THE GREAT YETI HUNT OF 1978
even good people fake it.
by Henry Singer
Early in April, scientists in a gene lab at Oxford University issued
a curious statement. They said that despite their best efforts, they
were unable to identify the DNA of a hair sample collected in the Bhutan
Himalayas by an exploration team in search of the Yeti.
Proof of a negative doesn't necessarily offer evidence that the mystery
hair is actually Yeti fur, but those who believe in the elusive snow
beast are buoyed by the discovery. And maybe with good reason. The verdict
is still far from in, but the find could, at last, offer the first uncontestable
proof the Big Foot/Sasquatch/Yeti community has yearned for. In a field
of science where photos can be doctored, bones planted and footprints
faked, hard evidence is rare, and often, even good people are willing
to fake it. In an effort to convince others what they already know in
their hearts to be true, they will go to elaborate lengths. Believe
me. I've been there.
It took no fewer than five months of constant badgering, but for my
ninth birthday, my parents bought me the one gift that I'd wanted most
for the better part of 1978. It was called the Mobile Crime Lab, or
as I quickly began referring to it, the MCL. More than a toy, the MCL
was a tool, and a tool I desperately needed.
In reality, the Mobile Crime Lab was really little more than a glorified
plastic lunch box that held a variety of detective-related paraphernalia:
fingerprint powder, official-looking envelopes for storing "evidence,"
a magnifying glass, "suspect" file cards, a flash light and a detailed
pamphlet on solving crime.
Understand that my need for detective equipment became very real when,
earlier that year, I developed a burgeoning interest in what I'd later
learn was the science of cryptozoology-the study of yet unidentified
new animal species.
See, during the summer of 1978, thanks in large part to the convincing
narratives of Leonard Nimoy and a number of pillaged garbage bags the
evening before trash was collected in my neighborhood, I had grown convinced
that a Sasquatch- you may know him as Yeti - was lurking in the wooded
area several hundred feet from my suburban tract home. The Mobile Crime
Lab was precisely the tool I needed to prove to the naysayers and nonbelievers
that a nine-foot Skunk Ape, possessing untold rage and a clear penchant
for dismembering and eating unsuspecting third graders, was waiting
just behind the tree line in Edgewater Park, NJ.
The flashlight and the fingerprint powder of the MCL were valuable to
a certain extent, as were the evidence envelopes in the kit. The envelopes,
in particular, lent an air of credibility and importance to my investigative
work, but as it would turn out, the crime investigation manual would
prove the kit's most valuable tool.
In the crime-solving book were explicit instructions on how use the
MCL to cull evidence and build a case, as it were, against whoever in
your household, for example, may have left the toilet seat up, or illegally
grifted cookies, or callously removed their roller skates in the middle
of the kitchen floor, creating unspeakable hazard. This was all very
nice for lesser sleuths, concerned with the minutiae of victimless household
crime, but my needs were clearly more pressing. I was on the trail of
a prehistoric man beast, an evolutionary anomaly, huddled in the drainage
pipes and behind the discarded tires near the home I shared with my
I studied the crime-solving book, and I found, to my immense satisfaction,
a chapter on how to plaster cast a footprint. The information was designed
to help young detectives, like myself, reproduce the tread from a pair
of Zips or Nike Bruins, but I immediately recognized the technique's
value in duplicating what I had seen on In Search Of... countless times.
With this information in hand I could cast the massive, yet eerily familiar,
foot of the Sasquatch.
I immediately took to the woods, scouting the myriad trails, cursing
the minibikes and motorcycle's tracks that destroyed precious forensic
evidence, and searching for the proof I would need, proof that Sasquatch
was alive and well in the Philadelphia suburbs.
Weeks passed and still no footprints. I was undeterred. What with the
minibikes, and the older kids and their beer drinking and their campfires,
what choice could my Sasquatch have but to remain hidden in the brush
I knew he was dangerous and I knew that at any second there was a good
chance he'd emerge from the woods and snatch one of us, or worse me,
unsuspectingly from the bicycles we rode around the periphery of his
domain. But I also knew that the Sasquatch was a reclusive creature.
How otherwise could such a beast remain hidden for so long so near civilization?
Mobile Crime Lab in hand, I continued the hunt, deep into the fall of
1978. I carefully collected suspicious fibers, soil that possibly contained
the beast's scat, and a lot of leaves. I'm not sure why I collected
the leaves actually. There were times, alone on the trails, when I was
certain I had caught a glimpse of him. A shadow moving behind an oak,
or a blurred, hairy brown arm retreating into the bushes. I began to
think that perhaps it was I who was hunted.
Days turned into weeks and I think I began to develop an understanding
of the beast that had once filled me with terror. It was the kind of
understanding only a man who's spent hours alone with nature and her
creatures could grasp. At nine, I suppose I was gifted.
My view of Big Foot was evolving. He wasn't a monster all, this Sasquatch
of Edgewater Park. Rather, I began to see my neighbor as a retiring
animal, pressured by suburban sprawl, forced to live in close confines
with man, and as afraid of us as we were of him. He wasn't a brute to
be feared, after all. He was a gentle creature that I needed to protect.
Maybe he and I could become friends? We could talk and exchange ideas,
he could teach me his language, and I, in turn, could give him Slurpees.
Everyone likes Slurpees.
But before I could share frozen fruit-flavored snacks with Big Foot,
I would need to prove that he was really out there. I devised an elaborate
plan. I thought that maybe if people believed he was real, they'd see
him for what he was - just a big, sort-of-nice ape man - then he'd feel
better about showing his face to mankind. He would emerge from the woods
to befriend us all. I would, of course, he heralded as a brave and wise
explorer, cunning enough to lure Sasquatch from his lair, and daring
enough to extend the hand of friendship. Perhaps, I'd be featured in
World magazine. Look, I know this is pretty convoluted logic, but I
was nine. And kind of weird.
But for all this to happen, I'd have to first present the world, or
at the very least my parents and very gullible younger sister, with
evidence that would undeniably prove that there was, at the end of our
dead-end street, in the Philadelphia suburbs, a Sasquatch.
So I lied. I meticulously went about fabricating Yeti evidence. For
this, I felt no guilt. This may come as something of a surprise to you,
but truth is, I was never able to actually find a real Sasquatch footprint.
This initial, glaring lack of empirical evidence to support my hypothesis
was merely a technicality. In lieu of an actual print, I manipulated
the information in the Mobile Crime Lab pamphlet to make a fake plaster
cast of a footprint that I'd carved into the ground with a plastic McDonald's
Here's how I did it: I didn't have any actual plaster, so I combined
flower and water in a coffee can, creating a milky, plaster-like substance.
I took the box top from a plastic model I had started, but never finished,
and cut off the front, leaving a hollow cardboard rectangle. With the
aforementioned McDonald's spoon, I carefully dug into the earth a large,
human-like foot. I placed the hollow rectangle over the "footprint"
and carefully poured my flour-based, plaster-like mixture into the box,
filling the footprint, and the area approaching the edges of the box.
Then I waited. Fifteen, 20, 30, 45 minutes. An hour. Two hours. It was
"Heeeeen-ry." I heard the familiar sound of my mother's voice from the
front door of our rancher. "Heeeeen-ry."
Drat. It was dinnertime, and I'd have to leave the cast to dry over
night. There was no way I'd ever be allowed to hike back into the woods,
all 200 yards, after dinner, with it being dark and all. Unfortunately,
the next day was Monday, which meant that barring a faked cold, I'd
have to go to school, and wouldn't be able to view the dried cast until
after 3 p.m.
The world would have to wait another 24 hours for the news that would
irrevocably change it, I thought. Soon, however, they'd know that walking
among them was a strange and magnificent new species of primate, part
man, part animal.
School was terrible. All I could think about was the cast, and the renown
and fame sure to come my way later that afternoon. I was pretty sure
that Channel 10 would be the first news van on the scene.
At 3:00 p.m., when the bell rang, I hastily gathered my things and made
for the door. The mile-long walk took an eternity, but soon I was home,
changed- and after a light repast, possibly a moonpie- I was heading
for the woods to recover the cast and take my walk into history.
When I arrived on the scene, I was horrified. Something hadů something
had eaten the plaster/flour. It looked as though a feeding frenzy had
taken place. The box shell was torn to shreds and only scant remnants
of the plaster/flour remained.
It was painfully obvious: Fearing discovery, the Sasquatch had eaten
the flour casting material in a brilliant counter scheme to remain hidden.
After all, what else could have done this? I realized it then. All those
weeks, as I trekked through the field, with the mobile lab, the Yeti
had been watching me. He knew what I was up to. And I think he was scared.
I walked home as the sun was setting, resigned to the fact that I knew
something the rest of the world did not, and may never, know. I alone
was sitting on perhaps the greatest secret ever, but what could I do?
I knew the Sasquatch was real, and that he wasn't a monster to be feared.
He just wanted his privacy, and for his simple garbage-eating, bicycle-rider
stalking life to remain as it always had.
Sure, I was a little let down, but it wasn't like my life had lost purpose
See, in the same Sasquatch-riddled woods, there was a drainage pound
where I used to fish for sunnies and carp and I was pretty sure that
one night, the previous summer, as I was collecting my tackle, and pouring
my bucket of sunnies back into the pond, something moved beneath the
surface, creating a large ripple.
It was something big. Something not unlike the beast that lives in Loch
East Bank editor
Henry Singer went to OzzFest this summer,
and you probably didn't.