Posted by: Craig Woolheater on November 24th, 2006
I ran across this interesting story that was published by The Conway Daily Sun of North Conway, New Hampshire.
— My friend Peter Samuelson, 65, of Fryeburg, has been prospecting in these mountains for more than 40 years. Back in the late 1960s, when I was being introduced to the area by working summers up at the AMC, he was already prospecting far and wide in the mountains, carrying heavy packs of supplies in, and heavy packs of stones out.
His many stories about the mountains — a few of which I have taken part in — have been part of my own mythology of the White Mountains. Recently, with my interest in helping to save the Ossipee Range from the burden of a private racetrack on its fragile slopes, he approached me to remind me of his Sasquatch story in the Ossipees, and lightheartedly suggested I write a third column on the Ossipee Range, which might include his story.
At first I found the idea amusing and certainly possible. But, then I realized he had honestly told me the story of what he and his friend Holly saw that day in the mountains — there is no reason to think otherwise — and an interpretation of the events should be left up to the reader. Even Samuelson himself isn’t sure at all what actually happened.
A story about the myth versus reality of the Sasquatch certainly emphasizes the wildness of the Ossipee Range, a place that should be preserved for future generations instead of irresponsibly exploited in the name of a temporary addiction to oil.
It was mid-summer, 1979. Samuelson, his dog named Kat, and his girlfriend Holly Swaffield, then of Wolfeboro, were out prospecting in the Ossipee Range.
“We drove in the Gilman Valley Road, parked at the gate and continued up the old road past the Tamworth/Ossipee town line,” he said. “Then we cut into the woods on the right and headed west up Bald Mountain.”
The ledgey Bald Mountain is taller than Mount Whittier and is located just south of it. From its open ledges, you can look directly below to Connor Pond, located in the center of the range.
“We bushwhacked in two miles, up to the ledges on Bald,” Samuelson said. “The area contains a lot of Conway granite and we were looking for contact zones, edges where two types of rock meet. Along these zones, it is possible to dig for pockets of beryls or topaz crystals.”
As the trees opened up before them, and Connor Pond became visible far below to their left, they saw a strange sight about 100 yards ahead on the ledges.
“It was a small structure, yet made of big stones, stacked on each other,” he said. “The roof was flat and made of thatched hemlock bows. There was an opening, like a rustic doorway. We saw a giant man-like creature inside, about seven feet high, and back to us. It was totally covered with tangled gray hair about three inches long.”
In the same instant that this all became visible to them, Kat began growling intensely and the creature started to make loud noises indicating it was upset.
“I can’t describe the noise,” said Samuelson. “Anyway, Holly freaked and we all felt threatened. We hightailed it out of there immediately, in the direction we had come. Only later, part way down the mountain, did we pause and ask yourselves, ‘What did we see?’”
They had both carried cameras, but in the urgency to leave never thought to take a picture.
Over the next few days, they told various acquaintances of their experience. Asked how these people reacted, Samuelson said with a smile, “You know how.”
A few months later, Holly excitedly called him and said she had been to the Wolfeboro Library and found a fascinating story. During a midwinter thaw in the 1890s, a person in a cabin on the shore of Connor Pond, located in the center of the Ossipee Range, saw an alarming thing. A dog had wandered out on the thawing pond. It fell through the ice and was floundering vainly for a long time to get out. Suddenly a large hairy human-like creature came out of the woods from the direction of Bald Mountain, reached out long arms and rescued the dog, then immediately disappeared back in the woods from the direction it first appeared.
That old story added a little continuity to their own experience, no matter how unbelievable. Still, it took Samuelson a year to get his courage and curiosity up enough to return alone to the site of their mysterious and alarming encounter on Bald Mountain. Holly wouldn’t go with him. As he walked out onto to the ledges, he was struck again, this time because there was absolutely no sign of the structure they had seen the year before. He picked over the area thoroughly, looking for the slightest dent in the ledges where the big stones might have rested, stones that would normally take two or three people to move.
There was nothing.
Did these prospectors in fact encounter a Sasquatch that had built a stone structure?