|AKA: Pomboko Maidem, Schaduwgeest|
The Tolmhausen photograph which purports to depict a snrith.
|Region||Styxie, southern Rainier|
|Similar creatures||Shadow person, Wendigo|
Modern alleged sightings and eyewitness reports have been claimed as early in 1828 when Spanish-speaking Californios reported seeing "acosadors negros" (black stalkers) along the Sierra Nevada in the Styxie. Stories and legends of shadowy spirits roaming the forest are also prevalent among the various native Sierran and Rainian tribes in the area. Cryptozoologists have linked the Snrith to the Pomboko Maidem, a spirit prevalent in Kaioyu mythology and traditional belief, which was influenced by Kuksu beliefs and Pomo mythology. As reports of sightings have increased over the years, interest in the Snrith have firmly placed the creature in Sierran popular culture for well over a century. Although the general scientific consensus has discounted its existence as a myth, and alleged modern photographs and videos as hoaxes, those among the cryptozoology community claim Snriths are real. The famous Tolmhausen photo is said to be one the best piece of evidence supporting the existence of Snriths.
The etymology of the word "snrith" is unknown. The earliest recorded usage of the name dates back to 1849 in journal entries when miners and prospectors during the California Gold Rush began describing a frightful creature lurking in what is now the Cessnock Provincial Forest. The first definitive appearance of the name in a publication was in a Sacramento Examiner article that ran in the February 8, 1850 edition, which reported on such rumors of a "foul and dreadful wood-demon" that locals called "the Snrith".
One theory posits that the name originated from the sound the creature supposedly makes, similar to a "whispering snicker". Alternatively, the name may have been a contraction of "sneaking spirit" (one of the many nicknames for the Snrith) that is still found in some registers of Styxer English today.
The modern Snrith traces its origins in part to local Amerindian traditions and folklore. The Snrith has been frequently compared to the Kaioyu spirit Pomboko Maidem, whose physical description and legend has matched very closely to eyewitness accounts of the entity. In Kaioyu mythology, the Pomboko Maidem is one of six spirits associated with the cardinal directions (north, south, west, and east, as well as up [heaven] and down [earth]). He is associated with the east, and his residence is a sweat house in the Sierra Nevada. Similar to other animistic beliefs, the Pomboko Maidem is neither morally good nor evil, but is mischievous and manipulative. He is associated with out-of-the body experiences and hallucinations, and is the spirit of dreams and visions. He has a physical human body but is able to change forms into other beings, and could manifest in any locations, although he preferred to appear at night to prey on sleeping dreamers.
Similar mythological accounts of this supernatural entity have been found in neighboring cultures, especially those in contact with the Kuksu Cult that was prevalent among Amerindians in the region at the time. Views towards the Pomboko Maidem were generally reverential. When the Europeans first came into contact with the Northern Sierran tribes, they were apparently unaware of such stories, but early colonists from New Holland begun recounting tales of the Schaduwgeest (shadow people) who lurked in the forests and stalked wary travelers. Such entities were vividly described and written about in famed New Hollander writer Henk van der Staaij's The People in the Woods short story. After California gained its independence from Mexico and the Gold Rush arrived, stories of the Schaduwgeest grew exponentially as prospectors mined in heavily forested areas in the region. Storytelling was an important socializing and bonding experience for prospectors, where tall tales and urban legends were commonplace in such gatherings. As such, it has been hypothesized that the connection between the New Hollander Schaduwgeest and the Kaoyu Pomboko Maidem became intrinsically linked to the modern Snrith during this tumultuous time.
One of the most famous written recordings of the Snrith was by Anglo-American prospector Thomas Lane's journal:
17 April 1828
We arrived in Sierra two days ago. This is the first occasion I have stepped foot in this country and already it seems to be proving its strangeness to me. On our second night, as were about to put out our camp fire, I and three of my men heard a peculiar scratching sound originating from the near forest. I thought it was a fox or perhaps a bird, but for whatever reason, by curiosity was piqued and I moved closer to investigate. I laid eyes upon a off-putting creature. It had very dark skin, as if the being was deceased. It's eyes had no pupils yet I could tell it was staring at me. We locked eyes for what seemed like hours and it sprinted into the forest before I could call the rest of the crew. I examined what it had been doing with the tree and witnessed an odd illustration: A simple figure joined by indecipherable letters at the bottom. The group nor myself could make sense of this.
Description and folklore
Snriths are usually described as having totally black or white skin with luminous white or yellow eyes, and sharp-toothed fangs. Although Snriths appear to be bipedal with two leg-like appendages, some accounts claim that the creatures do not walk, and instead, levitate closely to the ground, while other insists that they do walk. The heights of Snriths have been varied, with claims of some being the size of a small child (4 feet), and others being slightly larger than the average man (about 6 ½ feet). Most witnesses say they appear mostly in densely wooded areas and mark their territory by etching pictographs onto tree bark with their long nails. Snriths are said to be able to vocalize, producing guttural howls or shrieks similar to a boar, although are generally stealthy and quiet. Those who have encountered Snriths have claimed to hear whispering. Most accounts claim that they are able to teleport at-will. People who claim to have seen a Snrith usually say they could not tell if the creature was male or female. They appear to demonstrate high intelligence, perhaps human-level or very close to it, but also display signs of primal nature.
Many modern accounts portray the Snrith as evil or malicious, attacking or tormenting hikers, campers, and passers-by. Most documented reports of attacks have been attributed to bears or wolves by authorities. The presence of Snriths is said to be signaled sounds of whispering and unlocatable footsteps. Other accounts describe them as mischievous, stealing food and equipment from tents and leaving it in inaccessible areas.
The most common feature of Snrith behavior is the etching of pictographs on trees in order mark their presence and territory. Larry Westen famously claimed to have discovered a Snrith pictograph while hiking in northern Sierra in 1989. He said the markings appeared to depict the Snrith hiding behind a tree Westen and his wife Lara, camped at the fire.
Over two-thirds of sightings are reported in either Sierra or Rainier, particularly within the Pacific Northwest region. More than half of these sightings are concentrated in the Sierran provinces of Plumas and Shasta, especially in the Cessnock Provincial Forest. A majority of these sightings have been unsubstantiated or debunked as hoaxes or misattributions of naturally explainable phenomena. According to the Snrith Research Institute, the world's leading organization on Snrith hunting, claims that about "a tenth of these sightings cannot be explained by scientific or naturalistic explanations, and are thus, paranormal".
Each year, the Royal Parks Service releases a complete list of formal reports filed by visitors to the Cessnock Provincial Forest and other parks where Snrith sightings are reported. The Royal Parks Service has promoted the Snrith in official advertising and park documentation for tourist purposes despite officially maintaining no position on the validity of Snrith sighting claims and the existence of the Snrith itself,
Notable alleged encounters
Probably the most famous alleged encounter with a Snrith occurred on December 18, 2002 when Samuel Tolm was exploring Randaug Tunnel, an abandoned railway tunnel located about 4 kilometers from the city of Juno, Plumas. Tolmhausen claimed he began hearing footsteps in the distance and moved further into the tunnel to investigate when he saw a short figure standing in front of him. He then took out his camera and snapped a single photograph of the figure. According to Tolmhausen, the figure fled shortly after he took the photo and that he was too startled to give chase. After having the photo developed he was "Very shocked" to see what he'd captured. The picture appears to show a dark figure with black skin and two pale eyes. The figure also appears to be clothed in some kind of dress or coat and what appear to be shoes are located and its feet. Tolmhausen said he initially thought the creature was a child before he "Realized how inhuman it looked."
Analysis of the photo confirmed its authenticity but skeptics claim it is still likely a hoax. Tolmhausen maintains the photo is real and to that end he pledged in 2003 not to sell the photo or make any income from it. Other explanations for what Tolmhausen capture have been offered, including odd lighting creating an illusion, but so far Tolmhausen says none have satisfied him.
Essentially all zoologists reject the existence of snriths, regarding them as nothing more than legend and folktale. A common scientific explanation for snrith sightings is that they are actually hairless raccoons, suffering from some kind of illness. Bears in the area have been known to scratch trees which explains the supposed etchings made by snriths and the 'snickering' sound they are said to make can easily be made by several bird species that live in Northern Sierra. Other people believe all or most sightings are simply hoaxes.
Dr. Laurence Preston of the University of Sierra, Merced's animal biology department believes snriths could possibly be a rare mammal living in the northern regions of Sierra. Such a possibility is not without precedent as many animals that are well-known today were once regarded as myth. However, as Dr. Preston writes "Until concrete photographic (that is, an image that doesn't look like it was taken using a certain New World crop) and biological evidence is obtained such as hairs or skin cells, it is impossible to truly know what snriths are, assuming they even exist."
Nevertheless, the snrith has fascinated many cryptozoologists who compare it to a modern-day Bigfoot. Snrith-related merchandise is sold both in Juno and surrounding areas.
In popular culture
- Snriths were mentioned in The X-Files episode "What Comes Around."
- In the comedy series You've Got to be Kidding!, one of the characters compares his dog to a snrith.
- A documentary series investigating snriths was aired on Geography Now entitled Snirths: Northern Sierra's Spookiest Legend.
- Rapper and singer-songwriter Q-Lo referred to himself as the 'Snrith God.'