Monday, October 19, 2009

ABSMs: Conservative vs. Liberal Speculations

My studies don't make me much of a cryptozoologist [Henry will probably stand and applaud at that] but a blog is a facilitator of electronic megalomania, so off I go again to make a fool out of myself. At least this is not "All-the-Way-Fool" on this post--but, be warned, that is coming in the next one. Also, I want to say that I'm trying to not only present the same-old-same-old in these posts so that maybe there will be a little novelty here. Well, for better or worse, let's give ABSMs a try. First, the "name": I'm using ABSMs to refer to any big "mystery ape". The letters, of course, originally were short for the Abominable Snowman. I like "yeti" or "almas" better for those alleged Asian critters, and "sasquatch" (bigfoot) for the North American. So we can use ABSMs for the larger class of cryptids. When I heard about ABSMs, I thought, you know that has a chance of being real. We've had "old creatures" known from the fossil records, some of them like the Neanderthals even of recent existence, which might match some of these witness descriptions if there were still relict populations hidden away, and we have old traditions, even in Europe [with the "wildmen"], that might indicate survival into historical times. The chimpanzee seemed pretty ABSM-like until we got a better look, and these mysteries seem worldwide [I once found a carving from Costa Rica of an "ape" the anthropologists admitted that they couldn't identify--looking, for the cognoscente, eerily like "Loy's Ape"]. Well, good. Maybe a solvable mystery, and solvable on the side of "romance". ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
My first semi-conservative stop was with the claims for an Asian Giant. It actually seemed like a no-brainer. Were there not old encyclopedias from the Chinese area, at least one of the 19th century and one of the 18th, which pictured the wildman of the mountains, and thus pushed the claims back beyond our media world of sarcasm and blunt liars? And were there not large areas of sufficiently unexplored miles [not just the Himalayas, but also places like the south-western chinese rhododendron forests, where relict populations of wonderful things might well survive? [The latter is the place where some romantics would locate the "country" of Shamballa or Shangri-La by the way---I might write something just for fun on that someday, which none of us need take seriously--but, as one of my brothers says "You never know".] Yeti seemed to have some reasonable witness testimony--not huge amounts, but forgivable given the environment of the snow-mountains. A few prints were about, the most distinct and interesting being the Shipton print at the right. Still, the subject didn't seem to be going anywhere. Then people began claiming that they had hair samples of the Yeti and I thought, now we'll know.-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
The first hair-samples of the yeti were probably those things brought out and tested by Sir Edmund Hilary [who was from the beginning a complete skeptic]. Perhaps he had a right to be. The most spectacular claim was a sacred object in a temple claimed to be the skull-cap of a Yeti. It wasn't. It was the dyed fur of a Himalayan ungulate [an antelope, I think--I'm being lazy and not looking the detail up], and quite the disappointment. Hilary bashed many Yeti-ish things, and was a major conservative statement all around. But decades later other "hair" samples showed up. The one pictured above [ the previous collage, lower right--look up--a generally good practise anyway; might see a UFO some day--then tell me about it] was from Nepal and was claimed to have been torn from the chest of a Yeti by a terrified villager. Off it was to go to an expert lab, and we would know. I "stole" a picture of the thing as it circulated at the meeting, and waited for the promised analysis to be published. I never saw it. Maybe it was...but if it was really something of note, where the heck are the trumpets? Two other well-placed and credentialed scientists went to central-western China in search of a ABSMal golden ape, allegedly found great things including unidentifiable hair. Well, great. Where's a full scientific description of all the tests and forensic background on the conclusions? "Work" in these matters seems only to go so far and then happily return to the speculative couch [we have the same thing in UFOlogy; even more maddening in that it is so much more frequent]. Time has not expunged the possible reality of an Asian ABSM from my mind, but it certainly has disappointed me.-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
What about North America? Again, optimism. It was an optimism driven by one guy basically: Dr. Grover Krantz, a physical anthropologist from Washington State University. Dr. Krantz both spoke like a scientist and as a human being, a rare combination. His thoughts were sensible whether you wanted to buy them or not. I generally was buying. He had added a "feasibilty" argument to the usual data of footprints et al, by pointing out that there had once been a very big ape, of Sasquatch size, walking the Earth in our past. Could there still be a cluster of Gigantopithecus like beings plodding about in the unpopulous areas of the Pacific Northwest and Canada? Hmmm. Why really not? Diane Fossey's gorillas live in far less land area in east-central Africa, and you could get "on the other side of the bush" from them and still not see them directly. Plus Krantz emphasized special evidence from the prints that he felt was unusual---and I did too. These were things like how the "Bossburg Cripple's" foot broke--not like ours would but like that of a 600-800 pounder. And how on a rare set of prints from very fine sandy mud, you could see "dermoglyphs" [fingerprint ridges]; certainly one of the harder working hoaxes if that is what it was. He sent me copies of many of these things, so I could look at them myself--all true, as he said. [I still have those casts by the way if anyone wants them and can figure out how to get them without costing me money or too much hassle]. ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
My amateurish blunderings on this topic confronted me with things like the Minnesota Iceman [very unconvincing thing on many fronts] and other alleged pictures. Shades of UFOlogy, they were all "uncomfortable" if not instant rejects. Even the supposed siege gun of the pop side of the field--the Patterson film--never gave me any feeling of confidence. It was because the "thing" when it turned to look at the cameraman, turned its top half rigidly unlike an organic dynamic torso. OK--maybe like me it had a bad lower back disk, but I'm not comfortable at all with that thing no matter if you can defeat the magician's story [from the Carolinas] that he created the suit. But one or many hoaxes do not debunk an entire mystery, and I soldiered on. I plotted the PNW [crudely, alright, give me a break, it wasn't my field] and colored in the higher populated areas [ in yellow to the right]. [the really low populated areas are on there too, though harder to distinguish--when I did this thirty years ago I didn't precognition putting this on a blog--THAT would have been a far greater Fortean event]. Given my map, I wondered if the encounters would favor low population areas [the hypothesis for a real, physical, biological, secretive animal]. So I gave it a try. It seemed to "work". Not perfectly, but not bad. Gee, maybe Grover was right and, although I didn't like his planned solution, maybe one day he'd blow away a bigfoot with his "elephant gun" and haul the carcass back to the WSU anthro labs, ending the debate once and for all. That of course never happened. As time ground on, my feelings about ABSMs began getting less confident about a biological entity and instead were splitting to the extremes of non-existence and All-the-Way-Fool. I still wonder about the Bossburg Cripple and the Dermoglyphs, but in the next post [GOD-willing] maybe we can take a little trip to Whack-Land and see if Magonia is striking again.


  1. Don't be lazy. I know you to be a better scholar than this.

    It is "Hillary," not "Hilary," and he knew it was a serow skin used in the "Yeti skullcap" relic. He had the locals make him one and carried it around in his extra attache case, as he trotted around Europe and America with the borrowed Nepalese one, asking scientists to test what it was. It made for nice news conferences, but the end of the tale he wanted to tell was already scripted. Very deceptive, if you ask me.

    Also, the lamas had told the Daily Mail expedition of 1954 and the Tom Slick expeditions of 1958-59 that these skullcaps were made in imitation of Yetis. The Sherpas, Nepalese, and lamas were not hiding a thing about the ritualistic nature of these relics, but Hillary and the World Book Expedition of 1960 was hiding much, including the truth.

    Hillary's trip was a smokescreen of constructed stories, outright disinformation, and media management. Buyer and reader beware.

    Unfortunately, as I write in my Tom Slick book, it was Hillary that ended up assassinating the search for the Yeti.

  2. As this is your field, I'll assume you know what you're talking about. As I've said before in another comment: Drop the "personal" stuff; you can make your point without the first sentence. How about a friendly happy lead-in like this?: "Hey Mike, I know that this isn't your main area of scholarship so forgive me if I give you my own take on this...." and off we go with the better information from yourself, an acknowledged expert. The correction on spelling could then be last like a friendly afterthought. My response to this approach would be, "thanks much Loren for clearing this up, and I'm glad to hear from you again." We need to be kind to one another my friend; it's almost all that really matters.

  3. Oh, I was saying everything above with a smile on my face, and I was indeed in a friendly mood in sharing my insights.

    Of course, your "correction" of the way I should have approached you is not much different than the tone of my missive to you, old buddy. LOL.




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