Wildmen, ABSMs, Yeti, Sasquatch et al
There are surely plenty of reasons to see the issues surrounding "Wildmen" as analogous to those involved with the water cryptids. So, maybe, "Bunk", misinterpretation, biology, and faery are the categories of choice.
Well, you know my view of the "bunk theory" BS. There is no way that the vast numbers of reports on this subject by all manner of witnesses can be hoaxers or con artists or fish story tellers. So, to hell with that category and on to the others.
Misinterpretations? Sure. Some incidents could be people not realizing how big some rare humans are, and encountering them just at the wrong moment and the wrong environment. And that's saying nothing about the more likely brush with an adult bear. But many interactions are way too close for this.
A more serious alternative hypothesis would involve the genetic abnormalities causing extreme hair growth. If you put this sort of gene into a very tall person, and have that person banned from society after his condition manifested. Like the famous "boys raised by wolves", such a (admittedly rare) combination would make a VERY good Wildman of the Mountains.
It seems just possible that such a situation could lead to a cultural legend. Thinking WAY outside the box, if the genetic issue was dominant genetically, and not an early killer, a small tribe of hyper hairy humans could multiply. Other genetic clustering has been known to occur
(ex. the large numbers of albinos in a native Panamanian culture in the Darien Province.)
But this scenario shouldn't also selectively produce giganticism, so we really should look elsewhere. Because of the numbers and the quality of at least some of the reports, the core alternative theories should reduce to "Bio" vs "Paranormal."
All people here know that I hold the Ivan Sanderson archives, and that Ivan was, perhaps, the most intensely interested biologist in all things ABSM. Ivan ALWAYS wanted a biological answer to these things, NOT a paranormal one. It was he who wrote the classic ABSM book, covering both the Americas and the Asian areas. He gave the paranormal idea essentially no space.
He covered all the classic evidence (such as the Shipton Yeti print above.) He mapped everything he could. He theorized on the "standard" shapes and structures of the dozens of reports that he had in his files. He chased The Minnesota Iceman hoax all around the country hoping that it was a true carcass. (That's what Ivan is staring at in the picture two up.) Until Grover Krantz showed up, Ivan was about as scientific about this possibility of these critters being biological as anyone in the world.
When I began to get a little serious about looking at ABSM mysteries, Grover Krantz, PhD anthropologist from Washington State University was really getting rolling in terms of analyses of west coast cases. I sat enthralled by his approach (and fired off a few photos like the above when I thought it wouldn't bother anyone listening.) He was offering a rational hypothesis which involved mapping human populations and bigfoot hotspots, structural analysis of certain footprints which showed (he said) things that a footprint hoaxer would not know, and (as he is holding up above) a reconstructed skull of the extinct anthropoid Gigantopithecus, a possible biological candidate for Sasquatch. Krantz' complexity had so many angles going for it, that I took a long step back from my skeptical first impression, and said to myself: this just maybe could be true.
The first parts of my own forays looked promising. There were plenty of PNW Native American references to such a creature, and some could easily be interpreted as biological.
Irrationally, just shifting the name in my head from Bigfoot to Sasquatch made me feel more seriously about the creature. Dr. Krantz added to the enthusiasm by kindly sending me several cast copies of key cases that he had in his labs.
I would have had a better BBall career if I'd have had that kind of handsize. The hand cast was sort of fun, but the Bossburg Cripple cast was the one that Krantz claimed had structural odd aspects which for him eliminated the hoax hypothesis. What was even more intriguing to me was the casting which was done from such fine particle sand that the cast showed clear signs of "dermoglyphs" (what you and I call fingerprints, or toeprints in this case.) Dermoglyphs on a faked footprint seemed VERY hard to imagine to me.
I began mapping the classic resources' cases vs the population densities of the northern Rockies and coast. It sort of worked and sort of didn't. At this point things were promising enough to do the work of diving into the Asian versions of the ABSMs.
This too seemed good. Above are "A"a page from a very old Chinese "encyclopedia" showing the Hairy Wildman; "B" the famous Shipton ape-like "Yeti" print; and my photo of an alleged hunk of Snowman chest hair handed around to us at a cryptozoology meeting. The persons controlling that sample promised a fairly quick scientific analysis. IF that hair proved unmatchable with known animal hair, we'd be pretty close to certain that Yeti was not only real but textbook biology.
Things then began to go both right and wrong.
A puzzling (to me) wrong thing was that the hair sample was either not analyzed or the results never published. I'm sure that not only I but also the entirety of the International Society for Cryptozoology were watching eagerly. ... but silence.
What went right was the Ivan Sanderson library. In that library was an amazing and very rare resource.
I hadn't paid any attention to these things; they were in Russian afterall. Five monographs. I got interested when, buried in the SITU files, there emerged translations of almost all of these --- Ivan couldn't read Russian either, so he had people do this service for him. I didn't know it at the time, but later someone told me that he knew of only three copies.
They were commentaries and diaries of joint Russian military and scientific explorations across Asia from the Black Sea area to the China borders looking for evidence of the Hairy Wildman. As needs no mention: Quite interesting.
The biological argument requires you to quit just humming a happy tune about single good cases, but to think like a biologist. This Bigfoot you think that you see cannot be a stand-alone Bigfoot. There must be a reproducing population. That means not only "two-by-two" or even "seven-by-seven" as Noah would demand, but probably 60-100 to keep things genetically right.
.... and if you're looking for "80" huge hairy apes wandering about in your close vicinity, and you're not seeing them nor their remains, it occurred to me that I needed to check my enthusiasm.
Ultimately people who had a lot more energy and stamina than I, produced all sorts of maps as this. Sasquatch sightings in Washington State. I would have hoped for a lot more clustering. There is some of that, but the map does begin to look as if these wandering biologicals might show up just anywhere. And then there were the "other" sightings.
Hmmmm ..... reproducing populations of gigantic humanoids everywhere in the country which has any water at all? AND a major concentration around Cleveland!!! Well, I jest.... Somewhat.
I don't have to buy into all those reports which made up that map, and in fact my instinct is to throw 99% away, but even then --- responsible witness reports of something like this occurring practically anywhere? "Biology" ain't in it.
I basically was in a give-it-up mood for several years. Leave it to the experts. The study of Faery has pointed towards another view, but my beginning-to-sway moment began from an unexpected source. There was a guy who was working on my house on a regular basis. I got to know him well. He was a roughneck and always had been. While working one day in the basement near the archives he noticed all the books on the "odd subjects." He wasn't much interested in UFOs, but he picked books on Bigfoot off the shelf.
He wanted to read some of this, but what he really wanted to do was tell me about his younger life in Oregon. He had grown up in the area of Sweet Home Oregon (I don't know if his father was employed by the lumber companies but that's likely.) They used to take hiking and camping trips into the mountain woods. When my worker was grown and on his own, he and his brother continued this. The brother's main interest was in sampling his illegal pot plantings up there, and my worker admitted that he wasn't objecting at all to that at first. As time went on, my worker decided that the time in the mountains was wasted if all he was doing was smoking marijuana and zoning out, so when they went, his brother would go one way (towards the pot) and he'd go another.
As these outings proceeded, he felt that there were regular signs of the presence of Bigfoot, and that he had even seen one at a distance. Then came the close encounter. He had prepared the camp in an honorary way with a recumbent dream-catcher at the campground table, plus left a portion of food behind. When he returned, the food was gone (no real mystery) but there in its place was an eagle feather. (Native American cultures consider the Eagle feather a sign of honoring the recipient as a person due respect. My worker didn't know that, but he wondered if the gift-giver was thanking him for respecting the woods.)
Suddenly there not far away was the Creature Himself. A classic Bigfoot.
He thought that he was being communicated to somehow, and the respect was mutual. Still, even with this, my worker, a tough-guy male, still held onto the idea that this was some kind of human-like biological creature.
So I asked him: how did this meeting end? He replied that the creature just turned away and vanished. I asked: Vanished? Or just walked away? He said: well, he just seemed to vanish.
I looked at him silently for a few seconds. "Vanished? Does that sound like anything biological to you?" He got silent for a moment. It was as if, just then, he realized that he had no "simple" explanation for his experiences.
... and I realized that I didn't either.
Maybe we have some unlucky human freaks here and there. Maybe we have the occasional fantasy-prone bad witness. Maybe Myra Shackley is right and there is a relict population of neanderthals in central Asia.
But what of all the others? What of the unfindables? What off the vanishers? Who do we know that acts like that? Either the mass of this is some huge social phenomenon or ... you know what.
I'm really trying to finish this folks. But there's still a little left to do. Then we can all go on to the rest of our normal lives.