When the weather gets nippy, I dream of sasquatches, or more specifically, the yetis of Tibet crunching through the snow of the Himalayan Mountains. The reputed hairy ape man, the abominable snowman, haunted my imagination when I was young.
Can’t believe I just found an online image of this book! What a treat! The Abominable Snowman by Eric Norman was one of my favorites. This picture used to TERRIFY me. Look at this psychologically tortured face. Those teeth! It evokes loneliness and alienation, a visual mashup of a caveman, polar bear, Edvard Munch’s “The Scream,” a pulp manifestation of T.S. Eliot’s poetic moanings. (And notice I did not mention Duck Dynasty.) For an 8-year-old, it took some nerve to even pull this one off the shelf because the cover image was so disturbing.
The only person more terrified of the abominable snowman’s image and adventures than I was my younger brother Charles, nicknamed Bubba. Out on the sun porch with cast off paperbacks that were yellowed with sunlight and dog pee, I force-read him passages of The Abominable Snowman. Upsetting my younger brother was a fringe benefit of scaring myself.
There were lots of books on the shelves. There were Lord of the Rings paperbacks, and I absorbed the hills and dales of Middle Earth maps before I actually read the trilogy. There was also a grown up, titillating biography of David Niven who, among other things, recounted his first sexual experiences in England, which I barely understood. But the adventures of Bilbo Baggins and David Niven paled beside those of the yeti.
The yetis, or abominable snowmen, were always leaving mysterious footprints, eating the dogs of trackers and tossing their carcasses, emitting unearthly roars at night that made villagers’ blood run cold, throwing trees around and leaving smelly patches of fur everywhere, breaking into monasteries and stealing food from monks, leaving posters around for rave clubs that nobody could ever find (just kidding about the last part). In short, this was just enough to tantalize and terrify everyone, and of course, nobody could catch a yeti on camera. Many experts, however, attested that they were real, and that was good enough for Bubba and me.
“Stop! Stop!” Bubba would scream. When we could take no more of the yeti’s misdeeds, one of us would toss the book across the room like it was on fire.
Our favorite story was both scary and naughty. It involved a man’s wife who mysteriously disappears for a few months. Search parties can’t find her. But lo! One day she reappears on her own recognizance, as they say, walks through the back door, and explains to her husband that she had lived as the Yeti’s mate. “I am expecting his child,” she said, as she rubbed her abdomen. Or maybe it was belly. (I haven’t read this book in years, so I might have the exact words mixed up.)
I’m sure we looked up the word “abdomen” in the dictionary, hoping it meant something really nasty, and we couldn’t be more thrilled when we discovered it partially involved the lower stomach. Anything “down there” was fascinating, the regions of pee, poo, and sex, although we didn’t really understand what sex was at that age. There was something more provocative about this story than any Playboy or Penthouse magazine that I found in my dad’s nightstand. The lady had done IT with a yeti. Whatever IT was. Top that, Miss January! Bet you never made love to a yeti in a hot tub.
“’She rubbed her abdomen’! Did you hear that? ‘She rubbed her ABdomen’!” I would intone, like an English professor teasing out the impact of Shakespeare’s lines to a freshman class. Bubba’s hand would fly to his mouth in shocked horror. Could there be anything naughtier, dirtier, more verboten? Like all the kids in your class could pull down their underwear simultaneously, and it wouldn’t even be a runner-up to the bride of the abominable snowman rubbing her belly.
This lurid tale is the product of a prolific writer named Brad Steiger who now enjoys near-cult status. A Midwest college creative writing professor, Steiger cranked out fiction and loosely investigative non fiction about freaky phenomenon and unsolved mysteries to support his family. He used the pseudonym Eric Norman when he wrote The Abominable Snowman in 1969. Thank you, Mr. Steiger and whoever did the cover art. What a thrill you gave us! And yes, we are screwed up to this day.
This probably goes a long way towards explaining why I wished the beast would just stay the way he was in Beauty and the Beast, rather than turning into a prince, but that’s another story.