THE RUSSIAN SNOWMAN
by Paul Stonehill, ParaScope Correspondent
Editor's note: The opinions on the existence of Bigfoot and supernatural phenomena expressed in this article are strictly those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of ParaScope, Inc. its editors or this website...
One of the leading Russian authorities on Bigfoot was Maya Bykova, who passed away in 1996, leaving behind a legacy of serious scientific inquiry into the phenomenon. Bykova graduated from the Moscow Agricultural Academy in 1955. For many years she studied Bigfoot (naming it Relict Hominoid), and she authored three books on the elusive creature: A Legend for Adults; He Is, Though He Must Not Be; and Not That Frightful Thing...
Beginning in 1972, Bykova organized a dozen expeditions to search for traces of animals unknown to science. None of these expeditions enjoyed the support of official bodies. After long years of study, she came to some interesting conclusions.
Bigfoot's appearance, described by many eyewitnesses, betrays the creature's earthly origin. It has a traditional constitution; that is, four limbs with five fingers each, one head, and one trunk. It looks like a man or a huge ape, its body covered in fur. Bigfoot is nocturnal and moves very fast. And it possesses an unexplained defense mechanism that make it "invisible" to humans. No one has ever seen a Bigfoot dwelling, and nobody knows anything about the reasons for this beast's migrations.
The most stunning property attributed to Bigfoot is his ability to disappear and appear suddenly, as if "dissolving" into thin air. This unusual property has led to various, sometimes fantastic hypotheses of Bigfoot's origin. Some tend to look for its tracks in other dimensions, while others connect its appearance with UFO activity. Bykova believed that there was no basis for these suppositions. However, she carefully pointed out that because we have no access to the object of our inquiry, we cannot supply an adequate scientific explanation of the whole phenomenon. We can only try to piece together Bigfoot's characteristics using the testimonies of as many different witnesses as possible.
Bigfoot's fur has been compared to that of a monkey. However, some bigfootologists disagree, asserting that large apes live only in warm environments. Until recently, scientists believed that apes could only live in places where the air temperature never drops below 14 degrees Celsius, and where there are no sharp temperature fluctuations. Yet it is common knowledge that Bigfoot has been encountered across the globe, from red-hot deserts to areas inside the Arctic Circle.
The diversity of nature suggests a few possible explanations. There are several well-known animals that can live in conditions which are seemingly unsuitable for any kind of life. One example is the so-called "snow monkey" (Macaca speciosa), found in sparsely populated regions of Northern Japan. As a rule, Macacae speciosae live in the tropics. Unlike their close relatives, the "snow monkeys" have light, thick fur. They are larger and live in mountainous terrain where snow covers the ground four months out of the year. The macaques find their food -- grass, young sprouts, leaf buds and tree bark -- under the snow. Bykova and her colleagues were very interested in the peculiarities of the snow monkeys' fur, the structure of their skin, and their behavior. Scientific studies such as the ones conducted on Polar bear fur at Northeastern University in Boston, Massachusetts, may offer vital clues to the Bigfoot enigma. There are several interesting points of comparison: despite its whiteness, the fur of the Polar bear is capable of converting 90 percent of the sun's energy it catches into warmth. Bigfoot inhabitants inside the Arctic Circle have fur of the same color. Polar bears convert into warmth almost all of the ultraviolet rays and part of the visible ones, and reflects light evenly throughout the whole visible spectrum, which is why it appears white to people. Experiments showed that when a portion of this fur is placed under the glass of a solar collector, the efficiency of the apparatus increases by 50 percent and more. Thus, peculiarities of the fur can enhance the survival of a flesh-and-blood creature. Despite such facts, however, some zoologists and bigfootologists refuse to discuss the very possibility of Bigfoot living inside the Arctic Circle.
Maya Bykova coined a term for the phenomenon of Bigfoot's sudden disappearances: the creature "camouflages its biofield" to become invisible. This phenomenon has been noted in Bigfoot encounters in the Himalayas (although, Bykova noted, the creature knows no limits and can be encountered on all five continents).
Tibetan "red-hatted" monks say that the "yeti" possesses control over its will -- or, to be more specific, it can stop the activity of its brain specially to become invisible. Monks themselves can do this: indeed, it is a necessary part of their gradual perfection. The "red-hatted" monks believe that Bigfoot (yeti) is the only creature on Earth that has preserved the ability to dissolve and become completely invisible to those around it. The monks say that Europeans have often sighted it, observed Bigfoot as a real object, and even followed it. Each time they were left disappointed. Bigfoot disappeared every time... right into thin air.
Bykova thinks this is a case of "psychological suggestion." It is directed not outward, but inward, at itself, as proposed by Professor Porshnev in his 1974 book About Early Human History. Excessive psychic, nervous or physical strain can trigger spontaneous natural autotraining that leads to a lethargic state. This does not produce complete physical disappearance, but invisibility vis-a-vis the observer. Professor Porshnev concluded that humans have lost this and similar abilities as a result of the increasing complexity of the human psyche. Popular beliefs offer proof of this. In the course of evolution the humans have gained much, including speech, but have lost something at a certain stage of our evolution, too. Bigfoot, who has not attained the capacity for speech, may be a creature parallel to homo sapiens, our genetic companion, a member of the same order but not above or below us, and by no means our ancestor. The mystery surrounding Bigfoot has led to many wild guesses expressed by people who have never seriously worked to investigate the phenomenon. The voices of psychics and parapsychologists are the loudest in this out-of-key chorus. Bykova was quite convinced that analogues of this earthly creature's properties should be sought on Earth, not in wild fantasies. This, Bykova said, is the only sensible approach to the subject.
Bigfoot's ability to adapt to vastly different environments and its mysterious defense mechanisms make the creature extremely elusive. But in Bykova's assessment, the facts were amazingly simple: this creature can do everything that homo sapiens' ancestors, and modern humans, could do at the preverbal stage of their evolutions. These are the things humans strive to return to and which we admire when we encounter signs of our evolutionary past in gifted individuals: telepathic communication, the ability to find a lost person, extraordinary vision of situations that occur on the other side of the globe (or inside the Earth), and so on.
Bykova stated that Bigfoot's behavior was of no less interest than its natural gifts. Eyewitnesses speak of encounters that lasted only seconds, a minute at the most. Bigfoot is never encountered face to face. And despite its ability to "vanish" in front of human eyes, Bykovafeared that the species might be dying out.
Humans' hunger for knowledge, accompanied by their complete loss of interest in the Earth itself and its inhabitants, leaves Bigfoot with poor chances for survival, said Bykova. She apparently was not aware of ecological defense movements in the West (which are now taking root in the East as well). But she went on to say that there are those in Russia who are "impatient" and tired of waiting for reliable data of the creature's real existence. They are ready to shoot the obstinate creature at the first opportunity, and so put an end to this mystery once and for all. Others believe that Bigfoot's corpse will somehow bring them the Noble prize.
Bigfoot's powerful set of defense mechanisms offers it a natural advantage in the face of this adversity. Some Russian eyewitnesses say that it has the ability to influence people, filling them an unusual fear just short of complete paralysis. Bykova was convinced that this stemmed from a form of "ancestral memory" that binds humans' nocturnal fears to notions of Bigfoot. She found unequivocal proof of this assumption during the expedition she headed in 1992.
It is interesting to note that during the same expedition, Bykova's guide, Maksim, discovered a dozen footprints (right and left feet) no less than 1.5 meters apart. The tracks ran down the stony slope of a hill. The stony slope descended at an angle of 30 degrees; only the foolhardy would attempt to go down. The tracks ran among shaggy fir-trees, which grow close together in the taiga. Nights are pitch-black here, especially between 3:00-4:00 a.m., more so when it is raining. Sometime later more footprints with well-marked toes were seen not far off, an inch longer than a size-29 boot.
Encounters with animals always occur on the lake inside the Arctic Circle where Bykova often led her expedition. During one incident at this location, which occurred at the beginning of this century, a local Saami met the creature by a river that flows into the lake. Taking pity on the Bigfoot, he left it some food. Ever since that first encounter in the winter, the Saami looked after his dependent. When the Saami was dying, he asked his daughter to continue giving the hominoid creature food. This is what Bykova called an "advanced contact." They are quite rare, but two such contacts are said to be taking place in Russia now: one is in the Arkhangelsk region, the other near Vologda. Similar relations have been reported between Bigfoot and local people of the Caucasus region, where population density is higher than in the North. Local hunters have informed Bykova and her colleagues that all the big game have left the area. This exodus has been caused by geological prospecting and tourist routes which pass right through the remote, hidden settlements and sacred places of the Saami people.
Russian researcher Alexei Sitnikov and his team of researchers reported a very strange encounter that took place in 1993, while on their way to Lake Tonee. Their plan was to determine the optimal time to conduct an expedition to search for proof of the possible habitation of a gigantic serpent in the region. (There have been numerous reports about the existence of such a serpent in the Far Eastern part of Russia, in the Primorskaya taiga.)
The explorers had been planning to study the area for several years, but had been unable to do so because of a lack of resources and the wretched state of the Russian economy. In 1993 Sitnikov and his colleagues decided that no matter what, the Lake Tonee area had to be explored. Too many disturbing reports were coming from the area to be ignored. The group of explorers had barely begun their trek when they had encountered a creature known to the locals as "snow man." They were crossing the river on a raft, and on the other bank of the river noticed a man who was covered with reddish fur. The explorers recall that they felt no fear. The creature turned around, made a sound resembling grunts, and then disappeared in the thicket. A few seconds later the raft had reached the shore, and Sitnikov with a colleague chased the creature. Their fellow explorer Sergei guarded the raft. They did not find the creature, and came back to the river. Sergei did find a barely visible footprint at the site where they first sighted the "snow man." Sitnikov recalls that the creature was only three meters away when they saw it, and it was plainly visible. The weather was sunny and clear. The creature was about two meters in height; its fur was of a dark hue, and not thick. Its head was somewhat triangular in shape, widening toward its base. (The base was straight, but from the forehead toward the crown the head narrowed.) The creature had small eyes, wide nostrils, and a slit in place of a mouth. The neck was not visible, and it looked as if the head was placed on wide shoulders. It possessed a powerful chest.
Lake Tonee is full of mysterious, anomalous phenomena. Sitnikov had collected many descriptions of the "snow man" and has gathered statements from the local populace, including hunters who have encountered Bigfoot in the wilds. However, Russia has neither the financial means nor the will to explore the taiga in the current era of chaos and near-anarchy. There are many areas in that part of the taiga concealed from human eyes for millennia. Secret settlements have been found deep in the thick woods. For centuries, reports about strange creatures and rituals have leaked from the taiga. The Russian "snow man" could be yet another creature hidden deep in the impenetrable forests.
Valentin Septunov is a Doctor of Biological Sciences who resides in St. Petersburg, Russia. For years, Dr. Septunov has conducted research on Bigfoot, and he has headed a number of important expeditions. Dr. Septunov reported the results of his expeditions in the summer of 1995 in Anomaliya, a Russian newspaper dedicated to covering anomalous phenomena (Issue 22, 1995). He is one of the few courageous scientists who continue with this controversial research, although they themselves are on the edge of poverty. No funds are being allocated for any significant research, and Dr. Sapunov is fearful for the future of Russian cryptobiology. Being a true scientist and patriot, Dr. Sapunov cares for the ecological well-being of his country. Yet he has noticed that science is being dreadfully neglected in today's Russia.
And still the scientists carry on their work, collecting data about the mysterious "snow man." Ties that had been severed when the Soviet Union disintegrated are slowly being restored. Information is now coming into Petrograd (as its denizens like to call St. Petersburg) from the Baltic states and Central Asia. Some information has been exchanged with American researchers, too. The Caucasus Mountains have been cut off from research because of armed conflicts, but research in the Pamir-Altai Mountains, the Urals, and in the Russian Northwest goes on.
In the summer of 1995, Dr. Sapunov and his colleagues took part in an expedition of the Center for Ecological Safety. The area of operation was the Viborgskiy region of the Karelsky Isthmus (a 90-mile-long isthmus in Karelia, northwest Russia, between the Gulf of Finland and Lake Ladoga). Dr. Sapunov was also a participant in the exploration work of the "Kriptobiologiya" society in the Sortavelsky and Olonetsky regions of Kareliya; the area is known for the absence of human inhabitants. Dr. Sapunov has studied a number of reports of a huge being stalking the area. Russian military border guards have confirmed that they have tried to capture the mysterious creature, but to no avail.
One sighting of a "snow man" took place July 30, 1995, at 11:00 a.m. Igor K., a technician from Petrograd, was walking in the forest, near the Vaskelovo village. He recalls suddenly becoming very disoriented. Igor knew the area quite well, yet he kept "walking in circles." A feeling came to him that a strange dusk has descended. Finally Igor came to a clearing in the forest. He noticed a giant silver-furred man at a distance. The three-meter-high creature made a few steps toward Igor, but then disappeared behind trees. Dr. Sapunov received this report ate, and was unable to personally investigate the area until September. Sergei Turkin, another Bigfoot researcher, came along. The ground where the sighting took place was dry and covered with grass. No interesting ground traces were detected. However, some dried-out trees nearby had a strange type of damage to their
The scientists had worked out a scheme to lure the "snow man" by using the sexual pheromones of female apes. A pheromone is any of various chemical substances secreted externally by certain animals that convey information to and produce specific responses in other individuals of the same species. Dr. Sapunov was not able to join the expedition, but his Riga colleagues under the scientific leadership of M. Kudryavtsev, a biologist and criminologist, were able to explore the mountainous route.
There, in the mountains of the Altai, the "snow man," approached the camp, growled, and breathed heavily on three consecutive nights, attracted by strong sexual secretions from female apes. Each time, it left its memorable footprints; the scientists had no trouble identifying them. The scientists tried to take pictures of the creature, having brought along a special camera for the job. But every time the creature appeared, these experienced, strong and well-armed men were stricken with panic and terror. As hard as this may be to believe, Dr. Sapunov himself has reported feeling such fear on many occasions while pursuing the elusive creature.
Dr. Sapunov has made many important findings about the "snow man." The creature is an ecological antipode to homo sapiens. It likes to visit those areas that have a lower anthropogenetic load. That is why the "snow man" has been sighted in forbidden, closed-off areas -- the borderlands, nature reserves, and similar places. For example, in the southern part of the Ural mountains (a mountain system in Russia extending from the Arctic Ocean to the North border of Kazakhstan, traditionally regarded as the boundary between Europe and Asia), there have been many recent encounters with the "snow man." This area was closed off for a long time because of radioactive pollution. Once the radiological toxicity had diminished and the environment was healed to some extent by nature, the anthropogenetic pressure remained low, and the "snow man" seems to have made its way there. If same processes take place in Chernobyl, it is natural to suppose that the "snow man" may eventually appear there as well. The conclusion is: areas where "snow man" encounters are most frequently reported tend to offer the creature an ecological advantage. It is interesting to note that the Russian sports industry has paid attention to the scientists' findings; the military-industrial complex has perked its ears up as well. The "snow man" embodies progressive biological solutions for the adaptation of humankind to its habitat. What humans get from material culture, the "snow man" has obtained in the course of biological progress. There has been profound research in Russia on the creature's movements (based on available photographs and films). And back in 1994, a Russian military college began studying the movements of the "snow man," hoping to use the creature's survival techniques in military applications.
One of the most interesting (and relatively recent) encounters took place in November of 1992. Anatoly Dobrenko, who lives in the village of Samoryadovo (Dmitrov District, Moscow Region) and works in a local children's sanatorium, was walking his Alsatian dog near his sanatorium. Suddenly the dog bristled up and snarled angrily. Anatoly then saw a two-legged hairy monster about a hundred meters away.The creature was moving away, toward the forest. The man says that he could make out "rusty-colored matted hair on the creature's back" from the distance. When Dobrenko's son, Igor, an army captain, learned about the encounter, he visited the area of the sighting, accompanied by some employees from the sanatorium. Igor found some well-preserved prints of huge bare feet in the mud that were nearly 50 centimeters long and 15 centimeters wide at the broadest part. The participants treated the prints like material evidence, covering them for better preservation. Later Igor reported his findings to a newspaper, and the newspaper arranged a thorough examination of the location of the sighting. Local dwellers were interviewed, some of whom had seen signs of the unusual guest's presence before. The search party discovered the place where the creature had spent at least one night: the attic of an abandoned summer cottage. Not one but two creatures seemed to have been there. The second set of tracks evidently belonged to a female; the feet were smaller. The investigation of this case has not ended.
There have been interesting sightings in the Arkhangelsk Region as well. In autumn of 1989, Professor of Medicine Dr. N. Aleutsky flew to the local taiga to gather some herbs. He was on the bank of a river when a bear cub came up to him and yelped. The Professor heard the cub's mother roaring nearby. Dr. Aleutsky had a knife with him, but felt it would be a poor defense against an angry beast. The doctor hastily abandoned his basket full of mushrooms and raced back to his boat. Suddenly he heard a blood-chilling scream from behind. Turning his head, the doctor saw a gorilla-like creature holding the bear in its hands. The beast was 2.5 meters tall, its body covered with thick brown fur. It was a female, and its large teeth were bared. Holding the bear by the hind legs the creature tore the animal in two without any visible effort. The whole episode lasted just a few seconds.
Dr. Aleutsky told his bizarre story to two of his companions. They decided it would be wisest to forget the event and not tell anybody about it. Only after some time had passed did they decide to report the story. Luckily the eyewitnesses had a sound biological background. But as more time passed, Dr. Aleutsky couldn't help but begin to doubt the earthly existence of the creature he had sighted. Yet another sighting took place on January 24, 1992 in the village of Sosnino -- six kilometers from the ancient Russian town of Kargopol. Two creatures covered with long grizzly hair entered the barrack of a army unit engaged in road construction. One was enormously tall, about 2.5 meters, the other was half the size. Circumstantial evidence suggests that the larger one was a female, and the other one was its child. The baby jumped on to the soldiers' night-table while its mother stopped by the stove, waved its long arms, and gave a series of short cries in a very low voice. Then the strangers, who encountered neither understanding nor approval, ran away and hid in the forest.
During this incident, the strange creatures were sighted by a dozen people. More soldiers had seen the creatures a short time before, in the morning, evening, and at night, but they did not believe their eyes. After the incident some soldiers felt ill and went to consult the unit's doctor. One witness could not utter a word. His speech returned several days later. The strangers left behind some tufts of hair (they have not been identified so far), a drop of coagulated blood and large footprints. The footprints were 50 centimeters long, 15 centimeters wide and 20 centimeters deep; the snow was knee-deep for humans. No record of the Russian studies of Bigfoot will be complete without mentioning Mikhail Sergeyevitch Yeltsin (no relation to the President of Russia). Back in early 1980s his underground report circulated in the U.S.S.R. among researchers of anomalous phenomena.
Yeltsin was a journalist and the deputy science chief of the "Gissar-82" expedition. This expedition, which has studied the "snow man" phenomenon since 1974, was organized with the help of Komsomolskaya Pravda newspaper. Since 1981 the "Gissar" expedition has explored the Pamir mountains, and Pravda has reported its findings. Even Moscow News newspaper published a large article about the "snow man" ("Snow Man in the Mountains of Tadzhikistan," November 15, 1981).
The head of the "Gissar" expedition, Igor Frankovich Tzatl, revealed the latest information his explorers had obtained. Yet another Soviet scientist, Professor B.F. Porshnev had produced a monograph titled "The Modern State of the Relict Hominoid Issue." There were many people in the old U.S.S.R. who were quite interested in the subject. Major publications such as Tekhnika-Molodezhi (1966, 1969, 1978) and Nauka y religiya (1964, 1968), as well as many newspapers and magazines, featured articles about the "snow man." Many eyewitnesses said that near areas where these apelike creatures were sighted, strange giant footprints (50-60 centimeters) were often found. M.S. Yeltsin, in his account of the "Gissar-83" expedition, mentions that other anomalous phenomena (UFOs and biophysical phenomena) were also detected in the Pamir mountains.
In 1994 my colleagues from the Yaroslavl UFO Group (Yuri Aleksandrovich Smirnov and others) took part in the "Gissar-84" expedition. He had a mandate from the Leningrad Geographic Society of the U.S.S.R. In the Pamir mountains, the Yaroslavl researchers met with I.F. Tatzl. He summarized for them his experiences and knowledge of the "snow man." In his view, the "snow man" is an objective reality. Tatzl has studied the creature for many years. He points out that ape-like creatures study humans, just as we study them. The "snow man," according to Tatzl, possesses a powerful biofield. It feeds on berries. Sometimes it attacks sheep, but it eats only their liver. The "snow man" does not eat much, relative to its massive size.
As a rule, the "snow man" leaves no traces of its death. In some cases, people have attempted to shoot the creature. These individuals reportedly died afterwards under mysterious circumstances. It is very difficult to catch a glimpse of this elusive hominoid. Bigfoot hates bright lights, it is a nocturnal creature. It can hide under any stone, it sees very well at night, and it is very careful. Human beings can always sense when the ape-like creatures look at them. Sometimes Bigfoot throws pebbles at humans as its way of being funny. However, should big stones be tossed, one had better leave immediately. As a rule, stones tossed by Bigfoot do not hit humans; it generally aims at other nearby targets, such as campfires. No one has ever been confronted by an aggressive "snow man."
Tatzl believes Bigfoot knows all there is to know about humans. There have been reported cases of Bigfoot helping people who were in danger, and sometimes it warns humans of impending dangers. In 1982, a group of tourists camped at the Bolshoi Igizak Ravine (Tadzik SSR) were frightened away when stones began hitting their campfire. Seconds later a landslide buried their camp -- but the tourists managed to escape unharmed. M.S. Yeltsin resides in Bulgaria. The current whereabouts of I.F. Taztl are not known. (I understand he has priceless archive of research papers, sketches, maps and findings about Bigfoot.) They have no funds to study Bigfoot, and there are currently no "Gissar"-type expeditions to explore the Altai-Pamir mountains. Maya Bykova passed away in 1996. The Petrograd researchers remain the most active today, but their hands are tied by pauperization
I have written much about the strange giants of the Caucasus Mountains and the mysterious giant underwater hominoids of Siberia. The Caucasus area is now closed to us by warfare. As for Siberia, I have not received any reports from my colleagues there in two years. My friend and fellow researcher, publisher, author, and explorer Alexander Rempel, who has collected much data on anomalous phenomena in the Far East of Russia (including Bigfoot) has disappeared without a trace, like so many others have in that crumbling nation we call Russia. Huge societal changes have rocked Russia in its tortured economic and political transition. Let us hope the search for Bigfoot/yeti/snow man is not forgotten during this transition.
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