South Dakota is a rather empty state. Smaller settlements being more common, it is unusual, then to say that South Dakota is oddly devoid of cryptids. The state has a large amount of “haunted” roads, forests, and buildings, but a surprising lack of monster legends, excluding bigfoot, which can be found in almost any state. South Dakota, however, is home to a very special bigfoot that goes by the name Taku-He.
Bigfoot generally stick to rural, forested areas, which they find it easier to hide in. They are often referred to as “forest giants” and can be construed as protectors or guardians of said forests, as their attacks seem to be primarily focused on driving people away from certain areas. The Taku-He, on the other hand, is seen mostly in wide-open areas, dragging dead prey behind him or simply staring at witnesses. There are many mysterious deaths linked to the eight-foot monster, though those who have actually seen it and survived never mention anything about feeling threatened.
Oddly, Taku-He is linked with the mutilation of many farm animals, which isn’t something generally associated with bigfoot. Animals, usually young calves, would be found with their sexual organs removed and blood completely drained from the bodies. South Dakota has had its fair share of UFO sightings, so it might have been possible that they were responsible for these things, but those who saw the mutilations firsthand did not describe the damage as being precise or the ever-present chemical smell that was consistent with most cases of alien abductions. Wild animals, too, have fallen victim to this brutal treatment. It is the sightings of Taku-He dragging mutilated animal carcasses that has led the locals to believe it to be responsible.
Many believe the bigfoot-like creature to inhabit a small stretch of woodlands at Sica Hollow. “Sica” itself means “bad” or “evil” and has been referred to as such long before South Dakota was settled by Europeans. In the 1970’s people went missing from the area, which sought to remind those nearby to avoid that place at all costs, especially the native Sioux and other Native Tribes. There was another instance where campers disappeared in another part of the state as well, but that one is still a complete mystery, as there is no proof that Taku-He or any other sort of spirit did anything to them. They were simply gone.
Interestingly enough, the stories of Taku-He are leading in an unexpected direction. With a rise in teen suicides, the locals have begun to spin stories of a nine-foot being that sneaks into towns and urges teenagers to kill themselves. It is believed that this is the natives’ way of coping with this new and terrible problem, by dressing it up as a tangible demon that can be seen and heard rather than a psychological problem in young men and women. This, however, does not explain why some people actually have been seeing this spirit. There are even tapes where he has allegedly been caught on camera.
This interpretation of Taku-He paints him in a more spiritual light, like a demon or specter. He appears where there are teenagers and whispers lies to them in order to bring them to an early grave. He is supposedly a dapperly-dressed gentleman with a stovepipe hat and long coat. In some tales he is said to be over ten feet tall, peering into second-story windows. Whole apartment buildings have reported seeing him poking around the area. There is no description of his face, but in some stories he is said to be a normal-looking older man, while in others he is said to have no face whatsoever. Sometimes he isn’t referred to Taku-He at all, and is instead referred to as Walking Sam. Whether these are separate entities or the same thing, it is impossible to say. The Natives who have seen him will tell you that they are different, but many experts on legends and Native lore will tell you that it most likely is the same legend going through changes to adapt to modern times.
Whatever Walking Sam may be, there are many sightings and police reports of a tall man in a stovepipe hat, but there are equally many sightings of a more beastly figure in some of the rural areas. In the early 1980’s several officers were called out on multiple occasions to investigate a “tall man” outside of various buildings. One time they arrived at the scene to find a whole family holed up in a fort made of couches and whatever furniture they could find. Once calmed down, they told the police that they had gone to let their dogs through the front door and had spotted an impossibly tall man in their yard standing beside one of their cars. The witnesses said that his hips were over the roof of the car, and the dogs were reacting with a great deal of fear at the sight of him. It was enough for them to call the police and take whatever precautions they could within their own home.
In 2007 there were several sightings of a “large man” causing a ruckus near the town of Pine Ridge. Police officers called to the scene recorded footprints of up to thirteen inches in length and eight inches across. They even catch a glimpse of a gleaming pair of eyes watching them from the tree-line while responding to one call, and often they would smell a putrid, musky odor in the areas that sightings took place. All of this points to bigfoot, but one detail still sticks out: witnesses describe the creature they saw as not having a face, and sometimes, despite its beastly appearance, it will be wearing a hat. A stovepipe hat.
It is all very strange, and with more sightings reported each year, Walking Sam and Taku-He are unlikely to fade from Native folklore any time soon.