"The Bear Man"

Everyone has heard of characters such as Frankenstein, The Wolfman, Dracula, the Hunchback from Notre Dame etc. Did you know that there actually existed a person ­ half­man and half­bear in New Brunswick? Some say that his last name was Mersereau. He was born in a place called Iron Bound Cove, near Chipman, around 1850.

The story tells us that the Bear-man's father was not what you would call an intelligent sort by any means of the imagination. He and his wife lived in a hovel and were extremely poor. One day while out hunting he shot a bear, cleaned it and transported the carcass back to his homestead. He propped the bear up against the door and knocked. When his pregnant wife opened the door she fell over backwards from the weight of the bear which landed on top of her. This sounds like an old wives tale but so goes the story. When the baby was born he exhibited bear­like characteristics.

Bruce Wallace, an elderly gent from Chipman, recollects the story his mother told him of this thing half bear and half man that showed up regularly in the school yard begging for food. The kids welcomed the "Bear-Man" and he would affectionately give each and every one a little bear­hug. The kids thought he was a great friend. When pressed for time he'd get down on all fours and go like the Devil. He could outrun all of the kids. He was often seen herding cows like a trained dog and catching fish with his bare hands.

Another gentleman from the community, Fred Davidson, remembers clearly what his mother told him. She described the '`Bear-Man" as "some kinda spectacle to behold." He seldom stayed home but preferred to roam the country­side. He couldn't speak but it is rumoured that his parents could understand him to a degree. He was frequently seen traveling from Gaspereau to Midland, all the while begging for food. He wouldn't set foot on a bridge but preferred to swim or wade across. One of the schools where he used to hang out was Gaspereau School. There was a sheep farm nearby. The "Bear-Man" would get down on all fours and chase the sheep all over the place. The kids would reward him by sharing their apples, sandwiches and cookies. Fred also remembered his mother telling him that when the "Bear-Man" walked it would appear as if he had drunk one too many.

The photo is a copy of an original taken in the San Francisco area. Eldon Robichaud in Moncton wrote to me saying that his mother­in­law got the picture when she was a young girl around 1930.[The photo was not of good enough quality to show]

Some rumours suggest that the parents sold him to the P.T. Barnum Circus. It is a fact that he performed in the freak show. He traveled all over the United States and the rest of the world.

The circus was traveling on a showboat and the "Bear-Man" made a fatal mistake of grabbing a young lady and giving her a friendly bear­hug. She freaked out and screamed. Back in the 1800's many of the men brandished pistols for self­protection. Her husband ran to the rescue and fearing for his wife's safety shot and killed the "Bear-Man". The papers at the time carried a head­line stating "A Tragic Ending for the Kind and Gentle Bear-Man."

The Nondescript Davey, called the Man Bear

Where he came from andwhat he is,

Inevitable facts which tell of Man's Inhumanity

and its Results


The Daily Liberal, published at Halifax, contained the following item or news.

"A strange creature was noticed by a party of lumbermen upon the banks of the Salmon River. They claim that it is part bear and part human. The face bore a distinct resemblance to the human species. As they approached it they heard it groan and growl like a bear. As soon as the nondescript saw the party it ran from them rapidly, walking upon all fours."

In the summer of 1880, the St. John's Conservative told the following story:


Seen again on the Salmon River

"There never was so congenial a party of fishermen as the company of artists and actors that for the past two weeks have been camping along the Salmon River. By mutual consent the actors have been supplying the artists with food, in return for which the artists were to decorate the rooms of the Outlandish Club in New York City with sketches of their tour. Harry Thomas, John Durking, and Chariey Graham are artists who always seek pleasure, no matter at what cost; Frank Bush, John Whiston and Alt Burnett are a trio of humorists that even the solitude of the forest cannot dampen; Ralph Bayard, lames Snedden and Harry Palmer form a press triplet, who are continually playing pranks. Under these circumstances, the public can naturally infer that the camp of the Outlandish Club did not resemble a cemetery.

"For a day or two one of the party was selected by lot to remain in camp as guard over the valuables of the party, which consisted mostly of wicker baskets, marked "glass with care."

"As no one ever came near, they finally considered a guard useless, and the camp was left to guard itself. The first day the party found all intact upon their return. The second day there was a cry of dismay. Whiston discovered that some one had broken into his hat box, and that the beaver, which he valued because it had been left to him by his father, was gone. The baskets marked "glass with care" had been broken open, and bottles lay strewn upon the ground.

One after the other was accused of the act of vandalism. When it was discovered that the bottles had not been opened, the Club, in Committee of the Whole, exonerated each other.

Day after day passed, and little articles of clothing were missed. Finally open boxes of canned fruit disappeared. A volunteer was called for to watch day before yesterday, and Whiston cheerfully stepped to the front.

Early in the morning they left him to his solitary vigil. He dressed himself with care. The blue shirt gave place to a white one, the hunting suit was replaced by his best broadcloth and Uncle John commenced to revive the memories of his facial business by giving a matinee to the forest trees. Tired with his exertions he laid down upon his bed of green boughs. At night when the Club returned to camp a sorry sight met their eye. Mingled among a dozen empty bottles lay the inanimate form of Whiston, his clothes were rags, his hair matted with blood, and face and arms were torn as if by sharp claws. in spite of his well known temperance proclivities his comrades feared that he had been enjoying the wine. After some trouble he was resuscitated and told the following story:

"I had lain down with no idea of going to sleep. ~ must have dropped off. On awakening ~ saw the most extraordinary brute. Moving upon all fours, like a bear' it was coolly knocking off the heads of the wine bottles anti pouring the good stuff into its ugly carcass. Its face and body was covered with dirt and filth, and upon its misshapen head was my hat.

"At first it acted as if it was afraid. That encouraged me and ~ concluded to recover my property. ~ I made a grab for the hat and it got me. Then there was a struggle. I have faint recollections of the brute trying to pour wine down my throat' and that is all."

'The boys are still trying to believe John's story."

It was on the nineteenth of June, 188l, that Daniel Mott and H.E. Sproul met the strange creature. Mott, in his excitement, fired at the human animal. Astonished and frightened, it turned and ran from him on all fours. Sproul and Mott gave chase. After a run of a mile and a half they saw the creature crawling into a hole in the rocky hillside. They determined to follow and capture it alive. Securing pine knots and dry bushes they kindled a fire near the entrance. The wind An examination shows the following peculiar


The head thickly covered with long matted hair, black as jet. A line or ridge divided the occipital portion of the skull into two parts, the animal largely predominating over the intellectual. The ears were small and hearing quick. The jaw­bones protrude and possess a double action. No molars are in the mouth, and the teeth were evidently perfect at birth. The lips and mouth turn up in the same form as those of the bear. The eyebrows thickly shade the small, quick­ moving eyes. His stomach is the same as that of the brute. Upon his neck is a long mark that resembles a healed knife wound. When excited or angry it becomes flaming red. The muscles of the arm are placed upon the back in place of the front portion. The collar bone is perfectly straight and forms a socket at the shoulder similar to that in the brain. The hip and leg is the same. The hands have five fingers and a thumb double­jointed at the base. The nail is split and the fingers are webbed down to the second joint. The feet are exact facsimiles of those of the bear, and the track formed by the hands and feet are the same as those made by the bear. In fact he walks on all fours, has the perfect movements and bones of a bear, is an image of brain in action, yet in flesh and intelligence he is a human being.

Mott and Sproul soon found that their captive could talk a few words and sentences and seemed to understand what they said. He seemed impatient to return to his cave. As the smoke died away the three entered the Man Bear's home. Evidence of woman's work was all about it. In one corner lay a pile of dirty blankets.


"Whosoever shall find my boy treat him kindly as you shall hope for mercy hereafter.

"In the year 1857, I, Elena Meigham, was married to Mathieus Emheim, a French Settler of the province of New Brunswick. He was devotedly fond of me, and I returned his love with all the pure fervor of my nature. This is the whole history of the Man Bear. Under Mr. Sproul's tuition he has improved in intelligence wonderfully. He was placed on exhibition in order to satisfy the medical profession. In Bannell's Museum, Broadway, New York City, hundreds of thousands visited the Man Bear during his stay (if nearly a year. At Bannell's Opera House, Brighton Beach, twenty thousand persons passed before him in a single day.

At the museum in Pittsburgh, and in the largest halls of the principal cities of the East, he has attracted profound attention, as the columns of notices in the public areas will testify.

If the history of David, the Man Bear, has the effect of teaching man to be kind to woman, it will have accomplished a result which will, perhaps, make it worth more than the reader has invested in its purchase.


If a curiosity is to be judged by the notices which are accorded it by the critical supervision of the Press of the land, then, indeed, must the Man Bear stand in the very highest ranks of the many living wonders which from time to time have been presented to the public. True it is that the singular blending of the brute and human should command attention. Usually however, it is necessary to urge the editor of a newspaper to see and judge for himself as to the true character of any object. No class of men have so many duties to perform as the journalist, none are more conscientious in the performance of such duties. Nearly very person has something which, in their judgment, should receive attention at their hands' and all are averse to paying for such service when it is possible to avoid it. Under such circumstances the Man Bear has every reason to be As the press of the great metropolis is only impressible by reason of merit or news, and being wholly unapproachable by mercenary means, its expressions carry weight wherever they are react. Their opinions we give at length, knowing that they will be appreciated by all who may have seen the Man Bear, or who may have read or heard of his history.


"The history attached to one of the latest wonders introduced at Bunnell's Museum is full of pathetic interest. The growling and peculiar 'wish' of the bruin is painfully reproduced by the poor creature who rejoices in the name of the 'Boy Bear'. The story told by the lecturer evidently is given in good faith. The lecturer, Dr. Sproul, is one of the captors of the boy, who has been under his personal supervision. The brutality of the father to the mother, and the result as seen in the misshapen and half­intellectual offspring, should teach a lesson with a moral so strong that even the blind could read it."


"Physicians and those interested in the study of the development of man should by all means visit the Broadway Museum. In one of the lower halls will be found a curious object denominated by those in charge as the Man Bear. It is claimed for him, that in intelligence and flesh he has all the attributes of human kind, but that in all movements and formation of the bones he resembles the bear. He certainly commanded attention from the fact that this strange admixture of the brute and human comes not from amalgamation in the inception of the monstrosity is simply to be attributed to the fright of the mother while in the first stages of pregnancy. It has often been questioned whether or not the mother's mind could be influenced to such an extent as to guide in formation of body or character of the mind the unborn child. In this case it is certain, if the story told by the descriptive lecturer be true, that the brutality of the jealous father in killing and throwing a bleeding cub into the lap of his wife has produced what is certainly a most curious and strange object."


The latest real curious and most mysterious object that eccentric Dame Nature has turned out has just been introduced at G.B. Bunnell's Museum. It is claimed to be half man and half bear. The history is plausible and related in most convincing manner by the captor of the Nondescript, Dr. Sproul. Davey, the Boy Bear, has really arrived at man's estate as he is now in his twenty­ third year. He was born in Iron Bound Cove, New Brunswick. The name Boy Bear implies that he is the progeny of half brute, half man. Such is not the case, his father being of French descent, his mother of Irish parentage. Angered by jealousy the father cut the throat of a pet cub of the mother and then threw its dying, quivering carcass into the woman's lap. The result of his passion was the birth of the monster who is now attracting thousands of visitors to the museum each day. Davey is not an idiot by any means: he understands all that is said to him, and is fond of frightening with his savage growls and ugly display of teeth the over confident young men who think he is put upon the platform to play a part."

These are excerpts from the book Woods, Places, Bears'n Places by Peter D. Clark. Peter D. Clark is a collector and chronicler of New Brunswick folklore. The "Dr." Sproul mentioned was Henry E. Sproul 1842-1883.

Henry Sproul's obituary reads: Sussex (Kings Co.) Oct. 13 - Henry F. SPROUL, who has earned quite a notoriety in exhibiting a bear boy in the U.S. and Canada, died in his residence at Apohaqui in his 41st year. The query now is, who will take care of the bear boy? Oct. 30. The right and title to the famous man-bear has been sold for $200 to two Englishmen who intend to take him to England for exhibition. 15 October 1883.

Harry SPROUL, the exhibitor of the Bear Man who died recently at Apohaqui (Kings Co.) is reported to have left all his property by gift (without making a will) to his brothers, Andrew SPROUL and John SPROUL. Two days before his death he gave valuable gold watch to his brother John. The real estate had been before deeded in trust to his brothers. The object is said to have been to keep the property from his wife and children, with whom he did not live agreeably. The deceased's wife has retained Hon. C.N. Skinner, Q.C. and will administer on the estate. The brothers have been notified to disgorge and it is thought will be compelled to do so.

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