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.