Bigfoot, Sasquatch, Yeti, Yowie. The giant hairy man of the mountains is a story in many countries around the world.
Visitors to the Coromandel Peninsula would ask for the story of the red haired men of Mount Moehau. Some have heard of a cave full of strange skeletons, some locals claim to have seen it. The story goes, that in one cave there are skeletons of small men with red hair and another cave with giant skeletons over seven feet tall (2.15 metres).
Mount Moehau, the largest peak in the Moehau range, stands at the tip of the peninsula - a place very sacred to the Maori as the traditional burial place of a great canoe captain.
The story of giant skeletons is quite common world wide, and
from the pathological point of view has quite a simple
When the flesh goes from a skeleton, lying prone on the floor of a cave, the muscles and tendons gradually disappear too, leaving nothing to hold the bones together. This gives the impression of at least another 30-40cms being added to the body length - hence the giants of over two metres.
But then an article in a local New Zealand newspaper told about a proposed Australian expedition to find the 'Moehau Monster'. Apparently the tour leader, J.P. Grey, managing director of a large wholesale business, collected together a team of 40 to search for the monster.
It had been described as seven feet tall (about 2 metres) covered with silver-white hair and with large, pink, vacant eyes. Its body was said to be apelike, with long dangling arms and short thin legs, and it emitted a growl which could be heard over a long distance.
J.P. Grey quoted Mrs Vera Marshall of Sydney, who claimed to have come face to face with the monster on a bush track when she and her husband were on holiday in New Zealand at the beginning of October 1969. She described the monster as a gorilla-like creature which took off into the bush when it saw them and this added to the theory that the monster was a gorilla that escaped from a ship off the Coromandel Peninsula about 60 years ago. But could a gorilla adapt and survive in New Zealand bush for that long?
Also on Grey's agenda were the little red-haired men said to have fled to the hills with the arrival of the first Maori. These were the fairy folk of the Maori, whether they be named turehu, patupaiarehe or korokorako and were described as fair-skinned with red hair.
The expedition made a good story, one which featured in 'True Story' magazine overseas.
Then in April 1970 Mr J. Reddy, a well known Coromandel identity, stated that the monster was a complete fabrication.
But some people were not convinced. In early 1994, Rex Gilroy
from Tamworth, New South Wales, decided to mount a search for the
''In April I arrive to commence a month-long, self-funded field investigation in both the North and South islands to follow up recent sighting claims of the Moehau, the hairy man-like creatures of Maori tradition and early European settlers' tales, particularly in the Fiordland area, where fresh tracks and sightings have been reported in recent years''.
Mr Gilroy was not new to monster hunting. In 1976, he featured as a self-appointed Yowie expert. The Yowie being a hairy monster similar to the Coromandel monster and was reported to roam the eastern states of Australia. In October, a $200,000 reward was up for the capture of a Yowie after a dam worker had been confronted with one.
But what of New Zealand?
The Maori have their own tales of Maero (or Maeroero), the wild people. These savage hairy people of the woods had long bony fingers and speared their prey with jagged nails. They ate their food raw, like the fairy creature called Patupaiarehe. But unlike this fairy creature, the Maero were often solitary beings. The Maero were greatly feared. They kidnapped men and women and would fight to the death. They inhabited the great forests in the rugged interior of taranaki and whanganui, to which they had retreated to when humans arrived and desecrated their homes.
The Maero would spear fish with its long nails and on occasions could be heard playing music. Sometimes people who were fishing or cutting flax would hear a warning voice saying that they had taken too much and must leave some for the maero. Another name for these wild men is Mohoao.
In the 1920s, J.Beattie collected stories and legends from the people of Southland. In his conversations with Maori, they said the Maeroero was still alive and well in the bush.
So, is the monster a known animal? Just an old Maori legend? Or is it an unknown specie that was here before us? For now it remains a mystery.
Copyright: ŠE. Williams
New Zealand Mysteries, Robyn Gosset
Modern mysteries of the world
Maori myths and legends