The Alutiiq are a group of Eskimo people native to the Southern coast of Alaska. Like all the indigenous inhabitants of this part of the world, the mythology and folklore of the Alutiiq is varied and complex, but only one of their legends concerns us today.
The Pâl-Raí-Yûk, also called the Tizheruk, is a long, serpentine creature that was rumoured to lurk in marshes and swamps, until it was hunted to near extinction. As the waters of Alaska cooled, those that remained are said to have moved outward and in to the warmer bays and lake areas.
In most descriptions the creature has long fins or spines upon its back, thick fur covering its body, and a pair of short horns on its head. It is often depicted as having six legs and three stomachs. Its length varies depending on the teller; some go so far as to venture that its head alone is seven feet long. Apparently it was such an efficient hunter, it could stalk a man on land and snatch him away without even a sound.
Depictions of this fearsome beast were painted on the bottom of kayaks to ward the creature off, and its likeness was also used on harpoons and other hunting tools as a symbol of strength.
To this day, the legend persists that it can be summoned by tapping on a pier or rapping on the bottom of a boat out on the water.
Modern sightings of the Pâl-Raí-Yûk are few and far between, and, unlike the Loch Ness Monster and its American cousin Champ, there exist no alleged photos or footage of the beast.
And yet, the legend persists.
1st July 2001
Johnathan Fuchs is a ruddy-cheeked bear of a man, with the complexion of one who has spent most of his days out in the wilderness. He describes himself as a ‘man of leisure’, owing to the fact he inherited a large fortune as a child, and, by his own admission, he has never had to work a day in his life. He also cheerfully calls himself, in a thick Texan drawl, a ‘seeker of adventure’.
In March of 1964, he and a friend found themselves in a cabin on the south shore of Hasselborg Lake, Alaska.
I meet Mr Fuchs, oddly enough, in a grotty underground bar in Hamburg, and over a pint or two of strong German beer he recounts his tale.
“I was twenty five at the time, and my friend, Steve, he was, oh, let’s say twenty two. Yeah, that sounds about right. He was like me, a gentleman of independent means, a kindred spirit, and we’d been travelling around Alaska for about a week, more or less.
“We’d chartered a small plane up to the lake, and we’d reserved a lovely picture of a cabin for a few days. The first day we hiked a trail in the forest, and we got back quite late. We had some dinner and cracked open a bottle of scotch.
“The best scotch, of course.”
He grins over his beer.
“The next day we woke up with fuzzy heads, if you know what I mean, Doc? So we took the little boat that we’d rented along with the cabin out on to the lake to see if the fish were biting.
“They weren’t, but it was still a nice day.
“Now, Steve, he had this thing; he couldn’t sit still for longer than two minutes. He used to absent-mindedly tap his foot against things, and he was doing it that day on the side of the boat. It was a nervous twitch, I suppose.
“You know, Doc, that’s the sort of thing that can start to get to a guy.
“I told him to knock it off, and he did, but after half an hour or so he’d start again.
“Three or four times this happened. Every time I asked him to stop, and every time he started again.
“Anywho, after a few beers I decided to just let him get on with it.
“We’d been out for a while, and we hadn’t caught a thing, so once the sun started to go down, we decided we’d give it another hour or thereabouts before we went back to the lodge.
“Steve was still doing that damn tapping with his foot.
“I’d stood up in the boat and was taking a whizz off the side, when I noticed that the tapping had stopped.
“I heard Steve whisper my name, then again, but louder. I turned round to see what he wanted, and he was looking out over the lake, at this… ‘disturbance’ in the water.
“Next I know, this… enormous… ‘thing’ reared itself up out of the blue.”
Thing? I ask him to elaborate.
“It was like a snake, but covered in fur, and with these stubby arms. Its head was about eight, nine feet above us, and I just knew that there had to be a lot more of it under the water.
“I think I might even have shit my pants at the sight of it. Damn thing looked like it had come straight out of Eskimo Hell itself.
“Then it made this noise. Not like a roar, but more like a… a trumpet, sorta, booming sound, and then it just smashed down on to the boat, sending Steve and me both flying.
“Luckily I had my life jacket on, and I’m a strong swimmer. Steve was too, so I thought he’d get back okay. But when I made it to the shore, there was no sign of him, or whatever that… that thing was. The lake was still, just bits of the boat floating about.
“I got a torch from the lodge and spent the whole night looking for my friend, searching the banks, calling his name.”
Did you find him?
“No. I never saw Steve again.”
The next day, Mr Fuchs managed to make his way back to civilization and report what had happened to the authorities. A party was gathered together and returned to the lake the next day to search for his companion.
According to the lead ranger’s rather brief notes, the head of the party discovered what appeared to be a section of shed reptile skin at about noon. The piece of skin in question was far too large to belong to any of the local fauna.
At approximately four thirty p.m, a black mass was observed moving under the water and away from the shore by two members of the search party. It left a v-shaped wake as it went. The pair could not identify this mass, although they concede it could possibly have been a large cutthroat trout.
At five p.m, the team took a short break to replenish their energies, resolving to continue looking for Mr Fuch’s missing colleague until nightfall.
However, the search was never resumed.
Just after 5.30pm that day, the Good Friday Earthquake struck.
All emergency services were immediately diverted.
A few days later, Mr Fuchs returned home to the United States. His friend was assumed lost in the earthquake, a fact that Mr Fuchs rather ashamedly tells me he did not dispute.
He assures me that, apart from the members of the Alaskan search party and a very expensive psychiatrist, he has never told anyone else of what happened that night on Lake Hasselborg.
Leaving my personal opinions of Mr Fuchs’ behaviour to one side, is it possible that his companion fell victim to the Pâl-Raí-Yûk? The description would certainly seem to suggest so.
I could find no further reports of anything even vaguely similar showing itself in that particular area. But with Lake Hasselborg attracting more and more tourists every year, perhaps it is only a matter of time before the beast of Alutiiq legend rears its head once more.
Dr Thomas Gotobed
Please forgive any misspellings on my behalf. I swear the good doctor’s handwriting gets worse the more of his files I read. And yes, he’s right, the guy mentioned in this file does seem to be a bit of a dick – C.R.