Does a creature called the Yeti prowl the Himalayas?
The Himalayas are home to the world’s highest mountain and one of its most intriguing mysteries. For centuries, the Sherpa people, native to the Himalayas, have told frightening tales of a strange half-man, half-ape called the Yeti.
Yeti is also known as the abominable snowman. To the Sherpas, Yeti has always been very real and very much alive. Some Western explorers have found convincing evidence that the Sherpas may be right.
Several expeditions have uncovered mystifying stories of strange human-like creatures who live in the Himalayas. In 1951, Eric Shipton, a world-famous mountaineer, came across a curious set of tracks. This was the first clear evidence that the Yeti might, in fact, be real.
Author Loren Coleman comments on the photograph Shipton took of the tracks:
“The photograph … is a very big peace of evidence because it showed toes, individual toes. It showed a squat, square footprint, which a lot of the other expeditions had found, but not had good photographic equipment with them.”
The footprint was 13 inches long and 8 inches wide. It didn’t look like it was made by a man or an ape.
In 1957, a Texas oilman named Tom Slick and explorer Peter Byrne set off for the Arun Valley in northeastern Nepal in search of Yeti.
Peter Byrne tells how he came to believe the Yeti are real:
“Tom Slick’s interest in the beginning was to find out if the Yeti were really there, and that’s the reason he came on the first reconnaissance. I had been hearing about the Yeti for years, ever since I was a child. But I think that what eventually convinced me that they were there, was meeting with the Sherpas and talk with them face to face. The Sherpas viewed the Yeti as a real living creature. Not as a mythical creature. They called him “hairy man” that lived out there separate from them. On the first expeditions we took along with us 8 by 10 pictures of a chimpanzee, a gorilla, primitive man and so on. And they used to point to the primitive man and say, that’s the Yeti. In fact, they thought we had a picture of the Yeti when they saw that. The Sherpas described the Yeti to us always as being man-like in form, and about 5-foot-6, 5-foot-7, 5-foot-8, not very large and covered with hair, totally covered with hair, walking upright. The face was bare of hair, the palms of the hands, that sort of thing.”
Slick and Byrne decided to split up to cover a wider search area. As Peter Byrne tells it, each made his own startling discovery:
“We’d started out from our camp in the early morning and we simply chose a mountain and I came across a line of footprints.”
Byrne took pictures of the tracks.
In another part of the valley, Tom Slick and his Sherpa guides discovered a similar set of tracks. Peter Byrne thinks the tracks are important:
“The significance of the prints that Tom Slick found was is that they were in mud, and whereas snow will distort with heat and with wind and so on, mud will not. He only saw two or three because it’s very hard to track in that stuff, in fact he was lucky to find them.”
A plaster cast of the footprint was shipped to the United States to be analyzed. The print measured 10 inches long and 7 inches wide.
According to anthropologist Dr. George Agogino, it was similar to the footprint discovered by Eric Shipton six years earlier:
“It was a short, squat, almost square type of footprint. And I sent it to the various physical anthropology experts around the country and usually the terminology that came back was, ‘Unique, but we don’t know what it is.’”
In February of 1958, Peter Byrne embarked on another expedition. On this trip, he met a Buddhist monk who had an amazing story to tell:
“He liked Scotch, this old man. And one evening while we were sitting there having a drink and talking, he said to me, he whispered, he said, ‘You know that up in the temple, we have a hand. Would you like to see it?’ And I said yes. So we went back up to the temple. We went into the top part of the temple and he showed me this hand about the size of a human hand, cut off at the wrist. I considered it very significant and I took some pictures of it immediately, some flash pictures. I asked the lama, of course, could I have it and he said no, he said it must never leave the temple here. If it leaves the temple various calamities will befall the temple and the community and so on. I asked him if I could have a part of it and he said no.”
The photographs of the Yeti hand were unlike anything scientists had seen before. Was it human? Was it ape? Or was it an entirely new species? They needed the actual hand, or at least a piece of it, to find out.
The next year, Peter Byrne returned to the monastery with another bottle of Scotch for the monk and an outrageous plan:
“I cut the finger off and I replaced it with the human finger. It took quite a long time to wire the whole thing together and put it all back together and put it back in the box. And nobody ever knew anything about it. And everything, everybody actually was perfectly happy. They still had the hand, it still had its fingers.”
The finger was brought back to London and sent to Dr. George Agogino for examination:
“I sent it to 20 experts which I thought should look at the hand, and they were about equally divided whether it was human or whether it was some type of primate known or unknown.”
Dr. Agogino put a tissue sample from the bone fragment in an envelope in his desk. It remained there for more than thirty years.
When Unsolved Mysteries learned of the bone fragment in Dr. Agogino’s desk drawer, we asked the University of California to analyze it. The results were inconclusive, but seemed to indicate that the tissue probably came from a human hand.
Professor of Nuclear Medicine Dr. Jerry Lowenstein analyzed the fragment:
“The problem with something as vague as the Yeti is that almost any result you have can be fitted into the theory. So I’m sure that most believers will say, ‘Well this is great, this proves that the Yeti is some sort of sub-human species.’”
Peter Byrne says the results confirm his own suspicions:
“I think that’s what we’ve always thought, that it wasn’t an animal, that it wasn’t an upright walking ape, because apes don’t’ walk upright anywhere. That it was a hominid. A human form of some kind.”
Meanwhile, the sightings of Yeti continued.
Photographer Kurt Fritler shares his own unnerving encounter:
“I had made camp at 16,500 feet, when out of the darkness a very loud piercing call began that sounded like nothing I’d ever heard before. It moved around. It circled our campsite, it would get closer, it would get farther away. It would call intermittently and the call was always very loud and very piercing and very frightening.”
Reinhold Messner says he got a good look at the creature from about 30 feet away:
“It was my impression it’s bigger than me. It was quite hairy and strong with short legs. The body was quite dark, dark brown, black hair, long, long hairs. And has quite a lot of hairs on the head.”
Dr. George Agogino is still split over whether the Yeti exists:
“I have to leave it open that I do not know what the abominable snowman is. But I feel there is a very good chance, probably 50/50, that something resembling the thing they are looking for does exist.”
Perhaps the Himalayas are home to an elusive, half-human species. Or perhaps Yeti is just a myth. Either way, it’s important to remember that a new species is discovered almost every year.