Canada's Abominable Snowman
The True Story that Sounds Like a Fairy Tale

Before you read this story, please keep in mind that it is absolutely true. As unbelievable as it appears, this is one of the most incredible tales of suffering and courage you may ever read.

The Province of Quebec has had its share of blizzards, but rarely has it experienced a blizzard like the one which swept through Grindstone Island in 1872. The storm began shortly after Mass on Sunday, December 15 and raged on until the following Thursday. So severe was this blizzard that the villagers were virtually confined to their homes.

Late in afternoon on Thursday, the blizzard had abated enough to allow three teen-aged boys to get outside for the first time in days. Trudging through snowdrifts taller than themselves, they made their way to the beach where they were met with piles of wreckage strewn along the beach. Despite the approaching darkness, the boys decided to poke around in the debris for awhile in hopes of finding some interesting items to salvage.

Soon the sky darkened and the storm began to increase in intensity once more, prompting the boys to head back home before they found themselves in trouble, but, as they passed a large heap of wreckage, a huge, white shape arose from behind the small mountain and began to walk toward the boys, moaning and making inarticulate sounds. Frightened to death, the boys took off toward the village as fast as they could through the deep snow. They ran directly to the small church where they were met by Father Charles Boudreault (pronounced 'boo-DROH'). The boys began babbling all at once about a huge, 2½-metre (8-foot) monster down on the beach and wanted the Father to protect them.

Father Boudreault tried to calm the boys, explaining that the storm distorts vision and that the boys probably only saw an Arctic owl, or perhaps a polar bear which had drifted ashore on an ice floe, which had happened several times since the priest had joined the parish. He sent the boys home after promising them that, if weather permitted, he would go with them to the beach the next morning.

News of the discovery spread throughout the village like wildfire and, by morning, the monster had reached the size of an elephant and was as ferocious as a bad-tempered lion. At daybreak, the storm was finally over and a small posse of men, kitted out with shovels and rope, gathered with the boys and Father Boudreault. The rest of the men stayed behind to protect the women and children. At least that's what they said!

With the priest in the lead, the group began their march toward the beach. A shout from one of the men stopped the party in its tracks and they all gathered around to stare in awe at the huge footprint in the snow. It was 56 centimetres (22 inches) long and over 30 centimetres (1 foot) wide! Father Boudreault stared in disbelief at the footprint in front of him. It was definitely not the footprint of an owl, nor was it from a polar bear. It was most definitely humanoid!

The priest looked at the party of men... or at least the ones who were still with him. A few people were conspicuously absent now. The ones who remained looked at the Father for direction. "Light the torches," said the priest, and when the torches were lit, the now-diminished group continued toward the beach.

As they stared at the piles of rubble strewn about, the men mumbled amongst themselves, deducing that a ship had smashed into the offshore rocks and this was all that was left. But Father Boudreault was looking further along the snow-covered beach at a large, white figure which appeared to be lying on its side in the snow.

The anxious priest began moving toward the figure with the rest of the group falling in behind him. As they approached, they could hear sorrowful moans coming from the creature. Several more fainthearted men left the group and headed back to the village, but the Father continued his advance. Never had he seen anything like this apparition before him and he shuddered at the tremendous size of the thing.

Only the nervous priest was bold enough to go near the gigantic figure. As he leaned over the body, he could make out two huge, sunken eye sockets and, as he touched the great shoulder before him, the figure rolled onto its back and opened its eyes. The priest reached through his open collar and grasped his cross in his shaking hand. As he drew the cross into the open air, the creature began wild gesticulation and then suddenly uttered the single word 'Father!' A few more villagers bolted toward home.

"Mon Dieu!" shouted the priest. "C'est un homme!!" ("My God! It's a man!") The remaining men gathered round, then quickly broke away to start scouring the beach for suitable wood to make a litter. The man was freezing to death and they had no time to lose in getting him back to the village.

Several hours later, the haggard group approached the village dragging the litter and cargo behind. Doors opened as the residents flooded into the street to see the 'monster'. It was almost 3 metres (over 9 feet) tall and easily weighed over 130 kilograms (300 pounds). They were moved by the stranger's pitiful moans and his constant imploring for the mercy of God. They could only imagine the torture and suffering he must have endured since being sighted the night before.

Many people escaped to the security of their homes, but some remained and asked the Father how they could help. Father Boudreault implored them to draw and heat as much water as they could. The man had obviously been shipwrecked and had been submerged in frigid water and then spent a horrific night in freezing temperatures. Only his great courage, his strength of will, and his faith in God had kept him alive throughout the night.

As the warm compresses began to thaw out the stranger, he became more aware of his new, unfamiliar surroundings and was clearly frightened, but the calming words of the Priest and the gentle touch of the women tending him quickly soothed him to relaxation. Over the following few hours, he related his horrific tale. His name was Auguste Le Bourdais and he was, apparently, the only survivor of the ship Calcutta, which had sunk during the storm on Sunday. For two horrifying days, he clung desperately to some wreckage and somehow managed to keep his head above water until he washed ashore on the beach. By that time, though, he had no strength to try to find help or shelter. For two more days, he had nothing to eat or drink but snow.

As it turned out, the man weighed only about 113 kg (250 pounds) and stood just under 2 metres (6 feet 6 inches). The rest of his bulk had been over 45 kg (100 pounds) of ice!

With the care and generosity of the villagers, Auguste slowly began to regain his strength, but, after only a few days, his thawed limbs began to turn black with gangrene and the village doctor sadly told Auguste that he would have to amputate. Unfortunately, the doctor had no chloroform or morphine and the amputations would have to be done without anaesthetic. Auguste accepted this and nodded his agreement, but it took ten villagers to hold him on the table.

Le Boudrais recovered and had to undergo further amputations in May in order to be fitted with artificial legs. Over time, he recovered completely and made Grindstone Island his home. He operated a lighthouse for years until his death.

Auguste Le Boudrais was the one and only 'snowman' to all French-Canadians. His story is still told over 100 years later.

Canadiana