Gumberoo: Is this really Oregon's largest grizzly bear? Or is this more of a peculiar bearded foe from the Pacific Northwest? TAP TO GET PODCAST
The Pacific Northwest is home to some of the most gorgeous views. But it might also be home to a frightening, bristly bearded entity who some believe is the main culprit for deathly forest fires.
It had been a long, hard couple of days cutting down trees for the local mill in Coos Bay, Oregon. In this specific section of woods, it would only be a two-week job from start to finish. And for the first week, it seemed to the lumberjacks that they’d make record time as the last days of Autumn had promised just enough chill that they could stay warm if only they kept moving.
That was their system. Cut down trees the first half of the day, chop up firewood the last half, and camp out underneath the stars after a long day’s work. During that time, it was quite common for loggers to pack their sleeping bags and camp out near the job site for the duration of their workload. But as the cold, bitter air began to creep in, making way for Winter, it started getting harder for the men to keep up the pace.
Only a few more days of hard labor and they’d be able to go home to their wives and families to celebrate the holidays. Then it was right back to work after the New Year. It was all these men could hold onto as the bitter cold chilled them to their bones, even through their thickest flannels and double-layered socks. But they were so close to finishing that they were dedicated to pushing through.
On the last night on the job, when the final tree was cut, the men made a toast. Gathering by the warm fire, proud of all the progress they had made, they grilled steaks and had a few too many drinks to commemorate a job well done. It was a great night full of belly laughs, sharing fond family memories, and their gleeful excitement for Christmas the following week. It was the perfect way to end such a long and brutal 14 days.
While some of the men decided to call it a night after dinner, a few loggers decided to stay up, keeping the fire lit well into the night. Although they were well-removed from Halloween, the few who stayed around began telling each other ghost stories, trying to outdo the last one told. Around 2 am, deciding it was late enough, the last couple of men got up to finally call it a night as well.
But just as they were about to put out the fire, the ground began to violently shake, startling the rest of the men awake. Uncertain if this was from one of the trees above them about to give out, a random earthquake shifting the ground, or an explosion not too far off in the distance, they were all startled by the noise. Each of them sharing glances at one other, not knowing what to think.
When one of the men spoke up and asked if anyone else smelled burning rubber, all the surrounding men started nodding their heads in agreement, completely confused at what was going on. But just as they were about to climb back into their tents, that’s when a massive beast, bigger than the size of the largest bear with the wildest eyes and sharpest, jagged teeth they ever saw, let out a ferocious roar.
Stricken with panic, each of the men took off running so fast that they left their sleeping bags, tents, and leftover food behind. Fortunately for the men, they were able to escape just before the flames engulfed them alive.
However, the giant creature left behind didn’t have the best of luck. While it was fortunate the men just barely escaped the clutches of this giant creature in one piece, the creature, unfortunately, met its demise. In a frenzy to get away, a few of the men accidentally kicked over several of their beer cans that spilled onto the fire, leaving the forest going up in massive flames and clouded smoke. What was once a celebration of a job well done only led to the destruction of land. The fire raged and consumed the remaining forest and supposedly the monster that inhabited it.
Not long after this tragic forest fire, more and more stories began pouring in from lumberjacks across the Pacific Northwest, warning others about the monstrous beast that lurks in the deep forests. To them, this monster was the reason for local forest fires. To them, this monster was not a force to be reckoned with. And to us, in the 21st century, this beast is now commonly known as the “Gumberoo.”
The Gumberoo, scientifically known as the “Megalogaster Repercussus,” is often described as “a giant bear with a tough, shiny black hide” complete with “bristly hairs on its chin and big eyebrows”. Many refer to this “iron bear” as resembling “a walking football and could kill a man with one swipe of its paw.” Many even believe that the Gumberoo has a large appetite and could eat an entire horse in one sitting. However, others depict this cryptid as “slow-moving” like a sloth and are actually quite harmless and only come out at night. Which might explain why the initial loggers never saw this cryptid until their last night on the job. But, I’m sure if you ask them, the Gumberoo’s roar was terribly frightening nonetheless.
What’s wild is that while the Gumberoo may not be exactly the most popular cryptid, it was largely discussed in the early 20th century. And not just by lumberjacks and the men of the woods. It was actually featured in plenty of books including, “Fearsome Creatures of the Lumberwoods, with a Few Desert and Mountain Beasts,” by William Thomas Cox in 1910, or “Fearsome Critters” by Henry H. Tryon in 1939, or even “The Hunter, the Tick, and the Gumberoo” by George Mendoza in 1971. Many of these authors often described the Gumberoo in a similar fashion.
If you ask William Cox, his depiction of the Gumberoo includes, “In size, the beast corresponds closely to a black bear, for which it might be mistaken only for the fact that the Gumberoo is almost hairless. To be sure, it has prominent eyebrows and some long, bristly hairs on its chin, but the body is smooth, tough, and shiny and bears not even a wrinkle.”
William also shares that the Gumberoo, however sparse, this cryptid has been seen all along the Pacific Coast from Grays Harbor in Washington to Humboldt Bay in Northern California. The Gumberoo is also said to make their dens in the bases of huge, burned-out cedar trees, spending “most of its time in a state of hibernation, only leaving its lair a few times a year to search for food.”
And according to Henry Tyron, who has quite possibly the most extensive description of all, the Gumberoo has “a pot-bellied body, almost exactly like the bunkhouse stove, even to the umbilical damper, and covered with very tight, tough, black, shiny skin; a pair of long, powerful, monkey-like forearms, and a little round head and no neck. His head sits right down onto his shoulders like a hop-toad in a cool spot. He’s got three bowed rear legs, each with a clawed foot clutching an iron ball, the same as an iron stove. There’s no speed in these rear legs, but they’re handy for wading dumps.
For real travel, he’s got eight pairs of strong, springy legs set around his middle. He’s plenty rapid on these. He’ll go to a hilltop by swinging from branch to branch with his forelegs, then toss himself out a rod or two, landing sideways on the middle legs and rolling over and over down the hill, moving faster than the eye can see. That’s why he’s so rarely observed. The hides from the middle legs used to make fine waterproof boots, but they’re pretty scarce now.”
In short, the authors agree that the Gumberoo is larger than a bear, with bushy eyebrows, a patchy beard, shiny black skin, and multiple legs, and is scarcely seen. Got it. In all honesty, this thing kind of sounds more like a Dr. Seuss character and less like a menacing monster.
But for lumberjacks in the 19th and 20th centuries, the Gumberoo was something to be feared. Not only was it the reason behind forest fires, but once sighted, it could almost never be killed. According to local loggers, the Gumberoo can’t be killed by arrows, bullets, or rocks. Apparently, if you try to shoot at it, any arrow, bullet, or rock thrown just seems to bounce off of its slick, dark fur, only agitating the cryptid even more.
And maybe they’re onto something. Because in the book, “Fearsome Creatures in the Lumberwoods,” written by Hal Johnson in 2015, he describes the Gumberoo in a much more menacing light. Apparently, the Gumberoo has “thirteen limbs, ten arms, and three legs” with an “omnivorous” appetite and is full of vengeance. But that’s not all.
Not only does it resemble a larger-than-life centipede, devouring everything in its wake, but its explosive nature can also cause more damage than just killing off wildlife and burning up our forests. It’s said that when it burns if a human is near and inhales the rubber smell, the individual’s organs would become coated in rubber, which was commonly misdiagnosed as tuberculosis.
So while this cryptid may not be wildly popular or easily recognized in media, it’s probably one of the most dangerous cryptids of all. It honestly gives me Slide-Rock Bolter vibes, but much more destructive.
So how do you get rid of the fearsome Gumberoo? Easy. You kill it with fire.
According to loggers, not only is fire the Gumberoo’s biggest weakness, but their bodies literally combust with an explosive force. So if a campfire slowly got too big or out of hand and a Gumberoo was near, it would self-destruct, causing the whole forest to be set ablaze. Which would explain the story of the loggers who barely got out unscathed. Not to mention, it’s said that when the Gumberoo essentially explodes, it sounds a lot like falling trees. Which also explains how the loggers didn’t initially know what had caused such a loud noise. But, what I want to know is if a Gumberoo spontaneously combusts in the forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?
What’s interesting to note is that in the late 19th century and early 20th century, local woodsmen in Coos Bay often heard loud booming sounds off in the distance, followed by the smell of burning rubber. Upon a closer look, the men would discover the Gumberoo caught in between the forest fire. What’s even wilder is right before leaving the woods to call authorities, many of these loggers would try to snap a photo because they knew local police wouldn’t believe their story. However, every time they tried to capture the Gumberoo on film, coincidentally, each photo negative would spontaneously combust as well.
If you’re familiar with cryptids at all, then you’re probably aware of all the blurry photos of Bigfoot and El Chupacabra surfacing the Internet. There’s “proof,” but it could easily be mistaken for a wild animal and open to interpretation. Or even the stories of finding physical evidence from long ago mysteriously disappearing like the cast of the Fouke Monster’s foot we covered a couple of weeks ago. But immediately catching on fire? Maybe that’s normal for Ouija boards in horror films, but when it comes to tracing back evidence of cryptids, that’s a new one to me.
And while there haven’t been any recent sightings, I did come across a story of two men who proclaimed to kill a Gumberoo in 1957. Legend has it Mike Mulligan and Abernathy Quinn, two M-Force agents, are recorded to have the first confirmed kill of a Gumberoo near Coos Bay, Oregon. However, looking into this, I don’t have much else to share. Also, I couldn’t find anything about these two men outside of this story, and I’m not sure what an M-Force agent is. So I’ll let you be the judge.
If you’re just as confused as I am, let’s recap, shall we?
So we have this Gumberoo. It’s made of black, shiny, leathery skin. It’s rarely seen and only has one weakness, being fire. It’s believed to be the reason for forest fires and killing of wildlife. If it stumbles upon an open flame, it spontaneously combusts. And if you try to take a photo of it, so will the negative in hand.
Honestly, if this thing is so susceptible to open flames in the forest, maybe it’s not too far-fetched to believe it’s scarcely seen. I mean, with all of the unfortunate wildfires in the Pacific Northwest, maybe it’s plausible this beast is at fault for all of the misfortune. Maybe those loggers so long ago were right about its destructive nature. If you were to come across this wild beast and the only thing that could potentially save your life was catching it on fire, and running as far away as you could, lest you too go up in flames, it could easily get out of hand.
But knowing what I know of the Gumberoo and researching all that I could find of this mysterious yet deadly cryptid, there is one question I still have. Despite all of the evidence of fires getting out of hand but no real proof this thing even exists, how did loggers live to tell these tall tales? If it’s really as threatening as they proclaimed, how did they get out alive?
If you ask skeptics, there are a couple of different reasons behind this. For one, we know that lumberjacks commonly made up stories in the 19th and 20th centuries to pass the time. Just like in our episode we did on the Slide-Rock Bolter, loggers often created stories to possibly scare the new kid on-site, to explain natural occurrences, or simply to find someone or something to place blame for their mistakes or shortcomings.
Consider the Hugag, the largest beast of the lumber woods.
Again in William’s book, “Fearsome Creatures of the Lumberwoods”, the Hugag is described as “a huge animal of the Lake States, ranging from Western Wisconsin, Northern Minnesota and Hudson Bay, Canada” and is often “compared to the moose.”
However, what makes this cryptid far different from a moose is its “jointless legs” compelling “the animal to remain on its feet” with a “long upper lip” preventing “it from grazing” grass and instead stripping bark off of trees. “Its head and neck are leathery and hairless [with] strangely corrugated ears flopp[ed] downward, [with] four-toed feet, a long bushy tail, and a shaggy coat,” giving it a prehistoric appearance.
In “Fearsome Critters,” Henry also adds that the Hugag also has a “warty snout, a bald, lumpy head, [and] pines needles for hair.” Also, it is said to stand around 13 feet tall and weigh up to 6,000 pounds. Oh, and pitch oozes from its pores. If you’re not familiar with this term, just imagine thick, tarry oil but boiling and sticky. But don’t worry, although its size is definitely daunting, it’s probably one of the least harmful cryptids out there as it’s completely harmless to humans.
Quite possibly, the most notable thing about the Hugag is its inability to lie down due to its gangly legs and strange body. But, of course, it has to sleep at some point, right? I mean, standing all day and all night must be completely exhausting, especially for such a large creature. So in order to get much-needed rest, it simply braces its hind legs and leans against a tree. But unfortunately, this is its downfall. Literally.
According to local lore, the Hugag often find themselves either leaning against old, dead trees or trees men have previously notched out. Sadly, when the Hugag leans against the tree to rest its legs, both the tree and the Hugag come toppling down. And due to the creature’s anatomy, it isn’t able to get back up and just lies there helplessly. Because of the nature of this cryptid, men of the woods have often used this an explanation for falling trees in the forest. It isn’t due to the natural decay of the trees but mostly due to the large moose-like cryptids trying to find the perfect spot to relax.
Or take the Idahoan Hidebehind, for instance.
In Henry’s book, Fearsome Critters, the Hidebehind is a highly dangerous animal that stands about six feet tall and so slender that it can “hide completely behind the bole of a ten-inch tree.” It also has a long, thick, black pelt and a curved tale that resembles a “French sheepdog” with “short, well-muscled forelegs” and moves so swiftly that it’s “almost impossible to tell whether the critter is going or coming and practically hopeless to locate its face – if any.” Like the Gumberoo, it is said to have a “fiendish howl” that sounds more like a “demoniacal laugh” and can “swiftly disembowel its victim with one swipe.” Also, like the Gumberoo, it is “never found in the open” and “always conceals himself behind a tree truck.”
So how do you get rid of such a dangerous beast like the Hidebehind? That’s easy, alcohol. Apparently, Hidebehind’s biggest weakness is the odor of alcohol. In Henry’s words, “one bottle of Uno beer has been proven to be a complete safeguard even in a thickly infested country.”
So what did loggers do to avoid being eaten alive? They drank on the job. These hardworking men literally “hid behind” the idea of the Hidebehind to explain why they couldn’t get more work done because they were too busy drinking. Instead of diligently chopping down trees and working their day job like most normal people, they proclaimed to ward off this dangerous beast with the stoutest drinks. I don’t know about you, but it kind of makes it hard to believe in this type of cryptid, knowing the reason behind it. But I guess it would make sense why it was rarely ever seen, right?
Another explanation that is more probable is that these are just exaggerated stories of wild animals in the forest. There’s nothing magical or mysterious about them. Just men who have stumbled upon large bears or the occasional moose. But seeing normal animals in their normal habitat isn’t fun and exciting. And maybe neither is being away from your family, camping out for weeks on end, and chopping wood all day every day.
To me, after a few days, it would start to feel monotonous, pretty boring, and extremely tiring. So I actually don’t blame these men for their creative storytelling. If it helps the day go by faster and makes their job that much more interesting, I say go for it. And if the stories are passed down from generation, eventually making their way into children’s storybooks, well, more power to them. The beautiful thing about stories is that they don’t have to be real to be enjoyed. They don’t have to make sense, and they don’t even have to be comprised of real words. So whether the Gumberoo is just a really large bear or a nightmarish-looking creature or the Hugag a really large moose hiding amongst the trees rather than a knee-less, gentle giant, it’s tales like these that keep us wanting more. No matter how far-fetched and outlandish the unknown might be, it doesn’t stop us from trying to prove it either way.
If you love cryptids and want to learn even more about the creatures we just talked about, find us on Tiktok or Instagram. By the way, the episode you just witnessed is both a podcast and YouTube video, so whichever format you prefer, we have you covered. Also, check out our interactive cryptid map to browse the globe and learn about cryptids from your favorite areas. Every episode we make adds another pin to our map! You can find our social channels, the map, and more at thecryptidatlas.com. And when you find us, be sure to tap that follow button and get in on the action by dropping a comment on our recent videos.
If you enjoy this show, consider sharing it on with a friend. Sharing the spooky love with someone else is the best compliment you could ever give us. And if you listen on Apple or Spotify, consider leaving an honest review to help other listeners know what to expect.
Thanks for touring Cryptids Across the Atlas. Until next time, keep your eyes open. You never know what you might see just on the edge of the road.