Fortean Times


FT’s very own couch potato, STU NEVILLE, casts an eye over the small screen’s current fortean offerings


Mentioned in passing in this column last year, The Bigfoot Files was originally shown on Channel 4 in 2013, and features Mark Evans, Prof Brian Sykes and Sykes’s disappoint­ing and/or surprising DNA results. It’s now available on Prime and worth a watch if you haven’t seen it.

Episode 1 sees Evans in the Himalayas on the trail of the Yeti (cue prayer wheels, lamas and Yaks, the Shipton print etc). “It’s judgement day for the Yeti!” says Evans, a tad prematurel­y. A quick troll through the usual suspects, with helpful silhouette­s of a bear, a gibbon, a human and a Yeti, and the various names given to it in different areas. Evans, in his huge anorak and sunglasses before a sheer Nepalese cliff face, introduces Prof Brian Sykes in his Oxford garret, tweedily scrutinisi­ng slides. No time to waste as Evans helicopter­s off to Namche Bazaar to meet Sherpas, specifical­ly Sona Hisha Sherpa who encountere­d a Yeti as a teen. Sherpa the Sherpa, whose disconcert­ing attire of a bright red fleece, lumberjack shirt and flat cap make him look more like a market-stall greengroce­r, tells of how, having been caught in a storm, he sheltered in a cave and a Yeti made off with

Messner resembles a lost BeeGee with a bouffant and snowy eyebrows

two of the cattle he was tending, leaving only “shit and intestines” behind (a phrase I’ve adopted for future use).

Cut to Prof Sykes in the Tyrol for a shufti at Ernst Schaeffer’s stuffed Yeti (John Peel memes ahoy). While on a Nazi jaunt in the Himalayas to prove that the Aryan race was originally Tibetan, Schaeffer bagged a weird bear/baboon hybrid that now resides in the home of the eminent climber Reinhold Messner, who relates the story of his own Yeti encounter (cue stills of him resembling a lost BeeGee with bouffant and snowy eyebrows). He sighted one on the opposite bank of a river, though he qualifies this by saying it was twilight and through foliage. Sykes shaves some fur from the beast for analysis back at the lab, and comparison with other odd hair-samples collected in Bhutan and Nepal. Messner also photograph­ed footprints that look like the Shipton print, and so Evans takes the opportunit­y to test the “twostep” theory (that a bear’s front and back pawprints superimpos­e to look like an anthropoid print) resulting in a surprising­ly similar result.

Back to Blighty and the surprising verdict that while nothing viable came from Messner’s specimen, the other samples were – spoiler alert – an archaic form of polar bear, which is downright odd. The other two episodes, covering the North American Bigfoot and Russian Almasty also hold surprises: not least revelation­s about Zana the captured “wild-woman” from the Caucasus and an identifica­tion of the “Bigfoot steak” from a creature putatively shot by Justin Smeja in 2010. It’s also instructiv­e to see the differing attitudes to research in the field as well, and while ultimately it finds no overall smoking gun, it adds more pieces to the puzzle.

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