(Editor note: This is a letter sent to a local newspaper in Delaware County, PA)
Before Bigfoot, a supposedly hairy, ape-like, bipedal creature was reported to be roaming our land. There were countless 19th and early 20th century stories about American feral wild men, allegedly hairy, man-like beings, in newspapers across the country.
It was once believed that the environment could actually change the species of individuals during their lifetimes such that people living in the wilderness could revert to an animalistic state and grow a coat of fur over their bodies. Though hunted, none of them were ever verifiably caught.
And some of these wild men stories came from right here in Delaware County. From a May 5, 1895, article in The Philadelphia Inquirer, we learn that the “residents of Birmingham,” today Chadds Ford, were excited over a “wild man of the woods” and that someone was detained as such but later released. That paper’s Sept. 4, 1919 edition gave an account of one of them entitled “Hairy wild man loose in Leiperville section, cries oo-oo! and mag!” Leiperville is a community in Ridley Township.
Even as late as July 10, 1929, The Chester Times had a piece on the capture of “the ‘wild man’ of Clifton Heights” who allegedly had danced nude in public.
Belief in American feral wild men died out because during the early decades of the 20th century Americans could no longer believe that people could be so bizarrely transformed by their environment, not because no such wild men were ever really captured.
Likewise, belief in Bigfoot will persist even if we remain without any actual live or dead specimens, not even a roadkill.