative evidence.
The Lost Loot of La Buse
In the November/December 1989 issue of the magazine Treasure Search, an article entitled “New Oak Island Theory” details a hypothesis put forth by Dmitry Romanov, a resident of the city of Rostov-on-Don, in what was then the Soviet Union. Romanov believed that the Oak Island treasure was the legendary lost horde of Olivier Levasseur, a ruthless French pirate and a contemporary of Blackbeard’s who is alleged to have hidden one of the largest treasures in pirate history.
Levasseur began his career as a highwayman of the seas in the early 1700s. He had served as an officer aboard a French privateer during the War of Spanish Succession and decided to retain some semblance of his former occupation once the war was over, royal orders be damned. In 1716, he joined the crew of Benjamin Hornigold, an English pirate who had established a Republic of Pirates in the Bahamas ten years prior, and who would appoint Blackbeard his first mate in a years’ time.
After a year of pillaging and plundering in the Caribbean, Levasseur took his trade to the West Coast of Africa, and later to the Indian Ocean. With a patch covering one eye, which had been scarred by a Spanish sabre during his years as a privateer, Levasseur cut the figure of the quintessential pirate captain. His predations soon earned him formidable nickname: “la Buse”, or “the Buzzard”.
In 1721, Levasseur and his crew captured a huge Portuguese galleon named Nossa Senhora Della Cabo. The pirates discovered, to their unspeakable delight, that Nossa Senhora was carrying both the Bishop of Goa, the head of the Catholic Church in India, and the Viceroy of Portugal, the governor of Portuguese India, along with the gold and jewels which necessarily accompanied officials of such high personage. Destined for Lisbon, the ship also contained religious treasures of staggering value, including an enormous jewel-encrusted cross made of solid gold.
Turning down an offer of clemency extended by King Louis XV, Olivier Levasseau was eventually captured by French authorities and hanged on an island off Madagascar on July 7, 1730. Legend has it that, as he stood on the scaffold on the day of his execution, Levasseau removed a locket from his neck which contained a cryptogram composed of seventeen lines. The condemned man tossed the necklace into the crowd which had come to watch him dangle, shouting, “Find my treasure, the one who may understand it!”
A code purporting to be Levasseau’s surfaced sometime in the 20th Century, and many have since attempted to decrypt it. Intriguingly, particularly in the context of Oak Island, one interpretation of the message instructs treasure hunters to approach the underground treasure chamber from the north so as to avoid flooding it. The message, according to this interpretation, declares that the treasure is protected by tides, which could only be held back by a dam in the event of a flooding.
Romanov spent ten years attempting to crack Levasseau’s code himself, consulting Persian, Sanskrit, Tibetan, and Japanese manuscripts in his effort to solve the mystery- an effort which apparently proved successful. Although he did not reveal his hard-won secret to Daniel Finch, the author of the article in Treasure Search, Romanov did give him a tantalizing hint as to the contents of the message, saying: “They [Triton Alliance] are looking in the wrong place. They should look underwater- not underground.”
The Treasure of St. Andrew’s
An article in the April 1988 issue of Treasure Magazine, entitled “The 13 Million Dollar Mistake?” briefly outlines a theory that the Money Pit contains an old Scottish treasure said to have once been housed at the Abbey of the Cathedral of St. Andrew in Scotland.
According to this theory, the Kingdom of Scotland acquired a vast treasure consisting of English gold, silver, priceless jewels, and statuary at the Battle of Bannockburn (1314), a Scottish victory in the First War of Scottish Independence, which some Oak Island theorists have attributed to the interference of a supposed army of rogue Templar knights. Following the battle, the Scots allegedly stored the English treasure in the Abbey of the Cathedral of St. Andrew, the seat of the Catholic Church in Scotland.
“In 1560,” the article contends, “not long after the British Parliament ordered dissolution of the Abbey of the Cathedral of St. Andrew in Scotland, the entire 1,000-year-old treasure that was stored in the Abbey mysteriously disappeared without a trace. How this treasure… found its way to Oak Island is not made clear by those who favor this theory.”
It must be noted that, if the Abbey indeed once contained a treasure which was indeed found missing in 1560, history indicates that its absence might not be so mysterious. In the spring of 1559, when the Protestant Reformation was swiftly sweeping Europe, a Protestant minister named John Knox, known today as the founder of the Presbyterian Church of Scotland, delivered a suggestive sermon in the Scottish city of Perth on the subject of Christ’s cleansing of the Temple. In response to the sermon, Knox’ congregation began looting local churches, friaries, and monasteries, stripping them of their religious artwork. Their actions prompted a wave of similar sackings throughout Scotland which eventually reached St. Andrew’s, the Catholic capital of Scotland. That June, a Protestant mob ransacked the cathedral and gutted its interior. St. Andrew’s never recovered from the riot and promptly fell into disuse. Today, the once-magnificent cathedral is nothing more than a roofless stone ruin.
It seems unlikely that the cathedral’s appendant Abbey was spared the ravages of the Protestant mob. Barring the possibility that the treasure was secretly removed sometime prior to the Protestant Reformation, it seems probable that the supposed treasure of the Abbey of St. Andrew’s Cathedral was stolen by zealous looters in the summer of 1559. Where it wound up next, however, is a matter of conjecture.
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Forgotten Oak Island Theories was last modified: May 10th, 2019 by Hammerson Peters