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Abominable Snowmen, by Ivan T. Sanderson, [1961], at

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8. On the Tracks of …

All peoples have always thought all other peoples to be both stupid and at a lower state of culture. This is both stupid and uncultured.

The title of this chapter is an acknowledgment of a good friend and fellow zoologist. He, Dr. Bernard Heuvelmans, Consultant to the Musée Royal D'Histoire Naturelle de Belgique, but resident in Paris, is the author of the only book that covers the ABSM problem world-wide. It covers also many other items of a crypto-zoological nature, and is entitled in its English version, On the Track of Unknown Animals* I shall be leaning very heavily upon this work from now on, with its author's more than generous permission. Bernard and I have been on these tracks separately for many years now but, as we have constantly exchanged information and discoveries, a considerable amount of what we have to say has similar origins. However, there is much that both of us have unearthed [either firsthand or by burrowing assiduously through published material], that the other has missed. Frankly, neither of us knows any longer, in many cases, exactly just which items came from which in the first place; and, as constant acknowledgments in the text would be irksome, Bernard has given me permission just to barge ahead and gobble up anything that may seem to me to be pertinent. However, while we were both once professional zoologists, we specialized in different aspects of the science. I started out as and always really remained a field ecologist but have specialized in the major distribution of animals in accordance

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with that of vegetational types, and therefore approach most, if not all, matters from that angle. Thus, there may be times when I disagree with my good friend Bernard and, since I have never then failed to say so to him, I shall also be mentioning the fact in this text as I go along, if occasion arises. It was on a framework of phytogeography that I tackled ABSMery in North America. From now on, and especially in the tropics, it becomes the main theme of my story.

At this point I have to revert to type and refer to Map VI. I also have to ask the reader to plunge once again into botanical geography. In addition to being all of the other unpleasant things that we have accused them of, people are very chauvinistic and, from a national point of view, frankly bucolic. This shows up in various ways, like wars and tariffs, but most noticeably on maps. It is almost impossible to buy a map of any country, in that country, that shows anything starting immediately beyond the borders of that country. Thus, not only road maps but even our school atlases have a habit of going along splendidly to the Rio Grande and to some arbitrary, somewhat jiggly, and quite nonexistent line from a point about El Paso, Texas, west and just north of the upper end of the Bay of Baja California and thence to the Pacific coast a few miles south of San Diego, California. Beyond that, southward, there is a great white blank. While the United Staters of North America are outstandingly obtuse in this respect, we cannot really exonerate the other United Staters of this same continent—the United States of Mexico—from indulgence in the same idiocy. Their maps customarily run up to that same ridiculous line; above which a ghostly "Pais de los Gringos" may be seen—in strong light. *

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Click to enlarge



The position of the Republic of Guatemala and the over-all area of this map is shown by the square in the box, which, in turn, encompasses what is popularly called Central America. Guatemala is divided into two very distinct parts—the northern, called the Peten, which is a lowland, heavily forested plateau; and the southern which is mountainous and where there are large numbers of volcanoes, both active and idle. To the west, these mountains are contiguous with the eastern rim of the Chiapas in Mexico. The southern coastal plain is arid. In the northeast corner of the country, which reaches the Bight of Honduras in the Caribbean, there is a limited sealevel triangle containing the so-called "Lake Isabel"—actually the Laguna de Izabal. This is really an arm of the sea and is connected to it by a river-like channel. The area from which ABSMs have been reported centers around the peak named Sanché in the Sierra de Chuacus.

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The American Geographical Society of New York has published some most excellent maps that show the whole of North America and especially the overlap between our country and Mexico. These are very revealing in that one learns from them—as one does if one actually travels through that strip of territory—that practically everything goes on just the same right across the border. The Tularosa Basin just flows on south into the great Bolson (basin) of Mapimi; the Rockies pass on through the Sacramento and Guadalupe Mountains, via the Chisos, straight into the Sierra Madre Oriental; and the endless semi-parallel ranges that bestrew southern Arizona go right on to become the Sierra Madre Occidental, while the mountains of southern California march on stolidly to become those of Baja California. Nothing much else changes either: even a parrot (a Conure) and the jaguar get on to the north side, and millions of tourists on to the south. The only things that change abruptly are the brands of beer and the length of the women's skirts—there is a strong European influence even just over the border. [Money is interchangeable for a time but the gasoline does, I must admit, seem to be of quite a different substance on the two sides of this otherwise arbitrary border.]

The really funny thing is that practically nobody knows anything


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about the first great belt just south of our border. There are four major roads and three major railroads to get south and that is all; and all of them roar across a variably unpleasant and dreary desert for a long way before they come to anything important. Mexico lies on its side, so that what we call its west coast is really its south coast. It consists of a central core of enormous volcanic mountains from which two great tines of mountain ranges extend toward the United States, like a pair of giant scissors. Behind, or to the southeast of the core, there is a narrow neck of lowlands, the Tehuantepec Isthmus, and then what is really quite another country named Chiapas that stands up like a large fiat salad bowl on a footstool, or actually more like a flamingo's nest.

To the northeast of this is still another Mexican country called Yucatan, which is a low plateau formed of limestone marl, riddled with caves, and separated from Chiapas by a great swath of swamps more or less at sea level and clothed in an awful, low, tangled, spiny growth called akalché. Yucatan, which includes the state of that name, as well as the Territory of Quintana Roo, and the states of Campeche, and Tabasco, is the land of the Mayas. Behind Chiapas, on the south side, lies Guatemala; an arbitrary hunk of volcanos and aggressive mountains that really forms part of a much larger mountain block that extends to the great lakes district of Nicaragua.

The Sierra Madre Oriental, along with her many associated ranges, are still not much known, though they are—and have been for countless centuries—well inhabited. Among them are some valleys filled with a truly tropical type of vegetation. The Sierra Madre Occidental, on the other hand, is almost entirely unknown. There are people living in it but they don't have anything to do with anybody and, least of all and if possible, with Mexicans, whom their inhabitants call "guachés" [which is a slang expression for a very old bus more or less held together with bits of string]. Among these people are the Yaquis who played a great part in modern Mexican history; who still write in hieroglyphs; and who were

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alleged to have been scalping on the main Pacific Highway in the early days of World War II. They are very splendid people—everything an Amerind should be, both in fact and in fancy. This southern (i.e. to us, western) block of mountains runs for 800 miles southeast till it hits the comparative lowland break of Guadalajara. It is crossed by only one road, from Durango to Mazatlan; it has a canyon in it that has been estimated to be two hundred times the size of the Grand Canyon when all its measurements are taken into consideration, though you may console yourself about this, because nobody has ever explored it. I have seen one end of it and very impressive it is. Most of its bottom is choked with forest and there are said to be "people" in there—at least my Yaqui Indian friends told me so. These are said never to come out, to be very big, and to be hairy all over!

The rest of Mexico down to the northern escarpment of Chiapas is charming and much more civilized than any of us northerners realize or like to think. They had universities down there 200 years before our country was founded, and some of their modern ones are carrying on studies that are so far ahead of anything being prosecuted in ours that it makes us look a little silly. [That may be why we don't hear about them.] The best work that I have seen on vegetational distribution, not excluding Soviet Russia, have been done at, and published recently by, the University of San Luis Potosi. The indigenes—for we can hardly call them natives—of this main, central area are too busy even to turn up any folklore about ABSMs, but they have dug up some awfully funny-looking statuettes. But, this is another subject that I cannot get involved in here.

Now, while the plateau of Chiapas is rather an unpleasant, dusty, cactus-strewn place, and looks not unlike one of our lesser deserts (due to its altitude), it is ringed by well forested mountains with gorges that are filled with real "jungle." Also, it flows back into the uplands of the main Central American block; and it is really part of that block. Were it nearer sea level, it would be properly tropical, and it is in any case only

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just "North" American. The true dividing line between the two continents of Erica and Columbia (see Map XV) is a very complicated line that meanders about all over the place on its way from the Pacific to the Caribbean. Plants and animals respect this line mightily. In fact, you are hard put to it to catch one of the party in the first part in the territory of the second part; and vice versa. Possibly certain ABSMs show the same respect for Nature here, too.

There is nothing like the wealth of material on the subject of ABSMs in the tropics, and notably in South America, that there is in North America, in the Himalayas, and in central Eurasia. What is more, what there is, looks extremely spotty and lacks any pattern unless it be mapped: and mapped on phytogeographical grounds at that. When this is done, however, it begins to make a great deal of sense. Despite an enormous volume of literature on the geography and the distribution of plants and animals in South America, there are still many widely held misconceptions about the constitution and history of that continent—held by profound students of the matter as well as by the general (and not technically interested) public. The general impression of the continent is that it is a vast tropical jungle all over but, while a lot of it is covered with closed-canopy forests—whether you should call them jungles or not is a matter of much controversy in any case—the major part of it is not; and, a large portion down at the bottom has a temperate climate tailing off to a sub-polar one. Then, there is the great Andean upland and mountain ridge that occupies its whole western side. Least understood of all, however, is the area which is occupied by Brazil.

Looking at Map VI, you will perceive that, in addition to the two mountain blocks in Central America, and the three arbitrary divisions of the Andean ridge, there are three other upland massifs on this continent. These are the Guianese, the Matto Grosso, and the enormous Caãtinga. The last is the most puzzling to foreigners, because one's impression of Brazil has been gained from the periphery of this grim sloping plateau, and this periphery is almost everywhere a lush lowland belt of forests and other massed vegetation. The

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appalling aridity of this still so-called "Terra Incognita" which reaches its climax in the northeastern bulge of the continent, is not generally known. If you want to get a clear picture of it, you should read a book entitled Tukani by Helmut Sick, a scientist who accompanied the first official expedition to cut right across this terrible territory to the Amazon Basin. In this, you will very soon see the complete difference between these uplands, their vegetation, climate and fauna, and that of the equatorial forests of the Amazon. The two are abruptly different worlds and, as one approaches the latter from the former, one comes up against an actual wall formed by tall evergreen vegetation.

If one raises the subject of animal life in South America, everybody invariably yells "Green Hell," and thinks of the Amazon Basin. It is a funny thing, but there is nothing hellish about any jungle and rather especially about that of the Amazon. It is, like all equatorial forests, never too hot or too cold, singularly free of noxious insects, completely free from disease [provided you keep away from human beings and don't carry any pestilence in with you when you enter], is well supplied with food that is easy to obtain, has plenty of good water, and is not too badly infested with indigenous people who resent one's presence. There are poisonous snakes and jaguars but you really have to look for them, and they are absolutely harmless as long as you look where you are going and don't molest them. [I once persuaded a jaguar to leave the ridgepole of our bush-house in which my wife was sleeping, one night, simply by saying "Boo" at it.] Then there is this Amazon bit.

It so happens that the basin of this name, which contains the greatest river, and river system, in the world, was, until not long ago geologically speaking, an arm of the South Atlantic—a great inland sea. Further, there is evidence that long since it became land it may have been completely flooded again for briefer periods off and on, and some Brazilian scientists claim that they have evidence that the last time this happened was only about the year 1200 b.c. It is indeed today a sort of enormous botanical cum zoological

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garden but, actually, its flora and fauna in no way compares in diversity with that of all the surrounding areas combined. In fact, it has manifestly been repopulated quite recently by several streams of animals and plants from those areas, which must have remained above sea level either as great islands or massive peninsulas attached to the rest of the continent. Moreover, there were jungles and other wet forests on those blocks as well as the vegetation and appropriate wildlife of their drier uplands. Many of those areas are also extremely ancient; meaning, that they have remained above sea level for a particularly long time. The most isolated and perhaps the oldest is the Guiana Massif, but seniority may be claimed for the Colombian Massif. This was certainly there before the Andes were pushed up. The Andes themselves are really comparatively recent, and they might be very new. This is not of our story but it is germane to it, in that the age of the montane forests of the Andes has a very important bearing on the recently past history of ABSMs and their possible distribution there.

The point I am trying to make here is that if I were asked to go find an ABSM, or any other as yet uncaught kind of animal, in South America, the last place that I would go would be the Amazon Basin itself. I would tackle the Guianese Massif first, next the Colombian Massif, and then move on to the uplands surrounding the Matto Grosso. After that I would do what I could about the Caãtinga, and then Patagonia, and then the Andes, but would leave the Amazon till last. As a matter of fact, I would do a thorough job on the northern Central American Block before even going to South America at all, and this is just what I now propose to do.

The limits of this last block are very clear on Map VI, and are confined between the Isthmus of Tehuantepec on the west and the gutter filled by the great lakes of Nicaragua on the east. The smaller southern block, running from the latter line to the valley of the Atrato River, that cuts the Panamanian isthmus off from the Colombian Massif, will not concern us. There are some exceedingly strange small animals in that block, and there is some odd folklore but I have nothing

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concrete upon our subject from it. The main or western block is enormously mountainous, and constitutes one of the major areas of volcanicity in the world. The number of volcanos you can count from a point above Guatemala City is variously estimated and often grossly exaggerated but it is none the less quite remarkable. The southern edge of this block drops abruptly to a narrow, cactus-covered, dry, coastal plain; but the northern face steps down through ever-decreasing banks of mountains and hills to a wide forest-covered coastal fringe. Its real border is the valley of the River Usumacinta in Campeche, but north of this there are some ancient low hills in the Peten, and these mount up to the east into what is probably the most remarkable little mountain massif in the whole of Central America. This is called the Maya Mountains and lies in southern British Honduras.

I have been carrying on a very long-distance correspondence with an American lady for long resident in what is really the outer periphery of the Mexican state of Chiapas. She was introduced to me by a man in the publishing field with the very highest reputation and whom I most greatly respect. Were it not for this, I simply could not bring myself to record the following, even in a purely reportorial way. As of going to press I have not received a reply to my written request—and letters have to be paddled up a river to her, taking several days—to enter this information over her name.

However, I heard from her that a form of ABSM is not quite but very well-known in the forests nearby where she lives. [This, incidentally, is a continuation of those montane forests about which my friend Cal Brown writes (see below).] This she tells me is known locally by various names such as Salvaje, Cax-vinic, or simply fantasma humano. She then goes on, deadpan, to write: "I have seen this creature on various occasions and heard it frequently—the last time was about a year ago however. Some of the things I know about [it] coincide with your information [from other areas] but I can't reconcile the cry described with mine. I don't think I have ever heard anything so disturbing—not frightening but more dreadful and haunting, and full of threat I couldn't imagine.

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[paragraph continues] I suspect that from this cry alone men living in this jungle could assume it to be a `fantasma humano. " As a friend of mine remarked on reading this, "And I suppose she rides one of the mastodons that the locals use for plowing."

This almost casual letter is somehow quite shocking to me, though knowing what I do of this matter in other much more settled areas, and in view of the fact that it is hard by Cal Brown's pinpointed area for something very similar-sounding, there is really no need to be upset.

As I remarked in a previous passage, Chiapas of Mexico is shaped like a salad bowl held on high. Its eastern rim abuts on to the mountains of Guatemala and these tumble down into the Peten in a tremendous jumble of tall, tight peaks and ridges with deep narrow valleys and gorges in between. The whole is choked with wet tropical forest, is unmapped, unexplored, and just plain not known. I have a group of young associates under the leadership of this Kenneth (Cal) Brown, who have for some years been working in this area collecting scientific specimens for botanical, zoological, and petrological studies, and I once lived for several years in that area myself, flew over almost all of it repeatedly during the war and have walked all about it. Comparing notes (after 20 years of this) Cal and I have come to the conclusion that this is one of the oddest areas on earth, made the more strange, almost eerie in fact, by the presence of many ancient Mayan ruins therein, which one stumbles across everywhere. There is something uncanny about these gigantic artificial hills, with their endless, writhing carvings, courts, passages, mighty flat-roofed halls, now filled only with the chitterings of bats; utterly abandoned in vast uninhabited jungles that just breathe silently in the noonday tropical sun. There are many strange things in these jungles and some of these pertain to our quest.

Cal Brown has pinpointed for me a valley to which his party once attained and where some of those odd incidents occurred that so often crop up when actually exploring. You can't really put your finger on them, and often one misses even recording them. It may be plants freshly broken in a way that is just not right; or very strange calls; or a certain

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reluctance by any native people around to go any farther or even to talk much. So powerful was this atmosphere at this place that one of Cal's partners—Wendell Skousen, a geologist, and one of the most pragmatic men I have ever met—corralled the locals almost by force and demanded to know what was going on. Then it came out. The locals explained:

There live in the mountain forests very big, wild men, completely clothed in short, thick, brown, hairy fur, with no necks, small eyes, long arms and huge hands. They leave footprints twice the length of a man's.

The area in question was in Baja Verapaz, around the town of Cubulco. Cubulco is the last vestige of civilization, the road ends there, and for all intents and purposes so does everything. The range of mountains in question is the Sierra de Chuacus, whose greatest peak is Mt. (Cerro) Sanché, 8500 feet elevation. Depending on which direction you're coming from, there are between 5 and 7 ridges from the floor of the Cubulco Valley [Rio Cubulco, which eventually joins the Rio Negro to the north roughly 20 kilometers] to C. Sanché. Further than this, I would not want to speculate as to range of this alleged creature. I have coloured in a patch on the enclosed map which depicts the approximate range according to what the natives told me, which means it would range into the departmento of El Quiche. (See Map V.)

Cubulco itself, at about 4200 feet, is really "tierra templada," and the area in question ranges up to "tierra fria." The vegetation is open pine and oak forests on the slopes, and many high plateau areas are covered with grass, as is the Cubulco environ. Along the margins of the highlands where rainfall is greatest, the oak and pine forest merges with the rain forest. Temperature ranges from 30°F to 90°F, and while I have no good figures on rainfall, it is considerably less than, say, Coban.

Now, as to "what the natives said." They referred to a large, hairy creature, which sometimes walked on two legs, and apparently ran on all fours. I considered bear first of all, and queried them regarding size, shape, appearance, etc. The answer was that it looked like a bear, but it wasn't from the description they gave—no conspicuous ears, no "snout"—it was somewhat taller than a man, and considerably broader, covered with darkish hair, and the locals live in mortal dread of disturbing it. Occasionally, one or two of the natives who got drunk or particularly boastful would go half way up the ridge and make a big show of "hunting" it, but no one has ever killed one that I learned. Several persons reported they were chased by it down the mountain, although with the fear they have of whatever it is, they probably just caught a glimpse of

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it and ran all the way down the mountain at top speed. No one seemed very anxious to guide us to the spot, or spots, but one of the braver souls agreed to do so finally. Unfortunately, we never got to it, for which you will curse, no doubt. I have no way of determining from their descriptions whether it was a bear or a Sisemite or something else, but it would seem reasonable that something is back there. You will be somewhat interested in the fact that the natives reported to me that this thing "calls" every so often, and they hear it from time to time when they are travelling about the ridges.

One cannot lay any store by "calls," for the tiny Douroucouli, or Night-Monkey of South America (Aötes), can almost blast you out of bed when it really gets going, and the Howler Monkey (Alouatta), can individually make a series of noises that sound just like a dozen jaguars fighting in a thunderstorm. My point here is that I know Cal Brown and Wendell Skousen and the others very well indeed and have done so for many years. They are the hardest-boiled collection of skeptics I have ever met; yet, they were more than just impressed—they were astonished.

What they have told me, moreover, acquires a certain added interest when one reads in The Museum Journal (Vol. VI, No. 3, September, 1915), published quarterly by the University Museum of the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, the following excerpts on what are therein described as Guatemaltecan mythology [sic]:

There is a monster that lives in the forest. He is taller than the tallest man and in appearance he is between a man and a monkey. His body is so well protected by a mass of matted hair that a bullet cannot harm him. His tracks have been seen on the mountains, but it is impossible to follow his trail because he can reverse his feet and thus baffle the most successful hunter. His great ambition, which he has never been able to achieve, is to make fire. When the hunters have left their camp fires he comes and sits by the embers until they are cold, when he greedily devours the charcoal and ashes. Occasionally the hunters see in the forest little piles of twigs which have been brought together by El Sisemite [also called Sisimici] in an unsuccessful effort to make fire in imitation of men. His strength is so great that he can break down the biggest trees in the forest. If a woman sees a Sisemite, her life is infinitely prolonged, but a

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man never lives more than a month after he has looked into the eyes of the monster. If a Sisemite captures a man he rends the body and crushes the bones between his teeth in great enjoyment of the flesh and blood. If he captures a woman, she is carried to his cave, where she is kept a prisoner.

Besides his wish to make fire the Sisemite has another ambition. He sometimes steals children in the belief that from these he may acquire the gift of human speech. When a person is captured by a Sisemite the fact becomes known to his near relations and friends, who at the moment are seized with a fit of shivering. Numerous tales are told of people who have been captured by the Sisemite. The following incident is related by a woman who had it from her grandmother:

A young couple, recently married, went to live in a hut in the woods on the edge of their milpa  * in order that they might harvest the maize. On the road Rosalia stepped on a thorn and next morning her foot was so sore that she was unable to help Felipe with the harvesting, so he went out alone, leaving one of their two dogs with her. He had not been working long when the dreaded feeling, which he recognized as Sisemite shivers, took hold of him and he hastily returned to the hut to find his wife gone and the dog in a great fright. He immediately set out for the village, but met on the road the girl's parents, who exclaimed, "You have let the Sisemite steal our child, our feelings have told us so." He answered, "It is as you say."

The case was taken up by the authorities and investigated. The boy was cross-examined, but always answered, "The Sisemite took her, no more than that I know." He was, in spite of the girl's parents' protests, suspected of having murdered his young wife, and was thrown into jail, where he remained many years.

At last a party of hunters reported having seen on Mount Kacharul a curious being with hairy body and flowing locks that fled at the sight of them. A party was organized which went out with the object of trying to capture this creature at any cost. Some days later this party returned with what seemed to be a wild woman, of whom the leader reported as follows. "On Mount Kacharul we hid in the bushes. For 2 days we saw nothing, but on the third day about noon this creature came to the brook to drink and we captured her, though she struggled violently. As we were crossing the brook with her, a Sisemite appeared on the hillside, waving his arms and yelling. On his back was a child or monkey child which he took in his hands and held aloft as if to show it to the woman, who renewed her struggle to be free. The Sisemite came far down the

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hill almost to the brook; he dropped the child and tore off great branches from big trees which he threw at us."

The young man was brought from his cell into the presence of this wild creature and asked if he recognized her. He replied, "My wife was young and beautiful; the woman I see is old and ugly." The woman never spoke a word and from that time on made no sound. She refused to eat and a few days after her capture she died.

Felipe lived to be an old man, and the grandmother of the woman who told this story remembered him as the man whose wife had been carried away by the Sisemite.

This account would have been relegated to "Myth, Legend, and Folklore," had not an almost identical story, in the form of a complaint on a police-blotter, turned up in Coban, in the same region in the early 1940's. This was made by one Miguel Huzul and was to the effect that his son-in-law was delinquent in having permitted his daughter to be seized by a creature of the mountains to which he gave a name that was apparently too much for the recording officer and which he therefore put down as "a sort of gorilla or man" as far as it could be deciphered and transliterated. I had a copy of this document once, with a tracing of this passage, made for me by a Puerto Rican American who was baffled by the local Spanish and did not know any Mayan. Unfortunately my original went up under a wartime bomb, but we are searching for the records from which it came. All I can add is from memory, but this is pretty vivid in this case as you can imagine, for it was "in my district" at the time, I then being engaged in collecting in the area. It related, in substance, that the Sisemite had entered the young man's house and in the presence of other witnesses gathered up his young wife and carried her off while he, the husband, just sat there shivering. No action was taken because the father was disbelieved, while it was rather nicely pointed out that if all that is said about the Sisemite is true, the young man could not be accused of cowardice and/or delinquency. I presume there is no precise law covering the matter!

Even then, I would still relegate both stories to Chapter 17, were it not for my own personal observations, very close by

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in British Honduras. While there, my wife and I penetrated some distance into these Maya Mountains, not an easy task in the absence of any paths or people, their almost straight up and down topography, and the virtual nonexistence of people willing to carry things in all surrounding areas. While camped up there, the Senior Forestry Officer of the colony—one, Mr. Neil Stevenson—visited us, and we took a day's exploratory and collecting trip up to the top of the next ridge into the magnificent montane palm forest which is sufficiently "open" to be able to permit a view. On the ridge beyond that, then and still now totally unexplored and never even yet attained, there were rectangular areas of forest of distinctly different color, showing that they had once been cleared for cultivation. Later, we saw smoke rising from those forests, and Mr. Stevenson heard cocks crowing therein in the clear mountain air at dawn. When the Shell Oil Company later made a detailed survey of that whole mountain block by aerial, stereoscopic, photography, they brought to light further evidence that there were people living there. Yet, this mountain block stands up like an island in a sea of lowlands which have been crisscrossed for generations by mahogany workers and chicle collectors. Not one single human being has ever been known to come out of it.

Who are these people? Some Mayas left over since precolonial days; pre-Mayan people; or whom? Whoever they may be, they must be getting a strange education, for their home lies under one of the main commercial airline routes [from Florida, New Orleans, and Merida, Yucatan, to Guatemala City], while we ourselves once sat up on the lower slopes and watched the Queen Mary glide majestically by below, down the Gulf of Honduras on her way to Puerto Barrios, on a cruise! This is only a couple of hours flight from Miami, and yet there are apparently people living there who have never contacted other people since the time of Columbus.

Now, I am not suggesting that these tree-clearing, chicken-raising chaps, whoever they may be, are ABSMs; but, what I am suggesting, is that if such people can continue to live in magnificent isolation for 450 years, in a tiny country such

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as this, not more than 50 miles from a number of settled communities [in all directions, as a crow is alleged to fly], there could perfectly well be all sorts of other types living nearby too. And this is just what the people who live around the area affirm.

These people are of two major types—Amerinds, and sundry settlers of mixed Amerindian stock in Punta Gorda on the south, and related kinds of people to the north, plus what are called the Caribs, along the coast. These latter are not in any way the Amerindian Caribs who gave their name to the Caribbean, but are a group of West Africans of Sudanese Negro stock, who obtained their freedom on the Lesser Antilles in early days, and then sailed their own ships to the mainland coast. They are very strange people with their own language, customs, and religion; great boating people; fearless, and rather fearful. They don't trust anybody and they don't seem to like anybody, and whatever they say they should not be trusted—not because they are untrustworthy at all but because they have learned long ago never again to trust any white.

Both these peoples—the regular British Hondurans or Belizians, and the Coast Caribs—assert that there dwell in the  tall, wet forests of the southern half of their country certain  small semi-human creatures which they call Dwendis, a form  of Duende, Spanish for goblin. To the very well-educated  Belizians, these are regarded more as we regard fairies than  as real entities—unless they have lived or worked in the southern forested area. Then they, like the Caribs, take quite an-  other view of the matter. I lived in that country off and on  for years while we traveled Central America and the West  Indies, and I talked to innumerable people there about them.  Dozens told me of having seen them, and these were mostly  men of substance who had worked for responsible organizations like the Forestry Department and who had, in several  cases, been schooled or trained either in Europe or the United  States. One, a junior forestry officer born locally, described in  great detail two of these little creatures that he had suddenly  noticed quietly watching him on several occasions at the edge

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of the forestry reserve near the foot of the Maya Mountains when he was "cruising" and marking young mahogany trees. His description of them coincided with that of all the others who were serious.

These little folk were described as being between three foot six and four foot six, well proportioned but with very heavy shoulders and rather long arms; clothed in thick, tight, close, brown hair looking like that of a short-coated dog; having very flat yellowish faces but head-hair no longer than the body hair except down the back of the neck and midback. Everybody said that these Dwendis have very pronounced calves but that the most outstanding thing of all about them is that they almost always held either a piece of dried palm leaf or something looking like a large Mexican-type hat over their heads. This at first sounds like the silliest thing, but when one has heard it from highly educated men as well as from simple peasants, and of half a dozen nationalities and in three languages, and all over an area as great as that from the Peten to Nicaragua, one begins to wonder. Then, one day, I came across a lone chimpanzee in West Africa in an open patch of forest and on the ground; and, by jingo, it was solemnly holding a large section of dead palm frond over its head, just like an umbrella and looking exactly like a large Mexican straw hat!

Dwendis are said to appear suddenly in the forest both by day and night and to watch you from a discreet distance. They are silent but seem to be very curious. I heard of no case of their ever making any threatening move, but I was time and time again told of them chasing, sometimes catching, and carrying off dogs. They are said to leave very deep little footprints, that have pointed heels.

One does not really know quite what to make of all this. If you go to Belize—and a more delightful spot there can hardly be on earth for a vacation or just to live—and ask around about these things you will be met with gay smiles and probably a healthy quote from some classic such as The Water Babies but if you persist you will quite soon find some man who has timber-cruised, or been in the bush farming, and he

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will surely come out with some details about these mysterious little imps of the forests.

Perspective is a hard thing to evaluate on ancient carvings since captives bearing gifts to an important potentate may be made very small, compared to the monarch. Nevertheless, there are many Mayan bas-reliefs that show pairs of tiny little men with big hats but no clothes, standing among trees and amid the vast legs of demi-gods, priests, and warriors. They are also much smaller than the peasants bearing gifts to the temples!

As we have gotten on to the Pigmies again we might as well follow them. I have a letter from a well-known animal dealer of Guayaquil, Ecuador—Herr Claus U. Oheim—who knows his zoology, and who has a very long and intimate experience of the forests of his country and those of Colombia on the Pacific slopes of the Andes. In this he says:

The so-called Shiru, I have heard of from the Indians and a few white hunters on both sides of the Andes, but decidedly more so on the eastern slopes, where vast mountainous areas are still quite unexplored, and rarely if ever visited. All reports describe the Shiru as a small [4-5 feet] creature, decidedly hominid, but fully covered with short, dark brown fur. All agreed that the Shiru was very shy, with the exception of one Indian, who claimed having been charged after having missed with his one and only shot from a muzzle loading shotgun, a weapon still used by the majority of Indians, along with the blowgun. These reports were rather sober and objective, and in no way tinged with the colorful imagination, into which Latin-Americans are prone to lapse.

This business of the "eastern slopes" is going to get us into unwarranted difficulties unless we once again resort to a map. I think the best way to contemplate South America is as if it were made up of a number of large islands comprising those blocks of territory today enclosed within the 500-meter contours. This gives us a picture like that shown on p. 168 (see Map VI) on which both the 200-meter and 500-meter [1500-foot] contours are shown, and from which it may be seen that the uplands consist of the continuous line of the Andes; the Guiana Massif; and the Brazilian Uplands (composed of those surrounding the Matto Grosso, and the great Caãtinga).

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The 200-meter contour shows how these would be connected if there was any slight lowering of the land or an uprise of the sea. The Caãtinga would still be joined to the Matto Grosso, and then both by a narrow land-bridge to the Andean chain. The Guiana Massif, which is the most isolated, would in turn be joined to the Colombian Massif by a lowland bridge.

The "spine" of the Andes runs just about down the middle of that colossal range. The important fact to grasp is that this forms a complete break between the forests of the Amazon and the eastern part of the continent on the one side, and the small patch to the west, on the Pacific slopes on the other. This latter small area, has a noticeably different fauna and flora from that of the east and the Amazon. It is terminated to the south on the Pacific coast by the southern deserts. ABSMs in South America are reported from both sides of the Colombian Massif, from the Guiana Massif, and from the Matto Grosso. [The Patagonian affair is, I believe, something quite else.] I have some extremely funny reports from the Pacific side of the Colombian block but, while the strangest things have recently been found there  * and monstrous foot-tracks have been reported in the same area, there has not been any suggestion that any of the latter were humanoid. Colombian scientists have taken the matter of what they call "an ape" fairly seriously but all the talk has concentrated on the forests of the eastern slopes. It was once thought that Pigmies, or ABSMs of the little Orang Pendek type had cropped up again in the Motilone territory in that area but, as Heuvelmans points out, a perfectly good Amerindian tribal grouping named the Marakshitos, averaging only about 5 feet in stature (like the central Mayas, incidentally), have been fully studied by the Marquis de Wavrin, while surrounding peoples admit that

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Click to enlarge



This continent is most notable for its lack of associated islands. It is today composed of three subcontinents joined by extensive lowlands. The former are: first, the Andean chain of mountains and their contained Alto Pianos; the ancient Guiana Massif; and, the eastern uplands. The last is divided into two parts—the mountains around the Matto Grosso swamps and the vast arid Caātingas. Between these three major upland blocks there are three enormous drainage basins—those of the Orinoco, Amazon, and La Plata. All these are multiple river systems with innumerable tributaries that meander through extensive forested lowlands. Surrounding the upland massifs and bordering these river basins are intermediate plateaus. These are mostly clothed in savannahs. In the southern tip of the continent, south of the La Plata, these intermediate lowlands are covered with the tall grass Pampas and farther south with scrub. In the extreme northwest there is a block of equatorial forest on the Pacific side of the Andes cut off abruptly to the south by the excessively arid western coastal fringe. ABSMs have been reported from this Colombian area; from the Guiana Massif; from the mountains around the Matto Grosso; and from a few points in the central Andean highlands. "Bigfeet" have long been rumored from the Patagonian region, but the matter is there muddled with the Ground-Sloth business.

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these are the "creatures" that they call Guayazis and which they regard as bestial. In the Colombian block, a man-sized kind has been rumored. This has been very greatly muddled and muddied by a most preposterous business about a photograph of a Spider-Monkey (Ateles sp.) for which the most extravagant claims have been made, and for which a number of serious-minded and otherwise highly critical people seem to have fallen.

As this matter has played such a prominent and, in my opinion, harmful and misleading part in ABSMery, I would like to try and dispose of it once and for all—or, at least, once again; for this has really been done several times already.

First, this picture produced by one Dr. François de Loys is obviously that of a Spider-Monkey which is a very distinct type of South American primate that may be seen in any zoo. It displays all the characteristics of that genus—narrow shoulders and pinched chest; comparative lengths of upper and lower

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arms and legs; the hands and feet in detail; and the enlarged clitoris of a female. In fact, it is a pretty clear picture of one of these animals—dead. However, of much more importance is the box on which it is perched. Anybody who has ever been outside a tourist hotel in the tropics will have run into the fuel problem. Since the discovery of petroleum oils, they—including gasoline and kerosene—have been shipped all over the world in pairs of 5-gallon cans, or rather light tins, fitted into cheap wooden cases, measuring exactly 20½ inches long, by 10½ inches from front to back, and 15½ inches high. The better grade boxes are bound with metal tape around the two ends. The case shown in de Loys picture is such an object, and stenciled lettering may be seen on it under the monkey's right leg. Such lettering is also standard and is usually stamped over two of the four 4-inch bits of board of which the sides are invariably constructed. Thus the animal, with its head poked up to an unnatural degree by a stick, measures about 27 inches [it measuring 10x:6x as against the box]. This is a fair-sized Spider-Monkey but not even a large one.

The original photograph is not just a case of mistaken identity; it is an outright hoax, and an obnoxious one at that, being a deliberate deception. I would have thought that anybody might have suspected this, even without seeing the picture, from the originator's story. According to this, he was threatened by this creature and its mate on the ground when in company of one of his assistants; shot it; photographed it; counted its teeth; and then—despite the fact that he was a man of scientific training, and considered his specimen so odd (though out of his field), as to warrant all this trouble—solemnly gave the head to his cook to boil, and permitted that worthy to employ the cranium as a salt container, which "dried up and was lost bit by bit." But worse than even this is a lot of mumbo-jumbo about having other photographs that were lost in a river during a flood. This is the kind of nonsense that has done more harm to the cause of any serious search for ABSMs, and other creatures as yet unknown, than anything I can name, and it is to be most utterly deplored.

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Quite apart from anything, the picture alone, if analyzed, displays the creature shown, to be a maximum of 48 inches from crown to heel. This is indeed large for a female Ateles but is really substandard for large females of the northern A. beelzebub group. Then again, gigantism is not uncommon among all the South American Cebidae. Finally, I may add, de Loys' photograph shows an animal that I would say had started to decompose and was well on the way to being "blown," a condition common in the tropics in daytime in a few hours, in which not just the body cavities but the whole body becomes puffy and bloated. Even if this should be a very large specimen of an as yet unknown species of Spider-Monkey (and even if, by some accident or deformity it happened not to have had a tail, which I very much doubt), there is no justification whatsoever for giving it a technical name on the strength of a single photograph, and especially one so grandiose, so misleading, and unscientific as Ameranthropoides loysi (Montandon) which means, literally "Mr. Loys' Ape-like American."

The harm done by this obnoxious effort has been widespread. Above all it has put the whole of ABSMery, in this area, into eclipse. No serious-minded person, zoologist or otherwise, seeing this ridiculous picture and having heard the equally ridiculous claims made by some for it, can be expected either to lend any credence to or even listen to the accounts of others who state that they have met unknown creatures of a Hominid form in this country. Yet, there have been some vague accounts thereabouts.

The earliest is that of the Baron Alexander von Humboldt, being a careful record of the local Amerindians' descriptions of a creature they called the Vasitri which, they said, constructed primitive huts, was carnivorous, and would eat men but carried off women for breeding purposes. There is nothing outrageous about this, for many ABSMs have now been reported to be carnivorous (at least at times), and their carrying off of women for reproduction is almost standard. [Something, incidentally, that all Africans that I have met who know and live among gorillas and chimps absolutely deny that those

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apes ever do.] Several other early writers are said to have mentioned the same creatures in this area.

Bernard Heuvelmans discusses an alleged encounter with an ABSM in this area by a Mr. Roger Courteville but shows that we cannot place any reliance upon it. The raconteur's description does include some odd items that are not otherwise to be noted in accounts from South America but which concur with, of all people, Mr. Ostman's description from British Columbia. These are: a tuft of thick hair running across the forehead; a powerful neck towering from a V-shaped torso; and long body-hair. However, the rest of the description, and particularly the "darting" blue-gray eyes, leave one in the gravest doubts. The only other definite information I have ever seen from this whole area is derived fourth hand from the Motilone Indians who are said to state that there is an "apelike" terrestrial creature in the Sierra de Perijaâ, the scene of de Loys' exploit, and which is quite common. Thus, apart from the little Shiru and the possibility that von Humboldt left us a record of something real, there is actually no evidence whatsoever for any ABSM in this whole area. Apart from one locality—the somewhat mysterious Guiana Massif, there is not, as a matter of fact much if any ABSMery in the whole of South America.

There is, however, the strange matter of "giant footprints"  in Patagonia but I do not know of any proper investigation  of these, either firsthand in the field or even bibliographic,  ever having been made. From what I have been able to un-  earth it would seem that the imprints mostly refer to those  of ground-sloths and in some cases those of the Giant Ground-  Sloth (Megatherium) itself, which are altogether bizarre, since  it walked on the outsides of its enormous feet. There has been  a terrific rumpus about ground-sloths in the Argentine that  has been going on for decades. A dried skin of one, found  hanging over a fence on an estancia in 1898, led certain per-  sons to prosecute a hunt for the animal, believing it still to  be alive. This led to a cave in which strange stone corrals  were found deeply piled within with the dung of these huge  beasts, while other evidence seemed clearly to indicate that

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they had been penned therein by men. After considerable excitement promoted by the notion that some of the smaller forms at least might still be found alive, and after the discovery of early records by the Spanish colonizers to the effect that the local natives caught huge shaggy animals in pits and killed them by building fires on top of the hapless beasts [because their skins were so thick and filled with little bones that they could not be pierced with their primitive stone-headed weapons], the whole thing died down.

However, mixed up in all this uproar there were reports of giant footprints of a very humanoid form being seen all over Patagonia. There was a period during which there was much speculation upon the possibility of a giant race of Amerinds living in that region but this later became a somewhat debilitated notion—to wit, that some large indigenous Patagonians had large feet. It is true that some now almost extinct southern Amerinds were among the tallest races of men ever on record, and they seem to have been large all over.

Today, most of Patagonia is sheep country. It was cleared of its indigenous human population over wide areas by the simple and ingenious procedure of poisoning all the available wells and other available water supplies. It is now a vacation land for the more rugged "sportsmen" and it must be admitted that the best trout fishing in the world is there available. However, there still are some enormous areas of a kind of desiccated tangle of large bushes that somehow manage to grow in endless blankets upon utterly dry ground for mile after mile. In these it is quite possible that some smaller types of ground-sloth, such as that called by the aborigines the Ellengassen, might still exist; but of ABSMs there is no trace —reports of giant humanoid footprints notwithstanding.

Almost the same may be said of the Caãtinga. Herr Sick, the author of the book mentioned above, makes some casual remarks about unknown animals possibly still remaining to be found in that desolation; but he also makes some very dubious remarks, such as that "desiccated Hyaena droppings may be found" there. Not even the ebullient Argentine Professor Ameghino suggested the presence of that group of animals

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in South America; so one must take all these statements with more than just the average grain of salt. But, when we come to the Matto Grosso, matters are rather different.

Here we hit something much more persistent and much more concrete. Not only are there endless accounts of giant human-type footprints and tracks, usually given as being some 20 inches in length, but there is the matter of the mass slaughter of cattle for months on end from time to time, by the extraordinary device of ripping their tongues out. These inexplicable excesses are reported to be accompanied by roarings so terrible that even the locals—who are profoundly Amerindian, be it noted—become very nearly hysterical. The perpetrators of these dastardly acts are, the locals assert, to be called Mapinguarys, and to them the locals attribute all manner of appalling qualities. In fact, we have here for the first time on our trip to contend with some real imaginative and traditional frills and furbelows. There is obviously a gross clash here between the perfectly prosaic Brazilian estancieros, with their modern herdbooks and statistics, on the one hand, and a local population of truly "superstitious natives" on the other. This clash has not been resolved to anybody's satisfaction, least of all the herd owners who are periodically rendered clean out of pocket by some hundreds of head of good cattle. The "natives" seem, every time that this has happened, to have adopted a sort of "We told you so" attitude. This is not very helpful, but the Brazilian Government apparently has had no better ideas.

The only known animal that can kill cattle in that part of South America is the jaguar, but these large cats don't, and cannot, go around tearing the tongues out of steers. They jump on their backs and break their necks by pulling their noses around with a forepaw—when they attack cattle at all. Try pulling the tongue out of, say, a dead rabbit sometime. You will find that despite one's enormous size compared to the rabbit, plus inborn finger dexterity, you will have one heck of a hard time. Pulling tongues out of oxen calls for both extraordinary hand dexterity and positively phenomenal strength. What on earth may have such strength? The locals

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say "Mapinguary," and point to giant humanoid foot-tracks on sandbars. Cattle owners just fume and say "rubbish." This is obviously not getting the latter anywhere since this sort of thing seems to crop up every few years.

Nobody seems ever to have seen this ox-tongue-puller but there is one story that Bernard Heuvelmans has dredged up from what can only be described as unimpeachable sources. With his permission I reproduce this in its entirety from his book, On the Track of Unknown Animals. This account was given to Dr. Heuvelmans by a correspondent, Senhora Anna Isabel de Sa Leitao Texeira, who obtained it from Dom Paulo Saldanha Sobrino, a much respected Brazilian writer with a very wide knowledge of his country. His informant was in turn the principal in the account; one known simply as Inocêncio. Heuvelmans writes:

In 1930 he went on an expedition of 10 men led by one Santanna. They went up the Uatumã towards the sources of the Urubú. When their boat came to an impassable waterfall they cut out across the jungle to reach the Urubú watershed. After 2 days they reached a stream which the leader decided to follow. Inocêncio was in the party going upstream, but after 2 hours' march he was led astray by a troop of black monkeys which he followed in the hopes of shooting one. When he realized that it would take him some time to reach the stream again, it was already too late. He shouted and fired his gun, but there was no reply except the chatter of monkeys and squawks of angry birds. So he began to walk almost blindly, feeling he must do something in such a critical situation until night fell, when he climbed into a large tree and settled himself in a fork between the branches. As it grew dark the night was filled with jungle noises, and Inocêncio rested happily enough until suddenly there was a cry which at first he thought was a man calling, but he realized at once that no one would look for him in the middle of the night. Then he heard the cry nearer at hand and more clearly. It was a wild and dismal sound. Inocêncio, very frightened, settled himself more firmly into the tree and loaded his gun. Then the cry rang out a third time and now that it was so close it sounded horrible, deafening and inhuman.

Some 40 yards away was a small clearing where a samaumeira had fallen and its branches had brought down other smaller trees. This was where the last cry had come from. Immediately afterwards there was a loud noise of footsteps, as if a large animal was coming towards me at

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top speed. When it reached the fallen tree it gave a grunt and stopped.… Finally a silhouette the size of a man of middle height appeared in the clearing.

The night was clear. There was no moon, but the starry sky gave a pale light which somehow filtered through the tangled vegetation. In this half-light Inocêncio saw a thick-set black figure "which stood upright like a man."

It remained where it stood, looking perhaps suspiciously at the place where I was. Then it roared again as before. I could wait no longer and fired without even troubling to take proper aim. There was a savage roar and then a noise of crashing bushes. I was alarmed to see the animal rush growling towards me and I fired a second bullet. The terrifying creature was hit and gave an incredibly swift leap and hid near the old samaumeira. From behind this barricade it gave threatening growls so fiercely that the tree to which I was clinging seemed to shake. I had previously been on jaguar-hunts and taken an active part in them, and I know how savage this cat is when it is run down and at bay. But the roars of the animal that attacked me that night were more terrible and deafening than a jaguar's.

I loaded my gun again and fearing another attack, fired in the direction of the roaring. The black shape roared again more loudly, but retreated and disappeared into the depths of the forest. From time to time I could still hear its growl of pain until at last it ceased. Dawn was just breaking.

Not until the sun was well up did Inocêncio dare to come from his perch. In the clearing he found blood, broken boughs of bushes and smashed shrubs. Everywhere there was a sour penetrating smell. Naturally he did not dare to follow the trail of blood for fear of meeting a creature which would be even more dangerous now that it was wounded. Taking a bearing on the sun, he at last reached a stream and rejoined his companions, who fired shots so that he should know where they were.

I maintain I have seen the mapinguary [Inocêncio said to Paulo Saldanha]. It is not armoured as people would have you believe. They say that to wound it fatally you must hit the one vulnerable spot: the middle of the belly. I can't say where it was wounded by my bullet, but I know it was hit, for there was blood everywhere.

I have heard many stories like this but, like Bernard Heuvelmans, I feel there is something sincere about this one. No; not just sincere; but factual. I have lived through some much lesser experiences myself in the tropical rain-forests that I

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could never have reported so pragmatically; and there are junctures in the telling of this one that are so frightfully "right." If the teller had wanted even to exaggerate he could so very easily have done so but he did not. And yet, of course, it is ridiculous. But is it? There are still those tongue-twisters to be accounted for, and their little efforts are on the books. Do we therefore have a rather rough race of the otherwise bland and retiring Sasquatch—Oh-Mah type ABSM tucked away here in the soggy wilderness of the Matto Grosso who somehow got cut off, sometime, by a mass flooding of the continent that they had strayed into? If puny little Amerindian Man came over the Bering Straits and got right down to Tierra del Fuego, millennia ago, there is no conceivable reason why some more lowly type of Hominid may not also have done so. Perhaps he got there before "the flood" as it were.

The Matto Grosso uplands seem to have been above water for quite a long time but, according to their flora and fauna today, which is not particularly odd, they do not seem to have been so privileged as another area. This is the great Guianese Massif. Here, if anywhere, is the place where really ancient relics should have been able to linger; and there are some real lulus that have done so there. It is notable that the representatives of almost all the great groups of mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, and especially of fishes and insects, found in South America turn up there in strange and sometimes fabulous guises. There are great numbers of living fossils in this area; creatures like the Hoatzin or "Stinking Pheasant," a bird that, when young, has a clawed finger on its wing, like an Archaeopteryx. This block of ancient mountains seems, indeed, to have been a refuge from flooding throughout geological ages—a sort of last retreat for wave after wave of creatures throughout time, driven out of their previous habitats by shifts or submergences of the earth's crust. This is where we would most expect to come across ABSMs if there are any, or have ever been any, on this continent. And it is indeed from there that the most reports, and the most definite ones, have come.

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In the Guianas—Venezuelan, British, Dutch (Surinam), French, and Brazilian—the name for these creatures is everywhere something like Deedee or Didi, with sundry prefixes and suffixes like "Dru-di-di" or "Didi-aguiri," most of which mean something simple, such as "nasty" or "of the water." The whole concept is, however, as far as I was able to find out, very muddled in the native mind. This is probably because most of the current "natives" are not indigenous or in any way native to the country. It is only when you go among the now rapidly disappearing Amerinds—Caribs, Arawaks, and such—that you get any clear picture of this creature. Conversation with these folk is almost impossible as their languages are not known and are extremely difficult to apprehend. Also, they are naturally very cagey.

I first stumbled across this business when on my constant quest for animals which entailed endless patience in asking anybody and everybody about all the kinds of animals they had ever heard of. It was with the Primates—or monkey kingdom—that I kept getting information about more and ever more kinds that I had not yet seen. This started in British Guiana and went on in Surinam [then Dutch Guiana]. It seemed that there was no end to the kinds available and, to my great surprise, the locals were as good as their tales, for more and still more kinds were brought to us—or we were taken to them. I saw monkeys alive—and in captivity—in that country to which I could not and still cannot give even a familial name. And from quite early on we kept being told about these Didis. They lived way back in the hills, and they were pretty smart "Kwasi," which is the generalized name for all Primates in that area. Also, they had no tails, lived on the ground, had thumbs like men, and built crude bush-houses of palm leaves. They usually ran away but if a large party of men should penetrate into those completely uninhabited mountains they would come, a lot together, and throw sticks and mud at your canoe. So went the stories.

I never saw a Didi but then we never got really far into the uninhabited territory but I did come across some extremely

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large human footprints in the mud of a tiny side creek off a main river right up by the first cataract and 40 miles above the last known village. I put them down to visiting Jukas upriver to hunt, or to a band of roving Amerinds —for there were still some in the district though nobody had seen them for over a decade—but I was mystified. I did not connect them with the Didis; but I have since often wondered. It is so easy to find plausible explanations of odd facts. Besides, some other dashed rum things happened at that camp.

The story of the Didis goes back to the first days of European exploration of the Guianas. Sir Walter Raleigh's chroniclers mentioned them; the early Spaniards said that the natives spoke of them; and in 1769 Edward Bancroft  * wrote of them, saying that the Indians said they were about 5 feet tall, erect, and clothed in black hair. Once again also, the redoubtable Bernard Heuvelmans has brought to light some specific statements on these elusive creatures. These he gives us as follows:

In 1868, a century after Dr. Bancroft, Charles Barrington Brown, who was then Government Surveyor in British Guiana, heard new rumours on the Upper Mazaruni on the Venezuelan frontier that a sort of hairy men lived there. Oddly enough, it was after hearing the "plaintive moan or howl" which Cieza de Leon also alleged these ape-men made.

The first night after leaving Peaimah we heard a long, and most melancholy whistle, proceeding from the direction of the depths of the forest, at which some of the men exclaimed, in an awed tone of voice, "The Didi." Two or three times the whistle was repeated, sounding like that made by a human being, beginning in a high key and dying slowly and gradually away in a low one.…

The "Didi" is said by the Indians to be a short, thick set, and powerful wild man, whose body is covered with hair, and who lives in the forest. A belief in the existence of this fabulous creature is universal over the whole of British, Venezuelan and Brazilian Guiana. On the Demerara river, some years after this, I met a half-breed woodcutter, who related an

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encounter that he had with two Didi—a male and a female—in which he successfully resisted their attacks with his axe. In the fray, he stated, he was a good deal scratched.

In 1931 Professor Nello Beccari, an Italian anthropologist, Dr. Renzo Giglioli and Ugo Ignesti, made an expedition to British Guiana, where one of their secondary objects was to attack the problem of Loys' ape. For in this area the fauna, flora, climate and indeed the whole ecological pattern—what is now called the "biotope"—are the same as in the Sierra de Perijaâ;  * and Beccari had read in Elisée Reclus's geographical encyclopedia that according to Indian legend the forests in British Guiana were haunted by fabulous hairy men called di-di, which all the Indians fear, although they have never seen them. But it was not until he was just about to return to Italy that he heard any definite information about where this beast lived.

On his return from several months in the interior, he met the British Resident Magistrate, Mr. Haines, who was then living on the Rupununi. Haines told him that he had come upon a couple of di-di many years before when he was prospecting for gold. In 1910 he was going through the forest along the Konawaruk, a tributary which joins the Essequibo just above its junction with the Potaro, when he suddenly came upon two strange creatures, which stood up on their hind-feet when they saw him. They had human features but were entirely covered with reddish brown fur. Haines was unarmed and did not know what he could do if the encounter took a turn for the worse, but the two creatures retreated slowly and disappeared into the forest without once taking their eyes off him. When he had recovered from his surprise he realized that they were unknown apes and recalled the legend of the di-di which he had been told by the Indians with whom he had lived for many years.

When Miegam, the guide of the Italian expedition, heard this story he remembered that he had had a similar adventure in 1918. He was going up the Berbice with three men, Orella, Gibbs and an American whose name he had forgotten. A little beyond Mambaca they saw on a sandy beach on the river-bank two creatures which from a distance they took for men, and hailed them to ask if the fishing was good. The unknown

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creatures did not reply but merely slunk away into the forest. The four men were puzzled and landed on the beach, where they were staggered to find that the footprints were apes’, not men's. Miegam could not say whether the creatures had a tail, but it could hardly have been conspicuous, or he would not have mistaken them for men. He did, however, say that two other settlers called Melville and Klawstky had similar adventures in other places.

Professor Beccari obtained further information about the di-di from an old negro at Mackenzie, famed for his wisdom, learning and experience. Everyone on the banks of the Demerara called him "Oncle Brun"—presumably he had come from French Guiana or the French West Indies—but the few Indians that survived in the neighborhood respected him so much they named him "The Governor." "Oncle Brun" had been told by the Indians that the di-di lived in pairs and that it was extremely dangerous to kill one of them, for the other would inevitably revenge its mate by coming at night and strangling its murderer in his hammock. Beccari did not trust the more fanciful part of this story, but felt that it must have a kernel of truth. Lays, like Haines and Miegam, had also met a pair, and so had Barrington Brown's woodcutter. Most South American monkeys live in largish troops, and this habit alone suggests that this is a very peculiar species.

The most significant single fact about these reports from Guiana is that never once has any local person—nor any person reporting what a local person says—so much as indicated that these creatures are just "monkeys." In all cases they have specified that they are tailless, erect, and have human attributes, even to building huts and throwing things. This is an altogether different matter to de Loys' asinine "ape." We are, in fact, once again confronted with the strange fact that great numbers of people of all manner of tribes, nationalities, and even races, insist that ABSMs are wild men, as opposed to manlike animals. This is the one theme that runs consistently through all ABSMery.


148:* Published in England by Rupert Hart-Davis, 1958; published in the United States by Hill & Wang, 1959.

149:* Sometimes things get much worse, as when Guatemala published a map of her country which included the whole of British Honduras, because they "claim" it; and then the Mexicans countered with a map of their southern states from the Isthmus of Tehuantepec that showed the northern half of that hapless little independent colony as being a part of their Territory of Quintana Roo. Happily, the Republica de Honduras, being between governments, only issued a pamphlet which claimed all the cays and islands off British Honduras. (There are five United States in all America—ours, Mexico, Venezuela, Brazil, and the Argentine.

161:* Cornfield.

167:* I have for some years been interested in the reported existence of giant Earthworms in this area, based upon some correspondence and some extraordinary bas-reliefs on ancient pottery from that country. In 1956 and again in 1957, Mrs. William (Marté) Latham made trips to the Pacific slopes of the Andes and obtained numbers of these-5 feet long when contracted, and over 2 inches in diameter. Preserved materials of them is lodged with the Smithsonian Institution but the animals do not as yet even have a generic name.

179:* Called himself Jacobus Van Zandt, spied on Benjamin Franklin in Paris, and almost kept France from joining our War of Independence. He was a well-known botanist and naturalist, as well as a doctor!

180:* This statement is not strictly true. There are most marked botanical and zoological differences between these two areas, while their forests are completely separated by a wide belt of orchard-bush and open savannahs which form a barrier just as complete as if a sea. The Guiana Massif, moreover, is the more isolated in technical parlance, and has been so much longer and more often in the past. Sub-hominids and sub-men would be just about the only animals that could cross the open country but even modern forest peoples prefer not to do so.

Next: 9. Africa—the “Darkest”