by Ferdinand Burton
It was the 28th day of her ordeal — hopelessly lost in the rugged terrain of North Cascades National Park— and Cynthia Ann Sedgewick, a 21-yr.-old CalTech biology major on her first solo wilderness trip, could not rise from the chill bed of leaves in the dawn light. After three weeks staggering through the dense understory, barely surviving on mushrooms and a few raw frog legs, she had no energy left. And worse, no reserve of raw will power to face another day.
A thin snake, probably harmless, slithered over her leg. She saw it and felt it — and didn’t budge. She closed her eyes and thought, “Beats dying in a hospital. Hooked up to machines, in constant pain, staring at some cartoonish health advice poster on the ceiling.” It started drizzling again. She was ready to let go and become one with the Earth, to return in the endless cycle… maybe reincarnation was a real thing? she thought. I’ve got good karma. I won’t come back as a rat or cockroach. A dolphin would be cool. Or koala bear.
Then something was brushing her cheek. Persistently, like her pet cat’s tail did when she was napping. She opened her eyes.
Utter terror. But not more terrifying than certain death.
Cynthia Ann was rescued last week, 33 days since setting out on the Little Beaver Creek trail with backpacking gear and a week’s worth of food, after visiting her uncle, Ethan Edwards, and his family in nearby Birdsview. A logging crew found her ambling down a dirt service road beyond the park, softly weeping. At a hospital in Sedro-Woolley, doctors were amazed that she had lost only seven pounds with no ill effects beyond extensive poison ivy rash, yet more by her stubborn insistence that a Sasquatch had nurtured her.
Such stories — rescued by a bear or other wild creature — are not unprecedented, but usually from young children familiar with imaginary friends, the most recent being 3-yr.-old Casey Hathaway in North Carolina (he “hung out with a bear” for two days in sub-freezing weather). Many adults claim to have caught a glimpse of Bigfoot, of course, but nothing like Cynthia’s very close encounter. She is the first to claim a truly intimate experience with the elusive cryptid.
I interviewed Cynthia Ann on the balcony of her second-story apartment in Pasadena. Blond, slim and cute with a calm, inner glow that belies her recent near-death experience, she watered a dozen large potted plants as a warm breeze tinkled several ornate wind chimes. “Tell me everything,” I said. “All the details that you care to speak of.”
“The second week was really the worst,” she began. “My phone went dead. It was so cloudy and rainy most of the time, I couldn’t keep the battery charged with my Goal Zero. I had GPS reception and had planned the whole route on GeoTracker, but for three whole days I couldn’t charge, so I hiked without GPS. I finally charged, then I found out I was way off the route, so I had to bushwhack… I took a wrong path somewhere. I couldn’t find the trail. It was all so overgrown and twisty.
“When my food ran out, I really began to worry. One day I caught some tadpoles in a stream, and I was so proud of myself. I had a selfie stick and I had documented the whole trip from day one, and now this was the whole highlight so far — and the phone blacks out again. Sooooo disappointing.”
“But that’s what really kept me going. The video. It would probably go viral. And if I didn’t make it out, well, maybe they’d find the phone with my body and somebody would post it…”
“Immortality on Youtube?” I offered.
“Yes. So I could keep the phone charged, but I finally ran out of juice. That’s when I fell, slept, and just gave up.”
“And started thinking about reincarnation?”
“Yes, I think I’m a Hindu or Buddhist now. I need to research it.”
Her phone buzzed again. Another text message from a Sasquatch enthusiast. They’re all dying to speak to her. She deletes it.
“When I woke up and saw him beside me, touching my cheek, I was like, Ohmigod, what is this? A mutant bear? Gorilla? Not in Washington. I had never believed in Sasquatch. He was huge, dark and hairy, and… he was erect.”
“Standing over you?”
“No, crouching beside me. Erect. I don’t think Ooba had ever seen —“
“Ooba? Is that what you call him?”
“Yes. That’s how he likes to be called. I don’t think he had ever seen a hairless female before. My clothes were in shreds and I was half naked. He sniffed me then started feeling my breasts. I rolled over on my stomach and hid my face. Then he sniffed my backside and started pulling on my panties. I screamed “No!” as loud as I could and kicked out. That shocked him. He scurried away and sulked in the bushes, staring at me for a long time. Then he just walked off.”
“You must have been terrified. Did you run away?”
“Run? I could barely sit up. He came back later with a handful of squirming bark grubs. He put a few in my hand and ate the rest himself. He kept gesturing for me to eat, but I couldn’t. He said something over and over, “Boowaba makka hoober tooshi, boowaba makka hoober tooshi.” They have language, definitely. Then he got mad and pushed a grub into my mouth. It was horrible. Then another one and another one. I gagged, but I swallowed. Then I felt this sudden energy, or maybe it was just hope. He gave me more grubs and I ate them. This excited him. He got up again.”
“Standing over you?” I asked.
“No, up again,” she said, annoyed.
“Then he raped me. He just couldn’t control himself. I was too exhausted, he didn’t understand English, so I just gave in. Then he walked off. Kind of like John Wayne in a fur coat.”
Now it was time for the hard question. “Cynthia, you said you ate mushrooms. Do you know what kind?”
She chuckled. “Haven’t heard that one before! Yes, I know what kind — I’m a biology major. They were not psychoactive. I was not hallucinating. The fact that I’m here proves it. I would be rotting in that bed of leaves now if not for Ooba.”
“I apologize. Please continue.”
“He disappeared overnight and came back the next morning with more grubs and some kind of plant that tasted like kale. The following day he brought a rabbit he caught with a twine snare, and three birds he got with a boomerang. He wrapped the meat chunks in a kind of mini-maggot paste — it was like eating sushi rolls. I was feeling more energy now. Every day it was the same — he brought food in the morning and afternoon, we did it, then he disappeared overnight.”
“He was fascinated by my bare skin. He was almost constantly up. He got more gentle though. He would sniff and stroke and lick me all over. He even licked my feet, dirty and stinky as they were. He smelled like wet dog, but I got used to it. And I didn’t just get used to it, I… awaited him. He was saving my life.”
“I guess it was the fourth or fifth day when he stayed and spent the whole night. I slept wrapped in his thick fur, warm at last. My stomach was full and he had even brought a gourd filled with a fermented berry mush. It was like a lumpy sangria. We got really buzzed. The sunset was beautiful. We did it again and again. He snored, but I got used to it.”
“The next afternoon, I felt energized and optimistic and tried to tell him with sign language that it was time for me to go — to try and find my people. I walked away, then looked back and blew him a little kiss. That was a mistake. He jumped up and grabbed me. I broke free and ran, but he chased me down and got a switch and gave me five hard strokes on the bottom. I tried to wrestle away but he held me down. Five more strokes. I submitted again.”
“We spent another night together, drinking more berry mush. He’s a great whistler. He did tunes that sounded like Dixie and the theme from Dr. Zhivago. He made funny faces and laughed, and tickled me, and I giggled and giggled. It was a full moon in a clear sky, and I started thinking, ‘I kind of like this guy. A lot.’ And he really was a guy — just a different kind of biped, only much, much larger. How could I be prejudiced? That’s speciesim! I wanted to get back home, but I really didn’t feel in a hurry now. We slept so peacefully. But it all ended the next morning.”
“That’s when the bitch showed up. I call her Siren for the horrible screech she made when she found us cuddled together. His wife, I guess. What a hissy fit! She kept screeching and hitting him, trying to hit me, but Ooba protected me. They finally settled down. Siren made shooing gestures at me, like ‘get out of here before I rip your tits off.’ I walked away.”
“I glanced back. Ooba was staring at me, looking very sad. That’s when she knocked him out cold with a big rock. Bonk, right on the back of the head. Terrified I was next, I took off running. By afternoon, I was maybe a mile away. That’s when I found the dirt road. Right or left? I went right. The lumberjacks found me about an hour later.”
What a story. But who would believe it without proof? The video. Surely she captured at least a few frames of Ooba — it would be the most stunning proof since the Patterson-Gimlin film in 1967. Had she posted it yet?
“Yes, I got frames, but Ooba destroyed the phone. I showed him some video of me skiiing in Vail and on Spring break in Cancun, then a music video — Eminem. He was amazed at first, then kind of suspicious — he put it up to his ear and shook it, and then he threw it down and got a branch and smashed it. I think maybe he was jealous because I was watching it a lot. Even with a Sasquatch beside you, it can get kind of boring in the woods… That’s one reason I went back — to find the phone. Maybe the video can still be recovered.”
After the Sedro-Woolley hospital released her, Cynthia Ann had not waited for Uncle Ethan and her parents to pick her up — she immediately called Uber with a borrowed phone, and was transported back to the Little Beaver Creek trailhead. Another missing alert went out, the Uber driver was tracked down and questioned, and park rangers found Cynthia about a half mile down the trail. She was reluctant to be taken back, struggling against the rangers, crying, “He wants me! And I want him.”
“Who wants you?” they asked. “Ooba,” she said. They took her back to the hospital for further observation.
Her Uncle Ethan has all but disowned her. When the SAR crews gave up after two weeks of fruitless searching, only he continued the search, hiking into the park every day with a small camera-equipped drone. “She got it on with Bigfoot?” he says, nodding skeptically. “That’s bad enough, but after I bust my butt for a month, she goes straight back to the bush? It’s like she’s gone native squaw. It’s an embarrassment for all of us. If it’s true, I hate to think what if she… got pregnant. If we were one of those Arab families…” He draws his finger across his throat.
Cynthia doesn’t care what others think or believe. She has broken up with her boyfriend, Disney, and just ignores the thousands of comments on her Facebook and Twitter accounts, some congratulatory, others hostile. Christians say she has committed bestiality and will go to hell. A feminist professor at Caltech also says she’ll go to hell — for a narrative legitimizing shacking up with her abuser. Others who believe her story say she suffered Stockholm syndrome, or it was the mushrooms, or she’s “hysterical,” or it was a starvation-induced incubus hallucination, or she’s simply a fraud or lunatic. But cryptozoologists and Bigfoot fans love her.
“It was a deeply primal experience, and it was real,” she says. “I love Ooba. We have to protect their habitat! They’re perfectly adapted to it. That shaggy coat is like a ghillie suit in the forest, and they can change color to match the background, like a chameleon! I saw Ooba’s coat turn totally green when we played hide and seek. I couldn’t spot him under my feet! He knows they’re threatened. He said, ‘Doona zippi whahaka poota.’ I’m pretty sure that translates, ‘Climate change is wiping us out.’ We need to learn to love all species, not just ourselves. We’re so narcissistic.”
Another text message. It’s her ex, Disney, again, begging for a meeting.
“I really don’t know if I can be satisfied with a homo sapiens boyfriend again. Sure, the hygiene’s better, but they’re just so wishy-washy and short… tempered.”
She opens her purse and takes out a baggie with a clump of coarse greyish-brown fur. “It’s his.” She’s been trying to get a DNA lab to test it, but so far there are no takers. “I’m going back someday,” she says, scanning the horizon. “I’ll find Ooba. I’ll bring pepper spray to deal with his wife.”
“If you do find him, will you ever come back?” I ask her.
A gust stirs the wind chimes, and she just smiles.
POSTSCRIPT: Cynthia Ann’s lost video never made it to Youtube. But the hit British series “I Shouldn’t Be Alive” is making a comeback inspired by her story, and Cosmopolitan has paid six figures to publish a feature article about her affair with Ooba, with even more intimate details: “16 sizzling tips for a FERAL love life. Hint: by #12, he won’t remember his species.”