Western Port, a large tidal bay just an hour’s drive to the east of Australia’s second most populous city, Melbourne, is today home to Australian fur seals, whales, dolphins, and Phillip Island’s famous colony of fairy penguins. And according to the indigenous tribes of the area, and many of the colonists who first settled there, the nearby mountain ranges of Western Port were once home to a fearful large, hairy creature that often walked holding a stick, built shelters from the weather and had once attacked a camp and carried away women and children. To the Western Port tribes it was known as “Bundyllcarno”.
On 16 July 1847, the Geelong Advertiser and Squatters’ Advocate, wrote of the Wild Man of the Australian Woods stating that: “A creature described by the natives as something very similar to an ourang-out-tang is supposed by many colonists to exist in the mountain ranges at the back of Western Port, but their ideas of it are mixed up with such a superstitious dread as to induce many to consider it only in the light of an imaginary being, created by their own fears, or by interested parties amongst them selves.”
But while some considered the creature to be an “imaginary being” created by “superstitious dread” and fear, others took the reports seriously.
“The fact of some strange and peculiar tracks having been noticed in the ranges, recorded in the Port Phillip [Melbourne] papers at the time they were discovered, and. many other circumstances, seem to indicate that there is some animal resident there which has not yet been seen by a white man; and from the position of this tract of country, being quite out of any road pursued by European travellers, it is very possible such a thing may exist.”
As big as a man and covered with stiff bristly hair
The article included a description of the creature given by a member of the local Woeworong tribe.
“He is as big as a man and shaped like him in every respect, and is covered with stiff bristly hair, excepting about the face, which is like an old man’s full of wrinkles; he has long toes and fingers, and piles up stones to protect him from the wind or rain, and usually walks about with a stick, and climbs trees with great facility; the whole of his body is hard and sinewy, like wood to the touch.”
Another indigenous local, Worrongby, explained to the writer why they feared the creatures they called “Bundyllcarno”.
“Many years since, some of these creatures attacked a camp of natives in the mountains and carried away some women and children,” Worrongby recounted.
Since that time, they had had a great dread of walking around after sunset.
“The only person now alive [in 1847] who killed one, was Carbora, the great doctor, who had succeeded in striking one in the eye with his tomahawk. On no other part of his body was he able to make the least impression.”
Startled by a most peculiar cry
The writer of the article then described his own experience with what may have been the much-feared hairy wild man of the woods.
“On one occasion, when pheasant shooting, about three days’ journey in the mountains, in company with two natives and a white man, we constructed a bark hut, and had retired to repose, when, shortly afterwards, I was startled by a most peculiar cry, very different from any of the other noises which are heard from the wild animals inhabiting these ranges.
“I should have previously mentioned, that the blacks, after the fatigues of the day, had very soon fallen asleep; but, on the noise rousing them they both started up, and seized their guns with the utmost horror depicted on their countenances. Not a word escaped them, and the mysterious sound still echoed amongst the hills.
“On my asking one, in rather a loud voice, what he was frightened at, he desired me not to speak loud; that the shouts which had aroused them proceeded from a bundyllcarno, or devil, which is the name they have given this thing.
“The noise shortly died away in the distance, and I once more endeavoured to sleep. Neither of my natives would lie down for the night, and as soon as day dawned, they insisted on leaving the scene of this strange occurrence, and going to some distant part.”
For more reports of encounters with the wild man of the woods and other unknown animals, check out Weird Australia: Real Reports of Uncanny Creatures, Strange Sightings & Extraordinary Encounters.