Dr KARL SHUKER

Zoologist, media consultant, and science writer, Dr Karl Shuker is also one of the best known cryptozoologists in the world. Author of such seminal works as Mystery Cats of the World (1989), The Lost Ark: New and Rediscovered Animals of the 20th Century (1993; greatly expanded in 2012 as The Encyclopaedia of New and Rediscovered Animals), In Search of Prehistoric Survivors (1995), and more recently Extraordinary Animals Revisited (2007), Dr Shuker's Casebook (2008), Karl Shuker's Alien Zoo: From the Pages of Fortean Times (2010), Cats of Magic, Mythology, and Mystery (2012), and Mirabilis: A Carnival of Cryptozoology and Unnatural History (2013), his many fans have been badgering him to join the blogosphere for years. The CFZ Blog Network is proud to have finally persuaded him to do so.

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Monday, 27 June 2016

REMEMBERING PEDRO – THE MISSING MINI-MUMMY OF WYOMING


Two views of Pedro plus one of his x-rays from 1950 (Wikipedia/public domain)

In a two-part ShukerNature article (click here and here) from 2009, I documented a wide range of accounts concerning mysterious dwarf-like or pygmy-like humanoid entities that have been reported across the length and breadth of North America, and are often colloquially – and collectively – referred to as littlefeet. One of the most interesting of these was Pedro, the so-called mini-mummy or mountain mummy of Wyoming, because this was an actual specimen (not just an eyewitness report or a tale from traditional folklore). Also, it had been discovered in a most unexpected location, and subsequently featured in a very intriguing chain of events. Back in 2009, my article's documentation of Pedro was fairly brief, but since then I have investigated this mystifying entity in further detail, enabling me to flesh out or highlight various aspects of its story that had previously been somewhat obscure, contradictory, or totally confused in other accounts accessed by me. Consequently, I am now presenting here a much-expanded, updated version of my original ShukerNature coverage of Pedro.

Pedro's extraordinary modern-day history may have begun one day in October 1932 (but see later for an alternative claimed date), when gold-prospectors Cecil Main (spelt 'Mayne' in some accounts) and Frank Carr blasted a hole through the wall of a ravine in the San Pedro Mountains, about 65 miles southwest of the city of Casper, Wyoming - and made a momentous discovery. The wall had been hiding a small, room-like, hitherto-sealed cavern, which contained a ledge, 2.5 ft off the ground. And sitting on that ledge, in cross-legged pixie-like pose, with its arms folded across its chest, was the mummy of a diminutive humanoid figure, with a sitting height of less than 7 in and a total height of only 14 in.

Front view of Pedro (public domain)

Sporting a tanned if wrinkled bronze-coloured skin, barrel-shaped body, well-preserved penis, large hands, long fingers, low brow, very wide mouth with large lips, and broad flat nose, this strange figure resembled a smirking old man, who seemed almost to be winking at its two amazed discoverers, because one of its large eyes was half-closed. Nevertheless, it was evident that this entity had been dead for a very long time, and its death did not appear to have been a pleasant one. Its head was abnormally flat, and was covered with a dark gelatinous substance - later examinations by scientists suggested that its skull may have been smashed by an extremely heavy blow, and the gelatinous substance was congealed blood and exposed brain tissue. Also, some reports claim that it had a broken clavicle (or scapula in certain others), as well as some broken vertebrae, and pointed "front teeth".

Due to its mountain provenance, this remarkable specimen was soon dubbed Pedro by the media, following its discovery's announcement in a report by the Casper Tribune-Herald newspaper on 21 October 1932 (but once again see later for an alternative claimed date).

When Main and Carr brought Pedro back home with them to Casper, it was widely denounced as a hoax, though some locals believed that it may indeed be one of the Little People long deemed in traditional lore to exist in the mountains. Carr died shortly afterwards, and in April 1934 Main sold Pedro to Homer F. Sherill from Crawford, Nebraska, who subsequently exhibited it encased inside a large glass dome as a curio at a circus there (as well as at several sideshows elsewhere), where it was seen by Eugene Bashor in 1936. Although he was only a boy at that time, Bashor was so fascinated by Pedro's enigmatic appearance that he went on to become a leading, longstanding investigator of North American mini-mummy and littlefoot reports.

Sideshow poster for Pedro (public domain)

Sherill owned Pedro for at least 7 years, but somehow this anomalous little entity subsequently turned up at Jones Drug Store in Meeteetse, a small town in Park County, Wyoming, where it remained on display until it was spied there one day in the mid-1940s by Ivan Goodman, a used car salesman from Casper, who reputedly purchased it from the drug store's owner, Floyd Jones, for several thousand dollars. Thereafter, Goodman utilised Pedro's eyecatching appearance to attract people to his car lot, and for which it became an unofficial mascot, with images of it being placed by Goodman in advertisements for his auto dealership. Moreover, it was during its period of ownership by Goodman that Bashor saw Pedro for a second time, in 1948, sitting on Goodman's desk.

In 1950, Goodman permitted some interested scientists to examine his 'mascot' in an attempt to uncover its true nature. The most detailed examination, including an x-ray analysis, was conducted by anthropologist Dr Henry ('Harry') Shapiro from New York's American Museum of Natural History. According to a Casper Tribune-Herald report of 5 March 1950, this study confirmed that Pedro was not a fake but did indeed contain a complete if minuscule skeleton, a fully-fused skull (seemingly verifying that it was an adult humanoid, not an infant), plus a full set of teeth. Some accounts have even claimed that Shapiro opined that Pedro had been approximately 65 years old upon death; others, conversely, alleged that he had identified it as an infant - yet another source of controversy regarding Pedro.

In that same newspaper report, Goodman himself was quoted as stating: "After an exhaustive study by the scientists it was agreed that it was the only specimen known of a human race of that type which perhaps dated back a million years". However, such a dramatic claim as this seems unlikely to have been made by the scientists, so it may well have originated from the canny Goodman instead - possibly as an additional means of publicising his car business. Unfortunately, there is no way of knowing for sure, because Goodman died later that same year.

Side view of Pedro (public domain)

Just before his death, Goodman loaned Pedro to Leonard Wadler, a New York businessman, for study purposes. However, it was never returned to Goodman's family, and Wadler moved to Florida soon afterwards, allegedly dying there during the 1980s. But what happened to Pedro? No-one knows, because no-one has been able to trace Wadler's precise movements and whereabouts once he had acquired Pedro. One report claimed that Wadler's family was contacted by (unnamed) investigators some time after his death enquiring where Pedro may now be, but that they had no idea either.

In a bid to rectify this regrettable situation, John Adolfi from Syracuse, New York, owner of the Bibleland Studios website, publicly announced on 3 February 2005 via a Casper Star-Tribune report by Brendan Burke that he would pay $10,000 for Pedro, if it still existed. He would then submit Pedro for DNA analyses, more x-ray studies, and magnetic resonance imaging in order to determine once and for all its precise identity. So far, however, Adolfi's reward remains unclaimed.

Reward poster for Pedro, issued by John Adolfi of Bibleland Studios (© John Adolfi/Bibleland Studios – reproduced here on a strictly non-commercial Fair Use basis only)

Incidentally, back on 13 November 1936 one of Pedro's original discoverers, Cecil Main, had signed an official affidavit containing what he claimed to be the true facts behind their notable find, and which was sworn in Scotts Bluff County, Nebraska, and officially recorded in Hot Springs County, Wyoming, on 16 August 1943. Oddly, however, this document contains what would appear to be some glaring inconsistencies with other versions of events.

In it, Main stated that Pedro had been discovered by them in June 1934. Conversely, as already noted in this present ShukerNature article, a report documenting that event had allegedly been published in the Casper Tribune-Herald on 21 October 1932, followed by additional articles published by this same newspaper in that same year, at least according to Brendan Burke's above-mentioned Casper Star-Tribune report from 2005. Here is what Burke wrote in it:

Mayne was prospecting for gold near Pathfinder Reservoir when an explosion he detonated revealed a small cave, according to a Oct. 21, 1932, article in the Casper Tribune-Herald. Inside the cave Mayne found the mummified remains of what looked like a tiny human.

Debate about the mummy's nature started soon after it was found. Some said it was a hoax. Others said it was the mummified remains of a baby. And others said it was one of the little people spoken about in Indian legends, according to Casper Tribune-Herald stories from 1932.

So if these supposed Casper Tribune-Herald reports from 1932 do indeed exist, then Main's claimed date of June 1934 was clearly incorrect. Main also alleged in his affidavit of November 1936 that Pedro was "now owned by Homer F. Sherill, and located in the Field Museum in Chicago, Illinois". Yet once again, contemporary reports claim that Main had actually sold Pedro to Sherill in April 1934 (i.e. two months before it had even been discovered, according to the discovery date given in Main's affidavit). Moreover, as noted by Rebecca Hein in an undated online article concerning Pedro accessible within the WyoHistory website:

Archivist Armand Esai notes that the Field Museum has no record of the mummy's presence during that time. The item still could have been there on loan or for identification, but because it was not part of the museum's official collection, the mummy was not listed in the records.

As seen, the discrepancies between different accounts as to whether Shapiro had (or had not) claimed that Pedro exhibited certain adult characteristics are by no means the only contentious, contradictory aspects of Pedro's post-discovery history.

Pedro inside his glass dome, with ruler to show size (public domain)

Fortunately, at least Pedro's original x-ray plates are still on file and thus confirmed, as are some vintage photographs of it, including those presented here. Moreover, not long after Pedro's initial discovery by the two prospectors, a Mexican shepherd called José Martinez reputedly found another mummy and six separate skulls on a ranch in the same vicinity. After soon suffering a number of mishaps, however, Martinez considered them to be jinxed, so he swiftly replaced them where he had found them.

Other mini-mummies have also been reported over the years from elsewhere in the U.S.A. One of the most noteworthy of these was a 3-ft-tall, red-haired specimen discovered on a ledge in Kentucky's famous Mammoth Cave, and exhibited widely during the 1920s, which seemed to be only a few centuries old (later radiocarbon-dating studies, however, revealed that it was 3,000-4,000 years old). During 1922, sheep-herder Bill Street claimed to have found several small skulls and whole mummies in Montana's Beartooth Mountains, but their present whereabouts are unclear. Two young men on a day off from the Civilian Conservation Corps in 1933 came upon a dead pygmy with sharp teeth in Wyoming's Wind River Mountains, but both died soon afterwards, and others who saw it allegedly died from severe illnesses.

In 1969, author John 'Ace' Bonar visited orthopaedic specialist Richard Phelps in Casper to see the preserved head of a mysterious tiny humanoid that he was displaying at that time in his shop. Bonar learnt that the head had originally been taken from a cliff near Wyoming's Muddy Gap. After Phelps's death in 1980, his daughter donated the preserved pygmy head to the University of Wyoming in Laramie, where it is still said to be today.

According to Bonar, the husband of Winnie Cardell from Alcova, Wyoming, also owned a mini-mummy - until he loaned it to a college professor, who never returned it. A specimen closely resembling Pedro, meanwhile, attracted media attention in January 1979 when it was loaned to Californian antique appraiser Kent Diehl of San Anselmo for examination. Just under 1 ft long, with an indentation at the back of the head indicating brain injury as the cause of death, the mummy was supposedly found in Central America during 1919, but Diehl would not publicly identify the family from Marin, California, that presently owns it.

This anterosuperior view of the head of an anencephalic human foetus demonstrates the disorganised connective tissue membrane that covers the top of the skull in the absence of the calvarium or skullcap (public domain)

Some researchers consider Pedro to have been a grossly-malformed human child or foetus - possibly with anencephaly, a teratological condition in which the brain has not developed fully (if at all) during foetal maturation. This latter identity was proposed for Pedro by anthropologist Prof. George W. Gill from the University of Wyoming after examining photos of it first shown to him by his students in 1971. Moreover, in 1994, after appearing with Eugene Bashor on an episode of the TV show Unsolved Mysteries hosted by Robert Stack and dealing with Pedro, Gill was contacted by a rancher from Cheyenne (Wyoming's capital) claiming to own a mini-mummy. This one proved to be a tiny blond-haired girl, only 4 in high, and dubbed Chiquita, which one of the rancher's (great-)grandfathers (reports differ) had purchased from a sheep-herder in or around 1929 and which had been kept ever since inside a trunk in his home's attic.

When Gill examined Chiquita and DNA analyses were conducted upon it, assisted by the Denver Children's Hospital, he found that it was indeed an anencephalic Native American infant (examination of a femur removed from this mini-mummy had revealed that its distal ends had not closed, a sign of infancy). In their book Mountain Spirit: The Sheep Eater Indians of Yellowstone (2006), Lawrence L. Loendorf and Nancy M. Stone stated that radiocarbon dating tests had indicated that it was around 500 years old.

With regard to Pedro, conversely, if its adult characteristics allegedly revealed by Shapiro during his 1950 study were genuine, and not erroneous identifications (or erroneous claims made by the media), they would seem to contradict an anencephalic status for it. (Incidentally, one report read by me claiming that Gill had studied Pedro's x-rays directly after Shapiro had conducted his own 1950 study of them, and that it was Shapiro who had personally given the x-rays to Gill at that time, is clearly in error, because in 1950 Gill was still only a youth.)

One of Pedro's x-rays from 1950 (public domain)

Also, why was Pedro placed on the ledge and then sealed away inside that small room-like cavern within the Pedro Mountains? After all, this does seem not only a very purposeful but also a very strange and extreme action for anyone to take with merely a malformed infant. And who placed it there anyway?

As documented in my 2009 two-part ShukerNature article on littlefeet, there are many Amerindian traditions of mysterious races of dwarves or pygmies. And some of these allegedly kill their own kind when they become old or infirm by beheading them, or by smashing their skulls - in precisely the way that Pedro and its Central American lookalike may have met their deaths. Just a coincidence?

Artistic representation of a North American littlefoot (© Tim Morris)

The story of Pedro the Wyoming mini-mummy is undoubtedly one of the most muddled, contradictory histories that I have ever investigated, so much so that I seriously doubt at this late stage in the proceedings, over 80 years since its discovery by Main and Carr, whether an entirely accurate course of events concerning this very enigmatic little entity will ever be pieced together.

Meanwhile, documenting Pedro in his book Stranger Than Science (1959), veteran mysteries investigator Frank Edwards made the following pertinent comment:

Scientists from far and near have examined this tiny fellow and have gone away amazed. He is unlike anything they ever saw before. Sitting there on the shelf in Casper, visible, disturbing evidence that science may have overlooked him and his kind much too long.

Moreover, just as there are two sides to every coin, in his own book The Monster Trap (1976) Peter Haining offered an equally disturbing, obverse view:

For as some of the more serious-minded of the old people of Casper who were alive at the time of the discovery will tell you, they believe the little man was one of a whole race of barbaric dwarf people who once lived in the region in ancient times. And they get the distinct impression from looking at him that he had been sitting there behind the stone wall for thousands of years waiting for someone - or something - to return.

Now just suppose, they go on with the merest hesitation, that the long-awaited return of what-ever-it-might-be has taken place - and it has found nothing there...

Seemingly not for thousands of years, but still a chilling little vignette, to say the least. And who knows - perhaps it really would have been best in this instance to have let sleeping dogs lie, or dormant dwarves dream on?

If anyone owns (or can obtain) copies of any of the Casper Tribune-Herald newspaper reports that were allegedly published in 1932 (and hence almost two years before the date of Pedro's discovery as claimed in Cecil Main's affidavit), I would love to see them! Thanks very much.

NB – As far as I aware, all illustrations included in this article are in the public domain (unless stated otherwise), including the x-rays (according to Wikipedia's entry for Pedro, they are in the public domain for the following reason: "Copyright expired because the work was published without a copyright notice and/or without the necessary copyright registration."), but in any case I am including all of them here on a strictly non-commercial Fair Use basis only.

Casper historian Bob David holding Pedro in a pre-1950 photograph (public domain)







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