Location: Springbrook Queensland
Event: Yowie Sightings
Date: Nov 7, 1977
BILL O'Chee can remember it like it was yesterday. It was the day the former Queensland National Party senator came face to face with a creature straight out of a nightmare.
A young O'Chee was with a group of 20 fellow TSS students returning from a two-day camp near Springbrook when they saw what they described as a 3m tall hair-covered creature.
To this day, Mr O'Chee is certain what he saw was the mythical yowie.
He told The Gold Coast Bulletin on November 17, 1977 that the animal approached the boys' camp on several occasions, at one stage coming within 10m of their cabins.
"About 20 of us saw it," he said then.
"It was about 3m tall, covered in hair, had a flat face and walked to the side in a crab-like style.
"It smashed small saplings and trees like matchsticks as it careered through the bush, we spotted it several times and once watched it through binoculars. It definitely was there.
"We first saw it just before we returned back to Southport on the afternoon of October 23."
Contacted this week, Mr O'Chee was happy to confirm the story and said his memory of what he saw was as clear to him today as it was 27 years ago.
"I still remember it, I can still see the damn thing," he said.
"The majority of my school chums still remember it, it was such an amazing experience.
"It was a big thing, about 8ft tall through the binoculars, it moved in a crab-like fashion.
"We saw where it had been lying on the grbutt and the impression it left was about 8ft long.
"That night it just ripped up whole shrubs between the creek and where our camp was, right out of the ground, - roots and all. A bloke can't do that, it was quite incredible."
Mr O'Chee said his experience had left him with the certainty that yowies do exist.
"I do believe it. Nothing that has happened since has made me believe otherwise, all I can say is that it did exist when I saw it," he said.
"Stranger things have happened. In the last couple of years they have discovered animals in the South-East Asian jungle that are new that survived the Vietnam War. And Australia has a history of supporting large fauna.
"I know the school (TSS) never went back there (Springbrook).
"Some of us got into trouble for mentioning it but I'm not sorry because it's true.
"I hope it's still out there and if they are we would be wise to just leave them well alone."
Mr O'Chee's sighting is the most famous of reported incidents involving yowies, but there have been thousands of cases around the country of alleged contact with the famed mythical beast.
Tim the Yowie Man said the legend was alive and well in the Gold Coast Hinterland. He said the Gold Coast was 'the Bermuda Triangle of Australia', and Springbrook, a yowie 'hot spot', was known as the heart of yowie country.
Over the past decades, there have been numerous reports of the hairy creature around Springbrook, but the late 1970s were the most prolific period for sightings.
Within a period of five months from October 1977, at least five separate yowie sightings were reported either in, or on the edges of, Lamington National Park, near Springbrook.
In January 1978, a Sydney tourist reported what was believed to be the second sighting of a yowie at Springbrook in as many months.
"It was horrible. A great big hairy beast about 9ft tall, with no neck, and giving off a terrible smell," said the woman. She was with her boyfriend checking out the view from the Best of All Lookout when she saw the creature crashing through the undergrowth.
"If I had been in Africa I might have thought it was a gorilla. In the American Rockies it could have been a bear," said the woman, who wanted only to be known as 'Helen Smith'.
"But really it was none of those things. It seemed to lumber along crabwise and made funny grunting noises. It was hard to see its face but it was certainly flat.
"There didn't seem to be any prominent nose but its eyes had a wicked gleam."
In August 1978, a shy schoolboy reported a strange encounter with a hideous 8ft monster that looked like a baby King Kong.
A then 13-year-old Shaun Cooper said he was terror stricken after sighting 'a dark hairy thing' using its long arms to strip the bark off a tree in bushland near his home at Yakkayne Street, Nerang.
"It was about 2.30pm on a Sunday," he said.
"I had gone for a ride on my bike when I saw it up the hill a bit. It looked real to me and it was clawing the tree.
"Bark was falling down around its body. Then suddenly it turned and looked at me, putting its arms by its side.
"It looked at me from about 50 yards away for no more than three seconds. I turned and just went for my life."
Shaun and his mates later led a hunt for the creature and said they found footprints that closely resembled giant footprints more than 1ft long.
Photographed at the time by The Bulletin, they did resemble large footprints with three or more claw-shaped toes on each foot. The reporter also noted a tree that had bark torn from it as if it had been clawed by an animal.
Other reported sightings from that time included a man who said he saw a yowie peering in at the front door of a Springbrook house in January 1978.
In February that year, a National Parks and Wildlife worker reported seeing a Yowie near the Antarctic Beeches at Springbrook. He said another Springbrook resident had also seen a female yowie with pendulous mammaries.
In March 1990, Sydney tourist Craig Turnbull discovered 40cm long, 17cm wide footprints in a creekbed in the Numinbah Valley.
He sent plaster castings to yowie hunter Rex Gilroy, who then mounted an expedition to check on these and other reported sightings and footprint finds in the Lamington Plateau, Woodenbong and Kyogle areas.Australia's answer to Tibet's abominable snowman or yeti and North America's bigfoot, the yowie is the subject of myth and legend.
Despite thousands of reported sightings from around the country, the fact that no one has ever snared even a hair from a yowie's head has never dulled the thrill of the chase for yowie hunters.
And Tim the Yowie man, who has been hunting yowies for the past decade, said the huge number of sightings over the years had led him to believe that the yowie, like the truth, was out there.
"Thousands of people have reported seeing these creatures, right back to the Aborigines, and there is no doubt that they have seen what they believe is a yowie," he said.
"That many sightings can't all be hoaxes and they go back well before gorilla suits existed."
Tim said the yowies described in each of the sightings contained plenty of similarities.
The creature often reeks, it lopes sideways like a crab, it grows to 9ft tall, it makes strange grunting noises and when provoked or alarmed gives a high-pitched shriek.
"Most of the sightings are fairly similar although the height can change," he said.
Tim said the Springbrook yowies were renowned for one very prominent feature - they stink.
"There is a report of a ranger there in the early 90s at the Best of All Lookout who vomited at the terrible smell soon after seeing what he claimed was a yowie," he said.
"They have been reported to smell like rotten eggs, probably because they live in the rainforest where they are constantly damp."
But Tim himself was mystified that the number of reported sightings have dwindled to virtually nothing in the past few years.
"The biggest thing to happen in yowie sightings was back in 2000 when a businessman in Canberra managed to get video footage of a black hairy ape-like creature about 50km west of Canberra," he said.
"I went to the location and we were unable to rule it out as a hoax. It is the best evidence we have seen in years.
"But yes, I have started to wonder myself what has happened to the yowies. What happened to all the sightings?
"They seem to have vanished into thin air."
Tim said he believes prolonged drought and development, esp-ecially in areas like the Gold Coast, may have wiped out many yowies or driven them deeper into less developed areas like the mountains in the Border Ranges around Kyogle and Woodenbong.
"Yowies are traditionally said to be shy creatures and they wouldn't like being confronted by a bulldozer moving in on their space," he said.
"But where they have gone is a mystery, just like the yowies themselves are."
And one person who has finally 'fessed up to a fake sighting, 25 years after the event, is Sean Pask. He told The Bulletin in January 1979 that he and three mates saw a yowie in swampy bushland at Hollywell.
"We've seen a horrible hairy thing down in the bush at Hollywell and it grunted and it smelled like yuk," the boys told a Bulletin reporter over the phone.
"And no one believes us and we're sick of people laughing at us and this morning we saw it again - well not exactly saw it, but we did hear it. Honest."
Sean, then 11, his brother Paul, 12, and mates Tyson Franklin, 12, and Peter Loh, 12 lured a Bulletin reporter out into the 'bush' to tell the story of their amazing sighting of the Hollywell Horror, and get their picture in the paper.
But Sean, now 36 and a construction worker living in Brisbane, this week admitted, 'we made it up'.
"I'm the only one who will admit it, the others won't talk," he said.
"It was just four boys mucking around in the bush.
"In those days it was forest all around, we thought we heard something, scared ourselves stupid and the story just grew from there.
"We thought we'd have a bit of a lark and we rang the paper.
"It didn't take much to get our imaginations going in those days. It was a good story at the time".
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Australian Yowie Research - Data Base