Sasha Siemel

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Sasha Siemel
Jungle Menace (1937) promotional photo.jpg
Siemel (right) with Frank Buck (left) in Jungle Menace (1937)
Born January 25, 1890
Riga, Latvia (then part of the Russian Empire)
Died February 14, 1970
Montgomery County, Pennsylvania
Occupation actor
Years active 1937
Spouse(s) Edith Bray

Alexander “Sasha” Siemel (Latvian: Aleksandrs Ziemelis; 1890-1970) was an American/Argentinian adventurer, hunter, guide, actor, writer, photographer, and lecturer of Latvian origin. He spoke seven languages and boasted of having experienced more adventure in a single year than most men had witnessed in a lifetime. He is known among sportsmen, claiming to have successfully hunted more than 300 jaguars — or “onças”, as the big cats are colloquially known in parts of Latin America—in the Mato Grosso jungles of Brazil. Siemel's accomplishments in pursuing the large and often dangerous jaguar (the biggest cat in the western hemisphere and third largest in the world) are all the more impressive because on many of his hunts he was allegedly armed only with a spear.

Biography[edit]

Born in Riga, Latvia, Siemel moved to the United States in 1907 at the age of 17. Staying in the states for only two years, he subsequently headed for Argentina where he was employed in a Buenos Aires printing shop. In 1914 Siemel traveled to the jungles of Brazil where he worked as a gunsmith and mechanic in the diamond mining camps of the Mato Grosso. There he met a native who taught him to become a "Tigrero;" that is, a hunter who kills jaguars armed only with a spear. In the article “Interviewing the Tiger-Man”, Siemel states: “… I learned the art from a poor native who had nothing but a home-made spear where I had my high-powered rifle. But I do think I was a good pupil and will admit that it calls for experience and judgment."[1] In the July 1937 issue of Ye Slyvan Archer, he wrote that: “It is only logical and natural that I should (prefer the bow to the rifle). The spear is a primitive weapon, so is the bow. While I would not want to say that hunting big cats with a rifle can not be plenty dangerous and exciting under all circumstances, particularly so in our Matto Grosso jungles, where vision is extremely limited, it seems to me that the bow complements the spear. If I now had any use for a shield besides, I should feel perfectly equipped.”[2]

With his skill as a hunter Siemel worked on ranches of the Pantanal hunting jaguars, or "onças," hired by landowners to protect their livestock. In 1925, he killed his first jaguar using a zagya, a seven-foot spear, making him the first white man to accomplish such a feat. This did not long go unnoticed by the “civilized world." By 1931 a monograph, Green Hell, by Julian Duguid, appeared. The book recounts a 1929 trip across the Pantanal where the author and two fellow adventurers employ Siemel as their guide. Here Siemel is first given the moniker “Tiger Man,” which went on to become the title of Duguid’s 1932 biography of the hunter. Encouraged by Duguid, Siemel began to lecture at explorer clubs throughout the world. In 1937, while lecturing in Philadelphia, Siemel met Edith Bray, a young photographer, who later joined him in the Pantanal. Three years later, at the age of 47, he married Edith, and the two remained in the Pantanal and began raising a family. During this time, Siemel became an actor, appearing in the 1937 fifteen-episode Frank Buck serial Jungle Menace as Tiger Van Dorn. The serial was compiled into a feature film in 1946 and released under the title Jungle Terror.

Sasha, Edith and their children, Sondra, Dora, and Sasha Jr. (Sashino), moved to southeastern Pennsylvania after purchasing a farm in 1947. Bom Retiro, as they named the farm, became Siemel's permanent residence for the rest of his life. Here the Siemels' second son, Carlie, was born in 1955, completing the family. Siemel led a quiet life, lecturing and continuing to lead expeditions to South America. He now spoke six languages: Latvian (learned in the streets in Riga), Russian (in the schools he attended as a youngster in Latvia), German (at home, his mother was German), English (in the USA), Spanish (in Argentina), and Portuguese (in Brazil).

As an author, Siemel had been writing articles for various outdoor magazines, including National Geographic. In 1949, Sasha and Edith co-wrote the book Jungle Wife, an account of family life in the jungle. He penned his autobiography,Tigrero, in 1953. It was to be made into a movie by director Samuel Fuller. Instead, Tigrero is the subject of a 1994 documentary by Mika Kaurismäki. Tigrero: A Film That Was Never Made featured Fuller and Jim Jarmusch visiting the proposed Amazon locations of the film. In 1954, Siemel’s book Jungle Fury was published. (Jungle Fury is the same book as Tigrero but retitled for the UK.)

Siemel was interviewed by journalist Charles Collingwood for the Adventure series produced by the American Museum of Natural History and broadcast on the CBS television network in 1953. The family returned to Brazil briefly in 1959, when Sashino was thirteen years old. His adventure is told in the 1965 book Sashino.

In 1963,The Sasha Siemel Museum and Store opened in Perkiomenville, Pennsylvania, in a century-old former story mill located on the Perkiomen Creek. The museum housed Siemel's collection of hunting trophies, works of art, curios, minerals, shells, coins, weapons, Indian utensils and many other items. “Among the most interesting of the displays are Sasha Siemel’s mementos of his many years of daring adventures and explorations as the only white man to hunt jaguars armed with a hand-made spear. Here are the trophies of many exciting hunts and the equipment used in hunting and capturing jaguars.”[3] Museum admission was 75 cents for adults and 25 cents for children. The museum closed in 1969 after Siemel's last trip to the Pantanal, in which he guided a group of geologists. Sasha Siemel died in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, in 1970 at the age of 80 .

Books[edit]

  • Death in the Silent Places, Peter Hathaway Capstick, 1981, 288p.
  • Sashino, Sasha Siemel, Jr., 1965, 165p.
  • Jungle Fury, Sasha Siemel, 1954
  • Tigrero!, Sasha Siemel, 1953, 266 p.
  • Jungle Wife, Sasha Siemel, Edith Bray Siemel, Gordon Schendel, 1949, 308p.
  • Tiger-Man, Julian Duguid, 1932
  • Green Hell, Julian Duguid, 1931

Magazine Articles[edit]

  • Action Caravan [v1 #1,May 1951]. "Don Marco Keeps the Peace", Sasha Siemel
  • American Bowman Review [Nov. 1945]. "And Sash Potted the Cat"
  • Archery [July 1946]. "Hunting Jaguar in Matto Grosso", Edith Siemel
  • Archery [Aug. 1951]. "Siemels Return From Matto Grosso", Sasha Siemel
  • Argosy [April 28, 1934]. "Men of Daring: Sasha Siemel, Jungle Nomad!", Allen Stockie
  • Argosy [Nov. 1950]. "This One Almost Got Me", Sasha Siemel
  • Argosy [Feb. 1951]. "Cannibals On Our Trail", Sasha Siemel
  • Argosy [Dec. 1953]. "Bold Cat, Bold Hunter", Sasha Siemel
  • Blue Book Magazine [v 60 #1, November 1934]. "Spearing a Jaguar", Sasha Siemel
  • Bowhunting [Apr.1959]. "Tigrero!"
  • Colliers [v 119, June 28, 1947]. "Spear That Tiger", Sasha Siemel
  • Colliers [Aug. 16, 1947]. "At Home With the Jungle Giants"
  • Field and Stream [May 1935]. "Hand Spearing Jaguars", Sasha Siemel
  • Life [March 24, 1952]
  • Life [Oct.26, 1953]. "The Death of Assassino", Sasha Siemel
  • National Geographic [1952, p. 695]. "The Jungle Was My Home", Sasha Siemel
  • Outdoor Life [May 1933]. "White Spearman of the Jungle", Tracey Lewis
  • Outdoor Life [Feb. 1954]. Interview with Edith Siemel
  • Outdoor Life [May 1967]. "Jaguar Man Returns: Sasha Siemel Hunts Again"
  • People Today [Oct.12, 1951]. "Tarzan and Family"
  • Reader’s Digest [Feb. 1954]
  • Rocks & Minerals [March, 2000]. "Collecting Tales From Brazil," Part 2
  • Safari [July/Aug. 1995]. "Sasha Siemel and the Quest for Freedom", Edward O’Brien Jr.
  • Safari [July/Aug. 2002]. "The True Tigrero", Dexter K. Oliver
  • The Archer’s Magazine [Nov. 1952]. "Recent Activities of the Siemel Family", Jane Morrow
  • The Feathered Shaft [June 1949]. "Tiger-Man", E. Johnston
  • The Feathered Shaft [Dec. 1947]. "Sasha Siemel Lectures Thrill Thousands"
  • Time [Apr. 21, 1930]. "Tiger-Man"
  • Time [Aug. 25, 1930]. "Catching Them"
  • Time [Apr. 13, 1931]. "Matto Grosso Rigors"
  • Time [Oct. 5, 1931]. "Hounds v. Big Game"
  • Time [Jun.1, 1931]. "Tiger-Man"
  • Time [Dec. 21, 1931]. "Menu"
  • Time [Sept. 8, 1952]. "The Winning of the West"
  • Traditional Bowhunter [Apr/May 1998]. "Zagaya Hombre", Gene Wensel
  • Ye Slyvan Archer [May 1937]. "Interviewing the Tiger-Man", George Brommers
  • Ye Slyvan Archer [July 1937]. "Why I Prefer the Bow to the Rifle", Sasha Siemel

Films[edit]

  • Jungle Menace, 1937, 15-episode serial starring Frank Buck
  • Jungle Terror, 1946
  • Spear hunting jaguars ; Kontiki [videorecording.] Publisher New York : American Museum of Natural History : CBS, 1953; 1 videocassette (60 min.) : sound, b&w ; 3/4 in

SEGMENT 1: Spear Hunting Jaguars. Charles Collingwood, narrator of the Adventure series, interviews Sasha Siemel, a professional hunter for 35 years who makes his living spear hunting jaguars for cattle ranchers in South America. Siemel, who has lectured at the AMNH, shows films of various forms of wildlife around his home in Matto Grosso, Brazil, and also lets the viewers see his hunting activities: capturing a cub in the jungle and spearing a jaguar. (Jaguars are the largest cats in the New World.) Siemel has killed over 300 jaguars, but only 31 by spear. Siemel demonstrates in the studio the movements of a spear hunter and shows some of his own hand-made spears to the studio while discussing their construction techniques. Film Collection no. 37 Spear hunting jaguars ; Kontiki [videorecording.] Publisher New York : American Museum of Natural History : CBS, 1953.

References[edit]

  1. ^ 1
  2. ^ 2
  3. ^ 3
  • 1 Ye Slyvan Archer [May 1937]. "Interviewing the Tiger-Man", George Brommers
  • 2 Ye Slyvan Archer [July 1937]. "Why I Prefer the Bow to the Rifle", Sasha Siemel
  • 3 Sasha Siemel Museum & Store ad
  • Sashino, Sasha Siemel, Jr., 1965, 165p.
  • Tigrero!, Sasha Siemel, 1953, 266 p.
  • sashasiemel.com