The Gayndah Bear Story

      
 All legal rights to materials and/or photographs displayed on this website are reserved according to World Laws. Reproduction for research is permitted only by courtesy of an official request. The Dhamurian Research Society Gympie Qld. Australia will appreciate an acknowledgement. For contact addresses and further information – refer to the “General Information” page on this website.   Original Copyrights 1960-1985; 1986-2004; This compilation 2005 (Brett. J. Green and family of)

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

This website and storyline has been specially compiled from Brett Green’s original unedited files for all those enquirers interested in this old story and have repeatedly asked for the report.

The Gayndah Bear, Ape and Panther Mysteries
By Brett J. Green – Historian/Author/Aboriginal Cultural Researcher – Gympie Qld Australia

The years 1955-56-59 were a period of many large consistent cyclones, heavy rains and destructive floods throughout all of Queensland. In the south east of Queensland, the highest floods recorded since the 1890’s occurred in the large Mary, Burnett and Brisbane river systems along with all of the other coastal streams. Roads, bridges and rail lines were washed away. Landslides occurred on range highways. Towns and cities were flooded. Houses were washed away. Travellers were stranded in the most unlikely places. Food drops were taking place in many parts of the region. The Gayndah region in the central Burnett north of Gympie was one of those places involved in the chaos of those years. It was during that period that local myths were created – The mystery of the Gayndah “Hairy Man or Ape”, the “Binjour Bear Man” and the “Black Panther”.

As we all know, the age-old story of the “Hairy Man” or “Yowie” has been around for a long time. The aborigines in southeast Queensland and the southern states knew well of this “strange man creature” and had many stories or legends generated towards his existence. In the Gayndah region northwest of Southeast Queensland, to my past knowledge, there were no known recordings of such an entity ever being present in the area – information gained personally from old generation aborigines of the local dialect of the Wakka languages. They told me at the time he was never in their lands but to the south and had long gone – he went to other places when the white man came and destroyed his hunting territories. It was not until January-February 2000 when reports of a strange creature were reported seriously and humorously in many regional newspapers that my interest in the “hairy man” was again revitalised. The reports that stood out were in the Gayndah Gazette, the Maryborough Chronicle and the Fraser Coast Chronicle 5-7th February 2000.

On reading with great interest a featured article headed - “Bear could put Gayndah on tourist map” - in the Gympie Times on 9th February 2000, memories of events some 40 years ago came to mind. I was in fact quite surprised by certain claims made.

Gayndah, QLD - The Chronicle (Thursday, February 10th, 2000 by Jim Martin).

“Gayndah is not the only place in Australia where Binjour Bears or Jongari as the Aborigine Sam Hill says they are, have been seen over the years. There have been several sightings of similar creatures all over the countryside. Sunshine Coast Crypto-zoologist Steve Rushton runs Mega fauna Research Australia and for more than 19 years has been collecting stories about strange animal sightings throughout Australia, including southeast Queensland. Many of the sightings describe sightings of a hairy animal about a metre tall. He has on record several hundred reported sightings of various creatures including thylacines, tiger cats, panthers, large monitor lizards, and his favorite, the hairy man or Yowie. Mr. Rushton would be happy to receive your Crypto reports.

Gayndah Aborigine Sam Hill said last week the creature sighted by the Gayndah residents Shirley Humphreys and her brother Allan Bucholz was a Jongari, a member of a smaller race of people who lived beside the Aborigines. They were everywhere and called different names in different areas. A story in the South Burnett Times in 1979 told how a former Murgon resident, Mrs. Locke, said she and her husband saw a metre tall, hairy animal standing by the side of the road near Kilkivan when they were driving from Hervey Bay to Murgon just before dusk. “It had broad shoulders and stood looking at us as we drove past,” she said.

Asked by the reporter if he could explain the strange phenomenon, chairman of the Cherbourg Aboriginal Council at the time, Les Stewart, said there was no explanation for the sightings of the Yowie however, there was a small man called Junjurrie who was seen around there as recently as eight years ago. “He was about a metre tall and used to play with the children in the Hospital,” he said. “Several adults claimed to have seen him when they heard the children laughing at night, but I don’t know whether he was hairy or not.”

Then there was a story in the Courier Mail in 1994 about the Junjuddis wandering around Carnarvon Gorge. According to former Carnarvon Gorge National Parks and Wildlife officer Grahame Walsh, Junjuddis were out there. They were described as just over a metre tall with a torso like a man’s, limbs like an ape and smelly. Like the Himalayan Yeti and other mytho-logical creatures, the Junjuddi is notoriously reclusive – often glimpsed but never photo-graphed. Aboriginal folklore describes a typical Junjuddi as hairy with an elongated head.

A old-timer man Graham Griggs, who lived in Biggenden at the time the story appeared, told of being kept awake by Junjuddis while camping near Carnarvon Gorge. They would leap mischievously in the shadows outside his bush camp. They scared him so much he left. At Charters Towiers in 1979, a youth reported being set upon by a small hairy man answering the description of a Junjuddi. The story appeared in the Melbourne Herald and the Courier Mail.

And in an article - “Bear Known to Gayndah Aborigines” (Fraser Coast Chronicle 05/02/2000 – again by Jim Martin), it is reported:


“Gayndah district Aborigines say the strange creature seen by locals is a Jongari, or hairy man. Local Aborigine Sam Hill of the Waka Waka (Aboriginal Spelling) tribe which has habitated the Gayndah area for eons, said yesterday the Jongari were a smaller race of people who used to live beside the Aborigines. They were about a metre high.

“When we saw it in the paper, every blackfellow in Gayndah knew what it was,” Mr. Hill said. “They have always been here, always been in our culture, as far back as we can remember. The description in the papers was so close to how they are,” he said. “They live a tribal life and with their habitat changing they have moved away. Years ago when we lived near the Peanut Board, my Auntie Janet was yelling out to my cousin Laurie away in the distance to come home. We thought it was him she was yelling at too, but he kept moving away. Then someone said Laurie was inside. It was a Jongari. And when they blew up the mountain near here to build the railway many years ago a lot of them ran out of the hills.”

To further reinforce his claim Mr. Hill said his grandfather had a fight with one of them when he was ringbarking trees years ago. Mr. Hill said the creatures were called by different names by other tribes in different districts. Dinderi was one other name. “They’re all over the place. One tribe lived near the Glasshouse Mountains and tools smaller than the average were found there,” he said. A chapter in the book ‘Then and Now’, An Aboriginal history of Gayndah, written by Jill Slack, is devoted to the Junjari, little people reputed to still live in the hills, water holes and dense bush areas of Gayndah and Eidsvold and closely associated with the Goondiels (Aboriginal Doctors who possess mysterious abilities, healer, defender and protector of his people).

Meanwhile Shirley Humphreys, the woman who says she saw the creature on sand along the river several weeks ago, said she was dubious about a reward offer. “I wouldn’t want to see anyone hurt it. It hasn’t hurt anyone. Others in the town wanted to come down here with dogs and hunt it out and kill it.”

While not trying to be too negative here, there appears to be a conflict in reporting between the old original local aborigines of whom I had long discussions with personally (along with my father) and those claims now being made by modern-day descendents. The earlier storytellers of the 1950’s and those records expertly recorded decades earlier by my family members say he and the little people were never in the area but in southern areas while those of today say he was. I also note that the many terms used in the news report for the “little hairy man” were distinctly from the Ka’bi dialect of the Gympie-Mary River region – not the Wakka dialect of the western regions.

In the Wakka territories to my understanding, the “hairy man” and their “little people” of the south were given other names. Quotes from Jill Slack’s book “‘Then and Now - An Aboriginal history of Gayndah” I noticed, appear to have been misinterpreted in the news storyline to suit a literary cause (possibly assisted by latter-day aboriginal sources) – the original materials for her book on aboriginal histories were supplied by me from our family’s anthropological histories of the region 1851-1938 and they appear not to match my initial contribution. A further point of note is that all “recent sightings” and “claims” relating to the Gayndah “Hairy Man or Ape”, the “Binjour Bear Man” and the “Black Panther” appear to have occurred after 1960 and not before. The “black panther” stories (and I stand corrected) seemingly surfaced along the eastern coastline from about the same time.

On the 9th February 2000, I forwarded the following letter and my record pertaining to the true history of the “Gayndah Hairy Man”, “Binjour Bear Man” and “Black Panther” to the Editor of the Gayndah Gazette. I noted on reading the newspaper that, somewhat to my disappointment, a number of several important evidences were deleted:

Dear Sir/Madam,

My early Gayndah experiences are quite extensive after spending the first 21 years of my life in the town. My community involvement in local activities and Scouting was well known at the time. My father was Jim Green now deceased, a long time council employee who came from an early pioneering family of Greens who once owned a large area of North Gayndah from the early c.1900’s. All my schooling was done at the Gayndah State/High Schools and soon after commenced work at the local Post Office as a Telegram Deliverer progressing to other appointments until 1964 when I was transferred to Brisbane. After that time, I travelled all over Queensland and around the world seven times. I have been semi-retired living in the city of Gympie for the past 20 years.

The “Gayndah Bear” story remains quite clear in my mind because on hearing of a tragic trucking accident on the original winding dirt track through the Binjour Plateau jungles north of Gayndah towards Mundubbera, I drove up to the accident site to have a curious look and take photographs. I didn’t have a car at that time so “borrowed” my father’s pride and joy – an old Ford Custom sedan – a real old heavyweight tank. Subsequently, I got a real dressing down when arriving home afterwards (and a good clip over the ears). At the time, I was a budding photographer and 8mm moviemaker. I took (and may still have) movies showing the accident site, what occurred there and later earthquake damage to the new range highway not long after it was built – that is another story.

To the best of my knowledge and my historical record, this is the correct sequence of events concerning the story of the bear – and the myths surrounding the “Gayndah Hairy Man-Ape”, the “Binjour Bear Man”, the “Black Panther”, and the claimed “little hairy people”. Many of my earlier records were lost in a house fire so I have to rely on my memory. I believe the recent stories (and those since c.1960) relating to all these sightings have all been derived (and thus expanded upon) from the following event.

In February-March of 1959, there had been heavy to flood rains in the Burnett region. The great Bullen’s Circus (quite large in those days with up to 50 huge trailers plus caravans) was moving from Mundubbera to Gayndah via the old winding Binjour Range dirt road – quite a treacherous section of highway at the best of times. There were several cyclonic conditions everywhere at the time. Circuses usually travelled by huge trains in those days. It was quite a spectacular event when the train arrived and prepared for the procession from the rail station through the town to the site where huge tents were erected. Worth’s giant circus in particular was the most spectacular. The many elephants trumpeted their way as they unloaded all the equipment from the Circus train onto the trucks previously unloaded.

If my memory serves me right, a number of large trailers carrying lions, tigers, black panthers, bears, large monkeys (orang-utans) and smaller trucks carrying monkeys slid off the roadway colliding with each other in the sticky clay and subsequently went over the steep side into the dense jungles below. In those days, the sides of the Binjour Range were covered with large expanses of near impenetrable jungle vine forest (quite different today). I make a special mention that few (if no one) lived anywhere in that mountainous region at the time – on the plateau and on the flat regions below the range - yes. There was a huge amount of damage and many animals were killed.

Two escaped lions were quickly recovered, as were the surviving tigers. Most of the smaller monkeys were also re-captured by their trainers. The orang-utans and three black panthers escaped into the jungle and were not seen again. Several larger species of monkey-ape also escaped. If my memory serves me correct, it had been reported that they had been seen and heard in the jungles for about six months. Later, they seemingly disappeared – probably dying of starvation or eating poisonous forest foods and berries. Two female and one male small black (Himalayan?) bears escaped into the forest and were not recovered because of the cyclonic rains. Not much was ever said or reported upon about these escapes in the media at the time for fear of panicking local farmers and nearby town residents even though they were harmless creatures when not provoked. It was thought they would eventually die without their special diets. The circus people then burnt all the dead animals with due reverence to their past associations. I remember some of them with tears in their eyes – especially the trainers.

There were many exaggerated sightings “of giant bear-like creatures” in the range region during the many years that followed. It became quite a joke. Some travellers reported “huge” bears standing in the middle of range roads lunging and snarling at passing cars. Farm dogs apparently cowered under houses. Bush campers were chased away from their food supplies and their tents claimed being torn apart. There was even one story of a teenage girl being carried off but she escaped with scratches on her arms and back. There was even a cartoon drawing circulated (I still have a copy somewhere hopefully) of a man standing in the bush relieving himself with a giant bear with a painful look on his face tapping him on the shoulder and saying “Can I join you? I like the way you humans stand up and do it”.

The stories were endless and quite hilarious. So much so, some “jokers” erected huge visible signs featuring wild menacing bears on their hind legs at both ends of the range road stating “Danger – Wild Bears Cross Here”. It got to a stage that whenever I travelled to Mundubbera and Binjour, I would keep out a sharp eye in case one of the “giant bears” would jump out in front of the car. Never happened I’m afraid. The story does not end there. The circus salvaged whatever it could from the trucks in the rain and continued to Gayndah to the large field area opposite the State School cricket/football fields (a youth hostel was later built on the same grounds). The circus people erected their big top and other facilities in the hope of staging a performance. But there was even heavier rain and the whole circus field became an impassable bog. Circus vehicles became bogged down everywhere. It was a real mess.

During the night, their largest elephant slipped heavily in the mud and couldn’t get up. Another one died from internal injuries not detected earlier. Cruelly but necessarily after all other efforts had failed, they applied electrical charges to get it to rise up. It finally got up only to suffer a terrible fate in its weakened state. The water-soaked mud caused the elephant’s all four feet to slip outwards. It fell onto its belly snapping all four legs. I can still hear the terrible sound of the bones snapping and that of the poor animal’s suffering. Humanely, it was quickly shot. A dozer (from the council I think) was then brought in to haul the carcasses away because the animals were too heavy for a crane. It wasn’t a pretty sight as they were dragged along the bitumen out of town. A water truck followed spraying away torn flesh and blood.

At the edge of the town, a large hole had been dug. Before one of the huge carcasses was finally disposed of (I didn’t see the actual disposal and burning), several members of the local Scout Group got permission to salvage one of the elephant heads. This was done with chain saws. The head was then relocated elsewhere nearby onto a bull ant’s nest (several people were involved plus myself and members of the Smith and Mellor Families). However, during the long process of meat-ant flesh stripping, the skull disappeared from its ant’s hill location for some time – some one had souvenired the prized item. After a bit of “a hue and cry” about the theft, it then reappeared at the new Scout Den where it was originally planned to display the relic. I cannot remember how it was found and returned. As far as I know, the skull is still displayed on the back wall in the main room of the Gayndah Scout Hut. At the time, the walls of the Cub and Scout sections had been converted to resemble caves and cave entrances in line with the Jungle Book stories – the saved elephant’s head fitted in well with the concept. It was also a valuable piece of tragic local history that the scouts wanted to preserve.

The circus by the way cancelled its performances. It rained something terrible. I think it was stranded in Gayndah for about two weeks. The townspeople rallied to help the circus people because the animals were starving (and the circus folk were nearly at the stage of begging). Local farmers brought in spare hay bales, vegetables and other produce they could spare. Townspeople did their best with grass clippings and home biscuits/cakes etc. Local shops, butchers, fruiterers and bakers gave what they could also. I remember it was a real community effort - no one sought the media glamour of today’s events. There was no great public appeal like they do today – people just quietly went about their business offering their help to the circus folk. I don’t recall if the trucks on the range were ever recovered. When the circus could leave, all the performers invited the whole town to a free show to thank everyone. I remember it well for the performers gave the show of their lifetime in appreciation. Sadly, the circus I believe went into liquidation not long afterwards because of its bad spate of tragedies and loss of such valuable animals. If my memory is correct, a Circus theme park was established near the Gold Coast at a later period. The circus ceased travelling. I believe the theme park also went into liquidation – again at a later period. The great Bullen’s Circus was no more.

On leaving Gayndah in 1964, there were still stories popping up here and there about the Binjour Plateau bears, the large monkey-apes, the orang-utans, and the quite elusive black panthers. The eventual stories from those unaware of the past tragic event in later years (after the 1960’s) even extended to being associated with those of the “Hairy men”, “Yowies” and the “little hairy men”. Wishful thinking I guess! I am to understand that Himalayan bears in particular can live to around 30 years or more – apes much longer. Theoretically, it is just possible that some offspring (singular or plural) from these original escapees may have survived after the death of their parents and subsequently surface their heads every now and then to keep the “myths” alive. Therefore, as a result of this terrible tragedy, it appears the myth and claims of the “Gayndah Bear”, the “Binjour Bear Man” and/or the “little hairy men” justifiably evolved. The same may apply to the “black panther” sightings. Again, without being negative towards such theories, I believe this explanatory record of mine gives the reason behind the stories now surfacing.

In conclusion, there is one matter of which I must comment and condemn. I found it quite horrifying to see a reward of $10,000 being offered for “its” capture and $1000 being offered for “its” photo. The creature (or creatures) if it still exists should be left alone to end its days in peace instead of becoming the target for greedy beneficiaries of a shooter’s kill. To encourage such rewards is revolting when there are so many people out there today with nothing but sawdust between the ears. All they want is the money and media fame of “capturing” an innocent beast that has caused no harm to any person or known stock sources – its current predicament in the first place caused by humans themselves.

In my way of thinking, there are better benefits for tourism by keeping alive a “myth” and then developing a local industry from it rather than seeing a stuffed relic in a museum – just another reminder of man’s inhuman treatment of earth’s creatures. I hope my reminiscences will assist in seeking the truths for your bear stories.

That then are the real truths I believe are behind the Gayndah Bear and other associated local stories. However, in telling these real facts, some local “Yowie” believers will be disappointed – but never fear – HE IS OUT THERE – I (and other witnesses at the time) have seen the real “Yowie” and his family in the southern ranges. There are also truths in the “panther” sightings – one definite sighting at Miles in S.W. Queensland in particular where the police called upon me to take plaster casts of his footprints – that is another great story. The casts were loaned (in trust) by me to the Miles Historical Museum and to my knowledge are still there somewhere on display. Many of our modern claims may be true – but without proofs, many could be just wishful thinking derived from past altered historical perceptions and strange events – but then again – isn’t all of history an extension of the real truth according to whoever tells the story?

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

For a more precise documentary on all the material displayed on this website, the information is available on request by serious researchers - See the “Yowie” sub-site or contact addresses and further information details on the “General Information” page of this website.

 

Home         Next Page         Further Information

Copyright 2004 - All rights reserved