That was a question put to me recently. Just about everyone has heard of Bigfoot and the Abominable Snowman (also referred to as the Yeti). It’s a fact, though, there are numerous tales of mysterious apes around the world. So, in light of the question, let’s have a look at some of those lesser-known creatures. We’ll begin with the Yowie. In the same way that Native Americans have a long history of reports of Sasquatch – and particularly so in the Pacific Northwest – Australia’s aboriginal people have long told of the existence of the towering Yowie. There is another parallel between the North American Bigfoot and the Yowie of Australia: a careful perusal of old newspapers shows that the Yowie, just like Bigfoot, was known of long before the term “Bigfoot” was created, back in the 1950s. Many of the sightings of Yowies occur in and around the vast Blue Mountains that dominate the city of Sydney and what is termed the Sydney Basin. A firsthand report, from February 1842, offers a graphic description of the beasts. It was published, as a letter, in the pages of the Australian and New Zealand Monthly Magazine: “This being they describe as resembling a man of nearly the same height, with long white hair hanging down from the head over the features, the arms as extraordinarily long, furnished at the extremities with great talons, and the feet turned backwards, so that, on flying from man, the imprint of the foot appears as if the being had traveled in the opposite direction. Altogether, they describe it as a hideous monster of an unearthly character and ape-like appearance.”
Now, let’s take a trip to South America. From various parts of South America, including Columbia, Ecuador, and Venezuela, come stories of a massive, mighty, and extremely violent Bigfoot-like creature known as Mono Grande. One of the most fascinating – but also disturbing and tragic – stories came from one Count Pino Turolla, a noted archaeologist who traveled the world, Indiana Jones-style, in pursuit of all things mysterious and fabulous. Turolla (who died in 1984 at the early age of sixty-two) was born in Yugoslavia and later immigrated to Canada. Of note, he developed what became known as the Turolla Control-Descent Parachute that was used by the U.S. military. It was while traveling across South America in the 1960s that Turolla first heard of the marauding monster. The information came from Turolla’s personal guide, Antonio, who told a shocking story. Some years earlier, Antonio and his two sons traveled to a particular range in Venezuela where they were confronted on the sprawling savannah by a trio of enormous, gorilla-like animals that were around eight feet in height, had long and hanging arms, and tiny heads. Not only that, they were armed with large and crudely fashioned wooden clubs. A violent altercation occurred, something which resulted in one of Antonio’s sons being bludgeoned to death by the merciless monsters.
In the world of Cryotozoology, the Orang-Pendeks are well-known creatures – elusive apes that live on Sumatra. They are, however, far less known outside of the world of creature-seeking. Given that the Orang-pendek walks upright, just as we do, and stands at a height of four and a half to five feet in height, its name is highly appropriate. In English, it translates to “short man.” Most witnesses to the creature describe it as having black or brown hair; however, a somewhat reddish colored hair has also been reported, in a minority of cases. Also echoing the idea of the Orang-Pendek having somewhat human qualities, it is sometimes said to have a head of long, flowing hair extending to the shoulders. Although the creature is reputedly immensely strong, and possesses large, muscular arms, it is not considered to be dangerous to people. Certainly, most witnesses that have encountered the beast at close quarters have said that when seen it generally makes good its escape, rather than act in an aggressive fashion. That said, there are a few reports of Orang-pendek hurling stones and rocks at people, but such reports are definitely in the minority.
Long before the Orang-pendek was on anyone’s radar, there was talk of other entities inhabiting the jungles of Sumatra. In his 1784 book, The History of Sumatra, William Mardsen told a fascinating story. Mardsen – who worked for the East India Company – said: “In the course of my inquiries among the natives, concerning the aborigines of the island, I have been informed of two different species of people dispersed in the woods, and avoiding all communication with the other inhabitants. They are called the Orang Cooboo and the Orang Googoo.” Mardsen said, of both species, that they existed in significant numbers, and particularly so in the regions between Palembang and Jambie. He also commented on stories he had heard, specifically concerning how some of the creatures had been captured and used as slaves, and how a man at Laboon had wed a “tolerably handsome Cooboo girl.” According to Mardsen, both the Cooboo and the Googoo possessed a language and fed “promiscuously” on just about anything and everything they could get their hands on, including deer, snakes, and wild hogs. As for their appearances, Mardsen described the Googoo as being far fiercer in nature than the Cooboo and added that their bodies were covered in long hair.
Now, let’s focus our attention on China and its equivalent of Bigfoot: the Yeren. While Yeren have been seen in a number of areas of China, certainly the one area – more than any other – that is a hotbed for sightings is Hubei, a province located in central China. It’s a vast place dominated by numerous mountains – including the Daba Mountains and the Wudang Mountains – and the Jianghang Plain. Hubei is also a province through which flows the massive, near-4,000-mile-long Yangtze River. It’s specifically the western portion of Hubei in which the Yeren has been spotted – an area noted for its dense forest and treacherous mountains. As for what the Yerens are, that is the big question: at the top of the list is Gigantopithecus, a massive, presumed extinct, ape that lived in China hundreds of thousands of years ago – and which, perhaps, may not be quite so extinct, after all. Coming in at a close second is the theory that the animal represent some form of huge, and unacknowledged, kind of Orangutan.
And, finally, situated on the northern coast of South America, Guyana is a place that, like so many other locales dominated by thick jungles and high mountains, can boast of being the domain of a Bigfoot-style entity. It is known by the people of Guyana as the Didi. Interestingly, although the Didi resembles Bigfoot in the sense of it having a humanoid form, and covered in hair, there is one big difference: the creature of Guyana possesses razor-sharp claws, which is at variance with all other apes. This has given rise to the theory that the Didi may actually be a creature known as Megatherium, a huge sloth that died out millennia ago – or, just perhaps, it didn’t. On the other hand, many witnesses to the Didi have remarked on its eerie human-like qualities, despite its savage, primitive appearance.