The Nahanni Valley is in the middle of nowhere in Canada’s Northwest Territories, some 300 miles or so west of Yellowknife. It is a very hostile region accessible only on foot, by boat or by floatplane. For many years tales were told about fur trappers and gold prospectors going into the area, and either disappearing without trace or being found beheaded and dead. The number of decapitated bodies found within Nahanni Valley earned it the nickname “Valley of Headless Men”.
In 1971, the intrepid explorer, traveller and writer, Ranulph Fiennes, aka “Ranulph Twisleton-Wykeham-Fiennes” took a small expedition of soldiers from the Scots Greys to explore the region. Ranulph’s book is called “The Headless Valley” and contains a very perceptive account of the murders that gave it its name. Clearly, from his writings, the author seems to have discovered that many of the victims had quite simply not lost their heads. Here he is, in his comfy trousers:
Ranulph Fiennes, throughout his book, seems to tease the reader a little. He repeatedly mentions details which to a person interested in Bigfoot seem to be very strong indications that there is a Bigfoot very close to them, but then Ranulph chooses to feign innocence, just reporting any strange events as something which can easily be dismissed with a simple, normal, everyday explanation. For example, we have a moment when they are moving through very thick cover and suddenly….
“A crackling of breaking alder sounded ahead and the ground trembled as some great beast moved away.”
Perhaps it was a moose or a bear but I really do wonder if the ground trembles as they walk along. It frequently does for Bigfoot. who can weigh up to a thousand pounds for a mature male. Here’s a moose:
“(we went) to find rabbits beyond Prairie Creek. We followed the stream inland for an hour and smelled the stench of sulphur pools, though we saw none. Moving through a tall forest in dark undergrowth we heard a roar from higher up the valley: perhaps it was a bear or cougar we didn’t know, and, finding no rabbits…”
Bigfoot roars extremely loudly and very often, and he certainly stinks. Usually it is described as the smell of excrement, sewage, dead, rotting flesh, a wet skunk but also as the smell of sulphur.
And then, as they camped overnight….
“Some of the animals that moved about around us that night were large enough to shake the ground- perhaps bears but more probably deer since we had seen a great many deer spoor along the narrow “game” runs.”
This is the same argument as I mentioned the first time, when they are moving through very thick cover. And my point of view is still the same. Deer do not make the ground shake. And then….
“We heard the thud of hooves or paws as heavy creatures moved ahead through the trees.”
A classic mark of Bigfoot. Yes, they could be bears, or moose, or elk, but don’t forget that Bigfoot is always very keen to get away from human observers. Here’s that elk. He isn’t big enough to make the ground shake:
Bigfoot frequently wanders around a campsite at night looking for food, but he is also capable of stealing other things that he likes, such as in this short anecdote….
“An aged prospector, returning from a fruitless three year search in the Yukon found his mug had been stolen and a chunk of rock left in its place. The rock contained gold quartz and the prospector made a fortune.”
“Jack told us of a large black bear which he had watched ambling through some bush”.
People who say they have seen a black bigfoot are frequently told that they have seen a black bear, so, presumably, the two must be similar. I have seen neither, unfortunately!
Overall, “The Headless Valley” is a really good read, if you like tales of the wilderness. Ranulph Fiennes captures well the thrills of shooting the rapids, or, equally, the awful couple of hours when he is a long way from camp and is totally lost. If you like that kind of book, then a second hand copy is very easy to acquire via the usual websites, and well worth taking the trouble.
22 responses to “Headless Valley (3)”
While there may be a few Black Bears in this country, this is the land of Brown (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brown_bear#Description) and Grizzly (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grizzly_bear#Characteristics) Bears.
These are big bears. When threatened or defending their territory, they growl and roar. They will also stand on their hind feet. Bears don’t sell books, though, like a good Bigfoot story will.
An excellent critique.
Thank you. The book is certainly worth a read, looking back to an era when explorers routinely risked their lives, with no GPS, no back-up helicopters, no mobile phones and the equipment of the 1960s.
Your posts are just as enticing
Thank you, Derrick. I was very struck by the way that the author seemed to know a lot more than he was letting on. During the early 1970s, of course, people were routinely called “mad” by saying that they had seen or heard Bigfoot. If Ranulph had said that he had seen Bigfoot, it might have cost him his reputation as an explorer and author.
I love it when a book describes the area and events so well that it seems real to me. I go “into” the book, and THAT’s the real adventure!
Absolutely. This author seems to capture extremely well his feelings about what is happening out there in the trackless wilderness. In one particular episode, he is lost as the path unexpectedly comes to a stop. He retraces his steps only to find a different place to the one he expected. The reader can almost taste his very real fear that he is now in serious trouble. Back then, there was no back-up and he knows that he has to get out of the situation himself or die. Eventually, he comes upon a place he recognises and lives to explore another day.
John, good morning and thank you for yet another thrilling installment of ‘The Headless Valley’ adventures; I had not previously known of this area but am planning to research it further. I may also look into the book you had recommended as well! Happy Christmas!
And Happy Christmas to you, Sanjay. The Nahanni Valley sounds as if it is well worth a little research, especially as the tales of people losing their heads do seem a little exaggerated. The countryside looks incredibly beautiful, but you would certainly have to know what you were doing.
I wonder if Ranulph managed to come up with any conclusions as to what was causing all the deaths. Did they find any bodies? Did any of them suffer any ill affects at all? It’s all very intriguing and raises lots of questions! Great post as always John.
Thank you for those kind words. Ranulph doesn’t present the reader with any definite conclusion, but I got the impression that he thought the tales were being exaggerated and that most of the deaths were explicable, given the difficulties of the area where they took place.
I definitely don’t think that he thought there was any single explanation for the deaths. I think he saw it as a combination of quarrelling gold miners, cabin fever. thieves after other people’s gold and disappearances in a huge area of wilderness. The Nahanni Valley was certainly a place where death was easy to find.
That’s certainly a more plausible explanation I think than some of the others. It’ll remain one of life’s mysteries no doubt.
You make a good argument for the existence of Bigfoot. The thought of Bigfoot wandering around one’s campsite at night looking for food is very unnerving.
The idea nowadays is that Bigfoot is pretty peaceful and is just looking to be left alone. On the other hand, I think I would be pretty scared if I looked out of the tent flap and saw something ten feet tall standing there.
That sounds very interesting. We do not have animals such as this – but we do have deadly snakes and huge crocodiles.
And spiders the size of cats, don’t forget them. I’ve never got over a TV programme which introduced me to the “Fifty yard snake” which bites you and then you run off, but only get fifty yards before you drop dead.
Supposedly there is the Yowie to keep your eyes open for. I remember seeing a TV programme where a Prime Minister (I think) said he had seen one as a schoolboy, and so had the rest of his class. If a top politician has seen one, that’s proof enough for me.
I think there is a tiny little bit of exaggeration in the report on some Australian animals. Husbands Kill more wives than snakes and sharks and spiders combined.
And what politician do know who tells the truth?
Where is the scientifically accepted evidence that the creature known as bigfoot exists? Where’s the fossil or skeleton remains? Where’s the DNA. The same questions apply to the yeti of the Himalaya.
Bigfoot can be dismissed as hoaxers in gorilla suits or brown bear sightings. Bears are known to rear on their hind legs to see further and for aggressive display to show off their size.
There is no body and I hope there never is. The scientific evidence includes footprints which exhibit dermal ridges which are all consistently different from those of human beings, the Patterson-Gimlin film which has never been debunked after sixty or seventy years of trying, the support of university professors such as Jeff Meldrum at Idaho and Brian Sykes at Oxford, and of Jane Goodall, the world’s premier primatologist.
Best of all, on an island off Alaska, somebody has inserted three full sized trees into the ground upside down. The logging company boss said that there was no evidence of machinery having been used.
You have your opinion and I have mine. In a free society that is allowed and is to be encouraged. Time may eventually show which side is correct.
Would you have denied that UFOs were real a couple of years ago?
Now the government admits that they are real, but just does not know what they are.
John, another fabulous installment of the headless valley sequence. Thank you!! The mystery is enticing and I have more questions than have answers. That seems to be the state of my affairs lately, more questions than answers. So many mysteries to solve yet will we truly solve them? New information or should I say “repressed” information is coming forth in these present days which boggles and teases and having one wanting more and answers, darn it! This is the case with the mysteries contained in the headless valley. WHAT really happened?
Well, in my opinion, some of the men killed each other, to steal the gold they had dug up, a lot of the men just got lost and died or were killed by the environment in snow or storms, some were killed by bears or mountain lions or, if you believe in Bigfoot, a lot of them were killed by a very fierce creature guarding its territory.
And you are right, Amy, the information coming out is so often the source of even more mysteries!