Beyond the Darkening Ecliptic
Yowie sighting sparks continuing controversy
by Liz Cutts
Date: Sept 10, 2009
Page Number: 8
Is there a yowie Pilliga Forest?
by LIZ CUTTS
A recent sighting of what appeared to be a hairy creature lurking in the Pilliga has Baradine residents wondering if there is some truth to the primeval legend of the yowie.
Although the image was fleeting and nobody could describe exactly what they saw, the incident adds mystery to a story that has its roots in Aboriginal folklore.
The contentious and potentially scary incident occurred late in the evening of Wednesday, 26 August, when two buses containing high school student members of the Regional Children's Choir were returning to Baradine from a campfire evening at Odell's Crossing.
Coincidentally, the youngsters had been listening to some hair-raising Pilliga tales related to them by local residents, Roy Matthews, Ronnie Magann and Pat Madden. The purpose of the excursion, organised by National Parks & Wildlife, was to give the MAXed out Moorambilla choir group a feel for the forest. Composer and musician, Dan Walker, has been working with the kids preparing music and song based on the yowie legend.
The purpose of the excursion, organised by National Parks & Wildlife, was to give the MAXed out Moorambilla choir group a feel for the forest. Composer and musician, Dan Walker, has been working with the kids preparing music and song based on the yowie legend.
After enjoying the camp fire stories and billy tea and damper i n the heart of the forest, the group set off on the return drive.
As the first bus approached Odell's Crossing, driver Daisy Matthews was startled to see something she believes resembled a strange human moving between the trees.
She reports that she had a brief glimpse of a 'wild looking' hairy figure running towards the bus.
"It seemed to be confused and dazzled by the headlights," commented Mrs. Matthews. "We were travelling very slowly, but it all happened so quickly and I still wonder if I was seeing things!
"However, most of the kids said they had seen something, but there was such a lot of commotion and noise which really must have scared the creature away."
The driver of the second bus, Cliff Matthews, said that he really could not make a comment other than there was definitely something or someone on the track. He says that a heavy thump against the side of his bus as he approached the creek did cause a brief unnerving moment and there was a good deal of excitement amongst his young passengers.
Yowie-type creatures are common in the legends and stories of Australian Aboriginal tribes and the mid to late 19th century saw a wealth of sightings; most describing a large, gorilla-like creature living in mountainous or forested regions.
Over the years there have been many stories of yowie sightings in the Pilliga, in fact there have been more reported yowie sightings in the forest than anywhere else in Australia and it is often known as a 'hot spot' for yowie hunters. The choir kids were eager to hear yarns about the yowie and first hand experiences from local residents.
"It is interesting to note that people have gone missing out in the scrub and no trace of them has ever been found," commented Roy Matthews.
"I had a man working for me some years ago who said he had seen a yowie out here and there was no way he was staying out in the forest after dark. Well, after he told me what it looked like, I was quite happy to start work a bit later in the morning and make sure I finished well before dark!
"He said it was a terrible looking thing; like a big gorilla with a large head resembling three porcupines tied together.
"It was something I did not want to run into, but I have heard about people who have. This would be the first night I have been in the scrub since then."
Pat Madden said that as a child she was told many different versions of the yowie legend.
"We would only go to town once a month and we always made sure that we got home before dark," related Pat.
"One day we were forced to leave the truck and walk back home through the forest. We felt we were being watched and I think we got back in record time!"
NPWS ranger and excursion organiser, Polly Montgomery, related the story about a mysterious disappearance of a whole carcass of beef from the Gwabegar butcher's shop.
"The butcher had left the carcass hanging in his shop overnight and locked up, only to return the next day to find windows smashed, doors hanging by the hinges and the carcass gone," explained Polly.
"The 500 kilo animal had been carried out of the shop by something with enormous strength. The incident was reported in the local newspaper at the time."
Well known yowie hunter, Rex Gilroy, has been to the Pilliga Forest, the Warrumbungles and Mt Kaputar National Park in search of the primitive humanoid. On his website he reports that stories of yowie sightings in the Coonabarabran district date back to the middle of the 1800s.
Just a few years ago a group of tourists reported finding giant ape-like footprints in the road side bush in the Pilliga just off the Newell Highway. Then there is the more recent report from a Sydney motorist on the Newell, who had stopped his car in the Pilliga for a rest and sighted a hairy ape-like creature about 10 feet tall watching him from nearby bush.
Whether or not there is such a creature as a Yowie in the Pilliga Forest has always been a hot topic for controversial debate in Baradine.
But, although the infamous creature has successfully hidden from humans for thousands of years, it should be remembered that the Pilliga Yowie, whether fact or fiction, is certainly doing its bit towards putting the forest on the tourism map.
Apparently some are hoping that it becomes a major tourist attraction akin to Scotland's Loch Ness monster - believe it or not!
Note that the illustration is from a previous Yowie sighting and one that has nothing to do with this case.
Presenting non-related Yowie information is a storytelling technique used to confound the casual reader by giving the impression that such cases are similar and related. That is clearly not the case in this example unless that illustration is also from a prank. More on that later. Techniques which purposely blur the distinction between fact and fantasy are common when it comes to perpetuating the Yowie.
... it should be remembered that the Pilliga Yowie, whether fact or fiction, is certainly doing its bit towards putting the forest
on the tourism map. Apparently some are hoping that it becomes a major tourist attraction akin to Scotland's Loch Ness monster - believe
it or not!
And there it is - the ultimate motivation for ongoing Yowie tall-tales.
Is the Pilliga the Yowie-prank capital of Australia?
More on that later...
In case there was any doubt, NPWS Ranger Polly Montgomery later confirmed it was just a bit of fun.
It is interesting to note
how retelling dramatic stories of the Yowie are used to induce a sense of fear/anxiety in the young audience which makes them more
susceptible to be successfully pranked - a technique employed by many Yowie Researchers in order to give their expectant followers
the Yowie experience when things go bump in the night.
An accomplice in an ape costume was a nice touch in this particular instance.