Scenic Oakley

Cache Peak and Mount Independence are seen from north of Oakley in this early Clarence E. Bisbee photo. The wild hairy man of Birch Creek is said to have lived in a cave south of town.

CLARENCE E. BISBEE

Canada has its Sasquatch. The Pacific Northwest has its Bigfoot. And Oakley has its Wild Hairy Man of Birch Creek.

“Even those who don’t believe in him are still afraid of him — at least at night,” wrote The Oakley Herald editor Charlie Brown in July 1932.

One man was riding alone in Birch Creek Canyon south of town when he spotted the legendary figure. The rider later described the hairy man as “a gorilla-like creature, unclothed, (and) hairy.”

Others who reported seeing the hairy man described him similarly.

Explanations around town were plentiful. Perhaps the hairy man was an escaped lunatic. Or perhaps he was a hermit who had lived in a cave so long he had lost the ability to speak.

Brown had great fun in speculating about the hairy man in the Herald.

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“Is he a moonshiner trying to frighten inquisitive prowlers from his workshop?” Brown wrote. “Or is he simply some farmer who really believes in showing how much he feels the Depression?”

But Brown’s favorite theory was that the hairy man “had been harassed and nagged by a shrewish wife to the point where he rebelled and sought a relief by hiding out away from civilization,” wrote Kent Hale in his book “A History of Oakley, Idaho.”

While his articles about the hairy man had a tongue-in-cheek character, Brown became indignant when the First Segregation News of Hazelton suggested the tales were “fish stories,” Hale said. Brown invited the Hazelton editor to Oakley to meet the hairy man, but it isn’t known whether he accepted.

Sightings of the Wild Hairy Man of Birch Creek continued until after the Herald was discontinued.

Mychel Matthews reports on rural issues and agriculture for the Times-News. The Hidden History feature runs every Thursday in the Times-News and on Magicvalley.com. If you have a question about something that may have historical significance, email Matthews at mmatthews@magicvalley.com or call her at 208-735-3233.

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