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James Stewart and the finger of The Yeti

Pangboche Hand (Source: Wikipedia)

Of all the cryptids, none attracts attention and divides opinion like the Yeti. Tales of high adventure involving Abominable Snowman sightings captured the imagination of the public throughout much of the 20th century and especially in the 1950s and 1960s when the Himalayas—long considered to be the home of the Yeti—was being actively explored and its peaks scaled. One of the adventurers interested in the beast was American oil tycoon, Tom Slick, who actively organised expeditions deep into the Himalayas. It was on one such journey in 1958 that one of its members by the name of Peter Byrne overheard two Sherpas discussing the remains of a Yeti on display in the Buddhist monastery at Pangboche. He immediately set forth to said enclave to investigate what were claimed to be a skull and a hand.

The monks at the monastery directed Byrne to a room containing the deteriorating bones of a hand. When asked if he could take the hand back with him for further investigation, the monks refused stating that the removal of the object would bring them bad luck. Disappointed, Byrne returned to London and discussed the matter with Slick and a Professor named William Osman Hill. Together they concocted a plan to retrieve at least a finger from the hand. The professor provided Byrne with the bones of a human finger as a precautionary measure.

Returning to Nepal, Byrne took the matter up with the monks once again, offering a healthy donation of GBP 100 as a persuader for just one of the fingers from the hand. The monks, although now amenable to the transaction, aired reservations on what a missing finger might do to the morale of the order. Byrne offered to replace it with the suitably disguised human equivalent in his possession and the deal went ahead. Now, successfully armed with the mythical digit, he faced another wrinkle. Just a few months earlier, the Nepalese government had passed a curious new law which made the killing of Yeti illegal for tourists. To avoid any misunderstandings and needless hassle, Byrne crossed the border into India on foot.

Once in India, Byrne was faced with his next problem, that of getting the finger back to London without having to answer uncomfortable questions from the authorities. However, Tom Slick had a solution. He directed Byrne to head for Kolkata to meet his friend, the actor James Stewart, who was holidaying there with his wife Gloria. The Stewarts met Byrne at the Grand Hotel (now the Oberoi Grand) in downtown Kolkata and agreed to smuggle the finger for him through Indian Customs. Gloria stashed it in her lingerie case and walked through Customs without a hitch.

In London, Professor Hill examined the finger and claimed that the bones were not human. However, recent investigations into their origin state that they are definitely human.

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