Sunday, March 23, 2014

SETIans & UFOs: A {pathetic} Snapshot of who we are.

I was preparing my McDonald files for scanning yesterday, and came across many interesting things {to say the least}, some remembered and passed by at the time, some "new", as to remind me that there is still MUCH work to be done to tell the history of UFO studies properly.

The small thing that I'd like to share today is something Big Mack found out from Carl Sagan way back in 1967, when the Colorado Project was getting rolling [first of March of that year.] But indulge me while I frame this little fact, so it gets its true moment in history.

In 1966 the Air Force announced the {allegedly} "Scientific Study of UFOs" at the University of Colorado, as you are all aware. By that time McDonald had come completely out-of-the-closet with his views that this was one of the most important studies Science could be making, and that UFOs were most probably the Mystery of the Century. What many persons don't realize is that some of the founders of SETI weren't far off from that level of interest themselves. For those of you who have heard the SETIans constantly smirk and mock UFOs [overinflated deriders such as Seth Shostak and Jill Tarter are the current attack dogs], this will seem simply unbelievable. We all know that people like Sagan and Frank Drake thought UFOs were a joke. Well, guess again....

In my "youth" I thought that nothing was more natural than to "like" both SETI and UFOs. How could it not be? Searching for ETI both near and far, what's more obvious? If one listens to what comes out of the mouths of "modern" SETIans, one is, initially at least, boggled. One will not get more brutal comments out of anyone in academe about UFOs than from the pursuers of SETI. But, if one really makes a study of this, this unscientific babble issuing from the public SETIans is far more complicated indeed.

Carl Sagan is easier to read than most. The reason, I believe, is that Sagan was always, even as a very young Tribe Member, a colossal egotist who simply felt that he was smarter than anyone else. This inflated self-assurance gave him a corresponding naiveté about the social dimensions of the scientific tribe. The above press clipping is a concrete example. I have always nicknamed it "Sagan's Error."

Note the year: 1966. UFOs are having a flapping good field day in the American skies, Hynek is screwing up by announcing his "swamp gas" conclusions, and the USAF is looking as bad as it has in many years. Sagan proceeds with his career blissfully unaware of anything associated with the sociology of this. At a science meeting, he joyfully announces that he has estimated the colonization times of alien races expanding throughout the galaxy, and that his math shows that it is likely that aliens have visited Earth 10,000 times in our past, perhaps even historically recently. Naturally no one in the public cared about what anyone else at that meeting had to say about anything.

But it wasn't this up-staging of the great-and-near-great that upset the establishment. Sagan was treading on unacceptable grounds in several ways, and was viewed as a detriment to Science. But, the soon to be announced Colorado Project allowed him to survive his gaff, as until Colorado said differently, UFOs were allowed to be studied. {Once Condon "spoke" however, Sagan would get his "crossing-the-line" butt kicked.}

While Colorado lasted, scientists could occasionally be seen actively investigating UFO cases outside the Project and being taken seriously. Of course the famous presence was Jim McDonald of Arizona [seen here on the far left.] But others were appearing from behind the secure protective walls of their universities too. The other three guys in the photo are Philip Seff,  Judson Sanderson, and John Brownfield. Seff was a geologist; Sanderson a mathematician, and another colleague was a chemist. They were studying an incident in Redlands, CA in early 1968.

The University of Redlands professors got the Colorado Project to OK their investigation as a sort of extension of the Project, even though it was being done by outside personnel. They were very cautious in the investigation --- reputations to consider after all. But in the end their verdict was markedly "out-of-line" with the establishment. Seff's conclusions said bluntly: no known air technology; no natural phenomenon; this was a "UFO". They sent the report into Colorado, where it was placed in the files but not the study.

Occupying very close to the same mental space as Carl Sagan [without the towering ego] was Frank Drake. In the early 1960s he had spearheaded the earliest serious SETI search out of the National Observatory in Greenbank, WV {Project OZMA} and sent the first science-team produced message to the stars [somewhat illegally, much to the displeasure of certain security-minded intel personnel.] In 1961, he developed the famous Drake Equation [he did not name it --- but Sagan later tweaked it VERY slightly so it could be called the Sagan-Drake equation --- we've dumped Carl's name lately as a rare moment of justice and civilized behavior.]

By 1968 he was corresponding to Allen Hynek and listening to Jim McDonald about the travesty which Condon was creating at Colorado. He wrote to Hynek in May 1968: " What I heard in Tucson curled my hair --- never heard anything like it before.... the main participants are going to have to dye their hair, change their names, and vanish." Oh, the naiveté as to whom would have to vanish!

He wrote to the National Academy of Sciences that same month: "with regard to the Condon study, the reports of participants and the discussion in LOOK Magazine show clearly that the study must be discredited, both with regard to scientific quality and with regard to any interpretations that come with it.

"Secondly, I feel that it is clear that a thorough and broad investigation of UFOs is called for. The evidence is overwhelming that there is a real physical and not solely psychological UFO phenomenon.

" In view of the peculiarity of the phenomenon, and the broad public interest in it, there is justification for the expenditure of considerable funds to elucidate it."

Ahem... uhh... not exactly your 21st century SETI commentary on the subject methinks. Unfortunately for dear Frank, he didn't realize that his NAS letter was going to Condon's own favorite student, Frederick Seitz, who thought exactly like his mentor. The letter rapidly was sent onto Ed who blistered Drake. Drake wrote back apologetically, but trying to reach a compromise. Naturally Ed was having none of it and Drake got a black mark next to his name.

Drake tucked his tail and shut up. He still occasionally and very privately went about investigating nearby cases initially around Ithaca, NY [Cornell U.] and later in California. He always denied to curious reporters that he was interested. ... but he was.

So.... One day in 1967, on his juiced up all-over-the-place-at-once schedule relentlessly pursuing UFO cases and support for researching them, Jim McDonald found himself at a conference focussed upon the atmospheres of Venus and Mars. Many heavy hitters were there. Two of them were Alaister Cameron [middle], who had pulled himself up by his bootstraps scientifically, and was an organizational-type networker as well as a good scientist, and the young, still cocky and largely unbowed, Carl Sagan. It was doubtless an interesting trio to have been grouped with.

McDonald was querying Cameron about where UFO Research might possibly land as a permanent home and funding center. Cameron said : NASA couldn't do it now [The main reason for this should have been severe budget cuts, not anti-UFOism then since Colorado was in high gear..  sort of anyway.] Sagan was listening attentively to this exchange, when he offered something to McDonald that Mack thought worth writing down.


When just out of college, and a member of ROTC, Frank Drake had enrolled in the Navy to pay off his student loans. He stayed in a couple of years, serving on the destroyer USS Albany, on duty in the Atlantic.

At the Mars-Venus conference, Sagan told McDonald and Cameron this:

While on duty in the North Atlantic, Drake witnessed THE EMERGENCE OF A UFO FROM THE WATER from the Albany.

I wonder ... is it conceivable to anyone that such an experience could serve to interest the "Father of SETI" for a lifetime, if only from a safe closet?? [please insert sarcasm and irony tones].

The truth is that all sorts of SETIans have/had a true interest in UFOs. I had the great privilege to attend a workshop on the Odds on ETI run by the wonderful gentleman Dr. Michael Papagiannis from Boston University [himself an editor of a SETI-related journal.] Papagiannis was clearly interested and published his opinion that ETI could easily be in the Solar System currently and living in large space-faring structures in the asteroid belt. [where he suggested we make a genuine research probe to see.]

So why the disconnect?

Two things control almost everything: Money and Fear. The big wheels follow the money. Think about it: if the government spends a ton on UFOs, everybody else suffers. Where's the incentive to be a supporter? Especially if you're in a field where the new guy is directly going to put you out of business. UFO data: thousands. SETI data: zero.

The second thing is fear. If you're not a big wheel, your whole research life depends upon how the wheels view you. Sagan almost got blackballed by the wheels until he finally got in line and began publicly mocking UFOs. I know that this is NOT where the romantic side of him naturally went. For certain it was not where Drake's and Papagiannis' were.

We were all young hot-shots exploring the whole universe with our imaginations once upon a time. Some got so "important" that they had to shut some of the windows onto their souls. Thank the Lord that I never became important.... LOTS more fun and feeling "clean" that way.

God bless and Peace, friends. Keep the pure winds of truth in your sails.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

The Ghostly vs Biological Sides of the Central Asian Wildman

The work of Rinchen and his insightful idea about relating a disappearing ecosystem to the disappearance of the Wild Man, plus the distressing "news" about Tibetan alternative medicine make a case for the biological reality of the creature at least once upon a time, if not now. But there is the whole other side of the experiences which still lingers about the subject --- that many if not most of the encounters [in the end] don't result in anything particularly physical at all [except "footprints-in-the-snow."] To put it another way, the paranormal theory is still out there.

I'll not be able to be a lot of help on this conundrum, but it feels to me that some of the sanest-seeming materials gathered by the Russian Committee have that "ghostly" aura of "you can just about see me can't you?" that passes a bit of a chill over my mind when I contemplate these things. Today I'll report on some more of the things in the monographs which are so familiar to us: that the "thing" seems just there, but just not quite in reach.

A recurring commentary in these materials [which the Committee wants to ignore, as it is very enthusiastic about finding some crypto-bioform], is that many of the sources feel that the entity is a demon or in our terms some sort of paranormal being. When western-type hunters want to shoot the creature, the local people insisted that they stop --- apparently quite persuasively, as the hunters did so against their predilections. Many of the reports have the herder/peasant meeting the wildman and, naturally, running away, but the reporter insists on remarking that one MUST do this as the wildman is a demon and brings ill fortune. At least half of the stories involving lamas/monks have them running in fear of the demon, or maintaining "relics" [bogusly simulated or not] with serve as respect for these entities. Some of these "relics" are even employed in ceremonies. The lamas cannot be taking these entities lightly.

So what's going on? Shouldn't the lamaseries know what they're talking about? They should be the long-term memories of the region, and the foci for all manner of information. Yet they persist in thinking of the beings as preternatural. Are they just more ignorant than others living in the same locales? That seems to me to be like believing that The Vatican had less knowledge about what was going on in the Italian Alps in the Middle Ages than other people.

The Russian Committee gathered information about the two books illustrated above. Although I don't note that they mention this, these two documents were uncovered by a research team from Czechoslovakia which visited Mongolia and particularly Ulan Bator in 1958 to study Mongolian anthropology and archaeology. While at the former monastery of Gandan, the team discovered the top illustrated manuscript, and at the central library in Ulan Bator, the bottom one.

The top is originally Tibetan, and with a translation into Chinese. The bottom is in Mongolian with a translation into Manchurian. The bottom is, as best as I can determine from sketchy commentary, a "recent" book, dating perhaps to the early 20th century. The top book is at least one hundred years older. One is obviously the source for the other, and that source is Tibetan.

The text of the entire book [much longer than just the "wildman" pages illustrated] is entitled something  like "Anatomical Dictionary for Recognizing Various Diseases", and is a sort of "natural medicine" book. It is filled with illustrations and descriptors of Tibetan Flora and Fauna, and relates them, sadly, to their use in producing curatives for these diseases.

Although I remain disgusted by the idea, the wildman is described as a source of medical materials. The text which specifies the use of wildman materials is written beside the drawing in the 20th century version. "The wildman lives in the mountains, his origin is close to that of the bear, his body resembles that of a man and he has enormous strength. His meat may be eaten to treat mental diseases and his gall cures jaundice." [This is pretty similar to what books on Tibetan medicine say about Bears today]. Whether this is also stated somewhere in the older Tibetan version, I don't know. One assumes that something of the sort must be there somewhere.

But I'm puzzled by a whole number of things here. The Tibetan version pictures the wildman ["mi rgod"][ could be related to "mi-ge" as we've heard before] with some significant difference to the Mongolian. The Tibetan is black/dark not white/light and is very much more ape or even bear like. Though both are posed anthropomorphically, for some reason the later Mongolian version has chosen to make its "kumun goregesu" much more facially human. None of the later manuscript's facial features appear in the Tibetan original.

I don't know what to make of this. As a historian, I trust the primary manuscript over the secondary. If so, what is it telling us? Maybe that the wildman is more ape or bear or unknown like than the near-man of the Mongolian. One could see why the authors of a medicinal text would feel more comfortable slaughtering a bear-like or an ape-like animal than a human-like one.

But, if this seems to push the definition more towards the cryptobiological animal concept, what explains all the folkloric and "theological" stuff? We need a Tibetan scholar that's for sure. For me this is driving me to the concept of two wildly different opinions about Mi-Ge/ Gul-biavan/Yeti in Tibet.

Some Buddhists seem to regard it as an animal to be harvested. Some Buddhists seem to regard it as a spiritual entity or force. The former sounds like the old Bon Nature Religion. The latter sounds like "High Buddhism." Some of the everyday folks seem to see it in the Bon way; some seem to see it in the paranormal spirit way. Who's correct? It's possible, I suppose, that both are.

This is a big place rife with tales collected all over it. Rinchen's interest areas are mainly in the area shown, but the southwestern China mountains and rhododendron forests and the edge of the Himalayas don't even make it on the map. Can we have Almas in the regions above, and in the rhododendron forests they or some other cryptobio-beings? And can we at the same time have the Mi-Ge paranormal entity that the lamaseries of the Himalayas are so concerned about? Do the two [or three?] mysteries flow together in migrating stories all over the region, making their unraveling nearly impossible?

I'd like to mention one other thing. It is probably irrelevant but who knows? The Tibetan illustration for the Wildman chooses to pose the entity in a way which seems a little surprising to me. I get the upright stance, but I don't see why one would bother with the high-held left arm. Unless maybe it's originally meant to be symbolic.

Tibetan illustrations are extremely symbolic in how they portray limbs placement. What you find is that the left arm is rarely raised --- I don't know why, surely Tibetan scholars do. In the rare cases of a raised left arm, the entity is usually either threatening something or in one case I found up to no good. If the original picture of the Wildman used by the Tibetan medical book writer was in fact a Tantric illustration of a powerful spiritual being [which the later writer ignored because he was of a differing school of thought about Mi-Ge] then illustrating the Mi-Ge in this stance was merely copying "old knowledge", but with none of the original intent to convey the spirit meaning.

As I say, perhaps this means nothing. But there is plenty of room in Tibetan thought for wild humanoid form demon entities wandering the mountains and forests. "Bdud" [top] and "Ma-Mo" [bottom] are folks that I have no desire to run into.

For all my reading in these Russian documents, I, for what little this is worth, come away with two fairly strong impressions: 1). Rinchen and a slightly earlier Russian had a brilliant idea that one could correlate more convincing wild man tales with the inclusion within them of mentions of primitive horses and camels --- thus pointing to a signature ecology within which this creature [perhaps the "Almas-style version" of these things] might have existed; and 2). that the most realistic "evidence" for me have been the tales by observant hunter/explorers who speak of mysterious footprints not matching the known, and unidentifiable sounds in the night, and distant shadowy figures naked and hair-covered but uncatchable.

Rinchen makes me believe in the animal. The explorers make me lean back to the spirit entity. So, yes, as usual, the mystery remains robust.

I'll leave you with this guy with the forbidding raised left arm: he's using his formidable power to hold back the Sun in order to not pay his bar bill --- I kid not. Seems like an abuse of power to me.

Peace friends --- hope you had a Happy St. Pat's and paid your bar bill.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

A Dark Side to the Disappearance of the Asian Wildman??

Once upon a time in Tibet....

sometime in the 17th century, a Tibetan lama was painting a large wall-hanging Tamka/Tangka [spell it as it pleases you; I've seen it several ways] for meditation within a temple space. Its central figure was probably Padmasambhava, and arrayed about the edges were squares within which other deity-like figures were represented. One, our revered lady above, was Green Tara.

Something happened to that temple. It may have been destroyed or abandoned during the 20th century encroachment of the Chinese, or it may have ceased to exist earlier. The wall-hanging meditation paintings made their way into Nepal. There, the caretakers of the paintings decided that they had no further use for them, and sold them to a westerner. For whatever reason, he simply stored them away ... badly.

After the Viet Nam war, two dishonorably-discharged survivors of that war hung on in south Asia, migrating into Nepal. They turned into "modern-style" Buddhists --- with the shallow mantras of the new agers layered over what were basically good hearts. Desperate to "make a living", the Wisconsin native returned to the USA to set up an Oriental Curio shop, while the friend stayed in Nepal as the acquirer.

There he discovered the 17th century paintings rotting away unseen for many years. Mostly they were tragically unsalvageable. Sometimes along the edges, vignettes were just still "alive". So our Green Tara was cut from the remainder of the decay, and sent on. She was damaged, but unbowed.

Then one day in the 1970s, a young man from Milwaukee and a young man from Kalamazoo decided to meet halfway in Chicago to exchange money for treasure. The ex-Catholic Buddhist and the Irish-Catholic boy from Michigan both thought it somewhat of a hoot that the meeting was in the lower level of St. Patrick's Cathedral. They were sure that the Spiritual World was smiling.

The Milwaukeean brought a dorje, a phorba, a butter-burnt skullcap, a thighbone trumpet, and other wonders in his sack. In his hand was the rolled cloth of Green Tara. ... and so she came to Michigan.

... and what does this have to do with the Central Asian Wildmen? For me at least it had a lot to do with the issue, and this is withering away now that I'm reading the Russian documents. Tara, for me, personified the sort of Buddhist insight that I felt was Buddhism greatest contribution to world culture: the holding sacred of life in all its forms, and all its relationships. Tara is the life-protecter, the healer, the enlightener of Nature. She imprinted upon my mind the idea that in this Buddhist world, advanced living things would not be deliberately killed. Thus, it seemed to me, any almas, yeti, gul-biavan would stand an exceptional chance at remaining.

The Russian documents tell me that this is nearly completely wrong.

I was reading along in monograph #3 of the Russian Committee, generally enjoying the text although its evidence wasn't inspiring at the moment, when I ran into a depressing run of pages. The content focussed on Tibetan Medicine.

I'd heard about Tibetan Medicine, of course, and how it was split between two "schools" of medical knowledge: healing medicine and killing or "political" medicine. For some reason I had never put this together with my view of the peaceful, life-affirming higher Buddhist ideals. I guess it was because, try as one might, it DOESN'T fit well together. In these pages of the Committee materials, it became obvious that not only was "political" medicine disjunctive with Green Tara's higher ideals [though one can always rationalize War as a sort of re-harmonizing], but even curative medicine was no innocent lamb. In short, the pages talked of using the Wildman as fodder for a certain medical recipe of great monetary worth. ... oh great.

The Text talked of the production of "Mumen" or Moomuyam", and it's necessary ingredient: the boiling down of a "Red Man", or an Akvan.

Well, naive me. I've regularly cursed traditional oriental medicine for aiding in the extinction of many of the Lord's finest creations in Asia, but to extend this to the Central Asian Wildmen still took me by surprise.

After a series of near-ridiculous folk stories about Wildmen, which they said were referred to as "Khivan" or "Akvan", the following quote appeared:

"The Hindu gypsies, Lule, used to be in close communication with the Snow Man, because of that famous medicine, Mume, which was in great demand in the center of Asia, and only Indian rajahs nabobs could afford the price of it. The gypsies, who before the revolution were wandering to the south of middle Asia, used to talk about the Snow Man, but, like the Kurgiis {Kirghiz?}, they don't consider him a supernatural creature."

Then after a few sentences about how some regions view the Snow Man as a spirit and others an animal [the name Khivan allegedly meant animal, but to me this might be a prejudice as there are people named Khivans in bordering areas --- Akvan however is universally a spirit demon], the text turned back to the "medicine".

"The neighborhood around Khakim on the river Karakahl in the Gap of the Duwakh Gara [the Russian transcriber of the original audiotapes was having a losing battle with the names therein], is pointed out as one where there are many Gevs [another name for wild men], and there is an abundance of material for the Mumer. "

That "testimony" ended to be followed by separate things retelling experiences of finding footprints on high mountain glacial snow. These were somewhat interesting even though direct contact was not involved --- I may get to them in a later post. It would have been nice if this was all there was about Mumer, as I wouldn't have even focussed on it at all. But more "testimony" came in from Uzbekistan and the town of Sergan.

In this a man spoke of his father who was very interested in the medicines of central Asia. About Mumer he said:

"This medicine was supposedly effective in all kinds of sicknesses and diseases. I might say that in 1912, one little grain of this mysterious potion was almost one ruble in gold, ... this was certainly a very expensive medicine. ...

"This Mumer was peddled around by the Luli or the Asiatic gypsies.  {He then listed several authorities on these claims}. There was a rumor that this potion was procured by the cooking or boiling of a live red man {an Orang-utan?}, but my father had obtained information that this was procured by boiling a red Khivan, or Akvan, otherwise a Snow Man.

[referring then to another book entitled "The Riddles and Demons of Tibet", he went on]:
" On page 344 there is mention of using the blood of Mi-Ge --- that is the Wild Man. By the way, the word Mumeneghe in Kajick [kazhjik] means 'wax from Mi-Ge' and out of this originated, of course, the word that was used before 'Mumer', because it is closer to the Turkoman or Oursbak, or Kirghiz languages. The hypothesis on the origin of Mumer from Mi-Ge throws a light on a whole series of circumstances."

The correspondent then went on to identify an iron-smelting region where once abundant "Akvan" lived. He hypothesized that these smelters produced Mumer on the side as "it was quite a profitable occupation, because each Akvan, when boiled down could produce enough material for some 5000 rubles profit."


The above is a Persian area rendition of an Akvan, portrayed in Persian legend as a demon spiritual being of unfriendly type. Our Wild Man doesn't fit the behavior nor the appearance. But Mi-Ge DOES fit the general concept of an awesome mysterious being. The "Akvan" word could easily have been ported over into central Asia and assigned to Mi-Ge, Yeti, Gul-Biavan, Almas there in some areas.

So what's Mumen anyway? Modern western "Tibetan" medicine persons either feign ignorance or give an obviously wrong answer. The line that they take is that this was a medicine based upon minerals [sorry, that doesn't fit anything], and they base this on the fact that a word "mumen" is a word for {probably, even this isn't certain} Lapis Lazuli. They therefore tinker together several mineral powders including Lapis Lazuli and sell it to you as Mumer/Mumen, the all-curing medicine.

"Mumen" in modern Tibetan means at least two different things: Lapis Lazuli and a Tibetan rodent. Who knows what else it may mean. Tibetan medicine is, as it turns out, rife with the use of body parts of top-of-the-food-pyramid animals. Bears, big cats, yak, even elephant are a few. Using Mi-Ge as part of these potions would certainly fit the culture. I am intrigued by the name of one medicine: "Mig-sMan". It is a potion using Musk and Bear's Bile among other things. Mi-Ge and Mig-sMan ... just a vibe. It is for eye problems. Older thoughts said the Mumen was especially good for ailments of the stomach.

All of this is pretty disgusting to me. The possibility that we enlightened humans could have not merely pressed the Asian Wildman out of existence, but consciously hunted it down for potions, puts me in a bad space where Green Tara's soothing dharmic vibrations are particularly welcome. Along with the minimal research that I did, I found [further destroying my idealism] that although there are proscriptions against killing [especially] wild animals, IF the monasteries really feel that they need such substances for whatever use, there are means of obtaining them.

Literally, "is nothing sacred?"

Sorry to put us through that. Maybe it's important in understanding. Here are some of Mom's doodles of joyful birds to make us all happier.


Saturday, March 1, 2014

Rinchen Y-Byambyn and the Central Asian Wildmen

{ first a preliminary note on workload here: I am immersed in the long task of scanning my UFO files with the intention of making them available broadly someday. This task is long and the "after-task" work with the UFOs and Government book group will be longer, so don't look for them on the internet anytime soon. The relevance here is that this absorbs lots of time away from the blog --- I'll do what I can.}

Now to the matter of today: You know from the last two posts that I, after luckily stumbling upon a rare Russian ABSM reference, have been trying to give some of the content for you. After attempting a data summary of sorts from monograph #2, I cracked open monograph 3 and read something that I thought interesting, and maybe new to some of you. This was an english translation of two items about Central Asian ABSM possibilities by the legendary Mongolian scholar "B. Rinchen." After saying a few words about Rinchen himself, I believe that it will be appropriate to just re-type his whole writing here. Normally I wouldn't do that, but this seems like a primary resource which maybe no one who reads this blog has seen, and few people anywhere. 

This quick thumbnail biography is to indicate why the Soviet Snowman Committee would lead off its "data collection" monographs with information gained from him.

Rinchen was born in 1905 on the borders of Mongolia and Russia to what we'd call middle class parents [his father was a language translator and a public educator.] He "automatically" became proficient in Mongolian, Russian, and Manchu. By the time of the first congress of the Mongolian People's Party in 1921, Rinchen was working there as an interpreter. In 1924 he went to Leningrad to study along with several other Mongolian boys. He, in 1927, graduated [the first Mongolian to do so, I believe] with the degree of "Orientalist", an expert in Eastern Languages and History.

Once graduating, he applied himself to his interests in all-things-Mongolian [literature, ethnography, religion, folklore, and even palaeontology and prehistory.] He became a fiction writer "on the side" and, somewhen between the thirties and forties wrote poetry and novels, one of which is considered essential reading for Mongolian school children in recent times. This book, ZAAN ZALUUDAI, depicts Rinchen's idea of living in the Mongolian prehistoric past. Perhaps I am wrong here, but I see a strain of unity in his interests in how the Mongolian people came to be and his interests in the Mongolian wildman.

In the early 1950s Rinchen studied for and received his doctorate in linguistics --- I believe that I am on stronger ground to suggest that this WAS the first PhD by a Mongolian scholar from a western university. A decade earlier, in 1942, the first Mongolian Russian-language newspaper was published. Its editor: Byambyn Rinchen. [a small point but one creating some confusion now and then: Mongolian is an ethnic group which states the patrilineal name first and the given name second, like we would if we went about calling people "Sanderson Ivan-T" or "Mao Tse-tung". The Russians therefore refer to him, wrongly, just as I have, while his formal name is Rinchen Byambyn --- helps a little when googling. His famous fossil-discovering son is, for instance, Rinchen Barsbold.]

In the intervening years between first graduation [1927] and his PhD [1956], Rinchen pursued many things in his interest to find out everything about his culture and his land. One of these were stories about the Central Asian wildmen. Because he was so highly respected as an all-everything Mongolian scholar, when the Soviet Snowman Committee formed in 1958, they went right to Rinchen for information.

So, here goes with the Committee's "findings" directly from him. He suggested an article that he had just written [1958] on the subject, and followed with a supplementary letter in 1959. The article, the far longer piece, goes as follows:

Title: "Almass, Mongolian Relatives of the Snow Man"

" From time immemorial the Mongolians were aware of wild horses and camels. They also knew of the existence of the wild man whose habitat coincided with areas inhabited by wild horses and camels. The travelers during the Middle Ages who who visited Mongolia mentioned in their accounts that the Mongolians knew of the existence of the wild man who lived on the fringes of the Gobi desert, but somehow this information escaped the attention of scientists.

In Mongolian there is a special terminology for all the wild beasts of the region. The wild horse was known as "takhi", the European scholars knew it under the name of Prjewalski's horse; the wild camel was "khaptagai", and the wild man as "almass". Many toponymical names in these regions where once upon a time lived this (unknown to science, but well known to Mongolians) wild man, bear names which tie in with the Mongolian definitions, like "almasin ulaan khad", red rock of almass.

The late professor B. Baradin was the only scientist who was fortunate enough to meet an 'almass' during his travels .... {at this point either the Committee or the translator decided to omit this story, saying that it had already been covered by Porshnev in an article in Contemporary East} ... booo....

According to the data collected by the late Professor Jamtzarano from 1890 to 1925, the area of the habitat of the wild man became much smaller in size and roughly coincided with the area inhabited by wild horses and camels in the South-Eastern Mongolia.

Brief information on the materials collected by Professor Jamtzarano was published recently in the bulletin prepared by a committee charged with the responsibility of studying the 'snow man'. In the same bulletin was also a brief compilation of the data I was able to get together in 1927. "

{ I wonder if Rinchen collected this wild man data as part of his graduating degree the same year? Seems too much of a coincidence.}

... at this point the committee or the translator shifts into a third party mode for some reason... but I'll still quote it.

" Dr. Rinchen goes on to tell how he met three different witnesses who claimed that they had seen dead  and live 'almass'.

One was an elementary school teacher in Gobi-Altai who saw in 1929 or 1930 a dead almass girl who was killed inadvertently by a hunter. He also saw a live male almass.

The second witness was a member of the border patrol who saw three almass and mistook them for refugees from beyond the border.

The third witness is a man who is at the present time working in a pharmacy in Ulan Bator. This man describes how together with three hunting companions, in the mountains of Burkhutoo, in the upper basin of the Deelum-Gol river, they came upon footprints of naked feet in the soft snow. Following these footprints they came within 100 meters of a tall powerfully built man with a shock of gray hair, whose body was covered with dark short hair. His wide shoulders, muscular body, and height [not less than two meters] astonished the hunters. The natives reacted to this apparition differently -- 'Albast -- the spirit of the mountains!' -- they exclaimed.

For the witnesses -- Nagmit and Joltaiev -- this encounter with the albast [as the kasakhs call the Mongolian almass] was a most interesting experience. They hailed him and he stopped, looking at the people with interest. They offered him food and clothing. Noticing that he did not understand them, they folded the clothing and foodstuffs and walked away. It became apparent that the almass had no desire to come over. Then they made a move toward him. The almass moved away, keeping his distance and not allowing the people to come nearer to him. When they stopped, he stopped; when they moved, he moved away. Nagmit and Joltaiev fired a few shots at him from a small caliber gun, but were not able to hit him. {thank the Lord --- we are a real bunch of jerks}. At this point the local hunters protested the shooting and they had to stop."

... at this point the translator seems to shift back to Rinchen's own words [though much of the previous could well be quoting too...]

" One is able to meet at the present time many old men living around Gobi who claim that they saw footprints of almass on wild paths, and also their silhouettes at early dawn. They all agree that at the present time, the almass is seen less and less.

Old female almass are called by the people of Gobi 'zageen-emgen' - { here the translator admits defeat on the phrase --- the feeling is for the term to indicate a very old female creature who lives among rocky places }. According to the description, the almass are slightly stooped in posture, have bent knees, and arms longer than humans. They have long hair on the head, and their bodies are covered with short darkish hair. The females have long hanging breasts. The almass are not familiar with fire or firearms.

In the northern part of Mongolia, the name almass is almost unknown, as well as the names of the wild horses and camels. In the central part one may sometimes hear tales which were derived from lama folklore about almass being demonic creatures.

In the southern regions of Gobi, even though they have no wild horses, or camels, or almass, one may hear tales about chance meetings with them. In other regions, however, where all three species lived at the turn of the century, the stories are of a more concrete character. The rare instances where the almass was seen in 1930-1938 supports the idea that the creature is close to extinction now, and that a close relative of the Himalayan 'snow man' actually did live in the south-east of Mongolia during the early decades of this century, and is perhaps still existing in the far and remote regions seldom visited by people.

At any rate, these chance encounters with the almass in Mongolia support the thought that this close relative of the snow man inhabited Gobi and the mountains around it, and probably survived to the present time.

Accumulation of material in the places and regions of the ever-narrowing area of almass habitat will help in the study and clarification of this question. The tales about the hairy almass and the saxatile grand mother are so realistic, and the description of the few eyewitnesses are so vivid, that it is impossible to deny the existence of this distant relative of ours, who fell behind in his development, and at the present time is at the last stage of his existence. Like the wild horse 'takhi', and the wild camel 'khaptagai', the 'almass' is retreating before encroachment of the man who is gradually taking over large portions of the vast Gobi desert. "

Rinchen, writing in Contemporary Mongolia 1958.

I find that there is no way to read this without feeling, concurrently, optimistic that almass recently existed, and sad.

And now to his letter to the committee:

"I was so crowded with work that it was impossible for me to leave Ulan-Bator, nevertheless I have much interesting information.

A worker at the local fruit experimental station by name of Chimidorji, who was born in the south Gobi district, gave a student of mine, Badra, some interesting data about things which took place 20 or 25 years ago.

A monk by the name of Dambaiorin, a resident of south Gobi, was traveling by camel to Sudgin Gobi, and saw a naked child. Thinking that the child may have been lost, he came nearer and noticed that the child was covered all over with red hair. The monk realized that he was seeing a little almass, and in panic turned and ran for his life, because Mongolian monks consider the almass a supernatural creature.

About the same year and in about the same region of East Gobi, a local woman met, not too far from an ancient stone burial place, a naked almass child. She likewise turned and ran.

Also the same year, a man who was driving a herd of horses through the Nomogan pass was set upon by an adult female almass, but was able to get the best of her.

Another local woman who was tending sheep in about the same region, saw a little almass approaching her sheep and ran away abandoning her flock. The next day a neighbor of hers whose turn it was to tend sheep also saw apparently the same little almass.

In the eastern Gobi near the pass of the High Blue Mountains -- Undur Khukhu -- a local farmer was attacked by a male almass, but managed to gallop away, leaving behind one of his boots. A similar attack took place to the northeast in the Sumburin Pass.

According to Chimidorji, in all the above mentioned regions there is an abundance of information about numerous meetings between local residents and the almass. One may also find some residents who saw the almass, or were attacked by him.

According to Chimidorji, local trackers could find, in the regions once inhabited by the almass, their remains. How true it is, I don't know, but there is no doubt that the local farmers remember the almass who inhabited their region at the turn of the century.

I was told that the father and grandfather of one of the workers of the local base, in the general store, met with the almass in the Gobi regions.

Dorgisirun, an archaeologist of the historical institute told me recently, that in the late thirties of this century at his birthplace in northeast Mongolia, once in early spring, a naked hairy man wandered in and was driven away by the dogs. The women of the settlement decided that he was a cannibal. The farmers who attempted to pursue him followed his footprints and noticed that he stopped from time to time on elevated places. But they were unable to catch up with him. The footprints showed that this creature had widely spread toes. The spring of that year was a 'hungry' one and, because of lack of food, there appeared around the settlements many wild animals from Gobi not previously seen in those parts."

Ulan-Bator, March 8, 1959.

So... those were the direct inputs to the Snow Man Committee by the great man. Rinchen obviously believed the Almass to be real and his hypothesis was that it was a distant relative of humans dying out. He buttressed his views intelligently by integrating what he knew about palaeontology and biology and linguistics --- his Almass were a species which had grown in an ecology also containing the wild horse and camel, and he saw those connections as tight and beyond coincidence.

Generally, I've grown to like Rinchen --- a true in-the-heart Fortean, following a mystery in everything he did. Was he "right" about Almass being a different species rather than a dying micro-culture?

... hmmmm.... who knows ... there are some pretty impressive Mongolians.

Till next time ... maybe not for a while with this scanning project going, but I'll try.

Peace, folks.


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