The Abominable Snowman: Where Legend Meets Fact
The myth of the Yeti, a creature better known as the “Abominable Snowman”, has long fascinated us. It’s allure was so compelling to us at one time that, early on, even the reports of Bigfoot which began to emerge in North America were referred to as “Abominable Snowmen of the Americas” for a period, by researchers the likes of Ivan Sanderson.
Much like its American cousin, the existence of the Yeti of the Himalayas has been hotly contested. In 1951, what were then, and are still considered by many today to be the best photographs of a Yeti footprint were obtained by explorer Eric Shipman, joined by Michael Ward on an expedition on Mount Everest. Theories about the photograph, which included an axe blade alongside the print for comparison, range from a valid print left by a mystery primate, to a misshapen, and thus misleading arrangement of depressions having gone through various stages of snow melt and re-freezing.
Over the years, despite its advocates, as well as those who allow for the possibility that such a creature might exist in other parts of the world, evidence for the Himalayan Yeti remains fairly scant. Nonetheless, the stories about the creature have persisted, lending believe to the cause for discovery of the as-yet mysterious animal. Professor Bryan Sykes of Oxford, in conducting a DNA analysis of a variety of hair samples collected over the years, managed to produce no evidence of anything genetically dissimilar from known species; despite this, his apparent willingness to lend at least some advocacy to the scientific pursuit of such a “myth” led him to being summarily castigated by the more skeptical factions of the scientific community.
Despite the lack of physical proof, there are, and long have been, the stories of these fabled animals. Stories the likes of this one, sent along by a reader named Seth, who shared a retelling with me of such a sighting, as well as a few of the odd traditions that are kept regarding the creatures:
While in Sikkim, India at a Tibetan monastery, I befriended a Bhutanese monk about my age.
One day he relayed to me a story about his grandfather.
His grandfather was part of the Bhutanese army and was a “runner” who brought messages from place to place, often traveling a few days over the mountains.
One night, as he and his partner we running a message over a 5-days trek, they hunkered down for a few hours of rest on a mountainside. He told me they made a fire and while they were relaxing, they began smelling something terrible. They looked around for the cause and from behind the trees, a yeti stepped out of the darkness into the firelight. The men screamed and ran away.
My friend told me that they have yeti in Bhutan, and in fact they know where some reside. He told me that yeti live up mountain from his village, in a place where they need to occasionally venture to gather thinner bamboo for making baskets. He told me that as children they were taught if a yeti chases them, they should identify its sex and make their escape accordingly, running uphill for a male and downhill for a female. Apparently the logic behind this is the female’s breasts get in her way during downhill movements while the male’s member impedes his uphill running.
I had a distinct sense that the yeti was a folkloric type creature from the communities mentality and yet there were actual sightings as well.
It is this odd boundary between the mere “legends”, and the possible fact that may underly some of the Yeti stories, that continues to fascinate us. Primatologist John Napier (one who had felt the Yeti was more likely than Bigfoot to purely myth) referred to such odd boundaries as spillovers from “the Goblin Universe”, in order to make the distinction between what science could accept and account for, and those things which fall outside of acceptable scientific thought, but perhaps deserve attention nonetheless. “It will become intellectually necessary from time to time to abandon the real world and, like Persephone, enter the dark regions of another world which I like to call the Goblin Universe.”
“It is simple enough to apply reason to what is reasonable,” Napier continues, “but it is much more difficult to argue logically about the illogical. However, there comes a time when it is necessary to do so in order to demonstrate the illogicality of a major premise…. The rules of logic in our world forbid the drawing of inferences from hypotheses, but this is the currency the monster establishment currently deals in…. I am necessarily tackling them, as well as the subject of Bigfoot, and so I shall sometimes have to resort to their logical method.”
It is not to say here, nor had it been Napier’s intent with the aforementioned statement he made decades ago, to argue against scientific thought when it comes to the discussion of “monsters.” It is, however, our aim to realize that for subjects that are essentially “forbidden” in logical, scientific discourse today, we must occasionally give consideration to those things which seem to strange to fathom; often, these are the “monstrous” subjects themselves, which do seem to walk a peculiarly thin line between that which is the stuff of legend, and the scant crumbs of logic that are scattered upon the proving grounds of fact.
Therein, perhaps, lies the key to solving the mystery of these fabled denizens of “The Goblin Universe.”