Thursday, April 30, 2015

Weird News of the Week

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Planet of the Apes

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Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Creature of the Month: Puzzling Primates by Oberon Zell-Ravenheart

“…these huge creatures walk constantly upon their hind feet, and never yet were taken alive; they watch the actions of men, and imitate them as nearly as possible;…they build huts nearly in the shape of those of men, but live on the outside; and when one of their children dies, the mother carries it in her arms until it falls to pieces; one blow of their paw will kill a man, and nothing can exceed their ferocity.”
        -- Mr. & Mrs. Bowditch, in the late 1800s, describing the Ingheena of Africa1

Fig. 0. Bigfoot statue by Oberon Zell

While reports of giant, hairy, man-like creatures occur worldwide throughout much of recorded history, the great majority of contemporary sightings come from America’s Pacific Northwest, an unexplored wilderness extending over 125,000 square miles. In this vast territory, these creatures are commonly known as “Bigfoot” or Sasquatch. Similar, perhaps even identical, beings are called Kaptar in the Russian Caucasus, Chuhuna in northeast Siberia, Almas in Mongolia, Kangmi in Tibet, Yowies in Australia, and Yeti in Nepal.
In medieval Europe they were known as Wodwoses (Anglo-Saxon for “wood man”), or simply as “hairy wild men,” and were a popular subject of illustration. Also called Wudewasa, Woodhouses, or Ooser, they appear in many medieval paintings, church carvings, and illuminated manuscripts. They are often shown wielding large rude clubs, and sometimes they wear simple kilts of green leaves. Clearly distinguished from apes and monkeys, they were frequently represented by costumed actors in plays, masques, and dramas. Some researchers feel that they might be relict Neanderthals, and they are very likely to be the basis of legends of giant Trolls and Ogres.

Fig. 1. Hairy Wild Man: “The Fight in the Forest” by Hans Burgkmair d.Ä.

There are even legends of giant apes in the British Isles, where they were greatly feared. The Ferla Mohr (Gaelic, “Big Grey Man”) was an aggressive grey ape supposedly living in mountainous areas of Scotland. It was said to stand 20 feet tall!
Similar creatures collectively referred to as “Giant Monkeys” have been reported throughout the globe, probably involving several species. They range from 4-6 feet tall, with barrel chests, thick arms, powerful legs, and bushy tails. Smaller ones are said to resemble kangaroos. They have fierce-looking baboon-like faces and pointy ears. Their fur may be short to shaggy, varying from red to black. Their three-toed tracks are 12-15 inches long, with the larger ones being thinner. American versions are often called “Devil Monkeys.”

Fig. 2. Devil Monkeys.


The Bigfoots (Bigfeet?) of the Pacific Northwest seem to average about eight feet tall, and leave footprints about 18 inches long. The color of their hair ranges from reddish-brown through grey to black. Males, females and infants are reported, often in family groups. They usually display shy, benign curiosity in contacts with humans, and they seem to be basically nocturnal, for which they have been designated Homo nocturnus (“night man”), a name originally set aside by Carolus Linnaeus (1707-1778) for just such a creature. By all accounts, they seem to have no language, do not make or use tools, and have no mastery of fire—the very qualities that distinguish humans from all other animals. The designation “Bigfoot” first appeared to the public in an article in the Oct. 5, 1958 issue of the Humboldt Times by columnist and editor Andrew Genzoli, based on enormous 16”x7” footprints discovered at a construction site in Bluff Creek Valley, in Northern California. Interestingly, this is the same area as the controversial Roger Patterson sighting and brief film of a large and distinctly female Bigfoot nearly a decade later, on Oct. 20, 1967.2

Fig. 3. Female Bigfoot from Patterson film.

Bigfoot seems pretty straightforward as a cryptid, or “hidden animal.” We have many sightings, with consistent descriptions as to all aspects of appearance. Males, females, and even young have been reported, as well as entire family groups. Countless eponymous footprints have been found, cast, collected and analyzed. Really clear ones obtained from smooth river mud show unique dermal ridges, depth impressions consistent with expected weight distribution for such a large bipedal hominid, and peculiarly non-human features such as a double-balled big toe and extended talus (heel) which brings the balance of weight more to the center of the foot. The spacing of prints indicated a reasonable walking stride for the reported leg lengths, as does the flexion of the foot with each step. While not without controversy, several blurry photos and some film footage have also been taken, and these precisely match the descriptions of eyewitnesses. Hair samples have been retrieved from branches where the creatures have passed, and subjected for DNA analysis. This has indicated anthropoid origin, but of no identifiable species. Feces have been examined and found to contain unknown parasites.

Canadian Man-Apes
Canada also claims another hairy hominid like Bigfoot, but this one is considered by the local Indians to be quite differentand far more dangerous, preying on humans. It is called Wendigo; also Windigo, Windago, Wiendigo, Witigo, Witiko, or Wee-Tee-Go. The most feared creature in Inuit and Algonkian folklore, it is described as a lanky, 15-ft-tall “man-beast,” covered in matted fur, with glowing eyes, long yellow canine teeth, and a hyper-extended tongue. But some eyewitnesses insist that the creature is hairless, with a sallow, jaundiced skin. Popularized by Algernon Blackwood’s short story, “The Wendigo” (1907), legends of this beast date back centuries. This name is also applied to an alligator-like monster said to inhabit Berens Lake, Ontario, where it tears up fishing nets.

Fig. 4. Wendigo.

But with everyone carrying digital cameras these days, it seems only a matter of time before more concrete evidence is obtained in the form of indisputable images or—the Holy Grail of all monster-hunters—a physical specimen. Even a corpse or skeletal remains would provide the long-awaited proof necessary for scientific recognition. Indeed, given the history and frequency of sightings, it seems incredible that such a creature could have eluded pursuit for so long! But we have to keep in mind that Bigfoot’s territory is vast—hundreds of thousands of square miles of dense and ancient Taiga forest blanketing not only the Pacific Northwest, but most of Canada and Siberia as well. New animals are still being discovered in much smaller habitats, such as Cambodia (the forest ox or Kouprey, Bos sauveli), Vietnam (the Saola or Vu Quang ox, Pseudoryx nghetinhensis), the Philippines, New Guinea, and pockets of equatorial Africa, and a reasonably intelligent hominid that didn’t want to be found could certainly remain hidden indefinitely!
In fact, large hairy hominids have been known for centuries by the native peoples of North America’s northern states and provinces, such as California’s hairy big man, Oh-mah. The popular name Sasquatch was coined in the 1920s by teacher J.W. Burns, who amalgamated several native Canadian words, such as the Salish se’sxac, meaning “wild man.” This is only one of over 150 local names for a giant hairy hominid reported by local Indians for centuries as inhabiting the forests from Alaska down through British Columbia. It is even featured in native folklore and iconography, such as the Native American masks shown in Fig. 5.

Fig. 5. Native American “Ape” masks.

Legends of the Nootka and Salish Indians of the Pacific Northwest tell of a massive hairy hominid covered in black bristles. Called Matlose, or “Caliban of the Nootka” (after the monstrous character in Shakespeare’s The Tempest), it has ferocious teeth and claws like a bear. Its terrible cry paralyzes its prey.
Haunting the folklore of the Tanaina Indians of subarctic Alaska is a giant biped they call the “Hairy Man.” Dwelling in the mountains, he is covered in long grey hair, and his eyes are said to have no pupils. He is not aggressive to humans unless they threaten him.
Smaller monkey-like creatures are also described in the traditions of the Ojibwa and Cree Indians of Minnesota. Called Memegwicio (“Men of the Wilderness”), they are said to be the size of 12-year-old children, with hair-covered faces.
Canada’s Sasquatch was first seen by white men in 1811, and since then hundreds of sightings and encounters have been reported. It is said to stand 6-9-feet tall (sometimes as much as 12), weigh 600-900 lbs, and be covered with shaggy black or reddish-brown hair. It has long arms, and an ape-like face with a flat nose. Walking upright like a man, it leaves human-like footprints (that is, with the big toe in front rather than to the side as in apes) up to 20 inches long. It also has a distinct and very foul stench, like a combination of skunk and wet dog—a universal characteristic of large hairy hominids wherever they are reported.
There is every reason to think that Bigfoot, Sasquatch, Matlose, Wendigo, and all the other names by which these creatures are known represent a single species, which probably includes at least one variety of the Himalayan Yeti. The burning question seems to be: is it human, or ape?

Fig. 6. Sasquatch family picking berries.

Yeti and other Asian Anthropoids

As North America has its Bigfoot, Asia is home to the even more famous Yeti. Also known as Gin-sung, Metoh-kangmi, Nyalmo, Rakshi Bompo, Rimi, Thloh-Mung, the “Wildman of the Himalayas,” or, famously though erroneously, the “Abominable Snowman,”  this is a snow-dwelling “man-ape” said to be living high up in the cold, desolate Himalayan mountains of Tibet and Nepal. It is described by eyewitnesses as 7-10 feet tall, and covered in long coarse hair—silver-white in the snowy mountains, and orange-brown in the lower forests. As with its American cousin, the evidence is mostly hair samples, footprints, and questionable sightings. Upon examination, however, supposed “yeti scalps” preserved in lamaseries have turned out to be ritual objects fabricated from the skin of the goat-like serow; and mummified “yeti hands” were those of langur monkeys.

Fig. 7. Yeti, as drawn by Bernard Heuvelmans (p. 78)

According to the Sherpas, there are actually four types of Yeti, distinguished by size, with teh implying a flesh-and-blood animal. The largest (13-16 feet tall) is the Nyalmo or Dzu-Teh (“Big Thing”), the medium-sized one (7-9 feet) is the Rimi or Meh-Teh (“Manlike Thing”), and the smaller (man-sized) and best-known is the Rakshi Bompo or Yeh-Teh (“That Thing There”). Many believe that the Yeh-Teh is simply the Nepal Gray Langur monkey (Semnopithecus schistaceus), also called the Hanuman Langur after the Hindu Monkey-God, which are fairly common in the higher plains of the Himalayas, and that the Dzu-Teh is really a Himalayan Black Bear (Ursus thibetanus). Then there is the Teh-Lma (“That There Little Thing”), the least known, said to be 3-4 feet tall, covered in reddish-grey hair, with hunched shoulders and a pointy head. Certainly an unidentified monkey, it eats frogs and other small animals.

Fig. 8. Hanuman Langur (semnopithecus schistaceus)

West of the Himalayas, in eastern Afghanistan, as well as the Shishi Kuh valley in the Chitral region of Northern Pakistan, dwells a shaggy hominid called Barmanu (“Big Hairy One”). Like the American Skunk Ape, it is noted for its revolting stench.
Although the only recognized ape outside of Africa is the Orangutan (Pongo), a remarkable number of other unknown apelike creatures are continually being reported throughout Asia and Indonesia. Although there seem to be far too many distinct species to be credible, locals insist that they really exist, awaiting “discovery” by modern science.

Fig. 9. Almas

Most famous perhaps are the Almas, or “Mongolian Wild Men.” Also known by the names Albasty, Abnuaaya, Abnuaaya, Almasti, they are said to dwell in the Altai Mountains near Tien Shan in the province of Sinkiang, Mongolia. These “wild people” live like animals and are covered with hair, except on their hands and faces. While this description would seem to describe some sort of unknown ape, Dr. Myra Shakley and other cryptozoologists have suggested they may be remnant Neanderthals—or Denisovans.
In Siberia, hairy hominids or “Man-Apes” called Chuchunaa (Tungus, “outcasts”) have been seen clothed in animal skins, leading some researchers to speculate that they may represent a relic population of Neanderthals. Also known as Mulen, “Bandit;” or “Siberian Snowman,” they have been described by eyewitnesses as being tall and human-like, with broad shoulders, a protruding brow, long, matted hair and occasionally unusual fur coloration. These are probably the same as the Almas.

Fig. 10. Chuchunaa

Further west, in the Volga region of Russia, a hairy hominid called Ova, with backward-pointing feet, is said to menace travelers by tickling them to death! But its vulnerable spot is a hole under its left armpit, the touching of which renders it helpless. Perhaps by the time the stories traveled that far from either Europe or Asia, they were beginning to get a bit strange…
Large hairy hominids are also said to inhabit the forests and mountains of China’s remote Hubei province. Called Yěrén (“wild person”), they are typically reported to be covered in reddish-brown hair, although some white individuals have also been sighted. Their height is estimated at 5-7 feet, although some colossal specimens over ten feet tall have been reported. They are known by many other names, including Yiren, Yeh Ren, Sangui, Hsing-hsing, Fei-fei, “Chinese Wildman,” “Wildman of Shennongjia,” “Man-Monkey,” or Ren Xiong (“man-bear”). In a Chinese dictionary compiled in 200 bce, during the Chou dynasty, the Fei-fei was described as a 10-foot-tall hairy cross between a human and an Orangutan, with an appetite for human flesh.

Fig. 11. Yěrén

Some think that the Yěrén or Fei-fei may be a surviving Gigantopithecus (see below, under “Theories”), while others suggest it may be a relict population of mainland Orangutans (Pongo pygmaeus), supposedly extinct in China since the Pleistocene.
In the small country of Bhutan, on the eastern side of the Himalayas, locals describe a tall, hairy creature they call the Migyur. It stands nine feet tall, with long arms and a nose like an ape.
In April, 2001, DNA tests done on Migyur hair samples indicated that they belong to an unidentified creature completely unknown to science. Bryan Sykes, Professor of Human Genetics at the Oxford Institute of Molecular Medicine and one of the world's leading experts on DNA analysis examined the hair. “We found some DNA in it,” he said, “but we don't know what it is. It’s not a human, not a bear not anything else we have so far been able to identify. It’s a mystery and I never thought this would end in a mystery. We have never encountered DNA that we couldn’t recognize before.”3
Japanese folklore also includes tales of a huge hairy hominid called “Mountain Man.” Said to dwell in mountain forests, he is seldom seen, but fearful locals leave offerings to appease him.
The foul-smelling Hibagon is a smaller Japanese hominid. One was sighted in Hiwa in 1972. Looking much like a gorilla, it was about five feet tall, with a bristle-covered face, glaring eyes, and a snub nose. Hibagon footprints can be as much as ten inches long and six inches wide.

Fig. 12. Hibagon

Ape-Men of the Indies

      The thousands of islands comprising the East Indies are the mountain remnants of a once-great region called Sunderland, which extended southward from present-day Indochina. Similarly, dry land once connected all the Philippines, and New Guinea was part of Australia. All the low-lying areas, however, were drowned by the South China Sea when the ocean levels rose 400 feet after the end of the last ice age, 10,500 years ago. The conversion of highlands into islands isolated populations of people and animals from each other, and from the rest of the world.

Fig. 13. Map of Sunderland by OZ

        The largest islands of Indonesia are Borneo and Sumatra, respective homes to the two known species of Orangutan. This name derives from the Malay and Indonesian phrase orang hutan, meaning “person of the forest.”4 But from the Malay Peninsula throughout the many islands of this region, apelike creatures continue to be reported which have not yet been firmly identified by science. These may eventually prove to be nothing more than orangutans, but it is possible that some may yet turn out to be previously unknown primate species. Here is a sampling:

Orang Dalam— Hairy hominids of Malaysia, said to be 6-9 feet tall, with red eyes. Males have much hair about their head, chest, arms, and legs. They give off a powerful odor likened to monkey urine. At first contact they appear friendly, making overtures, and approaching slowly. Then they invariably become frightened and flee into the jungle. This is certainly the Bornean Orangutan (Pongo pygmaeus), called Mias-Pappan in Borneo.

Fig. 14. Female Orangutan (Pongo pygmaeus) going for a stroll.

Stinking Ones— Malodorous white-skinned hairy hominids occasionally seen and smelled in the jungles of Malaysia.

Batutut— A small, red, apelike creature reported to dwell in the rainforest of the Malaysian state of Sabah, it is considered to be related to the little frog-eating hairy-hominid known as the Teh-Ma, and the Vietnamese Nguoi-Rung. Perhaps this is a pygmy species of orangutan.

Ebu Gogu— Small, hairy, inarticulate cave dwellers first reported by Portuguese sailors visiting the Indonesian island of Flores in the 16th century. Sightings continued well into the 19th century. Then, in 2003, the sub-fossil remains of seven diminutive hominids were discovered on the tiny island. Officially designated Homo floresiensis (“man of Flores”), they were immediately dubbed “Hobbits” in the popular press. Ranging in height from 3-4 feet, they appear to have been a dwarf race of Homo erectus surviving miraculously into modern times before being exterminated.

Fig. 15. Homo floresiensis female in the forest.

Orang Pendek— (or Sedapa, Batutut) A hairy hominid reported to be dwelling in the millions of acres of rain forests on the island of Sumatra. Standing 3-5 feet tall, its brownish skin is covered with short black or brown hair, and it has a long black mane. It has no tail, and its arms are shorter than an ape’s. It walks mostly on the ground, and its footprints are very similar to a human’s. The creature eats mostly fruits and small animals, and is seen fairly often by locals, who say it has a language of sorts, although the Sumatrans cannot understand it. This is possibly (but not certainly) the Sumatran Orangutan (Pongo abelii), the smaller and rarer of the two known species of orangutans. However, some researchers have proposed that the extinct “Hobbits” of nearby Flores are also likely candidates.

Fig. 16.Orang Pendek

Kapre— Giant hairy hominids in the folklore of the Philippine Islands, they are said to be 7-9 feet tall and covered in long shaggy brown hair. The Kapre lives in groves of bamboo, acacia and mango, and may be encountered sitting under a tree smoking a big cigar-shaped pipe of tobacco. He is usually friendly and helpful to humans, especially women and children, but he also has a mischievous side, often leading travelers astray in the forest.

Fig. 17. Kapre

Australian Ape-Men

        An Australian hairy hominid, similar to the Yeti or Bigfoot, is described as 6-14 feet tall, more human than ape, with broad shoulders and no neck. Popularly known as Yowie, it is covered in longish hair ranging from black or dark brown through shades of red and tan to almost white. Dark brown or reddish is the most common color. It leaves footprints up to 16 inches long and 8 inches wide. The first report from European settlers dates to 1881, but the Aborigines had always known of them, calling them Youree. The settlers initially named them Yahoos, after a sub-human race in Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver's Travels (1727). These terms eventually combined into Yowie.
        Like most hairy hominids worldwide, Yowies are said to have an overpowering stench. Smaller individuals are quite shy and are probably juveniles, whereas the taller ones are bolder and often aggressive. In fact, there is such a difference between individuals in behavior, size and coloration that some researchers think they are two species—or at least very sexually dimorphic. Some even think they may represent a relict population of Homo erectus, known to have inhabited Sunderland (now Indonesia).

Fig. 18. The Bombala Yowie, reportedly seen by Charles Harper in Southeast Australia in 1912. (Coleman, p. 256)
        Maori natives on the South Island of New Zealand tell of a large hairy hominid with bony fingers that they call Moehau, Moeroero, or Maero. These are solitary creatures, but would kidnap people if given the chance. Those living in the mountains are called Moeroero, while those in the interior are called Maero. Said to be strong and aggressive, they are described as looking “like a man covered over with hair, but smaller and with long claws; it inhabits trees and lives on birds.” Sightings have been reported since the 1840s.

Fig. 19. Moehau

African Ape-Men

        No, this isn’t about Tarzan. But it might be about his foster-people, the Mangani, or “Great Grey Apes.” Many have assumed these creatures to be gorillas, but Edgar Rice Burroughs, author of the Tarzan series, clearly distinguished between them, referring to gorillas as Bolgani. Since there is no mention of chimpanzees per se in the Tarzan books, I had always thought that the Mangani must be chimps. But it now seems more likely for them to have been bonobos, or even the recently-discovered “Bili Apes” (see below).
        Accounts of African ape-men should really begin with the Ingheenaa quadrumana (4-handed animal) reported by travelers Mr. & Mrs. Bowditch, in the late 1800s, from the vicinity of the Gaboon River. They had not seen it themselves, but according to the natives: “…these huge creatures walk constantly upon their hind feet, and never yet were taken alive; they watch the actions of men, and imitate them as nearly as possible;…they build huts nearly in the shape of those of men, but live on the outside; and when one of their children dies, the mother carries it in her arms until it falls to pieces; one blow of their paw will kill a man, and nothing can exceed their ferocity.” 1

Fig. 20. Gorilla

        These were, of course, Lowland Gorillas (Gorilla gorilla), considered mythical at that time, when it was believed that all great apes were orangutans. It took a while for gorillas and chimpanzees to become recognized by science, even though there were many reports of them. The Mountain Gorilla (Gorilla beringei) was acknowledged only in 1901, and Bonobos (Pan paniscus), identified in 1928 by American anatomist Harold Coolidge from a skull in Belgium’s Tervuren Musem, were simply called “Pygmy Chimpanzees” until recently. Indeed, their status as a separate species from Common Chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes) is still being hotly debated in some circles. Bonobos, however, are distinguished from other apes by walking upright, “having a matriarchal and egalitarian culture, and the prominent role of sexual activity in their society.”5 They are thought to be our closest relatives on the primate family tree.

On Aug. 14, 2003, the Associated Press reported on the discovery of a possible new species of anthropoid ape in the northern part of Africa’s Republic of Congo. The “Bili Apes,” which stand up to six feet tall and have feet nearly 14 inches long, were first documented in 2002 by primatologist Shelly Williams. According to a National Geographic report, “The apes nest on the ground like gorillas but have a diet and features characteristic of chimpanzees.”6 Preliminary genetic testing with non-nuclear DNA, however, indicates a close relationship with a subspecies of Common Chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes schweinfurthii).5
A shaggy, black-haired, bipedal, apelike creature was sighted by an entomologist in Guinea, West Africa, in Nov. of 1992. Local natives call it Fating’ho, and they claim it is neither a chimpanzee nor a gorilla. It has not been identified by science.

Fig. 22. Bili Ape

Small furry hominids have been reported from Tanzania, East Africa, as well as other places. They are known as Agogwe, or Kakundakri in Zimbabwe; Sehit on the Ivory Coast. They were first reported in the early 1900s by big game hunter Captain William Hitchens, who encountered two of them on a lion-hunting safari in East Africa. In 1927, while traveling along the coast of Portuguese Africa, Mr. and Mrs. Cuthbert Burgoyne saw two apparently identical creatures walking peaceably among a troop of baboons without causing a stir. But none of these diminutive anthropoids have been seen since, and they may now be extinct.
With grotesque features and aggressive behavior, Agogwe are 3-4 feet tall, bipedal, long-armed, and covered with a scraggly coat of thick, russet-colored hair over reddish-yellow skin. This description does not match that of any known apes, and Bernard Heuvelmans suggested that they may be remnant Australopithecines.7

Fig. 23. Australopithecus africanus

The Canary Islands (from Latin Insularia Canaria, “Island of the Dogs”) are an archipelago of seven volcanic islands in the Atlantic Ocean off Morocco, along the northwest coast of Africa. A shaggy man-ape called Hirguan is said to dwell on the island of La Gomera. Probably this is an isolated population of the Barbary Macaque (Macaca sylvanus), a large ape-like tailless monkey found in the Atlas Mountains of Algeria and Morocco, as well as (famously) on the Rock of Gibraltar.

South American Apes

        According to science, indigenous apes are entirely unknown in the Western Hemisphere. Interestingly, therefore, in Sea and Land (1887), J.W. Buel reports that: “Dr. Lund has furnished us with descriptions of the Brazilian orang outan, which he calls the Caypore, obtained principally from the legends of the natives.”1
        And in the early 19th century, German naturalist Alexander von Humboldt heard stories from the Orinoco about furry humanlike creatures called Salvaje (“Wild”). These were said to build huts, capture women, and eat human flesh. All apelike creatures reported in South America are collectively dubbed Mono Grande (“large monkey”).
        Such a creature—one of a pair—was shot, killed, and photographed in 1920 by Swiss geologist Francois deLoys, during an expedition to the jungles of Venezuela. In 1929, Dr. George Montadon named it Ameranthropoides loysi (“Loys’ American anthropoid”). It is commonly referred to as the “DeLoys Ape.” Skeptics have dismissed the unique photo as nothing more than a Spider Monkey (Simia paniscus), which, however, has an adult body length of only 20 inches. But recently, fossilized remains have been found of a giant prehistoric howler-spider monkey, which, if still living, could account for this specimen.

Fig. 24. DeLoys Ape

American Anthropoids

Even though there seem to be entirely too many species of unknown apes to be accounted for, at least most of the above seem to represent physical animals, and hopefully, more of them will be officially “discovered” over time and take their places in the zoological catalogues.
But when we turn to the lower United States, reports begin to get decidedly weird. Far from the traditional northwestern haunts of Bigfoot or Sasquatch, sightings of somewhat similar but distinctly different hairy hominids have proliferated during the 20th century. To distinguish them from the others, researcher Loren Coleman coined the term Napesan acronym for “North American Apes.” Invariably dubbed with colorful local names, these large primates have been reported mostly from the forests and swamplands of the Southeastern and Midwestern USA.

Skunk Ape— (or Southern Bigfoot) A large hairy hominid reported in Florida, with over a hundred sightings during the 1970s-‘80s. However, the earliest published report is from 1942, in Suwannee County, by a man who claimed the creature rode on his running board for half a mile. Their presence is announced by a revolting stench, like rotting cabbage. Eyewitnesses usually describe them as having reddish-brown fur, but their color can range from black to white. Albino specimens commonly have bald heads and nostrils the size of half dollars. They have long dangling apelike arms with clawed fingers, and they tend to snort. Tracks suggest that there are two species: the larger has three toes and an aggressive disposition, while the smaller five-toed variety is shy and harmless. The mention of red fur has led some researchers to speculate that an escaped Orangutan (Pongo) may be the basis of the sightings. But the three-toed footprints do present a problem with this identification.

Fig. 25. Skunk Ape

Marked Hominids— Hairy hominids resembling Bigfoot, but smaller and more human-looking in build. They are smelly social creatures who live in forests and mountains of the frozen north. Sturdy, muscular creatures with large eyes and big bellies, they are nocturnal and omnivorous.  They come in several colors: some have light-colored manes, such as Old Yellow Top; others have patches of light-colored fur surrounded by darker fur; and some appear to be nearly albino.
        A large hairy hominid sighted in Ohio several times over the past century, was named “Old Yellow Top” for its mane of yellow hair. Otherwise mostly black, it is said to be about seven feet tall. It was seen in 1906, 1923, 1946, and 1970, when it nearly caused a bus to crash. An apparently identical creature had also been reported in the mining district around Cobalt, Ontario, Canada, since September 1906. Its large body was covered with long dark hair, but the fur on its head was light yellow. It too was named “Yellow Top.”

Fig. 26. Marked Hominid

Honey Island Swamp Monster— A seven-foot-tall Bigfoot-like creature reported for centuries to be dwelling in the Honey Island Swamp, near New Orleans, Louisiana. Covered with dingy grey hair, its weight has been estimated by witnesses as 400-500 lbs. But most memorable are its sickly yellow eyes, set far apart, and its horrific stench of death. Indians called this creature the Letiche, “a carnivorous, aquatic-humanoid,” which they believed was once an abandoned child who was raised by alligators. Cajuns call the beast the Loup Carou, similar to Loup Garou, a term for “werewolf.” It has been blamed for numerous human and livestock deaths which have plagued the area for decades.

Fig. 27. Honey Island Swamp Monster

Devil Monkeys— Strange baboon-like creatures with powerful kangaroo-like legs have been reported throughout the American Midwest and as far north as Alaska. One was even sighted in downtown Chicago! They seem to be extremely aggressive, attacking people and even moving cars. Some researchers have speculated that they may be a remnant species of an ancient family of primates called Tarsiids or Simopithecus.1

Momo— (short for “Missouri Monster”) A large, stinky, hairy hominid reported from the backwoods of Missouri. It has so much fur that you cannot see its face”

Fig. 28. Momo (-Alien Animals, p. 179)

Murphysboro Mud Monster— A shrieking, seven-foot-tall, white-haired, apelike monster reported on May 25, 1972, by over 200 witnesses around Murphysboro, central Illinois.

Myakka Ape— A hairy hominid reported to be dwelling in the swamps around Sarasota, Florida. It is described as a chimp- or orangutan-like animal.

Fig. 29.  Young orangutan (Pongo pygmaeus)

Booger— A large apelike creature sighted in the area around Clanton, Alabama, in the fall of 1960. It made cries “like a woman screaming,” and left big footprints in the sand along a creek.

El Campo Ape Man— In 2004, residents of El Campo in Matagorda County, Texas, reported bizarre encounters with what one eyewitness described as a 5-foot tall, greyish animal that looked like a large monkey.

Fouke Monster— A large hairy Man-Ape reportedly stalking the backwoods and creeks of Miller County in Arkansas. It has been known to attack and kill animals. One three-toed footprint that was cast in plaster measured 13.5 inches. In Oct. 2003, witnesses throughout northwest Arkansas reported sighting a large apelike creature, which they compared to Florida’s Skunk Ape.

Fig. 30. Fouke Monster

Orange Eyes— A huge hairy hominid reported since 1959 near the Charles Mill Reservoir outside of Mansfield, Ohio, from which has also been reported a bizarre, armless, amphibious humanoid known as the Mill Lake Monster. Orange Eyes is estimated to be 11 feet tall, and weigh 1,000 lbs. The most recent reported encounter with this creature was in June of 1991.

There is also a Mexican version of the North American Bigfoot, called el Hombre Oso (“Bearman”). It has been sighted in wilderness areas across the land, from the western desert of Chihuahua to Veracruz on the Gulf Coast. The term is also used for really hairy men.

Fig. 31. El Hombre Oso

Theories: Monster, Man, or Myth?

        When I first met Peter Byrne in 1978 at his Bigfoot Research center in the Oregon Dalles, I inquired about his theory regarding the zoological classification of these creatures. His response has remained a guide to me over the four decades since, though I have not always followed it myself! “Theories,” said Peter, “are a true researcher’s worst enemy. When you have a theory, you will only see evidence that supports your theory, and you’ll miss or ignore evidence that doesn’t. So I try not to hold a theory; I just seek to follow the evidence.”
        Keeping this wise admonition in mind, here are several theories that have been proposed and passionately advocated over the years—specifically regarding the large hairy hominid commonly referred to as “Bigfoot.”

        Unfortunately, there have been many hoaxes associated with Bigfoot, which have muddied the investigations, and diminished credibility of the phenomenon among establishment scientists. These hoaxes have included men dressing up in gorilla suits to be filmed and photographed in wilderness settings; as well as bogus footprints created with oversized wooden foot-shoes  and even replicas of genuine plaster footprint casts. One gruesomely determined hoaxer apparently went so far as to stretch the flayed skin of a butchered gorilla foot over a carved wooden mold! Several oft-cited photos and sightings have been confessed to be hoaxes by people who claim to have participated in the deception, while other witnesses just as fervently continue to maintain their authenticity. The frequency of revealed hoaxes, however, has certainly necessitated the critical examination of all evidence, which is to the good.
        In this regard we must certainly include the numerous artificial Bigfoot mummies and stuffed carcasses that have toured in carnival sideshows since the original “Minnesota Iceman” examined by Sanderson and Heuvelmans in 1968. Such gaffs, as they are called by showmen, are a thriving artform created by ingenious taxidermists who are rather proud of their work, and pleased that so many are fooled.

        Many skeptics insist that sightings must be of known apes, such as orangutans, gorillas, or chimpanzees—no doubt escapees from a zoo, circus, or animal park. And to give them credit, some of the American reports—such as the Myakka Skunk Ape and the El Campo Ape Man—may, in fact, be so attributable, especially in the swampy regions of Florida through Louisiana. Certainly known apes would seem to account for most of the creatures sighted in Asia, Indonesia, and Africa.

        Bigfoot researcher Grover Krantz (1931-2002) was the major proponent of the theory that the North American Bigfoot—and probably the Himalayan Nyalmo or Dzu-Teh Yeti as well—represents a relic population of the presumed extinct Ice-Age anthropoid called Gigantopithecus, which is believed to have lived from 5 million to as recently as 100 thousand years ago. Only a few teeth and mandibles of this prodigious primate have been recovered, mostly from caves in Southeast Asia. These bear similarities to both humans and apes, but unfortunately, they provide little information as to the proportions and stance of the living animal. Nonetheless, projecting proportionally, paleontologists estimate that an adult Gigantopithecus would have stood over ten feet tall, and weighed 1,200 lbs. It may have resembled a modern gorilla or orangutan, and many scientists think it was probably quadrupedal. But Kranz has pointed out that the very few jawbone remains found are U-shaped and widen towards the rear, providing space for the windpipe within the jaw, and allowing the skull to sit squarely upon a fully-erect spine like humans, rather than projecting in front of it, like great apes.

Fig. 32. Gigantopithecus blacki

        When I first began studying the Bigfoot phenomenon upon moving to the Pacific Northwest in the mid-‘70s, I was struck by the similarity of Bigfoot photos, descriptions, and drawings to reconstructions of a large Pleistocene proto-human called Paranthropus robustus (also called Australopithecus robustus or Australopithecus boisei). Dwelling in South Africa between 2-1.2 million years ago, this hominid was nearly twice the size of the little Australopithecus africanus that is believed to have been our own ancestor. Its general proportions are quite unlike either humans or apes regarding the length of limbs, particularly the massive pelvic structure. Another significant feature is the prominent sagittal crest atop the skulls of both Paranthropus and Bigfoot.
        The single feature of Bigfoot that we have been able to study extensively is its eponymous footprint. And one aspect of those prints cannot be overlooked even to the most casual observer: the forward position of the big toe is not that of an ape, but of a human. There are enough significant differences between these prints and ours that their species cannot be Homo sapiens. But they could be Paranthropus (“the other man”).

Fig. 33. Paranthropus robustus

        In 1971, crypto-anthropologist Gordon Strasenburgh first proposed the scientific name Paranthropus eldurelli for the Bigfoot of the Pacific northwest. Today, this identification is gaining increasing credence among serious investigators, and it is the one I too find most convincing.8
        We are so used to thinking of humans as the only species of our genus, Homo, that we tend to overlook the fact that it was not always so. Just as there are several species of each of the great apes, early hominids also exhibited species diversity. Perhaps some of our presumed-extinct cousins still survive undiscovered out there in the vast northern forests…

Missing Links
        Since Darwin, just about every discovery of a primitive hominid has been hailed in the popular press as a “missing link” between modern humans and our anthropoid ancestors. It has seemed only too obvious to draw the same conclusion regarding sightings of hairy hominids, and many have done so, assuming these creatures to be survivals of our proto-human progenitors. Given the distinctly humanoid appearance of their footprints, this is not an unreasonable conclusion, nor a far stretch from the Paranthropus hypothesis. It is an especially credible proposition for African hominids, presumed to be still surviving in their (and our) original homeland, along with several other species of known and unknown apes, most of which have been discovered only in the last century.
        Australopithecus (“southern ape”) was proposed by Bernard Heuvelmans as a likely contender for the identity of several of the smaller varieties of “ape men,” especially the 3-4-foot tall African Agogwe. Discovered by Raymond Dart in 1924, several species lived in Africa during the Pliocene era, 4-2.4 million years ago. The famous “Lucy” was a representative of the older A. afarensis. She and the later A. africanus were slenderly built, or gracile, and are believed to have been the direct ancestors of modern humans.

Fig. 34. Australopithecus afarensis

        Unfortunately, the last sighting of an Agogwe was in 1927, and if they did exist at that time, they may no more. Under present conditions of warfare and poaching, gorillas and chimps are severely endangered, and facing extinction as well. “When the bough (on the Tree of Life) breaks, the Cradle (of Life) must fall.”
        The first fossils of Pithecanthropus erectus (“erect ape man”) were discovered in Java, Indonesia, in 1891 by the Dutch anatomist Eugène Dubois. Popularly known as “Java Man,” a second specimen was located on the same island in 1936. At the time, these were the oldest hominid remains yet found, and many referred to them as the “missing link” between humans and apes predicted by Darwin’s theory of evolution, which they were cited to validate.

Fig. 35. Homo erectus

        Subsequent discoveries of the same creatures in East Africa during the 1950s and ‘70s have led to a reclassification, and Pithecanthropus has now been absorbed into the broader species of Homo erectus (erect man). They became the first hominids to leave Africa around 2 million years ago, when lowered sea levels of the Pleistocene era permitted extended migrations along the exposed continental shelf around Arabia, India, and into Sunderland (now Indonesia). They also appear to have been the first to master fire. Various sightings of mystery hominids throughout Indonesia have been evidenced as possible survivals.

        Homo sapiens Neanderthalensus is now believed to have been of the same species as us—sapiens—but of a different subspecies. Inhabiting Europe from 130,000-24,000 years ago, they had 99.5% the same genes as we have, and some of their genetic heritage survives among modern humans. Famous for enduring much of the Ice Age through their invention of clothing made from tanned hides stitched together using sinews and bone needles, Neanderthals used to be depicted as hulking, hairy, brutish figures—the archetypical “caveman” of popular conception. More recent discoveries have mitigated that image, as it was learned that the first specimens discovered suffered from severe arthritis and rickets owing to chronic vitamin D deficiency.

Fig. 36. Neanderthal

        Dr. Myra Shackley, a world expert on Neanderthals, has proposed that the Almas of Mongolia and the Chuchunaa of Siberia may represent relic populations of Neanderthals, surviving into the 20th century. In her 1983 book, Still Living? Yeti, Sasquatch and the Neanderthal Enigma, she also provides an analysis of the medieval European Wildmen, or Woodwoses, tracing them back to the Satyrs, Fauns, and Silvestres of Classical lore. But she concludes disappointingly that these are entirely creatures of myth, and do not represent relict survivals—an assumption that seems unwarranted to me.9

        In 2003, the sub-fossil remains of seven diminutive hominids were discovered on the tiny Indonesian island of Flores. Officially designated Homo floresiensis (“man of Flores”), they were immediately dubbed “Hobbits” by the media, due to the current popularity of Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings movies. Only 3-4 feet tall, with skulls the size of a grapefruit, they appear to have been an island-dwarfed race of Homo erectus. Stone tools associated with the remains indicate a presence of these little people from 18,000 to as recently as 12,000 years ago—well into the range of modern humans in the area. It is believed that they and other unique animals on the island were exterminated by a volcanic eruption about 12,000 years ago. However, Portuguese sailors visiting Flores in the 16th century heard native descriptions of small, hairy, inarticulate cave dwellers they called Ebu Gogo. Sightings of these creatures continued into the 19th century. And some researchers have proposed that Sumatra’s Orang Pendek may also be surviving modern Flores men.10

Fig. 37. Homo floresiensis

        Also known as the Chuman, or Manpanzee, this is a hypothetical chimpanzee/human hybrid. Chimpanzees and humans are very closely related, having in common 95% of DNA sequence, and 99% of coding DNA sequences.11 Numerous claims have been put forth over the years for experimental or feral hybrids, most famously in the case of an individual named “Oliver.” But when the candidates were subjected to DNA tests, no such hybrid specimen has ever been confirmed. Oliver turned out to be pure chimp, albeit with very little hair.

Fig. 38. Oliver

        This may seem like an absurd notion to introduce, but it cannot be ignored. Particularly in the American South and Midwest, many sightings of large hairy hominids include aspects of Fortean weirdness. Some of these creatures seem to have no facial features; others have long claws rather than fingers. Some leave three-toed tracks. And quite a few appear incomplete, as if they are holographic projections, and part of them is out of the picture. Such sightings are often accompanied by reports of UFO activity in the vicinity. There is really no way to integrate these sorts of anomalies into any coherent theory of biological evolution and natural history, and I deem it wise to not even try. Reports of this nature, I submit, can only be relegated to investigators’ “X-files.”

Monster Movies: Hairy Hominids

           The Snow Creature (1954) and The Abominable Snowman of the Himalayas (1957) both featured the legendary Yeti, which also made a brief cameo appearance in The 7 Faces of Dr. Lao (1964). Quest for Fire (1981) pitted Homo erectus against Neanderthals. Harry and the Hendersons (1987) was a family film of an endearing Bigfoot, which was turned into a TV sitcom of 72 episodes over 3 seasons. Wendigo (2001) was a brooding horror film of the Canadian legend. Abominable (2006) featured the Yeti, and Tenacious D in the Pick of Destiny (2006) included a Sasquatch.

Fig. 39. Harry & the Hendersons


2.       Byrne, Peter, The Search for Big Foot: Monster, Man, or Myth?, Acropolis Books Ltd., 1975
3.       Paranormal About, (2007)
4.       Time-Life Books, Editors of, Mysterious Creatures, Time-Life Books, 1988
5.       “Bonobos,” Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia,
6.       “Bili Ape,” Wikipedia
7.       Heuvelmans, Bernard, On the Track of Unknown Animals, Librairie Plon, 1955 (MIT Press, 1972)
8.       Coleman, Loren, & Clark, Jerome, Cryptozoology A to Z: The Encyclopedia of Loch Monsters, Sasquatch, Chupacabras, and Other Authentic Mysteries of Nature, Fireside, 1999
9.       Shackley, Myra, Still Living? Yeti, Sasquatch and the Neanderthal Enigma, Thames & Hudson, 1983
10.    “Hobbits,” Wikipedia
11.    Mysterious Creatures, Time-Life Books (op cit)

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