Urban Legends: Monkey Man of India
By Maude Welles
The Monkey Man of India made international headlines in May of 2001. Thousands of people in the grip of an ever-intensifying heatwave were reporting sightings or attacks from the mysterious human-ape. There were hundreds of injuries, some bites and and scratch marks, others caused by panicked victims fleeing from an assailant that eye witnesses reported, ‘just kept coming and hitting and hitting me’.
One eye witness, a woman named Noor Jehan only had moments to glimpse her assailant before he pursued and caught her. He grabbed her and started to hit her in the head and face, scratching and biting as he did so. She escaped his grip several times but he re-captured her and he hit her until she lost consciousness. Her family found her, battered and bloody and took her in for medical attention. She had suffered a concussion and had to be treated for that and other symptoms for the better part of a year.
Noor Jehan said her attacker looked like a big monkey but it walked like a man. It had great agility and as other sources would verify, it could jump down from tall building or climb up sheer walls easily. She said that its face was all black and that it looked like a monkey’s face. She reported it as being about five feet tall which was in keeping with later reports for the most part, although some reports had the monkey man as tall as eight feet. Her attacker made no sound except for when he first came at her when she described a sort of ‘woo’ noise, not very loud but frightening for her because of the aggressiveness of the beast that was coming for her.
Monkey men were being reported all over New Delhi and calls for police protection were so frequent that they formed a special monkey man commission to deal with the volume of reports and attacks. In a ten day period there were 379 reports. The result was the special police commission. Lead by Suresh Roy who was the Chief Police Commissioner at that time, he said that he and his men barely had a chance to sleep as they tried to hunt the attacking monkey down. During this time three people died and dozens were hospitalized.
The police put up video cameras and used night vision technology to hunt the attacker night and day but the monkey man was never caught, not even on film during its attacks in New Delhi.
The atmosphere was sheer terror for the people in the large city. Forced to sleep outdoors on rooftops because of the extreme heat, the attacks increased along with the availability of targets.
Not everyone was convinced that the monkey man was a new species attacking the citizens of New Delhi. They blamed the attacks on a combination of regular monkey attacks, likely brought on by the heat causing them to be more bad tempered than usual, and a combination of media hype and hysteria.
India is home to different species of great apes. There is fossil evidence from India and into northern China that shows that great apes once had a far larger range than modern apes who have been edged out by urbanization, horticulture, agriculture.
Perhaps a great ape, driven into the city through thirst or hunger had gotten into New Delhi and was acting out either in fright or anger? It was a plausible sounding explanation but analysis didn’t bear up on the plausible.
First of all, it was far too nimble. Known species of great apes weren’t capable of the sorts of acrobats witnesses described. Then there were the wounds and bites, they were analyzed and the teeth and claw marks fitted no known species of primate- or of any human type mouth either. They analyzed hair samples couldn’t find any match through DNA analysis.
Rai Suddin was one of the many victims of the monkey man. Fortunately, he survived, but it was a close thing. The monkey man bit his neck towards the end of the attack leaving a massive scar but Rai lived to tell the tale. The story he told wasn’t the only evidence he gave. The wounds that had been made on him were able to give investigators more information than some of the more ‘gentle’ scratches and wounds of the other survivors. The investigators determined that whatever sort of primate they were working with, it was very large and very fierce. Rai Suddin did nothing to antagonize the creature and yet the monkey man tried to kill him but said that the creature screamed at him nearly the whole time it attacked him.
This wasn’t the first mention of the monkey man in India. Written reports of a type of ‘forest race’ who spoke no English and were violent and covered in hair were written by Pliny the Elder in 1770 BCE. They gave out strange and sometimes terrible noises.
They are scattered reports of even capturing monkey men, especially during times of dearth when the monkey men have been found close to death. A scientist named Pittington documented a pair of the beasts that he claimed were unlike any other species of primate. The two animals were nursed back to health and were destined for Calcutta to be examined in a lab when they escaped without a trace.
Explanations for the monkey man range from the mundane, to the divine to what some might consider insane.
Some people claim that they are simply a species of uncatalogued and elusive primate. They point out that most attacks take place in areas with a high concentration of banana plantations. There are frequent sightings in northern India in a remote region known as Meghalaya. This forest is denser than any other forest still in existence and hides a vast, unexplored cave system deep in the shade of its bowers.
This area has many sightings of the monkey man and when people don’t see them with their eyes, there are signs of them in the area. They are very violent animals, the locals claim. They say that the monkey men break off enormous tree branches, far bigger than any of the gibbons who are the largest primates documented in the area could have broken. The branches are twisted off and it is obvious that this isn’t natural breakage.
Within the bounds of this huge forest are many sacred groves to different deities. Tended for time out of mind by bloodlines who ensure that the special trees are unharmed and that no one but the gods glean the bounty of these groves. One of the deities worshiped here and in the rest of India is Hanuman, the monkey god. Half monkey, half man, he nearly fits the bill of the attacker in New Delhi. If so, he was extremely wrathful in 2001.
An interesting theory that lacks credence is that the monkey man that attacked in New Delhi has nothing to do with the older sightings of monkey men. The monkey man truly is part monkey, part man, claim theorists. The source of these rumors stems from Communist Russia.
Illya Ivanov didn’t need Stalin to urge him on in his study of Eugenics and hybridization. He was a real life Dr. Moreau and he wanted to make hybrids of everything and anything he could get his hands on. His real dream was to hybridize humans with animals.
He had been conducting his research privately since 1910 but after the Communist Revolution he was given fervent government support. A lab, money, resources and all the primates he could shake a stick at were his for the inseminating in early 1927. The records of his experiments were destroyed but some people say that he had success. The story is that having successfully breeding human women with monkey sperm jealous co-workers released the offspring into the wild and reported Illya Ivanavov as being incompetent to the Communist regime. Unable to provide proof of his success, Invanavov was exiled to Kazakhstan and his experiments ran wild, running further and further away. One day, it is said, one of Ivanavov’s super soldier monkey hybrids made it to New Delhi where it did what it had been bred to do: kill and intimidate.
Great Ape? A complex hoax that spurred on hysteria? Super soldiers from the era of the cold war? Or manifestations of Hanuman voicing his wrath to his worshipers? The options are numerous, the rumors plentiful and this is what makes this month’s Urban Legend.
Grigg, Russel. “Stalin’s Ape-Man Superwarriors.” Creation.com. Creation Ministries