The Story of Zana, Abnauayu

The Abnauayu is the Russian analog of Bigfoot/Sasquatch, said to roam the lands around the Caucasus mountain range. Like other potential relict hominid habitats, the Caucasus is heavily forested and sparsely populated in many areas, allowing plenty of room for both a large creature to roam and legends to grow.

Most prominent among these legends is that of Zana (alternately Zanya), the name–which may mean “black” in local dialect–given to a “wild woman” of alleged Abnauayu stock. This woman appeared rather mysteriously in the region around 1850, when she was captured by hunters. According to lore, she was dark of skin and hair, extremely strong, and completely uncivilized. After passing through a series of owners, she ended up with a man called Edgi Genaba, with whom she remained until her death in 1890.

Zana, the tale goes, never did learn language or most other human niceties, despite living among humans for forty years. She was, however, eventually “tamed” enough to perform simple chores, and even gave birth to human children (fathers unknown), four of which survived into adulthood. The most well known of these children was Khwit (1884-1954), whose skull was exhumed in the 1970s and determined to be human by famed anthropologist and Bigfoot researcher Grover Krantz. Despite repeated attempts by Russian archaeologists and others, Zana’s bones have never been found in spite of the fact she was allegedly buried in the family graveyard near Khwit.

Eyewitness and family testimonies collected by Russian professors Alexander Mashkovtsev and Boris Porshnev during the 1960s seem to indicate, at least, that the story of Zana was well known among the local population, if not entirely factual. Igor Bourtsev eventually took over the case, as it were, and in 2009, in conjunction with the filming of an episode of the National Geographic series Is it Real?, brought Khwit’s skull (along with another female skull discovered earlier and thought to be that of Zana’s daughter) to New York for DNA analysis. The analysis revealed both Khwit’s skull and that of his sister to be 100% homo sapiens.

The origins of Zana, the wild woman, remain unknown.

Huge Bird Sightings

First, the basics: the largest known living flying bird (as opposed to flightless ones like ostriches), the wandering albatross, has a wingspan from 8 to 11.5 feet.  Other huge birds include storks, pelicans, the Andean condor, with a wingspan up to 10 feet, and the endangered California condor, which tops out at 9.5 feet across. Only the last species lives in the United States; other large U.S. birds include bald eagles and golden eagles.  Birds with larger wingspans, such as the astonishing 23 foot wide Giant Teratorn, are extinct.

Nevertheless, people in modern times have reported sightings of huge birds whose wingspans easily surpass any known living species.  Many of the sightings take place in Texas, but these gigantic animals have also been spotted in Australia, Alaska, Alabama, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Florida, and other places.  Reports range from solitary birds sitting in trees to entire flocks of eight or more birds.  Although the Native American legend of the Thunderbird is sometimes mentioned as an aside to the sightings, very few of the eyewitness accounts make any supernatural claims; they are describing birds engaging in ordinary birdlike behavior, unremarkable but for their incredibly large size.

What could these birds be?  Theories range from relict animals (species believed to be extinct but perhaps still living) to simple optical illusion, causing large birds to look even larger in the eye of the beholder due to lack of perspective or landmarks against which to compare.  Mistaken identity does likely account for some of the sightings, but what of the giant birds seen taking off from trees?

Compounding the mystery is that reports are often clustered around a place and time (perhaps the most famous of these being the “Big Bird” sightings in Texas in the 1970s) and then either abruptly or gradually peter out.  The group of stories I received during the year 2006 would seem to bear this out.  Perhaps the birds only swoop low enough or through populated places under certain conditions, or perhaps public reports encourage others to share their stories.  Whatever the case, this mystery continues to fascinate me due to its earthly nature, and I would love to hear more experiences from readers.