Ever since I was old enough to remember, I have been fascinated by stories of Bigfoot. The big “Readers Digest Book of Unexplained Mysteries and Monsters” on our family bookshelf probably didn’t dilute my overactive imagination any, and I would dream of one day exploring the American wilderness, in search of Sasquatch.

Any sane person would agree that the stuff of myths, legends and monsters usually originate from experiences far less sensational.  But is that always the case?

I was in the library the other day, and found a book on New Zealand Mysteries. Much to my surprise (and delight), I have discovered that we have our very own Bigfoot legend here in Godzone: “The Moehau Man”.

Reports have persisted for many years that there is a creature lurking in the Moehau mountain range on the Northern end of the Coromandel Peninsula.

The reports of giant man-beasts in the Moehau’s date back to pre-european times.The ancient Maori had places in New Zealand where they dare not go. The Moehau mountain range was one of those places.[pullquote align=right]”…a corpse was found with its head ripped off, and partially fed upon.”[/pullquote]

Gold prospectors in the 1870’s were terrified by the sight of what they called “large, long-haired manbeasts”. During this time ‘The Moehau Man’ was actually blamed for the death of a child. Apparently, a corpse was found with its head ripped off, and partially fed upon. About two weeks later, a woman was dragged out of her cabin, apparently by the Moehau monster. People were warned in the area not to go out in the bush alone.

Interestingly, there are stories of a gorilla that was released in the peninsula from a ship in the late 1800s. It was never caught. Perhaps the encounters were a case of mistaken identity?

The sightings continued long after the life-span of one ape and in 1969 an Australian tourist, Vera Marshall, said she had seen a gorilla-like animal while out on a bush walk. In 1972, two men who were pig hunting in the Coromandel Ranges saw what they described as a 2 meter tall apelike creature.

So, next time you go camping in the Moehau Mountains, take your camera with you, and maybe an elephant gun.

(References: “New Zealand Mysteries” by Nicola McCloy; “Cryptozoology” by Jena Shaw; “The Maori Race” by Edward Tregear)