History of the Abominable Snowman

Posted by: Craig Woolheater on February 26th, 2006

In a previous post here on Cryptomundo, I talked about the thought that the Yeti, or Abominable Snowman, was white in coloration.

This creature of the Himalayas was not widely known to Western civilization until 1921. The events that transpired were set forth by a telegram sent from an expedition then in the Mt. Everest region. At about 17,000 feet, members of the expedition watched through binoculars a number of dark moving forms on a snowfield above them. After quite a bit of effort, the expedition made their way to the snowfield, and found a large number of footprints “three times those of normal humans” in size. The Sherpa porters stated that these creatures were called Metoh-Kangmi, a generic Nepalese term meaning “snow creature” that was used for several mountain creatures said to roam the area.

Lost in Translation

The telegram to India was sent forth with the word metch kangmi, which was translated, incorrectly, by a reporter for the Calcutta Statesman as Tibetan for abominable snowman. There were several layers of confusion. The first was the use of metoh in the first place. It should have been meh-teh, meaning man-beast. The second was that it was mistakenly transcribed by the Indian telegraphist as metch, instead of metoh. And lastly, that the term was Nepalese, and was translated as Tibetan.

The Sherpas have two terms that they use for these creatures, meh-teh and yeh-teh. It’s easy to see how yeh-teh becomes yeti.

Amongst most researchers, the common theory is that these creatures inhabit the temperate, fertile valleys of the Himalayas, only traversing the snowy mountains to travel from one area to another, leaving the large footprints in the snow. It would only stand to reason that they would be inhabitants of the forested valleys, not “snowmen.”

So this mistranslation more than likely started the misconception of the Yeti, or Abominable Snowman, as being covered in white hair. The Christmas TV program Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer didn’t air until 1964. The Abominable Snowman character from the program, Bumble, was a white-hair-covered creature. The animatronic Abominable Snowman from the Matterhorn attraction at Disneyland was added in 1978, and it is a white-hair-covered represntation of the creature. Those came much later, some years after the translation snafu.

Disney Yeti

Actually, most eyewitness accounts describe a dark-colored creature.

In 1832, Journal of the Asiatic society of Bengal published the account of B. H. Hodgson, who wrote that while trekking in northern Nepal, his native guides spotted a tall, bipedal creature covered with long dark hair, then fled in fear. Hodgson did not see the creature, but concluded it was an orangutan.
Source: Wikipedia

The first reliable report of the Yeti appeared in 1925 when a Greek photographer, N. A. Tombazi, working as a member of a British geological expedition in the Himalayas, was shown a creature moving in the distance across some lower slopes. The creature was almost a thousand feet away in an area with an altitude of around 15,000 feet.

“Unquestionably, the figure in outline was exactly like a human being, walking upright and stopping occasionally to uproot or pull at some dwarf rhododendron bushes,” said Tombazi, “It showed up dark against the snow and, as far as I could make out wore no clothes.”

The creature disappeared before Tombazi could take a photograph and was not seen again. The group was descending, though, and the photographer went out of his way to see the ground were he had spotted the creature. Tombazi found footprints in the snow.

“They were similar in shape to those of a man, but only six to seven inches long by four inches wide at the broadest part of the foot. The marks of five distinct toes and the instep were perfectly clear, but the trace of the heel was indistinct…”

There were 15 prints to be found. Each was one and one half to two feet apart. Then Tombazi lost the trail in thick brush. When the locals were asked to name the beast he’d seen they told him it was a “Kanchenjunga demon.” Tombazi didn’t think he’d seen a demon, but he couldn’t figure out what the creature was either. Perhaps he’d seen a wandering Buddhist or Hindu ascetic or hermit. As the years went by though and other Yeti stories surfaced, Tombazi began to wonder if he’d seen one too.
Source: Museum of Unnatural Mystery

Then there’s the account told by Slavomir Rawicz in his book, The Long Walk: The True Story of a Trek to Freedom. Rawicz was a young Polish calvary officer that was captured in 1939 and sent to the Siberian Gulag. He, along with six others, escaped a year later. They made their way on foot across thousands of miles of harsh terrain, from Siberia, across Mongolia, the Gobi Desert, across the Himalayas to British India. In the book, he tells of the group seeing 2 large creatures in the spring of 1942 that he described thusly:

“At close range they defied facile [simplistic] description. There was something both of the bear and the ape about the general shape, but they could not be mistaken for either. The color was a rusty kind of brown. They appeared to be covered by two distinct kinds of hair – -the reddish hair which gave them their characteristic color forming a tight close fur against the body, mingling with which were long loose straight hairs hanging downwards, which had a slight grayish tinge as the light caught them. They were doing nothing but moving around slowly together, occasionally stopping to look around them like people admiring a view. Their heads turned towards us now and again but their interest in us seemed to be of the slightest. I looked back and the pair was standing still, arms swinging slightly as though listening intently.”

Yeti Sketch

Sketch by Zoologist Dr. Wladimir Tschernezky from Slavomir Rawicz’s description.

In 1970, British mountaineer Don Whillans says he saw a creature while scaling Annapurna. While scouting for a campsite, Whillans heard some odd cries. His Sherpa guide told him the sound was a yeti’s call. That night, reported Whillans, he saw a dark shape moving near his camp. The next day, Whillans observed a few human like footprints in the snow, and that evening, he asserted that with binoculars, he watched a bipedal, ape-like creature for about 20 minutes as it apparently searched for food not far from his camp.
Source: Wikipedia

All of these eyewitness accounts describe creatures covered with dark hair. A creature that is neither abominable, nor a snowman.

About Craig Woolheater
Co-founder of Cryptomundo in 2005. I have appeared in or contributed to the following TV programs, documentaries and films: OLN's Mysterious Encounters: "Caddo Critter", Southern Fried Bigfoot, Travel Channel's Weird Travels: "Bigfoot", History Channel's MonsterQuest: "Swamp Stalker", The Wild Man of the Navidad, Destination America's Monsters and Mysteries in America: Texas Terror - Lake Worth Monster, Animal Planet's Finding Bigfoot: Return to Boggy Creek and Beast of the Bayou.

One Response to “History of the Abominable Snowman”

  1. CryptoInformant responds:

    Are there any reports of a white Yeti?

Sorry. Comments have been closed.

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