Tom Slick: Millionaire Yeti Hunter
Tom Slick was an all-around interesting man, but this article will be focused mainly on his exploits related to cryptozoology.
The Early Years
Tom Slick was born May 9, 1916. His father, Thomas Slick, Sr., made a killing during the Oklahoma oil boom in the 1910s, and Slick Jr. inherited this fortune and expanded upon it after his father's death.
Slick's initial interest in cryptozoology appeared during his time at Yale. In his book Tom Slick and the Search for the Yeti—a 1989 book that brought Slick's interest in cryptozoology into the mainstream public view of him—Loren Coleman speculates that Slick's interest was peaked after he read of President Roosevelt's 1928 expedition involving a giant panda. This ultimately led to Slick's lifelong search for undiscovered species.
A Fascination With Mysterious Creatures
This, of course, was not the only time Tom Slick was inspired by something he'd read. Purportedly, after reading about a creature called a "hoat"—half hog, half goat—in a Ripley's Believe It or Not comic, he drove to a farm in Arkansas to buy one and even tried to breed his own.
In 1937, Slick went on a car tour across Europe with some friends. He used this tour as an excuse to stop off at Loch Ness and spend some time hunting for the lake's legendary Nessie.
Tom Slick was known for funding many scientific research efforts and foundations, but one of the more odd ventures he funded was known as the Mind Science Foundation. This nonprofit foundation was aimed at exploring mental powers and consciousness. Slick had become interested in this specific subject when he was traveling in India and came across a man who could supposedly levitate and teleport.
Tom Slick is remembered today for his exploits in hunting the Yeti, which is a subject he became serious about in 1956. During his trips to India, he had heard stories about this legendary creature and had become very interested in finding it. However, Slick would not find these expeditions easy.
In October 1956, a New York Times article was published detailing how the local government where Slick was attempting to hunt the Yeti in Nepal had stopped his expedition. They demanded that he be sponsored by "an organization of repute or the United States government." Nepal's government also forbade any foreigners from killing a Yeti due to Slick's expeditions and others like it, and a 1959 State Department memo declared this the United States government's official position as well.
Because of these declarations by Nepal's government, Slick had to find alternative methods to continue his hunt for the Yeti. He obtained a letter of assignment from the San Antonio Zoological Society, which lent him legitimacy to continue his expeditions.
During this 1957 trip, Slick tracked down self-identified witnesses and showed them a series of 20 pictures of animals that scientists at that point had determined might be confused with the Yeti. After conducting these interviews, Slick formed a theory that there were two distinct species of Yeti, one that was eight feet tall and covered in black hair, and another that was smaller and had reddish hair. During this trip, Slick also made casts of prints—some of which were, which unlike many other Yeti prints, found in mud as opposed to snow—and took pictures with them, as well as collected hair and droppings purported to be from the creature.
Unfortunately, this trip was to be the last in Nepal that Slick would personally head up. During a bus ride, the vehicle lost its brakes. While trying to get out of the bus, Slick landed hard on his knees and injured them permanently. However, Slick would continue to finance expeditions to continue his search for the Yeti, in addition to financing other expeditions, including some involving a search for the Orang Pendek in Sumatra.
One such expedition happened the following year, 1958. On this expedition, Slick's men turned up photographs of supposed Yeti scalps that were being kept as relics, as well as a supposed Yeti hand. Slick was able to personally debunk that hand, but a second alleged Yeti hand, this one mummified, was harder to disprove.
Slick had to find a way to get the supposed Yeti hand out of Nepal. He concocted a scheme with fellow explorer Peter Byrne and actor Jimmy Stewart—who was on vacation at the time in Calcutta—to help him get evidence from the mummified hand in the monastery in Pangboche where it was being held.
Byrne, assisted by some of Slick's men, convinced some of the monks at the monastery to switch the Yeti fingers with human ones. Slick's men were then able to take the thumb and phalanx from the hand and pass them off to Stewart. Stewart was then able to smuggle the bones out of the country in his luggage, and he passed them off to primatologist Professor William Osman Hill. Hill performed tests on the bones and concluded that they were not human, but at this point in history they seemed to disappear.
The bones were eventually found after they had been on display at the Hunterian Museum at the Royal College of Surgeons for some time. A DNA test done at the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland concluded that the bones did in fact belong to a human.
Change in Methods
Being that he was unable to return to Nepal, Slick changed his focus and turned his attention to hunting the American Sasquatch. He personally headed up multiple field expeditions in the Pacific Northwest, discovering tracks and making casts of the footprints.
Eventually, Slick's hunting methods changed. Slick's goal shifted from actively hunting down and killing creatures like the Yeti and Sasquatch to capturing them alive or even simply taking pictures. This changed the way these creatures were hunted in general.
Death and Legacy
Tom Slick died on October 6, 1962, while returning from a hunting trip in Canada. His plane crashed in Montana, though it was also said to have disintegrated while in flight.
Though Tom Slick didn't like being in the spotlight, his many exploits in business, cryptozoology, and otherwise often brought him into it. He is still remembered for these exploits to this day, and probably always will be.