Bigfoot Encounters

The Pangboche Hand

The Pangboche Hand is an artifact stolen from a Buddhist monastery in Pangboche, Nepal by big game hunter-author Peter Byrne. Supporters contend that the hand belong to the Himalayan yeti. Critics argue it is a fraud more than likely, based upon minimal understanding of the sacred relic’s history.

The Pangboche Hand photograph at right is courtesy Peter Byrne, Los Angeles, California 2002

In 1957, Texas oil millionaire Tom Slick launched a series of expeditions in search of the Yeti. Slick had an unwavering love for cryptozoology; his money bought him the hope filled promise of bringing the abominable snowman into captivity. Slick's efforts were largely fruitless, except for a 1958 expedition that revealed the alleged bones of a yeti's hand, an artifact enshrined at a monastery in Pangboche, Nepal later known as the Pangboche Hand....

The monks refused to let expedition member Peter Byrne remove the hand
from the premises, but Byrne was able to hatch a plan to steal parts of it. In 1959, Byrne secretly switched human hand bones for the some of the bones of the Yeti hand, and he smuggled the Pangboche originals out of the country with the valuable assistance of -- get ready for this -- Jimmy Stewart, the famed actor. Stewart just happened to be passing through India, and he and his wife Gloria agreed to wrap up the stolen bones in their underwear inside their luggage. Truth is stranger than Bigfoot.

Scientific analysis of the Pangboche bones was mixed. British Primatologist William Osman-Hill initially announced that the bones were of human origin, but then changed his mind and declared them unidentifiable as any known primate. Later he revised his opinion yet again, saying that the Pangboche hand must have belonged to a Neanderthal. Unfortunately, the smuggled bones were lost and cannot be re-examined today.

Sir Edmund Hillary, the explorer who climbed Mt. Everest in 1953, decided to get to the bottom of this "abominable snowman" business and embarked on a highly publicized debunking expedition in 1960-61. Hillary's intentions were noble, but he committed some of the closed-minded crimes that give good skepticism a bad name. Sir Edmund accused the Sherpas of being a superstitious people who did not distinguish between the mythical and reality. He further insinuated that their yeti sightings went hand in hand with heavy drinking. He obtained a "yeti scalp" which he decried as being a fake made out of the skin of a goat like animal, the serow, without understanding that the artifact was a common skullcap fashioned in imitation of the yeti -- these yeti scalps were no more deceptive than the sugary pastry we figuratively call a bear claw. In an irony of hilarious proportions, Sir Edmund Hillary also ridiculed the Pangboche hand, which he characterized as "essentially a human hand, strung together with wire, with the possible inclusion of several animal bones" -- and little did he know how perfectly accurate that description was, considering the secret surgery Peter Byrne had performed on the bones just a year earlier!
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January 22, 2002 Peter Byrne wrote "Do you know that someone stole the hand from the Pangboche Temple a couple of years ago? It has not been recovered. They (the lamas there) used to bring the replacement hand out and show it to the trekkers going through there-ten thousand or more a year now, I am told-and collect a fee for doing this-and I guess they showed it to one too many. Last pictures I saw of it (being shown to visitors) it was still in the same box I put it in for them in 1958, a black wooden Hamilton Silversmiths box with a ruffled silk lining, from London. Onward onward..PB."

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