The truth is out there when it comes to the Aussie bush’s greatest mystery.
Like most Australians, Dean Harrison didn’t pay much heed to stories of yowies – the hairy man-beasts that figure in bush legend, scary camp fire stories and pub jokes. But, he says, that scepticism had to end after a series of terrifying encounters – and even a bizarre friendship – that forced him to accept what mainstream science so far won’t: yowies are real.
Arriving at his home in Mount Tamborine, Qld, late one evening in 1995, Dean says he witnessed something that changed the course of his life forever. Getting out of the car, he heard a commotion down by the back fence – a growling sound followed by the noise of large branches snapping violently. Going to investigate, what he saw stopped him dead in his tracks – the silhouette of a huge, hairy bipedal animal.
‘It was crashing around on two feet, pulling out small trees by the roots,’
Dean recalls of the hulking ape-like creature. Shocked and fearing for his safety, he quickly let himself inside and tried to come to terms with what he had seen. Finding little information on the subject, Dean decided to move on with his life.
But two years later he endured an encounter he could not as easily dismiss. In June 1997, having moved north to Ormeau, Dean was going for his evening jog when noises in the bush caught his attention.
‘It was coming towards me and being really, really sneaky about it,’ he says of the eerie realisation he was being stalked.
‘I felt a chill travelling from my feet right up my spine. I knew instinctively that something was very, very wrong.’
And he says his instincts were right, as he noticed a huge shape looming in the darkness – which then let out an ear-shattering roar.
‘I ran. It was following me along the bush line and it was screaming,’ he recalls of the terrifying incident.
‘At that moment I thought: “That’s it, I’m dead.”’ Dean claims the yowie made a grab for him as he scrambled to safety on a well-lit nearby highway. Unwilling to come out into the open, the figure retreated back into the thick of the trees.
Tired of the lack of open discussion about the phenomenon, Dean started Yowie Hunters, Australia’s only dedicated yowie research organisation. Through this he met Blue Mountains man
Neil Frost, who the Queenslander says introduced him to a specimen that became his friend.
‘Neil had a yowie in his back valley that he dubbed Flatfoot,’ says Dean, 42. ‘He felled all the trees around his home because it was getting too close. He used to say: “I don’t know whether he’s watching us through the lounge room window or if he’s watching TV.”’
Learning about Flatfoot on visits to Neil’s property, Dean says he struck up a friendly connection with the apparent juvenile yowie.
‘He was quite the character, like a little kid. His hair was a reddish-brown colour, and all he wanted to do was play,’ he says.
‘We’d play this game where he’d come up from the valley, going from tree to tree to see how far he could get before I noticed.
‘Sometimes he’d jump out from behind a tree and then run off.’
While at least one subsequent encounter in Kilkivan, Qld, was far less fun – Dean says he was knocked to the ground by a highly aggressive yowie after being called in by a terrified couple whose caravan had been attacked – he is encouraged by the large number of witnesses who have contacted him, eager to tell their stories without fear of ridicule.
‘The majority of the population have never seen a yowie and it’s easy to make a mockery of people who have because you just don’t understand,’ he says.
‘People say they don’t exist. These people just don’t have the knowledge or information to make that call. If they had the information that we have they’d be firm believers.’
By Luke Malone
Photo: Paul Broben