Thursday, October 9, 2008

DECODING THE PAST: Abominable Snowman

History Channel - Original Air Date: 2005-7

The Abominable Snowman is the bigfoot of the Himalayas.  This show looks at whether the Yeti, the Sherpa name for the creature, could actually exist. There are other similar creatures sighted across the world: Mono Grande in South America, Almas in Russia, and of course Bigfoot.  Are these the hairy giants of the Bible?  Certainly hairy wild men exit in many traditions and mythologies including Gilgamesh and Beowulf.  And of course there is gigantopithecus, at 10' tall, the largest of the apes and now extinct.  A Tibetan book of 18th century medicine describes the medicinal properties of a creature called the man-animal.  The Sherpas of Tibet and Nepal believe in the creature to this day -- and their monasteries keep relics of caps and skin of the supposed animal.  Villagers and monks know many stories about the creature -- but whether it is natural or supernatural remains unclear.  One woman shepherd claims to have been attacked by the creature and thrown into a stream as the monster ate her cattle.  She insists the attacker wasn't a bear or a snow leopard of any known animal.  Since Sir Edmund Hillary found strange tracks during his quests for Everest, western media have embraced the legend of the snowman.  But scientific expeditions have returned without any evidence.

Tom Slick's 1957 expedition broke into two groups, one searching the high mountains for footprints, the other searching the valley for other traces -- and supposedly finding hair samples, droppings, and a "nest" much like those made by gorillas.  Slick also saw some monk yeti relics, but could not get the monks to give up the samples for scientific examination.  A man called Burn stole some yeti bones from the monastery, replacing what he stole with human bones.  The bones turned out to be from an unknown primate; but (according to Loren Coleman) a later expedition (with Hillary and Marlon Perkins) found the fakes and declared the relic to be a fake; a yeti scalp turned out to be from a local sheep.  The H/P expedition declared all the relics to be fakes.  Sadly, since then the entire hand has been stolen, so no further testing is possible.  Slick was killed in a plane crash, and his evidence wasn't examined until Loren Coleman (mentioned in Uncanny Radio 027) examined the crates many years later.  Some of the bacteria in the scat samples seemed to suggest an unknown primate.  The show recaps the panda, the megamouth, and other creatures not known to science until recently. Vietnam is home to two such creatures, and also rumored to be home of a wild man.  Richard Greenwell looked for the Chinese wild man, the yarin, and brought back hair samples to examine.  The hair brought back established that the ratio of zinc to copper in the samples indicated that the hairs came from an as-yet undiscovered creature.  The rest of the scientific community has yet to weigh in on whether this proves the existence of an unknown primate.

Scholars contend that such wild man stories should not be taken seriously but are psychological remnants of our pre-human history and/or collective unconsciousness.  Does the wild man represent our repressed desires?  In 1996, the "snow walker" video claimed to capture an actual abominable snowman.  It appears to show a humanoid creature waking up and moving downhill through the snow; neither the filmmakers nor the location has ever been disclosed, so the film seems likely a hoax -- though a videographer disagrees.  He thinks the thing in the film is larger than 9' tall.  With no indisputable solid evidence, the hunt for the yeti continues.

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