A finger long claimed to be from a yeti, once revered in a monastery in Nepal and taken in the 1950s by a Bigfoot researcher, has been identified after decades of mystery. Turns out, it's just a regular old human finger — albeit one with a very interesting history.
The yeti is said to be a muscular beast weighing between 200 and 400 pounds and covered with dark grayish or reddish-brown hair. As in the case of its North American counterpart, Bigfoot, most of the evidence of its existence comes from fuzzy sightings, oversize footprints in the snow, or the occasional strand of funny-looking hair.
But there has been one interesting piece of physical evidence of the yeti: a finger that was either bought or stolen from the Pangboche Buddhist monasteryin the 1950s, depending on which disputed story you believe. It has been in London, among the collection of the Royal College of Surgeons, for more than half a century.
The finger was taken from the monastery by Bigfoot researcher Peter Byrne and was smuggled out of the country, so the story goes, by beloved Hollywood actor Jimmy Stewart, who hid it amid his wife's lingerie. The monstrous finger ended up in the possession of Dr. William Osman Hill, who had searched for the yeti in the 1950s on behalf of Texas millionaire Tom Slick; Hill later bequeathed the finger to the Royal College of Surgeons.
The finger has generated controversy among Bigfoot and yeti believers for decades and, until relatively recently, when researchers at the Edinburgh Zoo performed DNA analysis on the mysterious digit, it was impossible to know for certain what kind of animal it belonged to. [Mythical Beasts That Might Actually Exist]
If it is indeed a Yeti finger, then the mysterious beast is even more man-like than anyone imagined. According to the researchers' DNA analysis, the Yeti finger is human, perhaps from the corpse of a monk. But definitely human.
Rob Ogden of the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland explained to BBC News: "We had to stitch it together. We had several fragments that we put into one big sequence, and then we matched that against the database and we found human DNA." The researchers said that the result “wasn’t too surprising, but obviously slightly disappointing.”
It is not the first yeti claim to be debunked by science. In 1960 Sir Edmund Hillary, the first man to scale Mount Everest, searched for evidence of the beast and found a "scalp" that scientists later determined had been fashioned from the skin of a serow, a Himalayan animal similar to a goat.
Earlier this year a team of researchers in Russia claimed to have found "indisputable proof" of the yeti, though so far the evidence has fallen far short of the claims. If populations of yetis really exist, they, like Bigfoot, have somehow managed to avoid leaving any physical traces of their presence: bodies, bones, teeth, hair, or anything else.
This story was provided by Life's Little Mysteries, a sister site to LiveScience.
Benjamin Radford is deputy editor of Skeptical Inquirer science magazine and author of Scientific Paranormal Investigation: How to Solve Unexplained Mysteries. His Web site is www.BenjaminRadford.com.