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by Ed Skoda - October 24, 2010
Australia officially entered the Bigfoot era when the Yowie went national in 1976 via George Gray and Rex Gilroy on Mike Walsh's Mid
Day Show. No film but the testimony and conviction of Gray, and the confidence of Gilroy.
Can any conclusions be drawn about what
may have happened? Not really - particularly when there are so many grey areas: George Gray was initially asleep when accosted in
the dark, Robert and Dennis Gray - who were in the next room during the incident - appear never to have been interviewed, neither
was Gray's boss Mac McGee, nor any other former resident of the Kookaburra who may have had further information. To do so, however,
may have been difficult - the Kookaburra settlement was dismantled in 1969 and Gray didn't go public with his account until 1976.
The following year Gray ventured back to the former settlement with the Gilroys but little remained.
Sure sounded spooky, though:
Gray's hut is out sight behind the shrub on the right of the photo.From Yabsley, G. (2009) Bill Haydon: The Cedar King.
After getting in touch with local author Geraldine Yabsley, I was able to contact the Hudson brothers for clarification - Basil had heard about Ray Lawrence’s prank from others but Reg was actually there at the mill at the time! The mill was a place to go after hours for a hot shower and an informal gathering and for that eventful night in 1968 provided a great vantage point to view proceedings.
Reg also knew of another Yowie tale from Carrai:
There was another one supposed to be in Currumbi[?] Creek over from Kookaburra and a bloke by the name of Thomas Moyer - there was a bit of cattle rustling going on at the time. Anyhow, Tom was a big rough-built cowboy fellow - good bloke had been in America rough riding and one thing and another - and apparently he was chasing cattle through scrub and lantana and Christ knows that he got a lot of scratches and cuts all over him and someone asked him what happened and he said "A Yowie took to me. I've been [mustering]". There was no more cattle thieving going on - they stopped there. Ah, had some great stories about him.
Cattle duffing - the organised theft of cattle - was not an uncommon practice within the bush throughout Australian history . Sometimes the loss of livestock was blamed on a mysterious creature - like the Tantanoola Tiger - as cover for their illegal activities. Sure enough, concerned citizens would then dutifully report growls, roars, and even tiger sightings - such is the unreliable and sometimes-hysterical nature of human perception. Yet, the Thomas Moyer tale above is a rare example of the opposite - using a mysterious creature (Yowie) in order to deter theft of livestock. It is common for parents worldwide to reinforce to their children the dangers of the forest and waterways with tales of monsters, like Yowies and Bunyips, so why not with impressionable adults? If it works, it works.
Although it appears that the George Gray Yowie has been explained as a simple prank and no longer has any significance as a possible encounter with an unknown and unidentified species, it still remains a fabulous and unique Australian story - one that could be checked and covered in even greater detail by authors of the mysterious and unknown before the sands of time further obscure the details.
Gilroy, R. (2001) “Giants from the Dreamtime: The Yowie in Myth and Reality” URU Publications: Katoomba, NSW.
T. & Cropper, P. (2006) “The Yowie: In Search of Australia’s Bigfoot” Anomalist Books: San Antonio, TX.
M. (1996) “Bunyips and Bigfoots: In Search of Australia’s Mystery Animals” Millennium Books: Alexandria, NSW.
Yabsley, G. (2009)
“Bill Haydon: The Cedar King” Book Pal: Coopers Plains, Qld.
by Ed Skoda - July 23, 2010
George Gray circa 1977 from Gilroy's (2001) Giants from the Dreamtime: The Yowie in Myth and Reality.
George’s own encounter with a Yowie had taken place eight years previously, while he was working at the lonely (and later dismantled) saw mill settlement of Kookaburra, deep in the Carrai forests some 80 km west of Kempsey.
George could recall every detail of what to him was a fight for his life.
The night, he said, was moonlit and very cold when he climbed into bed in his two-bedroom hut. In the other room were his two young sons, Robert and Dennis. Some time around 1 am, George was suddenly jolted from his sleep by something weighing on his chest. He woke to find a creature which he described as being somewhere between an ape and a man.
George grabbed an arm of the strange beast and found it quite greasy. In the 10 minutes that George Gray wrestled with the creature in his room, he was able to get a reasonable description of his assailant.
He said, “It was no more than 4 ft (1.22 m) tall and had a face somewhere between that of an ape and a man, with hair all over its body between 5-6 inches (12.5cm) long and grey in colour”.
The creature began trying to drag George out of the hut in the direction of the back door, the way it had probably first entered the hut. George called to his two sons repeatedly, but the boys were too terrified to help, remaining in their room. Finally, George was able to free himself from the clutches of the strange beast, which immediately fled out the back door and into the darkness.
The next morning he told the story to his boss, who then asked George to keep the experience a secret from the rest of the work force, lest the men pack up and leave the camp.
"... it had hair like a Phyllis Diller wig."
So, what actually happened?
Perhaps Gray was simply engaging in the timeless practice of yarn-spinning or storytelling - a common practice in a nation of straight-faced larrikins and one which still accounts for many seemingly inexplicable encounters. Maybe he had experienced some sort of waking dream or night terror where person's dreams linger into waking consciousness temporarily distorting perceptions of reality. It is not known whether his two sons, Robert and Dennis who were in the next room, were ever interviewed about their thoughts on the matter. In any case, neither saw anything - by the time the Gray's youngest got out of bed whatever it was that had accosted his father had gone.
Yet Gray's account never wavered over the years and the terror he felt at the time and with subsequent retellings always appeared to be genuine. Perhaps only some of the details were accurate - after all, memory does not work like a video recording and eyewitness testimonies can become confabulated (i.e. where the uncertain mind fills in details) under the best of conditions and in this particular instance Gray had been woken from sleep and subjected to a traumatic experience in the dark of night. If, indeed, that was the case then how is it possible to know which details were accurate and which were not?
Perhaps something did actually enter Gray's hut and had a physical altercation with him but what?
Many of those that Gray recounted his incredible story to later on were largely sceptical and suggested it was a practical joke or to lay off the booze yet Gray, restricted by his diabetes, was not a noted drinker and was never known to do so while on the job.
Eight years later Patricia Riggs, an editor for the local Macleay Argus, was the first to publish Gray's amazing encounter and the story was quickly picked up by the Sydney Sun Herald but it was Rex Gilroy, eccentric purveyor of all things mysterious, who brought the incident to national prominence by appearing with Gray on Mike Walsh's Mid Day Show a few weeks later. The word on Gilroy's lips to explain the unknown creature was "Yowie" - Australia's own little known mythical ape-man or Bigfoot had finally gone national.
Although the creature described had such an unusual combination of physical features never reported before or since, Gray's account has continued to puzzle proponents of crypto-zoology (i.e. the study of animals unknown or unrecognised by science) and folklore alike. Malcolm Smith, author of Bigfoots and Bunyips: In Search of Australia's Mystery Animals (1996), seemed sceptical particularly over the high degree of detail offered during a dark night scuffle. Gilroy, self-proclaimed "Father of Yowie Research", of course remained a staunch supporter of the Yowie hypothesis while Tony Healy and Paul Cropper, co-authors of The Yowie: In Search of Australia's Bigfoot (2006) went a step further by speculating Gray's creature to possibly be a junjudee - considered to be a 2nd pygmy-sized species of undiscovered hairy men - but, like Gilroy, ultimately settled on small or juvenile Yowie as the most likely explanation.
George Gray passed away several years ago and it seemed like the definitive answer to what really happened on that dark, moonlit night in 1968 passed with him. Not so. Information has recently surfaced which not only sheds new light on this classic unexplained report but actually unmasks the George Gray Yowie.
Gilroy, R. (2001) “Giants from the Dreamtime: The Yowie in Myth and Reality” URU Publications: Katoomba, NSW.
Healy, T. & Cropper, P. (2006) “The Yowie: In Search of Australia’s Bigfoot” Anomalist Books: San Antonio, TX.
Smith, M. (1996) “Bunyips and Bigfoots: In Search of Australia’s Mystery Animals” Millennium Books: Alexandria, NSW.
Revelation in the Age of Bigfoot
A Naked Yowie Project Initiative
The Unmasking of George Gray's Yowie
There's Yowies in Them There Hills!
The Unmasking of George Gray's Yowie
Gilroy, R. (2001) “Giants from the Dreamtime: The Yowie in Myth and Reality” URU Publications: Katoomba, NSW. Pp 222.
George Gray's account of his 1968 encounter is both one of the strangest and most enduring reports attributed to the Yowie. Further details (unusual and otherwise) of the mysterious creature are mentioned in the original article within the Macleay Argus (Sept 4, 1976) include:
face was a dark copper colour, free of hair, and seemed somewhere between that of a man and an ape;
eyes, which had a deep crease under each one, and lips were like a human and its nose that was big and sort of flat;
hair like a "Phyllis Diller wig", dirty-grey in colour but clean, straight, and well kempt;
short bullish neck;
chest and shoulders twice the depth of Gray's (who was 5 foot 3 inches in height and of stocky-build);
body hair which stood up along the upper chest and shoulders and fell like a shawl over the lower body;
arms were short in length - no more than 18 inches (45cm) - but had "huge" upper arms;
skin that was difficult to physically grasp - Gray's fingers would sink in and he could feel bones but no flesh;
legs like a fit and "well-built little man";
webbed feet with possibly only 4 toes with one claw-like toe being more prominent than the others;
made no sounds, did not even seem to be breathing, and gave off no odour;
was strong enough to shake Gray "like a dog";
as it departed its shuffling gait seemed more animal than human.
[The abandoned settlements] possess that eerie feeling that you are being watched from the forest by unseen eyes, but by night it
is even more pronounced, and many campers are known to avoid these places.
The entire Carrai possesses this all-pervasive eeriness.
Here no sun penetrates that green world of vines, swamp and jungle, a land where time seems to stand still.
Gilroy, R. (2001)
“Giants from the Dreamtime: The Yowie in Myth and Reality” URU Publications: Katoomba, NSW. Pp 223.
As such, the George Gray Yowie became an enduring Australian mystery - a favourite for local authors of folklore and the unknown to
ponder and entertain.
In the new Millenium, however, a pair of local historians began researching the rich history of the Carrai
region and, as luck may have it, may have inadvertently solved the mystery of the George Gray Yowie. Geraldine Yabsley's (2009)Bill
Haydon: The Cedar King and Andrew Messner's (2010) Carrai National Park and State Conservation Area History both quote an interview
with former Kookaburra residents Reg and Basil Hudson:
On another occasion a man named George Gray was living in a hut at Kookaburra. ‘Ray Lawrence was a bit of a lout and knowing how easily
frightened Gray was he decided to play a joke on him. Around ten or eleven at night Ray Lawrence, dressed in a lady’s fur coat and
some gloves and flippers climbed through the window besides Gray’s bed and fell on top of him making “Yowie” type noises. Poor old
Gray ran for his life and Ray Lawrence went back to his place and removed the evidence, not saying a word to anyone. Well, it was
all around Kookaburra that a Yowie had attacked Gray and a few weeks later he went on the Mid Day show hosted by Mike Walsh. To the
day he died old Gray swore black and blue that a Yowie had attacked him, but it was only Ray Lawrence’.
Could the George Gray Yowie simply be the result of a good old Aussie larrikin-style prank?
Gilroy (2001) described Gray as a "bushman"
but living in a remote community while working in the mill doesn't necessarily make it so. Some of the long-term workers lived in
Kookaburra with their families while others, like George Gray, lived and worked there seasonally or for the short-term before moving
on. The bush is an unfamiliar place for many Australians especially at night. It is not unreasonable to presume that some of those
Kookaburra residents and workers who did not grow up in the area were very uncomfortable in their rugged surrounds.
Brian McNamara: Bobby Reilly cam to live at Kookaburra and he lived in that house along Coachwood Road. He was very nervous of the
bush and anything in it. His first night there they decided to go down and check how he was and they found he had collected all of
the dogs from around town and had them in the hut with him for protection. Another night Bill Cant said that Bobby [c]ould come up
to visit him and he would tell Bobby to be careful on his way home and to watch out for the “wasas” - that’s what we used to call
yowies - and that “wasas had fur on their feet so you couldn’t hear them coming.” Anyway Bobby was walking home in the dark and fell
over a cow that was laying down. As the cow started to get up Bobby took off back to Bill’s and Bill reckons that from the front door
to the back door there were four doors and Bobby never touched the handle of one of them.
Yabsley, G. (2009) Bill Haydon: The
Cedar King. p113
Similar to the haunted house experience, for those unfamiliar with and/or uncomfortable in the bush every bump in the night takes
on a sinister connotation which can be readily exploited for a storytelling experience and the Yowie (or "wasa") makes for a perfect
Bogeyman - a man-like monster, ever present yet rarely seen other than in ambiguous glimpses. In a manner typical of Australian humour,
those with fears were targeted for mirth by straight-faced larrikins. People have always made their own fun when formal sources of
entertainment are lacking.
How isolated from the rest of the community was George Gray on the night of alleged incident?
(1996) describes the incident location as being "a bush hut near the village of Kookaburra" while Healy and Cropper (2006) describe
how Gray "camped in a hut surrounded by dense scrub".
In hindsight (and with new historical information) such descriptions are
inaccurate and give a false impression of the setting of Gray's 1968 encounter which actually happened in Gray's residential hut andwithin the
settlement of Kookaburra which itself was cleared of forest for 200-300 metres all around. In fact, Gray's hut was directly opposite
the mill complex (see below).
Ed: Can you tell us what happened?
Reg Hudson: The old bloke was camped in the hut there and we often used to have a joke with
him about the Yowies and that. Ray Lawrence, I think from what I can remember, [indistinct] had the coat on he just through it in
through the window onto the bed with the old fellow and it frightened the buggery out of him.
E: So was there a wrestle or anything?
Do you know anything about that?
RH: I don't know what went on inside but he wasn't there very long - he came out pretty quick.
So, George ran out of the hut, is that right?
RH: Yeah. I don't know what happened inside but he certainly come out pretty quick.
Were you there or is it just what you heard?
RH: We were at the mill - was half a dozen of us standing around there when it happened.
It was in the night time you couldn't see much but we all thought it was a great joke anyhow.
E: So it was in the night and at
the mill and Ray Lawrence jumped in there with the fur coat and George ran out and you could see him rum out, is that right?
Yeah. He took off in a hurry. I said to Geraldine last night these Yowie stories and that, when we were there we were 14, 15, 16 we'd
usually go shooting all night in those bloody scrubs through there near Kookaburra and Carrai shooting squirrels and possums and one
thing or another. Bloody Yowies never worried us ... they're a myth. I don't know where they started but there are certainly none
up here. I would walk through the bushes and scrubs all hours of the days and nights. If there was any about we'd have seen marks
or something. We never saw anything like them.