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Special Feature:

Article from Issue #029

James Stewart - Yeti Hand Smuggler

[Keep up with the "Special Feature" column and Christian Fannin will sit you on his lap and talk to you about whatever movie-related topic he feels like.]

Rumors and gossip have and never will be welcome at CineWeekly and I want to clarify up front that this article is in no way fictitious humor nor hearsay. It is 100% fact and has been confirmed by the people involved, including Jimmy Stewart himself. I have to say this because this week's article is on a topic that's so absurd that, without the credible sources I've listed, you wouldn't believe it. That being said, James Stewart was a Yeti hand smuggler and this is that story.

In 1958, an explorer named Peter Byrne was on an expedition in the Himalayas for the sole purpose of discovering evidence of the Abonimable Snowman. One day, while camped at the Pangboche temple, Byrne was told by one of the Sherpa that their temple had contained the hand of a Yeti for many years. They allowed him in to see the bones and dried flesh which he describes as similar to that of a large human, including an opposable thumb. You can see the original "Pangboche Hand" below.

The original Pangboche hand

When Byrne asked the lamas if he could take the hand for further research, they refused and warned him that "various calamities will befall the temple" if the hand is removed. Upon returning to London and discussing the situation with Prof. Hill and the trek's American sponsor, Tom Slick, they encouraged him to go back and retrieve the hand. Prof. Hill was (by means unknown) prepared with a brown paper bag with a human hand inside which he requested Byrne swap for the Pangboche Yeti hand. He knew he couldn't replace the entire hand but was willing to attempt stealing a finger.

Back at the Pangboche monastery, Byrne got the Sherpa drunk on Scotch whiskey and again gained access to the temple where he began to switch the fingers. It was a difficult task getting the faux finger to resemble the original while rewiring the bones back together. After successfully pinching the sacred relic, the three men needed to find a way to safely send it back to London. Tom Slick knew his big game hunting partner was vacationing in India and would be travelling through London on his way back home to the United States. This new recruit was none other than the legendary actor Jimmy Stewart.

Jimmy Stewart - Yeti finger smuggler

At the Grand Hotel in Calcutta, Byrne met with Jimmy and Gloria Stewart where he turned over the Yeti finger. Concerned about customs, Gloria hid it in her lingerie case which ended up being the only baggage missing when landing at Heathrow. A few days later, a customs official returned their lost luggage and comforted her that he would "never open a lady's lingerie case". The Yeti finger was then given to Prof. Hill and was only recently rediscovered among his personal collection.

Pangboche finger

In the 90's the original hand was stolen from the Pangboche temple and it's whereabouts are still unknown. The only remains are of the finger smuggled in by James Stewart and it's origin is still inconclusive. All of this can be confirmed in a special from BBC Radio and in the book Tom Slick: True Life Encounters in Cryptozoology (including the confirmation by Jimmy Stewart). Four years after the initial expedition, Tom Slick died in a plane crash at only 46 years old. Whether or not this is related to his involvement in spearheading the theft is just another piece of the mystery of the Pangboche hand.

Don't hesitate to tell Christian what you think of his column and suggest a topic by e-mailing him at: christian@cineweekly.com

- Christian Fannin -
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