Thursday, March 27, 2014

Creature of the Month: The Monkey Man of Delhi and the Leaping Louts by Micah Hanks

I've been bit and I've been tossed around
By every she-rat in this town
Have you?
And I am just a monkey man
I'm glad you are a monkey woman too

The Rolling Stones, “Monkey Man”

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.

Photo Shared From Cryptidz Wikia

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

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 blue lights.

            The variety 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.

            Indeed, 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.

            Returning 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."

            Perhaps 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.

He is author of several books, including his 2012 New Page Books release, The UFO Singularity, The Ghost RocketsMagic, Mysticism and the Molecule, and Reynolds Mansion. Hanks is an editor for Intrepid Magazine, and consulting editor/contributor for FATE Magazine and The Journal of Anomalous Sciences. He writes for a variety of other publications, and produces a weekly podcast, The GralienReport, which follows his research.

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