Posted by: Loren Coleman on February 15th, 2006
More from my interview with Harold Stephens, modern-day adventurer and explorer. Part one of this interview can be found on Cryptomundo here.
I hate to say this because people think I should be retired. At 79 I am only beginning. Born Dec 3, 1926 in Bridgeville, Pennsylvania. Russian/Hungarian immigrant family. Father changed my name Petrkus Stepanovich to Harold Stephens. Our farm burned down when I was 14. Went to work in the coal mines at 15 and the steel miles at 16. Ninth grade education. WWII was winding down and I joined the Marines, three months later, at 17, I was in the battle of Okinawa. War over my regiment was sent to China.
Conned my way into going to language school in Peking. Was capture by Mao’s forces but escaped. Back in US I was given a special assignment, aide to American Ambassador Caffery in Paris. Went everywhere with him. One day he asked if I was happy. Said I was honored. His reply, "Bull shit. Wouldn’t you rather be me?" He then explained the only difference was an education. He got me into Georgetown University and I quit the marines. Graduated and went into National Security Agency as a snoop. Had gotten married to a Mainline Philadelphia girl in Paris. I didn’t like government service, and wanted to write. Wife unhappy. Two kids, divorced, quit government and went to Tahiti to live and write.
I did marry an island girl (a generation younger), have three boys, and bought a ranch in California to educate the kids in America. With free tickets with THAI, I commuted to Bangkok, as many as six Pacific trips in a year. Got the boys through Berkeley and they returned to Bangkok and set up their own advertising company and have 74 people working for them.
[I've been in Thailand] exactly 40 years ago last month. I signed with the Bangkok Post and Thai Airways as Travel Correspondent, and have been with them ever since. Wrote 4,500 stories for the Post with THAI byline.
I am fascinated with the Lost Cities of Asia, and have been searching for them more than 30 years. I worked the theories with Chet Gorman who did much on the Ban Chiang finds in northern Thailand for the University of Pennsylvania. Unfortunately Chet died a few years ago.
Lake Chini in the Malay jungle is reputed to have a Loch Ness type monster. I took a diving team and went to the lake but it was too murky to find any signs. We did locate some carved stone monoliths. Chini may be the site of a lost city.
One of the divers on that trip, Bill Mathews, went on to make news. He located a Manila Galleon off Saipan, which ran in National Geo. I was with Bill when we located the British Battle ship Repluse in 180′ off water off the Malaysia coat. She was sunk two days after Pearl. Bill was picked up by the Vietnam for spying, and sentenced to death. He spent nine months in solitary, awaiting execution, and we worked hard to get him out. He was finally released.
I am also keenly interested in the search for the lost bones of Peking Man. This is close to home as I was a Marine in China and went to the site in 1948. The US Marines are accused of stealing the bones. I wrote about this in my book Take China: The Last of the China Marines . I was hoping to stir up interest but had little response. I visited the site again a few months ago, outside of Beijing, and I am still working on it.
Regarding the Orang Dalam article in Argosy, I asked Harold Stephens if he knew cryptozoologist Ivan T. Sanderson, who was one of the editors there at the time.
I did know him. He reviewed my photos on [the Malaysian] Bigfoot, and was very encouraging. Thought highly of him. Milt Machlin was editor of Argosy and ran a couple of my stories every year.
Milt Machlin is often remembered today for his book, The Search for Michael Rockefeller, about the disappearance of the young Rockefeller family member during an expedition into the rainforests of tribal New Guinea.