Abominable Snowmen, by Ivan T. Sanderson, , at sacred-texts.com
p. xvi p. xvii
In 1887, a major in the Medical Corps of the British Indian Army, Lawrence Austine Waddell, LL.D., C.B., C.I.E., F.L.S., F.A.I.—i.e. Doctor of Laws, Commander of the Bath, Commander of the Indian Empire, Fellow of the Linnean Society, Fellow of the Anthropological Institute—was meandering about in the eastern Himalayas doing what that rather remarkable breed of men were wont to do: that is, a bit of shooting, some subdued exploring, and a certain amount of "politicking." Like many others of his ilk, he wrote a somewhat uninspired and uninspiring book about it, uninspiringly named Among the Himalayas. The Major was a normal sort of chappie and a sportsman, but his hunting was not of the feverish ninety-one-gun-in-closet variety of today; quite the contrary, he would take a few birds of types he considered to be legitimate game for his pot or to keep his eye in for grouse-shoots on his next home-leave in Scotland, and he banged away at "tygarr" whenever the local natives could rustle one up. But he was not scrambling about the Himalayas primarily for what we nowadays call "sport." He was just puttering—that lost 19th-century British art—because he had some time off, and official sanction to make use of it as he would.
Despite the limited intelligence attributed to 19th-century British-Indian Army colonels, they were really a most remarkable breed—almost a mutation—for, from some hidden depths of their public-school educations, and the remoter recesses of their ancient family traditions, they dredged up a wealth of
wisdom, and they often developed an extraordinarily keen interest in the world about them wherever they happened to land. Most of them were sort of mild philosophers; many turned out to be brilliant linguists and great scholars; and they were often both leaders of men and students of animal life. They have been grossly maligned by almost everybody, laughed at as super-Blimps, and neglected as historians. But if you will just read their maunderings carefully, you will garner therefrom a trove of both literary and factual gems.
Take this Major Waddell, for instance. While pounding over one of the unpleasanter bits of Sikkim, in vile weather, he came upon a set of tracks made by some creature walking on two legs and bare feet that, he says, went on and on, over the freezing snow, not only taking the line of least resistance at every turn but marking out a course in conformity with the easiest gradients that brought whoops of admiration even from the Major's mountain-born porters. He remarks almost casually upon this remarkable achievement and wonders vaguely not what manner of man, but what sort of creature could have made them, and why it should have decided to cross this awful pass in the first place. The Major did not realize when he penned this thought just what he was starting; though "starting" is perhaps not the exact word to describe his remarks, for what he recorded was already ancient history when Columbus sailed for the West Indies. It just so happens that, as far as popular recognition is concerned, his was one of the earliest mentions to appear in print in the English language, in what may be called modern times, of what has latterly become known as the "abominable snowman." *
At that time nobody in what we now call the Western World paid the slightest attention to this extraordinary report —at least as far as we know. It just went into the record as a statement; for one could hardly, in that day and age, call any pronouncement on the part of anybody with such notable honors a lie, or even a "traveler's tale." It was therefore assumed that some religious chap must have preceded the gallant Major over that particular route and somehow managed not to die of frostbite, sun-blindness, or starvation; and it was remarked that he had done a dashed good job of negotiating the pass. There the matter rested.
Major Waddell's book was one of many written about the end of the last century when the Western World was complacently sure that it knew more or less everything about all countries, with the possible exceptions of Tibet and the holy city of Mecca which, it was then considered, were rather unsporting in that they did not welcome civilized Englishmen. All sorts of sporting gentry went wandering about the fringes of "The Empire" with rod and gun and later wrote about their experiences. Their effusions were read by both the previous and the upcoming generations of colonial pioneers, but by few others. What they said was not taken too seriously by the general, nonempire-building public. However, many of these gentry also submitted official reports on certain less publicized aspects of their activities to their superiors; and these were taken very seriously.
Unfortunately the great body of such reports are not published and many of them are either lost in some archive or truly lost forever. There are others that are still top-secret and unavailable, so that their very existence is often conjectural. Yet every now and then one stumbles upon such a report that is extremely tantalizing. Tracking down the original is a frightful chore and one of the most time-consuming and frustrating experiences. One is balked at every turn but not, I would stress, by any deliberate or organized defense on the part of authority. Official archives are preserved for the benefit of all and are open to inspection by all, and even the topmost secrets are in time released as mere historical dejecta. The trouble is
simply that the original reporters, and more so those reported to, did not lay any store by or place any specific value on esoterica, or anything other than the primary matter at hand, which was often of a diplomatic or political nature, so that the items that interest us most were never indexed or catalogued. You just have to plow through mountains of material quite extraneous to your particular quarry and hope to stumble upon casual asides that are pertinent to it. But one does occasionally so stumble.
Now I should state, without further ado and quite frankly, that I am prejudiced in favor of official as opposed to any other form of reports and for the following reasons. In this country we do not, let's face it, have much respect for the law or its potential until we have recourse to it or it requires our submission. Until we have been on a witness stand, almost all of us believe that perjury—which is simply a legal term for lying in the law's presence—should be the easiest thing in the world, but even those of us who say that laws are made only to be broken, soon find that it is not. Few think twice about telling a fish story in the corner bar, but there are very few, even congenital idiots, who won't think before telling it in a court of law. When, therefore, somebody voluntarily makes an official statement, when there is no profit motive involved, I have always felt it reasonable to assume that it is quite likely true. The British happen to have a particular respect for their law, and British officialdom, despite what has been said about its colonial policies, has always been remarkably altruistic. British consuls and other officials just did not report a lot of rubbish to their service headquarters. Even paper was scarce in minor British outposts and the field officers did not clutter up essential reports with bizarre trivia unless they considered them to be of real import. We approach, therefore, the following official report with a certain quota of awe.
It appears that in 1902 British Indian officialdom was concerned with the stringing of the first telegraph line from Lhasa, the capital of Tibet, to Kalimpong, Darjeeling in Bengal Province of India just south of the Sikkim border (see Map 11).
[paragraph continues] The job entailed, first, going into Tibet and then stringing the cable out. When the crew reached a pass named Chumbithang near a place called Jelep-La on the Tibet-Sikkim border, an incident occurred that prompted an official report. A dozen workers failed to return to camp one evening and a military posse was sent next day to search for them at the scene of their operations. No trace of the missing men was found, but the soldiers during their wide search for them found a remarkable creature asleep under a rock ledge—or so the report goes. The soldiers were Indians, not Ghurkhas or mountain folk, and this is of significance because had they been they would doubtless have acted differently. The Indians had no qualms about shooting this creature to death immediately. It proved to be human rather than animal in form, though covered with thick hairy fur. Up to this point the report is official. Then it becomes unofficial but for one minor aside to the effect that a full report, together with the beast, was shipped to the senior British political officer then resident in Sikkim, who is correctly named as one Sir Charles Bell.
The unofficial sequence I take from an extraordinary book only recently published by a Mr. John Keel entitled Jadoo. This is the more startling in that it even mentions an incident apparently lost and certainly forgotten over half a century before, yet states that the information therein given was obtained firsthand. The author states that he met in 1957 in Darjeeling a retired Indian soldier named Bombahadur Chetri, who claimed that he was among the party that killed this creature, and that he personally examined it. He is also alleged to have said that it was about 10 feet tall, covered with hair but for a naked face, and that it had "long yellow fangs." Further, Mr. Keel says that Bombahadur Chetri told him that the carcass had been packed in ice and shipped to this same Sir Charles Bell, but that he did not hear anything further of it. Nor, apparently, did Mr. Keel; and nor have I, though I have spent a lot more time and energy than the item might seem to warrant in a fruitless endeavor to trace further reports, official or otherwise. This is the more aggravating since it is the earliest report that I have found on the actual (or even
the alleged) capture of any form of what we shall henceforth be calling an ABSM—i.e. "the abominable snowmen," by what we must, also for lack of any established over-all name, call the "Western World," in the Oriental Region. *
Nevertheless, it is by no means the only such report, nor actually the earliest on record, for as we shall presently see, it was preceded in two if not three other continents by just as definitive statements and in some cases official ones at that.
And this brings up another point that I should endeavor to clear up forthwith.
I would have preferred to start this story where all stories should begin, which is to say at the beginning. However, despite a chronology that I have compiled over the years, such a procedure would be open to at least two serious defects. First, it is almost daily, and now with increasing tempo, being added to almost all along the line, while its origins are regressing ever farther into the recorded past; second, it would be extraordinarily dry and overformal in the eyes of any but extreme specialists. I have felt, therefore, that the history of this whole ABSM business will be much better understood if it is unfolded upon the chronology of its discovery and progress: a sort of history of a history. This is, further, herein recorded deliberately from what we called above the "Western" point of view, in that it is a chronological record of how the matter was brought to the attention of the Western World. In this, it will soon be seen that a greater part of the discoveries made have come to light in reverse. For instance, it has only been within most recent years that the earliest accounts have come to light, and the further research workers probe into the whole matter, the farther back the origins of the whole ABSM affair recede, while the wider does their distribution
become both in fact and in report. Thus, in treating of the history of this matter, we must bear in mind that what appear to us to be discoveries are more nearly revelations, because the majority of the world—which is, of course, non-Western—has, to some degree or another, known all about the business for centuries, while we have remained completely oblivious of and to it.
For these reasons, I divide our chronology into five stages and call these as follows: (1) the ancient period, prior to the 15th-century expansion of Europe, (2) the dark ages, from 1500 to 1880, (3) that of the Explorers, from about 1880 to 1920, (4) that of the mountaineers, 1920 to 1950 and (5) that of the searchers, from 1950 to the present day. All of this, however, applies primarily and most essentially to the Himalayan area of the Oriental Region wherein this business was primarily unfolded for us. The same periods, of course, exist in time elsewhere, such as North America, but they cannot be founded on the same criteria or named after the same classes of entrepreneurs. Behind this chronology and everywhere lies an immense period of what I call native knowledge. This trails off into the dim mists of the extreme past and into folklore and myth; an area which is only just now being taken into account as serious history rather than mere make-believe. Thus, in other parts of the world our story has often jumped straight out of the "native" period into that of scientific study.
While ABSMs were not only reported but also reported upon, and even officially, in other parts of the world—vide: Canada—long before the travels of Major Waddell, and while specimens (as it now turns out) are alleged to have been captured or killed long before that, we of the West became cognizant of these happenings or alleged happenings only very recently. Also, it now transpires, detailed and more properly critical information on the subject was even being published in eastern Eurasia centuries ago—for instance in Tibet, China, Mongolia, and Manchuria—and some reflections of this had filtered through to Europe as early as Renaissance times, as is exemplified in certain curious statements in the works of Marco Polo. Millions of people were then taking all this as a
matter of course but, the whole thing being completely foreign to European conditions or even thought, it made no impression upon what we now call the Western World until our fourth period—namely that of the mountaineers.
Just how foreign it was prior to that period is clearly demonstrated by the reception, or lack of it, given to a report published in a scientific journal (Proceedings of the Zoological Society of London) in the year 1915, and the brief comments upon it made at the time. The report was read before the society by a very well-known botanist and scientific explorer named Henry J. Elwes, and consisted of portions of a letter received by that gentleman from a Forestry Officer by the name of J. R. O. Gent who was stationed in Darjeeling. This read as follows:
The peculiar feature is that its tracks are about 18 inches or 2 feet long and toes point in the opposite direction to that in which the animal is moving. The breadth of the track is about 6 inches. I take it he walks on his knees and shins instead of on the sole of his foot. He is known as the Jungli Admi or Sogpa. * One was worrying a lot of coolies working in the forest below Phalut in December; they were very frightened and would not go into work. I set off as soon as I could to try and bag the beast, but before I arrived the Forester had been letting off a gun and frightened it away, so I saw nothing. An old choukidar of Phalut told me he had frequently seen them in the snow there, and confirmed the description of the tracks.
It is a thing that practically no Englishman has ever heard of, but all the natives of the higher villages know about it. All I can say is that it is not the Nepal Langur, but I've impressed upon people up there that I want information the next time one is about.
This report, which would today probably cause quite a stir in certain circles, though for various and quite opposed reasons,
seems hardly even to have been commented upon. It would probably have been dismissed altogether—and, most likely not published in the Proceedings—had it not been read by such a person as Elwes. As it was, the general impression left was that perhaps a new species of monkey had been found and some local folklore embellished. But, unexpectedly, Henry Elwes then saw fit to make a statement of his own to the effect that in 1906 he had himself seen the same or a similar creature in another part of the Himalayas. Most aggravatingly, he either did not give further details or they were not recorded at the time, and after he died his notes were lost while no mention of the incident was to be found in any of his published writings. Zoologists were apparently quite impressed at the time because of the standing of Elwes, but the matter never got further than the closed confines of professional zoology.
It was, moreover, not until 1920 that the English-speaking public, outside of the limited audience earlier served by the writings of travelers in the Orient, was in any way made aware of this whole business, and, as is so often the case, it was even then more by accident than by design. This part of our story is most intriguing as well as being a sort of turning point in Western thinking, and not only upon this but upon many other matters. But before telling you the details of this little comedy, I just want to diverge a moment to impress upon you once again the fact that what then took place, while a revelation, was more particularly so to the Anglo-Saxon world. A decade before (1907), a certain then young zoologist named Vladimir A. Khakhlov started an extended survey of similar matters throughout central Eurasia and submitted a long report on it to the Imperial Academy of Sciences in Russia; Netherlands authorities had been pestered with annoying (to officialdom) reports of a like nature emanating from Sumatra; the French had undergone the same in Indo-China; and the Brazilians in their country; while even in British Columbia both the courts and the Crown itself had long been bothered by citizens seeking to make depositions on closely related matters. Thus, in retrospect, the happenings of 1920 lose a great deal of their import if not of their impact.
In that year an incident occurred that was impressive enough but which might have been either wholly or temporarily buried had it not been for a concatenation of almost piffling mistakes. In fact, without these mistakes it is almost certain that the whole matter would have remained in obscurity and might even now be considered in an entirely different light or in the status of such other mysteries as that of "sea-monsters." This was a telegram sent by Lt. Col. (now Sir) C. K. Howard-Bury, who was on a reconnaissance expedition to the Mt. Everest region.
The expedition was approaching the northern face of Everest, that is to say from the Tibetan side, and when at about 17,000 feet up on the Lhapka-La pass saw, and watched through binoculars, a number of dark forms moving about on a snowfield far above. It took them some time and considerable effort to reach the snowfield where these creatures had been but when they did so they found large numbers of huge footprints which Colonel Howard-Bury later stated were about "three times those of normal humans" but which he nonetheless also said he thought had been made by "a very large, stray, grey wolf." (The extraordinarily illogical phrasing of this statement will be discussed later on, but it should be noted here that a large party of people had seen several creatures moving about, not just "a wolf," and that it is hard to see how the Colonel could determine its color from its tracks.) However, despite these expressions, the Sherpa porters with the expedition disagreed with them most firmly and stated that the tracks were made by a creature of human form to which they gave the name Metoh-Kangmi.
Colonel Howard-Bury appears to have been intrigued by this scrap of what he seems to have regarded as local folklore, but, like all who have had contact with them, he had such respect for the Sherpas, that he included the incident in a report that he sent to Katmandu, capital of Nepal, to be telegraphed on to his representatives in India. And this is where the strange mistakes began. It appears that Colonel Howard-Bury in noting the name given by the Sherpas either mistransliterated it or miswrote it: he also failed to realize
that he was dealing with one of several kinds of creatures known to the Sherpas and that they, on this occasion, apparently both in an endeavor to emphasize this and for the sake of clarity used as a generic term for all of them, the name kang-mi, which was a word foreign to their language. This is a Tibetan colloquialism in some areas, and is itself partly of foreign origin even there, in that kang, is apparently of Chinese origin while mi is a form of Nepalese meh. The combination thus meant "snow creature." His metoh would better have been written meh-teh, a name of which we shall hear much, and which turns out to mean the meh or man-sized teh or wild creature. However, the Indian telegraphist then got in the act and either he dispatched this word as, or it was transcribed in India, as metch.
The recipients in India were unfamiliar with any of the languages or dialects of the area but they were impressed by the fact that Howard-Bury had thought whatever it might be, important enough to cable a report, so they appealed to a sort of fount of universal wisdom for help. This was a remarkable gentleman named Mr. Henry Newman who has for years written a most fascinating column in the Calcutta Statesman on almost every conceivable subject and who has the most incredible fund of information at his finger tips. This gentleman, however, did not really know the local languages or dialects of eastern Tibet and Nepal either, but this did not deter him from giving an immediate translation of this metch kangmi which, he stated categorically, was Tibetan for an "abominable snowman." The result was like the explosion of an atom bomb.
Nobody, and notably the press, could possibly pass up any such delicious term. They seized upon it with the utmost avidity, and bestowed upon it enormous mileage but almost without anything concrete to report. The British press gulped this up and the public was delighted. Then there came a lull in the storm. During this time, it now transpires, a number of eager persons started a fairly systematic search for previous reports on these abominable creatures, and they came up with sufficient to convince their editors that the story was not just a
flash in a pan, but a full-fledged mystery that had actually been going on for years.
Thus, the "birth" of the Abominable Snowman per se may be precisely dated as of 1920. And once it was launched it gathered momentum. As we shall see later when we come to examine the actual reports from the eastern Himalayan region, almost everybody who went there, and notably the mountaineers, reported either seeing "snowmen," their tracks, or hearing them; finding cairns and other objects moved by them; or relating information secondhand that they had gleaned from the native population. The business reached a crescendo in 1939 with the publication of several quite long accounts in books by well-known and much respected explorers such as Ronald Kaulbach. Then came World War II and the matter faded into limbo. But it did not by any means stop.
No sooner was the war over than the onslaught on Mt. Everest was resumed and along with this came a new approach to the ABSM affair. Everybody appears to have felt it incumbent to at least mention the matter even if he could not contribute anything new or material to the story. Yet, there were very few who did not have something concrete to offer and indeed, I am unable to name one who didn't. What is more, prior to World War II, this was an almost exclusively British affair, though there was a book on the first American Karakoram Expedition, entitled Five Miles High, that was most pertinent. It has now become international as a result not only of expeditions going to the area from many nations and of multinational composition, but also because of reports that came to light but which were originally made during the war. Also, for the first time, reports by what may be called native foreigners began to appear.
The whole subject of "natives" is a sorry one and it is rather muddling to Americans because, to them, it has several meanings, none of which is exactly synonymous with the term as developed and understood among the British. It was the declaration of independence by a number of Asiatic nations that brought confusion, in that, while these peoples were manifestly native to their own countries, they suddenly became
no longer "natives" in the precise British sense, so that what they said had to be accepted and assessed in an entirely new light. Whereas, while anything stated by such people prior to the war could be passed off as a mere "native tale" or a story "by some benighted native," it had now to be treated with respect as a statement by a responsible citizen. What is more, an Indian traveling through Nepal to Tibet also became just as much a "foreigner" as any Britisher—and, in some cases, actually more so, because there were places where more Britishers had been living longer than any Indians. This proved extremely awkward to the British at first and it took about a decade even for their phlegmatic genius for compromise along with a fairly genuine common decency and belief in good manners, to gain the upper hand.
Despite the international scramble, it was again the British who attracted world attention to the matter of ABSMs and it was still their mountaineers who did this. The most notable was Mr. Eric Shipton who on still another reconnaissance of the Everest Bloc came upon a long set of tracks—not by any means for the first time in his life—and, after following them for some distance, noting they were definitely bipedal but negotiated almost impossible obstacles that would be hard for even an experienced mountaineer to do, took a series of clear photographs of them. These were published in the much respected Illustrated London News, not a publication given to elaboration, irresponsible reportage, or the mounting of international jokes. This time everybody had to take the matter seriously; and they did, but in a variety of ways. The public, as is its pragmatic wont, took it at its face value. The press literally howled. The explorers cheered a bit. But the scientists flew into a positive tantrum; an altogether undignified performance, the effects of which have not yet worn off and will not do so for many years. This was in 1951 and it marked the next turning point in the history of ABSMery.
Up till then the matter had been primarily a "Western" and notably a British perquisite; it had also been a child of the popular press with a sort of minor cold war going on between the mountaineers and the zoologists. Now, however, a new
agency entered the picture, a polyglot assortment of people of various bents that can only be termed "The Searchers."
Since the turn of the century there had continued to be outright explorers as well as putterers and sportsmen in the field and not a few of these continued to stumble upon ABSMs, or tracks and other evidence of their passing. None of these, however, had any prior interest in the matter and, like the mountaineers, had been in the Himalayas primarily for other purposes. On the other hand, the whole affair was, until Eric Shipton published his photographs, really nothing more than a news-gimmick though the press had had to tread warily with the reports made by prominent persons and especially the mountaineers engaged in the attack on Everest, which had official backing. The scientific world had not been quite so circumspect. At the outset, it denounced the whole thing as, first, a fraud, and then a case of mistaken identity, and it stuck to this story: and it still in large part sticks to it today, even to the extent of deliberately ridiculing such men as Shipton and Kaulbach. But after their completely unsuccessful attempt to set Shipton's 1951 findings at nought, which backfired with considerable public impact, a sort of revolution began within the ranks of science.
Some topnotch scientists—not just technicians and self-appointed experts who happened to be employed by scientific organizations—started to investigate the whole matter upon truly scientific principles. What is more, these scientists were primarily anthropologists [as opposed to zoologists] and this was of the utmost significance, for the latter had permanently closed the door on the whole question when they could not prove that it was a hoax, stating flatly that all ABSM tracks were made either by bears or monkeys. Also, there were anthropological expeditions actually going into the field and these too began to report discoveries similar to those of the mountaineers. Notable among the fieldworkers were Dr. Wyss-Dunant of a Swiss expedition, Professor von Fürer-Haimendorff of the School of Oriental and African Studies, and in particular Prof. René von Nebesky-Wojkowitz. Among those not engaged
in fieldwork were Dr. W. C. Osman Hill of the Zoological Society of London in England, Dr. Bernard Heuvelmans, Belgian zoologist, in Paris, and latterly a whole group of Russian scientists led by Prof. B. F. Porshneyev.
It was the press, however, that was in the end first in the field with an expedition aimed primarily at the ABSMs. This was organized by the Daily Mail of London and went to the Himalayas in 1954. It was a curious outfit and it was not very successful but it initiated a new—and, to date, the last—phase in the history of this mystery. It was led by a reporter, Ralph Izzard and had among its members a professional zoologist, Dr. Biswas of Calcutta and also a man named W. M. (Gerald) Russell, whose experience was of great significance though nobody seems to have realized it at that time. However, it was once again directed by mountaineers. The significance of this escaped everybody then and to a very great extent still does. The universal impression had been gained over the years that the Abominable (as then supposed) Snowman, whatever it might be, was a denizen of the snowfields and therefore inhabited the uppermost slopes of the Himalayas. As a result, its pursuit was looked upon primarily as a mountaineering job and was therefore given to the professionals and the experts in that field of sport. The idea of including a scientist and especially a zoologist, had never occurred to anybody previously. The idea of including a man with the particular skills and experience, as well as training, of Gerald Russell has not even yet, it seems, dawned upon anybody.
Russell alone among the whole army of investigators is really the only man qualified to tackle the problem, for he is a professional collector, which is something absolutely different from either hunters or sportsmen on the one hand, or research scientists on the other. Then again, no ABSM is a denizen of any snowfield—naturally; and as should be obvious to any sane person on a moment's consideration, for in such places there is nothing to eat. All turn out to inhabit dense mountain forests. Thus, just about the last persons suited to search for them are mountaineers (who have a positive passion
for climbing mountains above all else, it should be pointed out), while sportsmen and hunters are little better for other and even more obvious reasons.
This is a somewhat sensitive question but one of first importance. The techniques developed over the ages for hunting are basically aggressive, be they noisy as in "beating," or silent as in "stalking." Further, the dog—which is not only a domestic but actually an artificial animal—has been extensively used in hunting. These methods obtain the quickest results, in the largest amounts, of what is specifically desired. Collecting, on the other hand, should best be almost entirely passive. Silence is one of its features in certain of its aspects but almost as much noise is permissible as in hunting in certain circumstances. To obtain animals not normally hunted, the less ground covered the better but the longer the collector must sit and wait for the animals to become used to his presence, the noises he makes, and the effluvia he gives off in the normal course of "living." As many artificial things as possible must be eliminated; and most notably dogs, metal (especially metal cleaned with mineral oils), and suchlike that are not indigenous to the wild. Given time, any wild creature, however timid, will come to investigate the collector, whereas it will fly before the hunter long before it is detected.
Even zoologists, unless they have had extensive collecting experience in the field, are little better, for they, poor souls, are hustled about by everybody else into and out of the least likely areas for proper investigation, and are in any case supplied in advance with a sort of `book of rules" that goes far to negating the search for anything that is not already known.
The Daily Mail expedition did, nonetheless, include among its ranks, and deliberately, a very experienced zoologist with field experience in the form of Dr. Biswas, and, quite fortuitously in the person of Gerald Russell, the first and only man on any ABSM expedition trained to tackle such a collecting problem. It also accomplished something else, in that it publicized the whole matter and served notice on everybody that the press was no longer overawed by what they had termed
"scientific opinion," but from then on took the affair for granted as having graduated from the category of the "silly season filler." In fact, it pointed the way to some serious endeavor designed to try to solve the mystery. This challenge was taken up by quite a new type of operator.
The Daily Mail expedition returned in 1955, and in that same year an Argentine mountaineering expedition and another British party (of Royal Air Force alpinists) reported having encountered tracks and other evidence of ABSMs. The following year the young man, John Keel, already mentioned, made his trip through the country and, as stated in his book published in 1958, tracked and sighted an ABSM. At the same time, the Russians were conducting investigations and getting ready to make a concerted attack upon the problem. There were also quite a number of others in the field, while the few serious students at home began to bring to light all manner of related items from the past.
The busiest of these scientific sleuths and the most open-minded and best-informed was the zoologist, Dr. Bernard Heuvelmans, who had for long specialized in the collection and examination of evidence for the existence of any creatures as yet unknown to and unidentified by zoologists. It was he, moreover, who first brought the findings of the Hollanders in the East Indies, the French in Indo-China, and to a very considerable extent that of the South American explorers to light. The American edition of these findings by Heuvelmans, On the Track of Unknown Animals, was published by Hill and Wang of New York, in 1958. However, the most significant personality to enter the field was the prominent Texan, Mr. Thomas B. Slick.
Tom Slick, as he is known to everybody and all over the world, is a most remarkable man. To Americans he is probably best known because of the airline that carries his name, which is itself a natural advertisement with amusing connotations in the English language. Then, in the world of commerce he is widely known for his position in the mysterious world of oil and the very down-to-earth world of beef; but, his international reputation is based on his extraordinary efforts in
the cause of world peace. Tom Slick has done many other things and is not only a patron of but a driving force in many purely scientific endeavors. He established the second largest privately endowed research unit in the world, in the form of the Southwest Research Institute near his home town of San Antonio, and adjacent to this another large organization for educational promotion. I am often asked to describe this man, and my response is invariably the same; namely, to say simply that, for all his activities and the vastness of his outlook and effort, he is less like the popular conception of a Texan than anybody I have ever met. Tom Slick does things and very fortunately he became intrigued with the business of ABSMs. Despite ridicule, especially among many of those closest to him, he set to work upon it with the determination that he, almost alone in the Western World it seems, was capable of and willing to apply. And, being a bulldog, he has kept quietly at it ever since.
I speak of Tom Slick at length because it is he, and he almost alone, who has by his quiet persuasion heaved this whole irksome business out of a sort of ten-ring, international circus, into the realm of serious scientific endeavor; while he has also stimulated others in England, France, Italy, India, and elsewhere who are working on the problem, by means of personal contacts and by the exercise of sympathetic encouragement. Finally, he did one more thing. This was to break out of the confined limits of the Himalayan area of the Oriental Region and direct attention and proper effort to other parts of the world, such as California, which are proving to be every bit as important in regards to ABSMs, if not much more significant than even the uplands of Eurasia. He began his own personal investigations by a trip to the Himalayan region in 1957.
In 1957, Tom Slick, together with A. C. Johnson, mounted the first full-fledged expedition to the Himalayas for the specific and sole purpose of investigating ABSMs. This saw the extremely fortuitous bringing together of Gerald Russell and the brothers Peter and Bryan Byrne, and was the happiest event that had until then—and still has been until the time of
writing—happened to ABSMery. For the first time in history the leadership was not given to mountaineers or hunters, but to persons with collecting experience who believed that the quarry was real, was multiple in form, and that, in all its forms, it lived in the forests as opposed to on the upper snowfields. As a result, this expedition came closer to obtaining concrete results than any other before or since, and produced more straight evidence of the existence of such creatures than all other expeditions put together (for details see Chapter 12).
In the same year, however, the Soviet Academy of Sciences had established a special commission to co-ordinate the findings of several groups who had been working on the problem in countries within the Soviet sphere. These workers had brought to light the astonishing reports of Khakhlov made to the Academy in 1914, but which had been shelved; they had before them the current report of a Dr. Pronin, a hydrologist of Leningrad University who alleged he had seen an ABSM in the Pamirs, they had a wealth of material from the Mongolian Peoples' Republic and a lot from China; and they had decided to mount proper scientific expeditions to investigate. These were four in number and were put into the field in 1958 —one to the Caucasus where a creature named the "Wind Man" had been rumored for centuries; one to the north face of the Everest Bloc; one to the Mongolian region; and one to the Pamirs, which, for certain odd reasons they considered to be the breeding ground of the ABSMs. Meantime, they started the publication of their over-all findings in the form of booklets (see Chapters 13 and 14) and concurrently with. this, a series of studies on fossil men, and particularly the Neanderthalers. Also, a wealth of previously unpublished material, some historical and some current, appeared in certain Russian magazines—notably; Tekhnika Molodyozhi.
These Soviet. activities shed an entirely new light on the whole business, and also put it on such an altogether higher plane that Western scientific circles were obliged to change their attitude toward the matter quite drastically. No longer could they simply avoid the issue by saying that it had been explained or that its protagonists were merely a bunch of
amateur enthusiasts pursuing a fantasy. At the same time, a certain nervous irritation was to be detected in their pronouncements, because the press just then began harping on the case of the Coelacanth fish discovered off the southeast coast of South Africa. This had at first been called a hoax but had finally had to be accepted as living proof of the fact that not everything about the life of this planet is known. Obviously, creatures confidently thought to have been decently extinct for tens of millions of years can still be around.
Further, it was the Russians who first stressed, though perhaps more by inference, something that those scientists in the West who had been taking the matter seriously had been harping on for some time. This was that the whole problem is an anthropological rather than a zoological matter. In other words, all the Sino-Soviet evidence pointed to ABSMs being primitive Hominids (i.e. Men) rather than Pongids (i.e. Apes) or other nonhuman creatures, thus linking them with known fossil forms such as Gigantopithecus, the Pithecanthropines, and especially the Neanderthalers. And, in doing this, they also emphasized another point.
That was the now very obvious but totally ignored fact that there is not just one creature called The Abominable Snowman, but a whole raft of creatures distributed almost all over the world, of very considerable variety, and of as many as three distinct types in the Tibetan-Himalayan area alone. This suggestion was of course not merely obnoxious but positively horrific to the orthodox scientists who were still vehemently denying even the possibility of the existence of even one such entity. Then, the final bombshell landed. At this point in my narrative I must confess to a considerable embarrassment since I must speak in the first person and I do this with much diffidence.
In 1958, I received a number of reports of an ABSM in California. At first, this sounded quite balmy even to us—and we are used to the most outrageous things—and got itself filed among what we call Forteana, which is to say those damnable and unacceptable items of the categories collected by the late Charles Fort. However, it so happened that I was privileged
to spend the year 1959 touring the North American continent gathering material for a book on its geology, structure, vegetational cover, and wildlife. Before leaving, I had a research specialist—Stanley I. Rowe, with whom I had long been associated—prepare for me from his files, from ours, and from other sources, the details of any and all oddities and enigmas reported from this continent, by states and provinces. These I investigated as a news-reporter as I went along; and when I came to northern California I fell into the most extraordinary state of affairs that I have ever encountered in my life. This was no idle rumor but a full-fledged mystery and a straight-down-the-line, hard-boiled news-story.
This I tell in detail in Chapter 6, so suffice it to say here that I found there clear and most convincing evidence of the existence of a form of ABSM of most outstanding qualities. But worse was to follow for, prompted by this astonishing discovery, I went aside in British Columbia to investigate their long-renowned Sasquatch, only to find that it was just as definite, and apparently identical to these Oh-Mahs (or "Bigfeet") of California. Subsequent research has, what is more, brought to light a mass of other reports of similar things from Quebec, the Canadian Northwest Territories, the Yukon, the Idaho Rockies, Washington, and Oregon. *
This brings us up to the date of writing, except to note that a large Japanese expedition went in 1959-60 to the Himalayas specifically to search for ABSMs; while there were other expeditions in that area, in Sumatra, and in California, fitted out for the purpose. Finally, later this year (1960), Sir Edmund Hillary, backed by American sponsors and with Marlin Perkins, Director of the Lincoln Park Zoo of Chicago accompanying him as zoological expert, conducted an expedition to the eastern Himalayas with this pursuit as his second major objective. †
2:* You will find that, by the time I have said all that I am able to say within the compass of this book, there remain only two sets of evidence for the existence of ABSMs. One is subjective—i.e. reports; the other objective—i.e. tracks. All the other evidence, and of all kinds—such as scalps, hairs, excrement, myths, legends, folklore and so forth—may be questioned and often seriously on one ground or another. The one item that both protagonists and skeptics have to explain is tracks. They happen also to be both the commonest items in ABSMery, and the ones most readily recorded and analyzed. The study of foot-tracks is called Ichnology and the principles of this, together with its particular reference to our subject, will be found in Appendix B.
6:* The term "ABSM" is coined from the best-known name for one kind of those creatures of which we speak, namely the Abominable Snowman. As is explained later, this term is incorrect, inappropriate, and misleading even in the case in which it was first applied; while it cannot possibly be applied to at least 80 per cent of the apparently most varied and quite different creatures involved, and now reported from five continents. The term "Western World" in this case has a cultural rather than a regional sense; but by the Oriental Region is to be understood a very precise geographical unit, as is explained.
8:* This is also the name of a known tribal group of people in a remote valley of the Himalayas. (For fuller details see Chapter 19.)
21:* These affairs in our Northwest were summarized in two articles in True Magazine for October, 1959, and January, 1960, and set a whole new phase of ABSMery in motion.
21:† The results of this effort are described in Appendix E.