Where truth is stranger than fiction exists in a true story that happened in 1890.
A Russian mystic and traveller, Nicholas Roerich Notoviteh visited Ladakh in then western Tibet. Whilst taking refuge from a broken leg at the Lamasery of Hemis, he began browsing through the enormous library there. A fluent reader and linguist in Tibetan, he was astounded to discover in an ancient manuscript a reference which specifically dealt with the life of Jesus Christ! This reference left him speechless, it related the tale of how Jesus had visited India, Kashmir, Nepal, Tibet and even Persia.
On Roerich's return to Paris he wrote a book titled "Life of St Issa." The book was later published in America in 1894 where it was retitled "The Unknown Life of Jesus." A footnote to this story is that Muslim scholars claim to have discovered the grave of Christ in Srinagar, Kashmir. They maintain that after the crucifixion and resurrection he returned alive to the Himalayas, lived and preached his message there for several years until he died peacefully of old age. There is an ancient gravestone to this day in Srinagar which proclaims in the Kahsmiri language of the time to be the final resting-place of 'HAZRAT ISSA'. Fact or fallacy? We shall probably never know, but all in all it adds to the many mysteries that surround this magical Himalayan world.
Like all travellers who are inexplicably drawn to strange and distant lands, we all treasure our experiences. The weirder the better, and sometimes travelling folk will regale their fellow listeners with tales, both competitive and exaggerative to while away the hours when they are not exploring the far reaches of our magical world. But the experiences that you are about to read are neither, for they did indeed happen to me.
On my many and various visits to the Himalayas, I have seen things both horrific and wonderful. Over the past 25 years I have visited Tibet and its surrounding territories many times. I have been to familiar and unfamiliar areas some so remote, as to make one believe that the experience that one having was truly peculiar. A few of these personal experiences, I think are worth retelling if only to whet the appetite of the seeker of mystical happenings. I am not a follower of the paranormal and I do not indulge in any activities from beyond our earthly realm. It is not that I am a disbeliever, it's just that not very many so called paranormal experiences have impinged on my very earth-bound life. Until, that is, I started visiting Tibet in the early 1970's.
Once many years ago, I was taken to an isolated high plateau near Gyantse in Tibet to watch a Shaman sit naked in temperatures of below freezing in a thick falling of snow, and melt the snow with an ability to control his body heat. All around him, the snow melted and he sat within the centre of the circle, calm and unaffected by the intense cold. Sadly I was forbidden to use my camera as this would have been one photo that would have bored no one!
In 1987 while lecturing to a group of British Government politicians in Western Tibet, I remember a travelling magician, who, for a small fee demonstrated levitation to us. Some of the more brave of us ventured close to the magician who worked entirely along on a small patch of earth in an abandoned monastery, yet none of us could explain how he did what he did, and we were very close indeed. He lay stretched out on a plain white sheet, and simply rose in the air to a height of about 4 metres and hovered there for several minutes while we held our breath in anticipation.
An even more extraordinary experience was when I got lost once in a remote part of Tibet proper, somewhere north of the Derge. I had been wandering for about two days hoping to find the trail / road to the industrial city of Derge, when I became hopelessly lost. Night was fast approaching, it was cold and I was hungry, the biting wind cut at my face and although I was protected by many layers of clothing, the coldness penetrated and icily probed my bones. I found shelter in the ruins of an ancient monastery, beside a high wall with an opening that at one time was probably a sighting place for warrior guards.
I tethered my Tibetan pony close by, huddled up in a corner under some woollen blankets and closed my eyes in preparation for a night of uninterrupted sleep.
As I lay there I began to worry that I was hopelessly lost. My provisions were fast running out, and the weather seemed to be threatening snowstorms. My worries were not unfounded, unless the following day brought me some good fortune, there was a real possibility that my equine friend, and I would die in this wilderness. Several hours later at 2 am, I awoke in a silent panic. A rustling and what seemed to be a rasping bronchitic breathing was close by, in fact on the other side of the ancient wall. I clutched my large military bayonet in its sheath in both hands and fearing a murderous attack from bandits, called out (rather unconvincingly) "Who's there? Go away, I'm armed!". This was really pathetic as I said it in English, forgetting in the fear of the moment, to speak in Tibetan.
There was no response, except the breathing noise grew progressively louder and the rustling noise was now joined by a hollow, thumping, pumping sound that was not only eerie but also terrifying. Suddenly from the little sighting window above and in front of me, my worst nightmare became real, a hand, a huge bony hand with elongated brown sinewy fingers tipped with vicious looking hooked nails slid through the open window palm upward and extended onward to reveal an incredibly long thin naked arm covered in scraggy brown almost orange coloured hairs. My flashlight lit up the hand and arm and everything in my world ceased to work, I was filled with a terror and loathing.
The hand remained in its extended position for several minutes, it was obvious that this was no human hand. I could see quite clearly that the hand and its arm was over a metre in length and, perhaps it was a twist of the light, or a moment of confusion on my part, but it seemed (and I cannot swear it to be so) that the hand had a huge bent thumb and five other fingers. My terror passed, and as the hand refused to move, I arose to take a closer look.
In the darkness beyond the arm, two golden eyes blazed back at me, like eyes of a large dog in a shaft of moonlight.
I could still hear the heavy breathing, but now I was beginning to suspect that my hairy visitor was an ape also looking for food and possibly shelter. So I reached into a paper bag of raisins, clutched a handful and very, very carefully dropped them into the still upturned palm of the creature. The hand quickly closed on the raisins and immediately withdrew. A loud and slobbery eating sound ensued and suddenly without warning the skeletal hand once again returned, only this time it was by the jerking upward movement, asking for more.
Now, not seriously afraid, I fed the remainder of my only food to the creature and when I could no longer fill its palm the hand withdrew, the breathing grew quiet and once again the Tibetan night silence returned.
I never went back to sleep, I waited until dawn and decamped at first light. Later that day I found some Nomads who directed me to Derge via several small, isolated villages where I was able to get food and water.
When I told my story to the Tibetans that I met along the way, and, I told this story so many times, they were in no doubt that my furry night visitor had been a Yeti and not an ape. There were no apes in this area, but the elusive Yeti was known to inhabit this remote mountainous region and had been seen by lone shepherds and travelled many times throughout the past and present.
This shy creature, peaceful and non-threatening had made contact with me and all I had been able to do was give it several meagre handfuls of raisins.