The Bizarre Cryptozoological Case of de Loys’ Ape

Photograph purporting to show de Loys' Ape (Image: Scientific American; de Loys’ Ape)

Cryptozoology is a fascinating field, proving that there’s just no limit to the human imagination – especially when fame and fortune are on the line. But although we’ve all heard of creatures like Bigfoot and the Jersey Devil, de Loys’ Ape often gets shuffled off to the darker corners of cryptid world.

In the 1920s, Louis Francois Fernand Hector de Loys was a pioneering name in geology – specifically in the area of oil field prospecting. One day, while working on the shores of the Rio Tarra, a dangerous region between Columbia and Venezuela, the Swiss geologist and his team supposedly came across a pair of very strange monkeys. According to de Loys, the monkeys were huge, walked upright, and had no tails. When they saw the men, they reacted in a rather human way: yelling, shouting, and gesturing at them irritably.

Close-up of supposed female body of de Loys' Ape (Image: Scientific American)

As was often the case with explorers of old, the group opened fire on the apes, supposedly killing the female. de Loys posed the body and took photographs. But only one image survives and although de Loys tried to save the body, it was lost when their boat capsized. Later, the geologist would claim that he had managed to retain the skull, but as his team was using it as a salt container, it eventually eroded.

When Swiss anthropologist George Alexis Montandon later found the photograph of de Loys’ Ape , he posited that a group of primitive human-like monkeys was living in South America. He dubbed the new species “Ameranthropoides loysi”, and linked it to reports often told by locals (native and European) of strange, hairy beasts that were known to occasionally kidnap women and devour human flesh.

Even at the time, Europe was rather cynical about the discovery of a missing link in South America. Botanists scrutinised the plants in the picture, and suggested that the photograph wasn’t even taken by the river where de Loys claimed to have seen the creatures. Others point out that de Loys’ Ape looks like a white-bellied spider-monkey (below).

The white-bellied spider-monkey, a candidate for de Loys' Ape (Image: Ewa; white-bellied spider-monkey)

What’s more, the motivation behind the hoax may be far more insidious than we’d like to think people capable of. At the time, the idea that humans didn’t all share a common ancestor wasn’t just popular, it was the basis for racial discrimination. Claiming that native tribes in South America weren’t far removed from this mystery monkey would have provided Montandon with the missing link that he sought.

Montandon had very clear racial views – so clear, in fact, that he was killed by the French Resistance in 1944. While some cryptozoologists still hope that the figure in the photo is an undiscovered primate, it’s considered more likely the image, regardless of why it was originally taken, was used as fuel racial division.

Related: Devil Monkey: Does North America’s Primate Cryptid Really Exist?

 
 
 

Send this to friend

Urban Ghosts uses cookies to enhance your browsing experience and to serve you with advertisements that might interest you. By continuing to use this site, you agree to our use of cookies. Privacy Policy

The cookie settings on this website are set to "allow cookies" to give you the best browsing experience possible. If you continue to use this website without changing your cookie settings or you click "Accept" below then you are consenting to this.

Close