WILD MAN OF SANTA CRUZ ISLAND

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Christian Bayer, Wild Man of Santa Cruz Island

BAYER, Christian J. (c. 1878- ), was known as the "Wild Man of Santa Cruz Island." In 1913 he was dropped off on the island where he intended to live off the land. His first stay was for several months. Reports indicate he was on the island for long periods of time.



In the News~

In 1913, Ira Eaton said he “left a man at Lady’s Harbor who wanted to lead the life of a wild man. The man had just gotten tired of city life and wanted to get away from it all.” He was a heavy set, broad-shouldered Dane, 35 years old, with blue eyes and light curly hair, who studied botany according to Margaret Eaton. He had brought a box of apples and expected to live on fish for the time he was on the island. At Lady’s Harbor, he built a crude hut. [Eaton Diary of a Sea Captain's Wife 1980: 196].


March 27, 1913 [SBMP]: “Back to nature apostle at Lady’s Harbor for strenuous following of old creed. Husky Dane wears girdle only, kills his food with slingshot, shuns people. Recent visitors to Lady’s Harbor, Santa Cruz Island, report the discovery of a ‘near-to-nature’ disciple, who lives in a rude hut fashioned with his own hands from bark and driftwood, eats only such food as he can gather or kill by the crude means of a slingshot fashioned after that used by David in his combat with Goliath, wears only a girdle, and avoids human companionship so far as possible. The man in a Dane, well built, about 35 years of age. And except for his freaky desire to become a hermit and adopt the habits of primitive man, appears to be of sound mental capacity. Members of the Murphy party who recently cruised around Santa Cruz Island, came upon the big Dane when they camped at Lady’s Harbor. When they landed on the beach, the fellow was observed at the summit of the mountain that rises abruptly from the shore. Later in the day he came nearer the camp, and they were able to converse with him. He was reticent as to his own history, his means of reaching the island and where he came from, but he said he had been there about a month, and expected to remain indefinitely, his object being to test the possibility of civilized man adopting the mode of life followed by the aborigines. He has no firearms, no matches, no cutlery, dishes or other facilities that modern man has come to consider indispensable. He makes fire with flint, catches fish with crude bone hooks, kills animals with a slingshot, and in all other respects resorts to primitive customs.”


March 31, 1913 [LAT]: “Primitive Dane found on Santa Cruz Island. Recent visitors to Lady’s Harbor, Santa Cruz Island, report the discovery of a ‘near to nature’ disciple, who lives in a rude hut fashioned with his own hands from bark and driftwood, eats only such food as he can gather or kill by the crude means of a slingshot, fashioned after that used by David in his combat with Goliath, wears only a girdle, and avoids human companionship so far as possible. The man is a Dane, well-built, about 35 years of age and except for his freaky desire to become a hermit and adopt the habits of primitive man, appears to be of sound mental capacity. Members of the Murphy party who recently cruised around Santa Cruz Island, came upon the big Dane when they camped at Lady’s Harbor. When they landed on the beach the fellow was observed at the summit of the mountain that rises abruptly from the shore. Later in the day he came nearer the camp and they were able to converse with him. He was reticent as to his own history and his means of reaching the island and where he came from, but he said he had been there about a month and expected to remain indefinitely, his object being to test the possibility of civilized man adopting the mode of life followed by the aborigines. He has no firearms, no matches, no cutlery, dishes or other facilities that modern man has come to consider indispensable. He makes fire with flint, catches fish with crude bone hooks, kills animals with a slingshot and in all other respects resorts to primitive customs.”


May 8, 1913 [SBMP]: “Christian Bayer, the wild man of Santa Cruz Island, returned yesterday in the Tripoli from Fry's Harbor. Bayer returned quite of his own accord, not that he was tired of his lonely existence, but having fully regained his health, he is now again ready to take up the usual worldly battles. Bayer is not so wild, in fact, he is very lid mannered and the first thing he did upon reaching the mainland was to tell others the benefits of such an existence as he lived the last two months. He declares it will provide a positive cure when doctors and medicines fail. Bayer is just a common barbarian of Danish nativity... On the island he wore only the scantiest clothing, as it is considered of the greatest importance to have all parts of the body come into contact with the fresh air. He took along some provisions, but subsisted largely from raw mussels of which there is an abundance. Bayer lived in caves, sleeping on the bare rocks. He would occasionally come down to the harbor, but the greater part of the time was in the mountains. He would bathe a great deal, taking his first plunge at break of day, no matter what the weather might be. He would climb over the mountains and some days would remain inland. He claims he had the best sort of time. To occupy his mind, he busied himself with notions, and made a stone hammer with the crudest implements at hand. He also studied botany, of which he has some knowledge. He says he found a certain fern on a mountain which he had seen in no other place but Scandinavia... Bayer recommends the nature cure to all... ”


May 9, 1913 [LAT]: “Angeleno is feeling fine. Reverts to savage customs for a period and becomes known as ‘Santa Cruz Wild Man.’ When Christian Bayer, A Dane, 40 years old, walked up to the wharf today and announced that he was the ‘wild man’ of Santa Cruz Island, he looked the part. He had been on the island for several months taking the ‘nature cure’ and being unknown to frequent visitors in the channel was soon called the wild man. On the island he wore only the scantiest of clothing. He took along some provisions, but subsisted largely from raw mussels, of which there is an abundance. Bayer lived in caves, sleeping on the bare rocks. He would occasionally come down to the harbor, but the greater part of the time was in the mountains. He would bathe a great deal, taking his first plunge at the break of day, no matter what the weather might be. He would climb over the mountains and some days would remain inland. He claims he had the best sort of a time. To occupy his mind he busied himself with primeval notions and made a stone hammer with crudest implements at hand. Today he claimed he was completely cured and would return to Los Angeles to resume his work.”


June 29, 1917 [OT]: “San Francisco. June 29. Christian J. Bayer, ‘cave man of Santa Cruz Island,’ wants to exchange his raiment, which for ten years has been nothing but a girdle, for the olive drab of the army. Bayer, a Dane by birth, has lived the life of a wild man, alone on the island. Fish and game, killed with crude weapons, have been his food. He appeared in San Francisco today and his application for enlistment is under consideration.”


June 29, 1917 [1]: “MAN OF NATURE ENLISTS. Hermit of Santa Cruz Island Offers Services to Government. SAN FRANCISCO, June 28. (Special.) Christian J. Bayer, native of Denmark, aged 39, who has been living for 10 years on Santa Cruz Island, off the Santa Barbara coast, on mussels, abalone and wild game he killed with stones, applied for enlistment today. Bayer was in fine physical condition and was sent to Fort McDowell. Monday Bayer donned his first suit of clothes since going to the island to recover lost health.”