The Totally True (maybe) Story of “Zana the Ape Woman”

My daughter Emma wants to find Bigfoot. She’s been an avid Sasquatch aficionado for years and is PUMPED about our summer trip to the Rockies because she wants to go “Squatching.” She even asked for a GoPro for her birthday, so she can record the inevitable encounter.

My husband rolls his eyes at this, but I encourage it. I don’t know if I actually BELIEVE in Bigfoot, but I prefer to live in a world where he is possible. What kills me is how our friends encourage Emma, too. People have given her Bigfoot dolls and t-shirts. We even have a Bigfoot bottle opener. Just before the holidays, our dear friend Chad brought over a Newsweek for Emma, because the whole issue was dedicated to Bigfoot. It sat untouched in a pile of magazines until last night, when my husband chose it for a bedtime story.

The girls usually read themselves to sleep these days. Emma requested “Family Time” yesterday though, so we all crawled into her bed at the end of the day. That’s when Dave read us the story of Zana the Ape Woman.

I should tell you that Dave always changes the story when he reads to the kids, so it’s hard to tell what’s actually written in the book. He also replaces random words with MUSHROOM. This is what I can remember of Dave’s story.

“In the 1850’s, an ape-like creature was found at the base of the…I can’t read this word…at the base of some Russian mountain range. It was captured by some merchants, who used a box propped up by a stick and a hot dog to lure it in. They had never seen anything like it before, but it was obviously female. She was 6 foot 6, with long red hair all over her body, except for her hairless buttocks. She had a broad nose and sharp white teeth and a face they claimed had the expression of an animal. They brought her back to the city, where she was sold to a local nobleman. He named her Zana and kept her in a fenced in area of his yard. The neighborhood kids made a game of poking her with sharpened sticks, through the cracks of the fence. Zana was eventually tamed and allowed to walk freely around the grounds, though she was never comfortable indoors. She also didn’t like clothes and would tear them off whenever someone dressed her. Zana lived the rest of her life with the nobleman and even gave birth to 4 children, by local men. There were stories of great drunken parties…”

This is where I had to cut him off.

“Wait a minute. It doesn’t really say that, does it?”

“Sure it does! See? And right here it says she lived with the nobleman until she died of hot dog poisoning. Okay, time for bed everybody!”

“WAIT! There’s no way that’s all true!”

“I’m pretty sure he made up the part about the hot dogs,” Emma said before turning off her light.

I clearly can’t trust my husband with this stuff, so I went directly to the Internet to search for Zana the Ape Woman. There are VOLUMES of information about her, but it’s usually from questionable sources, with names like Alternative Media or Doubtful Science. I checked Wikipedia and found information about the DNA tests that were run on Zana‘s offspring and debates about her origin. You can read all of that by clicking HERE (under “Alleged Captive Almas”). The craziest part is that I also found pictures. Take a look at Zana‘s son and daughter. They look pretty normal, right?
But HOLY CRAP! Here’s Zana herself!

I looked at that picture and my heart broke for Zana. Who was this woman? Where did she come from? What did she leave behind when they took her? What about ZANA? What if she was just a person with abnormal genetics and an aversion to clothes? And OMIGOD, was she even real? I mean honestly, that picture could’ve been sketched by one of my kids. What if the whole thing was just a hoax?

The craziest part is that, here I sit, a middle-aged mother of two, questioning the existence of an Ape-Woman. I’m a fully-grown, relatively sane individual and I’m considering the possibility that a Bigfoot-type-creature lived with a bunch of Russians, got drunk and had some babies with them. Do we live in a world where that’s possible?

All I know is that, thanks to Zana, my mind has opened just a little bit more to the possibility of Bigfoot. I’ve also decided that I will join Emma when she goes Squatching this summer…and I might even bring my own GoPro.


  1. Hi Julie, even if Khwit and Natalia’s pictures look pretty right, Zana’s pix is just an hoax. It’s photoshoped based on Da Vinci’s Mona lisa…
    As quoted from your link ‘alleged captive Alma” :
    “In 2015, Sykes reported that he had undertaken DNA tests on saliva samples of six of Zana’s living relatives and a tooth of her deceased son Khwit and concluded that Zana was 100% African but not of any known group, refuting the theory that she was a runaway Ottoman slave. Rather, he believes her ancestors left Africa approximately 100,000 years ago and lived in the remote Caucasus for many generations.”
    The Zana story as much more to do with first african settlements in Europe and Asia than any Bigfoot…I guess that an entire other story, both shouldn’t be mixed up 😉

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