Upon occasion, a researcher is presented a piece of evidence that makes no sense. Such is the case of the Hand of Unknown Origin.
Don Monroe, researcher and adventurer, was called in by a law enforcement official in 2003 because of his background in tracking, hunting and trapping in Montana. They had been given a found hand someone came across not far from a landfill region.
Don arrived at the precinct and brought a cast with him of a hand found out in cave areas in his research area. He wanted to compare the two.
The officer was quite shocked to see how similar they were (cast on the left, hand on the right - below). The hand was not exceptionally large, but the fingers and the angle of the palm all seemed to match up with the cast as much as your hand and my hand might match.
They told him that they could not identify where the hand came from, it was obviously not human. The tips of the fingers had been removed and the hand skinned. This was a talented feat, as Don had skinned most every wild animal in his life experience, even working in taxidermy at one point, and this person, for whatever reason they skinned the hand, had done a good job.
After Don examined it and could not identify it, they let him take the hand. After all, no one wanted that creepy thing around anymore. So, Don took the hand and began to explore its possible origins.
One researcher removed the hairs from a bit of flesh on the hand without permission. As happens often in the field of research, the man did not return them. I think most of us in the study of Bigfoot know a prominent name in the field (referred to as the carnival barker) who has a tendency to take evidence and never return it. Well, this supposed self-professed hair expert was one of those types.
Another researcher who had absolutely no expertise in preservation gave Don an idea to preserve the hand with something you can buy at Home Depot. Wanting to keep it from rotting, he did what the researcher suggested. Sadly, it might have done more damage, as it could not be DNA tested once preserved.
Don took the hand to an anatomy expert and doctor who x-rayed it, studied it, and was so confounded by the qualities of it, that he put the x-rays in his safe just to keep forever as part of an unsolved puzzle.
He did note interesting bone densities at the joints that were quite pronounced.
The doctor x-rayed Don's hand to compare visually for him.
Now, look at the hand of a person with arthritis. You can see (below) that the arthritic hand has displaced joints. Now, look up at the hand with the red lines up above - that is the hand of unknown origin. The joints are not only nicely aligned like a youth, but the bones have densities that show hands literally made to be very powerful.
For a time, the hand was taken away by a flamboyant researcher who promised to learn more about it and then somehow it ended up in the hands of Melba Ketchum, the DNA study leader. Finally, Don was able to locate its whereabouts to retrieve it again.
Still, no clear consensus on what the hand is from.
The other possibility bantered about is a bear paw. Don Monroe has hunted and tracked bears much of his life. He has even found hybridized bears in the north. He has skinned them and he knows them quiet well.
These graphic pics, above, are bear paws from China.
Might this hand be a bear paw?
Here is a bear's paw bones -
Bear paw - note the short bone length
Hand of Unknown Origin
Is it a bear paw? It would have had to be desiccated to such a condition that the pad was gone. Even the bones don't line up at the same angles.
Don brought the doctor a bear paw that he slaughtered from a killed bear. They compared the two and found them dissimilar enough to disregard that possible explanation. (*there is a section of the documentary "Bigfoot Lives" that shows the hand and the doctor explaining the dissimilarities*).
What is the hand of unknown origin?
Without DNA to test, it's impossible to tell, but what it teaches us is invaluable. It teaches us that we must step up our skills to be ahead of the unexplained. The attempts made to identify this taught much about the best methods to go about identifying an item. It also brought about a discussion about unidentified items.
Every time something like this comes along, we have an opportunity to experience how we go about narrowing the field of possibilities down and coming to a final conclusion that is unanimous. It's so rare in the field of study that we actually get real samples we can handle and how we go about it and what we learn from them is immensely important.
NOTE: On an interesting side note, Don sent me this pic (below). He said that in Washington this had been found outside. No one knew where it came from or why it was there. Oddly, he has become the go-to man for lost hands from unknown origins. It has claws that appear almost bear-like, but it is missing the necessary pad. It creates yet another interesting possibility.
Some day, someone might take the hand of unknown origin out again and look it over and make an astute observation, but for now it remains in the Don Monroe Case Files.
Other Installments in the series:
Unusual Carving Unearthed