; Phantoms and Monsters: Pulse of the Paranormal

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

The Pamir 'Snowman'

There has been a renewed interest in the 'wildmen' of Asia...probably the best known is the Yeti. But there have been expeditions into the more tropical areas of south central Asia as well. In this post, I want to concentrate on mountainous central Asia, specifically those hominids or 'snowmen' that are said to exist in the Pamir Range of Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Afghanistan and northern Pakistan. These hominids go by several monikers...the Barmanu, the Tajik Yeti, the Almysty, the Golub-Yavan or simply the Gul.

In August 2001, the Russian magazine Karavan + I published an article about the killing of a wild man on the old Soviet-Afghanistan border. According to the author, border guards of the Kevran unit in the Pamir Mountains saw a "Snowman" during the winter of 1967/68. They reported their observation to their superior, Kuzkov, the officer in charge of the unit. He did not, at first, pay any attention to it.

The soldiers of the next watch again saw a creature and reported the fact. Subsequently, the duty officer accompanied the soldiers to the spot and personally observed the creature. Kuskov informed his superior officer, a colonel in Khorog – a settlement on the Tajikistan-Afghanistan border. News about this reached the Central Asia Command where, in February 1968, a high-ranking officer gave the order, ‘Catch him or, if that isn’t possible, eliminate him!’. Thereupon, the border guards shot the creature and took it to the border post. The body was stored in a woodshed. A subsequent article 3) in Karavan + I in September 2001 on the happening disclosed that the body was taken to Moscow in great secrecy.

The magazine questioned two scientists to establish what had happened to the remains of the "Snowman". One of these was Georgy Skvorzov, director of the programme Animals in inhabited settlements and, according to Karavan, for many years a collector of information about the ‘Snowmen’.

[Karavan:] Georgy, do you believe in the existence of the Snowmen?

[Skvorzov:] Of course. The Snowman has not only just been seen once in the mountains of Tibet, in the Pamir Mountains, Siberia and the northern Caucasus. In recent time these sightings have been fewer. Probably these very cautious creatures are hiding from the advancing human civilisation.

[Karavan:] Do you know about the affair at the end of Winter 1968 when our border guards killed a Snowman in the Pamir Mountains and brought his body to the capital? Did scientists get their hands on this specimen?

[Skvorzov:] We have slightly different information if we are talking about the same event. According to my information the body of a Snowman was found by a shepherd in the Pamir Mountains in autumn 1968. But at that time our scientists only received pieces of the fur and the eye-teeth.

The magazine confided that their editor had been visited by an ex-border guard called Andrej. He had served in the Pamir Mountains during the 1960s and had confirmed the killing of a "Snowman" at the place mentioned. Further information about what happened to the body or about the fur and eye-teeth was not given.

In the Russian Newspaper Simbirskij Kur'er (Simbirsk Courier), Arsenij Korolev reported in 2002 among others about a 1982 expedition of the Tajik Academy of Science in the Hissar Mountains in the western Pamirs. The academy was equally involved in the 'snowman' problem. According to Korolev, in the 1980s, many adventure lovers came to Tajikistan in search of snowmen. During their holidays, media workers organized themselves into groups and came to the Hissar Mountains. A great number of publications followed as a result and the local press was full of stories concerning the Gul' He writes: “Only few, however, knew that this puzzle would be solved by the scientists of the Tajik Academy of Science." Tatjana Vasileva, at that time a scientist at the academy, is quoted as following: “Despite all that, the scientists were not inactive. Of course we were inquisitive to follow the traces of the snowman, particularly so when this legends was just close to us. But the leading stuff of the Academy was against an official expedition. The only thing that we could do was to organize an expedition that was dealing with soil profiles. At the same time, we could also search for traces of the snowman."

Cryptozoologist George M. Eberhart's description of the 'Wildman'

At the beginning of May 1982, a ten member expedition left for the Hissar Mountains. Flora and fauna related materials were collected and examined to find possible eyewitnesses of the snowman. The expedition team noted that the locals themselves would reluctantly talk about the Gul. Often, they changed the subject quite abruptly. In most cases, no personal experiences would be reported except for encounters through another person. The expedition found no traces of "Snowmen".

Furthermore, Korolev reported about an encounter with a police chief of Tadshikabad who spent the weekend with friends in the mountains: “After lunch, the friends went to the river for a bath. The policeman was tired and fell asleep. He only woke up because someone was shaking his car. He looked back and saw a Gul beside his Shiguli. The Gul was pushing the Shiguli forward. Then, the creature placed its hands at the rear windscreen of his car. Full of fear, the policeman shot up and the Gul ran away. But the prints of his hands at the rear windscreen of his car have remained. A Tajik detective has taken these prints and has forwarded them to the police department of criminal investigation."

A guide Surob stakes his honor on the wild man's existence. “I saw his footprints, bigger than the man’s, in snow.”

The road slides upwards from Dushanbe and starts to disintegrate. Surob gestures towards a sad-looking town to our right. “That’s town where I was born, after collapse Soviet Union, people started banging, stealing, breaking everything, proving they themselves are the Yetis.” He bristles when I suggest the Yeti may be a peasant mirage. “They swear on the Koran. Why should they lie? They know nothing, they have nothing, they swear by Allah they have seen it.” I back down.

We pull up at a shack for a pit stop. This is where the valley begins. I am peckish. Soviet-style sweets are displayed in plastic bags. “What’s the best one?” I ask in Russian. The proprietor dashes to a side room and brings me a Snickers bar. My guide wants to hurry, but an old man with an unwashed beard and one strikingly yellow tooth asks for a ride up towards his village. Surob asks him if he is from here. “He from here. Now I will gather the information.”

The peasant knows about the Yeti. “Ten years ago, I saw him. I was climbing a hill to gather firewood and I saw somebody. I go hey, hey, but then he started running towards me. It was the Yeti, covered in black wool, with breasts like the woman’s…”

I ask him to swear on the Koran that he saw the Yeti. Raising his hand to heaven the old man insists and gives me his Islamic word. “I don’t know about other people, but I saw it. It was shouting with anger, rarghh, I was shouting with fear, eeee, and I run.” The countryside changes dramatically as we talk. The road has become a dirt track. The car is swerving and sidling as it climbs up the barren gullies. The old man insists he saw the Yeti. Everyone knows somebody who has in the nearby villages. “When I got back to the village, my father started reading the Koran to me, as protection.”

Nature is starting to blossom in rich abundance. Cherry blossom hangs off the crags. Shoots of wild onions sprout out of the dark earth. “Look,” says Surob. “Look at the herbals, the Yeti is eating the herbals, this is why he lives here.” Coloured tips of wild flowers, blues, reds, purples, grow among the jagged browns, reds and greys of the mountains. Another curve. A stark, barren river valley. “Hey, they saw him too.” Surob stops the car and gives traditional greetings to two middle-aged men driving the traditional clapped-out Lada.

“Yeah, I had fight with him,” says the hunter. “He has wool, black wool, and these breasts…” And he wolf-whistles. His companion, a chubby man in a sizeable skullcap, butts in. “Oh yes, I was up in the glade, and he attacked my donkey. It was very frightening. He looked like a wild man — or a clever monkey.” The sightings occur in the same places. Regularly.

In 1983 Dimitri Bayanov of the Darwin Museum led an expedition to Tajikistan. He visited the site near Lake Pairon where two women, Geliona Siforova and Dima Sizov, had reported seeing a wild woman sitting on a boulder 10 yards (9 m) from their tent. It surveyed them for a long time, making munching sounds. They did not dare to approach it, and in the morning there were no traces of footprints or hairs.

Bayanov also visited the area of Sary Khosor and talked with Forest Service workers, who said they often had reports of wild men. Two years previously, a shepherd had driven his sheep back down from the mountains two months early because he had seen a big black 'gul' or wild man near his pasture. It had frightened his dogs and he had not dared to stay. Another Tajik had told the officers of an encounter five years earlier with 'a giant hairy man, very broad in the shoulders, with the face like that of an ape'.

The Forest Service takes these reports seriously enough to prohibit its employees from spending the night alone in the mountains, for fear of these wild men.

Bayanov had no personal encounter with wild men, but he concluded his 1982 expedition report by saying:

"The abundant signs I witnessed of local fauna, particularly omnivores such as bears and wild pigs, indicate enough food resources for the presumably omnivorous hominids the year round. The 93 percent of the Tajik Republic's territory taken up by mountains is virtually devoid of permanent human population, so the latter poses no special danger to wild hominids. The long and continuing record of purported hominid sightings, supported by these new accounts, leads me to the conclusion that such creatures do exist there."

The newspaper Vechernaja Kazan, from Kazan, the capital of Tatarstan, Russian Federation, shared the following in August 2001: “A hunter from the Narynsk province [Kyrgyztan] discovered tracks of an unknown being in the mountains. Scientists were able to take a photo of these tracks - length: 45 cm, width: 35 cm. Experts assume that the hominid (if it was one) came here from the neighboring Pamir, where Tajik rebels have caused him to shy away.”

As well in 2006, Vladimir Smeljanskij reported in the Russian newspaper Rabochaja Gazeta about a business trip to Tajikistan. In the village Sary-Chashma close to the Afghani border, a teenager told him about an encounter. He claimed it happened to his father in the early 1990s. At the time, his father was working as a cowherd. One evening, he noticed that a cow was missing. As he was searching for the cow in the dark, he came across a ravine, fell, and caught himself on a vine. He called for help. Suddenly, he heard a snort. At first he thought it was the missing cow. Then, in the light of the moon, he saw a figure: “… large head, short torso, unbelievably long arms, bent yet strong legs, and very large feet. And the entire body was covered with dark brown fur.”

The being came to the edge, held a stick down for the man and easily hoisted him up. The two stood there a few seconds face to face. The man saw huge hands with thick fingers, ears close against his skull, and small eyes. The being was a little taller than 1.5 meters and with his broad shoulders seemed almost square. The being apparently reached for the knife on the herder’s belt and ripped it away. As an exchange, he gave him his stick. The being then turned the man around by grabbing his shoulders and gave him a light shove. In the village, at first everyone was skeptical of the herder’s story. But then the elders remembered: “In the Pamirs, you really do meet these half-man, half-animal beings. Sometimes it helps the herders, who think of it as a mountain spirit. But only a few have been lucky enough to see it.”

The newspaper Vechernaja Cheljabinsk published the following report in 2001. The author was visiting locals in the southern part of Kyrgyzstan, near the border of Tajikistan. A local hunter, Aslanbek (his last name is not given), told the following story: “Early in the morning, I was on the lookout for ducks in a gorge, close to the lake. Suddenly, I felt a strong fear. It was foggy, but I felt like someone was close by. There was something in the wind, the fog parted, and I saw an Almysty. He was big, about two meters, and bent over like an old man. He was completely covered in dark gray hair and stared at me. I stared back for a few minutes, and was afraid to move. I expected him to kill me. The elders tell how an Almysty can kill from a distance. But this one turned around and disappeared in the canyon after a few minutes. I ran away from there. Since then, I don’t want to go hunting anymore…” The encounter is said to have taken place in 2000.

In the winter of 2002, Pakistan newspapers reported that the 'Russian UFO Digest' (Rossiskij Ufologicheskij Daidjest) reported a new wildmen event in Pakistan. A 20 year-old citizen of the Pakistan village of Kharipur, Radschu, left his house and heard strange sounds from the bushes in front of it. Suddenly an aplike male creature, about 1,20m high, covered with thick black coat, came out of the bushs and attacked and scratched him. Radschu cried and run bag into his house. The 'wildmen' fled from the apple garden when other men using torches began to search around Radschu´s house. Eyewitnesses reported about the high shrill cries of the creature. Old villagers remembered they has seen such "strangers from the mountains" many times in the past, particulary in winter, when they came into the villages in search for food.

A another 'wild man' hominid is thought to live in portions of eastern Afghanistan as well as the Shishi Kuh Valley in the Chitral region of North Pakistan. The Barmanu, which translates as “The Hairy One”, is often thought to be related to early hominids and descriptions generally resemble the Neanderthal. As is the case with other sightings of man like hairy hominids, accounts of this creature are often accompanied by tales of a horrible stench, a trait which is attributed to the creature’s wilderness lifestyle and hair covered body. Legends of this creature have been told by the locals for centuries, but it was not until the early 1990’s that the legend would receive international attention.

During the early 1900’s several Spanish expeditions into the Shishi Kih Valley region of North Pakistan learned of the Barmanu through retelling of the legend by local people. The tales of the Barmanu eventually caught the ear of zoologist Jordi Magraner who traveled to the region with medical doctor Anne Mallasse and another team member. Between 1992 and 1994 Magraner and his team detailed not only eyewitness reports but personal experiences including grunting noise thought to have been made by a primitive voice box as well as discovering ape like foot prints. Magraner was killed by one of his Pakistani guides on August 2, 2002.

"Again the "Snowman" - Rossiskij Ufologicheskij Dajdjest (Russian UFO Digest) - January, 2003
Gurov, Boris - "Snowman Against the USSR" - Karavan + I - August 19, 2001
Gurov, Boris - "On the Tracks of Snowman" - Karavan + I - October 10, 2001
The Pamirs and the Source of the Oxus
Khakhlov, Vitaly - "On the "Wild Men" in Central Asia" - The Commission for the Study of the "Snowman" Question - 1959
Eberhart, George M. - "Mysterious Creatures: A Guide to Cryptozoology, Volume 1" - 2002
Hidden History of the Human Race
Smeljanskij, Vladimir - "Mountain Spirit" - Rabochaja Gazeta - May 24, 2006
Bigfoot: The Life and Times of a Legend
Makarov, Vadim - "Atlas of the Snowman" - 2002