A.C.R.O. Jimna QLD Yowie Campout, 2018
In Kilcoy, I met up with the organiser -- a young fellow -- and his father at Yowie Park (naturally) at midday. The famous Yowie statue was
nowhere to be seen (an ominous sign?) -- removed due to weathering but a new one was on the way. I followed the hosts and another
young woman up to the campsite where most had already been camping the previous night. Some of the participants were actively involved
in amateur paranormal (spirit or UFO) research, others were into a broad range of cryptozoological phenomena which included Yowies,
but most, like me, were specifically interested in Yowies and came from amateur Yowie-research groups based locally in south-east
Queensland and from New South Wales. Unfortunately, a well-known researcher and author would not be in attendance.
A short walk into
nearby bushlands was called -- it was like trying to herd a group of cats. After an hour of coming together, milling around, and drifting
off we finally set out while another side-group drove off to do their own thing at their own nearby places of interest. The walk began
with some performing various whoops and calls – apparently to establish contact with the Yowies and to let them know we were no threat.
However, this prompted at least one fellow who preferred a quiet approach to research to leave in disgust at perceived show-boating
and abundance of paranormal hypothesizing even though, when considering the Yowie’s elusiveness/illusiveness for instance, there is
often much overlap between the two. I'm of the opinion that if you are chasing giant ape-men that leave no proof through the
Australian bush then you're in no position to be scornful of other people's unusual beliefs...
A rock-stack was found and inspected
along a narrow gully side-trail. “People make those” I said to nobody in particular, showing more interest in the huge bunya cones
that had fallen nearby. One fellow engaged me in conversation about a large collection of rock stacks found in a stony creek bed in
his research area of Mt Mee (about an hour drive away) which I had seen for myself in an area that I had been many times before. One
time he turned up there to find all the stacks gone – there were dozens of them so how could I explain that? I thought, “People make
them and they can just as easily knock them down” (the area is just off the designated walking track, after all maybe a couple of
hundred metres from the car park) but instead went for “rain caused the creek level to rise and wash them all away”. Had neither
explanation ever occurred to him before?
Various conversations revealed a wide range of beliefs, apparent signs, and personal
experiences attributed to Yowies. Many occurred while out “researching” but the signs were always ambiguous – "stick formations",
growls, clicks, distant vocalisations, and claims of being targeted by stony projectiles -- the experiences intense but often
fleeting. If someone came across something they could not readily conceive an explanation for then, obviously, “Yowie did it”. Some
longer and more dramatic encounters were related but these were from some 20+ years ago. My explanations about the unreliability of
memory were largely dismissed – they know what they saw/heard/smelt/felt. They could appreciate that studies consistently show how
mistakes in witness perception are surprisingly high despite confidence the witnesses had that they were not mistaken yet many researchers
and experiencers seemed to lack the ability to apply that knowledge to themselves and their own personal experiences.
I was surprised
to learn that the older fellow with many such extended and dramatic encounters expressed no interest in collecting photographic evidence
or the like because he had already proved to himself that Yowies are real, he didn’t really care what anyone else believed, and he
didn’t have to prove anything to anyone else. At the same time, he was a proud to be a researcher. He challenged me -- What would
I do if I came face-to-face with a Yowie? Why, whip out my camera and go *click*, of course. Our exchanges, fortunately, were robust
and forthright but not confrontational. We were both, after all, chasing the same thing…
A fellow from Gympie travelled down to give
a technical demonstration of footprint casting which was well-received. A potential Yowie “track” found further up the hillside was
also cast – its finder, the older fellow, was as certain of its print-from-a-foot status as I was doubtful. Casting may later
reveal details not readily apparent from directly examining the soil.
A “tree break” (where an otherwise healthy looking tree is broken
or damaged which suggests the agency of giant powerful hands) was similarly debated. The fellow from Gympie pointed out fire damage
on the bark of the tree and an inspection of the “break” itself revealed how the sap had fried in the heat damaging its internal structural
integrity. Perhaps a strong wind did the rest…
A similar level of discussion was had after finding of several thin branches of approximately
1m in length standing upright in the soil under the towering canopy. Believed to be some sort of Yowie territorial markers, it was
an older woman from an amateur cryptozoological group in NSW, however, who gave the best practical account for sticks found perpendicular
in the soil: some tree branches on a gum tree are relatively straight, and sometimes when they break off they can fall straight down
striking into the earth like a spear. There had been sporadic rain over the last few days softening the soil and further increasing
the likelihood of finding embedded sticks. Some in the “grey nomad” caravanning community refer to these falling spear-like branches as
“widow-makers”. Even relatively thin stick-like branches can, apparently, penetrate the solid roof of a caravan in a similar
fashion to which it is possible to drive a drinking straw deep into an apple.
Alternatively, the fellow from Gympie privately
suggested the sticks could also be easily planted by someone within the group to give the suggestion of Yowie-activity to those who
already accept it that that's what Yowies are known to do. Everyone in the yowie-research community acknowledges the problem of fakery
from outsiders and even from within the community itself. Yet no-one acknowledges faking it themselves nor of knowing anyone who does.
Things don’t quite add up in this account but prematurely accusing another of hoaxing is fighting words in amateur research terms.
But I was not there for confrontation. As someone who could be seen in this context to be a “skeptic”, I was also pleased there was
no obvious “skeptic-bashing” -- where those with diametrically opposing views are ridiculed. Interestingly, the main source of gripes
was directed to within the Yowie-community itself. It often seemed extraordinarily “bitchy”, like when you were last in high school
or something – “So-and-so is full of it”, “She’s not talking to him, because he’s not talking to So-and-so.” Others complained of
how bitchy the amateur research community was – that it was counter-productive. Adherence to various conspiracy-theories rounded out
the remaining gripes.
Roasting fresh kransky-sausage over an open fire for dinner was a treat. Soon I began roasting nuts from a bunya
cone in a pan over the campfire to share around and was somewhat taken aback that a couple of the Yowie-researchers expressed skepticism
that such things were actually edible but after a demonstration and sampling they were promptly converted. Mmmm, roasted bunya nuts…
In the spirit of community I even took some freshly roasted nuts to an older couple who were camped next to me. I had invited them
earlier to the casting demonstration and to the central communal fire but they didn’t appear at either. They were appreciative of
the nuts but informed me that they were not actually with the main group whatsoever – just a couple enjoying their annual holiday.
They were curious as to the purpose of all the hollering earlier, I did my best to explain, and they took an “each to their own” approach
which was nice.
Back at camp, various discussions were taking place. I asked if the Yowie was flesh-and-blood then what species
would it be? Most agreed that it was closely related to humans if not a different type of human. If Yowies were human, I reasoned
out loud, then they should have the right to vote? It brought laughter but it was, at least, a semi-serious point -- if Yowies exist
and are "people" then they are entitled to the same rights as the rest of us. If they are entitled to have their own voice then
why are so many speaking on their behalf? If they desire to be left alone, why are you incessantly bothering them?
Later, seven of
us went “researching” at about 10pm. Research on this night consisted of hopping in cars, driving along the dirt roads, stopping at
a couple of places where they’ve previously experienced Yowie-activity, making a series of calls/whoops, and listening for replies.
First place was next to the old tower which was itself fenced off. The calling was sometimes promptly followed by the query, “Did
you hear that?” At times they were all in agreeance on what was heard.
While personal accounts of Yowie encounters while researching
tell of loud roars, distinct footfalls, and clear wood knocks the reality “in the field” was, at least in this instance, somewhat
less dramatic and far more subtle – you often had to strain to hear anything. Sometimes, though, a sound that would come and go –
a very soft *doof-doof-doof-doof* which from somewhere in the unseen distance, perhaps, could give the impression of the footfalls
of a large creature running. However, they were able to make a better assessment of the source when a change in the breeze brought
the sound more clearly – a rave party. A handmade “WE DOOF” sign with an arrow was previously sighted by all on the main road through
the forest earlier in the day. In my day (ie the ‘90s) impromptu rave parties were often held in abandoned warehouses and the like
but now, apparently, many such rave parties are conducted in the bush. It makes sense -- secluded spaces in State Forest readily accessed
by gravel roads and reasonably well-maintained fire trails, power supplied by portable generators. I could also sometimes see dim
pulsating coloured lights in the distance which seemed to emanate from deep in the forest. The idea of joining the rave was raised
but not seriously discussed.
Another time a soft high-pitched *tic-tic-tic* sound was heard from one side of the road and answered
somewhere in a similar fashion on the other side of the road. One lady said it reminded her of the sound of a sharp nail from a large
finger striking an aboriginal rhythm stick. I thought they sounded like geckos calling. Could differences in the way in which we process
and conceptualise ambiguous sensory data influence our personal perceptions and conceptions of the Yowie? If I regularly interpreted
ambiguity as mystery would I be more likely to see the Yowie for myself?
Soon, some of the researchers began focusing on the same general
area and commenced asking the Yowie come out and show itself. “Its in there” – pointing into a tangle of lantana and thick vines.
“I heard some clicking/movement”, “Did you hear that?”, “I smell something coming from here”. The undergrowth was too thick to penetrate
so I walked down the road a ways looking for an entrance but to no avail. The alpha researcher eventually made an entrance by falling
back on the lantana to flatten it then burrowing a hole through the wall of vines. I followed and after an inspection we both
agreed that there was nothing there – except an empty can and bottle. Even so, a couple of those who remained outside kept
on talking to the supposed Yowie encouraging it to show itself. “Cloaking”, a term bandied about within the last decade, refers to
the possibility of translucent and/or the chameleon-like nature of Yowie hair and had been seriously entertained earlier that evening…
In the seclusion of that spot I asked the alpha researcher about his sightings – what did he actually see? For someone rumoured to
have many experiences his responses were surprisingly vague – silhouettes and of seeing figures standing in the tree-line that the
person standing next to him could not. Always suggestive rather than conclusive and always driving his curiosity, driving him to find
out more. I hope to communicate further with him in future but I don’t do Facebook and I’m not sure he does anything but…
was outside a currently unoccupied environmental centre – a series of small buildings and maintained lawn in a space carved out
of the surrounding forest beside a gravel access road. Again, same thing: hop out of the car to begin calling out and listening for
potential replies. Still nothing. I asked one fellow, “Is this what Yowie research is like?” and he replied, “We usually get more
activity.” More activity? What activity?
Began driving to another spot but the road was blocked by fallen trees and branches. “How
do you explain that?” the older fellow quickly challenged me. It was a popular belief that yowies can push down trees as a warning
not to proceed or as a show of intimidation. In the best dead-pan voice I could muster replied, “Its windy and its wet.” ‘Nuff said.
After an inspection nobody disagreed with my assessment. I had been open and keen to actively investigate throughout the day but after
midnight on a surprisingly cool and windy summer’s night I was ready to turn in for the night.
“Oooh, aye. Isn’t nature wonderful?”
I sarcastically said to myself in an imagined Shrek-voice when I was awoken a few hours later at 5am by the incessant screech of cockatoos
so I decided to go for a short walk to collect the cast from the alleged footprint found earlier. I was joined by the young host of
the occasion while washing the off the dirt at the creek. It revealed… nothing. It looked like a plaster cast of a non-descript piece
of ground but maybe the older fellow would disagree…
I was suitably impressed by the intelligence and approach of the young host.
He was considered, well-spoken, and keen to learn more not only about cryptozoology but of wildlife and mythology. Even though the
Yowie may not objectively exist its subjective existence remains strong and the skills he is acquiring by hosting such events (he
also hosts an annual conference in NSW) are valuable in the broader world. Although a generation apart, we both expressed a similar
naďve glorification of the Yowie/Bigfoot since childhood coupled with the adult realisation that, in reality, things aren’t quite
as they seem. We both agreed that that makes the subject no less interesting, though…
I soon departed after saying my goodbyes to
the few who were awake. I didn’t want to be driving home after what little morning freshness I had faded. Tom Waits kept me company
on my journey home, “And the Earth died screaming, While I lay dreaming". It made me wonder if the fascination with mythical
creatures, growing since the 1950s and expanding rapidly after the spread of the internet and social media, was somehow a human response
to the current high rates of species extinction. Dozens of species are literally going extinct every single day. In another 10 years
some 50,000 species will have vanished -- never to be seen in the wild again and consigned to the history books -- yet people will
continue to see the Yowie, and continue to not find definitive proof...
Subsequent email correspondence with the fellow from Gympie
revealed his enjoyment of the occasion. However, he did express disappointment (but not surprise) that the frontier of Yowie-research
had still not progressed beyond the camouflage, alcohol, and posturing of its hey-day of the early 2000s -- a time when the future
seemed so bright, when proof of the Yowie seemed just around the corner, and when he, himself, as calm and intelligent as he is, was
drawn into the wild and fantastic ride of chasing beasts unknown to science, the creatures of the “Goblin Universe”…
I found face-to-face
communication with people of similar interests but opposing worldviews has, at least in this instance, proven to be enjoyable and
educational and has opened the door to some potentially fruitful ongoing online communications. The Yowie-research community, admittedly,
is in a bit of a shambles but it may have always been so. Perhaps, though, there is still hope for a brighter future – epitomised
by the young host, a broader willingness to co-operate, and, hopefully, a growing realisation that our similarities are actually greater
than our differences…
My thanks and respect to all involved…
p.s. If any participants would like to continue further communication
and collaboration please send me an email if I don't send you one first.
Remember, I don't do Facebook...