Unsolved Mysteries Wiki

Movie Still of a Yeti

Case File: Yeti
Location: The Himalayas
Date: 1951
Description: The Yeti or Abominable Snowman is an average sized ape-like humanoid with thick hair over his body.

Plaster Mockup of Yeti Footprint


History: The Yeti or "Abominable Snowman" (as he is known in the west) is one of the most famous cryptozoological animals in the world, seconded by only Bigfoot and Nessie. However, to the Sherpas, the Yeti has always been a very real and very alive creature. Since 1951, when the first physical evidence of this animal began coming out of the Himalayas, several Western explorers have found convincing evidence that the Sherpas may be right. Expeditions into the Himalayas have uncovered mystifying stories of strange human-like creatures who live in the region.
In 1951, Eric Shipton, a world-famous mountaineer, came across a curious set of tracks. One footprint was thirteen inches long and eight inches wide. It did not look like it was made by a man or an ape. Loren Coleman, an expert on cryptozoological animals, stated that the Shipton footprint is "a very big piece of evidence because it showed toes, individual toes. It showed a squat, square footprint, which a lot of the other expeditions had found." The previous expeditions did not have very good photographic equipment with them for better detailed images.
In 1957, Texas oilman Tom Slick and explorer Peter Byrne set off for the Arun Valley in northeastern Nepal in search of Yeti. Byrne believed that since the Sherpas knew the Yeti was a real animal that it had to be real. They called him "hairy man" and said that he lived separate from them. Shown 8x10 pictures of a chimpanzee, a gorilla, primitive man and other humanoids, the Sherpas would always point to the primitive man and declare that that was the Yeti. They described the Yeti as being man-like in form, and about 5'6", 5'7", 5'8" and totally covered with hair. The face would be bare of hair, and it walked fully erect.
In another part of the valley, Tom Slick and his Sherpa guides discovered a set of tracks in mud, which were unique because they knew melting and shifting snow could alter tracks. They measured ten inches long and seven inches wide. According to anthropologist Dr. George Agogino, it was similar to the footprint discovered by Eric Shipton six years earlier.
Byrne took another trip to the area in February 1958 and met a Buddhist monk who knew of a Yeti hand preserved in a nearby temple. It was the size of a human hand, cut off at the wrist. Byrne took photos of it since the lama would not allow it to leave the temple; scientists had never seen anything like it before.
The next year, Byrne returned to the monastery with a bottle of Scotch for the monk and an outrageous plan to cut a finger off and replace it with a fake. As he recalled: "It took quite a long time to wire the whole thing together and put it all back together and put it back in the box, and nobody ever knew anything about it. Everything, everybody, actually was perfectly happy. They still had the hand, and it still had its fingers."
The finger was brought back to London and sent to Dr. George Agogino who shared it with twenty experts. They were about equally divided over whether it was human or whether it was some type of primate - known or unknown. Meanwhile, Dr. Agogino put a tissue sample from the bone fragment in an envelope in his desk, and it remained there for more than thirty years.
When Unsolved Mysteries learned of the bone fragment in Dr. Agogino's desk drawer, they had the University of California analyze it. The results were inconclusive, but seemed to indicate that the tissue probably came from a human hand. Dr. Jerry Lowenstein, Professor of Nuclear Medicine, analyzed the fragment, but came to realize that any result would still neither confirm nor deny the Yeti's existence.
Meanwhile, Yeti reports continued. A photographer named Kurt Fritler at a campsite at 16,500 feet in the Himalayas heard a very loud piercing call from the night. He claimed it moved around and circled his campsite, getting closer and farther away from him. Reinhold Messner said he got a good look at the creature from about thirty feet away. He called it "quite hairy and strong with short legs. The body was quite dark, dark brown, black hair, long, long hairs."
Background: None
Investigations: None
Extra Notes: This case originally ran on the February 12, 1992 episode. The Yeti has also been featured on "Sightings," "Destination Truth" and "Monster Quest."
Results: Unresolved. In December 2011, DNA testing was done on the bone fragment taken by Peter Byrne. The tests confirmed that the bone was actually from a human, not from a Yeti. In October 2013, DNA tests on hair samples believed to have come from a Yeti were matched to those of an ancient polar bear. This suggests that bears in the region may have been mistaken for the Yeti. Still, many believe that the Yeti is a real creature.