Fables of monsters attacking small hamlets and villages in
remote corners of ancient countrysides are not unusual, even when such accounts
seem to spill over from the pages of fairytales of yesteryear. Within the last
several hundred years, there have been reports of raucus beasts that attacked
parts of the French countryside, such as the fabled Beast of Gevaudan which I
recounted in an earlier installment here on the New Page Creatures Blog. Similar strange reports have recounted wild men
with manes running down their backs, as was reportedly found in Ireland, of all
places, some time in the 1100s. And modern areas like the Cannock Chase in
England still boast their legends of strange monkey-men that haunt the roads
and ridges by night.
Whether it’s fact, or purely
folklore, these stories lend a touch of comfort to the uncertain mind, in a
way. They allow for us to express our fear of monsters in an enjoyable way
through the recognition of myths and legends, rather than having to endure the
fright of encountering such a beast in the waking world. Indeed, there is
something truly unsettling about the notion that any such encounter could ever
occur in reality; and yet, in the spring of 2001, this is precisely what many
have said did happen in one of the
largest cities of the Eastern world.
It was on the unluckiest of days,
the thirteenth of May that year, that reports of a strange, and violent beast began to emanate from the
capital of India at New Delhi. On that day, at least fifteen individuals had
reported being injured by something, leaving
them injured with bites and other injuries from their encounters. Authorities
had been concerned about a wild animal that may have been operating in the
area, but those who had been attacked said that the creature, whatever it was,
walked like a man, and carried itself with superhuman prowess.
Two days later, another incident
occurred where a small group of people had claimed they say a “monkey man” that
chased them; no injuries were reported in this instance, other than a pregnant
mother who had fallen down a stairway during the panic that ensued. Similar
injuries would occur in the town of Noida, where one man fell off of a building
in the aftermath of another of these monkey man panics. Elsewhere, the unkempt appearance of a Hindu
sadhu resulted in a mob of frightened people beating him, after he was mistaken
for being the dreaded monkey man; then on May 18, a motorist was similarly
mistaken for the beast, resulting in a similar attack by fearful locals.
What, if anything, was the Monkey
Man of Delhi? Many have compared the beast to the Himalayan Yeti or its cousin,
the famed Abominable Snowman of the Americas known today as Bigfoot, with some
reports marking the Indian monster well above seven feet in height, and
possessing not only superhuman strength, but the curious ability to leap great
distances, often making its escape by ascending to the tops of buildings and
leaping from roof to roof. These epic reports were likened to some
manifestation of the Indian god Hanuman, whose hybrid appearance bore aspects
of both man and ape. However, despite these depictions of Delhi’s monster as
being of truly monstrous stature, generally the more consistent reports of the
Monkey Man topped the creature off at just four feet tall. But perhaps the very
strangest aspect of this beast was the fact that in many cases, it hardly
seemed to resemble any “monkey” at all.
Hanuman Shared from http://mohansuniverse.wordpress.com/
A variety of alternative
descriptions paint the picture of a small, helmeted man, clad in armor or some
kind of bodysuit with large buttons upon the breast. Additionally, many of
those alleging to have been injured by the beast described having been clawed
by what appeared to be metallic claws the monster wore. Stranger still, there
are entirely different reports from either of these monkey-like or armored-man
scenarios, which describe the creature as looking bandaged like an Egyptian
mummy, giving it a more classically horrific appearance the likes of which one
would expect in American cinema. Still others would describe the beast as being
“machine like”, and while resembling a monkey, also sporting blinking red and
of interpretations presented here, in their inconsistency, steer us away from a
singly, broad-reaching phenomenon that had been facing the people of Delhi
between 2001 and 2002. Perhaps the most intriguing of these descriptions is
that of the helmeted dwarf with armor and metallic claws, and not for any
reliability that it gives us, so much as its similarity to other manifestations
in the lore of Forteana.
there is more than a passing resemblance between the Monkey Man reports in 2001
and the famous leaping lout, Spring Heeled Jack, who taunted and tormented
London in the 1830s. Obviously, the metallic helmet and claws in the Delhi case
from 2001 bear obvious resemblance here, in that the Spring Heeled Jack
character was fitted with similar destructive accoutrements, in addition to
purportedly possessing the ability to eject blue flames from his mouth. But
there are other parallels of interest; while it is less often discussed in
relation to the Spring Heeled Jack reports, some of the early encounters that
are discussed among these legends involve a hairy beast, with some describing
it as bear-like. Consider this testimony, shared by Sir John Cowan, Lord Mayor
of London, during a public session on January 9, 1838, in which he read a
letter sent to him by a constituent who summarized the various faces of Spring
Heeled Jack, and in all its unconventional varieties:
It appears that some individuals (of,
as the writer believes, the highest ranks of life) have laid a wager with a
mischievous and foolhardy companion, that he durst not take upon himself the
task of visiting many of the villages near London in three different disguises
— a ghost, a bear, and a devil; and moreover, that he will not enter a
gentleman's gardens for the purpose of alarming the inmates of the house. The
wager has, however, been accepted, and the unmanly villain has succeeded in
depriving seven ladies of their senses, two of whom are not likely to recover,
but to become burdens to their families.
It is indeed difficult to dismiss
the fact that a hairy, manlike beast was even reported in the early cases
involving Spring Heeled Jack, which many attributed to varieties of pranks that
were being played by some individual with the sadistic intention of evoking
pure terror in the neighborhood. Speculation as to who it might have been is
well beyond the focus of our present discussion, however, aside from noting
that the similarities do exist.
again to the Asian world, there have been further reports of more bonafide
Monkey Men in other locales, such as Bukit Panjang in Singapore. "We were
always told as children when in the Kampung not to go near the forest at night
due to the Monkey Man, “ one local recounted, as collected by Richard Freeman
and, subsequently, Jon Downes of the Centre for Fortean Zoology. “Of course we
never saw it ourselves but it was always some uncle or friend of the family who
had seen it. Once we were shown these footprints near the forest road, and I
remember the strong urine smell. Whenever we heard shrieks coming from the
jungle we would tell each other- don't disturb the Monkey Man."
there truly is little more to these myths, really, than the fact that they are
indeed myths, aimed at sending children off to bed at a reasonable hour, and
keeping them there under the mild pretense of fear, as presented by such
archetypal things that go bump in the night. And yet, in Delhi around the turn
of the century, there had indeed seemed to be far more at play; physical
attacks, and long reaching theories about who, or perhaps what, may have been accosting people in Delhi. Was there a “leaping
lout” the likes of Spring Heeled Jack that surfaced in the area, or had some
wild, disoriented beast appeared, causing panic and fear in the region? It’s
almost impossible to speculate, although the sociological components to this
mystery will perhaps remain among the more telling clues in this curious
narrative of a man-beast in modern India.
Micah Hanks is a writer,
researcher, lecturer, and radio personality whose work addresses a variety of
scientific concepts and unexplained phenomena. Over the last decade, his
research has examined a variety of approaches to studying the unexplained,
cultural phenomena, human history, and the prospects of our technological
future as a species as influenced by science.
Paul Bell was a keen fisherman who I met back in early 2001 and who had a remarkable story to relate of truly monstrous proportions. And when I say “remarkable,” I’m not exaggerating. His summer 1976 encounter, on a pleasant and picturesque stretch of English canal, involved not just one breed of bizarre beast but two.
The further I dug into the story, however, the more and more convinced I became that the diabolical monsters were actually one and the same - albeit in an acutely strange fashion. If that all sounds very odd, well, it is! Bear with me, however, and all will soon become clear.
Bell told me how, in July and August of 1976, he spent several Saturdays sat on the banks of England’s Shropshire Union Canal with his rods, reels, bait, cans of beer, and favorite beef and onion sandwiches, soaking in the intense heat of what was without doubt an absolutely scalding hot couple of months.
I seriously doubt that anyone who grew up in England, and who is old enough to remember the summer of 1976, will ever quite forget those truly extraordinary temperatures that briefly, and memorably, plunged the entire nation into complete and utter scalding chaos. But it was far stranger things than the occasional extreme nature of the British weather that Paul Bell had fixed on his mind.
He told me how, on one particular Saturday afternoon, he was sat near the water’s edge on a small wooden stool that he always carried with him, when he was “literally frozen solid” by the sight of “what at first I thought was a big log floating down the cut, about sixty or seventy feet away.” According to Bell, however, it was no log; it was something else entirely. As it got closer, Bell was both astonished and horrified to see a large “dark brown and black colored” eel or snake-like creature – possibly ten feet in length or a little bit more – moving slowly in the water, with its head – that “looked like a black sheep” - flicking rapidly from side to side. Although he had an old Polaroid camera with him, said Bell, he never even thought to take a photograph. Instead, he merely stared in both awe and shock as the animal cruised past him, before finally vanishing out of sight.
I had heard similar accounts to Bell’s on several previous occasions – namely, of giant eels roaming British waterways, and particularly those of the West Midlands. In that sense, Bell’s story was not that unusual to me at all, even though it certainly involved what was without doubt an unknown animal of truly impressive proportions.
But what elevated matters to a far stranger level was the fact that Bell claimed, in quite matter of fact fashion, I have to confess, that the following Saturday he was fishing in practically the same spot when “I got the feeling I was being watched” and saw something equally monstrous – yet manifestly different in nature and appearance. It was nothing less than a large, hairy, ape-like creature!
Peering across the width of the canal, Paul was both horrified and petrified to see a dark, hairy face staring intently at him out of the thick, green bushes. The head of the animal was unmistakably human-like “but crossed with a monkey” said Bell, who added that “as soon as it saw me looking at it, up it went and ran right into the trees and I lost it.” He further explained: “That was it; a second or two was all at the most. But as it got up and ran I knew it was a big monkey. There’s nothing else it could have been. But what flummoxed me more than seeing it though, was what was it doing there?”
It has to be said that most people go through their entire lives never, ever encountering an animal of the unknown variety even once. But here was a man claiming to have seen no less than two completely different monsters, but in pretty much the same location and time-frame. Of course, the skeptic might state that Paul Bell was nothing more than a hoaxer or a fantasist. There is, however, a far more intriguing possibility. It’s a highly disturbing possibility, too.
Within the centuries-old folklore, mythology and culture of the people of Scotland, tales are told of an infernal beast known as the Kelpie, which translates as water-horse. It’s a violent monster that spends most of its time lurking in pools, ponds, lakes and rivers, waiting to pounce on unwary walkers that pass by. It’s also a monster of distinctly paranormal proportions, one which thrives on killing the living and devouring their souls. Like the classic werewolf, the Kelpie is a shape-shifter.
Boy on White Horse by Theodor Kittelsen
Rather notably, there are three particular forms into which the Kelpie most often mutates. One is that of a horse, hence the term of water-horse. The creature positions itself by the edge of the water, doing its absolute utmost to invite those that encounter the “horse” to mount it. That, however, is always the deadly mistake of the traveler, as invariably the Kelpie then reacts in violent fashion and charges head-long into the depths of the waters, thus drowning the already-doomed rider in the process.
There are two other forms into which the Kelpie can shape-shift: one is a creature of the water (in some cases, a serpent-like monster and, in others, a mermaid-style entity) and the other is a large hair-covered, humanoid beast. This, of course, brings us right back to the matter of Paul Bell and his summer 1976 encounter. It must be said that, as incredible as it sounds, Bell’s story is highly suggestive of a relatively modern day encounter with an ancient Kelpie. After all, on both occasions Bell was situated close to the water – and given the nature of the experiences, arguably perilously close. And, at that very same water’s edge, and on the same stretch of canal, he encountered two Kelpie-style archetypes: a water-beast and a hairy, ape-like creature.
Paul Bell was, I strongly suspect, very lucky not to have been dragged to his death in the darkened depths of that accursed waterway. And with that thought in mind, I urge you to tread very carefully should you ever find yourself in the vicinity of England’s Shropshire Union Canal. The Kelpie may be coming for you too…