Tohby Riddle, Yahoo Creek: An Australian Mystery, Allen & Unwin, March 2019, 32 pp., $29.99, (hbk), ISBN 9781760631451
Yahoo Creek: An Australian Mystery is one of my very favourite types of books – a mystery, lots of eye witness accounts by real people and beautiful pictures. It is also an unusual book because there is no plot.
Against a background of grey, shades of blue, charcoal and white countryside with clearly recognisable birds and plants, texts from newspapers ranging from 1847 to 1935 are placed. These texts describe accounts of people meeting the Yahoo (or the hairy man, the yeti or the yowie as he is also known). There are also comments from Ngiyampaa elder, Peter Williams.
The texts are very earnest and the descriptions are similar to each other.
‘A shepherd in W Suttor’s employ averred that he had seen a hairy man in a scrub north of Cunningham’s Creek. It walked upright and was covered with hair, and his dogs that hunted everything else ran back from this frightened, with tails between their legs.’
23 March 1878
‘A Tantawanglo resident…states…that it stood upright like a human being. It was covered with long reddish hair…It turned over with ease a large log as if looking for grubs to eat.’
19 November 1919
Peter Williams describes two types of yowie: the berai which is about nine foot tall and the yuriwirrina which is a few feet tall; both of which are very strong. Peter also describes the berai as a spiritual figure with a physical body, a strong smell like a wet dog and his scream is ‘like nothing else’
In some ways, the book is a little sad as all the accounts of the yowie are of a creature on its own, which is sometimes crying or screaming and the Sydney Morning Herald (11 December 1866) reported that the Aboriginal people ‘state that were a great number of them some time ago.’ So if the yowie exists in a physical, spiritual or literary form he / she is obviously a lonely creature.
Yahoo Creek: An Australian Mystery is suitable for children in primary school but would also make a great coffee table book for where is there an adult who doesn’t love talking over a mystery?
Reviewed by Katy Gerner