produced a number of remarkable materializations during his sittings, including animals that felt solid, gave off strong smells, and interacted with the sitters and surroundings. They included a hawk, an animal like a miniature lion, and an ape-man that the participants named âPrimordial Manâ or âPithecanthropus.â
Pithecanthropus first appeared in 1919 as a bundle of tangled hair accompanied by âsmackingâ sounds, it intrigued the sitters, which likely hastened its development. While the creatures at Mt. St. Helens stood about seven feet tall, had stout frames âmore like a giant human than an ape,â and were âhairy but not shaggy,â Kluskiâs ape-man was something different. A photograph shows a smallish figure obscured by what looks like black gauze, but the fully realized Pithecanthropus had long, coarse, curly brown hairwith patches of gray and was strong enough to carry a fully loaded bookcase around the room. Its occasional outbursts of wild behavior could be frightening, but no one was ever threatened or harmed and the ape-man was so good-natured that it had to be discouraged from licking the sitters. Over time Pithecanthropus lost cohesion, reverted to smacking sounds, and finally vanished.
Though ape-men can be physically imposing and enormously strong, Beck considered them transients on the material plane, temporary constructs created by a âvibration of power and certain fine substances,â whose bodies do not survive the spiritâs return to its own dimension. The âfine substancesâ of which they are composed presumably disperse, and tangible proof of their existence disappears.
The mechanics of ape-man materialization are obscure, yet their motives at Ape Canyon appear straightforward; what began with natural attraction to the minersâ consciousnesses was followed by retaliation at the minersâ unprovoked violence. âOur mistake,â Beck writes, âwas shooting them.â
I Fought the Apemen of Mt. St. Helens
was privately printed in 1967, but few people saw it, or a later edition, and Fred Beckâs mystical explorations remain âa bit of a âtabooâ subject with conventional researchers.â 42 The only firsthand written account of Ape Canyon could not be ignored, though, and a sort of compromise emerged.
Rene Dahinden is a good example of a researcher who was notably impatient with the paranormal. A story is told abouthim following giant footprints that abruptly ended in the middle of a field. Someone suggested, jokingly perhaps, that the Bigfoot flew away, and Dahinden turned and left without saying a word. Nevertheless, the notoriously prickly Canadian interviewed Beck, wrote about Ape Canyon, read all of
I Fought the Apemen
, and even brought out a new edition. Like many others he probably âconcluded that Fred had gone a little strange in his old ageâ and â
just ignored the paranormal stuff
Fred Beck died on June 1, 1972, at age eighty-three, and since then a new generation of enthusiasts has appeared for whom the history of Bigfoot began at Bluff Creek, California, in 1967, when Roger Patterson and Bob Gimlin filmed a female Sasquatch. With new cases to investigate and technologies to apply, Ape Canyon is a low priority, and, as Loren Coleman points out: â[W]hat exactly happened is slowly being lost in mountain fog.â
Barring the discovery of some forgotten document it is unlikely that the fog will clear. Cryptozoologists have picked over Beckâs accounts for clues about the creatureâs anatomy and behavior, noted the storyâs contradictions and inconsistencies, and almost unanimously âignored the paranormal stuff.â Beck, a Spiritualist influenced by esoteric schools of thought, was just as removed from certain ideas as the mostscientific Bigfoot hunter, and, in the end, neither the mystic nor the cryptozoologists recognized