Bigfoot Encounters


Newspaper: The Long Beach Press Telegram
Published: Sunday, March 29, 1992 - Associated Press

A spirited 72-year-old doctor and a filmmaker are teaming up for a summer expedition to track the Almasty, or Snowman of the Caucasus, a huge, hairy beast with glowing red eyes, the hominoid cousin of Yeti and Bigfoot.

Dr. Marie-Jeanne Koffmann, a French-Russian surgeon, mountaineer and scholar, has been on the Almasty trail for more than two decades and has collected more than 500 accounts and a plaster-cast footprint of the ``forest man of the Caucasus.''

She traveled on horseback through the remote mountains between the Black and Caspian seas, talking to villagers who had seen the mysterious beast. Although skeptical at first, she became convinced that the Almasty was another in an array of species that roamed the Caucasian wilds. Retiring in France on a tiny Soviet pension, she never dreamed that one day she'd have the money to mount a full-scale scientific search.

But then, she had not counted on Sylvain Pallix. Pallix, a documentary filmmaker, was fascinated by two articles Koffmann wrote for Archologia magazine. Tracking her down, he proposed finding sponsors for an expedition that he would film.

The respected French paleoanthropologist Yves Coppens gave the search his blessing. Pallix raised half of the needed $1.8 million. He's confident he'll find the rest. ``For three weeks, the telephone has been ringing off the hook,'' said Pallix, whose previous works have included a documentary on a Harley-Davidson meet in South Dakota and one on Calvados moonshiners. ``People are fascinated by the Almasty.'' A dozen people will leave Paris in June, to be joined by a dozen of Koffmann's scientific colleagues from Moscow. They will conduct their search in the Kabardin-Balkar region of Russia, just north of Georgia. The expedition hopes to find the beast, put it to sleep, take blood and skin samples and a plaster cast of the face and then let it awake in freedom - after putting a band on it so its wanderings can be followed.

Appearing like a cross between an ape and a Neanderthal, the Almasty reputedly can run up to 37 mph. It is said to be omniverous and sometimes travels with companions and babies. The last sighting of the Almasty was by a zoologist friend of Koffmann who reported spending six minutes watching one on Aug. 25, 1991.

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