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Reports of a large, hairy ape-like creature haunting the mining region near Cobalt in the northern reaches of Ontario are numerous and stretch back to the earliest years of human habitation. In fact, the first recorded sighting of the mysterious beast occurred just over 100 years ago, in September 1906, the same year in which the silver boom-town of Cobalt was founded.
The area was then unsettled and the mining frenzy was only in its infancy. Spurred on by dreams of overnight riches, prospectors pushed deeper into wilderness that had rarely if ever been trod by human feet before.
One group of silver-seekers had pushed deep in the woods east of Cobalt, where they began building the headframe of the soon-to-be famous Violet Mine. To their horror, an ape-like being suddenly emerged from the forest. The anxious miners watched the creature for several long minutes until once more its shape blended in with the trees at the edge of the clearing. When the men returned to civilization and told their sensational story, the creature was dubbed the “Traverspine Gorilla” by the media.
This ape-man seems to be a subspecies of the famous Sasquatch, or Bigfoot, of the Pacific Northwest. Large and elusive, they are covered in coarse brown hair, have peculiarly long arms, stand over seven feet in height, and weigh over 300 pounds. The only apparent difference between the hairy creatures of northern Ontario and those of the Pacific coast is the light-colored hair covering their head, neck, and shoulders. This distinctive coloration is the source of the creatures’ most famous and enduring name: Old Yellow Top.
That Was No Bear
In July 1923, two prospectors, experienced woodsmen by the names of J. A. MacAuley and Lorne Wilson, were taking test samples of their mining claims northeast of Wettlaufer Mine near Cobalt when they saw what initially looked to be a bear feasting in a blueberry patch. With courage that bordered on recklessness, Mr. Wilson threw a stone at the animal.
Its response was immediate and terrifying. The creature, no bear, stood up to its full seven feet and, baring its teeth, let out an ear-piercing roar of defiance. It was like nothing either man had ever heard before, a dreadful sound that melted courage and left these grown men quaking in terror. They ran, and didn’t stop until they reached the safety of town.
“It sure looked like no bear I have ever seen,” said Mr. Wilson to a reporter from the North Bay Nugget. “Its head was kind of yellow and the rest of it was like a bear, covered in hair.”
MacAuley and Wilson returned to the wilderness afterwards—the lure of silver riches was too strong to ignore—but were never again so cavalier about its dangers. They knew, even if others doubted, that they had encountered the embodiment of nature’s primal fury. Both men went to their graves convinced they had seen Old Yellow Top.
Another well-documented sighting took place in April 1946, near the hamlet of Gillies Depot. A woman and her young son began the long walk along the railway tracks into Cobalt to do the family’s weekly shopping. As it was early spring, the woman was wary of stumbling into young bear cubs and their protective mothers, and so she jumped when a large shadow in the periphery of her vision moved toward the tracks.
What she saw shocked her nearly beyond belief. This was no bear, nor a wolf or any other creature she was familiar with. It walked effortlessly on two legs “almost like a man,” but was entirely covered in brown hair. The woman held her son close, but they held no interest for the beast. It ambled across the tracks and disappeared into the woods, leaving the shaken onlookers to continue on their journey.
The most famous—and controversial—encounter with Old Yellow Top occurred on an August night in 1970. That evening, 26 miners bound for a graveyard shift at the Cobalt Lode Mine clambered aboard a bus driven by Aimee Latreille. The journey started off routinely enough, but nearly ended in disaster when Latreille swerved to avoid something on road before him, then lost control as the bus hit the soft shoulder and nearly plunged down a rocky embankment.
“At first I thought it was a big bear,” Latreille later explained, “but then it turned to face the headlights and I could see some light hair, almost down to the shoulders. It couldn’t have been a bear. I have heard of this thing before but I never believed it. Now I am sure.”.....
Read the rest of this article in the October 2007 issue of FATE
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