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The Sydney Morning Herald


Date: 30/07/1987
Words: 1010
          Publication: Sydney Morning Herald
Section: News and Features
Page: 15
WHY IS it that sightings of yowies, yetis, wild girls, amazons and other feral persons usually seem to happen in the winter time?

Maybe it's just atavism, a throwback to the days when stories about something threatening out there in the darkness were told around primitive campfires, or perhaps we like the idea of going home to warm beds after frightening ourselves silly.

It's been quite a good season for feral sightings, what with the more than two-metre high Wild Man of Woronora who tears wallaby carcasses to pieces with his bare hands, the beautiful teenage Jungle Woman dressed only in bangles who lives in the Kiwarrak State Forest, and the Amazonian tribe of Kennedy's Mountain on the NSW north coast who, according to local legend, ride naked, carry guns and knives, geld male dogs and horses, and might even do the same to young men if they got their hands on them.

(The Amazons seem to be actually nothing more threatening than members of an ideologically pure feminist commune, but let's not spoil a good story with facts.)

Earlier in the year, a huge silvery creature, also round the obligatory two-metre mark, terrorised campers at Lake Dulverton in Tasmania.

And, of course, as Yvonne Preston reported from Britain this week, there has been trouble with werewolves in Southend, a town more commonly plagued with bank holiday hoons.

Perhaps some of them have done the logical thing and metamorphosed. It wouldn't be all that big a step.

Seeing we are so much into Bicentennial firsts perhaps we should be thinking of commemorating the first Australian yowie sighting, said to have taken place as early as 1795, and followed over two centuries by 2,999 more. (I wonder who compiles these statistics?)

Yowies, yetis, Big Foots and other monsters, like serial murderers, fascinate us provided they remain elusive, and that's the way it should be.

China and Russia are the only nations which claim actual captures. The Chinese said a couple of years ago they had caught a short-bearded Wild Man while he/it was throwing sand at a red-jacketed (a nice touch) local woman in Hunan province, while the Russian capture was pre-Revolutionary, back in the last century.

That one was a female, which cohabited with one of the men who took her prisoner and bore children, or so it's said.

You would think that hairy creatures who live in forests would be a bit behind the times for a society brought up on computers and space travel and moving towards the third millenium.

It is true that yowies and yetis are having a bit of a struggle, as they have to compete with the other blood-chillers of our times, the bug-eyed monsters from outer space.

I thought the BEMs themselves had rather had their day, but they seem to be making a comeback recently. Communion, a book which tells of the capture and indoctrination of the American writer Whitley Strieber by the bug-eyed ones, has been the runaway publishing success of the year.

Twenty weeks on the best-seller list, much of that time at the top: we should all be so lucky as to be kidnapped by little green men!

More traditional kinds of horror stories haven't lost their appeal, though, they are just being technologically updated. In the United States, a major growth area is horror fiction on audio.

Audiobook companies are hiring notable actors to read, with suitable effects, the works of masters of the genre from Mary Shelley (as in Frankenstein) and Edgar Allan Poe to the contemporary leader in the horror field, Stephen King.

A good actor aided by a bit of spooky music can raise the hairs on the back of anybody's neck, but the latest embellishment is binaural or 3-D sound which achieves what is described as terrifying authenticity. The hearer wears headphones, and creaking steps, opening doors, or more alarming things like the sound of hands being chopped off seem to be actually taking place inside his or her skull, rather than just being artificially-produced noises.

Let's hope the cassettes carry health warnings for people with weak hearts. Adults are more likely to be alarmed by all this than children, who, contrary to conventional wisdom, are often quite tough. The author Roald Dahl, who has been criticised for writing "controversial" children's books, was quoted recently as saying children were different to adults.

"Children are much more vulgar than grown-ups," he said. "They have a coarser sense of humour. They are basically more cruel."

It's interesting that sightings of forest monsters are usually by adults, not children. In more religious days, children used to have beatific visions but that sort of thing doesn't seem to happen much now, the kids are too pragmatic.

From a personal point of view, it's not the hairy creatures out in the bush who worry me; it's the urban monsters who can disguise themselves, just as werewolves do, as quite ordinary people.

This week, on the bus, I listened to two presentable enough young men behind me conversing, in an endless stream of obscenities, about what they thought should be done to Jews, Asians, and the occasional plain or overweight girl who caught their eye as the bus trundled slowly along.

When we passed a minibus full of old people, one of them suggested that groups of pensioners should be taken to the Blue Mountains on ostensible outings, and dumped in the bush overnight when the temperatures were well below freezing. "Better than the gas chamber," he said, giggling.

Give me a yowie, any day.

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