HomeNorthwest TerritoriesInterview with a Cryptid Hunter

Interview with a Cryptid Hunter

Transcript of an Interview with a Cryptid Hunter (2018)

Starring Frank Graves

Narrated by Kelsea Crowe

Voice of young Frank: Shawn Foster

Executive Producer: Dan Chomistek

Script, Music, and Narration by Hammerson Peters

Introduction

Narrator:

Hello and welcome to an Interview with a Cryptid Hunter. In this documentary, we’re going to showcase a never-before-seen interview of an extraordinary man who explored one of the most inhospitable tracts of wilderness on the planet, risking his very life in an effort to uncover the shocking truth behind Nature’s most carefully guarded secrets. Without further ado, here is an Interview with a Cryptid Hunter. Enjoy!

Ivan T. Sanderson

Throughout the course of his research, the author of this book came across a string of references to a mysterious adventurer named Frank Graves. This gentleman was a protégé of Ivan T. Sanderson, one of the founding fathers of an unorthodox discipline known as cryptozoology. More than fifty years ago, he made a historic expedition to a mysterious valley in Northern Canada famous for its gruesome myths and legends. He is credited with the discovery of two different cryptids, or hidden animals, yet unknown to the civilized world. And he has an intriguing connection to an elusive photograph for which cryptozoologists have hunted for decades.

In a few short years, he made a huge splash in the cryptozoological community, earning himself a place in books and magazines. Then, as suddenly as he appeared, he vanished without a trace. Some men have searched for him in vain. Others dismissed him as a myth. For years, the fate of Frank Graves remained a mystery… until now.

Frank Graves’ story begins in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in the early 1960’s. Back then, he worked as a heavy duty mechanic for a truck manufacturing company.  In 1965, his comfortable eight-to-four routine changed forever with his introduction to a fascinating character named Ivan T. Sanderson.

Ivan Sanderson was an eccentric Scottish biologist and adventurer. Educated in zoology, geology, and botany in England, France, and Switzerland, he began his academic career leading specimen-collecting expeditions all over the world on behalf of various British learned societies.

In 1932, during one such expedition in the jungles of Cameroon, he and his hunting partner were attacked by a giant bat which the locals fearfully referred to as ‘Olitiau’. This incident sparked Sanderson’s lifelong interest in animals yet unknown to science- creatures begetting the field of study which he coined “cryptozoology”.

During WWII, Sanderson worked as a counter-intelligence operative for both the British and American Navies. After the War, he left his old life behind and immigrated to America, where he enjoyed a long career in radio and television, educating and entertaining his audience in his capacity as a naturalist.

Sanderson’s interest in unexplained phenomena was rekindled in the 1950’s, when UFO and monster sightings became more frequent in the United States and Canada. Unlike many of his academic contemporaries, Sanderson refused to dismiss these stories out of hand, risking his professional reputation in order to give them the attention which he believed they deserved. By the late 1950’s, he was writing essays on UFOs, and in 1961, he wrote the first book to seriously address the question of whether hairy wildmen truly roamed the wilderness of North America.

In his book, Sanderson referenced a wildman tradition from a mysterious region in Northwestern Canada- the watershed of the South Nahanni River. This remote territory, nestled in the heart of the Mackenzie Mountains, was associated with strange tales of lost tribes, lost gold, and a tropical enclave in the subarctic wilderness. A string of mysterious decapitations which took place there in the early 1900’s resulted in the area acquiring a gruesome nickname: the Headless Valley.

Frank Graves:

Well, I guess you have to go back to when I met Ivan Sanderson. I worked for Chilton Publishing Company. Chilton published a lot of Ivan’s books, and I believe they published that one called ‘Abominable Snowman: Legend Come to Life’. I had talked to a couple of friends down there and said I was interested in this Abominable Snowman thing, and a friend of mine said, “The guy who wrote this,” he said, “his name is Ivan Sanderson.”

I said, “Yes.”

He said, “Well, he comes down to Book Division.” So they said, “The next time he comes down, I’ll give you a call.”

And I met him. I went down there. He greeted me. He had a Hawaiian shirt on, all bright colours, flowers all over it. Most of the time he walked around barefoot. Either sandals, or barefoot. And he had this thick grey hair combed straight back. And, you know, a really pronounced British accent. We just hit it off right off the bat. Right off the bat. And we had a really good time.

And he invited me out to his house in Blairstown, New Jersey. You’ve probably seen pictures of that. It’s like a little white house. You had to go way out into the middle of nowhere to get to it. You’ve seen, I guess… there’s old newsreels where they show the old little house he lived in with his wife, Alma. Going up there was like stepping into another world.

Oh, Ivan, he was like a one-of-a-kind person. He was very outspoken, kind of outrageous. My parents didn’t like the idea that I was friendly with him. They said, “People take Ivan Sanderson with a very large grain of salt,” and I said, “Well, I don’t subscribe to that. I think he’s a very, super intelligent guy, and he’s very down to earth, and I would do anything for him.”

The American Expeditionary Society

Frank Graves:

He called me one day, and he said, “You know, there’s a bunch of people going up to the South Nahanni River, to the Headless Valley. Get out a globe and look.” And he says, “You’ll see where it is.”

Ivan connected me with them, because he saw a chance for me to go someplace and really look into the Bigfoot question, see what I’m saying? See, I was a very introverted, little guy, you know what I mean? Like, I wasn’t into anything like that, and I had to make a jump from being just an average, everyday go-to-work-everyday to jumping off into something that was really, in many ways, extremely dangerous. It was extremely dangerous.

Narrator:

The group to which Ivan Sanderson introduced Frank Graves was a team of American university students who hoped to resurrect the dying art of old-fashioned discovery expeditions. These young men called themselves the “American Expeditionary Society”, or “AES”.

In the summer of 1965, Frank Graves and the AES boys equipped themselves at Minnesota State University before heading north to Canada, bound for the Headless Valley.

Frank Graves:

You know, once I got there, and got to talk to these people- it was George Boyum, Wayne Egrebretson, Michael Eliseuson, and we took somebody at the last minute, who was hanging around the school bus while we were painting it red, white, and blue: his name was Bruce Shorer. He lived, like, across the street, and he wanted to go on the trip. So, we said, “Well, if you want to go on the trip, what can you do?” And he said, “I can cook.” So, we just took him.

So they were there for the University of Minnesota, and Wayne Egrebretson, collected birds. He shot a lot of birds and preserved them- stuffed them- to bring them back. Remember, Ivan connected me with these people. They weren’t going there to look for Bigfoot. I was going there to look for Bigfoot.

We bought a 42-passenger school bus, and we took all the seats out of it. And we had a guy come over. We painted the bus red, white, and blue- red on the top, white on the sides, and blue on the bottom- and we had a guy come over, and he professionally wrote, ‘American Expeditionary Society’ on the side of it.

We all left from Mankato. That’s right, we all put this together in Mankato, Minnesota. We had our headquarters in the second floor of the school building. You know, it was summertime, so somehow we got the second floor of the school building, and we put all of our equipment in there- all the food. Everything we had to do was all packed there, and outside was the school bus that we painted red, white, and blue. And then we got all of the equipment- the camping equipment, everything, the outboard motors, all of it, and packed it into the bus. And we left from Mankato.

The Road Trip

Frank Graves:

We went up through International Falls into Canada. We drove that right up into Canada. We drove across the provinces. You know, Saskatoon, Edmonton, all over the place. You know, red, white, and blue bus with ‘American Expeditionary Society’. We didn’t have any problems with it, but people would, you know, ask what we were doing and where we were going. And we had a very nice time. We stopped in Edmonton. And we would actually live in the bus. You know, we had all our camping equipment there, so we would sleep in the bus.

It’s a miracle, really, that we actually got there. I mean, it’s a long trip, and that was an old bus that was put together. And George and I got it running, you know what I mean? We got it mechanically sound and tuned it up and everything.

So, we drove across all the provinces and we went up through Peace River. And there’s an all-weather highway there. I understand now that that highway is probably paved. When we went there, it was a 300, 400-mile highway with nothing there. There was nothing but gravel. Just gravel. Driving the bus- it was like a boat in the water, you know what I mean? It just kind of swayed back and forth in the gravel.

And all the way up to a place called Hay River.

Hay River

Frank Graves:

When we got to Hay River, we lived with Cree and Slavey Indians. It was just like the Old West- wood sidewalks, people fighting in the streets. I mean, it was really rough.

I would have never stayed in Hay River, believe me. I would have rather gone into Vietnam than stayed in Hay River, to tell you the truth. Hay River was a tough place.

Hay River was the end of the road. We had to leave our bus there. Big four-motor airplane. We packed all our equipment in it, and we flew to Fort Simpson. They let me sit- because I was photographer- the pilot and the co-pilot let me sit between them, in the little seat between the pilot and the co-pilot, while it was flying, and I shot a little film from there.

And then, landing, you know? I looked down, and I said, “You’re going to land down there? There’s nothing but woods.” And then you see this little landing strip, you know? A dirt runway in the woods. And this plane went down, and they landed it. And we all got out, and we were in Fort Simpson.

Fort Simpson

Frank Graves:

The first time I saw the Mackenzie River, I didn’t pay much attention to it until George- he was looking at it, like, fix- and he says, “Look at the current on this river.” It was so wide that you couldn’t see the other side, but the current was, like, 18 miles an hour. I didn’t even think about it until he brought it to my attention. “Look how fast that current is.” And he said, “The South Nahanni is going to be a lot faster than that.”

Two of the people on the trip- George Boyum and Wayne Egrebretson- they were farm people, and they were very tough, outdoor people. But Eliseuson- Mike Eliseuson- Bruce Shorer, and myself- we were kind of like city people. You know, we were all kind of new to things like that.

We had the Indians build us a 30-foot, very well-built, beautiful flat-bottom boat, but it was too small. So we had to make changes. So we swapped that boat, which was brand new, for an older boat that some Indians had. It was a 40-foot-long boat… not 40-foot, about 30-foot boat… flat bottom. There are different kinds of boats, but the kind of boat we went up there in is a flat-bottom scow with outboard motors on it.

We had two 14 horsepower motors. Everybody up there had- in those days, 30 horsepower was, like, the minimum to attempt anything. And we had two 14 horsepower McCulloch engines. And it had a lot of freeboard in it, so we could load… Everything we took we packed in steamer trunks. We had five steamer trunks that packed into the boat and everything else was around us. That, and we all sat on top of the trunks.

And we left from Fort Simpson. We went up the Liard River. The Liard River is a very placid, nice, wide river. We went up through there. Took days. And the next stop was Nahanni Butte.

Nahanni Butte

Frank Graves:

Nahanni Butte is a 6,000-foot mountain right at the confluence of the Liard and the South Nahanni River. That’s where we met the Turners. The Turners were very good people. They ran a thing called Nahanni Safaris Ltd. and they took hunters up to Virginia Falls. The Turners, they had a big house built there, like a log cabin house. Don Turner was the son. Don Turner was a young guy, about our age. There was a daughter.

The father was hard as nails. He was a big tall man. I saw things up there I didn’t like. You know, there was a dog there that was very emaciated and bony, and I went way out of my way to get food for it. And I was trying to feed it, and the old man came over to me and said, “Harden your heart to that,” he said. “There’s nothing you can do about it.”

I said, “Well, as long as I can do something about it, I’m going to try, you know? Why is this dog starving to death here, you know, with all this food?”

And he just said, “That’s the way things are up here, you know? Harden your heart to it.” So, I didn’t get along with him that well, but the son was good.

Now, there’s another family there that we became very friendly with, and that was the Bruckers- John Brucker. John Brucker worked for Nahanni Safaris Ltd. He worked for the Turners. And Brucker was a very tough… I guess he was French-Canadian. He lived at Nahanni Butte. And Brucker was like a jack of all trades. He was a hunter, a mechanic, a very good man on the river with a boat. So, Brucker was a very good guy. A very loud, outspoken guy. He talked loud. He was a small man, but very tough, you know. Very broad-shouldered, but small. And very close… his head was always shaved.

He used to say to me all the time, “Why don’t you talk very much?” Because everyone else would be talking and doing things, and I’d just be sitting there listening, you know? Every now and then he’d look at me and say, “Why don’t you talk? Why don’t you talk? What’s the matter with you?” I’d say, “I’m OK, I’m fine,” you know. I liked him, but he was kind of a brash person, you know what I mean? As I told you originally, I came from a little guy, you know, going to the store for his mother to taking off on a trip like this, you know what I mean? It was a gigantic change in my life, you know what I mean? So I did spend a lot of time sitting there quietly watching people.

When we went there, it was like the Wild West. There was no police. The RCMP would come maybe once a month. They would fly in and ask everybody how things were going and fly away, and other than that, there was no law and order. I mean, it was really… you really were going back in time. People carry guns, you know. I carried a gun wherever I went. Now, remember, this is 1965. It’s probably a little different up there today with the advent of all the different types of communication. The only way we could talk to anybody up there, we had to go into the town and get to a phone there and call somebody, you know? There was no other way to do anything.

The Nuk-Luk

Narrator:

During his stay at Nahanni Butte, Graves decided to ask some of the locals about the hairy wildmen said to haunt the region. In doing so, he came across stories of an entirely different sort of creature known to the natives as the Nuk-luk.

Frank Graves:

I became friendly with various people- the Indians there, the Slaveys and the Cree Indians. And once you get to where they trust you, and will talk to you, that’s when they talked to me about these things. When I got really friendly with the Indians at Nahanni Butte… there’s a place called the Twin Buttes that I couldn’t get to. It wasn’t that far away, but it was an arduous trek to get there. And they told me that there were people living there. And these were, like, sub-human people. They weren’t like Bigfoot. They were, like, little small people that wore clothes- not clothes, but, you know, clothes that they made from skins and things. And that they were very hairy, and that they lived at a place called the Twin Buttes.

Narrator:

Graves wrote about these subarctic pygmies in a letter to Ivan Sanderson. The natives told him that one of these creatures had actually been seen on three occasions the previous year. This particular specimen was said to be…

“Rather short in stature, and to be quite strong with a beard and usually wearing simple clothing. The name given this creature is ‘Nuk-luk’, or ‘Man of the Bush’, or as told to me, by one old man, ‘Bushman’.”

The first Nuk-luk sighting took place in April, 1964, in the woods near Fort Liard. According to Graves:

“An old Amerind named John Baptist came upon a man-shaped creature who was rather strong and sported a long dark beard. He wasn’t wearing any type of clothing and carried no weapons… He was said to be rather shy, for as the band of trapping Amerinds advanced upon him in a friendly manner, he uttered a low growl and fled.”

The second sighting took place at Nahanni Butte in May, 1964. One night at dusk, while weaving a birch bark basket, a Slavey woman:

“Was made aware of a presence outside of her cabin. When she looked out of the door she saw nothing, but a little later, she looked up at the window, and there, saw a face. This face was identical in every respect to the one seen earlier that month.”

The woman and two of her children went outside to look for the little creature, but by that time it had retreated into the bush.

“Now we go to my favourite tale. This was told to me by a boy of about 14, whom I knew only as Jerry. He was recommended to me, for my purpose, by the school teacher there. This little boy saw a creature, identical to the previous mentioned one, except for a few exterior differences. This sighting is said to have occurred last fall right outside of Fort Simpson.

“One evening, at about 9:00 p.m., the little fellow’s dog began to bark. This event is not unusual for his home is located right on the edge of the city dump, and a dog can pick up the scent of many different night scavengers during the passing of one night, especially in that country.

“On this night, however, the boy and his father went out to the dog to find out what was the matter. When they got out to the dog, it was quiet and standing most still. At first, they detected nothing of unusual interest, but when the father turned on a flashlight for a little extra investigative work, they heard a slight noise. As they turned the light in the direction of this sound, they were surprised to see a rather small, dark creature.

“This creature is said to have remained where he stood for several minutes. At about that time, the dog, again, began to bark.

“With that, the creature departed at speed. He was seen by several bystanders who gave slight chase, but upon their entrance into the picture, the creature quickly headed for the bush. He was not pursued.”

The Kraus Hot Springs

Frank Graves:

And we stayed there for a week or two, and then we went to the hot springs.

Narrator:

The Kraus Hot Springs lie on the South Nahanni about sixty kilometres upriver from Nahanni Butte. Back in the early 1900’s, they helped inspire a legend of a tropical valley hidden away somewhere in the Canadian subarctic. In order to get there, the American Expeditionary Society had to pass through an obstacle known as the Splits- a deadly labyrinth of islands and log jams that had claimed the lives of many a canoeist.

Frank Graves:

We had a camp at the hot springs. We actually had a big tent all set up, and that’s where we spent a lot of time- at the hot springs. A man named Gus Kraus and his wife, Mary, lived there. Gus Kraus, at the time, was about 77. I’m almost that old myself now. But he did things like he was in his twenties. He was a very tough outdoor guy, cut down big trees, dragged them all through the bush. Gus was the kind of guy, if he would light his pipe, he would reach into the fire and pick up hot coals in his fingers and light his pipe. He was a very nice guy- a very nice guy to talk to.

His wife was an Indian woman named Mary- kind of a short woman, wore glasses. Actually, Mary had shot Gus when they all lived at Nahanni Butte, and before they moved up to the hot springs. It was in the wintertime, and I saw a movie of this. When we were at the hot springs they showed us an 8mm movie of something… swimming in the hot springs in the winter. Because no matter what happens, the hot springs are always there. They would go back to the hot springs and go in the water even though it was, like, 30 below.

And at some point, there was a problem between Gus and Mary, and Mary shot Gus in the head with a rifle- a .22 rifle. And the bullet went behind, hit him right behind the ear, and it went around his head and came out the other side. Only a .22, you know, would be capable of doing that. And I never really found out what that was about. And nobody got in trouble for it. But it was a very well-known thing that happened there that people used to talk about, about how Mary shot Gus. And Gus would show me, say, “Look, see where the bullet hit me, right here?” And he’d say to her, “You’re a bad shot, Mary!” And she’d just laugh. I don’t know what that was about. Nobody ever really explained why she did that. But that happened before we got there.

And they had a son named Mickey. Mickey was about, I guess, 11 or 12. We actually got playing with him. We used to play tag with him. We did this for days on end up there. We ran around playing tag for days on end. We had a lot of fun doing that.

The Waheela

Frank Graves:

I mentioned something about wolves, and the Mackenzie timber wolves are the largest wolves in the world. They’re bigger than anything in Siberia. And Mackenzie timber wolves, when I first started to see their tracks, I could put my whole hand in the track, and the footprint was bigger than my whole hand with my fingers spread out. They had very odd feet. Their feet are very wide. And they’re very lanky. They have long, spindly legs, and they used to say up there- the Indians would say they weigh 180 pounds but they’re all skin and bones. Now just imagine, like, you know, a typical German shepherd, maybe 75, 100 pounds. These wolves typically weighed 180 or more, and they were very skinny and lanky, with very large heads. They were very odd-looking.

Wolves were the hardest thing to see. You very seldom ever saw them. The only time you’d see a wolf is, you’d have to go out at night, and you’d have to sit someplace very quietly along the river. And then the wolves would come out, and come down to the river to drink. You would never see them ever, but they were all around you.

There was an experience where I was out with… Mickey and I used to go on walks. And we went off one day, and he was always afraid of wolves. He would say- oh, it was his mother. One day, she said, “Mickey…”- we were taking a walk- and she said, “Mickey, don’t go too far, because the wolf will jump up on you.” She used to say that all the time- “The wolf will jump up on you.”

And we were about two or three miles away from the hot springs. Well this one day, we were out walking, just a nice day, and something was running… They have these things called snyes. A snye is like a little inlet off the river that doesn’t move- just like a little body of water. And Mickey and I were walking along, and the snye was down below us, and something was running through the water. And Mickey said, “There’s something down there.” And the path came up in front of us, about 50, 60 yards. It came up from the left, up the hill, to the main path. And I just caught a glimpse of something gray coming up the hill. And it got up to the top and it was a wolf. And it looked right at us. And I never- see, I never shoot things. I’m a very prolific person as far as guns go, my hobby is guns, I target shoot and all that. But I don’t shoot animals. But Mickey was scared.

And this wolf came up, and he was about, I guess, twenty yards away. And he looked at us. Now, animals up there, they shun people. They run from people. And this wolf looked at us, and he started to come directly toward us. And Mickey was scared, and he says, “Oh, the wolf is going to jump up on me.” And I had a shotgun. And I didn’t want to do it, but I fired a shot around it. And the foliage around it- you could see where the shot hit the foliage. And he didn’t react to it. And he came closer. And this time, I shot at him, and the foliage all around him was affected by the shot, but the wolf wasn’t affected by it. And it just turned- at that point, it just turned and quietly shot off the path into the undergrowth. And we didn’t see it again. We went to try and find it. There was no blood. Nothing. But I know I didn’t miss the wolf. There was no way. I didn’t want to shoot it at all, but he was afraid, and I might have been a little afraid myself.

Narrator:

Back in 1965, Frank Graves described this harrowing experience in a letter to Ivan Sanderson:

“An enormous white thing that I at first thought must be a Polar bear sort of wandered out of the trees. It wasn’t a bear; it looked more like a gigantic dog. It stood straight up on rather long legs, more like a dog or a wolf. I had seen plenty of wolves and some of them are enormous enough up there; but this thing was twenty times the size of any wolf I had ever heard of. By a sort of reflex action I fired at it- and it was less than twenty paces away and only partly screened by little bushes. I hit it with two barrels of ball-shot. It didn’t even jump, but turned away from me and just walked back into the forest. I reloaded and fired again, and I know I hit it in the rear, but it just kept on walking.”

Graves’ story reminded Sanderson of another tale that a friend had told him years ago. While prospecting in Alaska in the 1950’s, this friend had come across huge, solitary, white wolves deep in the arctic wilderness. After hearing Graves’ story, Sanderson suspected that these colossal canines might constitute another species of animal entirely.

His theory prompted him to write an article, which was published posthumously in the October 1974 issue of the magazine Pursuit. In this piece, Sanderson remarked that the enormous, wide-headed, dog-like creature that Graves encountered in the Nahanni Valley evoked a particular species of ancient canine believed to have gone extinct several million years ago. Perhaps, Sanderson surmised, descendants of this ancient animal still survived in remote corners of the arctic. Sanderson dubbed this hypothetical creature the “Waheela”, and thus a new variety of cryptid was born.

Frank Graves:

Well, the other theory that Ivan talked to me about was, he said that he thought it was what they call a ‘ghost wolf’, meaning that it isn’t really there. I mean, there’s a lot of room for this. You know what: Ivan, he wrote a lot of books about the Bermuda Triangle and everything that pertains to that. You know, like time differentials, and the fourth dimension, and all. And he thought, because the… as I say, I did not want to shoot this wolf. I didn’t want to shoot anything. When it became apparent that he could have hurt us, I shot at it, and everything around it was affected by the shot, and it wasn’t. And that’s when it turned and ran off the path to the right, up into the bush. And this bush is very heavy. Plus the carpeting of that type of forest is moss about a foot thick. It’s a foot thick. It’s like walking on a sponge everywhere you go. Once you get off the game trails, you’re walking in like a sponge. So once any animal gets into that, you can’t hear them. Once it went off the path- see, I only heard it because it was in the water, and it came up the path, which was a dirt path, and when it got to the top is when I saw it. But once it decided to leave, it jumped off the path into the woods to the right, and then you couldn’t hear it anymore.

So, anyway, Ivan’s personal opinion was, he thought it was what they call a ‘ghost wolf’.

Narrator:

Ever since Sanderson’s article, there have been several ideas put forth as to the identity of this strange animal. Some have drawn parallels between it and another mysterious canine from the Great Plains. Others have attempted to connect it with a monster of Inuit myth.

Frank Graves has his own thoughts regarding the nature of the Waheela, which he shared for the first time in this interview.

Frank Graves:

Well, they’re called Mackenzie timber wolves. They are, I mean, that is an established variety of timber wolf. That’s exactly what I’m talking about. They’re very long-legged, with big feet, large heads, kind of skin and bones, but averaging 180, 200 pounds. And they stand higher than three feet at the shoulder. Much higher. So, it’s an established variety of wolf in that area.

The Mounties

Frank Graves:

While we were at the hot springs, an interesting thing was, George and Bruce Shorer were trying to make wine, but they were using something other than whatever you use to make wine, where you have to brine it and let it sit, and all this. Anyway, it makes a smell. And you’re not supposed to do that in Canada. Up there, it was outlawed. And they were doing this, and it takes weeks for this to get to a point where you can drink it. Some kind of mash, you know? It was in buckets. Well, it wasn’t in the camp; it was maybe 100 yards away.

Well, while we were there, the RCMP came. Two RCMP guys. They flew in an airplane, and they landed right by the camp. And we went down. They tied the thing off. They came up and they visited with us, and they were just visiting, you know? They talked to use and we made them steaks, and we had a good time, and nobody mentioned this, right. And time went on, and they stayed maybe two or three days. And they visited with Gus Kraus, and they brought news, you know, and talked about what was going on, and this, that, the other thing.

They also made some interesting comments about airplanes. The said that they saw- this was the RCMP- they said that they saw jet fighter planes up there, and he said it wasn’t a Canadian plane. He said he thought it was Russian. So, but he said those things happen up there in the area.

To make a long story a little longer, when they were getting ready to leave- and we did everything; we had knife-throwing contests, we put up targets on the other side of the river and shot at them- and they were about ready to leave, and got down to the airplane, and they said, “So, listen, guys. In about a week, dump about two pounds of sugar in that, and you’ll have really good booze.” Nobody was… we were scared to death, because you could smell this all over, and it was illegal then. And we all just kind of looked at each other, like, “What are you talking about?”

The Sasquatch

Frank Graves:

But you have to understand that the underlying reason for the whole trip was to investigate reports of Sasquatch, Omah. In that area, There’s what they call the… Sasquatches is kind of a name that’s bandied around up there, but up there, they refer to them as Omah, which is the same as Sasquatch. They’re all basically the same creature. The Omah is basically the same type of a creature as Sasquatch. And actually, there’s another variety. They’re called hillside gougers. Hillside gougers.

And, to give you an idea of how people are up there: we hadn’t mentioned anything about Sasquatch or anything, and we were up there with the Turners, you know. Just having a visit with them. Sitting around, drinking Canadian beer, things like that, and having a nice talk. And George Boyum just said, you know, kind of casually, said, “How many Sasquatch have you seen?” And when he said that, everything changed. The people clammed right up. It leads you to believe that there’s a lot to it, you know what I mean? They don’t want these things exploited. Once that was said, then we kind of had to work our way back into why we were there, you know, to collect mosses and things like that. We had to get around that, you know. Once we brought that up, they became a little bit defensive about things.

The people up there, except when you got to talk to, as I did- I talked to young Indian people, and they’re the ones who would open up. The older people would not talk to you. So, in my opinion of course, these things are there. They do exist.

Narrator:

During his time at the Hot Springs, Graves made several excursions into the wilderness, accompanied at all times by an Indian guide. On one particular outing, he and his companion made a fascinating discovery, which Graves related in a letter to Ivan Sanderson.

“We made several successful forays up side valleys and canyons during the days while we moved up river, and we got our food quite fast. But then one misty day we set off up a canyon that the Indian said he did not know personally but which was ‘not lucky’. And in truth we did not spot a living thing in three hours; so we started back down to the river. Then suddenly my pal stopped, and pointed down at the soft wet ground in a little clearing and actually gave one of those grunts that movie-makers love to have their ‘Red Indians’ make. He was a bit rattled and so was I, for there, most clearly marked in the mud, were three footprints of what appeared to be a barefoot man who would have had to take a shoe with an internal measurement of at least sixteen inches! My friend gave this thing a name, but I never really did catch up with that as we went down that valley at no dog-trot, I can tell you.”

Moose Riding

Frank Graves:

There’s a thing in Canada: if you have your picture taken riding on a moose, you get $10,000 from some organization. And we almost did it. When we left the hot springs, and we were about to enter the First Canyon, and a moose was swimming across the river. And we went over to it and- this is the honest-to-God truth now- I was going to jump off onto the moose and try and ride on it. And they were going to make a movie of it. I was afraid that if we jumped on it, it would drown. We changed our mind; we didn’t do it.

First Canyon

Narrator:

Beyond the Hot Springs, the South Nahanni runs through what is known as the First Canyon- a channel of white water flanked by two towering limestone cliffs. It is here that the American Expeditionary Society encountered the first of the Nahanni’s many rapids, for which the river is notorious.

Frank Graves:

There’s two or three places on the South Nahanni- George’s Riffle and the Lafferty Riffle- that are very, very, very tough, and seasoned people get killed there. George’s Riffle is the hardest place to navigate on the river. You have the current coming down about eighteen miles an hour, but it runs into very narrow areas, and it’s all white water, and you have to navigate up through that. And a lot of people get hurt there and get killed there. Boats flip over. And we made it up there the first time, went right through all that riffle. And then we got into the real trip. We went up to the Headless Valley.

Headless Valley

Frank Graves:

And that was our main camp, in the Headless Valley. We stayed in the Headless Valley for over a month. There was a cabin built there by the government, and it was just put there for anybody who would visit there could stay in the cabin, they’d have some kind of shelter. And directly across from that was what they called the Prairie Creek Delta. And the way it looked, it was deceiving to look at it, it looked like it was very close, but it was very far away. And the trees that lined it- they’re sheer walls, and they lined it all the way up to the top and down. But the trees, it looked like grass. These trees were 100 feet tall. They looked like little pieces of confetti. The scale- once you explained it to people- “these trees are 100 feet tall”- then they realized how vast everything was and how large it was.

Wildlife

Frank Graves:

The game up there is so plentiful I would liken it to Africa. I mean, every single day you saw moose. Every now and then you saw a grizzly bear. When you got up a little bit you’d see Dall sheep, caribou… I mean, this was all day, every day. See, the thing about Canada is that everything is bigger there. I’ve seen ravens here. The Indians, they like to catch these ravens and keep them for pets. And you know how they catch them? They take a fly line- a fly rod- and they put a little piece of jerky on it, and a little hook. And these ravens get on the top of their cabins and things, and they’ll throw the line up there, and the raven will pick up the end of the line to get the piece of jerky, and they’ll hook them, and they’ll catch the hook in their beak, and they’ll very easily reel them in. And they catch them, and they keep them as pets.

But the ravens up there have like 4 or 5-foot wingspans. They’re very big. We used to see them walking around, and they’d be like, maybe 3 feet tall. I’m serious. And I’ve seen ravens in other places- upstate and all in there, the ravens are maybe 18 inches high. These were like 3 feet tall, and they were all over everywhere. But everything up there was big.

Once you get in there, it’s actually primeval. I mean, you could, in my opinion, run into anything. I mean, you could run into literally anything. I remember George said one day- we were up on a little trip walking around- he said, “This is primeval.” He said, “We could run into anything here.” He was a college guy, you know, and he was a biology guy, and he knew a lot. And Wayne Egrebretson was a biology guy. They studied all this; they had a firm grasp of what they were looking at. I didn’t, but I remember George said to me one day, he said, “This is a primeval forest here.” He said, “Really, anything can be here,” meaning Sasquatch, or anything, you know. We could even find a dinosaur.

But prior to that, they had found a herd of woodland bison that were seen from the air by either the RCMP or somebody. And there’s some kind of a film clip of that somewhere. And that’s how they were identified. And they were supposed to be extinct. Ivan talked about that a lot. But right in that area, where we were.

And the one thing that nobody ever talks about are the insects up there- the bugs. They have whole seasons of bugs there that really, really, really tax everything. You run through… when you first get there, you have gnats. And people walk around with these screens over their heads. And you have to have them or your mouth will fill up with gnats. I mean, there’s zillions of gnats. And there’s a whole season for gnats. And this goes on for weeks. The air hums with gnats.

And then they go away, and you get what they call “bulldogs”. These are these black flies. And these flies are so nasty. The will land on you and start biting you, and you know how you just shush a fly away? They don’t go away. They’re biting you, and you have to pull them off. And there’s a whole season of bulldogs.

That lasts for a week or two. Then you get mosquitoes. This is all in the spring, early summer. You get the mosquitoes. Mosquitoes are big, and the air is alive with them. And you find yourself bathing in all this bug repellant. Of course, the Indians have their own stuff, and you put that on, and nothing bothers you. Because the stuff you take up there- you know, bug spray and all- doesn’t do anything.

Albert Faille

Frank Graves:

Albert Faille was the big name up there. He always wore this grey outfit with a grey hat. And he had a beard of a thin, old man. At the time he was probably eighty years old.

Faille had, at some point, been up there by himself, and he was injured, and he broke his back. And he managed to survive a whole winter up there in the Headless Valley with a broken back. And he survived it and made his way back to the Hot Springs and Nahanni Butte, where he was nursed back to health.

He became a folk hero up there. Everybody knew Albert Faille. Faille was… we spent a lot of time with him, and we would give him food. We cooked all the time, give him big steaks to eat, and catch fish for him. Albert Faille was one of these austere personages that you held in reverence. You didn’t just pop down next to him and say, “How’re you doing?” You approached him very carefully. “How are you, sir?” and that kind of stuff. “How do you feel today” and “What’s going on?” You kind of worked into it. If he liked you, then he would talk to you.

He told us about a cave that ran from the hot springs to the Headless Valley. Fourteen miles. He said, “There’s a cave that runs from behind the hot springs, it runs through the mountains, and it comes out in the Headless Valley.” Oh, that was very interesting to us. But I’m not much for caves. I don’t like doing the caves, and I kind of turned that idea down. But it’s a fourteen-mile cave he talked about. That’s a long cave.

Mongol Caves

Narrator:

Much of Nahanni Country, especially the area surrounding the Headless Valley, is pockmarked with deep caves that lead into the rock. Legend has it that these caverns are haunted by some sort of sinister presence, from evil spirits to Neanderthals to hairy, red-eyed giants. During his time in the Headless Valley, Frank Graves stumbled across one of these caves and made a shocking discovery inside.

Frank Graves:

When we were in the Headless Valley, we would take walks. George and I, we would go across the river, across the Nahanni, and we put the boat up over there, and then we would go on a walk across the Prairie Creek Delta. This is like two or three miles until you get to the mountains.

I would always carry a rifle. You can’t carry handguns up there. It would have been so much nicer if you could carry a handgun. But I always carried a rifle, and it made everything tougher. Because the rifle that I took with me was a rifle that my father gave me. It was a big, heavy gun, and I always carried it around with me.

This one time, we got split up in the Prairie Creek Delta area. We just did things. You didn’t think about it; you just did them. And we would be going up in this area and there would be water coming down. We would just walk right through it, and if it turned out to be twelve feet deep, you just went right through it, you just kept going to get where you were going to go. And it was actually very dangerous because if it rained, this whole area would flood very quickly. I mean, it would flood in a matter of minutes. You’d have big trouble.

We got a little split up, and I did some climbing. And I don’t mean walking up something. And I’m no climber or anything, but I actually climbed up a rock face. I’m talking maybe several thousand feet. Because once you start doing these things, you can’t stop. You have to keep going. You can’t come back.

And I was climbing up, and I got fairly close to the top and I found a cave. I stopped for a while. I was getting a little nervous because I was wondering how I was going to get to the top. Because you’re climbing up these rock faces and I found this cave. When I say “cave”, it went in about ten feet. I don’t know whether it was a naturally-occurring fault in the rock, but it went in about ten feet.

And I got in there, and I found a spear. Not knowing anything at the time, being a novice at all this, I picked it up and held it. It felt like it was made of stone, but you could see that it was a spear that somebody had hewn, and it was probably very, very, very old. And it had apparently turned to stone. I remember trying to figure out how I was going to get it down, because I had this rifle over my shoulder, and I had a pack on my back, too. And I had this spear. At the time, I really didn’t think about it being important, but I wanted to try and get it back. And you could actually see where somebody had sharpened this up, and it had a point on it. It was maybe an inch and a half in diameter, and it was about six feet long. But you could see that it wasn’t just a naturally-occurring thing.

I had to tuck it behind me and put it in the rifle- you know, between the rifle and my back in the pack- and I actually climbed the rest of that with all that on my back. And I got almost to the very top, and I had to make a… it was just like in a movie. At this point, you’ve got to go to the top. I had to reach up about three feet to where I could see was the very top- the very last place I could grab a hold of. I spent a minute or two thinking about it, and I just lunged up, and I managed to grab a hold of it, just like in a movie. And I pulled myself up, and I got one leg up on the top, and I started to pull myself up, and the spear fell. I dropped it. And it went all the way down at least a thousand feet or more down into the rocks, into the water. I was very lucky. I could have died right then, because if I hadn’t made that last grip, I would have fallen. I wouldn’t even be here now.

It would have been interesting to bring that back. A lot of people would have liked to look at that. It wasn’t wood. I mean, you can see where it had been wood. You could see where it had been hewn from something. Like a fairly straight limb from a tree or something. But it apparently was very old. And, I mean, it wasn’t sharpened with tools; it was just like somebody had hewn it on a rock or something and got it to where it was a fairly sharp point. I don’t mean sharp enough to stick it through something, but it was sharpened. I talked to Ivan about it later, and he said, “God, you bring it back,” and I said, “I tried to but it was as I was trying to get purchase on that last little ledge before I fell, I lost it. I don’t even know if we could have found it, you know what I mean? It was interesting. I think that would have been interesting to bring back.

Virginia Falls

Frank Graves:

There’s three canyons on the river: the First Canyon, the Second, and the Third. After the Third Canyon, you get to Virginia Falls, which is the highest waterfall in North America. It’s about 400 feet, twice as high as Niagara. And that’s when it got really hairy, because the river gets really rough up there.

We just took the boat up with nothing in it. We just packed ourselves in it, unpacked the boat at the Headless Valley, and we just took a boat trip up to Virginia Falls. And once we got up there, we stayed up there for about a week or so.

We met four or five people that had come over the continental divide in canoes. They came across the Rocky Mountains in canoes. These were really tough people. They were young guys from some university. And they were really, really, really tough guys. They did the trip we did in canoes. We spent a couple weeks with them at the Headless Valley- first at the Falls, and then at the Headless Valley.

The Great Pancake-Eating Contest

Frank Graves:

And we had what’s called- it’s written on the walls up there- we had an eating contest in which we pitted ourselves against their group, and we had an eating contest. We made pancakes, we made beans, we made all kinds of stuff, and we carefully catalogued the whole contest. It lasted a few days. I was supposed to be the best eater there. I ate 34- I think 35- big pancakes, and one of their guys ate, like 50 pancakes. I mean, these were big pancakes. When I think back on it now, I don’t know how anyone survived that. We were all sick for about a week after that. We ate buckets of beans. And it was all written on the side- the doorway- of the cabin. When we did it, it was noted on the cabin.

George shot a moose. A small moose, like a young moose. We ate very well there. I mean, we ate steaks all the time. We had moose meat every day. The Turners, when they came up there, Nahanni Safaris, they shot a Dall sheep, and they quartered it. When they stayed with us, we all had that meat for a while. And the fishing was… I’m not a fisherman- I don’t really care for it- but George was a fisherman, and he would go out in the morning and catch twenty or thirty trout in, like, five minutes. And when you looked into the water, the water was this green, beautiful, emerald colour, and you could see the fish in it. I mean, you could see thousands of fish. I’m talking thousands of trout that are a foot long, or bigger. And George caught one of those lake trout. He caught a trout that weighed about 35 pounds. And we used to make all these really nice dinners. Use trout, and then, of course, we made biscuits. We had enough to make biscuits for an army up there. So we had biscuits and trout. Of course, we took tons of rice. And we would make stew from trout and rice, and we had biscuits with it. And if you wanted a steak, you just went out and cut off a big piece of steak and cooked it.

We actually made what’s called dried meat. The Indians showed us how to do that. You have to hang it up and smoke it. You have to make all these little strips. It’s like jerky. I mean, it’s the same thing. We made our own jerky. And then the jerky, of course- once you put that into water, it turns right back into meat. It dries up like leather, and you keep that in your pocket all day. When you get hungry, you just take a piece of that and chew it up. But if you want to cook something, you just boil water and drop the jerky back into it and you have meat.

There was comments made about the moose, you know, and somebody said, “This moose tastes wild.” One of the guys said, “This has a wild taste.” And George says, “It doesn’t have a wild taste. It tastes like moose. You know? Moose is moose. Mutton is mutton. Venison is venison. It doesn’t taste like steak.” You know what I mean? Each one of those meats is an entirely different animal. We ate very well up there.

The Voyage

Frank Graves:

We had a little bit of a time problem, because the trip was kind of put together quickly at the last minute, and we all ended up there. We only had so much time to do what we were going to do because we weren’t prepared to stay for the winter. Everything changes when it gets cold. The only reason we left was because, one morning, all the mountains around us looked normal, and the next moment they were all white, and they said that’s when we had to leave.

When we came back, we got down to Fort Simpson and we had to get back to the school bus at Hay River. So what we did was, they have tugs that run up and down the Mackenzie River, and we got on a tug called the YT Husky. They push flat-bottom barges up and down the river. We were sitting on the dock with no place to go, nothing to do, with all this equipment, and a barge pulled in with a tugboat. We went up and talked to the captain and he said, “Just stow your stuff on one of the barges and come up on the tug and live with us.

It took three or four days to go down to Hay River. They took us down there, and we had a really nice time on the tugboat. We lived on the tugboat. We helped them a little bit. And the tugboat brought us down to Hay River.

The Thunderbird Expedition

Narrator:

About a year after his adventure in the Nahanni Valley, Frank Graves developed an interest in a new sort of unexplained phenomenon: Thunderbird sightings.

The Thunderbird is a winged monstrosity of First Nations and Native American mythology. From the Pacific Northwest to the Maritimes, this avian colossus features in native folklore all across North America.

Legend has it that the Thunderbird was endowed with the ability to create storms. Lightning shot from its eyes when it blinked, and thunder boomed when it flapped its wings. Native artwork often depicts these creatures carrying off enormous prey such as whales and bison.

Every once in a while, Canadians and Americans report seeing giant birds eerily evocative of this monster of native lore. In 1966, Frank Graves and a young man named Jay Blick decided to investigate one such report in Northern Pennsylvania on behalf of Ivan Sanderson.

Frank Graves:

I like all kinds of things like that. They’re very intriguing to me. And Ivan had been… he wrote an article about it, about Thunderbirds. And apparently at some point, an airplane or something had been knocked down somewhere, and they found tissue on the aircraft that was from a bird. But because the way that the tissue was, the amount of it, it had to be a very, very large bird. And this plane had apparently hit a bird in the air and crashed, and it got him off on this Thunderbird thing.

And there’s an area called Renovo. It’s up in Central PA. And they had sightings of Thunderbirds up there. I, of course, was immediately intrigued on this. See, Ivan had meetings. He would have meetings. He would rent places, and all of his big people would come to these meetings, like Oliver Swan, and Joe Hefner- these were like publishers, people involved with newspapers in New York- and they were on his board. And he would have meetings every now and then, and I was always invited to those. There was one at the Arirang House up in Manhattan, where we would all go up there and have dinner, and then they’d have a meeting. At these meetings, we would talk about all these different things, and when they got about Thunderbirds, that was something I could look into because it’s in Central PA. So, I had a little meeting with him and he said, “We’d love you to go up to Renovo and investigate this. We have people up there who are seeing these big birds.”

So immediately said, “Fine,” and I went with a guy- I think his name was… was it Jay Blick, or something? Like, a heavy-set guy. And he had one of Ivan Sanderson’s old Plymouth station wagons. He had two Plymouth station wagons. One he travelled all over the country in. Well, this Jay Blick, he met me up there, and I had a ’58 Plymouth at the time. Beautiful car that I got from my grandfather, it was like brand new. And I met him up there, and we went to the town of Renovo.

We went to a man named Bill Hess. Bill Hess was the historian for the town. He’s the one that came up with all this information about the Thunderbird, and he talked about… he gave us names of people. He was an old man. He lived in a house outside of town. Well, we went up and talked to him. He had actually seen a Thunderbird, and at the time he might have been 80 years old, and he lived out in the woods.

We investigated that, and then we spent three or four days up there. We went up into the mountains, and we found a couple perches where we could sit and look over everything. There’s a place called the overlook up there where you can see for like twenty miles. We went up and sat up there and that was our investigation. We talked to people that had seen them, said they’d seen them. We talked to Mr. Hess, who was the historian of the town. And this was all documented. I did writing on it, and so did Blick.

We got along fairly well on the trip. We actually camped out. We didn’t stay in a motel. We went up in the woods, and we set up a camp. You know, made a campfire. We stayed there a couple of days, but we were mainly looking for these birds. We would go up at night and look. Because they were supposed to only be seen at nighttime. They were very rarely… nobody ever saw them in the day. And we went to a place where you could overlook the whole area, and we sat up there and watched and watched and watched.

Actually, a game warden came along, and he said, “What are you guys doing up here?” We had guns and everything. Rifles. And he said, “Do you have a permit for that rifle?”

And I said, “No”.

He said, “Do you have a permit for that shotgun?”

“No.”

“Well, what are you doing up here?”

And we told him, “Looking for Thunderbirds.”

And he started, “Oh, Thunderbirds. Alright”. You know, he kind of laughed the whole thing off.

Something happened to Blick on the trip. I can’t remember what happened to him, but he all of a sudden didn’t want to say there. He wanted to come back. We were there for maybe three, four days. And then we came back, and I gave my material to Ivan Sanderson. Told him what happened, and this, that, the other thing.

That… that’s kind of an up-in-the-air thing to me. I’m not sure about any of that, but the people I talked to seemed very genuine. Very genuine. I don’t know why they’d come up with a story, you know what I mean? They’re out in the middle of nowhere. They didn’t profit by it in any way.

The Missing Thunderbird Photograph

Narrator:

According to legend, an American sharpshooter killed a Thunderbird in the deserts of Arizona sometime in the late 1800’s. He and some of his friends later posed for a photograph with the bird’s carcass, which they had nailed to a barn wall.

Thousands of people have sworn they have seen this photo in some old book, magazine, or newspaper. Yet despite a thorough and concerted search for it, no one has been able to find it again. Some cite this bizarre case as an example of the so-called Mandela Effect- a phenomenon characterized by a collective false memory. Others propound more exotic theories involving alternate realities and extra dimensions in an effort to make sense of this strange state of affairs. Whatever the case, the missing Thunderbird photo remains one of most perplexing cryptozoological mysteries to date.

One man who claimed to have once owned a copy of this photo was Ivan T. Sanderson. In an article for the magazine Pursuit, he stated that he had given this copy to Frank Graves and Jay Blick prior to their Thunderbird expedition in upstate Pennsylvania. The photo never returned to his archive, and its fate remains a mystery.

Fortunately, Frank Graves saw this photo prior to its disappearance.

Frank Graves:

I do remember a picture of- like, this would have been in the 1890s or something- a picture of a big, black bird on the side of a barn. And there were people standing across it. I do remember that now, but I don’t remember the circumstance. I do remember that.

See, something spurred me to go there. You know what I mean? Like, I’m very into doing things like that, because it’s interesting to me, and I believe that these things, for the most art, are real. I don’t believe people make these things up.

I’m trying to remember… I think it was that picture… I think Ivan Sanderson showed it to me, and I think that’s why- one of the reasons I went on the trip.

I remember something. There was a bird, and its head… the thing about the head was you couldn’t see the head. The head was hung over, and all you could see were the wings. Black bird, and there were people standing in front of it, like across it, to show how long it was. It was like, maybe twenty feet, thirty feet across. But the thing about it was you couldn’t see the head. The head had been… was hanging over. You know what I mean? Like, nobody held up the head or propped it up. So, that’s what was wrong with the picture. You couldn’t… in other words, anybody could have faked feathers and things, or whatever, but the head would be hard to fake. And this, you couldn’t see the head, because the head was hanging down in the front, you know what I mean?

I recall this. The bird- it was a black bird on the side of a barn. See, I didn’t think about it until you said “nailed to a barn”. And there were people standing in front of it, and all you could see were these wings. And the head was slumped over, so you couldn’t see if it had a beak, or what it was, you know what I mean? I do recall that.

I don’t remember what happened to the picture. You’re saying that we took it to… we took it with us. If that’s what it said, then I guess that’s what happened. I don’t recall that. But I recall the picture. I just don’t remember the incidentals, you know?

I’m sure that Mr. Hess is probably passed on by this time. He would know for sure. His name was Bill Hess, and he was the town historian for Renovo. He had all kinds of information there in his files, so it could be that we gave him the picture. I don’t know. I don’t recall.

The thing about the picture- I do recall seeing a picture; Ivan showed it to me- and it was a black bird on the side of an old barn, and there were people standing in front of it with their arms outstretched. But you could not see the head of the bird. You really couldn’t tell what kind of a bird it was, you know what I mean? It was a black bird like a raven or something. The Thunderbird is really supposed to be a raven. A giant raven. That’s really what Thunderbirds are supposed to be. Some of the current thinking is that they are a type of an eagle that’s not seen very readily. There’s the ocean eagles, there’s a lot of eagles that are very large. The biggest eagles, I think, have a 9 or 10-foot wingspan. But I think, from my knowledge of this, I think Thunderbirds are ravens. They’re just giant ravens.

Giant Swan of New Jersey – A New Cryptid?

Frank Graves:

Hey, I’ll tell you something very quickly, just for the hell of it. I drive a truck, and I was over in New Jersey five or six years ago, over on 295, and I was coming up in this little area and I saw what looked like a papier-mache swan. I thought it was a papier-mache swan that was like on a float, like in a parade, and maybe had fallen off a truck and was on the side of the road. And I was coming up on it, and I thought, Boy, look how big that is! This is me telling you this. It was a beautiful white swan, but I thought it was papier-mache. That’s how big it was. It might have been five feet long. And the bird was down, like, sitting down on the ground. But it was a swan. Long neck up, and it was just sitting there. And I thought it must have fallen off a flatbed, and somehow it didn’t get broken up.

And as I came up on it, it got up! It raised up onto its feet. And I thought, God, it’s alive! And I was coming up on it, and I was in the left lane- it’s a three-lane road there- and I moved over as far as I could to the right. And it got up, and it started to look like it was going to try to walk. And it was on the shoulder by the guardrail. It was on the left side.

And that impressed me so much, I went up- I was afraid it was going to get hit- and I went up to the next exit, I got off with a tractor-trailer, and came all the way back down just to see what happened to it. I thought, It’s going to get hit. You know? It’s going to wander out onto the road and get hit. Because I’ve seen geese wander across the highway and get hit. But this was… when I say big, it was huge. And it was a swan. It was absolutely unreal how big it was.

And when I came back, it was gone. So, it must have flown away. And that bird, as I’m telling you right now, it was at least five feet long, and sitting there, it was about three and a half, four feet high, and the neck- of course, it had the swan’s neck, which went up like a swan would do, and that was maybe another three feet up. And I really thought it was a papier-mache impression of a swan, you know, from a float. And when I got up to it, it got up and started to walk, and it was absolutely huge.

And I told you, I went up to the next exit, turned- because I thought it was going to get hit. I should have stopped right then, but I couldn’t stop. And I went up to the next exit, which is about two, three miles, I came all the way back down, turned around and came all the way back up and it was gone. I expected to see feathers all over the road, blood, you know, and carnage, but it was gone. So apparently, it was able to fly away. I just mentioned that for the hell of it, because we’re talking about large birds.

The End of an Era

Frank Graves:

See, once Ivan passed away, everything kind of fell apart. A lot of connections were broken at that point. When Ivan was alive, I was connected to a lot of people. Once he passed away, everything kind of just went quiet.

I kind of miss some of it. I miss Ivan Sanderson. He was a one-of-a-kind guy, and Ivan and I had a pretty good relationship. I miss him.

Narrator:

Thank you for watching Interview with a Cryptid Hunter. If you enjoyed this documentary and would like to learn more about Frank Graves and the American Expeditionary Society, please check out the book Legends of the Nahanni Valley, available on Amazon and Kindle.

 

Special thank you to Frank Graves for agreeing to participate in this interview, and for contributing ‘lost’ footage from the 1965 AES Nahanni expedition.

 

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I'm a Western Canadian writer, carver, and fiddler who has a special place in his heart for history and the unexplained.

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