Abominable Snowman

Also known as the yeti, the abominable snowman is said to be a hominid, or humanlike creature, that inhabits the Himalaya Mountains in Tibet, Nepal, Bhutan, Sikkim, and Mustang. There is great controversy over whether this creature exists, and controversy too among believers regarding whether the abominable snowman is actually several different species of hominid. Westerners generally believe that there is only one type of hominid in the Himalayas, while natives living in the region believe that there are many species.

Physical Appearance

Still, people who claim to have seen an abominable snowman describe it in similar ways. Except for height estimates that vary from 3 feet to 10 feet (.91m to 3.05m), the creature is said to have a stocky, muscular, tailless body covered in thick, short, coarse, reddish brown or black hair. Its face is either said to be hairless or so white as to make it seem hairless. The head is cone shaped, or slightly pointed. The creature also has apelike arms hanging down to its knees, which it sometimes uses to swing through the trees. Most of the time, however, the creature is said to walk on all fours while in the forest and on two legs while crossing open stretches of snow.

Despite eyewitness reports, many scholars think that the abominable snowman is a mythical creature. For more than two hundred years Tibetans have told stories of seeing two types of hominids, the meh-teh (“manlike not-a-man thing”) and the dzu-teh (“big thing”), in caves or deep thickets in Himalayan forests. In such tales the creature is depicted as a monster, uprooting tree trunks, raiding villages, and carrying off yaks and humans for food.

People who claim to have seen a real abominable snowman, though, describe no such behaviour. Instead, they tell of a highly reclusive, perhaps nocturnal, creature that avoids human contact and eats only plants.

Historical References

The first written reference to such a creature appeared in 1832 in the Journal of the Asiatic Society of Bengal. B.H. Hodgson, a British subject living in Nepal, claimed that he had encountered a hairy, tailless biped while in northern Nepal; however, he concluded that he had seen an unusually large, upright orangutan (though these apes only live in the tropical jungles of Malaysia and Indonesia). In 1889 Major L.A. Waddell wrote in his book Among the Himalayas that native guides, known as Sherpas, had told stories of similar creatures and that he himself had seen a large humanlike footprint in the snows at an altitude of 17,000 feet (5,100m). The Sherpa told him it was yeh-teh (“that thing”), an ape-man who had long inhabited the area. Like Hodgson, though, Waddell dismissed the notion that the print had been made by anything but a known animal. He decided the print had been made by a massive bear.

In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, Westerners visiting the Himalayas continued to report seeing huge humanlike footprints, sometimes as large as 2 feet (.609m) long, at altitudes above 13,000 feet (3,900m). The first such account to be taken seriously by Westerners was that of Lieutenant Colonel C.K. Howard-Bury, who was on a 1921 reconnaissance expedition to Mount Everest. While climbing from Kharta to Lhakpa La
in Tibet, he spotted several dark figures at an elevation far above his own. The distance was too great to make out any details about these figures, but he guessed them to be men. Later, in a snowfield at an altitude of 20,000 feet (6,096m), he found seemingly human footprints. Yet because these prints were three times the size of a man’s and appeared to have been made by a naked foot rather than by a boot, he could not believe they were human. Instead, he speculated that the figures he had seen had actually been large gray wolves and that the footprints’ humanlike shape had been caused by double tracks and distortions of soft snow. His Sherpa porters, however, disagreed. They told him that the footprints were from beasts they called meh-teh kang-mi (“manlike not-a-man creatures”). When Howard-Bury mistakenly wrote these words as metoh kang-mi (“snow creatures”) in his official report of the incident, and a newspaper reporter from the Calcutta Statesman newspaper mistranslated
Howard-Bury’s words as “abominable snowman,” the Himalayan hominid received the name by which Westerners
would come to know it.

Modern Sightings

It was not until four years later, however, that the abominable snowman became well known throughout the Western world, thanks to media reports of a sighting by a British photographer with the Royal Geographical Society.

While at an altitude of 15,000 feet (4,500m) near the Zemu glacier in the Himalayas, photographer N.A. Tombazi spotted a dark, hairy, and naked humanlike figure walking about 200 to 300 yards (183 to 274m) away from him, occasionally uprooting bushes and plants as it walked.

Eventually the creature disappeared into heavy brush. When Tombazi reached the area he saw sixteen human-shaped footprints, about 6 to 7 inches (15.3 to 17.8cm) long and 4 inches (10.1cm) wide, in the snow. He was certain that these tracks had been made by a biped as yet unknown to scientists.

In 1970, on the Himalayan mountain of Annapurna, similar tracks were found by British mountaineer Don Whillans, who also claimed to have seen an apelike creature walking upright in the moonlight near his campsite and to have heard an odd cry that his Sherpa guides said was its call.

Other notable sightings include that of American mountaineer Craig Calonica— who, in September 1998, claimed to have seen two abominable snowmen walking together on the side of Mount Everest— and Italian mountaineer Reinhold Messner—who, in 1986 and 1997, made four sightings in the Himalayas and claimed to have photographed the creature’s footprints. Numerous other mountaineers and some zoologists claim they have seen and/or photographed abominable snowman footprints in the Himalayas as well.

Physical Evidence

Perhaps the best-known abominable snowman photograph was taken by mountaineer Eric Shipton in 1951 at an altitude of 18,000 feet (5,486m). It shows a humanlike print more than 9 inches (22.9cm) in length and resembles other footprints found by zoologist Edward Cronin in 1972. By some estimates, a human with a print this size would be more than 8 feet (2.4m) tall. Nonetheless, skeptics suggest that it could have been made by a human, perhaps a trickster wanting to convince the world that abominable snowmen are real. Skeptics dismiss other hominid photographs as well, attributing them to fraud or to misidentification. Indeed, some photographs taken by Englishman Tony Wooldridge in March 1986, while he was traveling alone through the Himalayas in India, caused quite a sensation until experts concluded that the photos were actually pictures of a rock formation that Wooldridge had apparently mistaken for a stationary man-beast.

Also believed to be frauds or misidentifications are various abominable snowman remains that have been found in various parts of Tibet and Nepal, including supposed yeti pelts, scalps, skeletons, and hands. Consequently, there is no undisputed evidence that the abominable snowman is real. However, given the number and the credibility of witness reports, some scientists suspect that the creature does indeed exist. Those who think the abominable snowman is real hypothesize that it is some sort of evolutionary link between apes and humans, though they disagree on just how closely related to humans this creature might be. They have also speculated that this creature has survived from prehistoric times not only in the Himalayas but also in other parts of the world, where people have sighted similar hominids, such as the North American Sasquatch or bigfoot.

See Also:


The Greenhaven Encyclopedia of Paranormal Phenomena – written by Patricia D. Netzley © 2006 Gale, a part of Cengage Learning

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