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.”

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.”

All images courtesy of iStock unless otherwise stated.

8 Surprising Uses for Potatoes

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Potatoes are one of the world’s most common, and most beloved, vegetables—and they can be used for much more than just sustenance. In honor of National Potato Day, here are a few other ways to use a potato.

1. WEAR THEM

Potatoes come from a nightshade plant called Solanum tuberosum, which blooms with white, pink, red, blue, or purple flowers. In the late 1700s, in an effort to inspire their starving subjects to plant the newly introduced vegetable—which the Spanish had brought to Europe from the New World—Marie Antoinette wore potato flowers in her hair, and her husband King Louis XVI wore them in his buttonholes. This inspired potato flowers to be a favorite of the French nobility for a time, but the ploy didn't work: The lower classes spurned the upper class's efforts to get them to farm the crop. 

2. MAKE ELECTRICITY

If you’re in a lurch, or perhaps a doomsday prepper, start stocking up on potatoes now. With just a few household items—wires, some copper, and a zinc-coated nail—and one of the tubers, you can power a clock, a light bulb, and many other small electronics.

3. GARDEN IN SPACE

In 1995, the potato became the first vegetable grown on the space shuttle. Raymond Bula of the University of Wisconsin spearheaded a project in which five Norland variety potato leaves were propagated in space. Bula’s research group monitored this project from Wisconsin, staying in constant contact with NASA, who stayed in contact with the crew on the space shuttle. When the shuttle arrived home, everyone was pleased to find that the potato plants not only survived the ordeal, but actually grew potatoes.

4. GROW ROSES

Gardeners can insert rose cuttings into a potato, and then plant the entire potato as if it were a seed or bulb. The nutrient-rich potato helps provide moisture and sustenance to the growing plant, giving the cutting a better chance to survive.

5. MAKE PLASTIC

Bio-plastics, as they’re called, can be made from corn, wheat, and—you guessed it—potatoes. The concentration of starches and cellulose in a potato can be used to make plastic, and the plastic made out of potatoes can be burned and composted with much less impact on the environment.

6. MEASURE TIME

Peru’s Incas used the potato for all sorts of things at the height of their civilization. Known for creative, forward-thinking agricultural practices, the Incas also studied time—and started using the time it takes to cook a potato to measure time.

7. REMOVE RUST

Have a knife with some rust spots? If you insert the knife into the potato and let it sit for awhile, you'll go a long way in removing the rust. Potatoes naturally contain oxalic acid, which is used in many household cleaning products (in much greater quantities, of course). Oxalic acid also dissolves rust. To attack larger rusted surfaces with a potato, cut it in half, sprinkle baking powder on it or dip it in dish soap, and get to scrubbing.

8. MAIL THEM

Thanks to Mail A Spud, for only $9.99 everyone’s dream of mailing a potato to their closest friends and family can be a reality. The site advertises that it can send potatoes anywhere in the U.S., and that your choice of mailed gift will be sure to delight recipients. And, if not delight, at least confuse ... in a good way.

Additional Sources: Potato: A History of the Propitious Esculent

This article originally ran in 2016.

15 Uplifting Facts About the Wright Brothers

Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons
Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

Before they built the world’s first powered, heavier-than-air, and controllable aircraft, Wilbur and Orville Wright were two ordinary brothers from the Midwest who possessed nothing more than natural talent, ambition, and imagination. In honor of National Aviation Day, here are 15 uplifting facts about the siblings who made human flight possible.

1. A TOY PIQUED THEIR PASSION.

From an early age, Wilbur and Orville Wright were fascinated by flight. They attribute their interest in aviation to a small helicopter toy their father brought back from his travels in France. Fashioned from a stick, two propellers, and rubber bands, the toy was crudely made. Nevertheless, it galvanized their quest to someday make their very own flying machine.

2. THEIR GENIUS WAS GENETIC.

While they were inspired by their father’s toy, the Wright brothers inherited their mechanical savvy from their mother, Susan Koerner Wright. She could reportedly make anything, be it a sled or another toy, by hand.

3. THEY WERE PROUD MIDWESTERNERS.

The Wright brothers spent their formative years in Dayton, Ohio. Later in life, Wilbur said his advice for those seeking success would be to “pick out a good father and mother, and begin life in Ohio.”

4. THEY NEVER GRADUATED HIGH SCHOOL.

While the Wright brothers were undoubtedly bright, neither of them ever earned his high school diploma. Wilbur became reclusive after suffering a bad hockey injury, and Orville dropped out of school.

5. THEY ONCE PUBLISHED A NEWSPAPER.

Before they were inventors, the Wright brothers were newspaper publishers. When he was 15 years old, Orville launched his own print shop from behind his house and he and Wilber began publishing The West Side News, a small-town neighborhood paper. It eventually became profitable, and Orville moved the fledgling publication to a rented space downtown. In due time, Orville and Wilbur ceased producing The West Side News—which they’d renamed The Evening Item—to focus on other projects.

6. THEY MADE A FORAY INTO THE BICYCLE BUSINESS.

One of these projects was a bike store called the Wright Cycle Company, where Wilbur and Orville fixed clients’ bicycles and sold their own designs. The fledgling business grew into a profitable enterprise, which eventually helped the Wright brothers fund their flight designs.

7. THEY WERE AUTODIDACTS.

The Wright brothers’ lifelong interest in flight peaked after they witnessed a successive series of aeronautical milestones: the gliding flights of German aviator Otto Lilienthal, the flying of an unmanned steam-powered fixed-wing model aircraft by Smithsonian Institution Secretary Samuel Langley, and the glider test flights of Chicago engineer Octave Chanute. By 1899, Wilbur sat down and wrote to the Smithsonian, asking them to send him literature on aeronatics. He was convinced, he wrote, “that human flight is possible and practical.” Once he received the books, he and Orville began studying the science of flight.

8. THEY CHOSE TO FLY IN KITTY HAWK BECAUSE IT PROVIDED WIND, SOFT SAND, AND PRIVACY.

The Wright brothers began building prototypes and eventually traveled to Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, in 1902 to test a full-size, two-winged glider with a moveable rudder. They chose this location thanks in part to their correspondence with Octave Chanute, who advised them in a letter to select a windy place with soft grounds. It was also private, which allowed them to launch their aircrafts with little public interference.

9. THEY ACHIEVED FOUR SUCCESSFUL FLIGHTS WITH THEIR FIRST AIRPLANE DESIGN.

The Wright brothers started testing various wing designs and spent the next few years perfecting their evolving vision for a heavier-than-air flying machine. In the winter of 1903, they returned to Kitty Hawk with their final model, the 1903 Wright Flyer. On December 17, they finally achieved a milestone: four brief flights, one of which lasted for 59 seconds and reached 852 feet.

10. THE 1903 WRIGHT FLYER NEVER TOOK TO THE SKIES AGAIN…

Before the brothers could embark on their final flight, a heavy wind caused the plane to flip several times. Because of the resulting damage, it never flew again. It eventually found a permanent home in the Smithsonian’s Air & Space Museum—even though Orville originally refused to donate it to the institution because it claimed that Smithsonian Secretary Samuel P. Langley’s own aircraft experiment was the first machine capable of sustained free flight.

11. …BUT A PIECE OF IT DID GO TO THE MOON.

An astronaut paid homage to the Wright brothers by carrying both a swatch of fabric from the 1903 Flyer’s left wing and a piece of its wooden propeller inside his spacesuit.

12. THE PRESS INITIALLY IGNORED THE KITTY HAWK FLIGHTS.

Despite their monumental achievement, the Dayton Journal didn’t think the Wright brothers’ short flights were important enough to cover. The Virginia Pilot ended up catching wind of the story, however, and they printed an error-ridden account that was picked up by several other papers. Eventually, the Dayton Journal wrote up an official—and accurate—story.

13. THE BROTHERS SHARED A CLOSE BOND...

Although the Wright brothers weren’t twins, they certainly lived like they were. They worked side by side six days a week, and shared the same residence, meals, and bank account. They also enjoyed mutual interests, like music and cooking. Neither brother ever married, either. Orville said it was Wilbur’s job, as the older sibling, to get hitched first. Meanwhile, Wilbur said he “had no time for a wife.” In any case, the two became successful businessmen, scoring aviation contracts both domestically and abroad.

14. …BUT WERE OPPOSITES IN MANY WAYS.

Although they were much alike, each Wright brother was his own person. As the older brother, Wilbur was more serious and taciturn. He possessed a phenomenal memory, and was generally consumed by his thoughts. Meanwhile, Orville was positive, upbeat, and talkative, although very bashful in public. While Wilbur spearheaded the brothers’ business endeavors, they wouldn’t have been possible without Orville’s mechanical—and entrepreneurial—savvy.

15. OHIO AND NORTH CAROLINA FIGHT OVER THEIR LEGACY.

Since the Wright brothers split their experiments between Ohio and North Carolina, both states claim their accomplishments as their own. Ohio calls itself the "Birthplace of Aviation,” although the nickname also stems from the fact that two famed astronauts hail from there as well. Meanwhile, North Carolina’s license plates are emblazoned with the words “First In Flight.”

This article originally ran in 2015.

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