The Unexplained: The Peking Man Is Missing


These hominids, species of homo erectus, lived 500, 000 years ago.  Some have called the creatures The Missing Link.

One of my top favorite unsolved mysteries involves Peking Man and the Empire State Building in NYC.

Peking Man is not an individual, but a group of fossilized bones coming from 40 individuals that were sought out and found in the Zhoukoudian Cave of China in 1926.  Swedish geologist, Gunner Andersson made the discovery.  It is uncertain if the hominids lived in the cave, or if they were brought there to the lair of wild animals, probably giant hyenas.

These hominids, species of homo erectus, lived 500, 000 years ago.  Some have called the creatures The Missing Link–and until it was the consensus of scientific opinion that early man originated in Africa, it was thought that China may have been the point of origin, because of these special bones.

Peking  Man discovered fire and it’s benefits and also made and used tools.

The bones were being housed in the Cenozoic Research Laboratory at the Peking Union Medical College, once American owned.

When WWII was getting underway, thoughtful scientists decided these fossilized bones must be protected.  The bones were parceled up into footlockers and given to a 220 man detachment of Marines – they were going to try to get them to the U.S. in the baggage of Col. William Ashhurst and Dr. William Foley, Marine Medical Officer.


Sara Marie Hogg

During some minor skirmishes, things got jumbled up a bit.  Foley was even taken prisoner.  Baggage was dispersed, and no one knows where.

It is a haunting mystery for the dedicated scientists who want to study the bones, and it is a great loss to man’s history.

There was a rumor that the Chinese people would consider anyone who could find the missing bones, a hero.  A wealthy stockbroker heard the rumor when he was visiting China in 1972.  It started his wheels turning.

Christopher Janis decided to offer a reward for information.  First, he offered $5,000 through newspaper ads.  It wasn’t long before he had two promising leads.

One Chinese businessman said he had a friend that was in possession of the bones.  It would be dangerous to get them out, and to do so would have a $750,000 price tag.  Janus was very interested. but required some evidence before handing out any money.

Meanwhile, Janus had also been contacted by the widow of a Marine.  The Marine who had died seven years prior had left her a wooden chest of bones and had impressed how important the bones were–and valuable.

As Janus and the widow discussed negotiations on the phone, all of the suggested meeting places were rejected by the woman.  She was very skittish.  She said the only place she would meet Janus was on the top of the Empire State Building.

Janus went there at the appointed time and was becoming discouraged when she didn’t show up.  Then, there she was, at his side.

Her eyes scanned all about, constantly.  She was extremely paranoid and suspicious.  She emphasized that her husband said the bones were ill-gotten.  She did not want problems for herself.

Janus asked for some evidence and she withdrew a photograph from her purse.

Those were the bones!  They had to be!  Janus was convinced as he examined the photograph.

The lady then caught a glimpse of a tourist taking pictures.  He aimed a camera right at them.  “It’s a trap!”  She snatched her photograph and ran off into the crowd before Janus could follow her.  She had made it into an elevator and disappeared.

Janus was crushed, but he did not give up.  By placing newspaper ads, he was able to get the woman to call back up, but he could never arrange another meeting.  She was too frightened.  She did send him a photograph of the contents of the chest.  Then, he never heard from her again.

What happened to the woman and the chest of bones?  Who inherited them?  Did they wind up in a landfill or flea market, if she is no longer among the living?

A Smithsonian Magazine article in 2012 has another story:  The son of a Marine contacted a Paleo-anthropologist to say his father dug up a box of bones in China while digging fox holes.  The Marines were scared of the discovery and left them there.  The fox hole area is now covered by a parking lot.  The area may have access soon due to construction developments.

Peking Man where are you?

Please click HERE to find Sara Marie Hogg’s mystery novel, The Scavenger’s Song, on Amazon.


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