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Not Quite Human, Not Quite Beast

There are several explanations for all these strange stories about wondrous creatures. The first one is, obviously, that they are fakes. If one wants to make up a story about being aaacked by a monster, what could be better than describing a big, hairy, manlike creature? And if one wants to dress up as a monster to fool others, it is much easier to dress up in a Yeti-type suit than as a fire-breathing dragon. For example, in the case of the Grahamsville Gorilla, the police actually found a gorilla costume in an automobile. Even an old fur coat and hat would do as a costume after dark.

Another explanation for the popularity of the hairy monster is that the belief in these creatures psychologically takes us back to the time of our ancestors. These monsters were very popular in the Middle Ages. Many people believed in a wild man who was large, strong, and hairy. He was generally thought of as a debased or fallen human being, and lived in the forest apart from civilization. He tore up trees when he was angry. He carried off women. Professor Richard Bernheimer leans toward this explanation. He once wrote: It appears that the notion of the wild man must respond and be due to a persistent psychological urge. We may define this urge as the valid need to give external expression and symbolically valid form to the impulses of reckless physical self-assertion which are hidden in all of us, but are normally kept under control. These impulses, which are strongest and most aggressive in the very young, are restricted slowly, as the child learns to come to terms with a civilized environment, which will not tolerate senseless noise, wanton destruction, and uncalled for interference with its activities. But the repressed desire for such unhampered self-assertion persists and may finally be projected outward as the image of a mail who is free as the beasts, able and ready to try his strength without regard for the consequences to others, and therefore be able to call up forces which his civilized brother has repressed in his effort at self-control. In contrast to civilized man, the wild man is a child of nature, upon whose hidden resources he can depend since he has not removed himself from its guidance and tutelage.

A final explanation states that these beasts really are unknown species of fearsome animals. Some believe that they are some sort of anirnal that was previously thought to have been extinct. Others believe that they are some form of subhuman or primitive, manlike being. After all, evolution is not a simple straight line from ape to man. Many side branches were formed and appeared to die off. Or did they?

It's difficult to imagine how a species of monster could have remained hidden for so long. But on the other hand, many new species of animals are discovered every year. True, they tend to be insignificant in our views - animals such as previously unknown mites that live in the nasal passages of birds, for example.

But it has been estimated that, even if we eliminate Antarctica, nearly one-tenth of the land surface of the earth is unexplored. There are vast areas of the United States that contain some huge wildernesses where a large creature or even a whole tribe of them could hide.

If this is hard to believe, just consider Great Britain. Our impression of the British Isles is that all of it has been thoroughly explored. This is true, of course, but there are areas which, although explored, are not frequently visited by humans. Yet even in the early 1970s, thirty years after the end of World War II, there were cases where downed military planes were found in some obscure corners of a forest. And the fighter plane, unlike a manlike monster, obviously was not trying to hide from detection. There just are many places on the surface of the earth where a canny creature could hide from the rest of us.

Other primates, from tiny monkeys to larger chimpanzees and gorillas, fascinate us, maybe because we see in them so much of ourselves. Primates are intelligent and often take care of one another, especially their young. But they can also be violent, attacking outsiders and even turning on friends and family. So perhaps it's not too surprising that many people around the world tell stories of creatures that appear to be half-human and half-ape. These mythic primates, like bigfoot, yeti, or even King Kong, are sometimes gentle, sometimes ferocious. Not quite human, not quite beast, these creatures hint at our other side. Around the world, people tell of mysterious beasts that are part-human, part-ape: typically large, hairy creatures that walk on two legs but always seem to stay just out of sight.

Almas reside in the mountains of central Asia and the Altay Mountains and Tian Shan ranges in particular. A German traveler Johann Schiltberger, in 1400 said, "In the [Tian Shan] mountains themselves live a wild people, who have nothing in common with other human beings, a pelt covers the entire body of these creatures… They run around in the hills like animals and eat foliage and grass and whatever else they can find."

Bigfoot (sasquatch) lives across North America. The majority of bigfoot sightings occur in the northwestern United States and Canada, but reports of the creature have come from across North America. Several Sasquatch Sightings are reported every year in Oklahoma. Some Floridians report that terrible-smelling "skunk apes" inhabit the Everglades National Park.

The Chemosit comes from the east-central Kenyan forests. Some witnesses say that the chemosit looks like a hyena or a bear and call it a Nandi bear after a Kenyan tribe that lives in its reported range. The Nandi people, however, consider the creature to be an enormous, ferocious primate that enjoys eating the brains of its victims. What the Abominable Snowman is to Asia, or the great Sea Serpent is to the oceans, the Nandi bear is to Africa. It is one of the most notorious of those legendary beasts which have, so far, eluded capture and the collector's rifle."

The Hibagon resides in the Japanese mountain ranges and the Hibayama mountains in Hiroshima in particular. According to Japanese legends, the hibagon stands only five feet tall, shorter than most other bigfootlike creatures. But its footprints are enormous—two or three times the size of a human's. Not much is known about the Hibagon but some say that it is a quiet beast that is said to run from armed residents that hunt them. Like all hominids they have a unique stench that is said to smell like decomposing flesh.

The Mapinguari (also known as mapi, mapinguary and isnashi) is normally reported in South America. It is said to be largely nocturnal and to have a strange, frightful cry and a foul smell. It has extremely powerful claws that can shred palm trees. Its hair is usually said to be red in colourcomes from Brazil. Sometimes described as a Bigfoot like ape man. However it is more commonly thought of as a hairy giant ground sloth capable of rising up on two legs and hence giving the appearance of an ape man. When standing like this it is said to reach up to six feet in height. It's possible that this form of the mapinguari is the source of the Bolivian jucucu reports.In 1937, a mapinguari reportedly went on a three week rampage in central Brazil. Witnesses report that over 100 cows were found slaughtered, each with its massive tongue ripped from its body.

Orang Pendek (Indonesian for "short person") is the most common name given to a cryptid, or cryptozoological animal, that reportedly inhabits remote, mountainous forests on the island of Sumatra. Short person is an appropriate name considering its supposedly short stature and humanlike face. Local folklore holds that the elusive creatures walk with backward-pointing feet to confuse anyone trying to track them. The animal has allegedly been seen and documented for at least one hundred years by forest tribes, local villagers, Dutch colonists and Western scientists and travellers. Consensus among witnesses is that the animal is a ground-dwelling, bipedal primate that is covered in short fur and stands between 30 and 60 in tall. Reports of "The Wild Men of Borneo" probably referred to large, hairy primates called orangutans. In Indonesian, orang hutan means "man of the forest."

The Yeren is seen in remote forests and mountains of Hubei Province, China. According to Chinese legend, when the yeren encounters a human, it grabs him or her tightly by the arms and faints, overwhelmed with joy. Still holding on, it awakes and eats its victim. Witnesses typically report the creatures to be covered in reddish colored hair. Some white specimens have also been sighted. Their height is estimated to range from six to eight feet, although some colossal examples allegedly in excess of ten feet tall have been reported. Overall, it is smaller than the American Bigfoot. Like Bigfoot, the yeren is peaceful and will generally quietly walk away when encountering people.

The Yeti of the Himalayas. Westerners often call the yeti "The Abominable Snowman" of Tibet. The scientific community generally regards the Yeti as a legend, given the lack of conclusive evidence, but it remains one of the most famous creatures of cryptozoology. The appellation "Abominable Snowman" was coined in 1921. Howard-Bury includes an account of crossing the Lhakpa La at 21,000 ft where he found footprints that he believed "were probably caused by a large 'loping' grey wolf, which in the soft snow formed double tracks rather like a those of a bare-footed man". His Sherpa guides "at once volunteered that the tracks must be that of 'The Wild Man of the Snows', to which they gave the name 'metoh-kangmi'". "Metoh" translates as "man-bear" and "Kang-mi" translates as "snowman".

The Yowie is from Australia, particularly in the eastern part of the continent/south and central coastal regions of New South Wales and Queensland's Gold Coast. Over 3,000 distinct yowie sightings have been reported in the Blue Mountain area west of Sydney in the past few decades. The yowie was described as a cryptid similar to the Himalayan Yeti and the North American Sasquatch. The yowie is usually said to be a hairy and ape-like creature standing upright at between 6 ft 11 in and 12 ft. The yowie's feet are said to be much larger than a human's, but alleged yowie tracks are inconsistent in shape and toe number, and the descriptions of yowie foot and footprints provided by yowie witnesses are even more varied than those of bigfoot. Behaviourally, some report the yowie can seem timid or shy. Others suspect that the yowie is sometimes violent or aggressive.

Enormous apes aren't only creatures of myth: the massive creature is an extinct primate called Gigantopithecus blacki. A very distant relative of humans, this animal lived in southeast Asia for almost a million years, until about 300,000 years ago. And it is possible that small groups of these apes survived even longer. If so, early humans in the area could have encountered the creatures. More recently, people in China have collected the fossilized teeth and jaws of Gigantopithecus for their alleged healing powers. Anyone who discovered such a large jaw could have easily imagined that it came from an ape so colossal that it would dwarf a human. We don't know if humans ever saw one alive—the creature probably went extinct about 300,000 years ago. But fossilized jaws and teeth from this primate may have inspired stories of large humanlike creatures in parts of Asia.

The human imagination shapes mythic creatures-and can color our view of biological ones. When Western explorers in Africa first encountered gorillas, they were terrified, describing these typically reclusive animals as aggressive and violent. In 1847, Thomas S. Savage, an American missionary in Gabon, Africa, wrote: "When the male [gorilla] is first seen he gives a terrific yell, that resonates far and wide through the forest. His under lip hangs over the chin, and his hairy ridge and scalp are contracted upon the brow, presenting an aspect of indescribable ferocity. He then approaches the hunter in great fury, pouring out his horrid cries in quick succession. The hunter waits until the animal grasps the barrel of his gun, and as he carries it to his mouth, he fires. Should the gun fail to go off, the barrel is crushed between the teeth, and the encounter soon proves fatal to the hunter."



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