Before Sasquatch ~ The Mowglis

Posted by: Loren Coleman on November 15th, 2009

Reports of Sasquatch, a name coined in the 1920s, were documented in many ways before that specific label was used.

How about “Mowglis”?

Obviously, this name is linked to The Jungle Book, a collection of stories written in 1894 by Rudyard Kipling. The best-known of them are the three stories about the adventures of an orphan “man cub” named Mowgli, thus a feral human, who is raised by wolves in the Indian jungle.

Moving the term from the 19th century to the early 20th century, it gave newspaper reporters a catchy moniker. It refers, in general, to wild people. It was in widespread use, it appears, in British Columbia.

Here are two articles reflecting these usage. The first is from the October 28, 1905 issue of Ohio’s Van Wert Daily Bulletin; we get to read specifically of these cryptids:

“British Columbia Mowglis”

Tribe of Wild Men Roaming Woods and Frightening People.

James Johnson, a rancher living near Cornox, seven miles from Cumberland, B.C., reports several Mowglis, or wild men, who have been seen in that neighborhood by ranchers, says a Nanaimo (B.C.) correspondent of the San Francisco Call. Johnson asserts that they were performing what seemed to be a sort of “sun dance” on the sand. One of them caught a glimpse of Johnson, who was viewing the proceedings from behind a big log. The Mowglis disappeared as if by magic into a big cave.

Thomas Kincaid, a rancher living near French creek, while bicycling from Cumberland, also reports seeing a Mowgli, whom he describes as a powerfully built man, more than six feet in height and covered with long black hair. The wild man upon seeing Kincaid uttered a shriek and disappeared into the woods. Upon arriving home Kincaid wrote Government Agent Bray of Nanaimo, inquiring if it would be lawful to shoot the Mowgli, as he was terrorizing that vicinity.

The government agent replied that there was no law permitting such an act. It is reported that on a recent hunting expedition up the Quailicum river an Indian saw a Mowgli and, mistaking him for a bear, shot at and wounded him. During the past month no less than eleven persons coming to Nanaimo from Cumberland have seen the wild men. Parties have been organized and every effort is being made to capture the Mowglis.

As I have mentioned in my books, before the names like Abominable Snowmen (1921), Sasquatch (1920s), and Bigfoot (1958) came into common usage, the phrases most often employed in the 19th century and early 20th century for unknown hairy hominoids were ones like “Wild People,” “Wild Men,” “Wild Women,” and “Wild Children.” To call these British Columbian cryptid hominoids “Mowglis” merely seems another way to link these early creatures to “Wild People.”

From the Yukon World of August 24, 1906, is another:

Alberni Has A Wild Man

Vancouver Island Mowgli Said to Be No Myth – Seen by a Prospector Recently.

VANCOUVER, B.C., Aug. 5. – The famous Vancouver island mowgli is no myth. A prospector is now in Vancouver who says he saw the wild man at Alberni a few days ago. He will not allow his name to be used, asserting that he [is] “not looking for notoriety.” He says:

“A few days ago myself [sic] and another prospector dropped right onto the wild man on the shores of Horn lake, Alberni. The mowgli was clothed in sunshine and a smile except that his body was covered with a growth of hair much like the salmon berry-eating bears that infest the region. The wild man ran with astonishing agility as soon as he saw us.

“We found the wickieup in which he had been sheltering and also many traces of where he had been gathering roots along the lake bank for sustenance. That wild man is no figment of the imagination. You can take my word for that.”

Thanks to Jerry Clark of The Unidentified & Creatures of the Outer Edge: The Early Works of Jerome Clark and Loren Coleman for passing these items along. Second article courtesy of W. Ritchie Benedict.

Loren Coleman About Loren Coleman
Loren Coleman is one of the world’s leading cryptozoologists, some say “the” leading living cryptozoologist. Certainly, he is acknowledged as the current living American researcher and writer who has most popularized cryptozoology in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. Starting his fieldwork and investigations in 1960, after traveling and trekking extensively in pursuit of cryptozoological mysteries, Coleman began writing to share his experiences in 1969. An honorary member of Ivan T. Sanderson’s Society for the Investigation of the Unexplained in the 1970s, Coleman has been bestowed with similar honorary memberships of the North Idaho College Cryptozoology Club in 1983, and in subsequent years, that of the British Columbia Scientific Cryptozoology Club, CryptoSafari International, and other international organizations. He was also a Life Member and Benefactor of the International Society of Cryptozoology (now-defunct). Loren Coleman’s daily blog, as a member of the Cryptomundo Team, served as an ongoing avenue of communication for the ever-growing body of cryptozoo news from 2005 through 2013. He returned as an infrequent contributor beginning Halloween week of 2015. Coleman is the founder in 2003, and current director of the International Cryptozoology Museum in Portland, Maine.

2 Responses to “Before Sasquatch ~ The Mowglis”

  1. Fhqwhgads responds:

    I don’t see how a “Patterson” Sasquatch could be mistaken for a “man”, feral or not, “covered with long black hair”. The idea of him performing a sun dance would fit with American Indian beliefs, but it’s scarcely compatible with a Paranthropus or a Gigantopithecus.

  2. kgehrman responds:

    Sometimes on a hot summer day on the beaches in southern CA the sand reaches a temperature that is
    difficult for the average tourist’s naked feet the bear for long. The walk from the towel to the water is often comical as people shift quickly from one foot to the other to escape the burning sand. It has been called “the sun dance”.

    Though I suspect a Mowgli would have feet of a different leather than a Zonie on a San Diego beach.
    I wonder why James Johnson, the rancher living near Cornox specifies “sand” when he describes his encounter. What would sand be doing in the woods of BC, unless its near the beach?

    I am not familiar with the BC area and could not find Cornox, but I wonder if this “cave” was near a beach. Maybe it was just a sandy cave? Anyone up there? Does the sand get hot in BC?

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