Hunting of the gul

by Richard Freeman

There were these two cryptozoologists and a reporter in a Victorian explorer’s theme pub talking about ape-men. The pub was Mr Fogg’s Tavern at St Martin’s Lane, Covent Garden London. It was a tad expensive and annoyingly, they had run out of cider, but the venue was a small conceit on my part. Between the three of us we must have been at least as well travelled as Vern’s adventurer.

Mr Fogg’s Tavern, London.

Dr Chris Clark has been on almost every expedition the Centre for Fortean Zoology has launched. For some years he had expressed an interested in visiting the Central Asian country of Tajikistan to search for relic hominins, possible offshoots of one of the ancestors of man or their relatives. In the 1950s the Russian polymath Boris Porshnev had visited the country during the Soviet era with the Snowman Commission in the 1950s. He had spoken to many witnesses whose sightings had reached back into the 19th century . Chris had originally wanted to charter a helicopter to drop us at the top of one of the county’s valleys whereupon we would walk down on foot. This however had been too expensive.

Whilst researching online for the most recent sightings I had stumbled across an article entitled Tajikistan: Search for the Yet,i in an online magazine called Standpoint. The author was a journalist called Ben Judah who had written the piece back in 2010. In it he recounts visiting the Romit Valley and meeting with witnesses, people who claimed to have seen and even been attacked by, hairy, man-like beasts whom they feared more than the mujahdeen. His guide was chased by a female hominin ten years previously whilst he was searching for firewood in the mountains. He described a black- haired creature with dangling breasts.  Travelling further he talked to more witnesses. Another man attacked by a black- haired female creature and another who had a man-like beast attack his donkey. Another witness, a youth of fifteen saw the creature, hairy and monkey- like, climbing over rocks just four days before. There are no monkeys in Tajikistan. The author could not decide if this was a living myth or a living creature. I decided to contact him.

Ben Judah ‘s article

And so, we sat in the explorer’s themed pub and talked hominins over gin and roast beef. Ben told Chris and I that almost every person he spoke to in the Romit Valley had seen one of the creatures or knew someone who had seen one. The local name for the beast was ‘gul’ and Arabic word meaning to tear. In Middle Eastern folklore these were desert dwelling, man-like demons who emerged at night to feed on human corpses. It is from gul that we derive the world ghoul.

The creatures were generally described has man sized, hairy, with monkey-like faces and a foul smell. They seemed much smaller than the yeti, more like the almasty of Russia. In turn Chris and I told Ben of our own searches for the orang-pendek, the yeti and the almasty as well as other, none primate cryptids. Ben was still undecided as to the nature of the gul, if it was flesh or fable, but he told us that as he rose above the tree line and moved on to the Pamir Mountains, the stories of the gul vanished. I pointed out that if these stories were just make believe, then they would have carried on to the communities who lived above the tree line in the barren wastes. A real creature needs food and shelter however and would by necessity be a forest dweller.

Ben, initially wanted to come with us but sadly could not get the financial backing from any of the newspapers or magazines he wrote for, mindless celebrity chatter being apparently more important than scientific endeavour. However, Chris and I decided that our target area would be the Romit Valley and we would be joined by Dave Archer, another stalwart of CFZ expeditions and an eyewitness to the orang-pendek of Sumatra.

The team : Dave Archer, Richard Freeman, Dr Chris Clark

With the most recent sightings emanating from the Romit Valley it was to there we decided to head. In June of 2018 we found ourselves in the capital city of Dushanbe. We had been met at the airport by our guide, interpreter and fixer, a young man named Daldat. After a night in a hotel, we made a quick visit to the museum in Dushanbe. There was a display of Neanderthal tools such as stone axes. There was also a reconstruction of a family of hominins. These were some of the strangest reconstructions I have ever seen. They had faces like Neanderthals but bodies like gorillas, down on all fours with bowed legs and ape-like feet. Then we travelled to the north east, leaving civilization behind and headed for the twin forks of the Romit.

The mountains in the area did not resemble the alpine – like peaks of my imagination. They were drier and brought to mind the mountains of Greece. The are was well watered with rivers and streams but the earth itself seemed dusty, stony and dry. Never the less the area was highly productive, mulberries, plumbs, walnuts, cherries, apples and pears all grew wild in the area. Bears, wolves, lynx, deer, and mountain goats all inhabited the area. Both forks had rivers running along them and small villages dotted down their length. The mountains rose steeply on either side.

Eventually we reached our first camp area close to a farm on the lower reaches of the lower fork of the Romit. Several tents had already been erected when we arrived. A young boy from the farm told us that his grandfather had seen a gul. It was covered in yellow and black hair. The boy could tell us no more as his grandfather was away. He would, however been returning a few days later and we would be able to talk to him.

That night a spectacular storm broke. I had little sleep.

the camp

After breakfast the next day we walked down the valley to the village of Tavish. On the way we met an old man walking the dusty path beside the Kafirnigan River. We stopped and through Daldat asked if he knew of the gul. The old man said he had never seenone but he knew of them. We asked him to describe the creature to the best of his knowledge. His first words were “It’s thumbs are placed further back on the hand than a humans are.” This may seem strange, but we were to hear this comment time and time again. The man went on to say that the gul was covered in hair, had long arms, a barrel chest and was very muscular. He said that several people in the village claimed to have seen it.

Raga Bali

At the village Daldat asked around and soon several men came forward to tell their stories. The first was a biology teacher called Raga Bali. About seven or eight years ago he was camped some 30kms up the valley. He and some others were cutting grass for livestock fodder. They were sleeping in tents. Raga Bali awoke to a noise outside the tent. It was light and he thought it was morning. It transpired that it was moonlight however, and the time was about 3:00 am. Outside, the donkey was stamping and braying. Looking out he saw a strange, hair covered creature about twenty three feet away. It was about five feet five inches tall and stood in a somewhat stooped position. Its eyes shone in the moonlight and it had a monkey-like face. Its hair was black and it had long arms. The thumbs were set well back on the hands and the fingernails were black. It looked muscular but not as massive as a gorilla.

The gul seemed to be trying to strangle the donkey with the rope used to tether it to a tree. The struggling ass broke free and the gul ran off. Raga Bali found man-like tracks on the ground were the thing had stood.

We showed Raga Bail a selection of pictures. These included a gorilla, an orang-utan, reconstructions of Homo habilis, Homo erectus, Neanderthal man and Australopithecus africanus and various illustrations of the yeti, sasquatch and skunk ape. Instantly Raga Bali chose the Justin Osbourn’s excellent cover illustration of Lyle Blackburn’s great book on the Fouke Monster The Beast of Boggy Creek. The picture shows a dark haired skunk ape with yellow eyes slouching through a swamp. He was particular in saying that the hands were very like the hands of the creature he saw.

Raga Bali also told us that there was a stone shack, now abandoned up the river. Years ago, an old man lived there alone. Raga Bali used to visit him in years past. During the night something would throw rocks at the roof. The old man told him it was a gul.

A second man, Zai Dim had an even stranger tale. He told us that he was delivering bee hives. There are many honey farms along the Romit and bee keeping is big business. In 1982 he was driving from a village further up the valley to take some hives to Tavish. It was around three o’clock in the morning. As he approached a wooded area, he saw a hairy animal that he took to be a bear run across the road in front of his car. It disappeared down a slope and into some trees. Zai Dim stopped the car and tried to get a closer look at the creature, but he could not see it. Thinking it had vanished into the trees he turned to go back to his car. Suddenly something grabbed him from behind.

Turning around Zai Dim was faced by a creature covered in dark yellow hair. It slouched but stood on two legs, being about five feet five inches tall. It had a human-like face with wide cheekbones and slanting yellow eyes. The creature was female with drooping, hairless breasts. The gul grappled with him and he saw that its thumbs were placed far back on the hands and it gripped with its fingers alone. The creature wrestled him to the floor and pinned him down. He said it had foul breath. They struggled for about five minutes before he got an arm free and punch the creature in the face. It let go of him and Zai Dim ran for his car and locked himself inside. The creature ran back into the forest. He said he was ill for weeks afterwards. Several other witnesses said this, and it could be a reference to post traumatic stress.

Zai Dim, and the road where the attack happened

Zai Dim felt that the attack had not been through aggression but because the creature had wanted to mate with him

Again, when shown the illustrations and photographs Zai Dim chose the Fouke Monster as closest to the creature he saw.

The third witnesswas a man called Gulmond. One morning, whilst it was still dark, he was walking along the Romit Valley in an area about 30km from Tavish. He was taking food to his parents who were working on a farm. He noticed a figure walking behind him and assumed it was another person. Suddenly a hand grabbed his arm. He saw that it was not shaped like a human hand but had thumbs placed far back. Turning he saw a female gul about five feet five inches tall and covered in dark yellow hair of a similar colour to a camel. The gul had drooping breasts and a foul smell.

Gulmond

The gul tugged at his arm and he pulled away. The creature kept on grasping at him and splashed him with water from the Kafirnigan. As the sun rose it ran away. Gulmond, like Zai Dim, felt that the creature wanted to mate with him.

Like the other two witnesses Gulmond selected the Fouke Monster illustration as being most like the creature he saw.

Sexual attacks on humans by apes are not unknown. Primatologist Birute Galdikas witnessed her cook, a Dyak woman, being raped by an orang-utan named Gundul in Borneo. She recorded it in her book Reflections of Eden .

« I began to realize that Gundul did not intend to harm the cook, but had something else in mind. The cook stopped struggling. ‘It’s all right,’ she murmured. She lay back in my arms, with Gundul on top of her. Gundul was very calm and deliberate. He raped the cook. As he moved rhythmically back and forth, his eyes rolled upward to the heavens. » 

The famous bipedal chimp ‘Oliver’ acquired by animal trainers Frank and Janet Berger showed a sexual interest Janet as he became an adult. Oliver even attempted to mate with Janet.

young Oliver

The strange shape of the hands was something I found very interesting. It was invariably the first thing the witnesses mentioned. If you were going to make up a story about a monster the thumbs would hardly be the first thing you described.

The placement of the thumb is much more like that of a chimpanzee than a man. It is also reminiscent of the Australopithecines, a primitive subfamily of African based hominids that flourished four to two million years ago.

More recent species such as Homo erectus and Homo habilis have a much more opposable grip more like modern man. The feature may be plesiomorphic trait. That is an ancestral feature retained by a modern organism. It could be a feature allowing the creatures to climb with more ease much like the orang-utan with it’s reduced thumbs and elongated fingers.

Chimp/human hands

When we returned to camp, we found the owner of the land, a man called She Rali, had returned. He was the grandfather of the boy whom we had met the day before. He was a park ranger and had several encounters with the gul over the past ten years. At first, he was the victim of rocks thrown at him when he was in his orchard. He never saw the assailant. Then one morning he saw an upright, ape-like creature looking up into a walnut tree. The creature ran away when it saw him. Another time he saw a female gul from only sixteen feet away. The creature seemed to point to his groin before running away.

Then in June of 2017 he got an even closer look. She Rali was re-routing a stream to irrigate his crops when something grabbed him from behind and hugged him. When he turned around the thing let go and fled into the forest. It was a female gul with dark yellow hair, long breasts and a vile smell. It had a flat nose with a wide face and cheek bones. Again, the witness emphasized the thumbs being further back on the hands than human thumbs. He thought the creature was interested in mating with him.

When showed the cards he picked out a reconstruction of a yeti as being the closest to what he had seen but said that the hands were different.

We set up some camera traps in the area and baited the area with raisins, nuts and eggs.

That night we had intended to stakeout the area but a fierce storm stopped us.

The witness Raga Bali offered to join us at the camp and assist in our hunt. We drove up the valley and found the now abandoned shack he had told us about. Long empty trees were now growing through it. It was a simple stone building, one story with a slate roof.

Raga Bali told us he had heard of a tale about a woman who had lived in a remote house in the Romit Valley. Her husband had passed away and she lived alone. One night a male gul broke into her house and raped her or so the story went. She later had a hybrid son half gul, half human. The boy lived with his mother until her death. He was then taken in by relations in a town called Chuyangaron about twenty miles away. He was apparently a little slow but otherwise normal. Apparently, he lived in the town still.

I was very sceptical of the story. I have heard human / hominin hybrid stories with the yeti in the Himalayas, the sasquatch in the US, the almasty in Russia and the di-di in Guyana. However, I thought it may have been worthwhile to try and find the youth.

The following day Chris, Dave and I were all taken-ill and confined to the camp-site. The following day, though, still unwell, we went to the village of Sorbu gi Dakana. Here we spoke with another witness Mr Aka Jon. The Tajiks are very hospitable people and Aka Jon invited us into his house. We were given tea with bread and honey as well as masses of cakes, sweets and fruit. Oddly, the savouries, such as cooked goat and sheep meat was brought out last. Stranger still, the Tajiks simply adore fried egg and chips. We were given it at almost every occasion that we were guest’s in someone’s house.  As we ate and drank, he told us of his experience back in 1978.

Aka Jon was out harvesting walnuts with friends in the Romit Valley. The group had made a fire and camped out. Sometime after they had retired, he had looked out of the tent flaps. He saw a male gul crouched by the fire warming itself. It had long black hair and when it stood up it was about as tall as a man. Its face was like a man’s but broader. The neck was so short that it made it look as if the head sat directly on the shoulders. The creature smelled bad. When it saw him it ran away.

He had heard tell that in the next village back in 1956-57 there was a disabled man who had visited the forest on a regular basis to have sex with a female gul. One day he was found dead in the forest.

Back in the 1940s a friend of Aka Jon had shot a gul and missed. Some days later he was found dead in his home and the locals believed that he had been killed by the gul in revenge.

That night Dave and I went out into the hills behind the area that She Rali had his encounter. We used night vision cameras in the hope to catch something on film. As we walked along Dave said that he saw a creature’s eyeshine in the trees to our right. Looking up, I caught a split second glimpse of something large moving between the trees. It appeared to be a hunched figure covered in long grey hair. It vanished in an eye blink. Then, as we moved forward the creature stepped out from the trees. It was a crested porcupine. What I had taken for long, grey hair in the brief instant I saw it was actually it’s long quills!

Back in the camp Dave caught a large solifugid. Also known as wind scorpions or camel spiders they are in fact neither scorpion or spider but a relation of both.

Solifugide scorpion

The following day we were mostly confined to camp with illness. We all had dysentery and it was the very worst I have ever experienced in any part of the world.

In the morning we foolishly decided to visit some caves that were a number of miles along the river. We were intending to stay in them for a day and a night. The combination of heat and illness made me vomit violently. The mission was aborted, and we returned to camp. This was the most sick I’ve ever been on any expedition.

Richard Freeman

That evening, as we were feeling a little better Raga Bali invited us for tea at his house. We met his brother and his partner, a French woman who asked us why we were in Tajikistan. When we explained what we were looking for she became very frightened. She had not heard of such creatures before and the possibility they may lurk in the surrounding mountains seemed to genuinely disturb her.

We broke camp in the morning and travelled to Chuyangaron see if we could locate the man who was supposed to be half gul. All we had to go on was that he lived near a mosque. There were two mosques in Chuyangaron, an old one and a new one. We asked a young man close to the new mosque if he had heard of the story. He had not but he said he could take us to the old mosque. He helped us by asking around close to the older mosque and found an old man who knew something of the story. He invited us in for lunch and told us what he knew.

The story we had been told wasn’t one hundred percent accurate. The man in question was not a youth, indeed, he was now dead. His name was Yattin and he had been born in 1956 and had died several years ago aged sixty. Yattin was supposedly half gul, his mother having been raped by such a creature. He himself was totally normal. He married and had twins who unfortunately died. Later his wife had given birth to a daughter who was still alive. The daughter lived with a guardian in a suburb of the town, her mother having also passed away. Daldat got the details and we decided to visit Yattin’s daughter.

Of course, three Englishmen couldn’t just roll up, bang on the door and say “oi, was your dad half human? Did his mum have it away with a relic hominin?”

Yattin daughter

Daldat devised a plan whereby he would translate to the guardian that we were three of Yattin’s old friends from England, come to pay our respects and meet his daughter.

And so, we arrived at the house and were met by the lady who now looked after Yattin’s daughter. She was very accommodating and introduced us to the girl. Her name was Moha and though she could tell us her name she could not tell us how old she was. The guardian said she was nineteen. Moha looked fairly normal, thickset with a broad face and bushy eyebrows, but clearly with nothing other than modern human genes. She did suffer from mental retardation though.

The guardian brought out some old passport photos of Yattin himself. He too was thickset with a broad face, flat nose and a thick, Brezhnev type mono-brow. He had a bushy black and white beard that made it look as if he had attached a badger to his chin. Yet, like his daughter he was clearly a modern human. A hybrid with some kind of hominin would have shown primitive characteristics that neither Yattin or Moha displayed.

M.Yattin

The whole hybrid story could have been used to explain the mental retardation of his daughter. In past centuries deformed or retarded children in Europe were explained as ‘changelings’. These were fairy babies that the little people swapped with human children. The human child would be taken away to Fairyland in order to bolster up the weakening bloodlines of the fay. The child left in its place would be an ugly, sickly child.

There is a real- life precedent though. We now know that early modern humans did cross-breed with other hominins including Neanderthals, densiovans and unknown hominins only known from the genetic material they left in modern man.

The next day we broke camp and moved to the upper fork of the Romit Valley. We stopped at the first village, Qhyshan and were offered a room in a lovely house on the banks of the Sardai-Miyona river. It was nice to have a roof over our heads.

In the village we met a local man called Nas Rullo. He had heard a story from the neighbouring village about a man who had been out fishing. On his way back home, he met a female gul who presented herself to him sexually.

Nas Rullo also mentioned that a tiger had been shot by a hunter in the valley. Only the year before the man had shown him a picture of the tiger on his mobile phone. The authorities investigated but found no tiger.

The story, if true was dynamite. Tigers did indeed once inhabit Tajikistan but officially they had been extinct nearly fifty years ago, the last one being killed in Turkey in 1970. The Caspian tiger (Panthera tigris virgata) was the second largest species of tiger after the Siberian. It had a distinctive long, thick coat and a ruff or short mane around the neck. The Caspian tiger lived in Central Asiatic Russia, Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, Turkey, Mongolia, Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan,Uzbekistan and Tajikistan. The idea that one was alive in the Romit Valley just one year ago was astounding. We decided to ask local people about the tiger as well as the gul.

We visited the mosque and spoke to a group of village elders asking about the gul and then the tiger. The men were very glad to help, and we gained much information from them.

We were told of a man named Zanadren who had an encounter around ten to fifteen years ago. He had been cutting firewood in the mountains. When he sat down, he was attacked by a male gul. It forced him to the ground, but he was able to hit it with an axe. The gul then fled.

Another story involved a Shepherd who was tending his flock in the mountains. A gul appeared and blocked his way. The man struck the gul with a stick and killed it. If there is any truth to this story, I think this must have been a young specimen. A blow from a stick wielded by a human would not kill an adult chimpanzee. Apes are strong creatures with thick skulls and muscle mass. Most hominins from the fossil record seem to share these traits.

The body looked like a man but was covered in black and yellow hair. He took other villages to see the body. This happened in the Soviet era in a village now abandoned.

Another story happened around 1990. Two hunters went into the mountains but found no animals. They built a fire and made camp. Soon they were asleep. In the night a female gul grabbed one of the men and clutched at his penis. He grabbed a burning stick from the fire and drove the creature off.

On another occasion some men were drying yoghurt by suspending it in cloth hung from trees. They saw a large gul grab a bundle of the yoghurt and ran off with it.

One story featured a man who went into the mountains to search for a hunter who had vanished. He carried a gun for defence. One night, as he slept a gul grabbed him and tried to drag him away by the legs. He managed to seize his rifle and shoot the creature dead.

The men did not know what happened to either of the bodies in these stories.

They all believe that the gul is some form of wild man.

The elderly mullahs all said that tigers still existed in the mountains and hunted wild goats and Marco Polo sheep. One was said to have killed five domestic sheep in a pen about 4-5 years ago. It was seen by the farmer who trapped it in the pen. The tiger was killed by villages. They did not know what became of the body.

Panthera tigris altaica

About 7 years ago another man from the village saw a tiger. He described it as longer than a dog with a tail 3 to 4 feet long. It was yellow with white and black stripes.

About 15 years ago a hunter saw a tiger kill a wild goat by biting it in the neck. The hunter scared the tiger away and took the goat leaving only the head.

They insisted that these animals were not snow leopards. They knew that there were three big cats in the Romit, the leopard, the snow leopard and the tiger.

We drove further up the Romit Valley. The trees grew more sparse and it became colder. On the road we met a man called Abdula and we stopped to speak He claimed to have seen two guls. One he encountered about six years before whilst hunting with dogs. It was man-like and covered in black hair. The face was like a man’s but with a more protruding jaw line. The dogs attacked it and it defended itself by throwing rocks. It could run on all fours and upright like a man. It escaped by running away into the mountains.

His second sighting occurred four years ago. He was riding a donkey along the same road we were on when the animal stalled. He saw a creature hiding behind a rock. At first he thought it was a bear but then he saw it was a gul. It was covered in black hair and had a human-like face with a prognathous jaw. It loped off on all fours like a gorilla.

We made camp by the river. We were all still feeling rather ill.

Next day we hiked up the river valley. The scenery was beautiful, but the upper fork seemed more barren. We met up with a honey farmer called Asid. He invited us in for tea and honey. We asked him about the gul. He had not seen one himself, but his father had. His father had a machine for kneading dough. It was powered by the flow of the river. A female gul would sometimes come around and steal the dough. His father told him not to be afraid of her.

Asid

Tigers were a different matter, he had seen one himself. He had been hunting with friends and had shot a wild goat. A tiger appeared and took the dead goat away. Last year a hunter had told Asid he had seen tigers twice. In both cases they were females with cubs. One was a group of six another a group of eight.

We walked on till the end of the gorge. We retraced our steps and then clambered up some steep rocks. Above this was another ridge and above this another. In the burning heat and still suffering dysentery this was too much for me and I had to turn back exhausted.

We visited the village of Vishtan the next day. We spoke with an elderly mullah who still went hunting despite being 74. He had never seen a gul though he had heard stories of them. He had seen tigers on three occasions all of which were before the civil war (1992-1997). The first two times he had seen tigers crouched in the undergrowth as if in ambush mode. The third time he saw one hunt and kill a deer.

In the next village we spoke to another old mullah who was also a hunter and a bee keeper. His name was Bobo Safa. His father and grandfather warned him about guls in the mountains, but he never saw one.

Bobo Safa

Twenty years before he had seen a tiger in the Romit from a distance of no more than 65 feet. He had heard of sightings of females with cubs. He had also heard a story of a tiger that had been killing sheep and had been trapped in the sheep pen by villagers.

Later that day we spoke with a park ranger called Namon. He did not want to be filmed or photographed but he told us of what he had seen. At around 10.00 am on June 18th 2018, just a month ago, he had seen a Caspian tiger. He was high in the mountains and there was still snow on the ground. He estimated that the tiger was a young adult about three or four years old. When the animal saw him, it left. It is the only time he had ever seen a tiger in the wild.

The following day our illness escalated and confined us to camp. Dave caught two venomous red backed spiders close to the camp. These beautiful black spiders with red markings are related to the more familiar black widow spiders of North America.

We were well enough to go along the valley the next day. We took look along a stream and traced it back to a waterfall. We check for any bones in the water but found none. On the way back we took tea with a group of honey farmers. One of them Achmed had seen a tiger back in the Soviet era (1929-1991). It had been in the Pamir Mountains to the east of Romit. His father had once caught one and sent it to a zoo in Dushanbe. More recently he had heard of a tiger killing twenty sheep.

Kaseem

A young bee- keeper called Kaseem had seen a pair of guls a few years ago. He was working with another man in a water powered mill in one of the streams up river that led down to the Sardai-Miyona. The mill wheel stopped turning so Kaseem went upstream to see what the blockage was. He discovered two man-like creatures sitting in the stream and blocking the flow. They appeared to be a male and a female. The female was human sized the male somewhat larger. They had human-like faces and were covered with black hair. They had a foul smell. As soon as the creatures saw Kaseem they became aggressive. They chased him back to the mill. He and the other man locked themselves inside the mill as the creatures banged on the door and leapt up onto the roof. The creatures prowled around the mill for an hour. The second man, a mullah, tried to calm Kaseem down as he was panicking. The other man claimed to have seen the creatures before.

Back at camp Raga Bali told us that he too had seen tigers about seven or eight years ago near the village of Tavish. On the first occasion he had seen a female with three cubs on the far bank of the river. They were all feeding on a dead deer. He watched them feed for an hour. The second time he saw a single tiger wandering along on the far bank of the river. He thought that they came down from higher elevations in winter.

Before breaking camp, we retrieved the camera traps.

And so, the expedition wound down. I was ill for three weeks after I returned to England. Checking the trail camera pictures, we found that we had captured bears, foxes and wild boar but no hominins.

I wrote to as many tiger conservation groups and organizations as I could with the information of sightings of the Caspian tiger in Tajikistan. The silence was deafening. Out of all of them only one group bothered to grace me with an answer and they said that they were only concerned with the Siberian tiger. I was both surprised and disappointed that none of these groups found these accounts interesting enough to bother with. The idea of such a spectacular predator, thought long extinct, could be surviving in modern day Tajikistan is both exciting and fascinating. I have tried to disseminate the information elsewhere.

So,what are we to make of the gul? Before I visited Tajikistan, I thought the creature would be the same species as the almasty of Russia. However the two seem different. The almasty could, according to witnesses, reach seven and a half feet tall. The gul was more like a man in height, if far broader across the shoulders. More tellingly is the strange structure of the hand. All the witnesses stressed that the thumbs were further back on the hand than a human thumb. If you were going to make up a story about seeing a monster, would the thumbs be the first thing you described?



Ardipithecus ramidus

The hands of fossil hominins such as Homo erectus or Homo habils seem more like modern man in structure. Even the more primitive  australopithecines had a hand structure more man-like than ape-like. The shape of the hands of the gul as described by witnesses looked more like those of a chimpanzee or those of  Ardipithecus ramidus, a 4.4 million year old hominin that was twice as ancient as Homo habilis.  Does this mean that the gul is a descendent of  Ardipithecus ramidus or one of its relations? Possibly but not necessarily the strange hand shape may be a relatively recent development, perhaps an adaptation to climbing but all this is just speculation. Only a specimen will answer these riddles once and for all. It seems that the gul may be a whole new chapter in hominology.

Richard Freeman eminent member of the Center for Fortean Zoology, http://www.cfz.org.uk/, he is the very definition of the cryptozoologist: an enthusiast, an adventurer, a writer, a free-thinker, someone who devotes his life investigating the mysteries of the animal world, all over the world. His latest book is available here

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