Thursday, August 12, 2010

Bigfoot and Muchalat Harry's White Hair

A fun story about a trapper getting trapped by Bigfoot is making the rounds (I first caught it on the Anomalist).  I really don't try to spoil these things, but this story has all the earmarks of an urban legend.  Which is a shame, because I love these stories.

In 1928, as the story goes, a trapper named Muchalat Harry would take his canoe across the river and set up traps.  While camping, he was caught by Bigfeet who kept him in their camp and showed general curiosity toward him.  After a few days of this he noticed his chance to escape and ran all the way to his canoe, barefoot and almost naked, and started rowing across the river.

I have no idea what kind of wild animal kidnaps people for pets, but that's how the story goes.  But the part that gets me is the end:

At about 3 a.m. the next morning, the exhausted and terrified man finally arrived in the village of Nootka on Vancouver Island. The Rev. Anthony Terhaar, a Catholic missionary priest, was living in the village at the time. Terhaar, who was called Father Anthony, and his fellow villagers were awakened by the sound of wild crying from the waters in the inlet. They lit torches and went out to see what was going on. There, they found the nearly frozen and exhausted Muchalat Harry lying in his canoe. He was barefoot and wearing only his wet and torn underwear. He had paddled his canoe through the night 45 miles from the mouth of the Conuma River.

Father Anthony and the villagers carried Harry’s almost lifeless body out of the canoe and took care of him. It took three weeks for him to get back both his sanity and good health. During that time, Muchalat Harry’s hair turned pure white.

The notion of turning a person's hair white through fright is an old one that shows up in many urban legends (and that oddball sound from The Crash Test Dummies), but it's not a real phenomenon.  As we learned in grade school, hair is made up of dead cells that have been pushed out of our pores.  The body can't act upon these cells or make any changes to them; a person goes gray when the hair starts growing that way - the actual hairs don't change color.

This story has a lot of fun elements - the irony of a trapper getting trapped, the testimony of a beloved priest who saw a terrible sight, and an urban legend about hair turning white.  But it doesn't have the ring of truth to it.  This story is often used to remind people that Bigfoot is dangerous and aggressive, but I don't think we can assume that from such a fanciful tale.


  1. the bad bears in the pic,man i hope the bigfoot were'nt setting up an orgy with him as guest of honour.maybee they need an injection of new (blood)

  2. You know not if what you speak.i think I'll go to where there are no braying ass' great uncle was father anthony and his story did not change to the day he died.urban myth indeed!

  3. umm ... no. Hair is made of a protein called Keratin, not dead cells. If you had actually paid attention to your lessons while in Grade School, you would know this.