Abominable Snowmen, by Ivan T. Sanderson, , at sacred-texts.com
13. The Western Approaches
We have now reached the summit. Further, I have to admit, albeit with reluctance, that all my reportage up to this exalted point looks, both in retrospect and in view of what now faces us, pretty paltry. In fact, the old saw about straining at gnats intrudes itself on my attention, unwanted but persistent. It were as if I had up till now been squeezing a sponge of its last drop of information when what has already been said is reviewed in the light of what we now have to tackle. Whereas the reports even from such ABSMally rich areas as British Columbia may be counted on your fingers and toes, we now find ourselves confronted with literally thousands of them, spread over a thousand years in time, and throughout a triangular area with sides measuring approximately 5000, 4000, and 3000 miles in length. Moreover, these reports increase in number per annum on what looks suspiciously like geometrical progression so that the greater part of them are bunched up in the immediate past. Also it now transpires, the matter on hand has been pursued, and even scientifically pursued, in this area for over a century, though that pursuit has been plagued by all the same asininities and obstructions as elsewhere.
At this juncture a few words on the gruesome subject of geopolitics are called for. Most political boundaries are ridiculous. At one extreme we have gross misconceptions about "continents," rather fully discussed in Chapter 18; at the other, such
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MAP XII. EASTERN EURASIA
MAP XII. EASTERN EURASIA
absurdities as the delineation of the North American state of Montana. In between these extremes man has further insisted on erecting quite arbitrary fences—such as that between the United States of Northern North America and the United States of Mexico—though these are sometimes called iron, bamboo, or "curtains" of other materials. Ridiculous terms like "the Near East" and "the Middle East," both of which lie in what is manifestly and geographically "The West," add to the confusion; and then, to top it all off, we get purely political expressions such as "East" and "West," bits of both of which are now scattered all over the globe inside each other. Then, some buffoon (like Haushofer or Treitschke) must needs go and coin the phrase "The Heartland" but omit to define it. In some respects, such a concept is a splendid idea, as it implies a central blob which pumps away without cease or surcease, and, if applied to a certain area in central Eurasia, it makes a lot of sense ethnologically. Yet, the area that was finally pinned down for this happens always to have been one of the greatest ethnological blanks—this is the lowlands between the Urals and the great mountain barrier that cuts straight across Eurasia from southwest to northeast—while the "pumping" appears always to have gone on beyond that lofty barrier to the east.
If people insist on splitting themselves into two ethnological camps and calling these "West" and "East," they would be well advised to consider some ineradicable geographical facts. The most pertinent of these is this monstrous mountain barrier lying athwart Eurasia, since it has always formed, and will always form, the true dividing line between west and east. It lies along and constitutes the eastern boundary of the U.S.S.R.; and, if you want to be precise about the matter, it also forms by extension the southern boundary of that vast Union. Today also it forms the boundary between the Mongoloid-type peoples and the Caucasoid-type peoples; and I add the suffix "-type" most firmly because a not inconsiderable body of the peoples west of the barrier were original Mongoloids, and some on the east side originally Caucasoids but today (in the now almost classic expression of a certain comedian imitating a Chinese waiter): "So funny; all American look alike": so also do all Europeans, even the mongoloid Magyars. This great dividing line is of the utmost significance.
ABSMs are not found west or north of this line but they are reported from all along its edge and more or less all over the eastern area exclusive of the subcontinent of India and the eastern fringe of islands, as we have already noted. At the same time our information on ABSMs in this area, apart from the Himalayas and the Indo-Chinese Peninsula, comes almost exclusively from or through the Russians who are, of course, wholly in the Western area. This last fact may be rather puzzling to the general reader and somewhat aggravating to students of disciplines other than the purely geographic and biologic. Nonetheless, short of a major shift in the earth's crust, nothing—not even an all-out nuclear war—can alter the facts. Nature constructed our bed in the "West," and we might just as well make up our minds that we have got to lie in it together! [I cannot refrain from adding, purely as a student of plant and animal distribution, that we might also just as well give up any thoughts of trying to go and lie in any other peoples' beds; not only because, as in the case of eastern Eurasia, it is a bit crowded, but much more definitely because none of them are our environment. If we do so, we'll go Mongoloid
or Negroid in time either by absorption or physical mutation, just as the Magyars have become Caucasoids in a few hundred years after landing up in our bailiwick.]
Considerations such as these are often regarded as what is euphemistically called political. They are not; they are purely biological. What is more, if such facts rather than a lot of (often mistaken) ideas were used to guide our policies and our activities, our species would get along much better. Early, primitive, and ancient man seems to have appreciated these facts if only instinctively, and acted accordingly. ABSMs seem to have had the clue since the first. Driven out of their original lowland forest homes they retreated into the montane forests, and particularly into those areas within those vegetational zones where Modern Man finds it hardest to get along. This is true "survival of the fittest": we might well emulate the forlorn ABSMs. The process happens also to make an otherwise appalling task a lot easier for this reporter. All I have to do is locate said particular regions, and the great mass of facts now to be presented then falls into a very fair semblance of order. The mess can be broken down into manageable parts—geographical units—and presented one at a time in logical sequence. To this I shall now proceed.
Let us assume that we have ended up at the northwestern end of the mighty Himalayas. This lands us in an area known as Gilgit which now lies in the north of Western Pakistan. [I apologize for this and a coming plethora of "political" definitions but there is nothing that a mere biologist can do about it.] At this point (see Map XII) you will note that we are very close to (on the right side, going west) the end of the almost as mighty Karakorams, which in turn constitute an extension of the "Mother of All Mountains," the Muh-Dzhura rDzhung pBlhüm of the Tibetans, and which we have called the southern Tibetan Rim. Ahead of us lies a most unpleasant complex of mountains known as the Pamirs or "The Roof of the World." These form a nodal point for all kinds of things in Eurasia—plants, people and other animals, languages, and ABSMs.
The Pamirs may be likened to a monstrous starfish with the appropriate five arms. These are vast strings of mountain
ranges that go off in all directions—the Himalayas; the Karakorams; the Kunluns leading to the Altyn Tagh and Nan-Shans; the Altai Tagh leading to the Tien-Shans; and finally the Hindu-Kush going off to the west. * From this point we have first to follow the Hindu-Kush in order to get rid of a rather irksome business. This is that ABSMs have been reported from all along the extension of those mountains, which is to say along the Ala Dagh and Elburz in Iran to Azerbaijan and the Caucasus. There are those who regard the Caucasus as being in "Europe." As a matter of fact, nobody has ever made up their minds just where Europe does end in the east [vide: Europe: How Far? by W. H. Parker in The Geographical Journal, Vol. CXXVI, Part 3, pp. 278-297, September 1960]; and rather naturally, since it does not do so anywhere, being only a large peninsula at the western side of Eurasia. If this peninsula needs definition—and it does—it should be considered as lying west of the 30th meridian east which runs roughly from the White Sea to the Bosporus. The Caucasus area is profoundly in Eurasia.
The Hindu-Kush, Ala Dagh, and Elburz, together with the lower Caspian Sea, form the southern boundary of the Turkmen S.S.R. Between the Caspian and the Black Sea there are really two great mountain ranges with a lowland gutter between them. The southern is composed of Armenia and Azerbaijan in the U.S.S.R.; the north is the Caucasus. Both are still very rugged and over their upper reaches uninhabited by humans, and the latter appears to be a retreat of ABSMs. Their presence is fully accepted over both areas not only by mountain folk but also by inhabitants of the lowland villages and towns around their peripheries. As one of the Russian reports puts it, however, the younger generation put on a show of scoffing at the whole thing, probably in order to appear "modern," while the older people are most reluctant to speak about the creatures for deep-seated and most ancient "religious"
reasons. This matter is made abundantly clear in Appendix A by Yonah ibn Aharon, who points out that there still remains a prehistoric animinism throughout this whole swath of Eurasia in which the souls of people enter the lower anthropoids, which latter are consequently held in such great reverence that even the mention of their names is most ill-advised. ABSMs, known in this area as Kaptar or Kheeter, seem to be regarded as the highest of all anthropoids and nearest of all "animals" to man.
There are dozens of reports on these Kaptar having been seen in recent years, as distinct from the endless older reports and myths, legends, and folklore. Many of these are very precise and really quite scientific in that they were reported by properly trained persons with the usual Russian mania for precision and suitable confirmation. This makes them the more instructive and convincing. I would that I could quote them in their original form but, alas, we don't read Russian so the best I can attempt is a paraphrasing of translations, using from time to time phraseology that may look quaint to us but which must be retained as expressing more exactly what the raconteur had in mind in his own language. Russian is almost as "mobile" a language as English and, when reporting in it, shades of meaning are most important. [Calling upon another language, to explain what I mean, the Spanish word noticias does not mean precisely "notices"; a good translator expresses it better as "advices upon (a subject) to everybody, by persons who are presumed to know what they are talking about" but with a distinct indication that the editor does not take full responsibility for same. This is a rather more precise form of our loose phrase "informed sources state."] One must bear in mind that the average Russian, especially when making a deposition or statement on which he may be called, often places more emphasis on the qualifying words than, perhaps, on the word itself. Thus "The Engineer X told me in Tomsk that when he was in Omsk …" has a very special meaning, and aids us in assessing what he finally records.
I could devote a whole book, let alone a full chapter to these reports of ABSMs from the Caucasus but, for obvious reasons
can only give some examples. However, I will add the conclusions of the reporters since they are so very sane, orderly, and significant. The only other people who have published such sane statements on this subject that I know of are the Canadians. It is a pleasure to get back to fact without a gross overlay of preconceived ideas, prejudice, and doubt.
The main range of the Caucasus runs from the Black Sea coast about Krasnodar southeast to the peninsula on which the famous port of Baku is situated on the Caspian Sea. The range is divided into two blocks of higher mountains, the smaller in the northwest; the greater forming the boundary between the Dagestan A.S.S.R. and Chechen on the north and east side, and Georgia and what is called the Trans-Caucasian republics (Armenia and Russian Azerbaijan) on the south. There is a particularly wild area cutting across this block and known as the Tlyaratin, which embraces practically the whole basin of the River Jurmut and the upper parts of the Avarskoy Koysu which is a tributary of the Sulak, the main river of Dagestan. * These mountainous regions are clothed in dense, montane, coniferous forests right up to the snow line and right down to the edges of the few villages that lie on the adjacent lowlands, and are, over wide stretches, really quite impenetrable. At the same time, the upper crags and rocky reaches are equally unapproachable except by well-organized professional mountaineering expeditions. Despite the most ancient civilization of the Caucasian region as a whole, and of the adjacent Armenian block to the south, huge areas remain quite unexplored. In these, large game reserves have been established, and these
are populated by a very large and varied fauna including moose, some remaining Wisent or European Bison, Red Deer, mountain Sheep, Brown Bear, wolves, the great northern Lynx, and the Leopard. [The Snow Leopard's range does not extend west of the Hindu-Kush. However, Tiger occur in the Elburz Ranges even west of Teheran.]
Opposite the Georgians, on the northeast side of the main ranges, the hill folk are called Avars, those herders and hunters who have for centuries penetrated farther upward into these fastnesses than any others. Among them there is universal belief in and acceptance of the ABSMs they call the Kaptar. Surrounding peoples regard them with increasing skepticism as Folklore, Legend, or Myth in proportion to their distance from these unexplored uplands; which is the invariable rule as we shall see when we come to examine these matters (contracted to M, L, and F, in Chapter 17) . The description they give of this creature is remarkably clear and quite invariable except for one set of facts. These concern the number of kinds of Kaptar that exist. The discussion on this point stems mostly from those who live farthest from the area where they are met with, and it has become enmeshed in a certain amount of straight myth, notably the curious notion that all of one kind are females. According to Russian investigators, however, those who so claim are the least likely to have firsthand knowledge of the matter, while they were quite unable to explain how this race of females reproduces and maintains itself. The notion of self-perpetuating, virgin birth, if I may so express the notion, has been widespread since time immemorial. It sounds absurd but, of course, it is not biologically impossible per se; at the same time, there is one very simple explanation for it. Even modestly civilized people sometimes separate the sexes in everyday living quarters, and my wife and I once spent some time with a tribal group of South Amerinds and had to reside in separate though adjacent villages. Then again, ABSMs seem to show a marked sexual dimorphism everywhere they are reported, this showing not only in size, but in color of fur or hair, while the young are said to look different again. Also, most ABSMs are stated to be solitary, only occasionally
seen in pairs or with young in tow. The females, it seems, tend to associate in going to water, in food gathering, and so forth, while the males range widely. They are food gatherers rather than hunters and this we must not forget.
In the Caucasian region, the males seem to be encountered alone in the upper fastnesses whereas the females, which are readily recognizable it is said by the great and sometimes positively enormous development of their breasts (which, unlike any pongids, are pendant or hanging), show up at lower levels. Then, a Dwarf Kaptar is also spoken of, particularly on the southern face of the mountains, but as one Prof. V. K. Leontiev, who studied this business locally, with consummate discipline, observes, nothing is stated about these beings that obviates their being the young ones or "teen-agers," who also tend to band together and go off on their own. They are said to be smaller than the average man and to be clothed in reddish brown wool as opposed to the other two types—one of which, be it noted, is said always to be a male, while the other is always female; from which one may draw a rather obvious assumption one would have supposed—which are variously described as having dark gray, black, or silvered hair. This change of coat color, from gingery to gray-brown, to gray-black, and finally to white with age, is just as consistent with what is found among other Primates as is the change from shiny black in youth, as displayed by the sad little Jacko of the Fraser River, to brown and then grizzly. One must note that, with increasing age, those of us whose head-hair turns white will find that our axillary and pubic hairs do the same while those who have profuse chest hair will see that it also follows the head-hair in this respect. Thus a venerable male ABSM might be as white as the old chap who paced the truck in Oregon (at 35 mph, be it noted) and then popped into a lake. If Neanderthalers were hairy, they may well have had a fluffy wool, like that of a baby One-humped Camel as is so repeatedly stated by almost all the Eurasians who say they have met their local small ABSMs, and an "overcoat" of darker hairs like a muskrat and most other mammals of cooler climates, which develops with age, becomes profuse and dominant
in the prime of life, and then goes silvery to pure white with age.
I cannot find any suggestion that there is more than one type of ABSM in this area, despite the fact that three quite distinct sets of names are applied to it there. The indigenous name is Kaptar and its derivatives and associates, but the Kirghiz "Guli-aban" group is also used among peoples of similar origin, while I find that the more distantly originating "Almas" stem also crops up in the form of "Almasty" and "Albasty." Some painstaking analysis of the origins of the reports of these names used in connection with the Caucasus area however brings to light the fact that the reports in which they were used were made by "foreigners" or at least by members of groups that are known to have moved in from the east. The Caucasus is an appalling mix-up; a sort of Grand Central Station for nomads, conquerors, emigrants, immigrants, wanderers, lost tribes, lost causes, and perhaps also indigenous evolution—hence the designation "Caucasoid" which actually means nothing. The oldest peoples in the area, which is to say those of whom we have no record of immigration, such as the Georgians and Avars, one and all adhere to the Kaptar designation for their local ABSMs—which, incidentally, have been perhaps facetiously called "Wind Men" by more frivolous outsiders!
That these manifestly original Caucasians—if not Caucasoids —are of one variety comes as rather a relief, especially at this juncture and before plunging into inner Asia, because there we are going to be beset by affirmations from all sides that there are not just two or three kinds in any one area, but that these are all quite different from others in other areas. I am not quite sure if we will be able to keep our heads through all that, and I am sure that I have not yet myself got it all straight, but in the meantime we may take what the Hollanders call a pause (but pronounce powzer) and try to come to grips with the Kaptar.
The clearest account of this creature is a firsthand one reported by none other than the Prof. V. K. Leontiev mentioned
before and who is graced in one publication [No. 120, of the Third Publication of the Special Commission to Study the Snowman
of the U.S.S.R. Academy of Sciences, under the Direction of Prof. B. F. Porshnev and Dr. A. A. Shmakov] with the illuminating title of "Hunting Instructor of the Ministry of Hunting of Dagestan A.S.S.R." This is a man both of parts and of profound precision. I herewith paraphrase his account with due regard to that precision but with considerable compression.
It appears that in late July 1957, this gentleman with three associates was conducting an official investigation of a territory called the Gagan Sanctuary. On August 5 his companions returned to their headquarters as their work was finished, and Leontiev decided to make a few days' tour on his own. He was then at the head of the Jurmut River and spent two days there checking on some glaciers; he then trekked up a tributary stream. He notes that he came across leopard tracks on a patch of snow. After a rest overnight he continued onward and came across a set of quite different tracks on another patch of snow. He says that "you had the impression that this animal was walking on his toes—never getting very heavy on his heels … you could see that his big toe was unusually developed, but was it a toe or a claw? These footprints were deformed somewhat because of the snow being slightly in a melted condition."
The next night he camped under an overhanging rock but when preparing for sleep, "All of a sudden there came a strange cry. It stopped as suddenly as it started," he writes. "Then after a pause it repeated again; this time somewhere to the side of the original one. Then it was quiet. The cry was not repeated again. The cry was very loud. It wasn't like the yell of an animal—not any wild mammal or bird known to me could make such a sound, and yet it couldn't be a human being either. [And he is a professional wildlife conservator.] From where I was sitting to the origin of the cry was approximately 100 meters [110 yards], and at the time the cry was repeated, 200 meters. I just say approximately." The following day ap- pears to have been a miserable one so that he decided to camp before dark at the head of the stream in a very dark gap. He ran out of matches and all the wood was wet but he just managed to keep the fire going long enough to brew tea; then,
he chanced to look up at a neighboring snowfield to the south. Something moving thereon caught his eye and of this he wrote: "This creature was going across, ascending slightly the upper part, and away from me. At the moment I saw him he was approximately 50 to 60 meters away from me. It was sufficient to have only one glance of him to know that this was a Kaptar."
Leontiev goes on to state that it exactly resembled the descriptions he had obtained from all the locals adding, "He was walking on his feet, not touching the ground with his hands. His shoulders were unusually wide. His body was covered with long dark hair. He was about 2.2 meters [about 7 feet] tall." Realizing that this was a chance for the procurement of the most priceless scientific information but also realizing that he could neither catch nor, if he did, overcome the creature, Leontiev took careful aim and fired a shot at its feet. However, by this time the Kaptar was at extreme range for his rifle and he does not seem to have hit it for it turned to him and then with incredible speed waltzed about and ran up the slope with tremendous speed, cutting through the snowfield, reaching high rocks beyond and disappearing. Leontiev tried to follow but it was hopeless so he measured and sketched the footprints before it got dark. The next morning he re-examined these, made more sketches, and then spent the day searching around for the creature. Being out of food he had to leave the next day.
Altogether he estimates that he had the Kaptar in view for 5 to 7 minutes and pursued him for 9. He saw his back, left side and cheek; when he fired he had just a second's sight of the face for it was late evening, beginning to snow, and he could not see much detail. He then makes some most interesting remarks, to wit: "He was not too tall [7 foot would seem enormous to me, Author]; his shoulders were unusually wide; his arms were long—longer than a man's but shorter than a monkey's. His feet were slightly bent and very heavy [italics mine], and the whole body was covered with a dark gray fur. The length of the hair on the body was shorter than the hair or fur of a bear. He had especially long hair on his head. I had the impression that the hairs on the head were darker than on
the body. I couldn't see anything of a tail. I couldn't see any ears. The head was massive, and when he turned to me, I saw for one second his face. It was somewhat like an elongated animal face, the general outline of the nose, lips, and forehead, or the chin or the eyes I couldn't see. I had the impression that his face, like his body was covered with hair. His back was slightly bent; he was stoop-shouldered. His general appearance was human-like. If you want to compare the Kaptar with some living creature the best comparison would be to think of him as a tall, massively built, wide-shouldered man, with a heavy growth on his face and the rest of his body."
Leontiev measured and sketched the Kaptar's footprints when only a few minutes old. Of them he says: "This footprint had a very strange formation. The whole print was about 25 centimeters [about 9 inches] long. * The general impression was of the toes pushed deeply into the snow. Also around the toes you could see some rough formation. The explanation is, of course, that he was walking with bent knees and like 'clawing' into the snow. The [outer] four toes did not come very close to each other, as in humans, but they were slightly spread out—about ½ of a centimeter to 1 centimeter. The width of the big toe was 3½ centimeters; in length, 9 centimeters. The length of the other toes about 5 centimeters. You had the impression that on all the toes there were very hard scar tissue formations—that the toes were widely separated and in between there was scar tissue formation. The entire print narrowed down toward the heel, and there were two parallel deep ridges like wrinkles. †You had the impression that it was not the whole step, and only the toes. This was not too unusual because when I looked at my own footprints I noticed that I put a little harder on the toes than on a heel and actually, that's the way the Kaptar would walk. The large toe was very far apart from the rest and it was very long. It seems when you look this over and study the print, the entire heel of the foot is covered with a thick growth of a tough hide interspersed with all kinds of little growths and heavy wrinkles.
[paragraph continues] There were no claws at all. This footprint has no resemblance to the footprints of any of the animals that I know. It doesn't look like a footprint of a bear, and, of course, is entirely different from a footprint of a human heel.
"The cry of the Kaptar is very strange and you cannot compare it with anything else. It consists of several repeating high-and-low pitched sounds, that remind you of the sound of a gigantic chord. There is certainly a kind of metallic quality about them. In the cry you can hear some plaintive note too. I, personally, did not experience any fear hearing this cry, but to me they seem to express the loneliness of a lost creature. I could not hear any coherent sounds, or perhaps I couldn't quite catch the fine shadings of the sound, just the way a human being pronounces them. The name cry, or terminology cry actually does not describe the sound that the Kaptar issues. This cry is peculiar, and so much of its own, that there would be many different ways of describing it and no particular way to give it real definition. At any rate, not any of the mammals or birds that I know have a cry similar to the Kaptar."
This is by no means the only close encounter with a Kaptar in modern times. First there are literally dozens of reports from locals including whole village populations who reported them about at various times, and sometimes for months and at low levels. Then also, one appears to have been captured in 1941 and physically examined by a lieutenant-colonel of the Medical Service of the Soviet Army, by the name of V. S. Karapetyan. I give this report verbatim as supplied to me, already translated, by the courtesy of the Russian Information Service. It goes as follows:
"From October to December of 1941 our infantry battalion was stationed some thirty kilometers from the town of Buinaksk [in the Dagestan A.S.S.R.]. One day the representatives of the local authorities asked me to examine a man caught in the surrounding mountains and brought to the district center. My medical advice was needed to establish whether or not this curious creature was a disguised spy.
"I entered a shed with two members of the local authorities. When I asked why I had to examine the man in a cold shed and not in a warm room, I was told that the prisoner could not
be kept in a warm room. He had sweated in the house so profusely that they had had to keep him in the shed.
"I can still see the creature as it stood before me, a male, naked and bare-footed. And it was doubtlessly a man, because its entire shape was human. The chest, back, and shoulders, however, were covered with shaggy hair of a dark brown colour [it is noteworthy that all the local inhabitants had black hair]. This fur of his was much like that of a bear, and 2 to 3 centimeters long. The fur was thinner and softer below the chest. His wrists were crude and sparsely covered with hair. The palms of his hands and soles of his feet were free of hair. But the hair on his head reached to his shoulders partly covering his forehead. The hair on his head, moreover, felt very rough to the hand. He had no beard or moustache, though his face was completely covered with a light growth of hair. The hair around his mouth was also short and sparse.
"The man stood absolutely straight with his arms hanging, and his height was above the average—about 180 cm. He stood before me like a giant, his mighty chest thrust forward. His fingers were thick, strong, and exceptionally large. On the whole, he was considerably bigger than any of the local inhabitants.
"His eyes told me nothing. They were dull and empty—the eyes of an animal. And he seemed to me like an animal and nothing more.
"As I learned, he had accepted no food or drink since he was caught. He had asked for nothing and said nothing. When kept in a warm room he sweated profusely. While I was there, some water and then some food [bread] was brought up to his mouth; and someone offered him a hand, but there was no reaction. I gave the verbal conclusion that this was no disguised person, but a wild man of some kind. Then I returned to my unit and never heard of him again."
On the little map of Asia in a box at the left-hand upper corner of Map XII, you will see a small vermiform tongue of shading sticking out of the left-hand lower corner of the contained rectangle. This represents the extension of the Hindu-Kush Range, via the Ala-Dagh and the Elburz in Iran, to the Armenian highlands and the Caucasus in the west. This is the
farthest west for ABSMs in the Old World unless some really very startling though admittedly vague reports that have just reached me from Sweden should have substance. The Scandinavian countries are hotbeds of myth, legend, and folklore regarding ABSM-like creatures of long ago but these new statements sound suspiciously like our own Northwestern ones. I must admit that this has quite unnerved me and I am not prepared to say any more until I have at least made some attempt to investigate. We may therefore turn east again and will follow that little wormlike strip back to the Roof of the World. Along the way, we pass through the Elburz Ranges.
These are quite surprising for their wildness and the existence therein of such obvious things as Tigers only a day's drive from Teheran. But then, I suppose it is really no more odd than Jaguars wandering about almost within sight of Los Angeles. Nonetheless, there is plenty of space here for lots of big as yet uncaught things and, by jingo, we get an alleged ABSM. This came to me from the indefatigable Bernard Heuvelmans, in the form of a plea for help since we are a sort of private "Bureau of Missing Persons" for the natural sciences, among other things. It transpired that a gentleman in New Jersey had written Bernard and stated: "When I was in the Army [in World War II], one man in my company was an engineer who had worked for an oil company in Persia. He and I talked together for hours and hours, as men do in the army, and I never detected him in a single lie, or what I thought was a lie, or even suspected that he exaggerated anything, but for one curious thing.
"He said that when he was working in Persia, some Persians brought around a `gorilla' they had killed in the mountains. I was amazed that he should say such a thing. I assured him that there were no gorillas in Persia, or anywhere else outside of Africa. He said that it was as big as one, and surely looked like one. He saw it, and that was enough. I said that there were no anthropoid apes in Asia closer to Persia than the Malay Peninsula [sic]. He was indignant. Was I telling him that he didn't see it? Of course, he thought also that there were no gorillas outside of Africa—until he saw this one. He was a bit short-tempered about it, so I dropped the subject."
[I have not yet traced the gentleman concerned but his name is Daniel Dotson; his home state is Utah but he was in Washington, D.C. when he joined the Army. If anybody knows him, for the love of mike, please write me; and if you know where he is, don't wait on ceremony but extend to him my invitation to dinner forthwith. He can name the time and place.]
This is the only specifically Iranian (Persian) report that I have but there are others from the Iranian-Turkmen S.S.R. border, and more from the Iranian-Afghanistani border. The geography of this and the adjacent area, which I call that of the Pamirs generally, and to which we will now proceed, is so complicated both physically and politically that I have to resort to the accompanying little maps. Most of the material that
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The borders of the U.S.S.R., Iran, Iraq, and Turkey, and the Caucasus. Dagestan is one of the Union of Socialist Soviet Republics.
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The borders of the U.S.S.R., China, Pakistan, and Afghanistan. About these borders is the Pamir Range. B.A.A. is the Badakshan Autonomous Area.
immediately follows comes from Russian sources and I am simply following their breakdown of this into regions of their designation. * These have political or rather ethnic tabs on them such as Kirghiz, Uzbek, Tadzhik, Kazakh, or simply "Chinese" assigned to them. This is really most muddling for the boundaries of these groups are utterly bewildering and interlocking as the map shows, while all these peoples have been surging about for centuries, elbowing each other, and dozens more peoples, in and out of valleys and off plateaus, gradually getting themselves worked into a sort of political pudding. Also lots of them are still nomadic, while families
and sometimes whole villages just up and move somewhere else. Then the tab "Chinese" in this case means simply that the place is on the Chinese side of the border, here principally Sinkiang, but also a whole host of other border provinces, autonomies, and such. Finally, a considerable percentage of the place names cited are not on any map; not even the most excellent, modern, Russian maps. This area must therefore be understood to encompass not only the Pamirs themselves, but the adjacent mountainous portions of Afghanistan, the Uzbek, Tadzhik, Kirghiz, and Kazakh S.S.R.'s and the Badakshan Autonomous Area [to be called simply the A.A.] unless otherwise stated. This of course runs off into the Karakorams to the east and the Ala-Tagh and Tien-Shan to the north. Most of the information from these regions was unearthed by the 1958 Expedition of the Russian Academy of Sciences to investigate the "Snowman" problem there.
In one of the Russian booklets cited, a map was included showing the distribution of myth, legend, and folklore about ABSMs in Eurasia; the areas from which reports of sightings, encounters, and tracks have been recorded within this century; and a dark globular blob covering this general Pamirs region. The legend states that this blob or blot was considered by the Soviet scientists to be the last remaining stronghold and the only remaining breeding ground of the Asiatic ABSMs. This is a very curious notion and not strictly in accord with either the published opinions of Prof. Porshnev himself [due to a certain very pertinent, and in my opinion, correct observation that he makes in one of his articles] nor with those of the Mongolian and Chinese scientists. In fact, I am of the mind that it was an idea imposed on the Commission by a sort of backhanded tradition stemming from the days before ABSMs were taken seriously even in Russia. Once again it was probably due to the old "snowman" bit; the everlasting reiteration that the creature or creatures lived in the perpetual upland snowfields, the obvious corollary to which was the biggest and most perpetual snowfields were the most logical places to look for them.
Professor Porshnev however states in what I can only describe
as a stirring article in a magazine entitled The Contemporary East: "The expression Snowman is not supposed to mean a creature living among perpetual snow (or exclusively in the snow). Similar expressions are used in connection with some animals, like the Snow Leopard. It means only that this specimen (species) belongs to the fauna of the high mountain ranges. He appears on the snowfields or glaciers only while migrating. He lives, however, and finds his food below the snowline, among the rocks and alpine meadows, sometimes even in the subalpine zone, in the forests, as well as among the rocky sands of the desert and in reedy thickets. The alpine zone [i.e. Upper Montane coniferous forest] is known for its rich and lush vegetation and the variety of its animal life." Professor Porshnev is so exactly right.
Neither the Pamirs themselves nor the area generally are wholly snow-clad; as a matter of fact the whole is a vast hodgepodge of deep valleys, gorges, canyons, and intermediate ridges, and all the former are heavily forested up to considerable heights being at a rather low latitude. This may be called a wilderness area but it is not, strange as it may seem, anything so much like one as our own Northwest. There have always been people there, or barging through it, since most ancient times and today there are meteorological stations dotted all about it, while the extensive international boundaries that meander through it are not exactly left to the imagination or desires of the locals. Both the Russians and the Chinese have conducted rather thorough explorations into the area, while the Afghans live there, as do most of the Tadzhiks and Kirghiz, and quite a lot of other people.
Practically everybody who does live, or even camps there, is of a single mind about the existence among them, and all over the lot, of ABSMs. This is another case such as that of the Himalayas, the Great Gutter, and the Southern Tibet Rim, where the cases reported are just too numerous to detail as well as too consistent to be worth recording specifically. Such a procedure would be quite silly: rather like recording sightings of Mountain Lions from our Southwest. The bloody things are everywhere and seem always to have been; nobody locally
paid much more attention to them than they did to other large wild fauna until outsiders started asking about them. Then they mostly clammed up; for two very different reasons, however.
First, the ancient animism mentioned above, is here even more deeply ingrained, but more shallowly covered by modern faiths such as Buddhism, and Islam than it is in the Caucasus, so that ABSMs being only just not men are regarded as ideal recipients for departed souls and should not be molested. This leads to taking special pains to steer foreigners away from them, while not mentioning their real names but referring to them vaguely, in generic terms. Secondly, to put the matter frankly, boiled ABSMs produced the most extremely potent and magical medicines for which really vast sums, in bar gold, were once paid in Russia, China, and especially in India. These medicines were known to the most ancient Chinese, to the Mongolians, the Tibetans, and to all Mongolic peoples all the way to Turkey. In the Pamirs area, the boiling, preparation, export, and marketing of these ABSM extracts (moomuyam) [called mumer by some] was carried on principally by Gypsies —referred to as the Luli or Asiatic Gypsies—who wandered all over the lot but mostly in directions exactly contrary to the normal annual migrations of the nomads for very obvious trade purposes. These Gypsies held a very peculiar and unique position in this part of the world. They were regarded as having sort of direct lines of communication both with God and the Devil, [and whole pantheons of other entities to boot] and so to be both able and sanctioned to tamper with most venerated things. Actually, like their Western congeners, they were consummate poachers, and since they could not be prevented from hunting anything, however sacred, and did not seem to suffer any dire consequences from doing so, they were assumed to have some special immunity or divine dispensation. At the same time, the whole concept of "Extract of ABSM" was probably a hang-over from most ancient ritual cannibalism, whereby token consumption of special parts of a powerful quarry or enemy [or even fellow citizen] was believed to transfer to you some of his powers. I witnessed just this process in the
[paragraph continues] Cameroons, West Africa, when an enormous male Gorilla was killed. The local Juju-chap begged bits of certain glands—and he knew his anatomy as well as any college demonstrator—and other parts of the body, made a brew out of these, and passed it around to all the hunters who took a token sip and smeared some on their gun barrels.
These two factors—the deep-seated reverence for ABSMs by the locals on the one hand, and their value as "medicine" on the other—have proved to be most potent ones in keeping information about the creatures from all outsiders. Personally, I suspect that there is something of the first attitude current among both the Northern and Southern Amerinds. This whole attitude in both its aspects comes to light in another way. This is the careful preservation of the heads and hands of ABSMs—and other Primates as well, it may be noted. The head, dried whole, has special significance, not for ingestion, like the extract, but as an object with its own medicinal qualities, and like any other sacred reliquary is kept hidden. This custom is pre-Buddhist but has been incorporated into Lamaist practice. The hands have another significance. They are kept as mere talismans, not having any deep religious significance, but rather because the hands of Primates (and men) have always seemed a marvel to Mongolian peoples, being literally the key to the success of both. There are mummified or desiccated hands kept in monasteries and by private individuals of communities all over Eastern Eurasia, from the Great Barrier, east. A few in Nepal have been shown to foreigners as we have related; others have been shown to Mongolian and Chinese scientists; and there are a few reports of them recorded in the Russian publications.
This is not the only aspect of ABSMery that presents a completely different face once we pass east, up and on to the great highlands of the Middle Mongoloid peoples. Here is the true heartland, not only of the greater part of modern humanity, but of culture also, for learning was apparently thriving there when even the Greeks were yet occupied in little else but bashing the Minoans' and each others' heads in, while we in the far west were running about clothed in blue paint and chipping
flints. The ancient repositories of knowledge and of documents lie sprawled up the great "basin" that forms the center of these eastern uplands, between the Great Barrier on the west, the southern Rim of Tibet on the south, and the escarpment on the east that fronts onto the lowlands of Manchuria and China proper. Around the periphery, along the Himalayas, through the Pamirs, and northeast up the Great Barrier to the region of Lake Baikal, there is only a secondhand knowledge of this ancient erudition or of its records of such matters as ABSMs; this knowledge moreover is often vague and distorted. The peoples of the western Pamirs were mountaineers, hunters, shepherds, and agricultural peasants; those of the Barrier itself mostly nomadic herders, who moved back and forth along the steppes that fringe the Barrier to the west and north, and stretch west to the Caspian. They were not literate and they did not support centuries-old libraries in monasteries, as did the inner Mongols. The Chinese on the other side of the uplands were settled agriculturists and at an early date took to city dwelling and the formation of city-states. They too developed an advanced "learning" but, despite the fact that "China" has for centuries nominally spread west to the Pamirs and to the inside of the Great Barrier, it absorbed more culture from those inner regions than it exported to them, while China proper was itself constantly overrun by Mongols coming notably down from the north through Manchuria.
When we get onto the great plateau, or rather into its great basin we will meet for the first time straight talk about ABSMs, rather than rumors, hearsay, and the somewhat dumfounded disbelief that we have encountered everywhere else, even among the most erudite. Educated Mongolians, using that term in its widest and proper sense to include all the peoples from the Siberia border to Nepal, and from Sinkiang to the Chinese escarpment, have a wealth of historical record about ABSMs, and are brought up to the notion that they still exist, in several distinct forms, all over their country, in isolated pockets, and all around its periphery in an almost unbroken line. Modern scientists of the Mongolian Peoples' Republic are fully aware of this and are beginning to restudy, reappraise
and make known to the world this store of knowledge, but they have as yet only just scratched the surface. The matter of ABSMs is really a rather abstruse item in their fund of knowledge. Mongolians are very practical people and although they have for millennia delved into every aspect of life, ethnology per se was one of the last of their interests. Wildlife was important, and medicine very much so, and it is in these literatures that amazing facts about ABSMs are found, as we shall see in the next chapter.
286:* Place names from now on are going to become as awful as political definitions. I have tried to confine myself to larger generalities that are shown on the map, and identify places that are not on that map by these generalities.
288:* As far as possible I have endeavored to choose place names, such as Krasnodar and Baku, that can be readily found in standard atlases, and to use the traditional English spellings for these though these are almost invariably quite different from the official Russian and/or local spellings. Names that are not to be found on readily obtainable atlases or maps are spelt as given by the translators of the publications from which they were taken. In many cases in this and the following chapter I quote names that do not appear on any obtainable maps. These may well be altogether inaccurately spelt, having been rendered phonetically first into Russian and thence into English. The results may be quite horrible to the local citizens. For this I duly apologize, in the unlikely event that they ever read this book.
294:* There would seem to be something wrong here. A 9-inch foot for a 7-ft. giant seems most improbable (Author).
294:† See the Shipton Meh-Teh prints.
299:* These sources are first and foremost four Booklets issued by the Special Commission set up to study the Snowman Problem by the Academy of Sciences of the U.S.S.R., under the Direction of Prof. B. F. Porshnev and Dr. A. A. Shmakov. Bks. 1 and 2 were published in 1958; Nos. 3 and 4 in 1959 in Moscow. Secondly there are a number of articles kindly sent to me by Prof. Porshnev and a voluminous report made available by the Russian News Services.