Most Bigfoot fans and enthusiasts are familiar with Theodore Roosevelt’s recounted tale of a Bigfoot like creature that invaded and trashed the camp of a hunter named Bauman. If you haven’t heard it, then you’re in for a treat. It’s a classic, well-written, horror-in-the-woods story. I’ve left much of the actual story intact because Theodore Roosevelt was such a great writer.
If you’d like to go directly to the story, scroll down to: The Hobgoblin aka The Bauman Incident.
But First a Little Context
Tales such as the Bauman incident help paint an image of Bigfoot as a monster roaming the woods. I mean, if Colonel Theodore Roosevelt–26th president, Medal of Honor recipient, who championed the middle class–wrote about a giant hairy creature in his book, then it must be true. The best cryptid tales, in my opinion, are embedded in history and come with context. By understanding the people of the day and the origin of the creature, we can better understand why the cryptids of today exist as they do.
It’s likely this legendary story has played a role in Bigfoot’s rise to fame, giving each story that comes after it a measure of credibility. But why would Theodore Roosevelt–lawyer, Harvard grad, and public figure write about a monster “trashin’ the camp” of a couple hunters? And was it really true?
Theodore Roosevelt, the Rancher and Hunter
Theodore Roosevelt had been born into an affluent New York family in 1858. Sick as a child, he spent much of his time at home, developing a love for animals and learning the science behind them. He studied taxidermy and taught himself how to preserve skulls and carcasses. By the time he was nine, Theodore had enlisted his brothers, sisters, and cousins to help put together a collection of “stuffed” animals he dubbed “The Roosevelt Museum of Natural History.”
Theodore Roosevelt lived at the turn of the century, when the excitement of westward expansion fell behind the demands of progress and corrupt politics. When he witnessed how the Industrial Revolution brought wealth and power to a few while others (entire families) worked tirelessly to make ends meet, he desired to change the balance. Passionate, ostentatious, and adventurous, Roosevelt wasn’t afraid to speak the truth as he unapologetically fought corruption in New York City’s police department.
With a population exceeding forty million (according to the 1880 government census), the eastern cities had become crowded. Western states and territories hadn’t yet reached ten million in population, but they were growing. With the completion of the first transcontinental railroad in 1869, a person could leave New York City and arrive at San Francisco in a week’s time. But danger lurked in the wide-open expanses of the plains and the remote wilderness of the mountains. For the time, most newcomers avoided these areas. Even so, this is where Theodore Roosevelt retreated to get away from the confines and demands of the big city.
In 1883, while on a buffalo hunt, Roosevelt bought the Chimney Butte ranch in North Dakota, intending to raise cattle and own a bit of the country that placed him at the edge of the untamed, untouched regions of the Northwest. It’s also where he escaped after his first wife’s death in 1884 and gathered the needed fodder for his next couple of books. In The Wilderness Hunter, he speaks of the changing times: “By the close of 1883 the last buffalo herd was destroyed. The beaver were trapped out of all the streams, or their numbers so thinned that it no longer paid to follow them. The last formidable Indian war had been brought to a successful close. The flood of the incoming whites had risen over the land; tongues of settlement reached from the Mississippi to the Rocky Mountains, and from the Rocky Mountains to the Pacific. The frontier had come to an end; it had vanished.”
The Hobgoblin aka The Bauman Incident
In another story recorded in The Wilderness Hunter, Roosevelt tells about a hobgoblin, a term he often used in reference to unexplained oddities. For brevity, we summarized a portion of the story, but the quoted material is from Roosevelt’s 1893 book:
Frontiersmen are not, as a rule, apt to be very superstitious. They lead lives too hard and practical, and have too little imagination in things spiritual and supernatural. I have heard but few ghost stories while living on the frontier, and those few were of a perfectly commonplace and conventional type.
But I once listened to a goblin-story, which rather impressed me. It was told by a grisled, weather-beaten old mountain hunter, named Bauman who was born and had passed all of his life on the Frontier. He must have believed what he said, for he could hardly repress a shudder at certain points of the tale; but he was of German ancestry, and in childhood had doubtless been saturated with all kinds of ghost and goblin lore. So that many fearsome superstitions were latent in his mind; besides, he knew well the stories told by the Indian medicine men in their winter camps, of the snow-walkers, and the spectres [spirits, ghosts, and apparitions], the formless evil beings that haunt the forest depths, and dog and waylay the lonely wanderer who after nightfall passes through the regions where they lurk; and it may be that when overcome by the horror of the fate that befell his friend, and when oppressed by the awful dread of the unknown, he grew to attribute, both at the time and still more in remembrance, weird and elfin traits to what was merely some abnormally wicked and cunning wild beast; but whether this was so or not, no man can say. When the event occurred, Bauman was still a young man and was trapping with a partner among the mountains dividing the forks of the Salmon from the head of Wisdom River. Not having had much luck, he and his partner determined to go up into a particularly wild and lonely pass through which ran a small stream said to contain many beavers. The pass had an evil reputation because the year before, a solitary hunter who had wandered into it was slain, seemingly by a wild beast; the half-eaten remains were found afterward by some mining prospectors who had passed his camp only the night before.The Wilderness Hunter, Theodore Roosevelt
And so the story goes:
The two trappers tied their ponies in a beaver meadow at the foot of a pass. They had to climb for four hours through forest and rocky terrain to reach the glade where they set up camp near a stream. With only a couple of daylight hours left, the two men started upstream, presumably to set traps. When they returned to their campsite, they found that in their absence, a bear had rummaged through their belongings, scattered the contents of their packs, and destroyed their lean-to. The footprints were obvious, but they ignored them until they cleaned up the camp.
While Bauman prepared supper, his companion examined the tracks and told Bauman, “That bear has been walking on two legs.” Bauman laughed, but on examining the prints, he could see that whatever it was, it seemingly walked on two feet. Because it was too dark to verify the observation, the two went to bed. Near midnight, a loud noise and a strong “wild-beast” odor awakened them. Looking into the darkness, Bauman caught the shadow of a “great body” at the corner of the lean-to. He shot at it but apparently missed, as the beast ran off into the forest.
For the rest of the night, the two sat up by the fire. The next morning, as they set out to check their traps, the men agreed to stay together. When they returned later that evening, the camp had once again been trashed, and their visitor had left behind the same footprints of a beast walking on two legs. That night, they kept the fire roaring.
“About midnight the thing came down through the forest opposite, across the brook, and stayed there on the hillside for nearly an hour. They could hear the branches crackle as it moved about, and several times it uttered a harsh, grating, long-drawn moan, a peculiarly sinister sound. Yet it did not venture near the fire.”
In the morning…
The trappers decided to collect their game and move on. As they pulled their traps, they had the uneasy sensation of being followed but also found it absurd that two grown men, seasoned and armed, should be afraid in the light of day. They found most of their traps empty, but “there were still three beaver traps to collect from a little pond in a wide ravine nearby. Bauman volunteered to gather these and bring them in, while his companion went ahead to camp and made ready the packs.”
It took Bauman longer than he expected, and when he returned to the camp, he found the body of his friend still warm but with a broken neck and four fang marks in his throat.
Bauman, utterly unnerved and believing that the creature he was facing was something either half human or half devil, some great goblin-beast, abandoned everything but his rifle and struck off at speed down the pass, not halting until he reached the beaver meadows where the hobbled ponies were still grazing. Mounting, he rode onward through the night, until beyond reach of pursuit.
We hope you enjoyed this story. The Bauman Incident is one of several legends that has found its way into Bigfoot lore. Stories from regional areas offer fragments of a wild hairy beast or a beast with large feet. One often builds on another, muddling any true origin. But it’s fun to explore. You can find more legends and stories in The Legend of Bigfoot: Leaving His Mark On the World. You can also read more about the various types of Bigfoot here (this section continues to grow. Please check back often).