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Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Story behind alleged Yeti finger involves actor Jimmy Stewart

I've always been fascinated with the field of cryptozoology. That's the search for animals whose existence has not been proven. Yes, I'm talking about Bigfoot and the Loch Ness Monster. Wonder, mystery, exploration of the unknown. What's not to like?
Alleged Yeti finger found at a Buddhist Monastery in Nepal
You can imagine my excitement when I read of what was purported to be a mummified finger from an actual Yeti. The story is rather intriguing. During the 1950s, wealthy American oilman Tom Slick funded a series of Yeti expeditions. In 1958, one of his explorers, Peter Byrne, informed Slick of an ancient Yeti hand discovered in a Buddhist monastery in Nepal. The monks were reluctant to part with it, fearing they would be cursed, but they were eventually persuaded to sell one of the fingers as long as the hand could be disguised so that the missing digit would go unnoticed. Byrne was given a human finger from a professor friend in London who had links to the Royal College of Surgeons, and it was wired onto the original hand and treated with iodine so that the color matched.

This is where the story gets interesting.

The previous year, the Nepalese government had made it illegal for foreigners to kill a Yeti, so the challenge was to smuggle the finger back to London without it being discovered by authorities. Slick turned to an old friend of his whom he knew to be vacationing in India at the time: legendary actor Jimmy Stewart. Stewart had an interest in cryptozoology and had been a silent partner behind Slick's earlier expeditions, so he was eager to help. He hid the finger in his wife's lingerie case and was able to smuggle it out of India without any trouble.

Once the finger reached London, initial observation led to the conclusion that it wasn't human. It was eventually turned over to the Hunterian Museum...and was then simply forgotten. No one knows why.

The finger was rediscovered recently, and a sliver of it was submitted to the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland for DNA testing. The result? Human.

Kind of a disappointment, but not surprising. However, I think it's safe to say that the search for unknown and unproven creatures will go on.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

An American oilman and apparent hoaxster - named "Slick?" Really?

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