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15 Mysterious Tidbits About Yetis

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Skeptics and believers alike will be going ape over this tantalizing trivia.

1. The Nepalese and U.S. Governments Have Regulated Yeti Hunting

You’ve got three basic ground rules. A 1959 U.S. embassy memo states that American citizens need special permits before they can legally start tracking yetis inside Nepal. Also, while photographs and live captures are A-Okay, killing them is a big no-no, “except in an emergency arising out of self-defense.” Finally, any evidence that turns up (including live specimens) must be immediately handed over to the Nepalese authorities. Happy hunting! 

2. Fossils Show That Giant Prehistoric Apes Once Did, In Fact, Roam Asia

Sam Wise, Flickr // CC BY-SA 2.0

Gigantopithecus is a genus of massive simians whose fossils have been found throughout China, India, and Vietnam. In their heyday, these guys would’ve made a silverback gorilla wet himself—certain species weighed an estimated 1,100 pounds and could stand over nine feet tall! Gigantopithecus likely died out around 300,000 years ago. 

3. Yetis Are Usually Cited as Having Dark Hair

Yeti movies—yes, that’s a genre—almost always throw shaggy white primates at us. This contradicts the lion’s share of accounts provided by most so-called “eyewitnesses,” who overwhelmingly describe them as “brown or reddish-brown.” 

4. A Newspaper Columnist Coined the Term “Abominable Snowman”

While trekking around Mt. Everest in 1921, British Lieutenant-Colonel Charles Howard-Bury spotted huge footprints that were roughly “three times” the size of a normal human’s. These, his guides announced, had been left by something called a “met-teh kangmi,” or “man-sized wild creature.” 

Soon his story was picked up by Henry Newman of the Calcutta Statesman, who made a fateful gaffe. Instead of “met-teh kangmi,” Newman printed “metch kangmi,” which he mistranslated as meaning “abominable snowman.” The rest is history… 

5. Yeti-Sightings Have Been Reported in Several Different Countries

China, India, Nepal, Tibet, Bhutan, and Russia are all members of the international “we-might-have-yetis” club (t-shirts pending). 

6. Jimmy Stewart’s Wife Smuggled a “Yeti Finger”  

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You read that correctly. She was married to the Jimmy Stewart—as in the star of It’s a Wonderful Life (1946). Here’s what went down: In 1959, adventurer Peter Byrne visited the Himalayan Pangboche Temple, where a severed yeti’s hand was said to reside. Carefully, he removed one of its fingers and replaced it with a human double he’d been given by British primatologist William Osman Hill for this precise purpose.  

After making a clean getaway, Byrne’s team sent their digit back to the U.K. with some help from an unlikely partner. It turned out that Jimmy and Gloria Stewart were hunting in India at the time and would be stopping in London before heading home. Once Byrne paid them a visit, he convinced Gloria to slip the finger into her lingerie case, which no customs official would dare open.

Thanks to the Stewarts, the finger safely made its way to Hill, and it’s been stored at the Royal College of Surgeons ever since. Ultimately, however, Byrne’s work was in vain: Geneticists recently concluded that his prized steal was human after all. 

7. The Cold War Raised the Stakes For Yeti Researchers

1958 saw American and Soviet teams both embarking on organized hunts for these beasts. “It is now an international race for the yeti” said cryptozoologist Gerald Russell, who led the U.S. campaign.

8. The Etymology of “Yeti” Is Very Uncertain

Most sources will tell you that “yeti” comes from “yeh-teh,” or “small, man-like animal.” Japanese researcher Makoto Nebuka isn’t one of them. Instead, he believes the word’s really descended from “meti,” which means “bear” in some dialects. 

9. In 1994, One Tracker Claimed His Camera Froze Before He Could Snap a Definitive Yeti Photo

On the slopes of Dhaulagiri—Earth’s seventh-tallest mountain—“Yeti Project Japan” leader Yoshiteru Takahshi purportedly found a cave belonging to one of these legendary beasts. What a lousy time for an equipment malfunction

10. Siberia’s Getting a Yeti Resort

Complete with a museum and hotel, this odd, Russian park is currently in development. Once open, visitors will be encouraged to capture the elusive apes—anyone who does so can expect the equivalent of over $30,500 from regional governor Aman Tuleyev.

11. Hybrid Bears Might (But Probably Don’t) Explain Away Yeti Tales

Polar and brown bears frequent the world’s yeti belt. Terrifyingly, these animals may also be interbreeding. Perhaps, as some suggest, travelers spent centuries mistaking their mixed offspring for massive humanoids. Yet, critics point out that crossed ursids haven’t actually been documented in Asia. Their North American counterparts, on the other hand, are a lot more open to “experimenting” with each other: 

12. One Estimate Contends that Two Hundred Now Reside in Northern Russia

This number was put forth by Professor Valentin Sapunov of the Russian State Hydrometeorological University in St. Petersburg. 

13. A Collection of Yeti Footprint Snapshots Were Just Sold for £5,500!

That’s $7,437.82, American mental_floss readers! Taken by mountain climber Eric Earle Shipton in 1951, these photos feature what appears to be several dozen footprints allegedly found 16,000-17,000 feet above sea level. The set was auctioned off last September. 

14. Several Supposed Yeti Hair Specimens Have Been Debunked

Buzzkill alert! In 2013, human genetics expert Bryan Sykes exhaustively gathered 30 hair samples believed to have come from yetis, sasquatches, and other undiscovered apes. Subsequent DNA analyses revealed that every single strand had actually come from mundane, run-of-the-mill creatures like horses, bears, raccoons, and cows.

15. This Winter, Boston Got its Very Own Yeti  

If Februarys like that last one become a regular occurrence, Bean Town might rechristen itself “Yetiville, USA.” Lately, the area’s been blessed with a local eccentric who calls him- or herself “The Boston Yeti.” 

All images courtesy of iStock unless otherwise stated. 

This mysterious Bay State hero currently boasts 8,000-plus Twitter followers and can often be seen roaming snowy streets or helping average citizens dig out their cars. “Snow storms are funny because a sense of camaraderie develops in the community,” the still-anonymous Yeti told ABC news. “For me, I wanted to lend a claw and do my part, too.”

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Why is Friday the 13th Considered Unlucky?
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Today, people around the globe will feel uneasy about getting out of bed, leaving their homes, or going about their normal daily routines, all because of a superstition. These unfortunate folks suffer from “paraskavedekatriaphobia,” a common neurosis familiar to us all: the fear of Friday the 13th. But just where did this superstitious association come from, and how did it catch on?

The truth is that no one is absolutely sure where the idea that Friday the 13th is unlucky originated. Donald Dossey, the founder of the Stress Management Center and Phobia Institute in Asheville, North Carolina, suspects the fear can be traced back to a Norse myth about 12 gods who had a dinner at Valhalla—the fabled hall where legendary Norse heroes feasted for eternity after they died—that was interrupted by a 13th guest, the evil and mischievous god Loki. According to legend, Loki tricked Höðr (the blind god of winter and son of Odin, the supreme god in Norse mythology) into shooting his brother Baldr (the benevolent god of summer who was also a son of Odin) with a magical spear tipped with mistletoe—the only substance that could defeat him. Thus the number 13 was branded as unlucky because of the ominous period of mourning following the loss of such powerful gods by this unwanted 13th guest.

For whatever reason, among many cultures, the number 12 emerged throughout history as a "complete" number: There are 12 months in a year, 12 signs of the zodiac, 12 Gods of Olympus, 12 sons of Odin, 12 labors of Hercules, 12 Jyotirlingas or Hindu shrines where Shiva is worshipped, 12 successors of Muhammad in Shia Islam, and 12 tribes of Israel. In Christianity, Jesus was betrayed by one of his 12 Apostles—Judas—who was the 13th guest to arrive for the Last Supper. Surpassing the number 12 ostensibly unbalances the ideal nature of things; because it is seen as irregular and disrespectful of a sense of perfection, the number 13 bears the stigma of misfortune and bad luck we know today.

WHY FRIDAY?

Friday joins in the mix mostly because all of the early accounts of Jesus’s crucifixion agree that it took place on Friday—the standard day for crucifixions in Rome. As Chaucer noted in The Canterbury Tales, "And on a Friday fell all this mischance." Yet perpetuating Friday as an unlucky day in America came from the late 19th-century American tradition of holding all executions on Fridays; Friday the 13th became the unluckiest of days simply because it combined two distinct superstitions into one. According to the Oxford University Press Dictionary of Superstitions, the first reference to Friday the 13th itself wasn’t until 1913. (So despite actually occurring on Friday, October 13, 1307, the popular notion that the Friday the 13th stigma comes from the date on which the famed order of the Knights Templar were wiped out by King Philip of France is just a coincidence.)

The repercussions of these phobias reverberated through American culture, particularly in the 20th century. Most skyscrapers and hotels lack a 13th floor, which specifically comes from the tendency in the early 1900s for buildings in New York City to omit the unlucky number (though the Empire State Building has a 13th floor). Street addresses sometimes skip from 12 to 14, while airports may skip the 13th gate. Allegedly, the popular Friday the 13th films were so-named just to cash in on this menacing date recognition, not because the filmmakers actually believed the date to be unlucky.

So, is Friday the 13th actually unlucky? Despite centuries of superstitious behavior, it largely seems like psychological mumbo jumbo. (One 1993 study seemed to reveal that, statistically speaking, Friday the 13th is unlucky, but the study's authors told LiveScience that though the data was accurate, "the paper was just a bit of fun and not to be taken seriously." Other studies have shown no correlation between things like increased accidents or injuries and Friday the 13th.)

And Friday the 13th isn't a big deal in other cultures, which have their own unlucky days: Greeks and Spanish-speaking countries consider Tuesday the 13th to be the unluckiest day, while Italians steer clear of Friday the 17th. So today, try to rest a little easy—Friday the 13th may not be so unlucky after all.

Additional Source: 13: The Story of the World’s Most Popular Superstition.

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.

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25 Bad Luck Superstitions from Around the World
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Spilling pepper, complimenting a baby, and cutting your fingernails after dark are just a few of the things that will earn you bad luck around the world.

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