Those Crazy Wild Man Stories
As always, we need to remind ourselves that a lot of news in the 19th and early 20th Centuries was fabricated and sensationalized. While there’s often no way to know whether any particular Wild Man story is true, this story is certainly one of the more believable ones. This creature of the woods has no supernatural qualities and is pretty well represented as a man throughout the story, right down to his tattered corduroy suit.
The Story of the Wild Man of Wayne County
On November 10, 1879*, three men encountered a Wild Man while deer hunting in Pennsylvania’s Wayne County. The hunters, Charles Ames and Frank Allabeen, from Rochester, New York, had been camping near Upper Woods Pond, an 80-acre glacial lake in the Lebanon Township. The two men, along with a guide, were using dogs to hunt a ridge for deer when the dogs began yelping uncharacteristically. Ames heard excitement coming from a swampy area near him, and raised his gun in preparation to fire on the deer he supposed was about to run out.
Instead of a deer, however, Ames was startled to see a man jump from the brush and run towards the mountain. As the article states:
He ran in a stooping position, and helped himself along by a dexterous parting of the stick scrub oaks with his hands… The opening across which he ran was several rods wide where the timber began the strange being ran so fast that the hunter had very little time to note his appearance, but he saw that he was very scantily clad.
Understandably startled, Ames took a moment to regain his composure, during which time the Wild Man disappeared into the woods line. Ames, Allabeen and their guide pursued him on foot with the objective of trying to capture him. Strangely, the hunting dogs refused to follow the Wild Man’s trail, but did follow the men as they searched. After a prolonged search the men stopped to rest, at which point one of the dogs began barking in the distance. The men followed the sound and found the creature crouching on a tree limb “about eight feet from the ground”:
As the hunter approached, he nimbly swung himself to the ground and off into the woods. The guide instantly raised his gun and aimed at the fleeing man, but before he could fire Ames struck the gun upwards and the charge passed over the fugitive’s head.
The hunters began their chase anew, and followed the Wild Man to a thicket so dense that the men couldn’t penetrate. They walked along the edge of the brush for a while until they came close to the Wild Man’s hiding place, at which point he ran out of the thicket. Allabeen, who was closest to the Wild Man, was able to grab him by his shoulders. The Wild Man picked Allabeen up and threw him head-first into the thicket, but Allabeen was able to maintain enough of a grip that the Wild Man fell with him. After falling, the Wild Man easily shook the hunter and retreated, once again, into the woods. Although the men searched for him for another two hours, no trace was found.
A Description of the Wild Man
Allabeen described the Wild Man as having skin that was “hard and black with dirt.” He had long hair and a long beard, mixed with gray and entangled with briars and leaves. He wore no hat, and the clothing he wore was the “remnants of a corduroy suit.” The guide told Ames and Allabeen that wood-choppers in the same area had reported a similar-looking man more than a year earlier.
During his encounter with the Wild Man, Allabeen said that he shouted a few “unintelligible” phrases. The article ends with a supposition that the Wild Man was an insane Frenchman who had been caught years ago while living in the wild. The story was that once caught, no one seemed to have the resources to care for the lunatic, who was literally given a one-way ticket on a train out of town. When the train reached its destination, the Frenchman was gone.
*Supposed date from information in article and date of publication.
“Hunting a wild man.” Philadelphia Times.