Besides being mysterious and hairy, many old accounts do not have much in common, appearance wise, with modern reports of Bigfoot. Most of the time, the only description is just "ape," "wild man," or "gorilla." However, in several accounts [in Ohio], the appearance of the creature is somewhat similar to today's Bigfoot.
The June 7, 1930 report of the Norwalk "ape" from the Coshocton Tribune adds the detail that witness John Landoll saw the shape of "what appeared to be a man" as it lumbered away "in anthropoid fashion" into the night. Today's descriptions of Bigfoot almost always describe the creatures as being extremely human-like in appearance and not like a gorilla or something else of that sort.
When footprints were reported, if they had a description it was usually just "like those of an ape." Today's reports of Sasquatch footprints commonly describe them as looking like gigantic human prints, though sometimes extremely odd tracks are reported, such as those of the Fouke Monster of Arkansas that supposedly had only three toes.
The September 23, 1932 report from the Zanesville Times-Recorder noted that the witness said the animal he saw had "eyes as big as a dollar." While this isn't in direct correlation with modern accounts, today's Bigfoot witnesses do often mention the eyes of the creatures. Often, they are described as glowing in the dark, usually in red.
The reports of apes with chains around their neck and apes climbing in trees can be removed from the "possible Bigfoot" category. It is extremely likely that these were only circus escapes.
Those reports that are about an actual wild man can be excluded as well. On multiple occasions, it is know that it is an actual man, and other times the wild man is wearing clothes, which proves that they were not mystery creatures. Most of the time size is not mentioned either, so we can't know if these were supposedly giants like Sasquatch.
Overall, the descriptions of the creatures do not tally too closely with those of Bigfoot reported since the 1950s. However, this does not mean that some of them could not have been unknown creatures. There are a few other things, too, that have a correlation with modern Bigfoot accounts.
Speed and Strength
Today's Bigfoot witnesses often report that the creatures they see can move extremely quickly and silently, almost "gliding" over the ground. Some witnesses have claimed the Bigfoot kept up with their car going over speeds of 40-50 miles per hour.
The speed of the "wild men" is commented upon in several old accounts. The report from the April 14, 1902 edition of the Lima Times-Democrat describes a creature covered in hair that is extremely fast and able to jump fences with ease, another common feature of modern Bigfoot sightings. On another occasion, in 1904, the Newark Advocate reported on a wild man, covered in hair, that was "as big as Goliath" and as fast as a deer, able to outrun dogs.
On several other occasions, wild men are reported to run off with sheep or other things that would bee too heavy for a normal man to carry. Many of today's witnesses say Bigfoot can easily carry animals suck as sheep, dogs, or pigs, and move other heavy objects, such as logs, with ease.
Dislike of Dogs
Several of the historical wild man reports mention the subjects killing dogs, or dogs being afraid to attack or follow the scent of the creatures. For example, on September 20, 1932, the Coshocton Tribune noted that a police dog was "reluctant to tackle the animal" the witness was seeing.
The Bigfoot Field Researchers Organization (BFRO) says that "Sasquatches are known to kill dogs that chase or threaten them. Dogs often flee or cower in their presence, but some dogs are more aggressive and sometimes receive very brutal treatment as a result. Aggressive dogs have been found torn apart, with Sasquatch tracks around the remains."
There are many modern accounts in which dogs either cower in fear when it is thought a Sasquatch is around, or come running back to their owners after going after a possible Sasquatch. Many times, when police or other officials investigate possible Bigfoot sightings, their dogs will not follow the scent of the creature.
A famous report of the bad relationship between Bigfoot and man's best friend is that of the Missouri Monster, or MoMo, from 1972. During one sighting, the witnesses saw a seven-foot-tall creature, covered with blood, and carrying a dead dog under its arm. A farmer in the area reported around the same time that his dog had disappeared. Had it been killed by MoMo?
One thing many Bigfoot researchers believe is that the creatures they seek are mostly active during the night. And they may have good reason to think this - over the years, many, many nighttime Bigfoot sightings have been reported. A good number of old "wild man" accounts also mention nighttime activity - sometimes the creature is seen around the witnesses' property at night, and many times the accounts mention that whole towns are afraid to go outside after dark, because that is when they think the wild man will come out.
But if the old accounts really describe Bigfoot, would nighttime sightings make any sense? If Bigfoot is some type of primate, like humans, gorillas, and chimpanzees, it does not. The Center for Great Apes mentions that apes have "reduced olfactory (smell) sense and are dependent on vision more than smell." Obviously, animals with specially developed "night vision" are more active in the dark, but almost all primates are diurnal, or active during the day.
All scary stories are better if something happens during the night. This probably applies to out wild man reports as well.
In some aspects, the old and newer accounts are quite similar. But, in others, they are not. Were the "wild men" really Bigfoot? I'd love to hear what you think.
*Parts of this post were excerpted from my new book Buckeye Beasts: Historical Accounts of "Gorillas," "Wild Men," and Other Hairy Monsters in Ohio.*