The Blue Mountains of New South Wales, located around 50km west of Sydney and part of the Great Dividing Range, has been the site of many impressive Yowie reports.
Ann James* is a bright, intelligent young local woman in her early twenties. Around 4am one morning in 2000, Ann and her father were driving through the Mountains on their way to their western NSW home. As they approached Woodford, their car headlights illuminated a figure running towards them on the opposite side of the Great Western Highway. Ann’s first thought was that it was a man in distress, but the closer they got, the less it looked like anything they had seen before. The Cropster spoke to her at length about her experience.
“The way it was running we thought it was in trouble..just running and stopping and looking around. We moved the car side on to it ..and the headlights were pointing straight at this thing, and it would have been taller than six foot – a lot taller -really big, and its shoulders came straight out from its body. It had really, really long arms, like down past its knees, and it seemed to be covered in hair.”
The creature stopped in the car’s spotlights, apparently startled, then made off down a side street. Ann and her father slowly crossed the median strip, then cautiously followed the obviously confused creature for almost a kilometre as it weaved back and forth across the road.
“Every now and then it would stop and turn around, and if we had the spotlight on it would stop and look, but if we had the spotlight off it would turn and start running again.”
As soon as the bush became visible at the end of a row of houses, the animal took off in straight line for it, bursting through the trees. Ann and her father placed their car spotlights on the bush where it had disappeared, and they could clearly see the tops of large trees swaying as it moved away.
The full interview with the witness is here:
Ann told me that she and her father had the animal in clear view at close range for at least 4 or 5 minutes that night. Could they really have been mistaken – or hoaxed?
Less than two kilometres from the site of Ann’s encounter lies the township of Hazelbrook, where local teacher Neil Frost has been long convinced that yowies are no joke. For years he and his neighbours have had repeated encounters with yowies in and around their street on the northern side of Hazelbrook.
The incidents started when Neil and his family moved into their new house, nestled deep in a gully that eventually feeds into the Grose River. While building the house, he had found man-like prints around the property. Assuming it was a joke, he forgot about the incident. In February 1993, things really started to get strange. His daughter, then two and a half rushed in to tell Neil that she had seen a man down the back garden. When questioned, she said he was “like daddy” but covered in “long, yucky hair”.
From that time, Neil’s life began to focus on trying to work out just what was visiting his property. He and his wife would often see bright, yellow eyes in the scrub, and many times a rock or tree branch would be tossed onto his roof. At other times something would thump his house walls before running off into the scrub.
Together with his neighbours, Neil attempted several times to corner what they could hear moving through the bush, but creature was too smart – and too quick – to be easily cornered. On one occasion, a neighbour staked out a firebreak as Neil tried to force the animal towards him. The man told me that he saw a large, bipedal figure run across the open track about 50 metres from where he stood. It was human-shaped, weighed about 20 stone and could run extremely fast.
I spoke to Neil at length at his home many times and his sincerity – and frustration – was always clear.
“Let me say one thing – the yowie is no joke. Something strange is going on, and to my mind a lot of local people are aware of these things, but are keeping quiet for fear of armed loonies roaming the bush. I can take you to two dozen people who have had experiences in this area and pretty much kept it to themselves. This is not folklore, or fantasy – its fact.”
Despite copping a fair bit of ribbing from many of his own pupils, several students – and staff – from his school have quietly confided to him their own experiences. One pupil told Neil of an encounter involving his brother near Faulconbridge Public School. He and a friend had been walking in the bush in late 2001 when they were startled by the sound of a very large tree being broken in two in the nearby scrub. The boys then heard what sounded like a large, two-legged animal stalking them. Soon after, a huge rock – too large for a man to throw – was tossed close to them. The boys fled home, convinced they had encountered something strange – and menacing.
Local residents are somewhat divided, but Neil did have some strong supporters. On the southern side of Hazelbrook lived retired navy man Jerry O’Connor and his wife. Late one evening in 1999, both were startled to hear an incredible “roar”, louder than an African lion, from just outside their back door. Over the next few months, he experienced a raft of unusual experiences around his house, including strange shrieks and howls, a feeling of being watched while walking in his street and finally, his wife watching a figure at least 7 feet tall pass by his bedroom window.
Reports are not only confined the mid-Mountain townships. A family on the Bell’s Line of Road has also had several strange experiences on their property. Firstly, a large number of trees were found strangely stripped of bark. A few months later the owner’s wife sighted what look like a small monkey running upright across their long driveway.
For many Mountains residents, the yowie is inextricably linked with Rex Gilroy, the eccentric owner of a natural history museum at Echo Point for much of the 1970s and 80s. Rex’s public pronouncements about his own sighting in 1970 and his well-publicised yowie hunts across the country introduced European Australians to the yowie legend.
Many sceptical locals believed that the yowie legend began and ended with Rex Gilroy. In fact, yowie reports have a long history across the entire Mountains. In October 1899, the Illustrated Sydney News carried the following breathless story from Linden:
“Talking of Linden, which is situated some six miles from Springwood, reminds us that it has attained of late years considerable notoriety as the reputed haunt of a ‘Great what is it?’ in the shape of – laugh not gentle reader – a hairy man!”
The article went on to state:
“Once upon a time about three years ago, or thereabouts, the peaceful village of Linden was shaken to its centre by the report that a monstrous and mysterious apparition had appeared to a lady, the wife of the caretaker of Sir Henry Parkes property at Faulconbridge. It seems that she was in the act of gathering a few sticks when a commotion amongst the fowls attracted her attention and on looking up, before her stood a thing seven feet high. The black hair growing on its head trailed weirdly to the ground and its eyeballs were surrounded by a yellow rim”.
The story revealed that the strange creature left a track three inches deep behind it.
Even well-known writer Henry Lawson knew of the Mountains legend. In his 1913 short story ‘The Hairy Man’, he wrote:
“As far back as I can remember the yarn of the Hairy Man was told in the Blue Mountains district of New South Wales. It scared children coming home by bush tracks from school and boys late out late after lost cows; and even grown bushmen, when going along a bush track after sunset, would hold their backs hollow and whistle when they suddenly heard a thud, thud of a kangaroo leaping off through the scrub”.
In 1984, Lola Irish wrote to the Sydney Morning Herald to state whilst holidaying with her brother in Katoomba in the 1930s, their landlady had told them that while returning to a campsite near the ‘Ruined Castle’ rock formation in the Megalong Valley, she had seen a “giant hairy ape-man” disappearing into the bush with their camp stores.
These older reports show a clear European tradition, at least a hundred years old, of hair-covered, man-like creatures in the Blue Mountains.
Of course, Aboriginal legends of the ‘hairy man’ in the area are even older – but that’s another story.