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Geographical Index > United States > Australia (International) > Article # 407

Media Article # 407

Thursday, June 13, 2002


By Paul Willis
ABC News

Reporter Paul Willis goes into the Blue Mountains near Sydney to meet Neil, a high school teacher who claims to have had several hundred encounters with a large bipedal ape like creature in the bush, and heís not alone; many of his neighbours have seen it too. So far there is a distinct lack of scientific evidence that such a creature exists, Paul wants to find out just whatís going on?

Big Hairy Men have been seen all around the world. They go by the name of Sasquatch, Yeti and Bigfoot. In Australia, itís the Yowie that terrorises people in the bush. ĎCatalystí looks at whatís behind these mysterious sightings. Does the yowie really exist or is it a hoax? Are people imagining things or is it a case of mistaken identity?

We canvas all the options, assess the evidence and get to the bottom of the Mystery of the Yowie. Could it be there really is a large creature, as yet unknown to science roaming through the bush? Is it a case of mistaken identity, or a hoax? Or is there something going on in our minds that creates a monster from bits and pieces of unexplained information? We explore the Mystery of the Yowie. (full transcript...)

Reporter: Paul Willis
Producer: Louise Heywood
Researcher: Owen Craig

Full Program Transcript:
Narration: Just outside Sydney there have been reports of encounters with human-like creatures otherwise unknown to science.

Neil: Itís around 2.1 metres. It has a long thick coat, very dark and the face is largely hairless, very deep skin folds.

Narration: So far there is no hard evidence, no specimens, no bones, but plenty of sightings. Yeti, Yowie, Bigfoot, all over the world there are stories of large hairy human like creatures roaming through the wilderness. But whatís behind these mysterious sightings? In Australia, Big Hairy Men are known as yowies. Here in the Blue Mountains, west of Sydney, Neil, claims to have had over 300 encounters with Yowies over the last decade. Many of his neighbours have had encounters too.

Neil: The closest Iíve been is probably about 6 feet. At the time I wasnít even aware it was there

Narration: Neil and a friend having heard the sound of footsteps in the bush decided to follow it

Neil: When I got close to where I thought it was last standing, I turned to Robert and said, I think itís somewhere around here, just be careful I'm going to turn the light on and see what happens. So I walked down into the swamp, turned on the light and without knowing it the thing had been so close to me, and it stood up directly to the front of me and slightly to the side, leant towards me and just roared in my face. The only thing I really remember was the basic outline, itís height, the red eyes, because I had the torch shining at it, or above itís head and it was black skinned.

Narration: Neil and his neighbours have had hundreds of encounters with Yowies and gone looking for evidence of their movements. He claims these deep gouges are made by yowies biting into trees in search of grubs. (short discussion re tree bites). And itís not just Australians who are reporting encounters with Wild Men and Women. Dr Hemut Loofs-Wissowa is an anthropologist whoís catalogued similar reports from around the world, particularly Vietnam and Laos.

Dr Hemut Loofs-Wissowa: I came across this wild man phenomena there and I eventually found out it was really a worldwide phenomena.

Narration: This is a drawing of a wild man supposedly found in Vietnam. When Helmut showed it to villagers in Laos, they identified the drawing as a creature theyíd seen in their forests. Helmut believes these creatures are Neanderthal men living in remote areas and thinks theyíre being dismissed too readily.

Dr Hemut Loofs-Wissowa: You say youíve seen one youíre lying, you must be lying because they donít exist

Narration: Not everyone is so sceptical. Anthropologist Alan Thorne thinks mavericks like Helmut are crucial to the progress of science.

Alan Thorne: Itís the person who goes outside the envelope who produces the goods. Lots of people do and fail and as we look back in science we see these magical people who at the time were mavericks, looney tunes, but when they come up with the goods and prove the theory we say fantastic.

Narration: But maverick or not neither Helmut or Neil or anyone else for that matter has come up with incontrovertible physical evidence that Yowies exist. Hereís Neilís evidence, does it constitute hard data.

Neil: This is an original footprint from the one we call FatfootÖ.

Narration: But he admits the evidence he has collected so far is ambiguous, so why is there nothing more concrete?

Neil: Itís difficult for me to explain cos I have a problem with that too I find it disappointing that we donít find more of itÖ.
What about the bite marks? Donít they constitute evidence?

Narration: We took Richard Turner, specialist in the damage various animals do to trees, to have a look at the bite marks with Neil.

Paul Willis (Reporter): What do you think about it

Richard Turner: This to me is quite clearly a track from a bulls Eye borer thatís been ripped open by a yellow tailed black cockatoo.

Neil: I find it hard to believe that a yellow tailed black cockatoo could do thisÖ.

Narration: One problem for Neil with the black cockatoo theory is heís convinced that some of these marks were made at night.

Neil: Unless the black cockatoo is nocturnal, I would suggest another predator is going after these grubs.

Richard Turner: In my experience they are diurnal, they go to roost at night. Well the midnight theory is interesting.

Narration: Perhaps thereís another explanation for experiences with mysterious monsters, perhaps itís a case of mistaken identity. If these people come to you and tell you we have seen these creatures why should you not believe them.

Bill Von Hippel: Eye witnesses in general are very fallible; they are doing their best to tell us what they really saw but we know that peopleís memories and their perceptions are quite fallible.

Narration: Psychologist believe that when we get fleeting glimpses of something, our mind fills in the gaps, what we interpret it to be is moulded by our expectations.

Bill Von Hippel: If people have an expectation that itís out there be it ambiguous, blurry, seen at night or very fast moving, but that tiny little bit of something people can latch onto and they can end up seeing things in very different ways then it was.

Narration: But Neil is not convinced by this explanation.

Neil: Well for the vast number of encounters weíve had Ö Ö weíre not imagining this thing.

Narration: So whether these creatures are really roaming through the bush remains to be seen, but science will continue to demand proof before accepting the claims. But Alan Thorne warns against being too sceptical.

Alan Thorne: There in the totally searched out Blue Mountains west of Sydney there suddenly pops up the Wollombi Pine, a totally new family of trees I think. So itís a warning we donít know everything and maybe thereís still quite a lot of surprises out there and if those turn out to be hairy men then so be it.

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