Abominable Snowmen, by Ivan T. Sanderson, , at sacred-texts.com
10. The East—the "Mysterious"
We are now going to make a major hop across an ocean, from East Africa to what is commonly called the Orient, and specifically to southeast Asia. This may look like, and in point of fact is, a long hop spatially, and it may seem doubly exaggerated because we are going also to skip over all that lies between the two points specified, such as Arabia, India, and Ceylon, though they manifestly form sort of steppingstones along this route. This is nevertheless justified on more than one count.
First, there is no current ABSMery to be discussed in those intermediate areas, though there is quite a lot of myth, legends, and folklore, especially in Ceylon. Second, geologists tell us that there was once a great land-connection between the two extremes (Africa and southeast Asia), which they have named Gondwanaland, and it is obvious that lots of primitive animals still living today are represented by different but either comparable or obviously related kinds on the two sides of the Indian Ocean. Whether individual examples of these emigrated from one side to the other, or vice versa, is no concern of ours, but it is certain that there was from very early times such a connection between the two sides of this ocean. A good example is the Lorisoid Lemurs of Africa, and of the Orient *; another is the flightless birds called Ratites,. including the Ostriches (Struthio), on the one hand,
Click to enlarge
MAP VIII. MALAYA AND SUMATRA
MAP VIII. MALAYA AND SUMATRA
the Emu (Dromiceius) and the Cassowaries (Casuarius) on the other. Then again, the Great Apes are found on both sides, as are different forms of the very specialized Leaf-Monkeys or Coloboids—the Guerezas in Africa; the Langurs in the Orient. These each represent different ages at which this land connection existed.
Primitive men and the Hominids generally, seem also to straddle this ocean. Whether the land-connection still remained above sea level when the most primitive of the latter were evolved—such as the Australopithecines of South Africa, and the Pithecanthropines of Indonesia—is not yet known, but it is almost certain that it did not do so when the first races of True Man were spread all over both sides (or, alternatively, passed from one to the other). These most primitive peoples are today the Pigmies of which there are representatives in forest Africa, on the Indian Ocean, in the Massif on the Malay Peninsula, and in the Philippines. [It should be noted that the pigmy people of the west end of New Guinea are now thought to be merely "pigmy" breeds of the otherwise tall Papuans of that island.] These little people have much in common on both sides of the Indian Ocean, and they are now thought to constitute a real sub-species of the human race.
These Pigmies are indeed primitive, but even they say that they were not the first people in the countries they now inhabit, and the Semang of Malaya state that there remain some living representatives of these still earlier people in
their country. Malays call these "Devil Sakai," * (Hantu Sakai) and say that they live in and move about through the trees; an astonishing statement since the Senoi also readily take to the trees, and are highly agile therein. There is evidence that these proto-Pigmies [which simply means, Those-who-were-before-the-Pigmies] once were spread very widely in East Africa, southern Arabia, India, Ceylon especially, and throughout Malaya and Indonesia. We will find allusions to them cropping up all the way through our story for some time from now on and we must watch out for them because in this area (i.e. eastern Orientalia; namely, the whole of that subcontinent apart from India and Ceylon) there is really no clear line of demarcation between fossil sub-hominids that are known, really primitive Men, and what we are calling in this book ABSMs.
This is a point that I would like to stress forthwith. On account of that awful expression "the abominable snowman" and all the fuss that has been made over "it" in the Himalayas, not only the popular concept of such creatures, but our whole thinking from a purely scientific point of view also is colored by a picture of some mythical exaggeration pounding about on a snowfield, ripping apart yaks or hapless Sherpas. Actually, if one comes to examine the matter more closely, and in its entirety, as we are trying to do in this book, it should be apparent that what we are dealing with is really the whole history, past and present, of the Hominids, and the origins of Man per se. Frankly, our term "ABSM" really means hominid, other than known kinds of modern man; no more and no less; and it is my firm belief that in due course, the whole business will be lifted clean out of the "mystery class" and simply become a part of physical anthropology. Even if no example of any of the (as it now seems) dozen or so ABSMs is ever caught, I further think it will be found that all which has been reported upon them throughout the world may legitimately be taken into consideration in trying to reconstruct the past history of man, and fill in some of the vast gap in that
history that at present lies between little Oreopithecus of the Miocene coal strata of Italy and, say, the Bushmen or the pigmies. Moreover, it is in this Oriental Region that we are going to come closest to the chain of stages that linked, and that still links, those two extremes.
Our first port of call in this new region is perhaps one of the oddest, oldest, and from a zoologist's point of view, the most exciting in the world. This is the southwest portion of the great island of Sumatra and a string of islands off its west coast called the Mentawis. The whole of Sumatra is odd in several respects and not entirely due to its enormous size, dense forests, comparatively small human population, and virtual neglect throughout history. It, with the foot of the Malay Peninsula, Java, Borneo, and some associated smaller islands [and possibly Palawan, which is usually grouped with the Philippines] forms a zoogeographical sub-area with most special aspects (see Map X). Not only does this sub-area contain elephants, rhinoceroses, tigers, and other mainland Asiatic animals, it has some even odder and more ancient animals—the Malayan Tapir, the Orang-utan (or Mia), the Siamangs, the Tarsiers, and the little, most primitive of all living Primates, the Pen- or Feather-tails (Ptilocercus). Actually, the list even of mammals is extraordinary, and there are here unique birds, reptiles, amphibians, fishes, and invertebrates of all kinds. It is a sort of leftover land to which all manner of creatures have at times of climatic change, crustal shift, or oceanic flooding, retreated. But, within this limited area, there is an even more peculiar sub-sub-area. This is the Mentawi Island chain and the immediately opposite Barisan Mountains of southern Sumatra.
Here there are absolutely unique and really very strange animals. To exemplify, I need mention only what is called the Mentawi Islands Langur, and the South Pagi Island Pigmy Siamang. The first is not really a langur monkey at all but a short-tailed Snub-nosed Monkey (named Simias concolor) that constitutes a genus all by itself and which is completely unlike anything known anywhere else. The Pigmy Siamang (Brachytanites klossi) is a diminutive ape, classed
with the Gibbons and standing somewhere between them and the much bigger and more "advanced" Siamang (Symphalangus) of mainland Sumatra and Malaya. It seems in fact that this bottom bit of Sumatra is a retreat within a retreat, and the animals which retreated thereto are really relics. You will notice from the map that the Barisan Mountains, though continuous with the Boekits and the rest of those of west Sumatra right up into Achin, are coastal. Also, they culminate in the northwest in Mount Marapi, north of Padang, beyond which there is a distinct break. The flora and fauna of the Barisans has more in common with the Mentawais than with the mountains of northern Sumatra. [Eng-gango Island is even more odd.] This sort of fossil attic is the headquarters of a group of Oriental ABSMs and notably one that is called locally the Sedapa or, in kitchen-Malay, the Orang Pendek (Little Man) or Orang Letjo (the Gibbering Man).
Here, we come to a pretty problem. There is spread all over what is called by zoologists the Malaysian Subregion—i.e. that described above as encompassing the foot of the Malay Peninsula, Sumatra, Borneo, and Java—a wealth of folklore concerning not just this Sedapa, but also a man-sized ABSM, and, in Sumatra, a giant type called very simply and logically the Orang Gadang, or Great Man. This folklore is very specific. In Java, it is buried, and deeply so, in pre-Hindu mythology; that island having been so highly civilized and so thickly populated for so many millennia that, although there still remain in it some really wild areas and even relic animals such as a special rhinoceros, any primitive hominid that may have lingered there since the time of Pithecanthropus and Meganthropus (see Chapter 16) was long since exterminated. Borneo, on the other hand, has remained very wild and forms a special case. It too has its zoological oddities (like the Proboscis Monkey) but not apparently even any folk memories of ABSMs—though a very strange story of one such having arrived there not too long ago on a boat as a captive of pirates was published! Sumatra and Malaya proper, on the other hand, are rife with not just hints but most definite reports of at least three kinds of primitive hominids or ABSMs.
The Philippines constitute another zoological sub-area; and the Celebes and their associated islands, still another. Both have unique animals, and the latter, though lying on the Australian side of Wallace's Line, the great divide between that continent and Asia, has a mixture of marsupial mammals and other typically Austral fauna and forms with obvious Asiatic affiliations. Among these are the small black baboon, known as the Black Ape (Cynopithecus), and two species of a Macaque Monkey (Maurus). Of ABSMs there are none reported from either of these sub-areas, but there are genuine Negrito Pigmies in the Philippines, and there are constant references to "men with tails" from there and especially from the Island of Palawan. The whole question of tailed hominids is a sorry subject and has been going on throughout the ages. Many peoples have attributed tails to their neighbors or more distant foreigners with the sole implication that they were a lowly lot of rascals. Others mistook crude accounts and pictures of monkeys for lowly forms of humans in other lands. Finally, people are sometimes born with fairly decent tails. [There was a very nice fellow at school with me who had a 3-inch job clothed in reddish-brown, fine hair about an inch long.] This is said to be an "atavism." This is hardly the right word for it, as it would then be a throwback to the time before either apes or men got started. [I show a photograph of a Malayan-Filipino gentleman so equipped—see Fig. 54.]
Let us, then, return to Sumatra and investigate the matter of the Sedapa. The existence of wild men in this island has been rumored since ancient times. It was mentioned by Marco Polo [though he also had tails on the brutes, and naked ones at that]. Its existence was first definitely reported by an Englishman named William Marsden who was resident at Benkoelen on the west coast of Sumatra in 1818, but it was not till this century that definite reports were made by Westerners. As everywhere else, both the veracity of the reporters and the possibility of the existence of any such creatures was heatedly denied by just about everybody who did not reside in Sumatra, and particularly by those who had not even been there. This attitude to the matter was taken to
great extremes by the Dutch curator of the museum at Buitenzorg in Java, Dr. K. W. Dammerman. Most, but not all scientists followed his example until World War II. Then, when Indonesia gained her independence, there was at first a very noticeable change in opinion, especially as displayed in the Indonesian press. However, the general attitude has reverted to type more recently, so that the present professor of anthropology at the university at Djakarta wrote to my friend Prof. Corrado Gini of the Institut International de Sociologie in Italy, stating flatly that the "Orang Pendek is only a variety of the Orang Kubu, a primitive people, quite human in character, of whom the Indonesian Government takes special care."
While I am glad to hear of the Indonesian Government's special concern for the Kubu, something that must be somewhat difficult to exercise in the political circumstances, I would point out that while Sumatra is Indonesian territory, the Indonesian Government is actually Javanese and really knows extremely little about Sumatra—rather less, in fact, than the Hollanders once did. Also, I am not interested in the Kubu people who have been well known for centuries but rather in the Orang Gugu. The Kubu are not hairy; the Gugu are said to be, whether they exist or not. As Marsden first clearly pointed out, the Kubu are hairless humans at a primitive stage of culture but great hunters, and live in the Bari-sans. The Gugu are not human, were even then very much rarer, and lived in the depths of the montane forest, and had no language. The Malayan peoples of Sumatra called them by various native names such as Atu, Sedabo, or Sedapa. They often appended their word pendek or pendak to these to indicate that they were refering to a small one, of two—the other being gadang, which simply means large.
On the validity of the Sedapa I cannot offer anything but the accounts as published. That such a creature could exist is not only quite possible but, I think, almost probable—and especially if the local native and indigenous peoples say that it does—and the Barisan Mountains area is just the place
where ancient forms of Hominids might most likely have been able to survive. As we shall see, there is no dearth of candidates for the Sedapa along the Hominid branch of the family tree; and then, we have the near presence of the Pithecanthropines of Java. Also, the existence of the Malayan Tapir (Tapirus indicus), whose sole remaining relatives live in tropical America, shows just how safe a retreat this corner of the world really is. When it comes to "available space" for any such creatures to live more or less unseen, words almost fail me. I spent many happy months wandering about Sumatra in my youth accompanied by an Achinese (with the very sensible name of Achi, as it happened) and all I can say is that its forests put most others in the world to shame, and they seem just to go on and on forever. The known population is comparatively minute, and the amount of the country that is opened up is quite minor. Apart from the rivers, the great swamplands are not penetrated at all; the lowland forests are tall and dense, and the montane growth is intolerable.
The history of the Sedapa, as far as the Western world is concerned, is due mostly to the researches of Drs. W. C. Osman Hill of the Zoological Society of London, and, once again, Bernard Heuvelmans of Paris. There were certain Hollanders who somewhat earlier devoted themselves to the pursuit of this matter in Sumatra. Notable among these was a Dr. Edward Jacobson, who first brought the subject up in De Tropische Natuur [once published in Weltevreden, Java] in an issue of 1917. However, Dr. Jacobson's investigations went back to 1910 and it was under his aegis that some facts collected by Mr. L. C. Westenek, once Governor of Sumatra, came to light. The earliest of these is the report of an overseer of an estate, who was staking out a newly acquired and large tract of virgin land in the Barisans near a place called Loobuk Salasik. This man left a carefully worded written statement. This was that, at a distance of only 15 yards, he saw "a large creature, low on its feet, which ran like a man, and was about to cross my path; it was very hairy and it was not an orang-utan; but its face was not like an ordinary
man's. It silently and gravely gave the men a disagreeable stare and then ran calmly away. The workers ran faster in the other direction." The overseer remained where he stood, quite dumfounded.
The significance of this statement centers around the definite statement that the creature was not an orang-utan, that it stood on its hind legs and ran on the ground, and that it was "low on its feet." This latter seems to indicate that it had short legs, which is really another way of saying that it had overly long arms in proportion to its torso and legs; and all this, in turn, emphasizes that it was not an orang-utan; an animal that, except when young, cannot even walk on its hind legs alone. Dr. Jacobson became greatly interested in this matter when camping on the slopes of Mount Kaba in the Boekits in early July, 1916. Two hunters came to him there one day and said that they had seen a Sedapa breaking open a fallen tree at a distance of only some 20 yards from them. It was apparently looking for beetle larvae—a delicacy relished by many peoples the world over, but when it realized that it was being observed, it ran off on its hind legs. Otherwise, this description agreed in every other respect with the traditional one of the Sedapa. It was clothed all over in short, black hair.
I should point out here, and rather strongly, that the larger Siamang, a really big and sturdy ape, intermediate in many respects between the Gibbons and the Great Apes, though highly adapted for life in the treetops, quite often comes to the ground upon which it runs along on its hind legs, swinging its arms instead of holding them aloft as the gibbons do when running as opposed to just walking. Also, I have myself come across Siamangs going meticulously over fallen rotten logs collecting the insects that often crowd into their cracks. I owned a Wow-wow Gibbon (Hylobates moloch) during the whole year that I was in Indonesia. It had been raised in a human family and it traveled all over the Indies with me. I happened to be collecting insects on that trip, and the majority that I obtained were actually found, caught, and then
handed carefully to me by this small anthropoid companion. It used to run ahead on its hind legs in the forest, holding its long chain off the ground with one hand, and upon locating a rotten log climb aboard and start probing into all the cracks with its long forefinger [he was left-handed] and producing all manner of rare specimens that I simply never could find by myself. It was uncanny, as was the manner in which he used to offer me the first and all subsequent ones of the same kind until I indicated that I had enough specimens: then he ate the rest. Gibbons may be Pongids but they certainly are "almost human" in many respects. The related Siamang is almost more so; and, in fact, the Malays often treat them as such.
Later, Dr. Jacobson was shown some tracks of the alleged Sedapa on Mt. Kerintji. These were definitely not those of a gibbon, siamang, or any other ape, all of which have a widely opposed and very large great toe; it was exactly human but tiny, very broad and short. Quite a number of alleged Sedapa footprints have been recorded. These vary rather bewilderingly. In 1958 some plaster casts of some prints were obtained about halfway between the Siak and Kampar Rivers by Harry Gilmore. These, however, are almost undoubtedly those of the small, Malayan Sun-Bear (Helarctos) . This animal stands erect and even walks along, though it never runs, on its hind legs more frequently than any of the other bears. It is about 4 to 5 feet tall, is covered in short black hair, and has surprisingly broad shoulders. It may even swing its arms when walking. Also, it has a pale face which, when seen head-on in the poor light of the high forest floor, may give it a startlingly human look—I know, I was nearly scared out of my wits by these animals, standing silently watching me, on more than one occasion. The hind footprints left by this animal are nonetheless fairly distinctive and are not like the drawings, tracings, and casts taken of alleged Sedapa; like all bears, their toes increase, albeit in this case only slightly, in length from both sides to the middle toe; they are packed together, not splayed; and claw marks
are almost invariably present. The Siak River, moreover, is somewhat out of the range of the Sedapa proper, though there is plenty of tradition about it in those parts.
In 1917, according to Westenek, a Mr. Oostingh, while in the Boekits and near the same mountain where Dr. Jacobson had been when the hunters said they saw a Sedapa, became "bushed." He wandered around in circles for several hours, as one invariably does if one gets lost in high forest. Suddenly, as his account goes, he came upon what he thought was a local man sitting on a log with his back toward him. Overjoyed to see any human being, as one also invariably is when so exhausted, he went forward but then got a profound shock. I let him tell about it in his own words, as taken from Westenek's account in De Tropische Natuur, and translated by Richard Garnett. This reads:
His body was as large as a medium-sized native's and he had thick square shoulders, not sloping at all. The colour was not brown, but looked like black earth, a sort of dusty black, more grey than black.
He clearly noticed my presence. He did not so much as turn his head, but stood up on his feet; he seemed to be quite as tall as I (about 5 feet 9 inches).
Then I saw that it was not a man, and I started back, for I was not armed. The creature calmly took several paces, without the least haste, and then, with his ludicrously long arm, grasped a sapling, which threatened to break under its weight, and quietly sprang into a tree, swinging in great leaps alternately to right and to left.
My chief impression was and still is: "What an enormously large beast!" It was not an orang-utan; I had seen one of these large apes a short time before at Artis [the Amsterdam Zoo].
It was more like a monstrously large siamang, but a siamang has long hair, and there was no doubt that it had short hair. I did not see its face, for, indeed, it never once looked at me.
Here again, the most obvious suggestion is, just as Mr. Oostingh himself says, that the creature was an enormous Siamang, perhaps a lone old one somewhat short on hair.
[paragraph continues] That it was more likely an ape than a Hominid is also perhaps further impressed upon us by the remark that it had "ludicrously long arm[s]." I do not know what to make of this report but I certainly wish that the creature had left some footprints.
Meantime, there was a Mr. Van Heerwarden timber-cruising from the other side (the northeast) of the Barisans in Palembang province, but down in the swamp forests by the coast near the Banjoe-Asin River. In 1918 he spotted two series of tracks on the banks of a small creek in the Musi River district; one larger than the other, as if of a mother and child, as he remarks. These were perfectly human but exceedingly small. Later he discovered that a Mr. Breikers had also found such tracks in the same area. He then started making serious inquiries among—and this is of considerable significance in view of the Indonesian Government's statement given above—the Kubus; and he found three who had all, but unknown to the others, seen Gugus (i.e. Sedapas, or Orang Pendeks) in that region. Their descriptions agreed perfectly in that they were about 5 feet tall, walked erect, were clothed in black hair that formed a mane, and had prominent teeth. Van Heerwarden later heard that a hunter had found a dead one and tried to carry it back to his village but its body was much decomposed and the hunter himself died shortly afterward. Another, he learned, was said to have been spotted in a river and surrounded by locals in canoes but it dived adroitly and escaped.
By this time Mr. van Heerwarden was convinced that there really was some small hairy Hominid in these forests and he devoted much time to inquiries among the local hunters as to where they were most frequently seen. In time he was directed to a particular spot and decided to do exactly the right thing—namely, go there, sit down, shut up, and wait. And, he appears to have been well rewarded for, unless he is not only a complete but most adept liar, he got an extremely good look at one of the elusive creatures. He tells us that he was wild-pig hunting in an area of forest surrounded by rivers named Pulu-Rimau, in October, 1923, and, having failed to
come up with the sounder (herd) decided to do this quiet sitting, and so went into hiding. For an hour or so nothing happened and then something in a tree caught his attention. He says:
It must be a sedapa. Hunters will understand the excitement that possessed me. At first I merely watched and examined the beast which still clung motionless to the tree. While I kept my gun ready to fire, I tried to attract the sedapa's attention, by calling to it, but it would not budge. What was I to do? I could not get help to capture the beast. And as time was running short I was obliged to tackle it myself. I tried kicking the trunk of the tree, without the least result. I laid my gun on the ground and tried to get nearer the animal. I had hardly climbed 3 or 4 feet into the tree when the body above me began to move. The creature lifted itself a little from the branch and leant over the side so that I could then see its hair, its forehead and a pair of eyes which stared at me. Its movements had at first been slow and cautious, but as soon as the sedapa saw me the whole situation changed. It became nervous and trembled all over its body. In order to see it better I slid down on to the ground again.
The sedapa was also hairy on the front of its body; the colour there was a little lighter than on the back. The very dark hair on its head fell to just below the shoulder-blades or even almost to the waist. It was fairly thick and very shaggy. The lower part of its face seemed to end in more of a point than a man's; this brown face was almost hairless, whilst its forehead seemed to be high rather than low. Its eyebrows were the same colour as its hair and were very bushy. The eyes were frankly moving; they were of the darkest colour, very lively, and like human eyes. The nose was broad with fairly large nostrils, but in no way clumsy; it reminded me a little of a Kaffir's. Its lips were quite ordinary, but the width of its mouth was strikingly wide when open. Its canines showed
There was nothing repulsive or ugly about its face, nor was it at all ape-like, although the quick nervous movements of its eyes and mouth were very like those of a monkey in distress. I began to walk in a calm and friendly way to the sedapa, as if I were soothing a frightened dog or horse; but it did not make much difference. When I raised my gun to the little female I heard a plaintive "hu-hu," which was at once answered by similar echoes in the forest nearby.
I laid down my gun and climbed into the tree again. I had almost reached the foot of the bough when the sedapa ran very fast out along the branch, which bent heavily, hung on to the end and then dropped a good 10 feet to the ground. I slid hastily back to the ground, but before I could reach my gun again, the beast was almost 30 yards away. It went on running and gave a sort of whistle. Many people may think me childish if I say that when I saw its flying hair in the sights I did not pull the trigger. I suddenly felt that I was going to commit murder. I lifted my gun to my shoulder again, but once more my courage failed me. As far as I could see, its feet were broad and short, but that the sedapa runs with its heels foremost is quite untrue.
This has always seemed to me to be a most straightforward report so it is interesting to note the reception it received when poor Mr. Van Heerwarden finally told of it. Even the equable Heuvelmans cannot restrain himself from quoting certain of these expressions by people who were neither there nor, in some cases had then ever been anywhere near Sumatra, and most notably those of the same Dr. K. W. Dammerman of Buitenzorg. This is so delightful that I herewith re-reproduce it for your edification and guidance as a glorious example of the sort of rubbish spouted by experts and for which you have to be constantly on the lookout. This savant, after saying that
no white man except Mr. Van Heerwarden had ever so much as said that he had seen a Sedapa, goes on to say: "But this writer is almost too exact in his description of the animal, so it does not seem impossible that the incident was either based on his imagination [i.e. that he was a liar—Author], or, that he has written it strongly impressed by the stories about the Orang Pendek. But, even while admitting the general truth of the story [i.e. not daring to say that he was a liar—Author], would it not be more likely that the animal in question was an Orang utan?" No it would not. I am wondering if Dr. Dam-merman knew any zoology; I can hardly credit it.
This is by far the most complete account of the Sedapa but it was by no means the last. The matter has been going on ever since, and plenty of people, both native and foreign, have said they have seen the creatures. There were also other events. In 1927 one was said to have been caught in a tiger trap, and once again the irrepressible Dr. Dammerman gets into the act: this time as serological (blood) and trichological (hair) expert but without any better results. In fact, he becomes quite blathering, for, of some blood and hair found in this trap, he stated that "it was impossible to obtain any results with regard to the hair [this is indeed plausible, as identification of hairs is not easy—Author], but the blood pointed faintly to human origin [italics, mine]. However, we may not accept for a fact that the blood found came from the escaped animal: it is quite possible that it came from some native who had injured himself while handling the trap." I may just point out here that if you have a large enough specimen for any analysis there is no question as to whether it is human or not, so that it cannot "point faintly" to anything. Secondly, the "natives" of that area are Malays, of the mongoloid branch of humanity, who have no body hair but most distinctive head-hair. Thirdly, who said that an "animal" had been caught in the trap? At this point words do fail me.
Our principal trouble with the Sedapa is that, not only has there been a great deal of double-talk of this nature on the one hand, but that, on the other, there have been not a few obvious and deliberate hoaxes. The worst occurred in 1932
when local newsmen in Sumatra attributed the shooting of a mother Sedapa and the taking of its infant to the much respected local dignitary, the Rajah of Rokan. The world press went a bit mad about this, but only a little local inquiry elucidated the fact that the Rajah had had nothing to do with the incident—though he had for some time been interested in the matter, and had offered certain inducements to anybody who could produce definite evidence of the existence of these beings—but that two hunters had produced a "baby Sedapa." Dammerman said it was a mutilated young Socrili (Semnopithecus), although he gave the name of the Javanese species. More reliable sources indicate it to have been a Lutong (Trachypithecus sp.). This was said to be dead; about 17 inches long; with a skin the color of an Orang blunda (or White Man); and, naked, but for a thick topknot. Said "baby" was obtained by purchase and sent to the same Dr. Dam-merman who was able actually to demonstrate, for once, its complete lack of authenticity. It turned out to be a young monkey of the genus known as Presbytis (or the Leaf-Monkeys) that had been shaved; had its long tail cut off; and its skull crushed and face remodeled with bits of wood inserted under the skin of the nose to make it look more human.
This making of "incubi" is an age-old practice in Sumatra, having been mentioned by Marco Polo, and being one of the principal sources of those horrible little homunculi that were exhibited at museums and displays of curios in Europe from the 17th to the 19th centuries. These were monkeys' dried bodies to which were sewn all manner of unpleasant heads and appendicularia, and which were sold to sailors. It is possible therefore, that the very strange affair of the "Sindai" of 1957 may have had a similar origin.
This began with an international wire-service story that some form of subhuman had been "captured" in southern Sumatra. This was said to be a young female (about 17 years old) "Sindai," which, it was implied, was a rare "something" well-known to the natives and which was considered very important by them. It was hinted, or rather queried, that this might be the first real example of a "missing-link" yet caught. This report
came out of Palembang just when a local revolution was in full swing in that area. News from those parts, thereafter, tended to be somewhat unreliable and garbled.
I have definite statements about this "Sindai" teen-ager, stating that it was clothed in short, fine, pure white hair, and had no tail, walked on its (her) hind legs, and in every other way behaved like a tiny human being, but apparently had no speech and ate only raw foods. It was then stated that it had been shipped to Java for "examination by leading scientists." And that, frankly, is the last that was ever heard of it. It was also said to have been taken to Palembang, en route. The only thing I can add to this bizarre news-story is that there is a form of Coloboid Monkey named the Simpai, or Banded Leaf-Monkey (Presbytis to zoologists) . * As far as I am concerned, therefore and in the meantime, I preserve not a little restraint in trying to assess the matter. I feel that there are sufficient reports that look genuine enough to warrant a lively interest in the affair; but, there is the presence of the little, sometimes bipedal, Malayan Sun-Bear, and of the Siamangs. Both certainly muddle the issue. Yet, the thing has been going on too long, and I only wish that I had had the opportunity to talk at length to the local people—as I have had the privilege of doing in so many other countries—even in a debased form of kitchen-Malay, so that I could have assessed for myself the depth of their sincerity; the position that they assign to it in the general scheme of "things"; and could have learned some more details about their notion of it from a biologist's point of view. [Biologists can ask the damnedest questions!]
Traveling on to the mainland of Malaya we encounter quite a different and, in many ways, exactly contrary state of affairs. Here, the actual reports are extremely limited; the local native knowledge is very extensive; and the creatures concerned
could not possibly be mistaken for any of the local fauna. This is what has so stimulated even the natural skeptics—and has been the cause of the British Army being called out on two occasions to try and do something about it. Here, however, we are going to run head-on into the problem of men versus sub-men that we mentioned above as becoming troublesome in this area.
There is a most remarkable book entitled The Pagan Races of the Malay Peninsula by Messrs. W. W. Skeat and C. D. Blagden, published in London in 1906, that is a real eye-opener. This is a solemn, ponderous, and somewhat pompous, scientific account of the peoples inhabiting this somewhat limited area, done in the painstaking and slightly Germanic style prevalent at the turn of the century. There is nothing excitable about it. It is simply a sort of official statement of the facts, as then known, about the peoples of the area. It makes most astonishing reading.
In this book, not only are the Malayan peoples now settled in the country fully discussed, but the Sakai (i.e. the Senoi), those strange retiring mountain peoples are fully examined, and then the Semang, a really primitive Negrito group. The way of life of the last, as herein described, is really hardly human. It should be read in the original. Then, the Santu Sakai (or Devil Sakai) are brought up, and are stated [though admittedly second hand from the Sakai; the Semang being almost uncommunicable-with] to be hairy, and definitely not human. The authors then go into the "myths, legends, and folklore" of the various people, including the little Senoi; and they dredge up from these tailed men; men with razor-bones on the outer back sides of their forearms; and a larger type that stinks. These are said to be "men" all right, but to be wilder than any of the rest of the line-up. There is a curious tradition about this last type that needs airing.
It is reported that they live (and only) in the upper montane mist forests of the higher mountain ranges, both in the boot of the Malay Peninsula and in the next bit north—vide: Tenasserim (see Map X): and that they customarily stay up there. However, it is likewise reported that they do sometimes come
down on to the lowlands and that, at that time, they are highly carnivorous, rapacious, and what is commonly, but perhaps inaccurately, called "cannibalistic"; meaning that they catch, kill, and eat humans. Also, and note this, it is absolutely affirmed that these descents occur only after unusually prolonged periods of cloudy weather or a succession of very rainy and overcast seasons; and that, then, said creatures attack only thin people. This may at first sound absolutely absurd but I would urge a note of caution.
In Norway, perfectly good "werewolves" are on medical record. They are teen-agers—and usually males—mentally deficient; with a grotesque growth of head and body hair often growing right up to the tops of their cheekbones and down to meet their eyebrows; prognathous jaws; and sometimes even short bowed legs and enlarged irregular teeth. They are nothing more than kids who grew up in the almost perpetually sunless and rainy climate of the upper mountain valleys of the western side of Norway and, before the discovery of the existence of vitamins, had gone into a physical decline due to a lack of what are called the "sunshine vitamins" (E, and its concomitant, D). These poor wretches, cast out of the community, or having run away due to their abnormalities, sometimes managed to maintain life by hand-hunting and gathering, and one and all seem to have an insatiable desire for raw meat. At the same time, they show a very pronounced intolerance to fats of any kind. What they wanted and apparently needed was lean meat and entrails.
We may now reconsider the status, condition, and the sometime plight of a race of Hominids; driven way back up into the upper montane forests in an equatorial region. Deprived of many of the foods to which they had formerly been accustomed and to which they had been evolved, they did the best they could; but, when the climate continued in such a manner that some of the few essentials that they needed did not flower or seed, their whole metabolism went haywire. To counterbalance this, their bodies demanded that they do something; so, overcoming their natural racial fear, they descended upon their old homelands looking for what they needed—i.e., what
we call "red meat." And, to take this to its end, let us say that, fats nauseating them, they picked the lean—and what easier than thin people?
This is one of the most abstruse niches in all ABSMery but it has intrigued me for years. Anybody can make up any kind of story but why anything which sounds to us so utterly bizarre? There ought to be a reason. There may be others, and many of them, but, in the meantime, this one could make sense.
Yet, these ultra-primitive humans or sub-humans, or other even more lowly forms of Hominids, do not seem to be the only conundrums in this small but extremely esoteric area. Maybe they are the "Stinking Ones": maybe they are something else. Nevertheless, the former turned up in a very definite manner in 1953, and so concretely so, and so many times in rapid succession, that not only the benighted natives, but the European overseers, the local militia, the museum authorities, and even the "Government" itself became apprised of the matter and lent a hand. This is really a rather unusual turnout in ABSMery. It now transpires that just the same sort of thing had been going on throughout peninsular Malaya a few miles back from the few main roads since way back. These incidents had been either not reported, reported but not listened to, disbelieved, ridiculed, or actually suppressed, and, perhaps, latterly because of Communist guerrilla activities. However, this one got out—and, as the colloquialism goes, "but good." Looking over what published accounts of this incident there are, a really extraordinary number of quite baffling things come to light. I would say that this too is a classic example of what happens when a good case of ABSMery —or any other matter that is not at present accepted—occurs. But, first let me give the facts, as reported, chronologically.
It appears that on Christmas Day, 1953, a young Chinese girl by the name of Wong Yee Moi was engaged tapping rubber trees on an estate run by a Scot named Mr. G. M. Browne, in the Reserve that is called variously the Trolak, Trollak, or Trolek, in south Perak State, northern Malaya. According to her account, she felt a hand placed lightly on her shoulder
and, turning around, was confronted by a most revolting female. This poor character wore, according to Moi, only an abbreviated loincloth of bark, was covered with hair, had a white (i.e. Caucasoid-type) skin, long black head-hair and a mustache; and she stank as if "of an animal." Half hysterical, Moi fled for the compound, but not before spotting two somewhat similar types which she said were males [no loincloths?] standing in the shade of some trees by a nearby river. These, she said, had mustaches hanging down to their waists. Up till this point, the account is fairly rational, even including Moi's addendum to the effect that the female grinned and showed long nasty fangs in what she (Moi) seems to have considered, despite her panic, to have been a friendly gesture. After this report, everybody became slightly insane.
Analyzing all the published reports that I can lay my hands on, it seems that this Mr. Browne immediately called up Security Forces' local headquarters—there being a continuing Communist emergency in the whole area—and, in response, a posse of the Malayan Security Guard was dispatched immediately under the leadership of one Corporal Talib, who seems to have been an extremely intelligent and also sensible man. He immediately deployed his forces and made search of the estate, in due course coming to the river mentioned by Moi and spotting three just such hairy types on its banks. However, upon bringing his platoon's arms to the ready, said creatures dived into the river, swam under water, emerged on the far bank, and forthwith vanished into the jungle. Subsequent to this, the only concrete facts in the case are that a Hindu Indian worker, named Appaisamy, on the same estate, the next day, also while squatting to shave the bark to bring on a flow of rubber latex, was suddenly encircled by a pair of hairy arms. He became completely panic-stricken; broke loose; headed for the compound, but fell down in a dead faint on the way. As he revived, the same trio were nearby and laughing at his discomfiture. He admitted this. That same day, a patrol of Corporal Talib's Guard again spotted the trio on the same riverbank.
That is all we have, apart from a few further anatomical details
of the creatures given in retrospect by the various witnesses. Then, however, the experts, and other nonpresent commentators got into the act. And they provided the international wire services with some pretty interesting material. All kinds of previously unheard-of official departments came to light such as that of "The Aborigines" at Kuala Lumpur; the "Federation's Department of Museums and Aboriginal Research" and even "Radio Malaya" in the person of its Assistant Director, one Mr. Tony Beamish. These people made various suggestions. They ridiculed an idea put forward some years before, when an almost exactly similar incident had occurred, that the creatures seen were AWOL Japanese soldiers, tired of the war, and who had managed to survive life in the jungle; though they did dredge up the old one about having "white skins because they had lived in the dim light of the jungles so long." [This is, of course, rubbish; though it is true that a white man will get a lot whiter in such an environment.] But, some people came up with some really startling ideas.
Most prevalent were hints that these things could be, or might have been "primitive humans trying to get away from British aerial bombing, or flooding of their jungle abodes"; or again, "that they might be descendants of a race of hairy aborigines who, according to old legends, once roamed the forests of northern Malaya." What I would like to ask is, what had the Department of Aboriginal Affairs been up to prior to this astonishing suggestion, and why had they not turned up some evidence [other than that of Messrs. Skeat and Blagden] of the necessity for protecting them? Also, as that excellent radio person—Tony Beamish—is alleged to have said, this could be "one of the most valuable anthropological discoveries for years." (Actually, it would have been the greatest of all times.) It is really rather remarkable that nothing was finally done about it. Experts of the same "Department of Museums, etc." did state that they were trying to organize an expedition and they made a statement. Statements are always good; and they are often good for a laugh. This one was a near classic. It stated:
1. The creatures apparently had seen rifles because they
fled when a security force corporal raised his rifle. Some of the "things" jumped in the river and swam away. Another ran into the jungle.
2. Their light skin probably indicates they have lived for years in the dark, overgrown Malayan jungles where sunlight rarely penetrates.
3. They recognized a crop of tapioca on one estate as food, pulling up roots and munching.
4. They spoke a language that was clearly not Chinese or Malayan, but more of a series of guttural grunts.
And this, mind you, from persons who were not only scientists and experts but officials. We stand amazed; but we make certain notes and reservations.
The number of ABSMs that jumped into the river has now changed from "all" to some; they are now alleged to have pulled tapioca roots and eaten them; * they had a language. I cannot find any of these facts in the original reports of the Christmas, 1953 case but they do indeed appear in earlier cases, and in other parts of Malaya. In fact, it appears quite obvious from these latter that there had been quite a lot more information on this unpleasant subject in the files of the Department of Museums, etc., long before this time.
The most outstanding aspect of this case is perhaps the alleged "stink" of the creatures, as recorded by all witnesses who were near enough to them, and included in similar statements that emerged later about others, reported to have raided crops in different parts of Malaya. This single fact is exactly in accord with the age-old statements of the locals about such creatures. It is also in accord with some of the statements of the Amerinds about their large ABSMs in Canada and the northwestern United States. It accords, too, with remarks passed about them, almost casually, by Kurds, Sinkiangese, Mongolians, and others. Apart from this, the fangs, hairiness of body, but ultra-long-hairedness of face and head, the suggestion
of primitive clothing, and the general "come-hitherness" of these creatures speaks a great deal.
It is interesting to note, anent this matter of a powerful stench exuded by ABSMs, that when the last of the Mau-Mau leaders—Dedan Kimathi—was finally tracked down and captured along with some of his men, in Kenya, not only the white men present but the local natives—the same people as Kimathi —agreed that to smell the band was so sickening as almost to prevent handling of the captives. This is the more odd because any real "bush man" (as opposed to Bushman) never washes, though of course he may bathe, when in the forest simply because by so doing, and especially with soap, he removes all the natural oils from his skin and these oils are among the most powerful insect repellents and anti-fungus spore deterrents known. [And this goes for white men who really know the forest and have to work therein for periods.] It is the sweat itself that causes the smell, and this by going putrid in clothing, so that a real bushwhacker changes his clothes at least three times during the twenty-four hours. Kimathi's gang wore untanned animal skins. So did the mustachioed manlike ABSMs that invaded the Malayan rubber estates.
Another fascinating fact appeared from the prolonged Kimathi hunt. This was that Kimathi himself developed a sensitivity, not only of his five major and some twenty (now recognized) other senses, but some other unknown attribute so in- credibly acute that he became almost unapproachable. It is said that he would awake from sleep on the (unauthorized) cracking of so much as a single twig at great distances and immediately vanish. Sometimes even his own men just found him gone. If men—and many of Kimathi's, and even he him- self, had not previously been true bush men—can develop such acute senses in so short a time, how much more may not ABSMs that have for hundreds of millennia been as much of the wild as nondomesticated animals. This is one of my strongest arguments against trying to hunt them: I personally think the idea worthless on this account. It is also one of the reasons why I think that the employment of dogs is the worst
idea of all. Dogs are purely "artificial" animals, as well as being domesticated, and they have an odor which is instantly spotted by any truly wild creature. Then again, there is still another point.
It has been observed that animals, such as antelopes, which are born to and used to being hunted, do not even bother to move aside when for instance a cheetah rushes a group. Only one animal takes off and the cheetah goes straight for it. [It is often old or sick.] Also lions may be seen lying almost back to back with their natural food-animals in the daytime. But animals that are not used to being food for other animals are excessively wary. So are the predators themselves. Just try hunting a marten or any other weasel for that matter. ABSMs are neither born to, used to, or prepared to be hunted, any more than men are; and, they have both some intelligence and the senses of the wild predator to boot. In order to "collect" one therefore, methods quite other than hunting must be employed. Personally, I suggest an appeal to their inquisitiveness —it almost never fails.
By the accounts, these are no hairy, gibbering monsters, or even pigmies, but man-sized and, at least partly, man-thinking entities who seemed above all to want to "make friends." Could it really be that Communist-hunting, bombing, and general modern military maneuvering since the Japanese invasion, had caused some otherwise amiable primitives to move, and come looking for handouts?
209:* The Pottos (Periodicticus) and Bushbabies (Galago) of Africa and the Lorises (Loris) of the Orient.
212:* The term Sakai means degenerate and is not the real name of a people though applied to the Vedda-like Senoi of Malaya.
226:* It should be carefully noted that modern nomenclature has now adopted the name Trachypithecus for the Lutongs, Semnopithecus for the true Langurs, Kasi for the Purple-faced Monkeys, and Pyagathrix for the Doucs. One of the Presbytis does sometimes display an almost pure white form. Philologists tell me that a conversion of simpai to sindai is almost natural!
232:* "Tapioca" is made from the juices squeezed from the root of the Cassava, a woody-stemmed herbaceous plant. The roots are deadly poisonous unless macerated and the juice pressed out of them. A few animals, however, manage to eat them raw.