Abominable Snowmen, by Ivan T. Sanderson, , at sacred-texts.com
20. Certain Abominable Conclusions
We have now done with fantasy and come, as I stated at the end of the last chapter, to Fact. This is a trilogy composed of reports, evidence, and objects. One might suppose that from this point on it will be plain sailing. Alas, this is very far from the case for there are even more pitfalls along the road through this field than there are in the bewildering world of make-believe, ignorance, and prejudice that we have just waded through. And these traps are much more deadly because they at first appear to be quite logical.
Saying that something does not exist proves nothing. Showing what something is not, does not prove what it is. Even proving what a thing is does not exclude the possibility of the existence of other things. Then, there are the old saws about having not gone to China and thereby proving statistically that China does not exist; and the corollary, that Tibet is China because you can prove that it is not any other country. A full understanding of such matters, and of paralogic in all its forms, is essential to a proper understanding of our problem because it rules not only in that negative world of skepticism which we have just been through but is also very prevalent in the positive world into which we are now going to plunge. This is the realm of newsmen, policemen, and lawyers —and ABSMs at this time are still a police job.
Policemen are true experts in the processes of paralogic and in the classification, behavior, and ecology of its exponents. They are
also specialists in the study of another terrifying breed—that of witnesses. It is logical to suppose that the only way to solve a crime is to catch the culprit, but this is not the final answer to such a problem. Still less is it the only solution that is possible of any crime. In the case of ABSMs it is often said that the only way to prove their existence is to catch one. This is a valid statement, but not a true one; and on several counts. I warn you, we are now heading into a real jungle.
ABSMs are not yet objects for scientific research. In science there is supposed to be a high standard of ethics but no place for sentiment in its wider and proper sense. By this, I mean that truly scientific research is supposed not only to be completely honest, but utterly devoid of all prejudice. It is concerned solely with facts and in it there is supposed to be no place for fancies, which is to say, credos. Scientific evidence is supposed to be in the form only of proven fact, and the basis of its methodology is the criterion that all such facts must be reproducible on demand by anybody, anywhere, and at any time. Only then may beliefs or opinions be expressed—which is to say, hypotheses put forward and theories erected. These, in turn, then have to be proved.
This puts a tremendous strain on evidence in science, and it is in appraising evidence that scientific methodology most often breaks down. Here the line between fact and fancy is sometimes hazy, and that is where scientists, being only human, display their greatest tendency to prejudice. Nothing is more aggravating than coming across convincing evidence that your pet theory is fancy rather than fact; and proof that this is so, sometimes sends even the truest scientist off his rocker. It is his faith that is shaken and the world has until very recently run on faith, not on facts. It may be clearer now just why I stepped aside in the last chapter to discuss a number of matters which may not have appeared to have had much direct bearing upon our main theme.
Anybody can tell a story; but, true or false, once told, that story itself becomes a "fact." If this is presented as fiction, there is no further trouble, but if it is put forward as fact, we
run into complications. Immediately we want to know who said so, and on what grounds. Is there any evidence, and, if so, can it be proved; which means can it be reproduced or, if it is a physical object, produced? And this raises the question: how do we go about appraising evidence once we have been informed of its existence?
The ABSM reports, as given above in Chapters 1-14, are claimed by all those who told them to be fact, but there are many who have stated that they are fancy, if not pure fantasy. Both opinions are permissible but it is incumbent upon both parties to prove their case, and here we run into some pretty legalities and a realm quite outside that of scientific research, because evidence, proof, and even physical objects turn out to be just as difficult and elusive as stories, and research through these channels cannot as yet be directed at the ABSMs themselves. We are still in the realm of search; and although this may be prosecuted in what is called a scientific manner, it is, as I say, primarily a police job and one that should be run on crime-detection lines. Further, analysis of evidence and appraisal of witnesses must be conducted by methods laid down by the legal profession, otherwise it will become bogged down in a morass of paralogic.
Thus, there are two ways in which both the asserters and the deniers of ABSM stories can go about proving their contentions. Both can bring acceptable evidence to prove that they are right or that the other party is wrong. This may, in the latter case, sound like proof by default, but this is a very peculiar case and at present in a really unusual stage of prosecution. There is chicanery afoot on both sides, and in both ways. Certain reports of ABSMs have been outright fakes, others pure mistakes; but so have certain of the attempted disproofs of them. We are dealing here not only with human credibility and fallibility but with outright "crime" in the intellectual sense, in that paralogic has been deliberately employed by one party at least: namely, the skeptics or deniers of the facts.
The zoologists who took it upon themselves to act as spokesmen for established science as a whole, introduced this at the
outset. Having stated flatly that the whole thing was a lie, they put forward what they expected us to believe was evidence in the form of the "China does not exist" bit. Their method was to collect as universal a poll as they could of zoologists and others who would affirm that such a thing as any ABSM was impossible, and they then proceeded to say that, since this opinion was unanimous and [in their opinion] nobody else was qualified to express any other opinion on the matter, it was impossible, and therefore a lie. Balked in this when the other party furnished better evidence for ABSMs, they then applied the "Tibet is China" proposition by amassing evidence that visible signs of ABSMs—and in particular the tracks in snow in the Himalayas—were not anything except those of bears; whereby, ergo, they were bears. But there they ran into the impasse described at the end of the last chapter. The proof of their paralogical "evidence" not only simply would not stand up, it turned out to be damning to their whole contention and opinion. Had the zoologists carefully followed scientific methodology instead of prejudice, and produced a valid case supported by acceptable and provable evidence, the business would have remained legitimately debatable. As it is, they did not do so, and, what is more, they threw all their eggs in one basket, for they would not admit any possibility of any ABSM existing.
Actually, this aided the search in many ways, most notably by virtually closing the matter to further debate. From then on, the entire onus of proof devolved upon them, the scientific skeptics, and today they are faced not only with disproving the existence of ABSMs, and the validity of all the stories about them, plus the credibility of the persons who told them, and the evidence they produced, but also, at the same time, they must prove their own position. All of this is more significant than the general public realizes, for it brings a lot else besides mere ABSMs into question.
If the proponents of any discipline clearly demonstrate that they are unreliable, or worse, dishonest in their own specialty, their opinions and pronouncements in all others become suspect. If, moreover, their line is a closed bailiwick, is specialized,
and is therefore incomprehensible to others, it becomes very highly suspect. How are we to know just what is going on? If zoologists can be so viciously obtuse about this subject, just how right are they about things that they do claim to know? It is not a pleasant thought; and it casts aspersions upon other disciplines.
Anthropologists very sensibly kept mum about the whole ABSM business till a very late date. Whether ABSMs might be undiscovered human tribes, Tibetan outcasts, hermits, or some kind of animal, or whether they might be living remnants of otherwise extinct sub-men, or sub-hominids, they refrained from stating. They let the zoologists bounce about out on their limb. But once the "Now-you-can-see-for-yourself-it's only-a-bear-or-a-monkey" story broke, they went to work quietly and without fanfare. This is not to say that either all anthropologists, or the science as a whole [which is something quite different], immediately stood up and cheered for the "pro" side. Quite the contrary; most of them made noises every bit as grouchy as the zoologists, and some of them became just as puerile, for it hit them too on a raw spot, and right in their own compound. Luckily for them, however, they had never said that such a thing was impossible; though this was not for any lack of thinking so. The idea was so completely unholy to them that they had never even considered the necessity for saying anything at all. Meanwhile there were, luckily, those among their ranks who took a completely different and truly scientific view of the whole business, and it is primarily to these specialists that we turn for guidance in appraising the evidence that is produced by the honest searchers for the truth.
The first thing we have to do in assessing the whole question of ABSMs is to make a clear distinction between "reports" and "objects." Both are in their way facts, but the two are otherwise in altogether different categories. A report, whether written down or not, cannot really be proved; an object does not have to be proved, though it may need explanation. A great part of ABSMery is regrettably reportorial in nature. Its most outstanding defect is our lack of ability
to assess the validity of these reports, let alone their contents. There are lots of reports floating around, some even in very solid print, the mere origin of which cannot be discovered. Nor is this all. There are some most definite statements that have been copied over and over in recent times, the origin of which apparently cannot be traced. In this respect I should mention the widely known report attributed to "a famous British explorer named Hugh Knight" which is almost a linchpin in the whole Himalayan ABSM story. This is a classic, and has been repeated in almost every article on the subject for years; yet, I have to state flatly that, despite long probing, I have been completely unable to find the original statement; or, what is more, have any of us who are sincerely interested in this matter even been able to ascertain whether anybody named Hugh Knight ever really existed. In other words, we have not only to question, probe, and assess the reporters, but also those who report on reporters. And there is often no real way to assess either of them.
The most we can hope for is some assurance that a person was considered to be reliable. But this term has a very wide connotation. The most upright people tell outright lies on occasion, sometimes deliberately and with the best intentions, as in intelligence work; while anybody can go mad or even be mad, though the fact is never known. Then again, any reporter can make a mistake, while there are all sorts of influences at work that may cause anybody to fabricate stories or to convert, divert, or twist stories that they, in turn, have heard. The whole business is, in fact, more than a psychological jungle.
However, there is one thing that can be done with "reports." This is to subject them—when you have enough of them—to various statistical analyses. Statistics are at least impersonal [if not always reliable], and they do not really need to take any account of the reporter, his reputation, or his veracity. If you get enough reports on anything, from diverse enough locations in time and space, and [on correlating them] find one or more agreements, above a certain number, you wilt know that you have identifiable factors in operation. Coincidence
is a strange thing, but it eventually runs out, statistically, and simply by the law of averages. Thus, if foot-tracks with five very unique characteristics are reported from ten different countries for over 200 years, you may fairly safely, and scientifically, say that there is a cause other than sheer mendacity on the part of those who reported them. Footprints with one odd feature, turning up in 5 countries over a 5-year period, might be explicable by coincidence or be the outcome of an initial story read by persons who happened to be in each of those 5 countries. Foot-tracks with 5 oddities spread over 50 countries in over 500 years is another matter altogether. The assessment of the reports on ABSMs is not of itself so significant; rather it is the remarkable similarities, in certain circumstances or in certain areas [vegetational provinces, for instance], and throughout time, that are so.
Somewhat similarly our approach to folk-tales has changed considerably during the past century. From being regarded almost as historical record, their value first dropped not only to nil but beyond, into the realm of the misleading. Then it started to mount again to a position of esteem, and today, there is a tendency to take folklore under very serious consideration, for a great deal of it has proved on proper analysis, and in the light of new methods of interpretation, to be valid history, simply expressed in another format, or upon a logic other than our [Western] currently accepted one. The ancients did not, and living primitive peoples do not, subscribe to our ways of thinking. They simply have not developed them, but they nevertheless attempted and still attempt to record facts. For instance, the migration of swallows was once "explained" in northern lands by asserting that they all went down to the bottoms of ponds and slept in the mud during the winter. Today we know this to be nonsense but the fact that they all went away in the fall and that they later return remains true, and has been proved. Thus, if the Chinese long ago stated that there were men-bears or bear-men in Szechwan and eastern Tibet, it did not mean that they said there were crosses between men and bears to be
found there but, simply, that there was a kind of creature thereabouts that could best be described as being halfway between a man and a bear in appearance. It was—and still is —called a Gin-Sung; and by all accounts looks very much like a large, broad-shouldered man wearing the skin of a bear, otherwise known as the Dzu-Teh.
This brings us to another category of recorded evidence; namely, the truly historical. This is the field of bibliographical research (or search) and constitutes another wilderness of bewildering confusion. Again it has been Bernard Heuvelmans who has led the way into this further jungle. Those who have followed have been most assiduous and the outcome has been startling. The Bibliography appended to this book does not really give any indication of the volume of reference to ABSMery in its widest sense because I have been forced to omit the details of whole categories, and lump them under a single item. This published material varies enormously and is spread over a really immense period of time and throughout a very wide variety of literatures. The greatest volume of reference is in the category of the travelogue, but most of this is casual, passing, and usually brief. Quite a number of the authors did not even realize the significance of what they were recording. The second largest category is that of ethnological, ethnographic, and socio-anthropological works, some of which are positively crammed with reports and comments on the basic question of ancient and extinct humanoids, varying all the way from alleged lower animals with human characteristics to very definite humans with characteristics of lower animals. Most of these are presented as MLF but, when viewed in another light, are manifestly straightforward accounts of the previous existence of creatures in the area of ABSM type.
Purely biographical evidence, of course, merges with what I call the secondhand account; namely, one derived from the statements of others. Much of the information recorded in modern travelogues is of this nature; the author stating that he was told by so-and-so that, at such-and-such a place, in the year this-that-or-the-other, a person or persons said they
saw something. The assessment of such statements is really quite impossible, because anybody can say that he was told almost anything, without running the risk of being called a liar. What is more, he can start out by saying that the person who told him was obviously making it all up in the first place. Nonetheless, the statistical method of analysis may again be employed here; and by doing so, some very strange things come to light.
Firsthand reports, especially when published over the signatures of a "big name," whose activities are well-known, and can be traced, are quite a different matter. These, even when not supported by any form of pictorial or concrete evidence, have been the principal stimulants to the whole ABSM business. In this category must be placed many travelers in what are called modern times, who have left published records in which they make definite statements that they either saw an ABSM, its tracks, droppings, or other parts, or who said they heard it or inspected such corollary evidence as the moving of cairns on mountaintops. The most astonishing aspect of the roster of such reporters is not so much their actual number, but the proportion that they form of all travelers who visited the countries concerned. Equally surprising is the almost universally high standing and reputation for probity of these reporters. This is particularly noticeable among those who have written of the Himalayan region. Almost everyone who has been there has reported something concrete and definite about ABSMs, be they geographers like Ronald Kaulbach, mountaineers like Eric Shipton and Sir Edmund Hillary, * doctors, anthropologists, political and forestry officers, and all manner of other specialists such as have already been mentioned. At this juncture, I should point out that few of the scientific "skeptics" have ever been within sight of the Himalayas and indeed most of them have never been out of Europe or America.
Northern California is a very forceful case in point. There the matter goes to extremes because even local people who
have been born in the forests concerned, seem never to have ventured more than a few hundred feet into those forests, yet they may solemnly state that anything alleged to have been seen therein by those who have penetrated them is either a lie or the product of a hoax. The situation was frankly preposterous when I visited that area in 1959. Intelligent people who had lived all their lives not 30 miles from where the tracks of the Oh-Mahs were turning up night after night in the mud on a new road, not only refused to go and look at them, but were quite violent in their denunciation of the road builders who were moving their families out because of them, calling them fakers, liars, and other much less pleasant things. People in the nearby town of Eureka were at the same time in an uproar because their local newspaper had printed straight accounts of what these road builders had said. The citizens denounced the editor, and even the local police issued deprecatory statements about him.
The truth is that many people do not want such reports, and, more precisely, they do not want to have to read any as fact. Given as fantasy, they are quite prepared to accept them. Yet, there are several things that almost all firsthand reporters seem to have in common. These are integrity, a reputation for honesty, and above all, provable firsthand experience of the country concerned, to say nothing of the matters reported. The skeptics, on the other hand, are almost without exception—if not entirely so—persons who have never been near the scene of events, while quite a number of them prove to have a reputation for a prejudicial outlook, hidebound ideas, an ax to grind, or a desire for self-publicity. Unfortunately neither party is, except in a very few and exceptional cases, scientifically trained, or especially experienced in those matters and disciplines most needed for a proper interpretation of the facts observed. This does not, of course, apply to the Russians, Mongolians, and Chinese because the only people we have heard from on the subject in print from those quarters have been scientists, and they seem in most cases to have been deliberately seeking scientific evidence of this matter.
In assessing firsthand accounts, therefore, I personally tend
to give the benefit of any doubts to the reporters, and more especially when this is bolstered by either direct concrete evidence or the statistical method of analyzing details of their stories. In fact, I just refuse to call such people as Ronald Kaulbach, Gerald Russell, and Professor Porshnev, liars; and I just as forcibly refuse to question the details of their observations. How dare anybody do so, who does not have their training and experience and who, above all, has never been to the area where they made their observations? Most of the skeptics are actually crackpots, yakking away in a vacuum of make-believe. They do not have the facts; they often don't even read or examine them; they are not trained to interpret them; and they have preconceived notions, often on everything. Moreover, these are usually quite erroneous, even deliberately so.
This ends my reportorial contribution to the subject of ABSMery, but I find that I have a few pages left over. I shall therefore employ these for some comment and even some opinions. I am constantly—and quite legitimately—asked what I personally make of all this. Frankly, I welcome an opportunity to reply and perhaps to sound off a little. Straight reporting is, to me, the only really satisfactory occupation that there is; but there are times, I must admit, when one gets the itch to not just comment but to pontificate. After so many years in this morass, the business looks this way to me:
First, it is my humble opinion that ABSMery is not only a valid but a concrete subject for investigation. Unlike such wholly unsubstantial things as, say, poltergeists or even such unapproachable ones as UFOs, they have always seemed to me to be not only quite possible but extremely probable. In fact, the longer I live, the more I read, and particularly the farther I travel, the more convinced I become that they do exist. However, I have a strong personal feeling that they [as a whole, or as an item of existence] have been not only grossly misunderstood but misinterpreted
My central belief is in a way just like that of the skeptics—to wit: that there is really nothing odd about the whole business. In this,
however, my reasons for such an attitude are almost diametrically opposite to those of said skeptics. They say that there is "no problem" because all the tracks are made by bears or other known animals; I, on the other hand, would affirm that there is no problem because we have ample evidence of all manner of sub-men and sub-hominids in the past; have living examples of many Primitive humans still in existence; and still know very little of a major part of the surface of our planet. For these reasons—and because of the discovery of all manner of huge forms of life right up till the time of writing and even on our own continent (vide: the new herd of Woodland Bison)—I cannot see any possible valid argument against the continued existence of ABSMs. This attitude has naturally been enhanced by my good fortune in having been able to wander all over the earth since childhood and actually to see for myself the real conditions pertaining in many lands. I know that most of the lands in the world are still more than half empty of humanity, and are simply unexplored, in any real sense.
This notion, of course, conflicts absolutely with general world opinion, ranging upward to the topmost echelons of the United Nations. I'm sorry, but, with all due deference to world organizations and to all sincere persons in every field, I have to give it as my considered opinion that it is rubbish. Indeed, we humans—i.e. Modern Man or Homo sapiens as we have chosen to call ourselves—are rapidly approaching the Malthusian limit but this is not for lack of space. Nor is it primarily because we are a disease-ridden bunch of semi-educated breeding machines, lacking sufficient know-how and mass technical skills. To the contrary, it is almost solely due to the fact that we are basically a gregarious species of primate mammal. There have been famines in Russia when you could hardly walk across the street for the droves of fat ducks. A "famine" can have sundry meanings, some of them having nothing to do with famine. To the Russian peasants of bygone years it meant simply a breakdown in the supply of bread.
But, you may say, countries such as China and India are
different. Surely they have famines there so ghastly that men eat mud. For all their monstrous population and poverty, there are in both lands still lush and enormous areas that are not agriculturally used. Certainly the report that "wild people" had been found in the southern Chinese upland Massif should have been sufficient to demonstrate this. Nor are our highly industrialized Western countries any different. I need not reiterate the examples that I have already given of the extent and number of true wildernesses on our own continent.
Thus, there is actually more than enough room for all manner of as yet uncaught and unidentified creatures—even of very large size—to be running around completely unknown to us, and sometimes right on our doorsteps. Proof of this contention need not be sought beyond the case histories, aforementioned, of the Okapi, the Lado Enclave "White Rhino" or Cotton's Ceratothere, the Kouprey, and the Woodland Bison. Therefore, the possibility of even a dozen kinds of ABSMs being around, and in not inconsiderable quantities, is not impossible: it is quite probable. Personally, I think that it is a certainty, and from my half a lifetime of studies of Nature in operation, and especially of the distribution of her life-forms, I believe that it is almost necessary—in order to fill all her niches; something, it seems, she must always do.
By the same token, and at the same time harking back to a previous statement, I feel that the whole business of ABSMery has been misinterpreted even by zoologists and anthropologists, in that both continue to subscribe to some unwritten and invalid set of rules that grew up sometime in the last century about what can and cannot be, plus what is and what isn't. Actually, if you come to review what is known and accepted about the rarer, odder, most obscure, and unknown races of people that do still exist today, you will find that they are really legion, and that we already have pretty fair candidates for not a few of the smaller ABSMs. Where we are to draw a line between these Primitives and outright relic races of sub-men and sub-hominids, I have not the slightest idea. Personally I cannot draw any such line, and I don't know upon what criteria to try to do so.
My notion is that, if only we could all clear our minds of our many preconceived ideas about what is possible and what isn't, and then take a hard look at what we know is, we would find that there is really no "problem" here. We are dealing with Hominids, ranging all the way from Modern Men who don't wash much to, maybe, creatures so primitive that they have never known speech, fire, or even tools. Nobody any longer denies that such creatures once existed, and nobody denies that Gorillas, Chimps, and Mias still exist, though we class them as altogether more primitive than Hominids. If the latter have survived, why not the former?—more especially when those former undoubtedly had at least the glimmerings of what we call co-ordinated "intelligence" as well as purely animal wits, or instincts.
Thus, my answer—and I do not mind how far out on however slim a limb I go in saying this—is that I think there are at least three main types of ultra-primitive men, and/or sub-men, and/or sub-hominids, still alive today. These I would say are, first, sundry pigmy types of very near-human or completely human composition; second, some remaining Neanderthaler types in eastern Eurasia; and, third, some very primitive and large creatures almost absolutely without any "culture" in any sense of that term, in northwestern North and Central America, perhaps in South America, the eastern Sino-Tibetan uplands, and in Indo-China. Then, I am even more sure that there still remains something else.
This is the great, bestial, Meh-Teh; the unwitting originator of the whole business; the original "Abominable Snowman"; and the most mysterious, though best-known, of all. As I have said repeatedly, I don't know any more than anybody else what this might be, but I'll bet not just the proverbial dollars, but any gold bars I might acquire to stale doughnuts that it exists, and all over a very wide area. From what has been reported about it, and even more from an analysis of its tracks and footprints, it is my conviction that it is the remnant of a most ancient side-branch of both our own and the apes’ family tree and more likely from the twig of the apes than from our lot.
I have not by any means said all that I could say, and I have really reported only a small part of what I might on this matter, while my files keep growing even as I write, but I shall say no more. My personal opinions probably will not and certainly should not influence those of others. I have tried to give all the facts possible within the compass of a book, and all I ask now is that you draw your own conclusions.
444:* Hillary's early reports, that is.