AAA - Anomalous Australian Animals

Tony Healy and Paul Cropper. The Yowie: In search of Australia’s Bigfoot. Anomalist Books, 2006.

Healy and Cropper’s account of the Yowie ‘phenomenon’ or ‘experience’ or whatever shows just how complex many anomalous personal experiences really are. They present a wealth of ‘testimonial’ evidence that people have encounters with both large and small ‘apelike’ creatures in Australia, a country which is thought to have no truly native placental mammals; the dingo having been introduced by man. Not only is it difficult to see how any large primates could have got there, the descriptions of the Yowie with their huge canines don’t really fit with anything in the fossil records.

For all the eyewitness testimony, not one body has been found anywhere, despite a fearfully high level of road kill, and the general massacres of people and animals carried out in the colonial period. The authors also point out that similar accounts are found in many parts of the world, but not one skeleton, not one fossil nor piece of totally unambiguous physical evidence has been found anywhere ever. This might be accounted for if these were such rare creatures that they almost never encountered, but the large number of reports seems to suggest otherwise.

The main physical evidence presented are tracks on the ground, but even these are contradictory, some are five toed, some four and others three. There are other strange features of the Yowie experience, the extraordinary, over the top fear witnesses can experience, senses of presence when nothing can actually been seen, horrible overpowering smells. In some cases Yowie reports go alongside reports of phantom felines, UFOs and even poltergeists.

For many Magonia readers all of this will be familiar, the same ambiguities and lack of conclusive evidence applies indeed to reports of 'phantom felines', lake monsters etc. to say nothing of UFOs, ghosts and the like: to say nothing of actual reports of fairies and other things too bizarre ever to be the subject of an organized hobby.

Healy and Cropper consider all sorts of explanations, the psychosocial, the paws and pelts, and the frankly paranormal. They tend to the latter, but paranormal explanations still don’t really fit. If these things are supposed to be material objects that have somehow fallen into our world from some parallel m-brane a trillionth of a millimetre away in some higher dimension, wouldn’t one still sooner or later get killed in our world, if they are non material (whatever that is supposed to mean if not somehow hallucinatory) then how come they leave material traces. If they don’t and the traces are just an assortment of marks which have got associated with the experience, then we don’t need to invoke paranormal explanations at all; if they do then by what mechanism (by the way things which produce physical effects and traces are by definition physical and need to be accommodated into the descriptions of physical reality).

In our present state of knowledge I tend to the view that some sort of psychosocial approach is the best we have. People have experiences which they interpret or remember as encounters with “the others”, the nature of which is determined to at least some extent by the surrounding culture. People draw into that experience things coincidentally in the environment such as marks on the ground, and assume that they are physical evidence. The ‘Yowie experience’ like the ‘UFO experience’ and the ‘ghost experience’ may be triggered by a great variety of different things (some of which might involve what for want of better words might be called uncatalogued or unassimilated aspects of nature). -- PR. Originally published online Magonia review of Books, September 2009.

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