At the beginning of the 21st Century monsters still roam the remote, and sometimes not so remote, corners of our planet. It is our job to search for them. The Centre for Fortean Zoology [CFZ] is - we believe - the largest professional, scientific and full-time organisation in the world dedicated to cryptozoology - the study of unknown animals. Since 1992 the CFZ has carried out an unparalleled programme of research and investigation all over the world. Since 2009 we have been running the increasingly popular CFZ Blog Network, and although there has been an American branch of the CFZ for over ten years now, it is only now that it has a dedicated blog.

Wednesday, 11 January 2017

THE TOWN THAT FLED BIGFOOT

A fascinating if tragic account from Alaska by Zachary Mann.





  It’s a sad story all too familiar and far too real for most; a small secluded town once a place of many quite back roads and mom and pop stores filled with tightknit families and friends dating back generations suddenly goes under. One by one the buildings close, the jobs disappear, and those friends and loved ones you held so close begin to leave. Eventually all or and overwhelming majority of the town’s population disappear and soon what was once a vibrant and local hub of life and community lies in ruin, dilapidated and broken. Usually, this is the result of changes in the economy, like jobs relocating or closing up shop, or a change in the values of the lifestyles of the town’s residents. In a few occasions nature or man-made disasters can be the driving factor, such as the unhappy city of Pompeii, destroyed by a volcano, or the town of Centralia, Pennsylvania, abandoned after a massive man-made fire broke out underground, one which has raged for decades and will likely do so for centuries.

          But what happens when the residents fled not from a natural disaster, but from a monster? No, not a serial killer or an overly aggressive bear, but something they perceived to be a genuine monster. I’ve read stories about single homes, usually very isolated, being abandoned after  alleged encounter(s) with a strange beast. However, have you ever heard of a whole block being abandoned? How about a neighborhood or an entire town? No, what about two entire communities? Well it’s time to summon up all our courage and venture into the crumbling street of  American towns in which the residents where terrorized, driven away, and even murdered by  huge unidentified man-beast(s).

 Our haunting true story begins with the town of Port Chatham, Alaska, on the Kenai Peninsula.  First visited by Caption Nathaniel Portlock, a name we will see later, in the late 1700’s, they received a warm welcome form the native inhabitants and a settlement, used mainly as a British Naval Base, was established. The town became a proper town in the early 1900’s with the first post office opening in the 1920’s and the town’s economy was fueled by logging, trading, and mining, specifically the Chromite mine, which also sits abandoned today. For many years the town was a normal and as serine as any other American small community, then came the 1930’s and everything changed.

     It was during this time that strange events started to happen, little things at first, which, to quote a phrase that has gained popularity over the internet in recent years, ‘escalated quickly.’ The Native peoples as well as the white settlers began to report that the Nantiinaq (Nan-te-nuk) was becoming more and more aggressive and even coming into the town, which it previously hadn’t, and would sometimes attack people. Nantiinaq translates to Bush Man, and is reported by numerous Native tribes all over Alaska. Three incidents in particular are worth noting in this monster rampage. First a logger was killed instantly when he was struck from behind with an immensely large piece of logging equipment, more on this story in detail later. Then a gold miner working on his claim disappeared one day, never to be seen again nor were any traces of him or his whereabouts found. Finally, a local sawmill owner, Tom Larsen, actually claimed to have seen a Nantiinaq on the beach actively tearing up fish nets that had been set up. Mr. Larsen ran back to his home to get a gun, returned, saw the beast still there, and the beast turned to look at him. For whatever reason, Mr. Larsen didn’t take a shot at it, despite that probably being his original intent, if he ran home to retrieve a weapon and return to the sight of his encounter. During this time large trees were found torn out of the ground by the roots and placed upside down. Many natives, and recent Bigfoot hunters have guessed that this is a sign of aggression or territory marking that these creatures do, either to others of its kind or to humans in their territory.

It must be noted that, in the first two incidents, no one that we know of witnessed them, so any creature’s involvement is speculation. Only the last incident had an eyewitness to it. The creature’s behavior is a bit unusual in that these creatures tend to stay away from human places and constructions, but I have read and heard of alleged Bigfoot like beasts doing this very act of net sabotage elsewhere, so it is not without a precedent. The story then takes a turn for the paranormal as some locals claimed that the Nantiinaq was being conjured by an evil spirit in the guise of a woman with a very white face and wearing long flowing black clothes who appeared on the cliffs and would summon the monsters. Assuming this part of the story is fear induced hysteria, we are still left with a very scary and freighting set of events.

    By 1936, the town’s residents evacuated en masse, leaving their homes, businesses, and livelihoods almost overnight. That was it for Port Chatham, it still remains there to this day abandoned, its structures crumbling to the ground, becoming less and less visible with each passing year. But the terror didn’t stop there, just as the people moved so did the beast(s) and soon the nearby town of Portluck, found itself in the grip of this horrendous creature.




          Named after the same captain who visited the close by town of Port Chatham, Nathaniel Portlock, Portlock was founded in the early 1900’s it  mostly occupied by Native Alaskans and was similarly a thriving small town. Yet it to would soon come under the same dark cloud which befell Port Chatham.

          It was in the 1940’s things began anew in Portlock. Men who had worked for the cannery would sometimes go missing, never to be seen again. The same fate would befall some hunters who went out hunting Dall sheep and bear. Soon eyewitness sightings of the Nantiinaq would become common in and around the town. A story I kept running into from various sites while researching claimed that a hunting party had been tracking moose when they began to find huge 18 inch man-like prints in the snow. The tracks soon overlaid that of the moose and eventually signs of a great struggle where found. The beast whatever it was killed the moose and then made off leaving more giant tracks has it headed back higher up into the mountains.

   
Then, as if things couldn’t be scarier, some truly gruesome incidents began to happen. Residents began to find bodies washing up in their lagoon. The bodies were so badly mutilated that no one believed even the largest and most ferocious bears could be responsible. None of these bodies where identified, I looked long and hard and couldn’t find any positive identities, nor could I find any official police or coroner’s reports. Yet still, the fact that so many locals who lived there at the time confirmed seeing them in the years since, leads me to believe that they were very much real.  With bodies piling up and residents vanishing, soon Portlock suffered the same fate as Port Chatham, almost everyone was gone by 1949 and the post office closed in 1950. Most of what we know of these events are from an article written for the Anchorage Daily News which was published on April, 15, 1973.



Then more than fifty years later, we would get much more details about many of these original reports after Naomi Klouda published an interview she conducted with Malania Helen Kehl, who was a resident at the time of the events, in an October issue of the Homer Tribune in 2009. In a startling revelation, Malania reveals that the man killed by being hit with the logging equipment was her own godfather! His name was Andrew Kamluck, and, in 1931, he was struck from behind by a large piece of logging equipment, killing him instantly. What made this strange was the equipment was something that weighed so much that it didn’t seem possible for anyone, no matter how strong, to pick up let alone wield as a weapon. She also confirmed it was the elders of the village at the time who had documented most of the other strange events like the prospector going missing and the sawmill owner’s sighting. Malania said that after both towns where abandoned most sightings and all the vicious attacks stopped. Needless to say, the town folk were relieved.  However, strange sightings have never stopped in the area.

A report online talks of how a group of hunters where forced by bad weather to take shelter in Dogfish Bay Lagoon, not far away from the towns in August, 1973. For two consecutive nights something walking on two legs would enter their camp at night and come uncomfortably close to their tents. They readied themselves with their guns should it return for a third night, but it did not. Then, according to the story, while working as a paramedic in 1990, he was out on call when he met an elderly Native gentleman. They talked, shared stories, but when the Elder learned he had been to Dogfish Bay, he pulled him by the shirt in close and asked him, “Did it bother you?” Instantly he knew what he was asking about and he said yes. He asked him did he actually see it, he said no. He then asked the Elder if he had, to which he said no, but that not only had his brother seen it, he was chased by it.  

A lot of spooky stuff coming from these small towns and at first it is hard to believe it. It sounds too much like a monster movie or a murderous episode of Scooby Doo, yet with so many towns all confirming the same details, and more definitive witness interviews, like Malania’s, which provide actual names of victims and dates, I started to look at it in a much more serious light. And it is fact these towns did become abandoned, almost overnight, it becomes clear something awful really did happen in these two towns.  But what?

We’ve seen occasional reports of semi-hostile Bigfoot like reports before, but this is a lot to happen very rapidly. Also, natives lived in the area for thousands of years. Yes, they have legends of such a beast, but why the sudden acts of violence?  Could it be as the towns became too industrialized the creature(s) began to feel threatened and took it out on the intruders into their homes? There are a couple of extra ‘food for thought points’ I would like to make before we wrap things up with this story.

One is, that while typical ape-like Bigfoot sightings have been documented in Alaska, most, especially ones with the name Nantiinaq, refer to beast looking much more like a gigantic human with human like features, but still very beastly in overall appearance. This has led some to speculate that these creatures might be on a conservative end, native tribesmen refusing to live in modern society, and on the more radical end, that they represent surviving Neanderthals or other ancient forms of man. Two is that these types of creatures, the human-like ones, are believed by some to be responsible for another famous set of Crypto-murders, the deaths in the Nahanni Valley in Canada. Here over the years many people have gone missing never to be seen again, and sometimes bodies have been found with their heads violently removed, leading to the valley’s nickname, The Headless Valley. Numerous of these very man-like beast sightings  have been reported around the valley and local tribes men tell of a legendary tribe of giant wild men who lived in the valley who were very vicious and would kill intruders. A coincidence?
Of all the stories and sightings I’ve written about over the years, these are some of the most interesting, but by far the most disturbing. Yes others have been spoken of how frightening their encounters were, even if they weren’t aggressive, but the facts are people died in these towns. It’s a fact we should all keep in mind whether you believe in these kind of creatures or not. The fact remains that even today, in the cold wilds of the Kenai Penninsula, two towns are rotting, and falling apart in the Alaskan wilds, and that someone or something with murderous thoughts and intentions roamed or is still roaming those woods. My final words of advice, if you ever take a cruise to the see the awe inspiring wilds of Alaska, just stay on the boat, please.

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