A group of miners working in the Spirit Lake region of Washington’s Cascade Mountains in July of 1924 told a story of giant seven-foot hairy men who drove them from their cabin with a bombardment of huge rocks. Pendleton-area folks took to the newspaper to weigh in on the veracity of their claims.
Joseph A. Dupuis was the first to have a theory on the “ape-men,” as described by the miners. The Dupuis family arrived in the Pacific Northwest in 1859 via wagon train, and he said Vancouver, Washington, was a mighty tough town in those days. Dupuis described one particular man, a Native American more than six feet tall, with one eye, who was run out of town with his wife after several rounds of drinking, fighting and landing in jail. “He was about as mad an Indian as I ever saw when he found out that he would have to get out and stay out. I had not thought of Ki Ki for years until I read in the newspapers about the report of the mountain devils near Spirit Lake. I should not be surprised if these giants prove to be descendants. ...”
A Clallam tribal member living in the Vancouver area suggested that the marauders could be members of a tribe known as the Seeahitk, last known among his tribe in 1909 and believed to be extinct. Jorg Totsgi said the Seeahitk made their home in the heart of the wilderness on Vancouver Island and in the Olympics. “The Seeahtiks are seven to eight feet tall with hairy bodies, like bears. They are great hypnotists and also have a gift of ventriloquism, throwing their voices at great distances.”
Two forest rangers in the area of the alleged bombardment called the story a hoax, saying they found nothing to substantiate the miners’ claims. The purported footprints, they said, were fabricated, and they demonstrated their possible manufacture with the knuckles and palm of one hand. The monstrous rocks thrown by the “ape-men” were in evidence at the cabin, but could have been placed there by the miners themselves, the rangers claimed. They also reported that the same group of miners had been forging into the wilderness and bringing back similar stories for the previous five years.
Major Lee Moorehouse, a Pendleton fixture and an expert on Indian lore and legend, called the whole story a product of the miners’ imaginations. “The mountains and the forests are solemn places, and their vast spaces and deep solitude often cause tricks to be played on the minds of those who remain a long time in them. It is my idea that such will be found to be the case in this apeman story,” Moorehouse said.
“I recall the campaign of 1879 against the Sheepeaters. That was on the Salmon River in Idaho in the Seven Devils country. Mr. Whirlwind, an Indian doctor, and a man of more than average intelligence, was one of our scouts in that campaign, and he swore that he saw dwarf Indians on some of his excursions. They were not more than three feet tall, he said, and he admitted that he never was able to get very near them, but he held onto the story that he had seen them with his own eyes.”
The report of pygmy Indians was never proven. Later reports said that the sightings were the result of a trick Mr. Whirlwind’s imagination played on him.