Meet Brooklyn's Very Own Yeti

For the last few winters, an anonymous man has roamed the snowy streets of New York in a yeti outfit. Just like the elusive creature he dresses up as, tracking him down was no easy task.

By Javier Peinado

The wildlife of New York City consists of rats, more rats, some squirrels, plenty of pigeons, and a yeti. (Art:  Millie Pratchett )

The wildlife of New York City consists of rats, more rats, some squirrels, plenty of pigeons, and a yeti. (Art: Millie Pratchett)

Williamsburg, Brooklyn: the land of hipsters, overpriced coffee, and, sure, why not, abominable snowmen. Because it turns out that Bigfoot's albino cousin isn't hiding in the icy peaks of the Himalayas after all, but has instead been roaming the streets of New York's trendiest nabe.

Let’s go back in time for a moment, around 10 years ago from now. The Black Eyed Peas’ “I Gotta Feeling” was the feel-good song of the moment and Jay Z and Alicia Keys had just crafted the New York hymn “Empire State of Mind.” Moviegoers were still figuring out if they loved Avatar or absolutely hated it. Scientists found water molecules on the moon, the Yankees won the World Series, and we had to say farewell, this time for real, to poor Patrick Swayze.

Meanwhile, while all that and much more was happening, some fellow in Brooklyn had a revolutionary idea: to don a yeti outfit and wander around outside during a snowstorm. It was an odd plan, but brilliant nonetheless. The harsh New York winter needed a relatable face, a jolly ambassador during the city’s frigid temperatures able to cheer up the frozen hearts of those stranded inside their homes.

Sure enough, the Brooklyn Yeti’s popularity did nothing but rise after that first and legendary stroll, gaining attention pretty quickly not only from pedestrians and commuters but also from newspapers and TV stations. The Brooklyn Yeti became a local sensation almost overnight, and soon people were actively trying to spot him or anything similar to a white gorilla walking around Bedford Avenue whenever the weather man forecasted snow.

Facebook/ @BrooklynYeti

Facebook/@BrooklynYeti

Occasionally, he’d cross the East River, too. Eagled-eyed New Yorkers have spotted the cryptid lurking in Manhattan neighborhoods such as Union Square.

It’s been about two years since anyone’s spotted the Brooklyn Yeti again and his fame seems to have fizzled out a bit as a result of his hiatus. But I haven’t forgotten about him — not by a long shot. After toughing it through one of the worst winters in my five years as a New Yorker without catching a single glimpse of him, I knew I had to find the Brooklyn Yeti — and I wasn’t going to stop looking until I succeeded in my mission.

Tracking a yeti is no easy task. Many brave people before me have tried to in the past, spending their life-savings funding expeditions to Nepal or other remote and mostly inaccessible parts of the planet. Fortunately, unlike his Nepali relatives, the Brooklyn Yeti has an online presence, which made things slightly easier for me. There’s a delightfully quirky website about him with a contact form, a Facebook page and even an Instagram account all managed by the beast itself.

To really get to know the Brooklyn Yeti, trace his current whereabouts, and manage to crack the code of his true identity is a different matter. But, after many days of research and tireless dedication, I finally found out his real name and occupation.

Of course, I will never say what they are.

Revealing his secrets would spoil all the fun and kill the mystery surrounding Brooklyn’s most charismatic creature. My sacred duty, therefore, is not only to respect his privacy but to keep this glorious urban myth alive for the generations to come. So, for anonymity purposes, let’s just call him Pete.

Technically, when I reached out to Pete, he was in his spring hibernation trance.

“I’ve actually never given this many words to anyone,” he told me. “I’m usually not a talker. I’m a walker.”

And it’s true. Pete’s actions speak volumes, as he does his thing with a silent, determined passion that allows him to transform himself into a yeti. A real yeti, that is, because if you ask Pete, his furry white suit is not a disguise.

“I don’t actually wear a costume,” he explained. “A costume is what many people put on for Halloween, or, sadly, for work, like wearing a superfluous, constricting piece of cloth around one’s neck and all in the name of earning a wage. When and why did you start wearing your ‘man suit,’ your existential costume of a human being?” he asked me, citing a scene from the cult-classic movie Donnie Darko.

OK, so Pete is clearly not a corporate chump, and apparently he’s not human either. Instead, he’s the embodiment of an outlandish creature who is guided by one purpose and one purpose only: to make people happy.

“Look around and pay attention during your next rush hour subway ride,” Pete said, “and tell me how many people you see smiling. I like the idea that I may bring a smile to someone who might otherwise not be [smiling]. It’s hard to not feel a little happy when you are either smiling or laughing.”

Facebook/ @BrooklynYeti

Facebook/@BrooklynYeti

Pete loves to surprise people right before suddenly disappearing around a corner. Because that’s the key that makes his whole idea worthwhile: to allow others to catch a glimpse of the Brooklyn Yeti and then scurry out of sight the moment they begin to realize what the hell just happened. So, sorry not sorry. If you ever see the Brooklyn Yeti don’t expect to get a selfie with him or to catch him having a casual chit-chat with fans. That’s not the yeti way of doing things.

Want to see him in the wild? Be more aware of your surroundings, especially if you happen to be around Williamsburg in the middle of a blizzard.

“I prefer the winter months, particularly when it’s snowy outside,” Pete said.  “Some of the worst winter weather is when I’m most likely wandering the longest.”

He enjoys it most “when the streets haven’t all been properly plowed and the sidewalks are relatively empty.” Usually, during those times, the only humans who catch sight of him are city workers. So, if you are lucky enough to spot him, treasure the moment.

And fear not: the Brooklyn Yeti is not aggressive. Or, at least, he doesn’t fancy humans for his diet.

“I don’t hunt and I gave up eating meat. I like pizza, though. I just love a white pie with ricotta cheese that doesn’t have any red tomato or meat sauce on it.”

Not exactly a shocker, since the hairy hominid is a New Yorker after all — in body, soul, and fur. It even makes sense, if you think about it, that something as outlandish as a yeti could feel at home in a city as eclectic and varied as the Big Apple.  

“I will occasionally ride the L train and take a seat, cross my legs, and pull out a newspaper to read. And about nine out of 10 people pay absolutely no mind whatsoever.”

This, Pete says, is why he loves his city. Everyone has seen everything!”

Of course, not everything about New York City is perfect — even a yeti knows that. During our chat, Pete made no effort to hide his disdain towards the “over-the-top hipsters that live off their trust funds” or the fact that his beloved city decided to copyright “and enforce” the iconic “I Love NY” emblem.

Speaking of trademarks and controversial brand use, get ready for this: Pete has even stood his ground against corporate giants, such as Saks Fifth Avenue. The Brooklyn Yeti voiced complaints about a holiday campaign based on the concept of a friendly New York City yeti that the iconic retailer launched a few years ago.

Although the company’s marketing department claimed they “invented” the concept, Pete wisely pointed out “the one to two degrees of separation” between executives from Saks’ marketing department and the people following his Facebook page.  

And guess what? It worked. Saks pulled out the yeti campaign the next year. Whether this was due to Pete’s complaints or not, one thing’s for sure:  No one outplays a yeti on its own turf.

Facebook/ @BrooklynYeti

Facebook/@BrooklynYeti

Pete is convinced that part of his popularity relies on the fact that people just love sasquatches and yetis. He’s analyzed the evolution of these concepts over the past decade, and has seen an evident uptick in the number of products, such as board games and even films, that are about the two creatures.

“People seem to really like all the fun furriness,” he said. “So I guess that sort of makes me a lucky fellow, being myself a yeti.”

So what does the future hold for the mighty Brooklyn Yeti? Although it’s impossible to know for sure, Pete has some pretty cool ideas.

“What I’d really like to see in the near future is for a publishing company to approach me and tell me that they’d like to make a children’s book. It could tell the story of an N.Y.C. yeti who wakes up in Brooklyn and then takes the subway and walks past all the wonderful sites and attractions that the city has to offer.”

So there you go, fancy New York publishers searching for the next insanely cute hit. The Brooklyn Yeti is your guy. He’s ready and waiting for your call.

That being said, summer is approaching so don’t expect to catch sight of the fabled beast any time soon. You’ll have to wait a good six or so months for him to emerge from his hibernation. But when that time comes, keep your eyes peeled. He might just bring a smile to your frozen face.

Facebook/ @BrooklynYeti

Facebook/@BrooklynYeti

 

READ MORE WEIRD STUFF