I have always loved bats. I have one tattoo, and it is a little bat on my shoulder. Maybe my infatuation with the flying mammals has something to do with my lifelong love of vampire movies and cave exploring. Of course, I might not feel so affectionate toward them if I encountered a bat with a twelve-foot wingspan and a face like a monkey!
The Indonesian Island of Java is made up of numerous volcanoes, and some amazing cave systems. Usually where there are caves, there are bats. A giant bat called the Ahool (named for the sound it makes) has been sighted numerous times throughout western Java since 1925 when it was first seen by the naturalist, Dr. Ernest Bartels.
Using the claws on its featherless wings, the Ahool is able to capture large river fish for its food. It is said to be dark gray in color, with a flat face that looks like a monkey (macaque or gibbon), and huge black eyes. The form of the Ahool’s feet indicates the creature is likely to hang upside down as most bats are known to do.
Cryptozoologist Ivan T. Sanderson believes the Ahool is related to the species Microchiroptera. Further, he thinks the Ahool is an Oriental version of the Zambian Kongamato or the Olitiau of Cameroon.
Although there are similarities, the Kongamato is not quite as big as the Ahool, has reddish fur, and its snout is long rather than flat. Kongamato means “breaker or overwhelmer of boats” and the flying pterosaur-like creature is said to attack small boats and is considered to be extremely dangerous, according to Frank Melland in his 1923 book, In Witchbound Africa.
In 1956, in what is now Zambia, an engineer spotted two Kongamatoes flying quietly through the sky. The creatures circled around and flew overhead again, giving Mr. J.P.F. Brown a thorough look at them. In addition to the standard description of the Kongamato, he also noted a long, thin tail, narrow head, and a “mouth full of sharp teeth.”
In 1957, near the same location, a man showed up at a hospital with a bad chest wound saying he had been attacked by a creature fitting the description of the Kongamato.
The Olitiau (“forked one” or demon) of Cameroon looks much like the Kongamato, although its body fur is black and its wings are blood-red. It has large serrated white teeth, a twelve-foot wingspan, and a monkey face. Cryptozoologist Ivan Sanderson encountered the cryptid bat when it dived at him before flying off, near a mountain stream in 1932.
Madagascar, an island near Africa’s coast, is said to harbor a giant bat called the Fangalabolo (very enjoyable to say) with a wingspan of more than five feet. This bat likes to glide down from the sky, and tear the hair from people’s heads (not as enjoyable to encounter).
One of the most feared giant bats is the Guiafairo (“the fear that flies by night”) of Senegal in West Africa. This “smelly” cryptid hides in hollow trees and caves during the day, but it has been known to invade people’s homes, giving them a terrible fright. It is gray in color, with clawed feet.
According to the Ashanti mythology of Africa, there is a horrid bat-like creature from southern Ghana, Togo, and the Ivory Coast called the Sasabonsam. It is reported to be the size of a man, hairy, with a wingspan of nearly twenty feet. The Sasabonsam has defined ridges above its eyes, and long teeth. The creature is also said to have an emaciated body, and twisted legs.
Vampirish in nature, the Sasabonsam is said to sit in trees waiting for its victim to pass below. The beast then pounces on them and sucks their blood. It has been rumored that a Sasabonsam was killed and photographed in 1928, but there is no evidence of that today.
The orang-bati (“men with wings”) are said to be from Indonesia. Specifically, the island of Seram.
The creatures are approximately five feet tall, and are rather feminine in appearance. They have bodies the color of blood, and black fur on their wings and long tail.
Sounding very much like the winged monkeys of The Wizard of Oz, they fly through the air at night raiding small villages, snatching babies and small children, before returning to their home in an extinct volcano to eat their catch.
A giant bat called the Batsquatch has been sighted several times since 1980, and is purported to live on Mt. Saint Helens, in the state of Washington in North America. With skin the color of an eggplant, eyes the color of blood, huge bat wings, and a loud, deep yell, the Batsquatch would be an amazing creature to encounter. The are believed to feed on livestock, as large quantities of animals in the area disappear frequently.
A huge, flying cryptid from Papua, New Guinea, called the Ropen or Indava, a/k/a pterosaur or pterodactyl) glows as it glides through the nighttime sky.
Mainly subsisting on fish, it is said to have resorted to grave robbing and eating human flesh at times.
An expedition to investigate the Ropen in Papua in 2006,video recorded what might possibly be two Ropens. One was also observed in the daylight, sleeping under an overhanging cliff. Even more recently, Joshua Gates of the SciFi series, Destination Truth, has recorded luminescent images in the sky that are thought to be Ropens.
Jonathan Whitcomb, author of Searching for Ropens, interviewed a woman from South Carolina in 2007, who saw a flying creature that fits the description of a Ropen flying over a highway near a swamp in South Carolina. Ms. Wooten told Whitcomb that the beast “looked as big as any car, and had no feathers,” with a wingspan of approximately 15 feet.
Surprisingly, the Giant Bat is one of the cryptids that is sighted most frequently, with reports from all over the world. In my exploration of caves, I have had several encounters with bats. Once while crawling through a cave hole at dusk (that was not a good time to be in that location...what was I thinking!), I heard a tremendous roar and had to cover my head as hundreds (maybe thousands) made their way out through the small tunnel to feed. One landed on my shoulder for a minute, which did give me a bit of a fright for a second.
A few years ago while walking past a restaurant in Quincy, Illinois, a bat flew out the open door and right up my skirt! The restaurant owner was mortified, but I am proud to say I was quite calm. I even took the little fellow to some limestone caves in the area to be with the rest of his colony. I doubt that I would remain calm if a bat the size of an Ahool flew up my skirt!
References/Sources/Additional Information and Reading:
Clark, Jerome and Coleman, Loren. Cryptozoology A-Z. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1999. Pages 26, 38, 125-127
Newton, Michael. Encyclopedia of Cryptozoology: A Global Guide to Hidden Animals and Their Pursuers. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Company, 2005.
Shuker, Karl. The Beasts That Hide From Man: Seeking the World's Last Undiscovered Animals. New York: Paraview Press, 2003. Pages 84-93, 103-107
Whitcomb, Jonathan. Searching for Ropens, Second Edition. California: Wingspan Press, 2007.