See Update Below: On April 23, 2006, at least 6 people (two couples and two male bush-walkers) heard strange “bellowing” sounds and saw what they described to Parks officials as a “big ape” at Corrigan’s Suspension Bridge in the Tarra-Bulga National Park.  The case may also may involve a photograph.

I first heard of the case in late 2006, and for a long while had difficulty locating the original media report and any of the witnesses. Finally, with the help of Craig Campbell of Victorian Parks (big thanks Craig), I was able to get a copy of the tape and contact the primary witness, Mike Skelton (who is featured in the news clip above).

I interviewed Mike in early 2007.  He was a really impressive witness. There’s no question he saw something unusual that day. Here’s my first excerpt from the full interview - please note this a 9Mb audio file.

Read the full interview transcript here.

After further investigation - and with the (welcome) assistance of Craig - I was able to obtain copies of reports (shown below) lodged with Victorian Parks that day. Interestingly, along with Mike’s report, there is another note made the same day by Parks personnel detailing another sighting by a woman of something “large and ape-like” at the same spot (Corrigans Suspension Bridge).

As the interview reveals, Mike had a camera when he saw the creature but, assuming it was some kind of hoax or joke, didn’t take a shot. The photo above was taken by his wife a few minutes after his encounter. Mike tells me that he later spoke to the family standing behind him, and they stated they had also heard the strange bellowing sounds. They had no idea what it was.

                       Weird Coincidence

Tony Healy commented to me on this strange coincidence. UK magazine Fortean Times for April 2006 featured an article on various mystery monsters, including the yowie. The cover featured - wait for it - a swing bridge, with 2 guys with backpacks situated above a Chewbacca-like creature with large fangs!  Its roughly the same encounter, in the same month as the Tarra-Bulga report. When did this edition hit the Australian market? Not sure, but probably before the 23rd.

December 2007 Update: Hoax!

In December 2007 investigator James Reid and I visited Tarra-Bulga and the site of the April 2006 report.

The more we looked around the site, the more both of us felt all the evidence suggested a hoax. The bridge is an easy walk (only about 800 metres) from the Park car park, and thus it would be relatively simple to get the appropriate material (amplifier and tape recorder, ape suit etc) close to the site.

The bridge is also the primary tourist attraction within the Park, so any hoaxer would be almost guaranteed an audience, particularly given the day of the sighting was a national public holiday. The area around the bridge also had lots of areas where a suit-clad person could disappear into after they had done their work. We also felt it unlikely that a wild animal would walk onto a narrow suspension bridge, when it could easily remain undetected by keeping to the dense rainforest valley beneath the bridge.

Working on this premise, and using Mike's description of the creature as a guide, I started searching for Australian Chewbacca suits for sale or hire. The first one I found was this one:

[Photo Removed]

I sent that picture to Mike and got this startling response:

“Hi Paul well it seems we have,or should I say you have,solved the mystery of the "tarra bullga" yowie, that is definately our boy or girl which ever it may be I am sure there would also be an electronic device available to make the sounds it made on the day .It also confirms my suspicion the two youngsters that had the shot in the didgi camera were well and truly in on the show and it would be the reason that they have not shown themselves with the photo's. Re the suit, the one on the day did not have the grey in it as the one in the costume pic does but everything else is 100% Sorry about that,turns out to be not such a merry christmas after all”.

So - case closed! Clearly someone went to a lot of trouble here to hoax this - expensive suit, sound gear, footprints etc. Possibly this is a clear message never to take even multiple-witness cases at face value.

And that FT article? Probably that was what gave our hoaxers the idea!

Tarra-Bulga National Park, Victoria

2006: Hoax!

Melbourne (Vic) News report 25 April 2006

Notes made by a Victorian Parks officer after two witnesses reported their yowie sightings on 23 April, 2006