Pike’s Peak Bigfoot
[From “THE GAZETTE.com”. March 2006.]
America’s favorite mountain has no shortage of horror stories, tall tales, myths — and even a true legend or two scattered among them.
There are the resident killer rats devouring babies.
There’s the sea monster slithering through a mountain lake; there’s the buried treasure that still awaits discovery. Take your pick. Matt Carpenter, the Manitou Springs runner who’s spent more than his share of time on Pikes Peak, favors the tale of the homicidal rodents for sheer entertainment value. “The whole story is just crazy,” he said. It goes like this:
In 1875, Sgt. John O’Keeffe arrived for duty at a signal station the Army opened on the summit of Pikes Peak in 1873.
The next year, he reported that one night, hundreds of rats attacked the station, consumed a side of beef in less than five minutes, then advanced on O’Keeffe and his wife. They killed the rats but tragically found the worst had happened — the rats had eaten their baby daughter.
Except that O’Keeffe didn’t have a baby, or a wife, for that matter.
Nor do rats live on the peak; the biggest rodents on the summit are marmots.
“That’s my all-time favorite,” Carpenter said.
For inspirational Pikes Peak stories, he likes the one about a man named Peter Strudwick who was born without hands or feet. In 1972, he completed the Pikes Peak Marathon, wearing rubber devices fastened to his legs.
“That one’s totally true,” Carpenter said. “It’s my favorite running-related story.”
The members of the AdAmAn Club, who scale the peak every New Year’s Eve to set off fireworks at the summit, have their own story-telling traditions, said member Glenn Law.
Every year, previous climbs become more harrowing and death-defying in the telling.
The winds grow more ferocious, the temperatures colder and the trail icier to the point where climbers recall “crawl- ing from rock to rock over the last three miles,” Law said, chuckling.
Here are other stories about the peak, true and otherwise:
- Sgt. Robert Seyboth was one of the first men assigned to live at the Army’s signal station on the summit after it opened in 1873.
Probably bored with life at 14,115 feet, Seyboth began reporting bizarre sightings, such as a sea monster in a lake on the peak.
The Colorado Springs Gazette reported “Mr. S. describes the creature at about 100 feet in length; its body of a light brown color and covered with large scales. Mr. S. is confident he has not exaggerated the length of the monster.”
- John O’Keeffe apparently wasn’t rattled when his rat story was disproved. He returned to the station in 1880 and got busy again. In an article in The Gazette, O’Keeffe told of a volcanic eruption from a crater near the top of Pikes Peak. He said he got within 200 feet, and “the heat even at this distance was very oppressive and the ground was covered with pulverized ashes and lava.”
The only problem: Pikes Peak is not volcanic.
- The Garden of the Gods’ best-known feature wasn’t always known as Kissing Camels.
William Pabor, a writer and marketing man, first named and publicized the rock formation as “Seal Making Love to a Nun.”
The name prompted more visitors to come and see it, but city founder William Jackson Palmer didn’t care for it. He asked for Pabor’s resignation, and the formation took on the more sedate moniker it bears today.
- Is a fortune in gold hidden somewhere between the town of Deckers and the rock formation called Devil’s Head off Rampart Range Road?
In the early 1870s, robbers stopped the Denver and Rio Grande Railroad in Pike National Forest near Deckers. They robbed the train of $60,000 worth of $10 gold pieces, and when a posse pursuing got too close, they buried the gold near Devil’s Head, marking a tree to remind them of the spot. Decades later, a forest fire swept the area, which was eventually covered with new trees. As far as anyone knows, the gold — worth millions today — is still buried there.
- In January 1988, Green Mountain Falls resident Dan Masias reported a strange banging against his house one night and large footprints in the snow that looked like those of a barefoot human.
He also reported seeing two large, hairy creatures running down the road with their long arms swinging. Other Green Mountain Falls residents then reported a cat scuffle with an unidentified creature and a break-in, in which the intruder left hair on a broken screen door. They dubbed their visitor “Bigfoot.”
An amateur investigator concluded the creature was not a human, bear or any other recognizable animal.
No one’s gotten to the bottom of that mystery.
- Thousands of people once “owned” Pikes Peak, holding deeds conceived in a marketing scheme.
During the 1950s, a man named M.R. Latimer decided to sell a couple of lots he owned in Cascade in an unusual way: at souvenir shops.
The printed deeds for a square foot of Pikes Peak didn’t catch on, and he was left with hundreds of them.
The Colorado Springs Chamber of Commerce bought them and started giving them to visiting VIPs, military award winners and a few local residents.
During the years, the chamber issued about 3,000 of the deeds to a square foot of a wooded lot near the Pikes Peak Highway. Problems arose when about 130 people took the trouble to record their deeds.
When Latimer died, the new landowner sued to clear title.
Pikes Peak inspires us. It awes us. And sometimes, it allows us to see things in shadows.
Things like, maybe, Abraham Lincoln’s profile, beard and all.
Local peak-watchers know that twice a year, Abe shows up in shadow.
Springs resident Dwight Wenger first pointed out the phenomenon to The Gazette in 2002. Wenger noticed the shadowy shape years ago and has taken photos of it several times on sunny days.
The shadow isn’t visible from every angle in town, and it only appears at midday, in late October and late February. Readers have pointed out it’s later this year.
Wenger says the best location for viewing or photographing the image is from the mesa off West Fillmore Street or from a vantage point on West Uintah Street. Face the summit, then scan the mountain’s face as you look toward the south.