ASIO, Ipswich and the enduring yowie mystery
MY favourite response to a media enquiry of all time, short and sharp though it was, was when the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) told me that "ASIO is not currently monitoring any Yowies".
This was in response to leading yowie researcher Dean Harrison's claim that intelligence agents had been tracking a yowie through the scrub in the Gold Coast hinterland after inserting a transmitter between the creature's shoulder blades.
Harrison said the yowie had been caught in the mess hall of the Canungra army barracks while rummaging through pots and pans, apparently after a free feed at the defence force's expense.
So I popped the question to ASIO about Harrison's statement and asked whether ASIO, given Ipswich's reputation as a yowie hot spot, had any interest in uncovering the truth about the yowie generally.
The above mentioned reply under the title 'Classification: UNCLASSIFIED' came back within an hour and a half.
ASIO's response about not "currently" monitoring yowies begged the question whether the organisation had been monitoring them "previously".
A good follow up story no doubt, but I thought that to push the envelope on that might find me on a journalist "watch list" in ASIO's secret files, or in a strait jacket and trucked off to an undisclosed location.
Needless to say, that ASIO response has been pinned up in the QT office and is often the subject of a hearty chuckle.
It's 'unclassified' so I presume that means that is all hunky dory.
I mention this tale because the QT has just published a story, with screenshots and a video, about a yoiwe researcher in Tivoli who claims to have captured the 'Ipswich Yowie' on film.
Yowie sightings, and tales of them, have been a regular event in Ipswich for decades.
My good mate and rugby league journalist Peter Badel at The Courier-Mail often says to me: "Gus, how do you keep a straight face doing all these yowie yarns? The blokes who tell you these yowie tales...they must be mad surely."
But my answer is always: "Pete, I have to tell you, they aren't crazy. They are normal as the day is long."
One runs a successful electrical business. Another is a wine seller. Another is an amateur astronomer. Most have families and steady jobs.
All of them are deadly serious when they speak of their yowie encounters. They don't laugh and joke when they speak of their experiences, and neither do I!
The QT has reported on the sightings of the famous Mulgowie Yowie. Other yowies from Redbank, Flinders View and the Rosewood region have also made the headlines.
The absence of a definitive photo, bones or a captured yowie is compelling evidence to sceptics that they do not exist.
But start down that track with yowie researchers and you soon find yourself in a wilderness of mirrors, claims and counter claims.
They are a competitive bunch too these yowie hunters, and often at odds with each other.
I recall one yowie researcher telling me that 'Tim the Yowie Man', who used to have a syndicated newspaper column, did not know his material and wasn't a "true" expert.
Now, that did make me laugh.
But the fact remains that there isn't enough humour and irreverence in the media generally these days.
We can take ourselves too seriously as journalists at times, and writing the odd yowie story is perhaps good therapy. Or maybe I need therapy.
Either way, it is a lot of fun writing about the yowie.
I can't wait for the next sighting.