The Hairy Man Beast of Darién, Panama
The Province of Darién, located to the southeast extreme of the Panamanian territory bordering Colombia;
it has an extensive rainforest and many different Indian cultures of Afro-Cimarron descent brought into the
area originally by the Spanish. Then there is Panama's sultry Darién Gap; it's a 10,000-square-mile swath
of stinking impenetrable jungle on the border of Central and South America known through the ages for
swallowing explorers. Today, the contra-bandista guerrillas, drunken men with machetes and broken bottles
line the thoroughfares with drug smugglers and poachers. If those don't get you the large population of
jaguars and deadly bushmasters will; this is one of nature's untold no-man's-land.
Marsh's story of The Man Beast of Darién follows:
In 1920 while I was in Panama an old and experienced American prospector, Shea by name, came to me with a strange story. He had just returned from a trip to southeastern Darién. With another American he had ascended the Sambu River, which enters the sea on the southern shore of San Miguel Bay. The country here was, and still is, wholly unknown. Even the mountain range back from the coast did not appear on the maps. Shea and his companion worked their way with great difficulty to the headwaters of the Sambu and there they became separated. The other American has not been heard from since.
When Shea lost his companion, he lost his canoe and most of his equipment. So instead of attempting to return down the Sambu River, he decided to forge his way to the Pacific Ocean across the Andean Range to the west. He reached the divide in a state of exhaustion and by a stroke of luck stumbled on an old Indian dugout abandoned on the bank of a small river running into Pinas Bay. It was nearly dark, so he camped for the night at a considerable altitude not far from the divide.
All that night he heard the footsteps of a large animal in the jungle above his camp. And when dawn came, he heard a curious chattering sound. He looked up and saw standing on top of the bank an animal that appeared to his unscientific mind to be a cross between a Negro and a gigantic ape. It was six feet tall, walked erect, weighed possibly three hundred pounds and was covered with long black hair. It was glaring down at him and chattering its teeth in rage.
Shea whipped out his revolver and shot it through the head. It tumbled down the bank and lay still beside his canoe. When Shea recovered from his fright he measured the animal crudely. It was heavily built like a gorilla, but the big toes on the feet were parallel with the other toes, as in a human being, not opposed like thumbs, as in all other monkeys and great apes.
Unfortunately Shea was too exhausted to bring any part of the animal back to civilization. He barely managed to get down to Pinas Bay on the Pacific and attract the attention of a coaster, which took him to Panama more dead than alive. I saw him many times after that in the hospital where he eventually died of chronic malaria. Almost his last words were a solemn oath that the story of the 'man-beast' was true.
Of course, my first reaction to this story was extreme skepticism. But I found to my surprise that many trustworthy men who had penetrated into the little-known parts of tropical America did not share my disbelief. The 'man-beast' is reported to have been seen in many locations.
When I returned to Washington and mentioned the matter to Dr. Hough of the Smithsonian, I did not get the pitying smile I was expecting. On the contrary he said he had been getting reports of this sort for twenty years and was inclined to believe there was something in them.
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