You've heard of the Yeti in the Himalayas, the Loch Ness monster in Scotland, and the Bigfoot in North America.
Right here in teeny-weeny Singapore, we have our very own cryptid right in the heart of Bukit Timah forest: The Monkey Man.
What is this Monkey Man?
The Monkey Man is said to be a greyish creature that is one to two metres in height. It looks like a monkey but is bipedal: It apparently walks on two legs like a human.
It is similar to the Orang Pendek, a creature that supposedly lives in Indonesia.
In Singapore, the ape-like creature inhabits the Bukit Timah rainforest, hence, it is dubbed the Bukit Timah Monkey Man (BTMM).
Evidence supporting the existence of the BTMM is confined largely to anecdotal accounts dating as far back as the 19th century.
Accounts of the BTMM
Sightings of the BTMM often occur at night -- and sound rather hoax-y.
The earliest accounts of the BTMM came from a Malay elder in 1805. He claimed to have seen an ape-like creature walking upright in the Bukit Timah area.
There were also accounts by Japanese soldiers stationed in Singapore during WWII.
They saw a "a primate-like creature covered in gray hair and standing up to 6 feet 6 inches tall in the Bukit Timah rain forest."
The most recent sightings were recorded in 2007.
According to an account by a taxi driver who not only saw the BTMM but even injured it:
"When driving my taxi past the fire station on Upper Bukit Timah Road in the middle of the night I hit what I thought was a child that ran out in the middle of the road. It was on the car bonnet and then snarled at me -- it was like a monkey but so big! It ran off injured covered in blood, and holding its arm which was broken."
Another reported it rummaging through trash cans:
"I was going to the bus stop early one morning to catch the bus 171. It was very foggy and cold. I thought I saw a tramp going through the rubbish bin, however when I approached, it called out with a loud animal sound and ran back into the forest. It was grey, hairy and ran on two legs, but had a monkey's face. I was shivering with fear and called the police but to no avail."
For sure, existing narratives are insufficient to prove this creature exists.
Nevertheless, many people still believe in its existence based on anecdotal evidence.
But then in 2012, a video was uploaded to YouTube claiming that the monkey man was captured on camera by a domestic helper:
This is a screenshot of the monkey man:
The authenticity of the clip is unverified, and honestly, looks fake.
A case of mistaken identity?
Some have suggested that the BTMM might have just been the crab-eating macaque, a species of monkey common to that area.
However, these monkeys are markedly smaller compared to the BTMM that is supposedly up to two metres tall.
Bukit Timah rainforest has a fairly small area of 1.6 square kilometres.
The forest is also surrounded by urban settlements, increasing the likelihood of human contact and interaction with the primate.
Therefore, it is hard to hide anywhere.
No conclusive evidence has been found of the BTMM's existence. There are only a handful of sightings and dubious eyewitness accounts.
So what else could possibly account for these sightings?
Singaporean artist, Brandon Tay, who has done art related to the BTMM, suggests one way of looking at the creature:
"It might easier to understand why the legend exists if we treat the Monkey Man not as an actual animal but a kind of supernatural “manifestation” that reflects a society’s subconscious thoughts."
No doubt, the creature's existence has its roots in local cultures and folklore.
However, the BTMM may just be the product of an overactive imagination that has lost its grip on reality.
Real or not, the existence of the BTMM remains shrouded in mystery.
Or complete hogwash.
Top photo adapted from screengrab from YouTube video and Wikipedia