“So that was when I saw it, this… thing, prowling across the salt flats. Moved like a panther. I mean, it seemed almost human - it was up on its hind legs, looking around with… I mean, I wasn't exactly close, but I could see those huge eyes, great holes into nothingness. And… its claws, glinting in the sunlight. And its teeth, like knives. I don't mind telling you, when the wind changed and that thing caught a whiff of me, I was out of there like a shot….”
What remarkable creatures have managed to stay hidden from science, even now? Do the wilds really harbour strange animals like Bigfoot, Mothman, Nessie? In this programme, we examine one of the most frequently sighted cryptids of recent years: the Wild Man of Death Valley.
Of course, while Death Valley remains the setting for most sightings today, similar creatures have been reported all over the United States - this blurry video footage was taken in Yellowstone National Park. The Wild Man bears certain similarities to the Soyampa Bhyampayara of Bangladesh, a beast whose monstrous progeny inhabit the swamps of Sundarban. There have also been sightings of similar creatures in Britain. Susan Foggerty, a librarian working in Bath, describes her experience with what might have been the Wild Man:
“It was when the rats came… and the dogs. He has some kind of control over animals, I'm told. Hmm - why not “it”? Because he spoke to me… as a person might. He wanted recommendations for children's books. But his appearance - gosh, well… he had long silvery claws… and teeth that seemed too big for his mouth. He only had the one eye… oh, and his arm was covered in black patches.”
This is characteristic of descriptions of the Wild Man: either one or two shadowy eyes, arms with dark splotches like those of a jaguar, and of course, those famous teeth and claws. In some reports, however, the Wild Man appears almost human, dressed in rags and characterised only by his animalistic habits. We spoke to Professor Hilda Hempstock of California State University:
“I wonder if that's what makes the myth so pervasive, actually. Strange creatures with sharp claws and sharp teeth are almost… comforting to us - they help define the concept of the monster as inherently other to ourselves. But the idea that a monster might look almost exactly like us - that's frightening. It forces us to confront ourselves, to confront whatever horrors we harbour inside us, you know…?”