Alaska’s Bigfoot: The Tornit

Horror Books Horror Mystery and Lore

History and Mythology of the Tornit

Tornit, Alaska's Bigfoot, caught and caged
Photography by Elmira Gokoryan

Back in the old times, when Baffin Island was still known as Nunatsiarmiut (new-naht-saw-me-oot) and before European influence, the Inuit people lived near the coast of Kangiqtualuk. They were master kayak-builders and survived by means of subsistence—they were excellent hunters, regularly bringing in seals and whales to feed the people in their villages. They were not the only people living on the island though, they lived under the shadow of fear with a tribe of much bigger and aggressive people. Their way of living was different than their Inuit counterparts, as they could not build kayaks, tan hides, or preserve food in the traditional ways of the north.

These people are known as the Tornit (tore-knit) and possessed not only a larger stature but extraordinary strength; they would build houses out of stones and boulders that were much too large for any Inuit person to lift. These creatures, although human-like, are not human at all, with long arms and legs, they present more like a large ape or Neanderthal. Although they are bipedal in nature they would still be mistaken for a bear at a distance, due to their hairy appearance. Despite their largely physical advantages over a regular man, the Tornit have exceedingly poor eyesight which hinders their ability to hunt. They often smell like ghastly rotting flesh at worst and at best as if they have been freshly sprayed by a skunk—this concept also connects them largely to the creature of the southern United States known as the Skunk Ape.

So What’s the Story?

Crouching ape; Alaska's bigfoot, the Tornit
Photography by Kelly Sikkema

There is an abundance of lore available on these creatures through the published anthropological surveys of the Northern territories from the late nineteenth to the early twentieth centuries. Franz Boas wrote down the oral traditions of the Inuit people from Baffin Island to Hudson Bay and captured many stories of the unscrupulous nature of the Tornit. There were some inconsistencies, with some villages recalling oral traditions that painted the Tornit to be a friendlier beast and even other recollections that the Tornit were actually hunted as a food source.

Their tense relationship with most of the Inuit tribes may have had less to do with the race of people as a whole and more so with the idea that neither the Inuit nor the Tornit seemed to be too fond of each other in general. The overwhelming consensus with all of the information available in books and online suggest they are a morally repugnant, dim-witted, unpleasant, and vicious creature. All of the lore taken into consideration, the reputation that the Tornit have, smacks more of a feudal war than that of a monster that hunts its prey from the shadows, but the isolated incidents of Tornit invading Inuit villages while the men were away simply to kill all of the women and children, in my opinion, makes them creatures to be feared.

Read the first installation of our original story, which features a rendition of the Tornit folktale, or check out other fascinating Alaskan cryptids!


Date of Discovery

If we listen to the theory of Bigfoot being part of the genus of gigantopithecus, or giant ape, then they are believed to have been in existence when homo erectus first came into being. This means that they have existed for roughly two million years. However, there have been modern reports that date back as far back as 1818, when the Exeter Watchman reported having seen an “animal resembling the Wild Man of the Woods,” near Ellisburgh, New York.


Bigfoot is possibly the most common name given to the gigantopithecus of North America–a genus of giant ape, that is said to have gone extinct around one hundred thousand years ago. Bigfoot also goes by the identifying name of Sasquatch, Skunk Ape, Skookum, Fouke Monster, Momo, Mogollon Monster, Yowie, Ban-Manush, Tornit, Honey Island Swamp Monster, Wild Man, Wauk-wauk, Saskehavis, and Grassman in the United States as well as other parts of the world. The name of this widely distributed creature varies based on the cultural influence of the region it was discovered to inhabit.

Physical Description

Bigfoot’s general appearance is more primitive than that of Neanderthal Man, standing between six to nine feet, and weighing between four hundred and one thousand pounds. They have a ruddy dark complexion, generally are known to have black eyes, with dark fur covering all of its bodies except its hands, the soles of its feet, as well as its upper facial region.


The villagers of the Caucasus Mountains have legends of this apeman going back for centuries, as do the Tibetans living on the slopes of Mount Everest. These are the first human accounts of Bigfoot being a creature that had been undocumented, but if sticking with the theory that Bigfoot is in fact a gigantopithecus then they have been around since man’s ancient ancestors first stood upright. From the Native American myths and legends, we have gotten a rich body of tales about hairy, manlike beasts that roam the forests; depending on the tribe, they have often been considered cousins of creatures such as the Wendigo, Tornit, Strendu, Chenoo, Oh-Mah, Skookum, the full list is exhaustive. Bigfoot may well be the most widely known and farthest-reaching cryptid across the world.

Mythology and Lore

Possibly the earliest and most notable report of Bigfoot was made by Theodore Roosevelt in his 1893 memoir, The Wilderness Hunter–his account came secondhand by a hunter and trapper by the name of Bauman. Bauman was trapping with a friend in the Bitterroot Mountains of Idaho and Montana when they noticed that there was something raiding their camp every time they went to check their traps. One evening after the two men fell asleep, Bauman awoke to a large, dark shape standing outside of his lean-to, without hesitation Bauman fired his gun at the shape. Over the next few days, the men often felt as if they were being watched from afar, that they were being followed as they went about their business, with something hiding behind the thick brush and trees. Eventually, the two men became so unnerved that they made the decision to leave the mountains entirely. In order to leave as quickly as possible, Bauman went to collect their traps while his friend packed up their camp. Upon returning to their camp, Bauman found that his friend’s body had been horribly mutilated and he fled as quickly as possible.

These creatures are apparently recorded to have had aggressive behavior well into the early twentieth century. Fred Beck reported that he and three other miners had been attacked by “mountain devils” whilst working their claim near Mount Saint Helens. They had continuously heard whoops, hollers, and screams from these unseen creatures for several days until one day Beck saw the unidentifiable creature staring at him from across a small canyon and immediately began firing his weapon.

The creature I judged to have been about seven feet tall with blackish-brownish hair. It disappeared from our view for a short time, but then we saw it, running fast and upright, about two hundred yards down the little canyon. I shot three times before it disappeared from view.

Fred Beck

As a result of Beck’s aggression towards the creatures, the miners reported that their cabin was attacked and at least three large, hairy creatures circled the cabin, pounded on the walls, tossed rocks, and jumped on the roof. Beck even recalled that at one point a hairy arm reached through a notch in the wall and attempted to grab one of the men’s axes–throughout the entire assault on their cabin the men alternated between being frozen in fear and firing their guns at the walls and roof.

Modern Pop-Culture References

Surprisingly, Bigfoot is a fairly popular topic when it comes to media references. When it comes to fiction and supposedly non-fiction material, there is a wealth of information both for entertainment and research purposes.

Patterson – Gimlin Bigfoot Footage

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Date of Discovery

First reported in Sydney by a man in 1790, before being identified as the Yowie, Modern Geography: A Description of the Empires, Kingdoms, States, and Colonies: With the Oceans, Seas, and Isles: In All Parts of the World was published by John Pinkerton in 1804. The Yowie was really only entered into the written record by name in 1875, as used among the Kámilarói people, by Reverend William Ridley in his book, “Kámilarói and Other Australian Languages.” It is clear, however, that like many other oral cultures and traditions, this cryptid was a part of the culture long before it was used withing Ridley’s texts.


The name Yowie, or Yō-wī as the Kámilarói people, is said to translate into, “a spirit that roams over the earth at night,” but it’s unclear when and where this term began to be used to describe unidentified Australian hominids. This creature is also known as the hairy man and Yahoos.

Yowie walking through a mountainous landscape
Artwork by Lizard King

Physical Description

Within Pinkerton’s book, there is a side-comment about a population of Aborigines that shared Sydney Harbor with another “tribe,” but the people of this tribe were not Aborigines themselves–they were described as creatures with flat-noses and wide nostrils, they also had thick eyebrows and sunken eyes. It also said that their mouths were of “prodigious width,” with a prominent jawline and thick lips. The Aborigines of the area considered them as a separate people entirely–here they were called Yahoos or Yowies, which translated to “hairy people.”

Eye-witnesses to the Yowie have created sketches of what they believe they encountered and all of which depicted a strong, large, and hairy, eight-foot-tall man, who has a fairly flat face, large eyes and nostrils, as well as a reddish-brown coat of fur. These creatures possess an aggressive nature when they feel threatened, or when their territory is being encroached upon.

Photographic evidence of their footprints shows that they often have six toes and are near twice the size of an adult male human’s foot in length and width.

The Yowie is essentially the Australian version of the American Bigfoot, Yeti, Sasquatch, or Tornit.

There is actually a second physical account of the Yowie in Australia, which leads many hunters to believe there are actually two separate species of Yowie. The first, which was described above refers to the Gigantopithecus which is between six and ten feet tall, often weighing up to one thousand pounds. The second, smaller species of Yowie is said to be between four and five feet tall, but many people believe that this could be an ancient species of hominid that has somehow avoided extinction.


The Yowie has roots in Aboriginal oral history and is the folkloric creature of the Outback; the Kuku Yalanji Tribe of the far north Queensland is said to have coexisted with the Yowie for centuries. This is reminiscent of the Inuit tribe and the Tornit of Baffin Bay, Canada, who also have a long oral history of attacks by the Yowie of legend.

Yowie Statue in Yowie Park, Kilcoy, Queensland
Photography by Somersetpedia.paul

Mythology and Lore

Dean Harrison, a famous Yowie hunter believes that over the years there have been thousands of sightings of the Yowie. In particular, the Blue Mountains in New South Wales seems to be a hot zone for Yowie sightings, along with the Sunshine and Gold coasts of Queensland, and most recently the Mandurah area in Western Australia. They tend to prefer thick bush and are excellent at camouflaging themselves, inhabiting the area of the eastern seaboard along the Great Dividing Range.

These creatures can be incredibly far roaming but are said to have a territory that they operate in family units. So why isn’t there any physical evidence of these creatures? It is believed that due to the tendencies of Yowie to live within family units, that they operate as a community, and take care of their dead; this would leave no physical evidence of them to be blatantly evident.

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