May 15, 2022 I Nick Redfern

Mysterious Apes That Have Yet To Be Identified, But Maybe Not For Long!

My previous article was focused to a significant degree on the matter (and the mystery) of Orang-Pendek: unidentified apes that lives on the island of Sumatra. There's very little doubt about the existence of the creatures: there are numerous reports and from well-respected figures. What's less well-known, however, are the other mysterious apes of our world. Forget about Bigfoot and the Yeti (we've all heard of them): let's look at some of the more mysterious apes on our world that still elude us. From Borneo, situated east of Sumatra, home of the cryptid ape known as Orang-Pendek, come stories of an approximately four and a half foot tall ape-man referred to as the Batatut. Like so many other man-beasts, this one is covered in hair. There is, however, one intriguing difference: the Batatut sports a noticeable, thick mane of hair that runs down the back of its head, not unlike that of a horse. Somewhat ominously the creature is said to have a particular liking of human meat – and an even greater liking of human livers. A fascinating, and very credible, account that may have a direct bearing upon the story of the Batutut is that of zoologist, John MacKinnon. In 1970, while on Borneo he stumbled upon a series of unusual, small, human-like footprints. He said: “I stopped dead. My skin crept and I felt a strong desire to head home…farther ahead I saw tracks and went to examine them. I found two dozen footprints in all. I was uneasy when I found them, and I didn’t want to follow them and find out what was at the end of the trail. I knew that no animal we know about could make those tracks. Without deliberately avoiding the area I realize I never went back to that place in the following months of my studies.” I should stress that much of this data has been found by good friend, and cryptozoologist, Richard Freeman. - who has spent significant time on Sumatra.

(Nick Redfern) Creature-seeker Richard Freeman

The Orang-pendek is, certainly, the most well-known mystery ape said to dwell deep in the dense forests of Sumatra. It’s far from being alone, however. In July 1932, the Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser newspaper ran an article titled "Mysterious Jungle Races of Sumatra: Giants and Pigmies, Guard Swine and Have Their Heels in Front." One of the creatures to which the article referred was Orang-lecho, which, according to the newspaper, dwelled in the western parts of Sumatra, and specifically in Gunong Gedang Bondjol and Lubok Sepaking. Reportedly, the Orang-lecho lived in fear of humans, were short in stature, ate fruit and fish, and possessed a complex language, which they spoke at “a terrible speed.” The writer of the article said: “Whenever they see a human being they will shout out ‘Derangka! Derangka! Derangka!’ which probably means a human being. When they hear this warning note from their friends they immediately fly into forests, and are never found.” Then there was the Si Bigau, which, rather intriguingly, the newspaper described as “one of the species of Orang-pendek,” which suggests a knowledge of more than one kind of the creature. Reportedly, the Si Bigau were quiet, retiring animals - “about the height of a child of three or four years of age” - that preferred their own company. Rather curiously, they spent much of their time herding wild pigs – something which, by all accounts, they had an obsession with.

The Singapore Free Press continued: “According to old hunters, any swine that is under guardianship of the Si Bigau will never be caught, no matter how good are the hounds, for the swine will follow the swift flight of Si Bigau into the thickest part of the forest.” Much larger than the Si Bigau and the Orang-lecho was the Mawas, said to be “the same height as that of a human being.” Not only that, the Mawas physically resembled the Human Race to an uncanny degree, except for the fact that they were covered in hair. They shunned clothing and reportedly had feet that faced backwards. Even bigger than the Mawas were the Raksaska, described by the newspaper as being “very tall,” and “meters high.” Interestingly, they were said to live in primitive, house-like structures deep within the “big virgin jungles.” Long before the Orang-pendek was on anyone’s radar, there was talk of other entities inhabiting the jungles of Sumatra. In his 1784 book, The History of Sumatra, William Mardsen told a fascinating story. Mardsen – who worked for the East India Company – said:

(Richard Freeman) Many thanks to Richard Freeman for the copy of his book and the cover-image

“In the course of my inquiries among the natives, concerning the aborigines of the island, I have been informed of two different species of people dispersed in the woods, and avoiding all communication with the other inhabitants. They are called the Orang Cooboo and the Orang Googoo.” Mardsen said, of both species, that they existed in significant numbers, and particularly so in the regions between Palembang and Jambie. He also commented on stories he had heard, specifically concerning how some of the creatures had been captured and used as slaves, and how a man at Laboon had wed a “tolerably handsome Cooboo girl.” According to Mardsen, both the Cooboo and the Googoo possessed a language and fed “promiscuously” on just about anything and everything they could get their hands on, including deer, snakes, and wild hogs. As for their appearances, Mardsen described the Googoo as being far fiercer in nature than the Cooboo and added that their bodies were covered in long hair. More controversially, Mardsen added that: “There have not been above two or three instances of their being met with by the people of Laboon and one of these was entrapped many years ago…He had children by a Laboon woman, who were also more hairy than the common race.”

Mardsen concluded: “The reader will bestow what measure of faith he thinks due, on this relation, the veracity of which I do not pretend to vouch for. It probably has some foundation in truth but is exaggerated in the circumstances.” My good friend, and former zoo-keeper, Richard Freeman, says of this saga: “The Orang Cooboo of which Mardsen speaks are, in fact, the Kubu people, the aboriginal inhabitants of Sumatra. The idea of an Orang-pendek – if indeed it is an anthropoid ape – mating with a human woman and her bearing its children is absurd, but it is a folkloric motif found wherever hairy, man-like creatures are reported. The story has analogues in stories of the yeti, sasquatch, the almasty of central Asia, the di-di of South America, and many others.” Astonishingly, Sumatra appears to be filled to the brim with mysterious, hairy hominids, many clearly displaying notable differences in their appearances. It is, of course, possible that all of the reports can be attributed to the Orang-pendek and nothing else. On the other hand, however, some cases do appear to imply the presence of at least several kinds of unknown ape on Sumatra. Two classic examples come from a highly credible source, L.C. Westenenk, who served as the Governor of Sumatra in the early 20th Century. Of the first case, which occurred in 1910, Westenenk said:

“A boy from Padang employed as an overseer by Mr. van H--- had to stake the boundaries of a piece of land for which a long lease had been applied. One day he took several coolies into the virgin forest on the Barissan Mountains near Loeboek Salasik. Suddenly he saw, some 15m away, a large creature, low on its feet, which ran like a man. It was very hairy and was not an Orang-utan; but its face was not like an ordinary man’s.” Clearly, the reference to a “large creature” does not fit the description of Orang-pendek, which is of distinctly small stature. The next case that Westenenk heard of took place seven years later, in 1917. The witness was one Mr. Oostingh, a coffee-plantation owner based in Dataran. The location was the forest of Boekit Kaba, where Oostingh encountered something remarkable. Westenenk made careful note of Oostingh’s exact words: “[The creature’s] body was as large as a medium-sized native’s and he had thick square shoulders, not sloping at all. The color was not brown, but looked like black earth, a sort of duty black, more grey than black. He clearly noticed my presence. He did not so much as turn his head, but stood up on his feet: he seemed quite as tall as I, about 1.75m.” Oostingh then suddenly became deeply concerned by the strange beast in his midst:

“Then I saw that it was not a man, and I started back, for I was not armed. The creature took several paces, without the least haste, and then, with his ludicrously long arm, grasped a sapling, which threatened to break under his weight, and quietly sprang into a tree, swinging in great leaps alternately to right and to left.” For those who might be inclined to think that Oostingh encountered nothing stranger than an Orang-utan, it’s important to note what he had to say next: “My chief impression was and still is ‘What an enormously large beast!’ It was not an Orang-utan; I had seen one of these large apes before at the Artis, the Amsterdam Zoo. It was more like a monstrously large siamang, but a siamang has long hair, and there was no doubt it had short hair. I did not see the face, for, indeed, it never once looked at me.” As all the above accounts demonstrate, our world is clearly still filled with mysteries.

Nick Redfern

Nick Redfern works full time as a writer, lecturer, and journalist. He writes about a wide range of unsolved mysteries, including Bigfoot, UFOs, the Loch Ness Monster, alien encounters, and government conspiracies. Nick has written 41 books, writes for Mysterious Universe and has appeared on numerous television shows on the The History Channel, National Geographic Channel and SyFy Channel.

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