Whether it's called Yowie, in Australia, Mapinguari in the Amazon, the Yeti in Tibet, or Yeren in China, Bigfoot myths and sightings have pervaded cultures around the world since the early 1800’s. Described as having long white, reddish or brown hair, this bipedal creature reportedly stands between five and feet tall and sometimes weighs over five-hundred pounds. A common factor in close sightings is the beast's incredible stench. According to castings of footprints, Bigfoot has five toes, but it has been known to have as few as two. Sometimes it even has claws.
One of the earliest documented sighting of such a creature was mentioned in James Prinsep’s Journal of the Asiatic Society of Bengal, in 1832. An explorer in north Nepal, B.H. Hodgeson reported that his guide saw what appeared to be “a tall, bipedal creature covered in long, dark hair.” After evaluation, Hodgeson concluded that his guide saw an orangutan.
Just a few years later, in 1876, in Australia, a creature called Yowie was mentioned in the Australian Town And Country Journal. The writer asked readers, “Who has not heard, from the earliest settlement of the colony, the blacks speaking of some unearthly animal or inhuman creature […] namely the Yahoo-Devil Devil, or hairy man of the wood…” This version of “indigenous ape” reportedly stood around five feet in height with very long black hair, with dirty red fur about its throat and chest. The Yowie appears in Aboriginal folklore and mythology.
According to folklore, Bigfoot sightings on the North American continent began as early as 1811 in Jasper, in Alberta, Canada. Dave Thompson, a trader, found odd tracks approximately fourteen inches long and eight inches wide in the snow. The print held the impression of only four toes. Stories persisted south and west from the coast until Bigfoot “arrived” in the US in 1924.
The story goes as follows: A group of miners near Mount St. Helens supposedly spotted a Bigfoot and shot it, apparently killing the animal. That night the creature's friends surrounded the cabin. They proceeded to throw stones at the building, pound on the walls and climb on the roof. The attack continued till dawn. The next day the miners packed up and abandoned the mine. The place is now called Ape Canyon.
There was a smattering of other sightings in the northeast, but nothing significant until the Roger Patterson and Robert Gimlin film of 1967. There was mass media coverage including a movie shown nationally that investigated Bigfoot along with other cryptids. Two years later, in 1969, reports of the Florida Skunk Ape started cropping up. Now Bigfoot and his ilk are ranging on six of the seven continents. Even South America has the distant “cousin.” the Mapinguari.
The Bigfoot phenomenon has become such a part of mainstream culture that the Walt Disney Corporation has used the Yeti as a main character in one of its newer attractions, Expedition Everest. Disney Imagineers went to the Himalayas to research the project before bringing the creature to life through advanced audio animatronics. There, the Yeti is a guardian of the mountains, scaring off unwanted visitors and keeping the mountain safe. (The Yeti also makes a couple appearances in Disneyland’s older attraction, Matterhorn Bobsleds.)
Recently, CNN reported that the Chinese group, Hubei Wild Man Research Association, has announced that they will be launching a new search for the Yeti. They are recruiting international researchers to join them in Shennongjia forest region of Hubei. The last researchers to seek out the Wild Man, a group in the early 1980’s, turned up inconclusive evidence, though they claim that the hair samples found are evidence of the existence of the creature. Since the 1970’s over 400 sightings have been reported in the Shennongjia region.
The HWMRA hopes to find $1.5 million (US equivalent) through grants and donations from corporations.