The Gorillas Of Eden

Stories of strange animals are well-entrenched in Australian folklore. Reports of tigers, panthers and pumas are common throughout the south coast of New South Wales, but perhaps the strangest of all these tales are reports of hair-covered, man-like monsters.

One south-coast location with a long history of these stories is the coastal town of Eden. Surrounded by beautiful national parks and dense bushland, the town is situated on historic Twofold Bay.

Eden area, NSW. Source: Wikipedia.

Eden is a popular holiday destination. During the 1970s Kos Guines of Frankston, Victoria, and his family spent several Christmas holidays in the area. One sunny afternoon in December 1977, Mr Guines took his sons to Monk Farm, a long-abandoned, overgrown property 16 kilometres inland from Pambula. The plan was to do a little rabbit shooting. Not everything, however, went quite according to plan.

Kos Guines.

Just after sunset, with plenty of light remaining, Mr Guines was walking very quietly down a gully when he was startled by a sudden crash in the bracken:

“I swung round, startled – anticipating perhaps a kangaroo – and saw the back of a huge black creature like a gorilla making off from only 10 metres … I brought up my shotgun and had a shot at it. No way I’d miss from that range. But it made no noise -just loped off into a cavity in the scrub.”

Although upright, the creature wasn’t particularly tall – only about the height of a small man – but much, much broader. The detail that stayed most vividly in Mr Guines’ mind was the way its dome-shaped head seemed to sit directly on its huge shoulders, as if it had no neck at all.

After 20 years in Australia, Mr Guines, originally from Greece, was familiar with all of the larger native animals, so he assumed the creature was an escaped gorilla. Although it seemed to have departed, he hurried to stand guard over his sons as they cleaned rabbits in a nearby creek. He thought later the creature might have blundered into him while seeking to avoid the boys.

One interesting aspect of Mr Guines’ experience is that just six kilometres south of where he shot the “gorilla” a steep, stark, rather eerie looking mountain called Egan Peaks, or The Jingera, looms high above the surrounding bush. Colonial-era Aborigines believed The Jingera to be an abode of the ‘yahoo’, a strange hair covered man-like creature.

Mr Guines wasn’t the first person in the Eden area to claim to have encountered a gorilla. The Sydney Catholic Press carried the following report from Candelo in early August 1903:

A great sensation was caused here last Thursday when a gentleman came into the township and stated that he was startled by seeing what he termed a gorilla between Candelo and here. He says it was fully the size of a full-grown man, with abnormally long arms and large head. It bounded right on to the cutting, gazed at him in a weird sort of way, and made a most unearthly noise; it then leaped right over a fence and made for the ranges with the speed of an antelope.

The early 1900s saw many sightings. In August 1906, the Bega Budget carried the following report from Eden:

Mr. Alf. Smith, of the Lakes, (Eden district) distinctly saw a hairy man a short distance from him a few days ago, and had a shot at it with a shot gun without effect. He says it strongly resembles a gorilla, is between 5 and 6 ft. high, has long hair over the main body and short arms.

Seven years later in 1913, the Lismore Northern Star described a similar experience near Mountain Top:

Fred Alcock had an encounter with what he terms a hairy man at Mountain Top, Eden, one night lately. He was riding along when he noticed something coming towards him on all fours. On getting close to him it straightened up to its full height, and Fred’s horse, aided by its rider, not choosing to wait … made a record trip to Greenland.

A Delegate Argus item from June 1930 also tells of a strange animal seen near Nullica:

Children of the Nullica River settlement have been scared and excited by the appearance in proximity to their homes of a strange animal, brown in colour, much larger than the average cattle dog and resembling a monkey in shape. That, at least, is the description given of it by Tommy Bobbin, the biggest of the two boys who have seen it. He has seen it on several occasions, once at a distance of only a few feet. The first time he saw it the animal was sitting up in a gorilla-like attitude, with what appeared to be a stick in one of its hands. Terrified, but brave, Tommy threw at it a cob of corn which he was eating, and thereupon the horrible looking creature disappeared into the scrub. Subsequently it was seen by other children, and they ran homeward, screaming hysterically. All attempts to convince the children that the animal may have been a strange dog are scouted by the children, some of whom at least are old enough to know the difference between a monkey and a dog. The parents have so far not sighted the animal, the identity of which is so far a complete mystery.

Many local residents still claim something strange lurks in the Eden bush. In the mid-1980s, when George Fairweather was 16 or 17 years old, he, Michael Innes and Andrew Petrie had a frightening encounter on the southern outskirts of Eden.

As they were walking along a narrow track accompanied by Michael’s large, rather savage, bull terrier, they all suddenly seemed to sense something was amiss.

“It was almost like a bit of a psychic experience,” said George, “because we all seemed to stop together – including the dog. Everybody knew something was not right … we stopped dead – and then saw the thing.” The “thing” was a “seven or eight foot tall loping animal” and it crossed the path only 10 or 15 feet ahead. Even 13 years later, just thinking about it gave George “a funny, wobbly feeling” in the legs.

“It took two or three good steps across the track … towards a gully … and was gone. It was just a silhouette, really; it was a full moon and a bit overcast, we couldn’t see any hair or detail, but it was much taller than any man – even while stooped!” It seemed bent at the knees and had “a peculiar, non-human gait, difficult to describe.” There was no vocalisation, or even the sound of footfalls. No unusual odour was apparent. We froze for a good couple of seconds, then turned and walked away about 20 metres, walking as if over broken glass – and then ran!”

In the mid 1990s, while fossicking in a quarry six kilometres south of Eden, local resident Maria Speer noticed a more than two-metre-tall creature watching her from nearby bush.

Maria Speer’s sketch.

“It was brown, thickset and short-necked with powerful, solid shoulders. It was standing upright on two legs and when it saw me it crashed off into the bush. My impression was that I had seen a powerful man-like creature. America’s Bigfoot would be an identical type.” Maria sketched the strange animal she saw that day.

The Cropster interviewed Maria and found her story really impressive. The interview is below.

So, exactly what is haunting the dark woods that surround this beautiful, remote holiday destination?

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