Posted by: Loren Coleman on February 11th, 2006
Cryptomundo Exclusive Interview
Anyone doing research on the so-called Bigfoot in Malaysia will soon run across the name "Harold Stephens." Today Cryptomundo gets an exclusive first interview with the man who thirty-five years ago conducted the first modern expedition in search of Malaysia’s Orang Dalam. And he reveals intriguing new details of other discoveries.
Close up of the track of the Orang Dalam on a Malaysian sandbar found during Harold Stephens’ expedition. The track measured nineteen inches in length and was half as wide.
His findings are being revisited again, in light of all the news of the Malaysian "Bigfoot." I thought it might be a good time to have a chat with Mr. Stephens.
First some background about his 1970s’ Bigfoot discovery.
Stephens first heard of stories of the jungle giants when on excursions into the Malaysian wilds late in the 1960s. He decided to go back with a focus on finding out more about these hairy large men. After mounting a small expedition that included some Westerners and two local Orang Asli, Bojung and Achin, who also served as guide-porters, they set out into the Malay jungle, up the Endau river.
Harold Stephens’ August 1971 article in Argosy is almost legendary.
After reaching the 12th rapids, beyond the tributary of the Kimchin River, Stephens’ party began exploring the riverbanks, looking for tracks; they came across many. As he writes about the experience in Argosy, in 1971:
The banks were now a maze of tracks: deer, pig, turtle, monitor lizard, elephant, tiger, leopard, rhino. Tiger tracks were the most frequent, some the size of a man’s hand.
But then, they happened across some that were entirely different.
There in front of us were footprints, human footprints, but not ordinary ones. They were enormous, 19 inches long and 10 inches wide. The creature that had made them had come down from the jungle and entered the water and here the tracks disappeared.
We called the others. They came half running and half swimming across the river. Bujong came running and stopped dead. He shook his head. "Orang Dalam," he said and returned to the boat. Both Bujong and Achin insisted that we camp on the opposite shore, on a much narrower section of beach, under the pretext that it was too hot on this side. We did, but not before Kurt [Rolfes, an ex-combat photographer from Vietnam] photographed the tracks.
Nothing like them had been found by a non-native before, and Stephens discoveries have been the source of much discussion and reference.
Harold Stephens lives in Bangkok today.
Discussing these early discoveries with me on February 11, 2006, Stephens talks very candidly about how he stumbled into this business:
Tunku (Prince) Bakar invited me on a fishing trip in the Malay jungles, and it was in a village on the Endau River I heard talk of a hairy jungle giant. I also heard about a prehistoric carving of an elephant on a mountain top. I mounted an expedition to look for the carving.
By accident we found footprints of a jungle giant. What was even more frightening, which I never told anyone, was when we awoke the next morning, all around our camp were footprints half the size of human prints.
A great deal of publicity came out of my discovery, in the local press and the cover story for Argosy Magazine, but then when I got to know the Chief Game Warden of Malaysia, and he invited me each year on major expeditions into the jungle (because I am a writer and could give him publicity) he asked me to lay off Bigfoot. It was bad publicity for the government.
Other things too he did not want me to publicize. In the jungle we came upon Negritoes living in the Stone Age. He didn’t even want me to take photos.
Harold Stephens did research in the libraries before his expedition, detailing sightings back three centuries in Malaysia. And he continued his study of the subject. He told me today:
I didn’t give up on Bigfoot though. I heard China was doing research, and traveled to China and interviewed some of their experts. Most interesting.
He has also written about what he found in China:
More than 300 sightings have been recorded there since the 1920s. A dozen scientific expeditions have searched for the wild man since 1976, mostly in the thickly forested Shen Nong Jia region of northwestern Hu Bei. In 1980, Meng Qing Bao, leader of one expedition, found more than 1000 footprints stretching for about one-and-a-half miles. The team made plaster casts of prints, some more than 20 inches long.
In Guandong, China, there is a permanent exhibition on display of the legendary “Abominable Snowman.” The Yangcheng Evening News reported that Mr. Fang Zhong Shi, head of the China Wild Man Research Association, has a standing offer of a 10,000 yuan (about US$10,000) reward for anyone bringing in one of the wild creatures.
(If there’s any interest, Cryptomundo will continue with further details of the wide-ranging interview, concerning Stephens’ hunt for the bones of the Peking Man and other adventures.)
Previously published details on Stephens’ discoveries about Orang Dalam and the Chinese Wildmen can be found in his book Return to Adventure Southeast Asia .
Loren Coleman is one of the world’s leading cryptozoologists, some say “the” leading. Certainly, he is acknowledged as the current living American researcher and writer who has most popularized cryptozoology in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. Starting his fieldwork and investigations in 1960, after traveling and trekking extensively in pursuit of cryptozoological mysteries, Coleman began writing to share his experiences in 1969. An honorary member of Ivan T. Sanderson’s Society for the Investigation of the Unexplained in the 1970s, Coleman has been bestowed with similar honorary memberships of the North Idaho College Cryptozoology Club in 1983, and in subsequent years, that of the British Columbia Scientific Cryptozoology Club, CryptoSafari International, and other international organizations. He was also a Life Member and Benefactor of the International Society of Cryptozoology (now-defunct). Loren Coleman’s daily blog, as a member of the Cryptomundo Team, served as an ongoing avenue of communication for the ever-growing body of cryptozoo news from 2005 through 2013.