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Tuesday, 3 April 2012

Skunk Apes and NAPES

The Art of Cathy Wilkins-Skunk Ape At Car

Above, what looks very much like a free-ranging chimpanzee from Arkansas and above that, a close-in shot of the facial area in two different Skunk Ape photos from Florida. These photos were submitted anonymously and they are now in the custody of Loren Coleman. They constitute some of the best evidence for the apelike creature called the skunk ape, or in this particular instance the Myakka ape. At left, illustration of Skunk ape raiding the garbage at night, a practice that could very well lead to its peculiar and pungent aroma.

The Cryptid Zoo's description for Skunk Apes:

Skunk-apes are hairy humanoids sighted in many areas of North America, but especially in swamps, and especially in the South. They are held distinct from Bigfoot by having a different home range (Bigfoot is generally considered as being restricted to the Pacific Northwest) and by having both a different physical appearance and a different set of habits ascribed to them. The Florida variety of skunk-ape is sometimes referred to as the "Florida Sandman" and other local varieties often have local nicknames.
At least two, if not three, distinct varieties of skunk-ape exist in these legends. This is partly because the definition of skunk-ape has varied from one cryptozoologist to the next and because this definition has also evolved over time. Another reason why it is hard to think of the skunk-ape as just one kind of creature is because the creatures in these reports show enough natural variation that it is hard to lump them all together.
The most consistent characteristic ascribed to skunk-apes is the smell. It is generally said that all of them have a rather extreme odor that is nauseating. In other respects, the definition varies. In the past, this horrible odor was the one characteristic used to define a skunk-ape, but today more non-smelly beasts are given the label of "skunk-ape." Some skunk-apes are generally said look something like Bigfoot, but they tend to be really large, and sometimes have oversized heads that look more monster-like than ape-like. Other creatures labeled as skunk-apes look more like a cross between a dog, a giant monkey, and a kangaroo.
The fur color of skunk-apes is usually dark, with many individuals who are black or deep brown, and there may be a tail. When it exists, this tail is often bushy like the tail of a wolf or fox (thus linking skunk-apes to North American devil monkeys). Some individuals are described as particularly big, up to ten feet tall, but the average height seems to be about six feet.
Skunk-ape feet are often described as being different from Bigfoot, especially in terms of the foot shape and the number of toes. Skunk-ape toe numbers are sometimes quite variable, with three-toed footprints often being found.
Since the number of toes is one of the slowest-changing features as a species evolves, it is not generally thought that a primate could have developed such a foot. This leaves a lot of problems for those who hope to prove that skunk-apes with atypical feet are real creatures, because the skunk-apes' feet really ought to match up to biological expectations better.
Skunk-apes tend to be very aggressive towards dogs, and are often reported as carnivorous. In any case, they seem to kill a lot of livestock, especially the smaller varieties such as goats and chickens. Every so often, a panic breaks out about the idea that skunk-apes are about to start eating humans, but reports of man-eating are extremely rare and often based on very old legends, so that it cannot be verified that anyone even died, let alone that an unidentified creature killed them.
All too often, skunk-apes exhibit paranormal characteristics as well in these reports, features that make them decidedly unattractive to cryptozoologists who hope to uncover a new species instead of a mere urban legend. They may be described as having glowing red eyes, or they might be bulletproof at close range or have other weird abilities. Like many mythical creatures, they seem to be mysteriously attracted to anyone who has sex in a car in a remote area. Most of them are bipedal, but they show a tendency to drop to all fours and run that way at times.
Some creatures labeled as skunk-apes seem very much like known primates, especially chimps and orangutans. These sightings could represent feral populations that have developed from abandoned pets or lab animals, and this is the interpretation given to skunk-ape reports by some researchers working in the field of cryptozoology. However, mystery hairy humanoids that resemble known primates are more properly known as napes, short for "North American apes."
The Florida variety of skunk-ape is seen most often in swampy areas such as the Everglades. Florida skunk-apes tend to be more physically normal than skunk-apes found elsewhere, so that some researchers define them as a unique type that is much more likely to turn out to be a real species. Some people think that these creatures smell so bad because they spend most of their time in underground dens, curled up with carrion stolen from alligators. It is said that this underground lifestyle is the also the reason why they are rarely sighted and have not yet been captured by scientists.
Since certain types of skunk-apes often sound more like supernatural creatures such as werewolves or hairy ogres from some fairy tale than a legitimate variety of Bigfoot, and even the more normal varieties often suffer from other weird characteristics that seem unlikely from a biological viewpoint, skunk-apes have a credibility problem and they have received less attention and funding in the cryptozoological community than their more respectable cousins in the Pacific Northwest. Some examples of famous skunk-apes include the Honey Island Swamp Monster, the Fouke Monster, Momo, the Myakka Skunk-Ape, the Green Chimp, the Holopaw Gorilla, the Abominable Swamp Slob and the Everglades Ape.

You can find out more about Skunk-Apes from the following sources:

Arkansas Primate Encounter Studies
Blackman, W. Haden. The Field Guide to North American Monsters New York: Three Rivers Press, 1998. Pages 14-18, 30-33
Brookesmith, Peter, ed. Creatures from Elsewhere. London, Chartwell Books, 1989. Pages 16-17
Clark, Jerome and Coleman, Loren. Cryptozoology A-Z. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1999. Pages 65-66, 83-84, 88-90, 224-226
Coleman, Jerry D. Strange Highways: A Guidebook to American Mysteries & the Unexplained. Alton, Illinois: Whitechapel Productions Press, 2003. Pages 9, 11-15, 18, 20, 71, 123, 182

Coleman, Loren. The Myakka "Skunk Ape" Photographs
Coleman, Loren. Mysterious America: The Revised Edition. New York: Paraview Press, 2001. Pages 9, 187, 210, 215
The Florida Skunk Ape
Jackson, Dan. SkunkApe: Floridian Bigfoot Sightings
Keel, John A. The Complete Guide to Mysterious Beings. New York: Doubleday, 1994. Pages 98-99, 110
Legend of Boggy Creek
Mississippi Swamp Apes
Moran, Mark & Sceurman, Mark. Weird N.J.: Your Travel Guide to New Jersey's Local Legends and Best Kept Secrets. New York: Barnes & Noble, 2004. Pages 98, 100
Newton, Michael. Encyclopedia of Cryptozoology: A Global Guide to Hidden Animals and Their Pursuers. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Company, 2005. Pages 36, 63, 70, 107, 151, 161-162, 198-199, 219, 317, 338-339, 344, 371, 373, 393, 412-413, 430-431, 436, 439, 454, 503-504
Rath, Jay. The W-Files: True Reports of Wisconsin's Unexplained Phenomena. Black Earth, Wisconsin: Trails Books, 1997. Page 9
Skunk Ape, Cousin of Bigfoot?
Steiger, Brad. Out of the Dark: The Complete Guide to Beings from Beyond. New York: Kensington Books, 2001. Pages 62-66
Weidensaul, Scott. The Ghost with Trembling Wings: Science, Wishful Thinking and the Search for Lost Species. New York: North Point Press, 2002. Pages 153, 174
Wikipedia, The. Skunk Ape
Wikipedia, The. Fouke Monster

Skunk Ape from The Cryptozoologist at Left, Reconstruction of a NAPE on the Right

"The Cryptozoologist" has a four-part series on Skunk Apes but he does not make the discrimination between Skunk Apes and Swamp Monsters-he includes reports which Tyler Stone and I would consider in the Freshwater Monkeys category, and he acknowledges that he includes Devil Monkeys in his definition.
Click on the images below for the links:




Once again, Tyler Stone and I sort these reports differently. Creatures that leave webbed three-or-four-toed tracks are the Freshwater Monkeys. Creatures with wolflike heads and tails are more likely wolves or coyotes, even if they are seen standing upright. But the Skunk Apes or NAPES are the interesting ones and they are not so restricted to the swamps and bottomlands-rather they inhabit a variety of forested environments. It just so happens that swamps are a better place for them to hide out in than most other areas they inhabit.

Above are two drawings depicting the Skunk apes, on the left a more recent artwork meant to show "Southern Bigfoot" and on the right is an older cartoon in a less serious vein meant to show the "Bardin Booger". The usual older name for any such a creature in vernacular english is "Booger" which is a variation on "Bogle", a Celtic word equivalent to "Goblin" (The Welsh is Bwca) and this is thought to derive from an older Indo-European word meaning "A god or deity", hence the Russian Bog. One of the better-known Boogers in the literature just came into the news again: Ivan Sanderson's book Abominable Snowmen, Legend Come To Life mentions a "Gorilla" had been reported in Georgia and found to be raiding peach plantations and leaving a footprint like a human hand but much larger. These "Gorillas" have come back into the news lately and local police departments are out looking for them. Not much information has been released yetnot much need to  report on the investigation so far, but further information should be forthcoming and I shall post it here when we have a better picture of what is going on. So far only the outlines of a very few reports have been publicized and none of the pertinent details have been made public. But actually the situation has been going on a long time and BFRO has several reports on file

Some very old newspaper accounts concerning "Gorillas" were reprinted recently on the Cryptomundo site (these are now public domain as the copyright has long since expired)

Barkerville (BC) The Cariboo Sentinel, October 16, 1869, p. 1
Kansas is enjoying a new sensation. A gorilla is at large in Crawford county in that State. It has at different times been seen by every inhabitant of the valley. The settlers have christened it Old Sheff.
Whether the strange animal is a gorilla or a wild man is not decided. Sixty settlers turned out one day to hunt it down but it escaped. It has so near a resemblance to the human form that the men are unwilling to shoot it down.

Dubuque (IA) Dubuque Daily Herald, September 4, 1869, p.2
A Gorilla or Wild Man in Kansas.
The Arcadia, Kansas, correspondent of the St. Louis Democrat says:
“Aside from the excitement caused by the trouble in regard to the ownership
of these neutral lands, we, of Arcadia valley, in the southern part of
Crawford county, are having a new sensation which may lead to some new
disclosures in natural history, if investigated, as it should be. It is
nothing less then the discovery of a wild man, for a gorilla, or “what is
it?” It has at different times been seen by almost every inhabitant of the
valley, and it has occasionally been seen in the adjoining county in
Missouri, but it seems to make its home in this vicinity. Several times it
has approached the cabins of the settlers, much to the terror of the women
and children, especially if the men happen to be absent working in the
fields. In one instance it approached the house of one of our old citizens,
Wm. Armsworthy, but was driven away with clubs by one of the men. It has so
near a resemblance to the human form that men are unwilling to shoot it. It
is difficult to give a description of this wild man or animal. It has a
stooping gait, very long arms, with immense hands or claws. It has a hairy
face, and those who have been near it describe it as having a most ferocious
expression of countenance; generally walks on its hind legs, but sometimes
on all fours. The beast, or “what is it?” is as cowardly as it is ugly, and
it is next thing to impossible to get near enough to obtain a good view of
it. The settlers, not knowing what to call it, have christened it Old
Sheff. Since its appearance, our fences are often found down, allowing the
stock free range in our cornfields. I suppose Old Sheff is only following
his inclination, as it may be easier for it to pull them down than to climb
over them. However, as it is, curses loud and deep are heaped on its head
by the settlers. The settlers are divided in opinion as to whether it
belongs to the human or not. Probably it will be found to be a gorilla or
large orang outang, that has escaped from some menagerie in the settlements
east of here. At one time over sixty of the citizens turned out to hunt it
down, but it escaped; but, probably, owing to the fright it received, kept
out of sight for several days, and just as the settlers were congratulating
themselves that they were rid of an intolerable nuisance, Old Sheff came
back again, seemingly as savage as ever. If this meets the eye of any
showman who has lost one of his collection of beasts, he may know where to
find it. At present it is the terror of all the women and children in the
valley. It cannot be caught, and nobody is willing to shoot it.”
Thanks to the archival research of Chuck Flood.

and a more recent notice concerning the recent "Gorilla" reports in Georgia, plus some historical background, is also on the Cryptomund site here:
NAPES illustration from one of the Cryptozoology sites

El Reno OK Ape Hand Print Found on Chicken Coop
Florida Skunk Ape Track Cast-Outer Two Toes Together
"Skunk Apes" are sometimes reported in (and photographed in) trees, such as in the photograph above. The photo has an enlargement of what is supposed to be the creature in the upper left-hand corner. The ancestor of all such creatures would presumably be the Asiatic Miocene ape Sivapithecus shown in reconstruction at the left for comparison to  the photo (Contrary to many discussions circulating on the subject, we are talking Sivapithecus and not Dryopithecus here: Sivapithecus is the Asiatic genus and Dryopithecus is European. Sivapithecus is also supposed to be the direct ancestor to the orangutans)
SITU_latex_prints_May_1977_Westmoreland Co, PA
At far left is Loren Coleman's supposed "Napes" track which basically got the ball rollong on the serious investigation of the subject. The track was found in a dry creek bed in Illonois in the late 1960s. Beside it is a recent foootprint cast from Westmoreland County PA where such tracks have been appearing for the past forty years or more. Immediatelu obvious is that the opposed big toe is in different places in the two prints. The smaller toes have been added on b the man that made the reproductionpersonal information by an informant who calls himself "Ape-X" that the footprint itself is only an ordinary tennis shoe sole which happened to tread upon a thick stick in the creek bed and leave the unusual impression: Ape-X says the stick is also clearly visable in the photo. This is his statement and not mine. However it does seem that the Illinois track is different to the others in this series exactly because of this unusual "big toe" and would have to be set to one side anyway. This does not negate the fact that this track started the process of stirring up interest in the possibility of a North American Ape (NAPE) much in the same way the Shipton Yeti track stirred up interest in that area (the Shipton Track shall be the subject of a future blog already in preparation)
The photograph of Coleman's original "Napes" track. The other toes at the top of it at least are a complete invention put there by artistic license.
Two tracks from Westmoreland Count in Pennsylvania at different times, another "Ape" track from the area is below the two ancd the colour photo is from Tennessee. These tracks show a general similarity to each other and to the older Westmoreland track in the SITU photo above, which came from 1977. The track in the ground picked out in black paint is slightly canted from a vertical orientation. 

"Hand-shaped" track in the snow and a human handprint beside it for comparison. The photo is from one of my Facebook friends and it  represents literally one of "America's Abominable Snowmen"
What follows is perhaps one of the most significant breakthroughs in this area of Cryptozoology in a long time. I posted this photo of a cast of an Orang Pendek footprint on my Facebook wall and then a Friend of mine  added "This track is similar to tracks found all along the Mountians from New York to Florida" and I replied: "Good man. Not many people notice that. This is supposed to be a more terrestrial Orangutan living in Sumatra and it is completely different than the tree-dwelling kind" Then
the Friend said "A lot of these tracks in my area, OHIO.I call it the EASTERN BIGFOOT" And I then replied "What I call 'Eastern Bigfoot' is different, but all we have is a difference in the use of the name. I fully support this type also, it is the same as the Skunk Ape in Florida"
So now we have something tangible we can use: The Orang Pendek that is a "Funny sort of Orangutan" (a description I heard in connection to the Kra-Dhan and Xing-Xing as of the early 1980s) is the same as the Skunk Ape: and Ivan Sanderson had said that this Orang Pendek was the same as the smaller kind of Yeti, the Teh-lma. It also seems that this equates exactly to the smaller reddish creature Bernard Heuvelmans called "le Petit Yeti"-and to the smaller kind of Chinese Yeren AND to the chimpanzee-like Hibagon of Japan. Suddenly, startlingly, we have independant confirmation that all these things were indeed related, and more closely related than we had suspected before, but in order to get there we had to reject the "Wrong" tracks that were being shown as the most characteristic ones which were keeping the different categories separated from each other.
Map modified to indicate the various types as overlapping in range, and including the new information 
Below are a couple of pieces about Orang Pendek (Again by the way of "Cryptozoologist") and below them are a series of images of Florida Skunk Apes taken from The Skunk Apes official site. There is a problem in that there is the apelike Skunk Ape and then again a more  humanlike form being called "Skunk Ape" as well and that form is going to be the subject of a sequel blog.

This is a photograph of a NAPES up a tree cut out of a photo posted in the Kentucky Bigfoot blog entry here recently. I believe the original (whole photo) is at the Mysterious Kentucky site.
Creton Flats "Bigfoot", Ohio, one of several "Bigfoot" photos that seem to have a decidedly apelike look to them Below are the Skunk Ape photos. The one long strip combines several photos from several sources and so I am uncertain as to how I should credit it.

Moving right along, it seems that the Yeti is similar to both the Orang Pendek and the Skunk Apes, and that the tracks left by all of them are only a small remove from one another.

This shows a witness' sketch of the more apelike sort of Orang Pendek reports and a drawing of its head, both by way of Deborah Martyr. The form of the head is much like the skull of a young orangutan, shown below
Below is a "Baboon" skull unearthed in Texas a couple of years ago and commented upon at the CFZ blog, on Cryptomundo and on other comparable sites at the time. It is not a baboon skull, and only a superficial comparison will show that a baboon's nasal apeture is not in that same position but is further down to the front of the snout. On the other hand it is comparable to the adult male orangutan skull at above right and to the Sivapithecine skull illustrated to the right below.

A mock-up of orangutans staged at different sizes corresponding to the known maximum and minimum of human beings and below are a series of Yeti tracks illustrated on my blog as before (and in the current issue of the CFZ yearbook) Although they tend to be broader, they have the positioning of the digits the same as in the Orang Pendek and Skunk Ape series of tracks. The one at upper left is a wire service photo of a recent "Yeren" track from China, reversed, and below it is the skulls unlimited cast for the Slick Yeti track cast, which admittedly lost a toe during the casting process. this is also reversed. On the right above is a photograph of one of the tracks found by Cronin and which should be considered the most authoritative to date, and the one below it at bottom right is Wollodridge's Yeti track as illustrated in CRYPTOZOOLOGY Magazine.

Protopongo to Pongo. The theoretical more terrestrial ancestor to the orangutans
 has  a footprint more like the modern ground apes derived from it than does
the better-known modern arboreal orangutan

Above is a comparison of Orang Pendek and the Yeti that I had prepared for an unpubllished article
The North American NAPES and Skunk apes turn out to be very similar also.

The lineup again, for general reference purposes, and below the previously-run map for the series of Mystery Pongid reports, the Mainland-Asian and North American populations are now shown to be more similar to each other than was formerly thought to be the case. And at the bottom are another couple of newspaper clippings from the 1930s that a google search also turned up.


1 comment:

  1. Wonderful collection of material on Napes, all in one spot, has been pulled together by Dale. Good job.


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