I have always subscribed to the idea that many of our Western European folk beliefs are rooted in ancient encounters with hairy wildmen. It is difficult to separate fact from fairy tale but trolls and ogres seem to fit into a likely category of real animals inspiring human storytelling.

Last year there was an interesting article on Cyptomundo entitled Happy Wildfolk Yule! and there is also a book Santa Claus, Last of the Wild Men: The Origins and Evolution of Saint Nicholas, Spanning 50,000 Years by Phyllis Siefker that thoroughly discusses this subject.

November of 2006 I was researching twice a week in my main research area. I had recently purchased a small field GPS. Just for fun I taped it onto my dog’s collar. I wanted to see what distance she would travel while I hiked the two miles of trails. I typically take the same paths in and out of my research area.

After hiking for a mile I sat down on my favorite log and listened to the sounds of the woods. My dog, Belle, came up to me for a quick pat on the head and was gone again on her relentless hunt for something to chase, albeit squirrel, rabbit or deer.

I noticed that the GPS was still attached, although not as securely as when I left the car. Five minutes later she was back and the GPS was missing, obviously it was a poor idea of just taping the unit onto the collar. As it was getting late I decided to wait until the next week to do a more thorough search of the area.

Over the next seven weeks I made six hikes into the area. I kept my eyes open for the missing GPS but it was not seen again.

The second week of January 2007 my research partner called me and asked “Stan, did you lose a GPS unit?” He had found it in the middle of the trail very close to where we always parked our vehicles, about a mile from where it had been lost.

Although we both hiked the same trails we usually hiked on  different days so we had probably made a total of ten hikes along the trails.

The GPS was still in the little pouch that I had placed it in, and it was also encased in the duct tape I had crudelywrapped the pouch with. The unit had not been taken out of the case but appeared to look just like it was when it was dropped those weeks before.

How did it get back to the trail entrance? I don’t know but my wife said “I tell you one thing, a human would not find your GPS, leave it in the case unopened and not keep it.” If it had been carried by some animal they certainly knew my scent and knew where I started my hikes.

That little episode changed how I think about the research I have been doing. I have never before dealt with an animal that can perhaps show benevolence and return a lost item. There are several reports of squatches returning lost children and many reports of squatches leaving gifts.

It reminds me of the 1897 editorial:

Yes, Virginia, There is a Santa Claus

Dear Editor—

I am 8 years old. Some of my little friends say there is no Santa Claus. Papa says, “If you see it in The Sun, it’s so.” Please tell me the truth, is there a Santa Claus?

Virginia O’Hanlon

Virginia, your little friends are wrong. They have been affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age. They do not believe except they see. They think that nothing can be which is not comprehensible by their little minds. All minds, Virginia, whether they be men’s or children’s, are little. In this great universe of ours, man is a mere insect, an ant, in his intellect as compared with the boundless world about him, as measured by the intelligence capable of grasping the whole of truth and knowledge.