Friday, February 21, 2014
Soviet Snowmen Study, Part Two.
Today here is a minimalist look into monograph #2 of the 4-volume set above that we introduced last time. To briefly remind: these are four very rare booklets containing information about a Soviet data-gathering committee's work on "wildman" possibilities in the Central Asian and China area, done in 1958-9. The monographs were published in 1959, and found their way to Ivan Sanderson's SITU Archives. He used them in preparation of his famous book. My esteemed European correspondent Theo Paijmans has informed me that these things were published in only about 100 copies, and, with likely attrition over the years, these are probably one of a very small number of sets left. Theo has asked me if I can scan them for the greater good, and I can't. If any of you out there want to come to Kalamazoo and do the scanning, I will be happy to open my doors for that.
My status so far, dwelling in these documents, is that I cannot read #1, since its translation in Ivan's notebook files is by Heuvelmans and only in French, and so I've begun with #2 [not a problem as these things are rather robotically assembled pieces of information "as they came" to the Committee with little analysis.]
So, I've finished #2 and will give you an idea with crude analysis of its contents now. Later, I have a few other words to say about this stuff; and then I'll close to go back to #s 3 and 4 for presenting to you in later postings as I can.
What did they find? [illustration is of the famous Bhutan ABSM stamps set, just to give you something pretty to look at.]
The booklet is broken up into 38 units of information, which represent pieces of data: interviews, letters, notes from lectures, extracted information from books. Sometimes within these pieces more than one incident, fable, or claim exists. It is almost impossible to decide whether to count certain things at all, but, idiosyncratically, I've decided that there are about 59 information bits here.
MUCH of those 59 are what we anomalies researchers would regard as extremely low-grade ore. In fact, there are almost no claims in booklet #2 which are really impressive. The way that the claims rise to something more than idle rumor is due to their accumulation, not their stand-alone strength. This "accumulation" has a bit more substance than it otherwise might, due to the extreme separation of the informants, and the apparent naivete of some of the people interviewed.
The things which are fairly universal in what they seemed to find are pretty much what we've come to assume to be true about this possible entity: The entity has a humanoid form, is bipedal, is naked, is covered with body hair, but with a "clean face." One could almost assume that these booklets created or at least fixed the general image for Almas, Wildman, Gul-Biavan, and all the other endless names.
Height surprised me a little. Firstly, less than half mentioned height at all. I have an itching suspicion about this. If the reporter didn't mention height, then there may have been nothing unusual about the height. This suspicion would be supported by the fact that in the 25 incidents where height was mentioned, 14 were normal human-sized in stature, and 9 were slightly taller. The two remaining cases were a long-distance estimation of a seven-footer through binoculars, using nearby plants for a yardstick, and a giant monster akin to the Amerindian Windigo creature folklore. When one adds to this the fact that a typical Mongolian male is about a little over five foot-to-five-and-a-half feet tall, few if any of Booklet #2 encounters may have been with anything over six-foot-tall.
Aggression: almost all reports that mentioned this said "no", not aggressive. Most said things like secretive or won't let you get too close. There were exceptions, of which I have my doubts. A few claims had a strong folk tale character about the female Almas being a threat to steal your baby, or the male being ready to steal a young girl for a wife. These steal-a-wife tales were accompanied by her having one or more babies, escaping or being let go after several years, returning "home" just to respond to "his" siren cry in the woods and leave again. Very folkloric.
One tale said the female monster liked to kill and drink blood --- so much for that.
Two tales from different areas in the Pamirs, had the Gul-Biavan come into a campfire area or a farm, and a big wrestling match ensued IN WHICH THE HUMAN WAS STRONGER AND WON. So much for giant size.....
As you probably see, my confidence in these odd tales of aggression is low. Any animal or man could be pushed into aggressive action, but I don't see that in this volume.
Hair Color: a variety though not all over the map. Most of the reports mentioning color have it as "dark" mainly brown, with almost no one saying specifically black. There is a gray strain in the reports, sometimes all over, sometimes like aging gray. And there is a bit more "reddish" reporting than I would have guessed.
Diet: almost everyone who talks of this says "small animals and meat." The creature will eat things it killed or "mountain roadkill" it finds. There are stories of it coming into a camp and accepting a cooked piece of goat [or whatever], but one story claimed it refused the roasted meat but accepted the raw.
Supplementing its carnivorous nature, a few reporters said [quite interestingly to me] that the Almas/ Gul-Biavan liked to kick over stones and grab the larger insects which lived beneath them. I thought it a correlation which wouldn't necessarily have been expected. Other folks spoke of "vegetable diets" without specificity.
A few additional things of who-knows-what significance: As the tales accumulated a trickle of cases began to show up wherein the creatures stunk badly --- not a lot, but a late trend in the booklet. One encounter was replete with footprints, and for a change, the reporter took a detailed look at them. He noticed an exceptionally large big toe, which might support Shipton's print [the report didn't say that, I did]. Also late in booklet #2, there was a small trend stating that the creatures walked "bent." I'd be careful of things like that, if only because the lead committee member was very interested in proving things about pre-humans and their "lifestyles" and ultimate ends, and the [erroneous] image of the Neanderthal was of a bent walker.
A last warning here: the word "gul-biavan" was very prominent in these reports, much more so than Almas, or the nearly non-existent Yeti ["yeti" precursors like MI-GE, MI-TE etc DID show up more]. The point here is that the locals called several sorts of animals "gul-biavan" most notably monkeys.
I've come away from this foray with a couple of understandings, I think. The first is that Sanderson seems to be the only English-language author to use this resource. He clearly used it as his notebook shows. He didn't exhaust it, because, I think, he like me saw that the translation still presented difficulties in understanding and mapping everything, and maybe it was best to just cherry-pick the best stories and integrate them as illustrations of what else he knew. Ivan was definitely a cherry-picker with this.
I looked at some other likely abominable snowman books, things like Izzard's thing, and more so Tchernine' In Pursuit of the Abominable Snowman, and Myra Shackley's Still Living. Both Tchernine and Shackley seemed prime possibilities for using this resource. Both apparently knew that something had happened with Porshnev's Committee, but neither seems to have used these booklets. Shackley knew about the Committee due to reading other writings of Porshnev, but not these monographs.
That made me wonder a bit too. Because Shackley's book so smoothly integrates with what I have read here, a strong aura of authenticity of research quality "in the field" resonates within it. I'm not usually a person who comes down on the "missing pages in the biological textbook" camp of cryptozoology [leaning to the paranormal usually, as you folks know] but this business looks like a very possible case of a relict population to me.
But, I believe, that one of the most likely environments for this relict survival is now gone.
Because of the concurrent Pamir expedition [which it turns out Porshnev himself was on], there is quite a lot of commentary about wildman legends/ rumors/ encounter tales from that region. Alongside some of the mountain ridges run rivers, wherein several wildman tales are placed. Some of these mountain are well vegetated and could support top predators high up the slopes. One river which showed up with favorable descriptors [I was impressed anyway] was the Kara-Balta. This begin to acquire a feeling for me of "ground zero."
Because I was becoming enamored of Kara-Balta as a potential Almas site, I went to good ole Google Maps to see if I could find it. Find it I did. Here in 2014 there are people and even roads everywhere. Cities exist; modern cities. How in the heck did THAT happen?
It ain't pretty.
Let's weigh this out: Uranium for nuclear bombs vs ecological space for relict populations? Hmmmmm. What would Stalin choose??
Now the mining has mainly stopped, leaving behind a thoroughly messed up environment and a large population trying to shift over [to Oil, I believe.] If Myra Shackley's neanderthal Almas were there in 1960, I doubt that they lasted long.
Somewhere else? Southwestern China? Maybe.
Now if Yeti looked like this, maybe we could get a Panda Campaign thing going.
Till next time, Peace, folks.
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